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February 9, 2017

New USO Welcome Center at Orlando International Airport

by J. Scott Lopes
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

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The USO, or United Service Organizations, was founded in 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt. It is a nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and live entertainment to United States service members and their families.

If you're of a certain age, the phrase USO might make you think of legendary comedian/actor Bob Hope and his USO Tours entertaining the troops overseas during wartime.

But today, you might also think of the many USO Welcome Centers around the world, many of which are located in airports. In fact, one such USO center opened in September 2016 at Orlando International Airport.

This 3,100-square-foot USO Welcome Center is available to members of the military, as well as their families, as they travel through the Orlando airport. The centerpiece of the welcome center is a Disney-inspired family room that was created with a $100,000 gift from the Walt Disney Company.

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The Disney-designed family room joins other comforts of home offered at the Welcome Center.

There are computer workstations that can be used to check your email or print your boarding pass.

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In addition, the center also has a kitchen area stocked with many different beverages, as well as various snacks and food.

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There is even an entertainment section, with big screen TVs and gaming.

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The hours of the center's operation are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. It is located in Terminal A, Landside, Level 1 (prior to going though TSA). Access is restricted, and a valid military ID is required for entry.

The USO is a nonprofit organization, which relies solely on donations and volunteers. If you would more information, visit the USO's website.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J. Scott Lopes is a long time Disney fan who first went to Walt Disney World as a child in 1989 and has enjoyed traveling to Orlando ever since. He is interested in all things Disney Parks-related -- especially in the Walt Disney Imagineering division and all of the work and detail that they put into everything that they engineer.


February 6, 2017

Monorail guru Bob Gurr talks about Monty ... and his concept drawing of the famed transit vehicle

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Bob Gurr's original drawing of the monorail, sketched in late 1958. The color was added by Disney Legend John Hench.

Hey, Bob Gurr ... now that you've completed a documentary showing the world just how you designed some of the world's most innovative theme park attractions, what are you going to do next?

"My next project is gonna be a movie about Monty the Monorail."

Makes sense. Gurr, the father of Disney theme park monorails, has intimate knowledge of the sleek, futuristic modes of transportation that glide along on a single beam of concrete. When Walt Disney wanted to place a monorail system within the confines of Disneyland in the late 1950s, he turned to Gurr, his go-to transportation guru, to make that dream happen.

All these years later, the affable 85-year-old wants to turn a monorail into a living, breathing entity. Enter Monty the Monorail.

Here's the backstory: Turns out there's a guy who bought the front carriage of a Walt Disney World Mark IV monorail and turned it into something of a tourist attraction. "The guy treats it as if it's a character," Gurr said recently. "He fills it up with rock music and flashing lights and smoke and rides it around on an old flatbed trailer."

"I've met the guy and I want to do a movie about the monorail where I do a long voice-over. I look at the situation of a monorail who is a living character. And he has relatives and the relatives go way back to his great-grandfather in 1959. The movie will be really funny, full of graphics and this voice talking like it's his mommy.

"It'll be very tongue in cheek, taking an inert machine and making it into a human. When Monty was traveling across the country, every city was waiting for him and they'd throw a big party. Hundreds of people met Monty all across the United States.

"That's the next project."

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Bob Gurr takes a walk around viewing area atop Disney's Bay Lake Tower in Walt Disney World.

Bob Gurr is uniquely qualified to talk about the monorail, be it the nuts, bolts and Fiberglass version or the living character reincarnation.

It was Gurr who was tasked with getting the monorails designed and up and running for Disneyland in 1959. Mind you, he also was challenged with designing the track system for the Matterhorn Mountain bobsleds, as well as designs for a new Autopia car and the submarine voyage ... all at the same time!

Like most of the things he designed over his illustrious career, the monorail started with a simple sketch.

"I did the first sketch of the monorail in October of 1958," Gurr said. "I did about a 10-minute sketch in my house one morning and I brought it back to the office the next day and it took about two hours to complete it because I knew exactly what I wanted.

"Then [Disney Legend] John Hench put the coloring on it. Disney publications are always full of errors; they said John Hench designed it. Then one day years ago, the Disney Archive Department suddenly showed up with my original drawing. And they said, 'See, John didn't draw it, you did.'

An almost life-size mural depicting Gurr's iconic drawing currently adorns the Top of the World Lounge atop Disney Vacation Club's Bay Lake Tower in Walt Disney World. In the lower left-hand corner is the signature R.H. Gurr.

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Bob Gurr, center, offers some suggestions to Imagineers working on a refurbishment of the Autopia attraction in Disneyland several years ago. [The Walt Disney Company]

"If you go up there slightly after the sun rises, in the morning when the bar is closed, go over to the windows on the west side. The mural is back-lit so gorgeously in that room. It's just a stunning sight to see," he said. "Unfortunately, that's not when the bar is open."

His signature on the mural proved to be a bit problematic.

"The first time I signed it, the cleaning people came in and wiped it off. The next time after I signed it, they broke the corner off one of the panes. The third time I signed it, they sprayed plastic on it" to preserve it.

"That picture is actually what I've been saying all along: The inspiration comes from the top, not the bottom. Somebody asks you to figure something out and somehow, your brain has life experiences and suddenly, you can't sketch fast enough. It's so vivid in your mind. You've got to get it down on paper really quickly.

"The fact that that thing [the monorail] has turned out to be an icon at Disneyland and all over Florida ... The fact that that picture of the Mark I is in a bar at Walt Disney World, well, that's kinda cool."

MouseAdventure Returns to Walt Disney World March 4th

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by Stephanie Wien
AllEars® Guest Blogger

Do you remember the first time you entered a Disney theme park and were entranced by its immersive environment, marveling at all of its wonderful details?

MouseAdventure, a puzzle hunt game, recreates that experience as players rediscover the Disney theme parks with a renewed focus. Design elements that you once rushed past on your way to the next ride now become the main attraction, drawing you in to appreciate the individual parts that make up the larger whole.

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Team “Texas Turtles” dress in matching shirts.

MouseAdventure began almost 20 years ago, in the early days of internet message boards, with a modest audience of about 70 people (about 20 teams), and has since grown to consistently draw hundreds of people for its west coast games at the Disneyland Resort. In 2009, MouseAdventure expanded to include the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and held its sixth successful event in 2016 during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Third Gate Games (TGG), formed in 2016 from the core group who had been writing and running the event for many years, currently produces the event.

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MouseAdventure happens rain or shine, and teams take the weather in stride.

What is a puzzle hunt?

Although it’s often referred to as a scavenger hunt, MouseAdventure is better classified as a puzzle hunt; teams aren’t just looking to check items off a list or collect condiment packets (although they have been asked to do that from time to time). A puzzle hunt challenges teams to solve a series of puzzles, which MouseAdventure calls quests. Imagineers work hard to include lots of theming when designing the theme parks; quests use these details as clues to lead teams to a final question, answerable only within the boundaries set for that particular puzzle.

For example, in the most recent WDW event (MouseAdventure: Silly Symphonies), the quest writers used the informational signs for the Flower and Garden Festival’s cactus garden as the basic information for a quest. Teams matched each plant type to a fact about that plant, then placed the appropriate plant name in the proper location on a path designed to look like a garden hose. Following the hose from spigot to spout, teams collected letters to spell out the final question, which lead to another nearby garden display with the answer.

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Players received a packet of “seed” discs to place along the hose path.
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Placing the plant discs along the hose path revealed the final question.

Who is on a team?

Two to four people make up a single team, and often include groups of friends or even family members. Some teams are competitive, and aim to place; these teams often register in the Advanced Division, if it is separately offered from the usual Basic Division. Advanced teams receive more quests for a given event, and the difficulty of the quests may be higher. Competitive teams who have had three wins move into the ranks of the Master Division, where they can still play the game, but only for bragging rights, not prizes.

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The “San Diego Mouse Catchers” compete in the Advanced Division.

Other teams are just in it for a day of fun at a Disney theme park outside of the usual rides and shows. Children six and under don’t count as a team member, and there are many teams who have played with young children, or even while pregnant. A family team includes at least one team member under the age of 13; if there are enough family teams registered for a MouseAdventure event, the top family team receives a prize.

People in wheelchairs, scooters, or with other physical challenges are welcome to play. MouseAdventure rules provide accommodations for team members who may not be able to experience certain attractions or areas of the theme park included in the game.

How long is the event?

MouseAdventure starts in the morning, with check in typically around 9 a.m., depending on the location. Start times may vary based on theme park hours. Teams check in to receive their packets, and then are given a rundown of the day’s timeline and a review of the rules. All teams are given their quest packets at the same time, and then it’s off to the races (fast walking only, please).

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Jussst a Dino examine their packet in Animal Kingdom.

An event is typically eight to eleven quests, solved over the course of about six or seven hours. Staff and crew are on hand to provide assistance and keep things orderly. Teams may check in at a pre-determined central location from time to time to pick up additional, time-sensitive material, get help on how a puzzle works, or to get a hint to find an elusive clue. At the end of the day, the staff collects answer sheets at a specified time and location within the park, and then heads off to quickly grade. Winners are announced within a few hours of the game’s conclusion; all team scores are posted online within a few days of the event.

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Team Plutonium strikes a familiar MouseAdventure pose in Disneyland’s Frontierland.

Recently, MouseAdventure has moved away from a formal post-game event at Disneyland. At Walt Disney World, we take advantage of the wedding pavilion on the edge of Crescent Lake between the Boardwalk and Beach Club Resorts to hold an informal gathering after the event. MouseAdventure staff members announce the winners, hand out awards, and answer questions about quests. It’s also a time for players to meet the creators and mingle with fellow players.

What is Third Gate Games?

Third Gate Games formed in 2016 to take over production of MouseAdventure and expand the concept to hold similar events at locations outside of Disney theme parks. The TGG team was involved with production of MouseAdventure when it was still under the MousePlanet banner, working as quest writers, designers, emcees, and more. We all started out as MouseAdventure players, so we know the thrill of victory and the frustration of counting tiles that our teams experience each time they play.

Why play MouseAdventure?

Puzzle fans enjoy the variety of different types that each event uses: Traditional crossword puzzles, word searches, logic puzzles, letter elimination and more. Disney fans enjoy discovering locations inside the theme parks that they might have previously overlooked. There are prizes for the top three teams in each division, with the third place teams receiving a Disney gift card with value equal to the price of the game.

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Decoding the tablets near Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom requires a sharp eye.

However, prizes aren’t the main reason to play. The goal of the MouseAdventure staff is for all of our players to have a fun time, even if that can involves some challenge and frustration. We always enjoy seeing the realization dawn on the faces of players as they figure out a quest.

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A player examines a window in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Rediscover the Vacation Kingdom of the World at the crossroads of the state. MouseAdventure: The Florida Project is the next upcoming event at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and its neighboring resort hotels on March 4. Registration is currently open at mouseadventure.com. Assemble your team, grab a clipboard, and get ready to stare intently at window displays and obscure signs. Are you game?

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January 29, 2017

A Disney-fied Golf Cart

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On May 1, 2010 Carol and I were celebrating my birthday at EPCOT. Naturally we had to take a ride on Soarin’

As we waited in line we struck up a conversation with another couple who seemed to be avid Disney fans, just like us. When they heard that we were staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground in our motor home they were suddenly full of questions. Retirement was on the horizon for both of them and a motor home was something that they had talked about. They thought it might be a nice way to spend their golden years!

When we finished our glider ride over California the four of us chatted about motor homes and Disney camping as we enjoyed coffee and a snack at Sunshine Seasons. Who knew that a chance meeting in a queue almost seven years ago would lead to the friendship we now enjoy with Al and Jane from Blue Springs, Missouri.

We swapped e-mail addresses that day and over the next few months Carol and I answered all sorts of RV related questions. About a year later they bought their first rig, a brand new 37-foot Winnebago. They’re now retired and enjoy dividing their year in two halves; the warmest six months they spend at their home near Kansas City and the coldest six months they spend in their new 43-foot Winnebago motor coach at Fort Wilderness.

We have camped beside Al and Jane, or across the road from them, about a half dozen times and we always enjoy hanging out with them. Even our dogs have become friends; they look forward to going to the Halloween Pet Parade together every year!

Last October we were camped across from our friends when they took delivery of their newest toy, a beautiful customized golf cart.

Custom Disney Golf Cart front

Custom Disney Golf Cart rear

It’s a Star Roadster 2+2 made by the Star EV Company of Greenville South Carolina. It’s electric powered and street legal.

Custom Disney Golf Cart driver side

Custom Disney Golf Cart passenger side

While they were considering buying a cart they spotted a used EZ-GO that had some nice Disney themed art painted along each side. They didn’t buy that cart, but when they did decide it was time to buy they went to the same dealership in Indiana who had arranged for the customized air-brush painting on the used cart.

I asked Al, "You live in Missouri and bought a golf cart made in South Carolina that you will be using in Florida. Why did you go with a dealer in Indiana?" "Well," he replied, "I really liked the work that the Indiana air-brush artist did on that EZ-GO cart, so I bought from the same dealer. I'm glad I did, they were great to deal with!"

Once Al and Jane had picked out the retro roadster and worked out the purchase details they began selecting the art which would adorn the cart. With so many Disney characters to choose from I am sure this was not an easy process.

Custom Disney Golf Cart hood

An image of Cinderella Castle covers the hood and the banner reads “A dream is a wish your heart makes”

Custom Disney Golf Cart Lady and Tramp

Lady and the Tramp appear on a front fender. Al and Jane are “dog people”. Their three cocker spaniels travel with them, and in their working lives one of their businesses was a dog training and obedience school in Blue Springs.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Tinker Bell

Tinker Bell graces the other front fender; she’s one of Jane’s favourite characters!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Mickey and Pluto

Mickey and Pluto on the driver’s side; Mickey because he’s the big cheese and Pluto because they’re dog people!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Cruella

Jane’s favourite villain, Cruella De Vil on the driver’s side.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Dalmatian puppy

One of the Dalmatian puppies hides just around the corner from Cruella, under the driver’s seat.

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Mickey Mouse on a rear fender.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Minnie

Minnie Mouse on the other rear fender.

Started with a mouse

Across the back, “Never forget, it all started with a mouse”

Custom Disney Golf Cart Boo

One of Al and Jane’s cocker spaniels is named Boo, so this character is a natural!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Chip and Dale

Chip and Dale are another pair of favourite characters, but they’re also park icons at Fort Wilderness. Those pesky chipmunks are featured on a lot of campground merchandise!

I think that Al and Jane picked the art very wisely and the air brush artist did a great job applying it to the cart. The results are stunning!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Upholstery

Custom Disney Golf Cart Upholstery

The dealer even arranged for the custom upholstery, Mickey’s colours and a smiling Mickey icon! Beautiful!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Wheel

Why not include custom wheels?

Custom Disney Golf Cart Headlight

And teardrop headlights?

Here are Al and Jane driving their cart in the annual Halloween Golf Cart Parade at Fort Wilderness!

Custom Disney Golf Cart in parade

You can find Al and Jane (and their cart) in the 700 loop during that colder half of the year. If you see them around the campground be sure to say hello! They like to talk about their new toy.

Al recently told me, “We can't go anywhere without some one wanting to take pictures of it. I think it is probably in hundreds of people's vacation pictures.”

Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. It really is a cool ride!

January 23, 2017

Documentary shows how Bob Gurr created so many classic Disney attractions

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Bob Gurr holds a copy of his book, "Design: Just For Fun," after its release. [Ape Pen Publishing]

If there's such a thing as a blueprint for an exciting, fun-filled, never-a-dull-moment retirement, Bob Gurr seems to have created it.

Which, in a way, makes perfect sense, since Gurr is the man responsible for creating so many of the exciting, fun-filled, never-a-dull-moment ride vehicles and attractions we've come to know and love in Disney parks around the globe for decades.

Gurr, who is 85, has packed so much into his retirement years that it's almost impossible to pinpoint a time when he's actually stopped working and commenced sitting back in a rocking chair and relaxing. For the record, Gurr officially retired from the Walt Disney Company in 1981 ... but that didn't stop him from working on a number of "side" jobs, among them: The grand finale production at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles ... the monstrous King Kong Audio-Animatonics figure at Universal Studios ... and the complicated stage apparatus used during Michael Jackson's Victory Tour in 1984.

Also during his "retirement," the affable Gurr has "gone on something like 45 cruises," to places like Hawaii, Tahiti and the Caribbean, done dozens of panel discussions and presentations, written and promoted his own book [Design: Just For Fun, APP-Gurr Design], and, most recently, spent more than a year putting together a documentary, Bob Gurr: Turning Dreams into Reality, available through Ape Pen Publishing.

The documentary, which debuted last year at the popular Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet, is not so much a story of Gurr's life as it is an outline of just how Gurr created some of the industry's most innovative and ground-breaking theme park attractions. In short, it's not about what he did, but how he did it.

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Bob Gurr takes a spin on a scale model of a monorail during a Disney fan event several years ago. [Ape Pen Publishing]


Carlene Thie, who owns Ape Pen Publishing and who had a big hand in helping Gurr get his book published and was the driving force behind The Bob Gurr Roast in 2015, "Had this long-term idea," Gurr said in a recent telephone interview. "She said, 'I want to do a documentary on your life.' And I said, 'No, no, Carlene. There are so many videos available on my life on YouTube and so forth.' But she was very insistent."

Finally, Gurr told Carlene that "if anyone was going to do a documentary, we should look at HOW I was about to do stuff. We finally agreed to sit down and start talking about it. It was the spring of 2014. By that time, she had assembled a few people, a screenwriter and a videographer. Then she had three friends who were in the videographer business and she was trusting them. She said she wanted to get me on camera and record me so I could tell my story. I said that I didn't want anything to do with that kind of project, but I told her to go get some witnesses who actually watched how I worked.

"So I gave her a list of eight people, and in about two months, she got everybody on the list ... Marty Sklar, Garner Holt and a bunch of other people. Even the head of Walt Disney Imagineering. She got them to agree to come out on a Saturday and a Sunday, four people each day."

The only problem was, she didn't have any place to record them. In lieu of a studio, Bob suggested using his own house in Tujunga, Calif. "So we put tarps over the windows. I told her to bring her photographers in the house and I'd sit in the backyard and run the hospitality food tent. People came and went and I'd greet them.

"Six months later, I called her up and asked her, 'Where's your documentary?' "and she said," 'Uh, Bob ...'"

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Gurr poses for a photo with fellow Disney Legend Marty Sklar at a D23 event. [Deb Wills]

Turns out what was filmed wasn't very good. "A train wreck," is how Gurr described it. To make matters worse, it was estimated that it would cost upwards of $50,000 to repair the damage.

Carlene gave Gurr a copy of what was filmed and he poured through the 10 hours of video. When he was finished, he came to a conclusion: "Despite all the wreckage, there was precious content about the theme park industry in general. I said it would sure be a shame to lose all that stuff just because she had a bad crew."

That crew "made more mistakes than you can imagine," Gurr said. "They screwed up the lighting, the sound quality was quite poor, they even walked in front of the cameras. If you wrote down all the major mistakes a film crew could make, they made them.

"Finally, I said to Carlene, 'Buy me a new Macintosh with a quad core processor and all the software and I will teach myself to be an editor of PBS quality. That's the cheapest way you'll ever get out of this thing."

So Carlene bought him the equipment he needed and he began a months-long editing process. "After a while, I began to figure out the story. It was fascinating listening to people from different companies and different eras describing how Bob Gurr works. It slowly dawned on me how I work and I work totally differently than other people work. You know in any line of work, you always think that everybody works the same and then it dawns on you later that when you've got witnesses, no, maybe you don't work like that."

During his Disney days, Bob Gurr had a reputation of being somewhat of a genius. After all, he played significant roles in such classic Disney attractions as the Autopia cars, Matterhorn Mountain, the submarine voyage, the Disney monorail system, the Abraham Lincoln figure at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, and the development of Audio-Animatronics.

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Bob Gurr offers his advice during a remodeling of the Autopia track at Disneyland. [Walt Disney Imagineering]

"People would say, 'Didn't you know Gurr's a genius?' and I'd say, 'No, no, I just work here. Whatever Walt wanted, I did. Whatever Michael Jackson wants ... you just did it.. On top of that, I never went to engineering school and I had no qualifications to do any of this stuff and Walt never gave it a thought, he didn't care.

"And looking at my life backwards, these guys [the eight 'witnesses' who came to his house on that fateful weekend] are explaining it, and I thought, now I could write a story that would make sense."

Then he invited some friends to drop by and help with the project.

Following Gurr's lead, those friends dove right in. "They'd show up here and the minute they looked at the computer, they'd start taking notes and writing things furiously on paper" and a script began to take shape.

Gurr then began the arduous task of editing. "Sound editing is really fascinating," he said. "Luckily, my nephew, Eric Johnston, has five Emmys. He's a recording engineer for X Factor and Dancing with the Stars. He said, 'When you get the sound tracks to where you want them, I'll go through them and clean up all the technical problems in the audio.'"

Meanwhile, Carlene Thie was beginning her own long journey. "It took about a year for her to get Disney's approval to use the images of the things I designed," Gurr said. "They wanted thousands of dollars for the licensing fees. I told her to keep writing them every few weeks and wear them down. Every time she did, the price went down a little bit. I think they got down to where they got just enough money that it would be a contract."

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Bob Gurr, third from the right, poses for a photo after he was roasted in 2015.

Gurr then threw himself head-long into video editing. "From a technical standpoint, I became totally fascinated with video editing," which was a painstakingly long and tedious process. "I had to swap out all the poor quality and I had to construct the soundtracks by hand."

During the final stages of putting the documentary together, Gurr had to compile credits for the film. "I left on all the names of the people who did such a bad job. The people who actually did all the work were my nephew, Carlene Thie and myself. But I knew it's completely wrong for a person to edit their own life documentary. It's just not right.

"So, when you look at the credits in the back of the film you'll see Eric Johnston, Carlene Thie and 'editing done by a new company called RescueEdit Services.'

"That's the final joke," he laughed.

Bob Gurr: Turning Dreams into Reality can be purchased through Ape Pen Publishing at www.apepenpublishing.com. To view Bob Gurr's website, go to www.bobgurr.com.

January 19, 2017

The Mousy Mindboggler

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

If you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, you'll know that we run a little game called the Mousy Mindboggler. Sometimes it's a word game, sometimes it's a riddle, sometimes it's some other brain-teasing challenge -- but it's always fun!

Once each month, in the AllEars® newsletter, 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. The subject of the puzzle will vary, and James will award the winner of the challenge a collectible Disney pin!

James writes:

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Here is the solution to the last crossword puzzle.

http://allears.net/ae/mb120116-key.pdf

We received 41 correct responses; all of you knew that the working title of the film that would eventually be released as "Fantasia in November 1940 was the Concert Feature. Another little-known fact about the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment is the fact that originally Dopey was considered to play the part of the Sorcerer's Apprentice, a role that would eventually go to Mickey Mouse instead.

The winner of a Tinker Bell pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Marianne M. of Barnegat, NJ. Congratulations!

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

http://allears.net/ae/mb011917.pdf

That last puzzle wrapped up the “This Month in Disney History" series, which we started in December 2015 in recognition of the 20th Anniversary of AllEars.Net.

Now we are going to completely change gears by starting a series (a very long series!) of puzzles honoring Disney's extensive list of live-action films. So, it would make sense that we start with the first live-action film, 1950's “Treasure Island.”

Other partial live-action films had been produced prior to 1950, such as “Song of the South” and “So Dear to My Heart,” but these films also contained animated sequences. Due to its violence, this film would probably have been Disney’s first PG-rating, but the rating system did not exist at the time. This film was reissued in 1975 without some of the violent scenes in order to obtain a more favorable G-rating.

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 January 31, 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 February.

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!

Disney Pin Quest at Magic Kingdom Park

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by J. Scott Lopes
Guest Blogger, AllEars.Net

I recently embarked on a quest at Magic Kingdom, a quest that took me to every corner of the park. It was the Disney Pin Quest, a scavenger hunt that leads you to acquiring a complete set of pins. (There's a Disneyland version of this Pin Quest, which is almost identical. You can read about it HERE.)

In order to start the journey, you need to purchase an adventure kit and clues. The starter kit, which costs $14.99, includes a lanyard, a decoder medal (more on this later), a pouch, and a map.

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This kit can be purchased at the following locations:

– Fantasy Faire, Fantasyland
– Big Top Souvenirs, Storybook Circus in Fantasyland
– Briar Patch, Frontierland
– Frontier Trading Post, Frontierland
– Curtain Call Collectibles, Main Street, U.S.A.
– Tomorrowland Light & Power Co, Tomorrowland

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I started at the Trading Post where I purchased my adventure kit and first clue. (Each clue costs $9.99, by the way.)

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You purchase the clue, and once you find the answer, your reward is a pin.

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When you first start out, or if you get stuck, friendly cast members are there to help you.

Once you are rewarded with the pin, you use the decoder medal to read the coordinates (a letter and number), which you then use to find the next location on the map. The map does show 10 locations, but only 6 are part of the quest. As you collect each pin, the NavigatEAR will stamp your map, and you can also write the letter from the back of the pin in the spot on the map that corresponds to the clue number (this will spell out a hidden message).

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Once you get the letter and number coordinate you will be able to find their intersection on the map to locate the next location. After collecting all six pins you return back to the Trading Post or Curtain Call CollectIbles to use the hidden message, so that you are able to purchase the final completer pin.

I had a lot of fun and recommend that everyone try this. It's also a great activity to do in a group -- I had family along for my journey, which was helpful at times.

One warning: there can be a lot of walking involved. In my journey, I used the Walt Disney World Railroad to travel between some locations, and most of the time the next location was on opposite ends of the park. I took my time completing the quest and took in a few attractions -- as well as a Dole Whip! -- in between collecting clues and pins, but the quest took me about four hours. If you focused on just completing the quest without interruption it probably would take closer to two hours.

The adventure kit is $14.99, each clue is $9.99, and the completer pin is $4.99. Altogether, this quest costs about $80 plus tax, not counting any applicable discounts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J. Scott Lopes is a long time Disney fan who first went to Walt Disney World as a child in 1989 and has enjoyed traveling to Orlando ever since. He is interested in all things Disney Parks-related, especially in the Walt Disney Imagineering division and all of the work and detail that they put into everything that they engineer.


January 15, 2017

Classic Boats at the Dockside Bar

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Last fall Carol and I enjoyed our first dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant in Disney Springs. On our way to the check-in desk we paused to watch the Amphicars come and go at the launch ramp directly beside the restaurant entrance.

Amphicar Landing

Our meal was a wonderful experience; we savoured delightful food as we sat overlooking the waters of the lagoon. I was mesmerized by the Amphicars which sailed past throughout our dinner. The old classic cars . . . or boats . . . or whatever they are, were shining brightly in the long rays of the setting sun.

Amphicar

Amphicar

I was so wrapped up watching the Amphicars that I didn’t even notice the other classic boats until it was almost dark. A wooden dock runs from south end of the Boathouse Restaurant out to the Dockside Bar, built on posts in the middle of the lagoon. The dock carries on past the bar and at the opposite end reconnects with the Boathouse Restaurant at its northern end. The outer portion of the dock is lined, on both sides, with some amazing old boats.

Dockside Bar
The Dockside Bar is directly under the balloon. The classic boats are to the right.

After dinner we wandered out along the dock and took our time admiring an astounding array of teak, mahogany, fiberglass, brass, steel and chrome.

It took me back to my youth. I grew up in a small village on the north shore of Lake Erie and as far back as I can remember we had a power boat docked along the river right behind our home.

I tried to capture a few pictures, but there just wasn’t enough light for our little point and shoot camera. Here are the best shots I got that night.

Cadillac Sea Lark

Cadillac Sea Lark

Look at those tail fins on the 1956 Cadillac Sea Lark! Wow!

I just had to see some more of those boats, so just a few days later we drove back over to Disney Springs. We walked past the Boathouse check-in podium, through the restaurant and out onto the dock leading toward the Dockside Bar.

The flashbacks began almost immediately! The mahogany boats reminded me of the first boat I remember, our 1954 18’ SeaBird Runabout. It was built in Ontario by the Port Carling Boat Works and was powered by a 4 cylinder Buchanan engine which put out a whopping 60 horsepower! I don’t have a picture of our old boat, but here is a SeaBird from the same era!

SeaBird

This beautiful old Chris Craft sure reminded me of our SeaBird!

Chris Craft

The wooden and fiberglass gems line the dock, and each one has a plaque describing its history and background. Take time to read the messages, each of the boats has a story to tell!

Classic Boats

Gods Time

God's Time was one of my favourites, I love those gull-wing doors in the top!

Gods Time

Gods Time

Walts Dream
Walt's Dream is a 1947 Chris Craft Runabout, beautifully restored.

If speedboats are more to your liking, here are a couple of beauties!

U22 Alter Ego
Alter Ego is a 32' Hydroplane powered by a 1500 horsepower Allison V12

G-99 Miss Belle Isle
G-99 Miss Belle Isle

Do you like fiberglass and fins?

Here's a daylight picture of that 1956 Cadillac Sea Lark.

Sea Lark

1950s Fins

There are lots of other 1950's fins to see!

Marilyns Meteor Mate

Even the big Mercury outboard engine is pink on Marilyn's Meteor Mate.

Marilyns Meteor Mate

Marilyns Meteor Mate

Gadget

Keep an eye out for Gadget, a teeny weeny tug boat and the beautifuly restored steam powered boat pictured below.

Steam Power

The Boathouse

Next time you visit Disney Springs take a stroll along the dock beside The Boathouse and enjoy some nautical history!

January 9, 2017

Charlie Ridgway and Rick Sylvain: Two Disney PR guys with the "write" stuff

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Rick Sylvain, left, and his former boss, Charlie Ridgway, crossed paths in England several years ago. As Rick puts it: "This was taken in 2007 after a travel writers' convention in Manchester, England. Two friends and I were getting our rental van serviced deep in the English countryside. Who do we run across on that day, at that hour, at that minute, in that town, but Charlie, off on his own adventure? He had stopped for a candy bar. Long odds. Lottery odds. Must have been some sort of kismet. I love Charlie's smile in this photo." [Courtesy of Rick Sylvain]


Press events at Walt Disney World, as well as my interactions with numerous Disney cast members, have been an integral part of my reporting on all things Disney over the last 35 years.

These experiences and the bonds that I've forged were so important to me that I wrote a book about them, On The Disney Beat: Over 30 Years of Chronicling the People and Places in Walt's World [Theme Park Press]. Through many of the press events I've attended and during the many interviews I've conducted, I've met some outstanding people, many of whom I consider friends.

So it was with sadness when I learned on Dec. 24 of the passing of Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway, who was a key figure in my journalistic journey through Disney's world. Charlie was an important part of my book, from my first invitation to a Disney press event he supervised in 1986 to an extensive interview I had with him in 2014.

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Charlie in 1992. After learning that my extended family and I would be in WDW during August of that year, he invited us to join him for an unforgettable afternoon. We [I believe there were eight of us] met him at 12:30 at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom and he walked us back stage to his waiting company van. The afternoon parade was in the process of queuing up and he made sure the younger ones in our party looked away, lest they see a character out of costume, thus spoiling the magic. He drove us all to the then-new Yacht Club Galley, where we chatted about a wide range of Disney-related topics, including the opening of several on-property resorts. I still have his business card, with his work phone number and his [get this!] Telex number.

Charlie was best known for dreaming up new and better ways to get the word out on Disneyland [he was hired in 1963] and later Walt Disney World, where he settled in as Press and Publicity director about a year before the resort opened in 1971. In those days, Disney did very little advertising, so it was up to the Press and Publicity folks to publicize the parks. And Charlie did it in a way that was creative, imaginative, fun and, most importantly, effective. Charlie retired a few years after our lunch, although he was often called on by his colleagues to lend his expertise on a number of projects.

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Charlie Ridgway holds a Donald Duck figure as Rick Sylvain looks on during a 90th birthday celebration for Charlie in 2014. [Walt Disney World]

During the most recent WDW press gathering in November 2016, I was able to renew acquaintances with Rick Sylvain, a man I've known since the 1990s, when he was hired by Charlie to work on WDW's PR team. Following in Charlie's rather large footsteps, Rick was as sound a PR man as you could find, always ready to help out and always going above and beyond to make sure you had all the information you needed to make your story complete. Rick retired from Walt Disney World's Press and Publicity Department in 2015, but still has his hand in PR work.

It was Rick who helped me secure an interview with Charlie, a man he considered a beloved mentor, in January 2014. "It was Charlie who rescued me from a nasty strike at The Detroit Free Press [where Rick was a travel editor of considerable import] and got me to come down here to work for him," Rick told me a few years ago. "It was Charlie who launched me on 20 years [at Disney] that I will never forget."

The bond between Rick and Charlie was strong. During Charlie's retirement years, the two got together as often as they could. In fact, a few weeks before Charlie died, Rick and several other members of "the old guard" were supposed to take Charlie out for a holiday celebration, but it had to be canceled. Rick considered it an honor and a privilege when Charlie asked him to write the foreword to his book, Spinning Disney's World, upon its re-release in paperback.

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Tom Bergeron, left, chats with actor Michael J. Fox during a press event in New York City to announce the beginning of the Let the Memories Begin Disney Parks campaign in 2010. [The Walt Disney Company]

When I think of how many times I've had the pleasure of Rick's company, as well as his witty repartee, it dredges up some pretty fond memories. Many of the press gatherings he had a hand in putting together were held in New York City, so he knew I was pretty close by and would always make an effort to be in attendance.

There was the event to promote the Let The Memories Begin initiative on the West Side of Manhattan in 2010, which was hosted by Dancing With the Stars' Tom Bergeron and featured an appearance by actor Michael J. Fox.

There was the Limited Time Magic event in midtown Manhattan in 2014, where artisans carved several Disney-themed ice sculptures right on Broadway to emphasize how quickly things come and go.

In 2015, he invited me to a special press preview of the re-imagined Disney Magic; the ship, which had been overhauled a few months before, sailed up from Port Canaveral and docked in Manhattan for just one day before heading to Europe for its summer season.

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The Disney Dream was christened on Jan. 19, 2011 at Disney Cruise Line's Port Canaveral port. [Disney Cruise Line]

And then there were the christenings of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruise liners, both lavishly produced press events that would have made Charlie proud.

The day before the Dream event at Port Canaveral, Fla., on Jan. 19, 2011, Rick invited me to join an exclusive press tour of the then-new Wild Africa Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

He wanted to make sure that we journalists [a group of about 10 of us met in the lobby of the Grand Floridian] would get the full experience, so he was with us every step of the way. Included in the trek were two treacherous trips across swaying and rickety rope bridges, with an assortment of hungry hippos and smiling crocodiles watching our every move with more than casual interest some 30 feet below.

"It's nice to feel the ground under my feet," Rick said after traversing the second bridge and climbing down from the lofty perch.

The Disney Fantasy christening took place in New York City in February 2012. Rick made sure I got to meet Jay Rasulo, then Disney's CFO. I had conducted a lengthy interview with Jay a few years before and was anxious to meet him in person.

At a press event during the spring of 2016, I ran into Rick at Morimoto Asia, a wonderful upscale Asian restaurant in Disney Springs. I mentioned to Rick how I was now writing a blog for AllEars.Net and he was positively effusive in his praise for the site. "Truly, the best Disney website out there," he said.

Like Charlie, Rick had a strong understanding of how to supply folks in the media with exactly what they need to get the most out of their stories about Walt Disney World. It made sense, since both men grew up in the newspaper business and always had a kinship with journalists.

"I always tried to hire people with newspaper backgrounds," Charlie told me during that 2014 interview, "because I felt that they knew what the news guys wanted and how to get it to them."

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Charlie Ridgway is interviewed during Walt Disney World's 15th anniversary in 1986. [Walt Disney World]

Charlie was among a handful of people still around who worked and interacted with Walt Disney. After toiling for years as a newspaperman in Southern California [he wrote a lengthy pre-opening feature on Disneyland, covered Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1955, and often wrote human interest stories on the park] Charlie was hired by Disney in 1963.

On Walt, Charlie said, "he had supreme confidence that he would know what the public wanted. And he was right 98 percent of the time. He had a tremendous ability to pay attention to every little detail, and yet know the overall picture as well, and he paid attention to the tiniest little detail in everything he did. Sometimes that put off some people, but overall, those who stayed with him for any length of time appreciated his talent so much that they didn't mind going all out for him."

Like Walt Disney himself, Charlie Ridgway long understood that while there's very little adult in each child, there's plenty of child in every adult.

As Rick Sylvain put it on the occasion of Charlie's 90th birthday: "Charlie, for me, embodies the true Disney spirit -- consummate professional, but a kid at heart. I know I and my colleagues can truly say that thanks to Charlie's inspiration, we can fly. Ideas define this man. Then and now."

Although Charlie hired Rick Sylvain in the mid-1990s, they had known each other for years, having gone on a number of travel junkets together, including several harrowing adventures in Egypt and Jerusalem in 1983, which are detailed beautifully in Charlie's Spinning Disney's World
book.

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The Disney characters gather for a publicity photo in front of Cinderella Castle during WDW's 15th anniversary, one of the hundreds of Disney events Charlie Ridgway had a hand in. [Walt Disney World]

When I saw Rick at the press event this past November, I quickly sought him out. And I made sure to give him a copy of On The Disney Beat, in large part because he had such a big hand in making it happen.

A few weeks after the event, Rick sent me an email that touched me on so many levels.

Hey Chuck:

So good crossing paths with you this month. Just finished your book - thanks for the copy. I laughed, I cried, I reminisced. Too many favorite parts to recount here - so I won't begin to try. True to your craft, you report All Things Disney so well. A book with lots of heart.

Rick went on to explain how my book actually inspired him.

Your wonderful narrative stirred for me so many personal stories from those 20 years. I remember walking around Epcot one afternoon in 2005 when a wheelchair-bound woman spotted my name badge and asked me to take her picture. We were at the red phone booth in the U.K. pavilion. Of course, I obliged her.

"Where you from?" I asked her.

"New Orleans," she said.

"What brings you here?"

"I lost everything in Katrina and just wanted to smile again."

That was powerful.

Another time, I was criss-crossing New York City a la Charlie [but not nearly as well] and had scored an audience with then-editor Walter Anderson of Parade Magazine. Nervous beyond words in the presence of this media giant, I pitched Animal Kingdom. Quiet enveloped the room. Walter sat back on his sofa, summoned his design editor and announced they were scrapping a coming cover story in favor of Animal Kingdom in words and pictures.

I left the Parade offices on Cloud Nine. The following week, I was working with famed Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Eddie Adams, setting up his cover shoot.

That's the pull of Disney you write so beautifully about. Again, thanks for my copy of On The Disney Beat. I will treasure it.

As I will my association with both you, Rick, and Charlie ... two class acts ... and two men who definitely had the write stuff.

December 26, 2016

Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway, who passed away Dec. 24: There will never be another like him

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Charlie Ridgway conducts an interview on Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World prior to the beginning of WDW's 15th anniversary celebration in 1986. [The Walt Disney Company]


"There will never be another like him."

In the hubbub of the holiday season, the passing of Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway on Dec. 24 may have gone unnoticed to most casual Disney fans ... but not to the people who knew him, worked for him, admired him and flat-out loved him.

"I wanted to let you know that our dear Charlie, 93, passed away today," former Walt Disney World publicity director Rick Sylvain messaged me on Christmas Eve.

Our dear Charlie.

That pretty much sums up the feelings of so many people whose lives were touched by the kind-hearted gentleman from Missouri, whose humble beginnings as a radio disc jockey and Midwestern newspaperman belied his legendary status in Disney's star-studded firmament.

Charlie, the master of spinning Disney's world as the company's chief press agent at both Disneyland and WDW, followed in his father's footsteps and earned a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. Despite his journalism pedigree, he began his career in radio because his father, who covered the agricultural beat for the Chicago Tribune, told him that "newspapers are bound to be a dying breed and encouraged me to get into radio. He was pretty wise."

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Charlie sets up a publicity photo of Donald Duck in the shadows of Cinderella Castle. [The Walt Disney Company]

Charlie landed a job at a 5,000-watt radio station in Erie, Pa., in the late 1940s after serving honorably during World War II. After about three years, though, he got a job offer from the Erie Dispatch, "my first job as a newspaperman. That job lasted about a year before I decided I needed to get into a bigger market. I had fallen in love with Los Angeles during the war, so I decided to go out there in 1952."

Charlie, his wife Gretta and their young family moved west, to a sleepy suburb of Los Angeles called Anaheim. He got a job as a general reporter with the Los Angeles Mirror-News and became aware of a construction site near their house when he and his family passed it on their way to the beach on weekends.

That construction site, rising up from large fields of orange groves, was to become Disneyland. It was Charlie Ridgway who was among the first journalists to do a story on Disneyland in early 1955 prior to opening ... and it was Charlie who was among the hundreds of frazzled journalists on hand to cover opening day on July 17, 1955.

Indeed, Charlie covered Disneyland for several years, for both the Los Angeles Mirror-News, then the Long Beach Press-Telegram, before he accepted a job offer from Disneyland in 1963 in the park's publicity department, doing the bulk of the office's writing.

A legendary career with Disney was launched.

From his tiny office above the police station near City Hall, Charlie dreamed up new and creative ways to get the word out on Disneyland, among them the press event he helped set up for the grand opening of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in 1967.

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Charlie signs a copy of his book, "Spinning Disney's World," several years ago.

"We sailed all the press people around in the sailing ship Columbia and then came in and fired the cannons and had a big sword fight on the deck." In addition, buccaneers boarded the ship from smaller craft and pirates fell from the ship into the river during their duels. Once the press folks were in a swashbuckling mood, they disembarked the ship and "stormed" the entrance of the Pirates of the Caribbean to gain access.

"I was in on that," Charlie said proudly during an interview with me in early 2014.

In the years that followed, Charlie was the go-to guy when it came to dreaming up fun and creative ways to publicize the park. Then, in 1969, Charlie was asked to move to central Florida to drum up publicity for Walt Disney's "latest and greatest dream" ... Walt Disney World.

"The first trip I made when I took the job at the end of 1969 was to go to New York. I went to Time, Life and Look magazines and all the major newspapers and I also went to Washington to National Geographic."

Look Magazine wanted to be the first publication to have a cover story on WDW, but the Magic Kingdom was still six months from completion. "It was way too early," Charlie said. "There wasn't that much really finished. But we were able to gerrymander things and produce pictures that looked like it was really done."

Charlie also played a key role in the classic photo that appeared on the cover of Life Magazine a few weeks before WDW opened.

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The Life Magazine cover prior to the opening of Walt Disney World in 1972 which Charlie Ridgway helped set up. [Life Magazine]

"I suggested we do a mob-scene photo and we carried forward from that point," Charlie said. "We went to Life with the idea and they liked it. They sent down one of their very best photographers [Yale Joel]. He got up on a stand with an 8 x 10 view camera to shoot the picture. Of course, that was the one we shot in front of the castle. We assembled as many cast members [3,000 of the 5,000 on staff at the time] as we could get there."

Charlie also was the architect of many elaborate press events during his years at WDW, events that saw literally thousands of members of the media invited to experience first-hand the magic and wonder of The Vacation Kingdom of the World.

Perhaps the most significant press event in Charlie's eyes was the grand opening of Epcot in October of 1982. It was the first time in broadcast history that television stations from around the country were able to carry an event live, thanks to a still-untested satellite uplink technology. "It was a rather feeble attempt, by today's standards," Charlie said, but it worked beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

It was Charlie at his finest. "We used to sit around marketing meetings dreaming up crazy ideas," he said.

Charlie's "crazy ideas" left a lasting impression on those folks who were privileged to work with him.

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The author with Charlie Ridgway during lunch in 1992. [Chuck Schmidt collection]

"I don't think he realizes how important he is to all of us and how much influence he's had on our careers," Michelle Baumann, who was hired by Charlie more than 25 years ago, told me a few years ago. "To give you an idea of what kind of person Charlie was, I was hired back during the time when photo captions had to be pasted onto the backs of the publicity photos, which was pretty tedious and time-consuming, but Charlie would be right there with us, doing the grunt work, not giving it a second thought.

"Every once in a while, we'll be stumped with something and someone in the office will say, 'What would Charlie do?' He made that much of an impression on us."

Rick Sylvain and a bunch of Charlie's "old guard" were scheduled to take him out to lunch on Dec. 14, but the luncheon had to be scrapped because of Charlie's failing health.

"So many of us owe so much to that man," Rick said. "I know he rescued me from a nasty newspaper strike in Detroit in 1995 and launched me on 20 years that I will never forget.

"There will never be another like him."

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