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April 17, 2017

The Mousy Mindboggler

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

As you know if you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, each month our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) supplies us with a puzzle of his own design.

Every month, James also Shares the Magic in another way -- by posting an all-new puzzle here in this AllEars.Net Guest Blog.

This month, James writes:

Here is the solution to the last crossword puzzle.

http://allears.net/ae/mb032217-key.pdf

We received 29 correct responses. All of you knew that the individual titles of the three television shows that were combined to create this motion picture were "Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter," "Davy Crockett Goes to Congress," and "Davy Crockett at the Alamo."

The winner of a Mickey pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Sandy D. of Pittsburgh, PA. Congratulations, Sandy!

If you missed it last month, that’s OK, because here’s another chance.

http://allears.net/ae/mb041717.pdf

This month we will take a look at one of the many live-action films that Disney produced starting in the 1950s. Some of these films are quite obscure, like "The Sword and the Rose," "Rob Roy," "The Littlest Outlaw" and "The Great Locomotive Chase." I'm going to try to stick with the more well-known films, such as "Old Yeller" and "The Shaggy Dog."

This month’s selection, "Johnny Tremain," really falls more in the first category, but I wanted to do it anyway, because it is one of the few Disney movies set during the Revolutionary War -- or any war, for that matter!

The object of this puzzle is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, send me the answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on May 10, 2017. All correct answers will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner will be awarded a Disney pin. The answers and drawing winner will be posted in this Guest Blog sometime in May.

As always, any feedback on the puzzle format or topics would be appreciated! Drop me a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

April 9, 2017

Disney Fun Around The Country - 2017

Gary Cruise banner

A few years ago I wrote a blog describing several Disney fan events that take place around the country. Carol and I really enjoy this sort of fan get-together. For us, they are an easy way to keep the magic alive without making that long trek south!

The response to that first blog was immediate. People said things like:
“I wish I had known about this, I live very close by.”
“I would love to know when this is next year!”
“That sounds like so much fun; I’d love to go some time.”

So if you’re looking to spend some happy times with fellow Disney fans, people who share your Disney addiction, here is an update just for you! It’s a list of a few of those “non-theme park events” coming up in 2017.

These local events can help you put the maximum “Disney Magic” in your life!

1. Southern Ontario “Canadian Disney Addicts” – April 23 2017 – Whitby Ontario
In June 2015 twenty-four strangers met in a Denny’s restaurant in Whitby Ontario. The only thing we had in common was a love of all things Disney.

Canadian Fans

We spent a wonderful afternoon talking about our happy place, sharing ideas, trading Disney pins and Vinylmations and most importantly, making new friends. You can read about the first event in an AllEars blog HERE.

That first meet was so much fun that we have continued to get together about every three months since then. As many as 60 die-hard Disney fans have joined us! If you live in Southern Ontario please come out and be part of the fun.

Canadian Fans

The next meet will be held Sunday, Apr 23rd at Blue Sea Restaurant, 836 Brock Street North, Whitby Ontario from noon to 5:00 p.m.

There are similar Ontario groups which have recently held meets in Niagara Falls and Ottawa. If you live in those areas please post a comment below and I'll send you further details.


2. Trade ‘til You Fade – Apr 28 - 30 2017 – Somerset New Jersey

CJDPT Logo

This weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders, is a fun-filled experience for those who collect and trade Disney pins and Vinylmations.

CJDPT Meeting Room

There are games, raffles and even an optional gift exchange which can be hilarious!

CJDPT Name That Toon

Full details are available on the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders web site HERE.

Read a blog about the 2012 event HERE.


3. Dayton Disneyana – Jun 10 - 11, 2017 – Dayton Ohio

Plane Crazy Logo

Another wonderful weekend-long event, however this one caters to Disneyana collectors. The Dayton “Plane Crazy” Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club does a terrific job organizing this annual bonanza for Disneyana collectors.

Dayton Disneyana 2015

A hotel ballroom is chock full of vendors tables overflowing with high quality collectibles. This is not a flea market, these are real collectors selling quality product. Carol always finds some unique treasures to take home with us!

Carol and Mickey


An eager vendor

There are always a few interesting speakers who pass on some fascinating tidbits of Disney history and gossip during afternoon and evening seminars.

This year’s event will feature some well known guests:
Mike Peraza, a Disney artist, designer and animator for over 35 years. Mike has used his range of talents on projects as varied as the animated Mickey’s Christmas Carol and the real-life Carsland at Disney’s California Adventure Park. I’m sure he’ll have some interesting stories to tell!

Mike Peraza

Patty Peraza, another Disney artist with years of experience across a broad spectrum of projects. Patty was the first female hired by Disney from the prestigious CalArts program and was the first female effects artist at Walt Disney Studios. Early in her Disney career Patty worked with her husband Mike on Mickey’s Christmas Carol and later was a project leader for the animated feature Beauty and the Beast.

Patty Peraza

Jim Hill, who has become a wonderfully entertaining regular at the Dayton event. Jim is a well known Disney blogger and historian and a very engaging speaker who shares plenty of insider knowledge.

Listening to speakers like Mike, Patty and Jim is what I like most at Dayton Disneyana. When you talk with them one-on-one it’s like having a back door into Disney lore and legend.

Tables line the halls outside the ballroom where attendees can mix and mingle; there is even a room set aside for Disney pin and Vinylmation traders.

Busy trading

Full details are available on the Dayton chapter’s web site HERE.

Read about last year’s event in this AllEars.net blogs: Dayton Disneyana 2016


4. Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet – Aug 12, 2017 – Lynnwood Washington

Pacific Northwest Logo

Carol and I have not attended this annual event held near Seattle; it’s a long way from where we live! But we’ve heard very good reviews from friends who have been there. There are always some top-notch speakers and interesting activities.

Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet - Bob Gurr

Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet - Marty Sklar

Fellow AllEars blogger Jeanine Yamanaka wrote about last year’s event, you can read about it HERE.

Arrangements for the 2017 meet are not yet finalized, but you can read more details on their web site HERE:


5. Indy Disney Meet – Aug 26, 2017 - Hamilton County 4H Fairgrounds Noblesville Indiana

Indy Meet Pin

INDY Meet

This is another event Carol and I have not attended but it sounds wonderful.

INDY Meet

It’s family oriented, it’s free and they have raised a lot of money to support Give Kids The World.

INDY Meet donation

It sounds like a great way to have fun and support a worthy cause, all at the same time. This year Yehaa Bob from Port Orleans Riverside will be a featured guest!

YeHaa Bob

Check out their web site HERE:


6. Swap ‘til You Drop – Oct 20-22, 2017 – Somerset New Jersey
Another fun-filled weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. The format for this event is very similar to the Trade ‘til You Fade event held each spring. Refer to their web site HERE:


So . . . if you’re feeling blue because you can’t get to one of the Disney parks . . . why don’t you plan to attend one of these locally organized fan events!

Disney fans always make a fun-loving group; imagine how easy it is to make new friends when you are surrounded by kindred spirits.

Maybe Carol and I will see you there!

April 3, 2017

Jennifer Hudson used stint on the Disney Wonder as a springboard to success

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Singer and Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Hudson, a former Disney Cruise Line cast member, poses with Mickey Mouse on board the Disney Dream. [Disney Cruise Line]

The presentation of "Hairspray: Live" last December was a pre-holiday gift to television viewers, as well as fans of the smash Broadway hit musical.

The broadcast showcased the considerable talents of a number of actors and singers, among them Derek Hough, Ariana Grande, Martin Short, Maddie Baillio ... and the incomparable Jennifer Hudson.

During a trans-Atlantic cruise on the Disney Magic in the fall of 2015, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Ed Whitlow, a long-time Disney cast member who helped guide Ms. Hudson from Disney Cruise Line performer to American Idol contestant to Academy Award winner.

Jennifer began her meteoric rise as a cast member aboard the Disney Wonder. Whitlow, a veteran cruise performer and director, said "I first met Jennifer in Chicago. She was quite green, raw, but amazingly talented ... a truly gifted singer. A lot of people don't know that Jennifer got her start as a cast member on the Disney Wonder."

Whitlow remembers that Jennifer left her greatest impression on guests during performances in shows themed to Hercules and The Lion King. "When she sang 'The Circle of Life,' it literally stopped the show," Whitlow said. "I told her that if she wanted to advance her career, that she had to get on television."

So Jennifer set her sights on the then-mega hit American Idol. The day she got off the Wonder at the end of her contract in 2004, Whitlow [at the time, he was serving as her manager] and Jennifer drove up to Atlanta to try out for the show, which was in its third season. She made it through the arduous audition process and, although she would only finish seventh that season, she had made an indelible impression.

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A beaming Jennifer Hudson performs during christening ceremonies for the Disney Dream. Ms. Hudson had the honor of being named the Dream's Godmother. with her are Mickey Mouse and Disney CEO Bob Iger. [Disney Cruise Line]

"The director of the movie Dreamgirls [Bill Condon] saw her and gave her a call, asking her if she would do a screen test for the part of Effie in the movie. She flew up to New York and did great. But we didn't hear anything for months. I was walking around a Walgreens in Florida one day when I got a call. 'Can you and Jennifer come to Los Angeles for another screen test?' I said, 'When?' The answer was, 'Tonight.'

"We got on the first plane we could, showed up at the studio and before you knew it, she was on stage, singing." The problem was, her first performance wasn't very good. "The director asked me to go out and check with her and make sure she was OK." Whitlow said. "'You realize they're filming, right?' I asked her. 'Are you ready?' 'Oh, yeah,' she said, 'YOU better get ready.'"

On the next take, "She blew the roof off Paramount Studios. Obviously, she got the part and that led to a lot bigger and better things ... like an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. It was so special. And to think, she started at the Disney Cruise Line, doing all the things the others crew members do, like safety drills and eating in the crew mess hall."

The topper for both Ed Whitlow and Jennifer Hudson came in late 2010. "I got a call from [Disney chairman and CEO] Bob Iger, asking me if Jennifer would be the godmother of the Disney Dream [which was christened in January of 2011]. Needless to say, she was thrilled. The entire experience with Jennifer, watching her blossom into a superstar, is something I'll never forget."

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Jennifer Hudson used a stint as a cast member on the Disney Wonder as a springboard to success. [Disney Cruise Line]

Whitlow began his talk with an overview of DCL entertainment. "We have a team of 15 people and we train about 320 cast members in our facility in Toronto," he began. In all, he and his staff put together eight casts a year who appear in shows on DCL's fleet: The Magic, Wonder, Dream and Fantasy. "The entertainment on the Disney Cruise Line is something we're really proud of," he added.

Whitlow then delved into his own career journey, which he said began at the age of 3. "By 7, I was performing on the beauty pageant scene," he said. On the screen above, there was a photo of him on stage at a pageant, belting out "There She Is, Miss America."

"Little did I realize back then that it all would lead to this wonderful career," he added.

Whitlow said he landed his first important job as a performer at Tokyo Disneyland. From there, he went to work "for another cruise line. But I got a call from Disney saying that they were starting up the Disney Cruise Line and asked me if I would I be interested" in joining the cast. He was a member of the very first cast on-board the Disney Magic during its debut season in 1998. "Does anyone remember "The Voyage of the Ghost Ship"? I was in that cast," he said. "I loved being a performer, but my decision to go behind the scenes as a producer was the greatest thing I could have ever done."

Performing on a cruise ship is not without its challenges, he added. "When you're on stage during rough seas, it really stretches your dancing muscles. We actually have different versions of dance numbers depending on the weather. For example, six tumbles during a routine might be reduced to three if it's rough. It's challenging, no doubt." He recounted how, while performing a number on roller skates during a Norwegian Cruise Line performance of "Starlight Express" years ago, the ship was rocking so much, "I skated right off the stage!"

He detailed the arduous journey from performer to choreographer to producer and the level of talent he's seen over the years. "Some cast members come to us with Broadway credits. Others get Broadway credits after performing on the Disney Cruise Line." To back up that statement, he said that five current members of the Broadway hit Beautiful earned their theater stripes as DCL performers.

He discussed the always nerve-wracking audition process. "Auditioning for a show is really quick. Those who rise to the occasion usually get the job. During auditions at Disney, we try to make it an experience, more than just 20 seconds. We're looking for something special, a spark, in each performer. Once you get the job, you are working hard, pushed to be better, forced to step out of your comfort zone," he said.

The latter stages of Whitlow's presentation included insight as to what the folks at Disney are looking for when they cast their wide net in search of talent:

"Triple threats. People who are actors, singers and dancers."

The importance of the script: "It's the heartbeat of what we do."

And the burden carried by a director: "The director is the owner of the vision of the show."

For more Disney-themed gems like these, check out my latest book, An American in Disneyland Paris [Theme Park Press].

March 26, 2017

The History of EPCOT - A Timeline

Gary Cruise banner

I’m a big fan of Disney’s Imagineers! They do a terrific job.

One of the things that continually impresses me is the little details that they build into the theme parks, sometimes in the most unusual places. Some of them are right in the middle of high traffic areas yet people walk right past and never notice. As an example, remember the blog titled “Science at your Feet” I wrote few months ago? There it is, right under your feet as you walk toward Soarin’, yet very few people ever notice it!

Today we’ll look at an interesting feature that the Imagineers built in an out-of-the-way place. It’s a history of EPCOT; a pictorial timeline of the theme park.

This timeline isn’t the least bit obvious, in fact it’s just the opposite . . . you have to go looking for it. But it’s worth the time you spend tracking it down!

As you walk south from the park entrance, heading toward World Showcase, keep your eyes pointed to the right. Between the Fountain View Restaurant and Club Cool you will see the doors pictured below. They're way in the back, behind that umbrella.

EPCOT Timeline Entrance

Walk through those doors and look around. You will find this interesting timeline on one of the walls. Carol is standing at the beginning, on the extreme right.

EPCOT Timeline

The first date, beside her shoulder, is 1965, when Walt first announced “The Florida Project” As you move toward the left you move forward in time, with 2016 on the extreme left.

Here’s a closer look at the earliest years. Click on each of the next four images to see a larger version.

EPCOT Timeline 1965 to 1982

There was a lot happening in 1982. The park opened October 1st and a number of pavilions were dedicated during that first month!

EPCOT Timeline 1982

From 1988 to 2003 the park continued to change, as new attractions were added and older ones were updated. Do you remember Food Rocks, The Wonders of Life and Communicore?

EPCOT Timeline 1988 to 2003

The pictorial time line currently ends with the 2016 addition of “Soarin’ Around the World” and “Frozen Ever After”, but of course there’s plenty of wall space available in those back corridors to add more and more as the park continues to change and grow.

EPCOT Timeline 2012 to 2016

Stop by some time and check it out! It’s a great place to hide out during a Central Florida thunderstorm, and a great place to cool down on a sweltering summer day!

March 22, 2017

CORRECTION: The Mousy Mindboggler

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

We owe our readers an apology!

As you know if you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, each month our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) supplies us with a puzzle of his own design.

Every month, James also Shares the Magic in another way -- by posting an all-new puzzle here in this AllEars.Net Guest Blog.

A few days ago, however, we inadvertently published the crossword puzzle meant for the newsletter in this blog. Oops!

For those of you waiting for the solution to last month's crossword, and anticipating this month's, here are the correct puzzles.

And for those of you who already sent in entries for the crossword that ran mistakenly last week, never fear! Your entries will still be considered for the drawing for the Disney collectible pin!

We are so sorry for the confusion, and appreciate your understanding.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

James writes:

Here is the solution to the last crossword puzzle.

http://allears.net/ae/mb020717-key.pdf

We only received 37 correct responses, but all of you knew that the organ found in the ballroom scene of the Haunted Mansion attraction in Disneyland Park in Anaheim is the actual pipe organ prop (minus the pipes!) played by James Mason as Captain Nemo in the film, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” The exact same organ can be found in WDW’s version of the Haunted Mansion, but it is a replica, as are all of the other Haunted Mansion organs around the world.

The winner of a Donald Duck pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was George M. of Shelton, CT. Congratulations, George!

If you missed it last month, that’s OK, because here’s another chance.

http://allears.net/ae/mb032217.pdf

We will continue this month down the long path of examining Disney’s extensive list of live-action films. Next in line is the combination film called, “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier,” which included three highly successful television shows about a frontiersman from Tennessee who almost single-handedly put a coonskin cap on every red-blooded American boy’s head. What would Disney do with their unexpected goldmine in popularity? There wasn’t much they could do, because in an unusual lapse in forethought, the main character had been killed off at the Alamo at the end of the third episode!

The object of this puzzle is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, send me the answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on April 15, 2017. All correct answers will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner will be awarded a Disney pin. The answers and drawing winner will be posted in this Guest Blog sometime in April.

As always, any feedback on the puzzle format or topics would be appreciated! Drop me a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

March 20, 2017

This blogger's been busy: Two new books recently released

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The entrance to Disneyland Park in France goes under the Disneyland Hotel. [Ginny Osborne]


When my first book was published, I had what can be best described as a George McFly moment.

You remember the scene from Back to the Future: Surrounded by his family, George proudly opens a box containing copies of his newly released book. He's obviously excited about adding the title of "author" to his resume as he glances, chest puffed out, at the hot-off-the-press finished product.

Even in this age of portable devices, telecommunications and digital wizardry, it's still quite a thrill to see your name on the cover of an honest-to-goodness, printed-on-paper book. As the author, you know how hard you've worked and how proud you are to see the finished product; the only thing that's left now is waiting on the public's response, which, of course, you hope is positive.

I had another George McFly moment the other day when not one, but two of my books arrived at our doorstep in a plain cardboard box -- the re-release of my first book, Disney's Dream Weavers, and the brand new An American in Disneyland Paris .

I must admit, there's always a bit of trepidation when something you've written "goes public." The hope is that everyone loves what you've written ... the fact is, some people may not. As in life itself, you take the good with the bad.

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The cover of "An American in Disneyland Paris."

It's truly gratifying, then, when an unsolicited comment comes your way from someone you've known and respected for years.

"What great journalism you are doing," wrote Rick Sylvain, the former print and on-line manager for Walt Disney World media relations. "Your deep dive into the personalities that shaped Disney is important reading, not only now, but for future generations. As Charlie Ridgway and others pass on, their stories live on."

Humbling, to be sure, but much appreciated.

And so, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure, that I steer you toward my latest releases:

** Disney's Dream Weavers

** An American in Disneyland Paris


Disney's Dream Weavers was first released in 2012 by Dog Ear Publishing. It was a three-year labor of love that began innocently enough when I filled in for a columnist colleague at the Staten Island Advance, who missed work for several months after surgery.

His column dealt with the people and places on Staten Island in bygone eras from the 1940s into the 1980s. For reasons I can't really explain, I decided to write several substitute columns on Staten Islanders' participation at both the 1939-1940 and 1964-1965 New York World's Fairs, both of which were held on the same site in Flushing, Queens.

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The cover of "Disney's Dream Weavers."

The highlights of the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair were, of course, the four Disney-created attractions: Ford's Magic Skyway, Carousel of Progress, it's a small world and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln in the Illinois state pavilion.

I researched the 1964-1965 Fair, corresponded with folks who had attended and also drew on my own experiences as a Fair visitor. As I dug into the Fair, I came upon references to another amusement park popular during that era - Freedomland, which also was open in the early 1960s and was located relatively close to the Fair in The Bronx.

I had attended Freedomland as well, and have fond memories and some grainy photos to prove it. In researching Freedomland's story, it quickly became apparent to me that there was a link [a common thread, if you will] that ran through Disneyland, which opened in 1955, Freedomland [1960-1964] and the World's Fair.

Many of the people who had helped bring Walt Disney's dream of a park where parents and children could have fun together [the people who had, as I wrote, brought Disneyland from "fruit field to fruition"] also made significant contributions to both Freedomland and the World's Fair.

Unbeknownst to most of us, at about the same time Freedomland was shutting down and the World's Fair was in full swing, Walt Disney and some of his trusted lieutenants were scooping up land in central Florida to build what would turn out to be The Vacation Kingdom of the World.

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A German band plays a song in front of the Eastman Kodak building at Freedomland in 1962. The building to the left is a replica of the R.H. Macy's store in Manhattan. [Chuck Schmidt collection]

As the idea of putting together a book on that link among the four venues began to take shape, I was able to score interviews with a number of key people ... like Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, Charlie Ridgway, Jack Lindquist, Tom Nabbe and Tony Baxter on the Disney side, and Ben Rossi, Bob Mangels and Mike Virgintino, speaking on behalf of Freedomland. Their combined insight helped, in my mind, to legitimize the book.

When Bob McLain of Theme Park Press agreed to re-release Disney's Dream Weavers, I could think of no better person to write a foreword to it than Mike Virgintino, who grew up near the park as a youth and has written about it extensively over the years. Along with a group of other "Friendly Freedomlanders," as they call themselves, he helped spearhead an initiative that resulted in the placement of a commemorative plaque near where the park's entrance once stood in the Baychester section of The Bronx.

Mike also has been a huge help to me in promoting my books over the years. I'm happy to report that he's currently working on his own book dealing exclusively with Freedomland.

An American in Disneyland Paris came about thanks to my ability to take notes no matter where I am. My wife and Janet and I joined our friends Gail and Julian Robinson on the trip of a lifetime in September of 2015, seven months after I had retired from the newspaper business. We visited Paris, France, Disneyland Paris and then sailed on the Disney Magic for its trans-Atlantic re-positioning cruise. [As luck would have it, also on that cruise were Deb and Linda!]

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Paris, and the Eiffel Tower, as seen from the Montparnese Tower. [Julian Robinson]

The fact that Julian grew up in England and had visited Paris on many occasions over the years allowed us to see the City of Lights not as first-time tourists, but as seasoned visitors [For example: Our trip to the Montparnese Tower, where we were able to view magnificent Paris from 56 stories above, right before sunset]. We saw things that very few tourists see and, if nothing else, his experienced hand allowed us to navigate the complicated underground rail system quite smoothly.

And when it came to Disneyland Paris, both Gail and Julian were park veterans. During our five-night stay, we got to enjoy things we probably might have overlooked, like Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and Walt's, a Club 33-type restaurant on Main Street that's open to the public.

To top off our trip, we flew from Paris to Barcelona, Spain, where we boarded the Disney Magic for an unforgettable 11-night adventure.

Among the highlights: Sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar, where one can see two continents, Africa and Europe, by simply turning your head; a day-long visit to the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira; a number of presentations by several Disney Imagineers, giving incredible insight into what goes on behind the magic; behind-the-scenes tours of the ship, and a glorious finale on Castaway Cay.

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The Portuguese island of Maderia is located off the coast of northwest Africa. [Julian Robinson]

Photos taken by Gail and Julian during the trip enhance the book immeasurably.

Some time in May, another book I had a hand in will be published. It centers around some amazing, real-life adventures experienced by former Walt Disney World boating supervisor Ted Kellogg.

March 18, 2017

Yo Ho Yo Ho – 50 Years of Piracy

Gary Cruise banner

Today is a special day in Disney history!

It was 50 years ago today that one of Disney’s most popular attractions opened! On March 18, 1967 guests at Disneyland were able to take their first ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.

Pirates entry sign
♫ ♪ Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me! ♫ ♪

At the time of its opening 50 years ago Time Magazine heralded it as “the costliest and most technologically sophisticated adventure ever conceived as a permanent entertainment attraction, within or beyond the Disney gates!”

It opened to rave reviews and for a half century Pirates of the Caribbean has retained that popularity. It’s a ride Carol and I never miss, between Florida and California I’m sure we’ve ridden it more than a hundred times! That’s probably nowhere near a record though; I wouldn’t be surprised if there are avid Disney fans out there who have ridden thousands of times!

How popular is it? The Pirates attraction has been replicated in Disney parks in Florida, Tokyo, Paris and Shanghai and it has spawned a series of five live action movies.

One other notable thing . . . Pirates of the Caribbean was the last attraction Walt Disney worked on before his death. He passed away just a few months before it opened to the public.

Walt at work

Walt and a pirate

While I was looking for information on the Pirates ride I took a look in Carol’s Tickle Trunk and found a terrific article published in the Fall 1992 issue of Disney News. The article takes a look back after 25 years and gives a fascinating perspective, from the eyes of those talented Imagineers who brought the pirates to life.

Imagineer Marc Davis, one of Walt's "nine old men", was the principal designer and it’s interesting to hear him disclose his initial doubts about the Pirates project. “I thought, none of this is Disney. When I started reading everything I could find on pirates, I found that few of them were ever killed in sea battles like we’d always heard. Most of them lost their lives by venereal disease picked up in brothels.”

The article is pictured below. Click on each image to read the full text.

Disney News Fall 1992 page 23

Walt Disney assigned the Pirates project to Marc Davis in the early 1960’s and Davis began conceptualizing a walk-through show. He produced some wonderful concept art and storyboards, but when he reviewed them with Walt there was no enthusiasm. The project couldn't seem to get any traction!

Marc Davis

It wasn’t until after the 1964 World’s Fair that Pirates of the Caribbean found the spark that it needed. Davis added the boat system from Pepsi Cola’s It’s A Small World attraction and some Audio-Animatronics like those used in the State of Illinois Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln exhibit. Suddenly Walt was enthused and things began to happen very quickly!

Disney News Fall 1992 pg 24

Can you try to visualize the scene Imagineer Xavier Atencio described in that 1992 article? “We mocked up the auction scene in a warehouse at WED with all the figures working and the dialogue. We rigged up a dolly and pushed Walt through at the estimated time the boats would be going through.”

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall watching as Walt sat on a dolly being pushed by his most trusted Imagineers!

Marc Davis Walt Disney and Blaine Gibson
Marc Davis, Walt Disney and Blaine Gibson

I suspect that almost everyone who rides Pirates of the Caribbean comes out singing or humming, Yo Ho, Yo Ho . . .

Who do you think wrote that song? The Sherman Brothers? That was my guess too, but I was wrong. It was written by Imagineer Xavier Atencio and it was his first attempt at song lyrics. George Bruns wrote the music to accompany Atencio’s lyrics and between them they swatted a musical home run.

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Let’s look at some of the amazing concept art Marc Davis produced as he developed and fine-tuned his designs!

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Concept_Art_2.jpg

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“Strike your colors, ya brazen wench. No need to expose your superstructure!”

Many of his original pieces were displayed in Disneyland’s “Disney Gallery” in 2003. At he time the Gallery was located in New Orleans Square, directly above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, in the space that is now occupied by the Dream Suite.

Disney Club News Spring 2003
Click to see a larger image

Disney Club_News Spring 2003

Carol and I didn’t get the chance to see Davis’ art while it was featured in the gallery, but we did see it a decade later. In May 2013 some very thoughtful friends arranged a special treat for the two of us. We had dinner at Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33. Wow! After dinner Cast Member Garrett took us on a private tour of the club and pointed out many of the historically significant artifacts that graced the walls. Several of Marc Davis’ original pieces of Pirates concept art were reverently displayed.

Club 33 May 2013
A Marc Davis Pirate sketch hangs behind Lillian Disney's harpsichord at Club 33

Our timing couldn't have been better; Club 33 closed for a major renovation and expansion just after our visit, and the Marc Davis concept art was returned to the Disney Vault.

In that 1992 article Marc Davis is quoted, “You always hope that anything you build will be a big hit. And I think we had a feeling that this one would be a success. But to be as popular now as when it opened? That was too much to hope for back then.”

Another 25 years have gone by since 1992 and the Pirates ride has lost none of its appeal. It is every bit as popular now as it was in 1992; it is every bit as popular now as it was in 1967.

That’s just astounding when you consider the changes we have seen in the past 50 years. The technology used in the attraction is now very old, but it is still as effective as it was half a century ago.

Yes, there have been a few minor changes, Jack Sparrow and Barbossa have been added to incorporate the new movies into the story, but these new characters have been done in a way that is totally consistent with the original designs mapped out by those talented Imagineers over 50 years ago. They fit very well and add to the original story rather than diminish it.

Happy 50th Birthday Pirates of the Caribbean! You don’t look a day over 25!

Now, let’s all celebrate together by singing that wonderful song . . .

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me.
We extort and pilfer, we filch and sack.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Maraud and embezzle and even hijack.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me.
We kindle and char and inflame and ignite.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We burn up the city, we're really a fright.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

We're rascals and scoundrels, we're villains and knaves.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We're devils and black sheep, we're really bad eggs.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

We're beggars and blighters and ne'er do-well cads,
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Aye, but we're loved by our mommies and dads,
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.

RELATED LINKS:

** Pirates of the Caribbean Magic Kingdom

** Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland

** Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland Paris

** Pirates of the Caribbean Tokyo Disneyland

** Pirates of the Caribbean Disney Pic of the Week

March 12, 2017

BeaverTails

Gary Cruise banner

About a month ago Carol and I enjoyed a Canadian delicacy at FebFest, a winter carnival that takes place in our city every year.

FebFest

Our downtown transforms into a winter wonderland as residents enjoy the outdoor skating rink behind City Hall.

FebFest Hockey

There are hockey and curling games to watch.

FebFest Ice Sculpture

FebFest Ice Sculpture

There are ice sculptures to enjoy.

But the best thing of all – there are BeaverTails!

FebFest BeaverTail Kiosk

FebFest BeaverTail

Do you remember when they sold BeaverTails at EPCOT? Weren’t they delicious?

No, no . . . I’m not talking about the big flat tail from that large toothy rodent! I’m talking about a tasty deep fried pastry which originated in Canada! A piece of dough, about the same size and shape as a beaver’s tail, is deep fried to a golden brown then either dredged in sugar and cinnamon or topped with something gooey and sweet!

BeaverTails products

They are always fresh, never pre-cooked. Your BeaverTail will be in your hand about 20 seconds after it leaves the fryer! Hot and delicious!

FebFest Menu

There are similar pastries sold in other areas, referred to by such names as fried dough or elephant ears, but somehow none of them sound as appetizing to me as a BeaverTail! It’s another uniquely Canadian food!

We unusually eat them outdoors and in the winter so I suspect that the contrast, cold weather and a hot snack, really enhances our enjoyment. I prefer the original BeaverTail, dredged in sugar and cinnamon. That's probably a good thing because I'm a very sloppy eater and Carol would never allow me to try one covered with all that runny, gooey stuff!

BeaverTails were first sold in Killaloe, a small Ontario town about 100 miles north of the city Carol and I call home.

Killaloe

It was 1978 when Grant and Pam Hooker sold their first pastries at the Killaloe Craft and Community Fair. They were an instant hit! It wasn’t long before the Hookers were busy every weekend, traveling all over eastern Ontario selling their delicious hot pastries at festivals and county fairs.

Two years later, the Hookers opened up the first BeaverTails store at the Byward Market in nearby Ottawa.

BeaverTails Byward Market Store

It was an instant success!

President Obama at the Byward Market

President Obama stopped at the Byward Market for a BeaverTail in February 2009.

Soon BeaverTails were selling like crazy along the world’s longest skating rink. Every winter Canadians enjoy skating along a 7.8 kilometre (4.8 mile) stretch of the historic Rideau Canal as it winds its way through downtown Ottawa.

Rideau Canal Skateway

Usually it is frozen by early January and ploughs and zambonis are used to keep it clean and fresh for skaters until the end of February. Food trucks and refreshment kiosks are a common sight on the ice along the sides of the canal and the BeaverTail stand always has the longest line of skaters waiting for a delicious treat!

Rideau Canal BeaverTail Kiosk

Today there are more than a hundred BeaverTail outlets across Canada; most of the permanent stores are in high traffic tourist areas.

BeaverTail Mobile Kiosk

BeaverTail Truck

There are mobile units and food trucks that travel to festivals and events, like the one Carol and I bought our pastries from a few weeks ago at FebFest!

You can find BeaverTails at most ski resorts in Canada.

BeaverTails at Mont Tremblant
Mont Tremblant in Quebec

Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain, Vancouver BC

You can buy BeaverTails at Niagara Falls.

BeaverTails Niagara Falls

You can buy BeaverTails in Dubai, Tokyo and South Korea.

BeaverTails Japan

BeaverTails Japan Menu

But you can’t buy a BeaverTail at EPCOT. What’s with that?

What do you think folks? Does Disney need to bring back the BeaverTail?

March 6, 2017

Disney Legend Marty Sklar learns that inspiration can be a two-way street

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Marty Sklar, center, poses for a photo after his presentation at the Festival of the Arts in Epcot in February. From the left are Julian Robinson, Chuck Schmidt, Marty, Janet Schmidt and Gail Robinson. [Courtesy of Gail and Julian Robinson]


"One little spark, of inspiration, is at the heart, of all creation." - Richard and Robert Sherman

Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes, all you need to be inspired is just one little spark.

Take, for example, the young woman who told an inspirational story during a question-and-answer session at a recent Festival of the Arts workshop conducted by Disney Legend Marty Sklar in the Odyssey Festival Center in Epcot.

"This is more of a comment than a question," she began. "I was trying to decide what type of career path I wanted to take when my college professor suggested that I read your book, One Little Spark! I did, and it inspired me to pursue a career as an Imagineer. I'm currently working as an intern with Walt Disney Imagineering."

Add that woman to the very long list of people Marty Sklar has inspired over the years. And, in a roundabout way, add Marty Sklar to the list of people the woman has inspired during her still-young career. More on that later.

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The artwork of both Herb Ryman, above, and Mary Blair were on display at the Odyssey Festival Center at Epcot during the inaugural Festival of the Arts. [AllEars.Net]

Marty's workshop at the Festival of the Arts was part of a troika of appearances by the former creative leader of Walt Disney Imagineering at his beloved Epcot: There was the sold-out presentation at the Odyssey on Feb. 11, then a book signing on Feb. 12 in the Art of Disney at Epcot, and finally a return to the Odyssey on Feb. 13 for a talk about the artwork of Disney Legends Herb Ryman and Mary Blair.

During his Feb. 11 workshop, Marty talked about his two books, Dream It! Do It! and the aforementioned One Little Spark!

"My first book was sort of takeoff on one of my favorite songs, '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,' by Paul Simon, although that in no way reflects my real life. My wife Leah and I will be celebrating our 60th anniversary on May 12th.

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Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar have done a number of Disney events over the years, the most recent being a presentation at the Texas Transportation Forum. [AllEars.Net]

"It was more about 50 ways to get started. Nothing I had done prepared me to write Dream It! Do It! I first had to come to grips with the question: 'Do I really have something worthwhile to say?' In the end, I found out that writing a book takes a lot of patience, research and flexibility.

"And every writer needs a good editor and I was fortunate to have been able to work with Wendy Lefkon from Disney Editions. Her support and help, particularly with accessing material from the Disney Archives, was very important."

His follow-up book, One Little Spark!, took a deep dive into the world of Imagineering. It also provided a guide map for people aspiring to join the Walt Disney Company's much-heralded and respected creative wing.

Both of Marty's books have been unqualified successes and have resulted in book-signing tours over the last few years that have literally spanned the globe ... from Shanghai, China, to Toms River, N.J. "I just signed a contract with a Brazilian publisher for Portuguese editions of both books," Marty said. "Dream It! Do It! already has Japanese and Mandarin Chinese versions."

I asked Marty if there is another book in the works. That's when I learned that inspiration can be a two-way street.

"Yes, I've started working on another book, but it's hard to get motivated," he admitted. "But the Festival of the Arts audiences – including my separate book signing on Sunday – have inspired me to get moving."

During his workshop on Saturday, Marty said he was "really excited about the first-ever Festival of the Arts. It's wonderful to see the works of the Disney artists on display her at Epcot. Forgive me if I get a bit emotional. I worked on Epcot from 1973 until it opened in October of 1982 ... almost 35 years ago. Today, Epcot is the sixth-most visited park in the world. It's great to see the arts have joined in the fun here."

Inside the Odyssey, some of the works of Legendary Disney artists Herb Ryman and Mary Blair were on display, serving as a fitting backdrop to Marty's presentation, as well as the Festival in general.

msbgtalk.jpg
A poster advertising the Texas Transportation Forum had a very Disney feel to it.

Marty's appearance at Epcot capped off another whirlwind stretch for the now 83-year-old. Prior to his Epcot stint, he and fellow Disney Legend Bob Gurr, who is 85, gave presentations at the Texas Transportation Forum, which ran from Feb 5-7 in Austin.

The title of their keynote talk was "Imagineering a Legacy: How Disney's Designs Influence Today's Transportation." Who better to talk about transportation issues than two of Imagineering's guiding lights, two Disney giants who were always pushing the envelope and developing creative and forward-thinking solutions to a myriad of problems?

Both Marty and Bob gave perspective and context on how Imagineering's "great sense of innovation can be applied to the transportation problems of today," according to the event program. "The Imagineers had to think outside the box to overcome many issues, including developing new and innovative transportation systems."

"I guess we were a big hit." Marty said. After their presentation in front of 1,500 people, "another 500-600 were at our Breakout Session. They said some of the government people [doing other Breakout sessions] were not thrilled – we had by far the biggest audience!"

"Yes, we both had a blast," Gurr added. "1,500 Texas government folks, all friendly Republicans. Well organized and ready for tall tales from Disney's past more than issues of transportation. The panel presenters did all of that, while we made up stories."

Stories that no doubt inspired those in attendance to dream up new and creative ways to tackle many of today's pressing transportation issues.

February 26, 2017

The Big Red Boat

Gary Cruise banner

Way back in the mists of time, in the long lost days of yore, before there was a Disney Cruise Line, avid Disney fans sailed with a cast of Disney characters on The Big Red Boat!

The Big Red Boat

Premier Cruise Lines, which operated the Big Red Boat, was formed in 1983 by two veterans in the cruise industry. These two men were mavericks who had a vision; they wanted to create a new niche market – Family Cruising. Until that time cruise ships had been opulent floating palaces catering to well-heeled older patrons who wanted a luxurious vacation experience. The two entrepreneurs behind Premier Cruise Lines thought that some of these patrons might like to bring children or grandchildren along with them and that was the niche market they were hoping to capture.

They raised more than a few eyebrows in the rather stodgy cruise industry when they bought the Oceanic and refurbished it in a “not-so-luxurious” fashion to accommodate the needs of cruising families.

At the same time the Walt Disney Corporation was looking for ways to add some variety to their theme park vacations. It wasn’t long before Premier and Disney signed an agreement and began jointly marketing Disney vacations with a “land and sea” option. When it was re-launched after refurbishment the Oceanic was christened by none other than Minnie Mouse!

Big Red Boat Ad 1990
Click on the image above to see a larger version

In 1985 Disney characters began appearing on the Big Red Boat; special Disney themed ship-board activities were offered for children and on-board entertainment was family oriented. The ship had a staff of more than 30 youth counselors on-board and programs for the children were divided by age group. They even had a special menu for children and provided free onboard babysitting. This approach to family cruising was an instant success!

Big Red Boat Ad 1992
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Disney fans just loved the idea of three or four days at sea followed by three or four days at the theme parks! By 1988 family cruising was so popular that two more ships, the Majestic and the Atlantic, joined the Premier Cruise Lines fleet. The hulls were painted bright red and all three were marketed as “The Big Red Boat”

Magic Kingdom Club Membership Guide 1993
Click to see a larger image

The three and four day cruises sailed from Port Canaveral and offered several different itineraries. Ports of call included Freeport, Nassau and Salt Cay, a small island just a few miles from Nassau.

Carol and I didn’t sail with Disney until 2007, but a few people have shared their experiences on the Big Red Boat with us.

Karen O. from Illinois told me, “We took a cruise in March 1992. My husband Rudy, son Greg and I boarded the Majestic in Port Canaveral. We really enjoyed the package that included a three day cruise followed by four days at Walt Disney World. One of the highlights was anchoring off of Abaco Island in the Bahamas. It's almost hard to say what was our favourite thing because everything was great. Of course we loved the food, the service, and the activities; but we especially loved the snorkeling. Our son Greg even got to swim with the dolphins. He was a year-round swim competitor, and at the time was eight years old. It was a very special trip and vacation for us.”

Greg and the Server

Greg at Abacos

Rob R. from Virginia described his experience for me; “My wife Kathy and I honeymooned on the Big Red Boat in September 1993. We boarded about 2:00 p.m. and sailed away from Port Canaveral at about 5:30. There was a Bon Voyage party on the main pool deck; we were all given streamers and confetti to throw, there was a live band playing and Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto were interacting with guests as we left port. That was the last time I remember seeing the characters on board but I'm sure they were around for later functions. The movie theater was showing Disney movies.”

“Our ports of call were Nassau and Freeport. At Nassau we could go to the straw market, take an excursion to Atlantis to go to the casino, take an excursion to Salt Cay, a nearby private island to snorkel or rest on net hammocks. Salt Cay was used in the opening credit shots for Gilligan's Island . . . that was neat. Kathy and I enjoyed the snorkeling and then walked around the straw market”

“In Freeport Kathy and I went parasailing. It was fantastic! Flying high above the crystal clear water was wonderful. From up that high, you could see the coral reef, some of the colourful fish and the ocean bottom. I wish I had taken a camera up with me to take pictures of how clear things were.”

Rob and Kathy must have sailed on one of the last of the Disney themed cruises since the deal between Premier and Disney ended in late 1993 and was not renewed. Disney reportedly had discussions with both Carnival and Royal Caribbean lines, hoping they could replace Premier, but neither seemed to be interested. On May 3, 1994 Disney announced that they would be starting their own cruise line.

Premier soon negotiated a deal with Warner Brothers and before long Bugs Bunny and many of the other Looney Tunes characters were interacting with vacationers on the Big Red Boats.

Looney Tunes Party Animals

It was during the Looney Tunes era that AllEars.net Photo Blogger Scott Thomas and his family sailed. “We sailed just after Disney had announced they were building their own ships and pulled out of the Big Red Boat. All the Looney Tunes characters were on the ship. The weather during our cruise was terrible, so bad that we didn’t go on a single excursion. The kid’s programs were very strange; they allowed our daughters, aged 6 and 9 at the time, to leave unescorted and roam the ship looking for us. We didn't like that at all; the girls found us each time but it certainly did not give us a good feeling!”

“The boat was old and small, everything seemed very cramped. The food and the service were okay. They only had one dining hall which I believe was the norm on ships back then, but nothing about the cruise was as well done as we have since experienced on Disney Cruise Line.”

Most of you know the rest of the story. In 1996 Disney purchased Gorda Cay and spent 25 million dollars transforming it into Castaway Cay. The Disney Magic began sailing July 30, 1998 and was joined by the Disney Wonder about a year later. The Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy followed in 2011 and 2012. Two new ships are now under construction and both should join the Disney fleet within 6 years.

As for Premier, they struggled after Disney pulled out. Their fleet was old and the smaller ships had a hard time meeting the needs of more demanding consumers. The company was bankrupt by September 2000 and almost all of their ships have since been sold for scrap.

StarShip_Royale_and_Oceanic.jpg

It’s a sad ending for Premier Cruise Lines, a company that helped incubate the Disney Cruise Line. There is no doubt in my mind that those 8 years when Disney fans sailed on the Big Red Boat gave the Imagineers a wonderful model to use when they began to design the ships, the children’s programs, the ship-board entertainment and the shore excursions that we all enjoy today.

How about you? Do you have any fond memories of the Big Red Boat?

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