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May 30, 2018

Senses Spa at Saratoga Springs Resort

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By Guest Blogger Elizabeth Brown


I visited the spa on Mother's Day, Sunday May 13. This was not my first visit, but I LOVE this spa so I try to return on every trip, even if we are not staying at Saratoga Springs. This time we were staying at Saratoga, so I just walked over about 30 minutes prior to my appointment. I checked in at the desk and the attendant verified the services I had scheduled and the times for each. I booked an 80 minute massage, followed by a manicure.

Another attendant came to escort me downstairs to the women's changing area. She asked what size sandals I would like, gave me a blue DVC Member robe to change into (other guests have a taupe robe), and helped me find an available locker. Since I had been to the spa before I didn't need a tour of the facilities, but she did offer in case I needed a refresher.

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The locker rooms are separated by gender, and that includes the whirlpool, steam room and showers. The relaxation area upstairs is co-ed.

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Once I was settled in my robe I was free to use all of the spa amenities. If you are using the whirlpool or steam room a swimsuit is required. The heated lounge chairs in the whirlpool area are amazing - SO comfortable.

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Upstairs in the relaxation room you will find chairs with ottomans, zero gravity loungers (which are the most comfortable thing EVER!), and light snacks such as trail mix, dried fruit and nuts, etc.

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They also have an assortment of hot tea and chilled water, usually with citrus or cucumber. There are individual book lights at the lounge chairs if you would like to read while you relax, and there are magazines on the tables. The lighting is low and there is relaxing music.

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The different technicians come to the relaxation room to escort you in for each service, and you return to the relaxation room in between.

I decided to go with an 80-minute massage this time because my previous 60 minute massages were so lovely. It was absolutely worth it! Susan did a wonderful job getting the knots out of my shoulders. They offer multiple options, so be sure to check out the spa service listing before you book your appointment.

You will have about 10 minutes between services if you are booked for multiple things back to back, which allows enough time for a cup of tea or a restroom break.

I had booked a regular manicure, but decided to change to a gel polish after we got started. Jenifer did not miss a beat and switched over the service for me. My nails still look beautiful a week later!

Once your services are complete you are welcome to stay and enjoy the spa amenities. When you are ready to leave, the spa has everything you might need to get ready to go! In the showers you will find shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. There are combs, hairdryers, and hairspray. Deodorant, body lotion and perfume are also available for guests to use. In the restroom you will find mouthwash. With all of this, you won't need to go back to your hotel to get on with your day.

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Check out is back at the desk, where you also have the option of booking your next spa appointment. They go over each charge and make sure to apply any applicable discounts, then provide a detailed receipt for your records.

The spa is open seven days a week, and they offer discounts for DVC members. They also offer a nice selection of products for sale, but there is absolutely no pressure to purchase anything! I would absolutely recommend a morning or afternoon at Senses!





May 28, 2018

The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair: A watershed moment in Disney history

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Walt Disney stands in front of two World's Fair posters in a publicity photo taken in 1964. [The Walt Disney Company]


To many long-time Disney followers, the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair was a watershed moment for the Walt Disney Company.

Disney's participation in the Fair saw the introduction of a radically new form of theme park entertainment, as well as the debut of innovative ride systems that had the ability to handle large audiences in an efficient manner.

And unknown to the millions of visitors during the Fair's two-year run, Disney's participation at the Fair was a proving ground ... a dry run for Walt's planned move east to central Florida. At the time, Walt had very real concerns that his brand of theme park entertainment, a big hit on the West Coast, might not be accepted by East Coast audiences. The success of all four Disney shows quelled those doubts and ultimately paved the way for Walt Disney World.

The marriage of Disney and the World's Fair began several years before the Fair opened, when the entertainment company was commissioned to create and build three attractions: Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln for the Illinois state pavilion; Carousel of Progress for General Electric's Progressland, and Ford Motor Company's Magic Skyway. Then, just 11 months before the Fair's April 1964 opening, Pepsi-Cola convinced Walt to commit to a fourth show, a salute to children around the world that was known as it's a small world.

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The Unisphere, built by U.S. Steel, was centrally located and served as the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair's icon. [Russell Yuen]

"In 1959, Disneyland added Matterhorn Mountain, the submarine voyage and the monorail," former head of Walt Disney Imagineering Marty Sklar said. "Disneyland was now set for a few years. Walt was able to turn all of his attention to the World's Fair."

Committing to the four shows put Disney's creative staff to the test, pushing them to accomplish more than what was thought possible, all under the caldron of intense deadline pressure. In addition, everything was designed and built at Disney facilities in California, meaning that once the attractions were completed, they needed to be packed up, shipped East and set up at their respective pavilions on the Fair grounds in the New York City borough of Queens. As a result, Disney's creative team would spend months at a time assembling the attractions in the four Fair pavilions.

While Disney's four World's Fair shows were unique and featured vastly different story lines, there was a common thread running through each one ... specifically, the first-ever widespread use of Audio-Animatronics figures.

Disney designer Bob Gurr, a self-described "car guy," and Roger Broggie were tasked with bringing Audio-Animatronics from the drawing board to believable working figures by Walt Disney himself. "Bobby," Walt would often say to Gurr, "I need you to ..." which was followed by a request to pretty much make the impossible not only possible, but a reality.

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Disney Legend Bob Gurr, shown here offering his expertise during an upgrade of the Autopia attraction at Disneyland, was one of the key people in the development of Audio-Animatronics technology. [Walt Disney Imagineering]

While working on the ride system for the Ford Magic Skyway, which was a monumental task in its own right, Gurr got his first taste of the new-fangled robots to be featured in Disney's Fair attractions.

"I was asked to look at the GE animated figures [to be used in General Electric's Carousel of Progress show] and so that was kind of a shock because I had only done vehicles," Gurr said. "I had never done any animated humans or animals. I was tasked with gathering up three or four guys and figuring it out."

As they sank their teeth into the project, Gurr asked a logical question: "How could we do animated figures in a wholesale method?" since the Carousel of Progress would contain 32 figures, both human and canine.

"We tried several different types of animation," Gurr said. "A couple of the techniques didn't work, but we came very quickly to learn how we could do it, so I started a whole system of parts numbering, how we would do the engineering, drawing and working with the shops."

Then, in October of 1963, just seven months before the Fair was to open, Walt dropped another bombshell on Gurr.

"Oh, by the way, Bobby," the boss said, "I want you to do the Lincoln figure."

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The exterior of the Illinois state pavilion, which featured the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln show.

At the time, Gurr was working full-bore on the Ford Magic Skyway ride system, the forerunner of Disney's PeopleMover, where actual Ford cars would be pushed along a continuous track by motors with wheels embedded in the ground, and was just getting his feet wet on all the Carousel of Progress figures when Lincoln was added to his already full plate.

"Actually, the Lincoln figure was kind of easy," Gurr says now, more than five decades later. "I had just enough experience with what we had to do with the GE figures. But Lincoln was gonna have to do a lot more animation and do really quite a trick thing." That "trick thing" was having Lincoln stand up from a chair at the beginning of the show.

"But we got it all done in 90 days ... concept, making the sketches of all the parts, passing out the parts to all the drafters, then taking out the parts drawings every day over from Glendale to Burbank at the studio where we were building it.

"It turned out, in hindsight, to be a radical machine, the first time the world was ever going to see a really believable animated figure and then a president of the United States, to boot. Not only that, but he was a tall, skinny guy who didn't have any body to put parts inside!

"If we'd done Grover Cleveland, I would have had a much easier time ... I would have had a lot more room in there!" Gurr joked.

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This display, featuring the actual upper body structure of the Lincoln figure from the Fair, as well as detailed drawings of the machine, are showcased at the Walt Disney Family Museum. [Courtesy of Bob Gurr/Ape Pen Publishing]

Several problems did surface with the Lincoln figure, most dealing with the amount of electrical current flowing into the Illinois pavilion. No one ever found out exactly why Lincoln would occasionally "spasm" during testing, although the lights at nearby Shea Stadium were the chief suspect.

According to Gurr, "it was a marvel the machine worked as well as it did from the get-go. It combined the sculpting, the skin, the detailed facial animation [done by Disney Legend Blaine Gibson], animated hands, plus the body, plus getting him up and out of the chair and all the electronics to do with that ... it was a big effort by so many people working on that machine.

"But within a year, we found with the basic concept of the Lincoln figure, we could actually engineer what we would call production parts. In other words, instead of making a part one at a time, we could make a whole group of parts by investing in the tooling to make parts."

The development of what Gurr called "standard AA figure parts" enabled Disney to manufacture a wide range of human and animal figures.

"And all of that started with the basic configuration of Abraham Lincoln," Gurr said.

To play it safe, there actually were two Lincoln figures, with chairs, in the Illinois pavilion. One was positioned on stage, while the other was located below the stage. If there was a problem with the Honest Abe on stage, his stand-in could be brought up in an elevator to take his place. "As it turned out, Lincoln No. 1 ran almost flawlessly through the 1964 and 1965 seasons," Gurr said.

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The exterior of the it's a small world attraction, sponsored by Pepsi-Cola. [Associated Press]
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Some of the iconic it's a small world dolls seen during the attraction's New York World's Fair run. [Alice Schmidt]

Gurr also made significant contributions to it's a small world, devising spinning turntables for several of the animated dolls and working with Arrow Development on the trough and water jet system which gently propelled the boats through the attraction. The boat ride concept worked so well that the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, which was originally planned to be a walk-through, was changed to its now familiar water-based adventure.

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Some of the dinosaurs featured during the Ford Magic Skyway attraction at the World's Fair. To this day, some of the original Fair dinos are showcased during the train ride at Disneyland. [Associated Press]
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The closing scene during the Ford Magic Skyway attraction showed Walt Disney's vision for the future and gave guests a hint at his plans for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT. [Associated Press]

Gurr's system of developing standardized parts aided in the production of the dinosaurs and cavemen and women featured in Ford's Magic Skyway, a journey through time from the dawn of man on to the distant future. Some of those original dinos can be seen today in diorama scenes during the train ride at Disneyland.

General Electric's Progressland pavilion, which was in the shape of a giant dome, was perhaps the most diverse of the four Disney-created World's Fair shows. In addition to the Carousel show, which featured seating areas that rotated around fixed stages, there was a giant area devoted to General Electric product displays, including a look at what a house might look like with all electric appliances. There also was The Toucan and Parrot Electric Utility Show, which proved to be the bane of Marty Sklar's World's Fair experience, even though he wrote the script for the show. "Oh, god, I hated it!" he proclaimed years later.

And there was the Skydome Spectacular, which utilized a new projection technique inside the massive dome to showcase natural sources of energy, such as electrical storms, fire, the blazing sun and the show's climax: The first-ever public demonstration of controlled thermo-nuclear fusion. "Don't worry," a hostess calmly announced to the audience, "this demonstration is completely safe."

During the winter of 1964-1965, between the Fair's two seasons, Disney addressed a problem that had popped up outside the Progressland pavilion during the opening season. It seems the planners didn't figure on so many people visiting the attraction, and long lines often backed up outside the entrance and snaked haphazardly in and around an open lot next door ... this, despite the fact that about 240 guests entered the attraction every four minutes.

A covered waiting area was erected on that lot between seasons, which kept guests out of the sun during the summer months. And the now-familiar switch-back line system also was installed to keep things far more orderly.

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Walt Disney stands with a model of the General Electric Progressland pavilion. [The Walt Disney Company]


In addition, the GE Progressland pavilion became the first Disney attraction to use a wait time sign, which gave guests an idea of how long their wait would be; similar signs are now employed at the entrances of just about every Disney attraction worldwide.

After guests experienced the Carousel of Progress, they could take a look at Medallion City, Walt Disney's vision for the future of America's cities.

"You went into the General Electric exhibit and there were a whole bunch of things there regarding community development," Sklar said.

There was one final element inside the GE pavilion that impacted Disney's plans: A VIP Lounge, where GE execs would entertain their guests. Walt Disney was so impressed with this concept, that he decided to create a VIP lounge of his own at Disneyland ... which was the impetus for the exclusive Club 33 in New Orleans Square.

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The exterior of the General Electric Progressland pavilion. Note the wait time sign, upper left center, and an early attempt at parking infant strollers, lower right.

When Carousel of Progress was moved to Disneyland after the Fair, a model, called Progress City, was put on display. "The audiences moved up a moving ramp to the second floor in Tomorrowland at Disneyland," Sklar said, "and there was Act 5, the so-called Progress City model. It was developed from the Herb Ryman illustration of Epcot that we used for many of the publications we did about Walt's Epcot. That model fascinated Disneyland guests for five years.

"It was basically a depiction of the Epcot community that is represented in Walt's Epcot Film," Marty added. Part of that model can be seen today along the PeopleMover route in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.

As part of the sponsorship agreement Disney had with all four Disney Fair show sponsors, GE's Carousel of Progress was transported back to California and opened in Disneyland in 1967. The show debuted in Walt Disney World in 1975, where it still plays to appreciative audiences to this day. The Lincoln show took up residence at the Main Street Opera House in Disneyland in 1965, while it's a small world found its permanent home in Fantasyland in 1966.

"Walt had written into the contracts that Disney owned each show," Sklar said. "Basically, all these new attractions for Disneyland were paid for. Everything was transported back to California in trucks, even the troughs for small world."

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The monorail station at the World's Fair is shown during construction. [Staten Island Advance]
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The World's Fair monorail, sponsored by AMF, in operation during the World's Fair's 1964-1965 run. [Staten Island Advance]

There was another element at the Fair that seemed very Disney-esque, but wasn't: A monorail system.

The Fair's monorails were built by American Machine and Foundry Co. [AMF]. Unlike Disney's monorails, which glide on rubber tires atop elevated beams, AMF's version rode below the beam, connected to overhead power units.

The Fair's massive monorail station was built from structural steel and Fiberglass panels and you needed to take an escalator to and from the loading platform, which was 40 feet above ground.

Unlike the still-operating monorails at Disneyland, which debuted in 1959, or at Walt Disney World, which began service along with the park in 1971, the World's Fair monorail system was demolished with the rest of the Fair's buildings and infrastructure after the second season concluded in October of 1965.

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Demolition of the World's Fair is in full swing just a few weeks after the international exposition closed in October of 1965. [Staten Island Advance]

May 23, 2018

Royal Tea Garden Tour at Epcot

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By Guest Blogger Elizabeth Brown


We attended the Royal Tea Garden Tour at Epcot on Monday, May 13. We checked in at the Rose & Crown podium at 9:30 AM. It was raining heavily, but they were prepared to talk about the tea in the covered patio area if necessary. Luckily, the rain let up by the 9:45 start time so we were able to walk across to the garden just behind the Tea Caddy shop in the UK pavilion. Our guides were Owen and David, cultural representatives from the UK. One small change they made this year was the addition of a headset microphone for the guide, which was a huge improvement over last year.

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We started off with a bit of history about Twinings, the tea company. They are the longest running tea company in the world, and still being managed by members of the Twinings family. Both black tea and green tea come from the same plant, but the way the leaves are processed produces the different teas. Black tea has more caffeine, and if steeped too long can produce a bitter taste. Herbal teas do not contain any actual tea leaves, but instead are comprised of herbs or blends of herbs. There are also some cold brew teas that are designed to be steeped in cool water. Owen suggested making ice cubes from brewed tea to prevent the tea from being too watered down. He also gave us a tip for an alternate use for tea bags. Placing dry tea bags in your shoes overnight will absorb odors! (Just be sure to throw the tea bags away afterwards.)

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After learning about the different varieties of tea and the way they are processed, we returned to the Rose & Crown patio for tea and scones. This was another improvement over last year, when the only seating area was the uncovered patio (it rained on our tour last year as well, and it was tricky to stay out of the rain and still enjoy the tea and scones). There were 2 scones in each box - one sweet, one savory. They were accompanied by an Earl Grey infused butter and clotted cream with jam. Tea was arranged on 3 tables - 2 for hot tea and 1 for cold brew. We were encouraged to try as many varieties as we liked, as there were many different flavors to choose from such as Lady Grey, Orange with Cinnamon, Peppermint and cold brew Peach. Owen and David were on hand to answer any questions, and they presented each guest with some tea bags to take home.

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The tour is $18 per person and lasts approximately 30 minutes. We really enjoyed this experience, and would definitely recommend it.


May 14, 2018

Eleanor Audley gets a full-throated endorsement for her vocal work for Disney

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Actress Eleanor Audley strikes a menacing pose, left. To the right is Maleficent, the character based on Ms. Audley's distinctive look.

Do the names Tom Hanks, James Earl Jones, Irene Bedard and Jodi Benson ring a bell? Of course they do. How about Eleanor Audley? Not so well known, right?

All of the above mentioned actors have lent their vocal talents to some of the most recognizable characters in Disney animated history.

Doing voice work on animated feature films has been a time-honored tradition among actors and actresses since the very first talking cartoon shorts. Walt Disney, in fact, got into the vocal side of animation by supplying the voice of Mickey Mouse for several decades.

These days, doing voice work on films can be a relatively easy payday for actors.

To be sure, it's considered a win-win situation for just about everyone involved. When movie producers lure top-tier talent to lend their voices to an animated feature film, the name recognition usually spurs increased ticket sales; for those actors and actresses who sign up to do character voices, they can take a more laid-back approach. Wardrobe, hair and makeup are not a concern when all the director cares about is the sound emanating from their vocal cords. And the voices are recorded in a climate-controlled studio instead of some remote location halfway around the world.

Many big-name stars have taken on voice roles, creating truly memorable characters.

There's Tom Hanks' unforgettable voice work as Woody in the Toy Story franchise; James Earl Jones as Mufasa in The Lion King; Irene Bedard as the title character in Pocahontas and Jodi Benson's interpretation of Ariel in The Little Mermaid.

In the early days of animated film voice work, though, the actors and actresses who supplied their vocal talents were truly anonymous. And rarely did they receive credit for their important work.

In fact, during the search for an actress to voice Snow White, Walt Disney took the then-unprecedented step of not watching the candidates during their auditions: He secretly listened to them from his office.

"I didn't want to be thrown by looking at the person, because I only wanted their voice," he said. "The sound stage was right next to my office. We had a microphone there, and in my office, I had a big speaker. The person who was coming in to audition didn't know that I was listening."

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Ms. Audley during one of her many TV roles.

Eleanor Audley was one of those actresses who first auditioned for the attentive ears of Walt Disney when she tried out for the part of Lady Tremaine in Cinderella. Nearly a decade later, both her voice and her facial features helped her secure perhaps the most important role of her Disney career.

Ms. Audley was a relatively busy actress in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly once television gained a strong foothold in households across America.

She received a steady paycheck working on dozens of popular TV shows, including the Disney-produced show The Swamp Fox, which starred Leslie Nielsen as the lead character, Francis Marion. Her other television credits included I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, Dennis the Menace, The Twilight Zone, My Three Sons, Mister Ed, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and The Dick Van Dyke Show. She also appeared in more than a dozen movies.

Her work on Disney films was where she received a full-throated endorsement from fans and colleagues alike.

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The villainous Lady Tremaine, voiced by Eleanor Audley.

She began by voicing the devilish Lady Tremaine in the animated classic Cinderella, which was released in 1950. "It was challenging, a bit grueling, but overall most satisfying," Ms. Audley said of her vocal assignments with Disney.

But perhaps her most recognizable role came during her work on Sleeping Beauty, which was released in 1959, enabling her to stretch the limits of what an evil animated character could be.

Ms. Audley not only voiced the film's chief protagonist, Maleficent, she also served as a live-action model for Marc Davis' interpretation of what he later called "the mistress of all evil." Indeed, when you look at side-by-side photos of Ms. Audley and Maleficent, there's a striking resemblance.

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Ms. Audley in character as Maleficent during the creation of "Sleeping Beauty."

"Working with her was great," Davis said of Ms. Audley. "There's a lot of the facial look that I have put into Maleficent that really is Eleanor Audley. Her look was just right. She was a wonderful, wonderful lady, and a very fine actress."

For her part, "I tried to do a lot of contrasting to be both sweet and nasty at the same time," Ms. Audley said.

Aside from her Disney movie credits, she supplied her voice to one of the most interesting characters on one of the most beloved Disney theme park attractions of all time: The disembodied head of Madame Leota inside the crystal ball seen during the Haunted Mansion attractions at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

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Veteran singer and voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft.

The narrator during your trip on those fabled doom buggies in the Haunted Mansion is another legendary voice actor named Thurl Ravenscroft. His voice can be heard during the finale's "Grim Grinning Ghosts" song.

In addition to his contributions in the Haunted Mansion, Ravenscroft's Disney attraction credits include vocal work in the Country Bear Jamboree as the bison named Buff, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Enchanted Tiki Room, where he plays Fritz. Mein goodness!

Perhaps his most well-known and certainly longest-running TV character was as the voice of Tony Tiger in Kellogg's Frosted Flakes commercials.

You know, the ads that proclaim "They're ... G.R.R.R.R.E.A.T!"

His distinctive voice can be heard on at least a dozen Disney films, among them Dumbo, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book and Mary Poppins.

Not too coincidentally, Ravenscroft also worked on Sleeping Beauty, but unlike Ms. Audley, whose likeness inspired the look of one of the film's main characters, he was relegated to the role of backup singer.

April 30, 2018

During its four-year run, Holidayland gave guests a Disneyland experience right outside the fabled berm

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An aerial view shows Holidayland during its heyday, right outside the berm at Disneyland.

Much has been written about the berm at Disneyland ... those large mounds of dirt, cleverly placed foliage and other inconspicuous obstacles which keep Disney guests from seeing the outside world, effectively insulating them from reality.

As Disney Legend John Hench once said: "When you go to the park, there is no horizon. Just Disneyland. The park achieved its own kind of reality, like the virtual reality games the kids are playing with. I told them we were doing this years ago. Disneyland is virtual reality."

For several years in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was an area just outside the park that was an extremely popular Disneyland attraction, even if it wasn't part of that virtual reality world inside the berm.

It was called Holidayland.

Milt Albright, a member of Disneyland's first public relations team, is credited with coming up with the idea for Holidayland. Albright began his Disney career in 1947 as a junior accountant at the Disney Studios. In the spring of 1954, he became manager of accounting at Disneyland.

"I got to come down here [to Disneyland] because they wanted somebody they could trust," Albright said. "Didn't have to be very smart — just honest."

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Milt Albright was a key member of the Disneyland PR department during the park's early days.

After transferring to the park's publicity staff right after Disneyland opened, Albright was tasked with creating ways to increase park attendance during slower times of the year. One of his ideas was to entice employees of local businesses and their families to come to an area where they could enjoy each other's company outside the office.

Of course, that concept reinforced Walt Disney's belief that Disneyland should be a place where parents and children could have fun together.

"Holidayland was outside the berm about where the show buildings for Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion are located today," said Disney Legend Tom Nabbe, who first made a name for himself in Disney circles as the original Tom Sawyer on the island named for the Mark Twain character. "Corporations would rent it out for company picnics.

"Holidayland had a softball field, a kids' playground, and a big tent covering an area with picnic tables," Nabbe added. "The tent was left over from The Mickey Mouse Club Circus, [a Disneyland attraction featuring the Mouseketeers] which closed late '55 or early '56."

Holidayland was about nine acres and could hold as many as 7,000 guests. Food was available, as well as beer, which wasn't sold inside the gates of Disneyland. By around 4 in the afternoon, Holidayland guests were permitted to enter Disneyland.

"The picnic party guests would have access to the Magic Kingdom via a roadway by the Frontierland train station," Nabbe said.

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A rendering of Holidayland.

Holidayland was fenced in and had its own separate entrance at the edge of what was then Disneyland's main parking lot. In addition to the red and white circus big top, there was a variety of playground equipment, such swings, a jungle gym and see-saws, as well as a horseshoe pit for the adults.

Charlie Ridgway, a veteran newspaperman who joined Disneyland's PR department in the early 1960s before transferring to Walt Disney World to head up the PR team in Florida, remembered with fondness a yearly event held in Holidayland for members of the press and their families.

"Walt had a picnic at the beginning of the summer when he was announcing what he was adding in the way of entertainment and new attractions," Ridgway said. "Those picnics — in an area of the park called Holidayland — became a very favorite place for news people to go.

"They handed out pink woven picnic baskets filled with sandwiches and so forth for the family. The baskets became something of a prize.

"It was very much a family affair. Newsmen were not used to having their families invited to come with them."

Jack Lindquist, who worked in the same department as Albright and would go on to become president of Disneyland, also remembered Holidayland and its creator.

"There were five or six undeveloped acres adjourning the park where corporations could have picnics," Lindquist said. "Their CEOs could make speeches and there were all kinds of activities for everyone to enjoy. Then, around 4 in the afternoon, they could go into Disneyland."

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Four of the Mouseketeers pose for a photo on one of Holidayland's kiddy rides.

The Holidayland events were usually held during the slow times of the year in the fall, winter and spring, which fed into Albright's mission of bringing more guests into the park when attendance was down.

"Milt was a very interesting guy," Lindquist added. "He was an accountant at the Studios ... a finance guy. Along the way, [Disneyland PR boss] Ed Ettinger got to know Milt and I guess he asked him if he'd like to come work in the PR division at Disneyland in group sales. He was one of the first people sent to Anaheim to work at Disneyland. Milt became part of Ed's public relations team when the park opened."

And Milt took to his new job like Donald Duck to water.

He decided to make better use of an unused area of the property within earshot of Adventureland, aiming it at the corporate market in Southern California. And much like everything else Albright conceived, Holidayland was a big success during its brief, but legendary run.

Holidayland opened on June 16, 1957, and ran through September of 1961. Guests had to purchase a separate ticket for Holidayland, but that ticket also served as your admission into Disneyland.

There were several reasons for Holidayland's demise, among them a lack of shade, no restrooms on the site and no lighting once the sun went down.

But according to Albright, "It wasn't any one thing that killed Holidayland. It was just the combined effect of a whole lot of things." The fact that Disneyland's attendance began to skyrocket following the introduction of the Matterhorn Mountain bobsleds, the submarine voyage and the monorail in 1959 also played into Holidayland's demise.

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A junior ticket to Holidayland.

Albright followed up his Holidayland success by helping to create the Magic Kingdom Club, which was geared to companies and organizations. Magic Kingdom Club memberships could be purchased by company employees, who would receive perks, such as park discounts.

As for Holidayland, some of the land that once housed the area is now part of the entrance way to the Downtown Disney complex. In addition, there's a pickup and drop-off area for trams that take guests to and from a Disneyland parking structure on the former Holidayland property.

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Another aerial photo shows how close Holidayland was to what would become New Orleans Square.
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A full lineup of Mouseketeers poses for a photo in Holidayland. That's Annette Funicello, left, who doesn't seem all that thrilled to be perched atop the bars.

April 29, 2018

A Path Less Traveled

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Last week at Walt Disney World I spotted a family wearing matching t-shirts. Mom and the kids all had shirts that read ‘Best Day Ever’ but Dad’s shirt read ‘Most Expensive Day Ever’.

It’s sad, but true; Disney is an expensive vacation destination . . . but last week Carol and I enjoyed a real bargain at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We went on the ‘A Path Less Traveled’ tour that is being offered for a limited time as part of the Animal Kingdom 20th Anniversary celebration.

The tour combined the best elements from a few ‘behind the scenes’ tours we’ve done in the past, so we knew from the moment we booked it that we were in for a good time.

Here’s how Disney described it on their web site:

Disney Web Site Description

That’s a whole lot of entertainment for $59.00; it really is a surprising bargain from Walt Disney World. There’s even a discount available for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members!

On Wednesday April 18th Carol and I stopped at the Curiosity Tours kiosk at 10:20 and checked in for the first part of the ‘A Path Less Travelled’ tour.

Curiosity Tours kiosk

The cast members on duty gave us our pre-printed lanyards and instructed us to meet at 10:30 near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris. That was just a few minutes away so we hung out and chatted with our tour leader, Heather.

At 10:45 sharp our group was all assembled so Heather led us to the Rafiki’s Planet Watch train.

Heather at the train station

The Elephant barn

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After our ride to the Conservation Station she took us backstage to food receiving and preparation area. We were not allowed to take any pictures while we were backstage.

Several cast members in the food preparation building enthusiastically described their jobs. They use three ring binders filled with menus as they prepare specific rations of food, often they have an individual menu for each animal. The daily diet is usually packed into Tupperware dishes and delivered to zookeepers who take it to the animals.

They took time to explain the foods they use as ‘enrichments’ to train the animals or reward them for good behaviour. The elephants really like peanut butter so it is used in their training; tigers like the scent of cinnamon so it is sometimes sprinkled on their food as a reward. Other ‘enrichments’ included Kellogg’s Mini Wheats, honey and a number of other surprising food products you probably have in your home.

When I spotted a box of tea bags I asked about them . . . Did you know that gorillas really enjoy a nice hot cup of tea? Yes, they drink it out of cups!

I immediately developed a mental image of a massive gorilla fist holding a delicate china cup, with the pinkie finger sticking out ever-so daintily! Wouldn’t that be a sight to see!

We left the food building and crossed the parking lot to hear about Disney’s Purple Martin Project. There were three tall posts along side of the cast parking area, each holding a pod of about twenty gourd-shaped nests for Purple Martins and dozens of the birds were swarming around the nests.

One of the posts had all the nests lowered and one of the project experts, Jason, explained the program to us as he passed around one of the gourds. It was a real nest from the lowered pod and it had some martin eggs in it.

As each of us looked at the nest and passed it on, Jason shared some interesting statistics about the Purple Martin project; it all began as part of the Flower & Garden Festival when people were urged to ‘make your home a habitat’ for martins.

Sample Purple Martin houses

The project took a huge step forward in 2005 when it moved to Animal Kingdom under the watchful eyes of the zoologists.

There are now eleven towers in five locations around Walt Disney World. There are Purple Martin houses backstage at Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Port Orleans Riverside, Saratoga Springs and a new one in front of The Magic Kingdom. Each nest is examined regularly, all fledglings are banded and migratory patterns are carefully studied.

An astounding 50% of the Purple Martins born at WDW return there from the rainforests of South America to nest and, of those who return, 50% return to the same nest where they hatched. Jason was enthused by the resounding success of the project, and described how determined they are to expand it across Disney property.

From the martin nests we carried on, across the parking lot, to the Veterinary office, laboratories and clinic. Several of the animal care experts explained the animal’s medical care procedures, the species management projects and breeding programs, and we met a Flemish Giant Rabbit. His name was Fluffywick or Fuzzywig . . . Fluffy-or-Fuzzy something! Fuzzy was plagued with ear infections and his condition was resolved with surgery, his ear canal was removed, leaving him with one floppy and deaf ear. It doesn’t seem to have slowed Fuzzy down at all; he was a great performer, very well trained and cute as a button. Carol wanted to bring him home!

The first part of our tour ended at 12:10 p.m., we hung around talking with Heather for a few minutes then looked at a few of Rafiki’s displays in the Conservation Station.

Carol and a life-sized gorilla image

We met a lizard named Skittles!

Skittles

After a nice lunch at Yak & Yeti we slowly wandered back to Harambe, Carol shopped a bit while I waited near the Curiosity Tours kiosk to check in for part two of our ‘A Path Less Traveled’ tour, the 3:00 p.m. Caring For Giants tour.

This was the third time on the Caring for Giants tour for Carol and the second time for me. Our guide once again whisked us backstage and we boarded a bus to the elephant berm where we met Mel, one of the elephant experts.

Mel explained the elephants habits to us

She told us all about the elephants, their names, traits, habits, personalities and quirks.

Lungelo

Lungelo from South Africa talked about the challenges faced by elephants in their home environment and the steps being taken to ensure their survival.

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Caring for Giants

Caring for Giiants

We heard some fascinating information that we hadn’t heard on previous tours and our hour with the giants went by far too quickly. We caught the bus back to Harambe and picked up our treats, a cold drink, Mickey pretzels and cheese.

The third and final part of the package was VIP seating for the 8:00 p.m. Rivers of Light show. It’s a visual feast, an intriguing mix of color, water, animation, live action and music. The need for environmental responsibility is clearly and very powerfully presented in a highly entertaining way.

Rivers of Light

Rivers of Light

What a magnificent way to end a superb day at Disney!

The tour made our day very enjoyable, but we still had time to do a few of our favourite things! In the morning, before we first checked in, we wandered the trails around the Tree of Life to see the creatures that live there.

After our trip back to the Elephant berm we took a trip with Kilimanjaro Safaris, enjoyed a Yeti encounter at Expedition Everest and saw a launch from Cape Canaveral.

Expedition Everest

SpaceX Launch from Cape Canaveral

Yes, it was a very full day for us!

If you want to enjoy the ‘A Path Less Traveled’ tour you will have to act fast, it’s only offered until May 5th. If you’re an Annual Passholder or a Disney Vacation Club member be sure to ask about a discount!

Read about other 'Behind The Scenes' tours HERE.






April 16, 2018

C.V. Wood: The most nefarious Disney villain of them all

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Walt Disney, left, goes over plans for Disneyland with C.V. Wood, center, and Harrison [Buzz] Price. [The Walt Disney Company]

Disney Villains are all the rage. These days, bad is good.

You can't go anywhere in a Disney park without crossing paths with the likes of Lady Tremaine [a.k.a. the Wicked Stepmother], her daughters Anastasia and Drizella, Ursula from Little Mermaid, Mother Gothel from Tangled or the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ... not to mention Captain Hook, Cruela deVil and Jafar.

And to keep this popular, if villainous, story line current, the Disney Channel regularly features a mischievous group of teens known as The Descendants ... some of the offspring of the aforementioned evildoers.

But there is one Disney villain who may well be the nastiest of them all ... a man who despite being "treated like a son" by Walt Disney himself, fell so out of favor after about two years into his Disney's employment that he was unceremoniously shown the door.

His name was Cornelius Vanderbilt Wood, or C.V. for short.

In the early 1950s, when Walt Disney was giving serious consideration to building Disneyland, he and his brother Roy went to the well-respected Stanford Research Institute, which was founded by the trustees of Stanford University in 1946 as a center of innovation to support economic development in the region. They went there to seek their guidance on a proposed theme park project. Among the people they encountered at Stanford were Harrison [Buzz] Price ... and C.V. Wood.

Buzz Price was instrumental in selecting the site for Disneyland: A plot of orange groves located in the sleepy Los Angeles suburb of Anaheim. "We hit it right on the nose," Price said years later of the land he pointed Disney toward. "That was the perfect place" for Disneyland.

Price was one of Walt's most trusted advisers

Although never a Disney cast member, Price became one of Walt's most trusted advisers. He even helped in the selection of central Florida as the site for a Disneyland sequel. Buzz Price was so important to the company that he was named a Disney Legend in 2003.

During their dealings with the Stanford Research Institute, both Walt and Roy Disney were impressed with C.V. Wood, so much so, that they hired him away from SRI in 1954 and made him a Disneyland vice president. His responsibilities included assisting Price in site selection, helping to acquire property rights, hiring key personal, and supervising construction ... in short, his contributions were critical to Disneyland during the months leading up to opening day.

But Cornelius Vanderbilt Wood would go on to become the most nefarious figure in the annals of the Walt Disney Company. Actually, you can't find his name anywhere in those annals. What little is known about him has been cloaked in mystery for decades.

Despite the fact that Wood was instrumental in helping Walt Disney realize his dream of building a park where parents and children could have fun together, he was written out of most official accounts of the creation of Disneyland after he left to company in 1955.

D23, the official fan club of the Walt Disney Company, does name Wood in its listing of key Disney personnel. It reads:

Wood, C.V., Jr. (1921-1992) Walt Disney hired Wood from the Stanford Research Institute in 1954 to be vice president and general manager of Disneyland, Inc., a post he held for 22 months. During this period, Wood supervised the site selection and land purchase, and the first year of operation of the park. He left in 1956 to become a consultant to the leisure industry.

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C.V. Wood, right, joins Disney TV star Fess Parker, left, as they greet then-Vice President Richard Nixon and his family on the steps of Disneyland's City Hall. [USC Digital Archives]

That involvement in the "leisure industry" included the creation of theme parks around the country in the late 1950s/early 1960s, including Magic Mountain in Colorado, Pleasure Island in Massachusetts, Freedomland in the Bronx in New York City and the first Six Flags park in Texas.

In addition to C.V.'s contributions to the creation of Disneyland, he also brought on board several other key players in the Disneyland story, including Joe Fowler and Van France, both of whom became Disney Legends.

'The ideal Disney representative'

According to France, Wood "was the ideal Disney representative" when it came to scooping up land in Anaheim. "He was young and charismatic. He could charm farmers out of their orange groves with his Texas drawl. I don't know and I don't even want to know about some of the ways borders were changed and people persuaded to sell their land to Disney. The historical fact is that in a short time, Walt had about 340 acres of land on which to build his dream."

Wood was born and raised in Texas. According to many of the people who knew him, he was a charming, brilliant man. He had a bright future in just about any field he chose after graduating from Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, after gaining admission on, of all things, a rope twirling scholarship.

His first job of note was during World War II, where he was employed by a company that built the B-24 bomber. It was during this time when the lives of Wood and Van Arsdale France first became intertwined; the two would cross paths again on several occasions later in their careers.

After the war, Wood headed west and got a job with the prestigious Stanford Research Institute. Stanford, with Buzz Price leading a team that included Wood, conducted an extensive site selection study for the Disneys, whittling the choice down to a spit of land covered in orange groves in Anaheim.

Once the land was selected and the property purchased, Wood oversaw the massive construction project. With opening day about six months away, it was Wood who realized that training all the new employees who would run the park was crucial. So he called on his war-time buddy, Van France, to set up a training program at Disneyland for the new employees.


After hiring France, Wood brought another prominent figure into the Disney fold, this time a retired Navy admiral named Joe Fowler, who had a distinguished 35-year career in the military. Fowler was initially hired to consult on the building of the Mark Twain riverboat; he would go on to lend his expertise on not only Disneyland, but on the construction of Walt Disney World years later.

Much has been speculated as to why Wood fell into such disfavor.

During the years leading up to Disneyland's opening, Walt Disney decided to take dozens of the most talented artists, engineers and architects from his Disney Studios staff and have them work solely on Disneyland. He called the group WED Enterprises. WED was "Walt's playground," according to John Hench, one of those artists tapped for this elite team. According to France, the members of WED were the "true believers" in Walt's dream. Walt went so far as to pay his WED team out of his own pocket, which didn't sit well with the Disney Company's board of directors.

Once Disneyland was up and running, relations between Walt Disney and C.V. Wood began to sour. Still, Wood had a very visible presence in the park. During a visit by then-Vice President Richard Nixon and his family, Wood was photographed with them and Disney star Fess Parker on the steps of City Hall.

According to France in his memoir, Window on Main Street, "Woody was a very independent person and, my god, so was Walt Disney, so it was only natural that that [relationship] wouldn't last, so Woody left." That was less than a year after Disneyland opened.

France would leave Disney, too, actually going to work for Wood when he decided to build theme parks of his own around the country, most notably Freedomland in the Bronx, which was open from 1960-1964.

But France would return to work with Disney after Freedomland's demise and, in fact, would go on to attain Disney Legend status. Wood, on the other hand, became a pariah.

In my book, Disney's Dream Weavers, I surmised that the creation of WED created a schism within the Walt Disney Company ... people aligning themselves with Walt, others siding with Wood.

I wrote: "Perhaps the words of Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney's boyhood hero, influenced the decision to part ways with Wood: 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.'"

In Disney Legend Bill Sullivan's book, From Jungle Cruise Skipper to Disney Legend, Sully goes where very few authors have had the guts to go before: He actually devotes several pages to C.V. Wood.

He talks about C.V. and a bunch of his "buddies from Texas" [Van France included] who were working at Disneyland when he was a young cast member at the beginning of his Disney career. "They were a good bunch of guys," Sully said.

Sullivan comes to the same conclusion that many have: That Walt and C.V. just didn't get along.

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This colorful map was used to publicize Freedomland, an America-themed park created by former Disneyland vice president C.V. Wood.

"I can't remember seeing him with Walt, but I heard that the two had some clashes," Sully wrote. "C.V. thought he did a lot of good stuff and was not shy about letting people know it. ... C.V. left in January of 1956 and went back east and took some of his people with him. He opened up an amusement park called Freedomland that didn't last long."

For a time after leaving Disney's employ, Wood touted himself as "the master planner of Disneyland," which did not sit well with the Disney hierarchy ... as did the fact that Freedomland became known as "the East Coast Disneyland."

"He was clearly a con man and behaved like it," is how Disney Legend Bob Gurr refers to Wood.

And fellow Legend Marty Sklar added: "I don't think people understood what Disneyland was all about and the fact that it was a labor of love with Walt Disney and he personally kept it that way. I think that some of the things that were done in the wake of Disneyland's success were really done to take advantage of people. [Walt] wasn't trying to rip off the public, it was just the opposite."

April 15, 2018

Disney Magic Can Sometimes Span The Globe

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A few months ago I heard my computer sound a ding! When I looked to see what had caused the alert I discovered that a stranger from Brazil was trying to contact me on Facebook Messenger. “Hmm,” I thought, “I wonder what this is all about.”

Then I remembered a nice Brazilian couple Carol and I met at The Magic Kingdom November 6, 2016. It was about 9:30 in the evening; Carol and I were sitting at a table in front of Casey’s Corner waiting for the nightly “Wishes” fireworks which would begin at 10:00.

I noticed a young couple standing not far away – they were obviously looking for seats. I raised my arm, got the fellow’s attention, held up two fingers and then pointed at the two empty chairs at our table. They both had beaming smiles when they joined us.

Over the next half hour, in spite of their halting ability to speak English and our total inability to communicate in Portuguese, they told us about their amazing Disney romance. He proposed to her in 2012, in front of Cinderella Castle; they honeymooned at Walt Disney World in 2015 and were back celebrating their first anniversary in 2016. A real fairy book tale!

We enjoyed a delightful time with some complete strangers that night . . . so I wondered if they were the ones trying to connect on Facebook. I clicked on ‘Yes’ and accepted the friend request.

Nope, turned out it wasn’t them; it was an electrical engineer from Rio de Janeiro; his name is Victor. He attached the picture below and said, “Hello Gary, do you recognize this?”

Cast Appreciation Card

It was a ‘cast appreciation card’. Carol and I used to carry them with us at the parks and hand them to cast members who had gone above and beyond to give us special service or a taste of Disney magic.

So that simple picture told me that Victor and I had shared something special in the past . . . but I had no clue what it was.

When I asked Victor to elaborate he was quick to respond. Victor was a college student and had been working at Walt Disney World, as part of the Disney College Program, when our paths crossed briefly. Ten years after he went home from his year-long adventure at Walt Disney World he pulled out what he calls his ‘memory box’ and he found that cast appreciation card inside.

The story he told me took me back a full decade to Wednesday December 12, 2007. That was the day when Victor and I sang a duet in Casey’s Corner restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. Yes, you read that correctly, we sang a duet!

Casey's Statue

It’s one of those things that I remember very vaguely. I remember that it happened but, for the life of me, I cannot remember the details.

So, the version I’m about to describe is how I see it occurring in my minds eye . . . and it may bear very little resemblance to what actually happened!

That Wednesday was a bittersweet day for Carol and I. It was the last day of a 12-day stay at Walt Disney World; we were heading home the following morning. It had become a tradition for us to spend the last morning of our vacation at the Magic Kingdom, then head back to Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground to pack up the motor home for the 1,400 mile drive home. We had a great morning, we rode The Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, Snow White, Space Mountain and visited the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, then it was time to go.

We stopped at Casey’s Corner for a hot dog, one of our favorite lunches at the Magic Kingdom.

Casey' Scoreboard

Carol waited at a table out in front while I went in to order our food. We’re always a bit blue when we leave the Magic Kingdom that last time, so I suppose that I was probably just overcome with emotion when I walked through Casey’s door.

I spontaneously burst into song and started belting out a stirring rendition of ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’. After a couple of bars Victor joined me and our voices combined in a melodious harmony that held all the other hungry vacationers in spellbound rapture.

By the time we got to ♫♪One, Two, Three strikes you’re out!♪♫ we had added choreography and we finished our performance with a flourish, ♫♪At the old BALL GAME!♫♪

As you might expect, in the version of the story that I choose to remember, the crowd went wild and gave Victor and I a resounding ovation!

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That's Victor on the left.

What do you suppose actually happened to cause a curmudgeonly old Canadian to join in song with a Brazilian college student and sing an American sports anthem?

I don’t think it really matters why it happened. What’s important is that it did happen and it was magical.

When our song was over Victor gave me a complimentary bag of Cracker Jacks and I handed him that little card which he later tucked away in his memory box. We both carried on, unaware that our lives would briefly connect again ten years later.

Thank you Victor for reaching out across 5,000 miles, between continents, to remind me of that brief moment of Disney magic we shared years ago.

Thanks for showing us all that Disney magic really can span the globe!







April 2, 2018

Jack Lindquist graduated from marketing guru to one of Disneyland's greatest cheerleaders

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Disney Legend Jack Lindquist made significant contributions to solidify the success of Disneyland. [The Walt Disney Company]


During the first few years of Disneyland's existence, although hopes and expectations were very high, "the success of the park wasn't a slam dunk," according to Marty Sklar, the Disney Legend and former head of Walt Disney Imagineering who began his storied career as an intern a few weeks before the park opened in 1955.

Think about that for a minute: Disneyland, which regularly draws millions of guests each year, will be celebrating its 63rd anniversary in July and is widely regarded as the center of the Disney universe, wasn't a sure thing. In fact, during those early years, the park was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, in part to cut costs.

According to Jack Lindquist, who was hired to head up the park's marketing department in 1955: "It wasn't until 1958 that everyone started to feel this [Disneyland] is going to stay ... that this is going to work. And it's something special," he said during an interview with me in 2015.

It was Jack and Marty, along with Ed Ettinger, Milt Albright, Eddie Meck, Eleanor Heldt, Carl Frith, Phil Bauer, Dorothy Manes, Charlie Nichols and Lee Cake, who were chiefly responsible for promoting the park, making sure that their strategies would lure guests to The Happiest Place on Earth in Anaheim, Calif.

And it was Jack Lindquist who was responsible for dreaming up some of the most successful park promotions ... thus assuring that Disneyland would, indeed, be the slam dunk everyone had hoped it would be.

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The Disneyland publicity department in 1956. That's Jack Lindquist, top row, second from the left, and Marty Sklar, seated, center. [The Walt Disney Company]

Jack was on the outside looking in when Disneyland was being built in 1954. He worked for a marketing firm in Los Angeles and among his accounts was the Kelvinator appliance line. Kelvinator was one of dozens of Disneyland's corporate sponsors, so Jack was allowed to tour the park weeks before it opened. He was very impressed when he left the hectic construction site.

Jack was among the thousands of invited guests on hand for Disneyland's opening day, July 17, 1955. Like everyone else in the park for the momentous occasion, he saw first-hand the chaos and confusion that punctuated the day.

But that didn't deter him a few weeks later when a Disneyland representative called his office and asked him if he could recommend someone for the top marketing position at Disneyland.

"The job sounded pretty good, so I recommended myself!" he said.

Jack hit the ground running and was in the thick of many successful promotional campaigns, most of which helped solidify Disneyland's long-term success. Jack had a hand, along with Marty Sklar and Milt Albright, in the creation of the hugely successful Magic Kingdom Club, Disney Dollars and Grad Nites.

But there were many other ideas which sprang out of Jack's fertile imagination ... ideas that were ahead of their time and radically altered marketing strategies throughout the entertainment industry.

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The Spring 1957 edition of Disneyland Holiday magazine, which was developed by Jack Lindquist and Marty Sklar. The name was changed to Vacationland Magazine when the publishers of Holiday Magazine became upset.

The first was Vacationland Magazine.

"When Marty and I created Vacationland Magazine, we wanted to use the same theory [as the Magic Kingdom Club] of reaching people with something different," Jack said. The magazine was published from the mid- to late 1950s.

"Most of the hotels and motels throughout California used to have racks in their lobbies. On these racks, all of the attractions throughout the state were featured in pamphlets. Again, we didn't want to do the same old thing. So Marty and I developed the magazine concept; Marty was the editor and I did the marketing."

Originally, the magazine was called Disneyland Holiday. "But the people at Holiday Magazine were not happy with us using that name," Jack said.

Still, "the magazine was a tremendous tool for Disney, very unique. It had all the info on the park, but it also had all the things happening in the area, not just Disneyland ... Knott's Berry Farm, Catalina Island and so on. At its height, in California, Nevada and Arizona, I think we distributed 300,000 magazines four times a year."

As far as getting the product to the public, "we hired two guys [Bill Schwenn and Frank Forsyth] who delivered all the magazines," Jack said. "They were on the road most of the time and they built a tremendous rapport throughout the area. Everyone got to know them and like them.

"It was one of those ideas that worked beyond our wildest dreams."

Another successful idea was the concept of selling tickets in advance for special events. In 1957, it was decided that Disneyland would open its gates to celebrate New Year's Eve, Disney-style. Jack thought it would be a great idea to make the night a special ticketed event, but 5,000 tickets needed to be sold just to break even. So, tickets were sold in advance at a variety of businesses in Hollywood, Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The night was a big success and the idea of advance-sale tickets caught on. "In those days, nobody sold advance tickets," Jack said. "If you wanted a ticket, you went to the venue the day of the event."

When Disneyland turned 10, it was Jack who dreamed up with the term Tencennial and it was his idea to come up with a variety of tie-ins and promotional events all linked to the year-long celebration.

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Disney Legend Rolly Crump, left, shows off his latest project to Disneyland Ambassador Julie Riehm and Walt Disney. [The Walt Disney Company]

Coinciding with the Tencennial was Jack's Disneyland Ambassador Program. "A young lady would be selected from among all the employees and she would represent Disneyland in the park and around the country," Jack said.

"They would host VIPs and heads of state in the park when Walt wasn't able to meet with them."

I asked Jack to describe the process of introducing an idea or a promotion and then getting it approved by Walt. His answer was a bit surprising.

"In those early days, we presented ideas to Ed Ettinger, who would take them to the Disneyland park operating committee, then on to the studio. In those days, Milt, Marty and I didn't have much direct contact with Walt."

When Jack came up with the ambassador program concept, "I wrote a memo, sent it to Ed Ettinger, who sent it to the studio. Two weeks later, Ed called me into his office. On the original memo was written: 'Let's do it.' It was signed by Walt himself."

Julie Riehm [now Julie Casaletto] was Disneyland's first Ambassador; she was named a Disney Legend in 2015 on the occasion of Disneyland's 60th anniversary.

In 1966, it's a small world opened in Disneyland after a successful run at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. It was Jack's idea to enhance the opening ceremonies by having a children's choir pour water collected from around the world into the boat ride's flume. Jugs of water -- 77 in total, from places like the Amazon, the Seine and the Danube rivers -- made for a truly memorable experience.

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A ticket for the inaugural Disneyland Grad Nites event in 1961.

Jack would go on to become the first president of Disneyland before retiring in 1993 on Mickey Mouse's 65th birthday. He was named a Disney Legend in 1994. His window on City Hall refers to him as "The honorary mayor of Disneyland." A few years ago, he published his memoir, In Service to the Mouse.

He also played a key role in setting up the marketing strategy for Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland. In addition, he had a hand in signing up several countries to join the World Showcase lineup at Epcot. During that period of time, Jack was reunited with his old buddy from their Disneyland PR days ... Marty Sklar.

The creation of Grad Nites gave Disney the opportunity to work closely with the Anaheim-area community to come up with a popular program that was, in reality, born of tragedy.

"Grad Nites were started when Bill Schwenn and I went to a meeting in the San Gabriel Valley," Jack said. "We got a call from a group or parents who wanted to talk about having a graduation thing in the park. I think it was a group of four parents. The year before, there had been a tragic accident.

"The San Gabriel parents wanted to find a safe place for their kids on graduation night. We asked them how many kids they were talking about and it was a class of 190. If the entire class went with a date, that was about 400 people, which wasn't feasible."

But Jack was intrigued by the thought of opening the park to high school grads.

"Eventually, we went back and started talking to people, like the chief of police in Anaheim, the sheriff of Orange County, the Los Angeles police chief. They all said we were out of our minds, taking high school seniors and their dates and putting them in Disneyland. They said 'they'll probably burn the place down.'"

Jack and his team started visiting different high schools in the San Fernando Valley to gauge interest. First and foremost, Jack told the schools' reps that there would be a strict set of rules.

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Students stream into Disneyland for the Grad Nite event in 1966.

"If you wanted to go to Grad Nite," Jack said, "the boys must wear coats and ties, no school IDs or anything that identified their school would be allowed. Girls would wear party dresses."

Moreover, participants would arrive at the park by 11 p.m. and stay through 5 in the morning. They would arrive by bus and leave by bus. Each school was required to supply one adult chaperone for every 20 students. Disney would supply coffee and refreshments.

"The parents said, 'OK, let's give it a try.' We ended up with 9,000 kids that first night [in 1961] from probably 30 high schools. They paid 6 dollars a ticket. It was a huge financial success for Disneyland and a great experience for millions of graduating seniors over the years."

Grad Nites are still going strong at Disneyland, although things have changed drastically since that inaugural event some 57 years ago. For one thing, they are now held at Disney's California Adventure and they run from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. For another, they will be held on select nights 18 times this May and June.

And the prices and options have risen dramatically. If you want to attend the party, a ticket costs $79. If you want to spend time in California Adventure beforehand, it'll cost $99. And if you want to experience the party, California Adventure and Disneyland, it'll cost $139.

Still, Jack Lindquist's concept of promoting the park in an enjoyable way has endured, cementing his position as one of Disneyland's all-time greatest cheerleaders.

Related Link:
Jack Lindquist: A rich legacy and a fun-filled career with the Walt Disney Company

March 19, 2018

Disney Cruise Line sails into its 20th year with major expansion on the horizon

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A rendering shows one of the three new ships that are scheduled to join the Disney Cruise Line fleet in 2021, 2022 and 2023. [The Walt Disney Company]

Disney Cruise Line turns 20 years old this year with the anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Disney Magic on July 30, 1998.

The seeds for Disney Cruise Line were actually sewn in 1985, when Disney partnered with Premier Cruises to offer what were known then as land-and-sea vacation packages – guests would spend several days at Walt Disney World before heading over to Port Canaveral on the East Coast of Florida. There, they'd board one of Premier's Big Red Boats for a cruise through the Caribbean.

The Premier/Disney cruises were billed as "America's No. 1 Family Cruise Vacation," and for several years, the association between Disney and Premier flourished. The Big Red Boats' primary port of call was Nassau in the Bahamas. The boats stayed in port long enough for guests to enjoy tours of the island, swimming and boating by day, as well as nightclub and gambling options during the evening.

During the course of the cruise, the Big Red Boats would make a stop at a private island in the Bahamas, where guests could take a tender from the ship and disembark onto a small dock. Guests visiting the island were told that what made this island so special was the fact that it was used for some scenes for the TV show Gilligan's Island. In fact, many people went so far as to actually call the spit of land Gilligan's Island.

One Big Red Boat guest remembers a rather harrowing experience after visiting Premier's island in 1986.

"This was my second cruise ever. Jerry Van Dyke [Disney Legend Dick Van Dyke's brother] was the featured entertainer for the cruise. On the way back from 'Gilligan's Island,' the waves became heavy. They had to turn the ship to block the wind so we could cross the gang plank. It was a little frightening. We crawled across. People on deck cheered as each group made their way across. Also, the wind blew off my hat, and everyone cheered that as well. I believe that was the last time they anchored the ship at sea and tendered people to the island. The next year, they tendered us from Nassau and left the ship docked."

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Premier Cruise Line's Big Red Boat II is seen docked in Nassau, the Bahamas, in January of 2002. [Kelly Castellano]

Not exactly the kind of magical experience Disney was hoping for. After a few years, the Disney hierarchy realized that the 10-year licensing agreement it had with Premier was troubling. For one thing, Premier's ships, built decades before the Americans with Disabilities Act, were not handicapped-accessible.

For another, Disney was concerned that it didn't have complete control over what was being offered on the ships, mainly in the areas of guest service, cleanliness, food and entertainment. And lastly, newer, much larger and decidedly more upscale ocean liners were now plying the world's oceans, part of an industry-wide resurgence by all the major cruise lines, and would-be cruisers were flocking in droves to these opulent "floating cities" and all they had to offer.

Premier's Big Red Boats I, II and III floundered after losing their Disney partnership in 1994. For a time, Premier hooked up with Universal, Walt Disney World's chief competitor for theme park guests in central Florida, in an attempt to keep families with kids interested in cruising. They even offered characters from their own animation properties in an attempt to replicate what Disney had done.

But it wasn't to be. The end came swiftly for Premier. In one memorable week in September of 2000, U.S. marshals seized all seven Premier cruise ships around the world, including The Big Red Boat II, which ended up being escorted to the Stapleton Navy home port on the New York City borough of Staten Island, having unloaded its unsuspecting passengers in Manhattan the day before.

It turns out the Big Red Boats, as well as their sister ships tied to Premier, were drowning in a sea of red ink. At the time, a recorded message on Premier's phone line said: "We regret to inform you that Premier Cruise Lines was forced to suspend operations of all our vessels indefinitely. Our lender has taken possession of the ships pursuant to the ships' mortgages."

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Two Premier Cruise Line crew members from Canada talk about their plight after the Big Red Boat II was seized by U.S. marshals in 2000. The ship sat for weeks at the Stapleton Home Port on Staten Island while the courts decided the cruise line's fate. [Staten Island Advance]

A total of 492 of Big Red Boat II's crew members were left stranded on Staten Island for several weeks as lawyers sorted out the financial quagmire.

Of the three Big Red Boats which took part in the Disney/Premier association, only the Oceanic (Big Red Boat I) enjoyed a longer run than its sister ships. One by one, the boats met the inevitable fate of aging cruise liners – they were sold for scrap metal.

In an ironic twist, the rusting hulk of the Big Red Boat II was seen docked in Nassau in the Bahamas during a port call by the Disney Wonder in January of 2002. The ship still had a distinctive, if fading, P on its funnel.

In 2012, Big Red Boat I joined the other Premier liners on the scrap heap, closing the chapter on the Big Red Boats.

Several years before the Disney-Premier partnership ran out in 1994, then Disney CEO Michael Eisner began exploring the possibility of keeping a Disney presence in the cruise industry. Thus began a years-long process, trying to figure out just what course to take when it came to the Walt Disney Company's seaworthiness.

For most of 1992, Disney explored three options: Partnerships with two major cruise lines were on the table, as was the possibility of taking the bold move of starting its own cruise line. The final option – letting the Premier partnership run out and leaving the cruise business altogether – was a third possibility.

Eisner gathered some his top executives in November of 1992 to tackle the cruise dilemma. In a meeting room in Glendale, Calif., were Eisner, Frank Wells, Al Weiss and Frank Ioppolo. Larry Murphy, then the company's Executive Vice President and Chief Strategic Officer, gave a comprehensive presentation on why Disney should go full speed ahead and commit to becoming a major player in the cruise industry. The executives loved the idea and the Disney Cruise Line was born.

It turns out that green-lighting a Disney cruise ship operation was the easy part. Critical decisions had to be made before the first passengers would step aboard more than five years later. First and foremost: What would a Disney ship look like?

Eisner was an experienced cruiser who had very distinct ideas on what type of emotions any Disney ships should convey. "I want our ships to bring back a feeling of great times," he said. He told his designers to "out-tradition tradition."

Walt Disney Imagineering's Wing Chao hired architect Mike Reminger to lead the effort to translate Eisner's vision of "a modern classic" into an actual cruise ship.

While Eisner remembered seeing his grandparents sail off on the Queen Mary and he himself being on board a number of classic ocean liners, Chao and Reminger were cruise neophytes, having more experience watching "Love Boat" episodes than being on board actual cruises.

Reminger was nonplussed, however. Disney hired Art Rodney, formerly of Princess Cruise Lines, who brought a wealth of cruise experience to the table, particularly in the fields of business start-ups and ship construction. Reminger then brought on board Jon Rusten, formerly of Norwegian Cruise Line, whose strengths included ship design and construction.

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The bow of the Disney Magic is seen under construction at Fincantieri's Ancona shipyard. [The Walt Disney Company]

Together, they sought out ship-building architectural firms in hopes that one of them could come up with Eisner's desired "modern classic" design.

The early concepts for a Disney cruise ship ranged from whimsical to futuristic to downright eccentric. Of all the world's leading naval architects working on the project, Hartmut Esslinger of Frogdesign came up with the version that most closely resembled what would eventually become DCL's first ship, the Disney Magic.

Esslinger's concept called for the use of two classically-designed funnels [modern ocean liners only need one functioning funnel, so the other is there just for esthetic reasons], a bridge area that fans out over the sides of the ship, and an elongated bowline. His concept also called for a black hull, with red, white and yellow accent colors ... the colors sported by none other than Mickey Mouse. In short, the design best captured Eisner's vision of a "modern classic."

Once the design was settled on, the next big challenge was selecting a shipyard to build the ship. Cantieri Navali Italiani S.p.A., which also is known by the acronym Fincantieri, was chosen. To speed up construction, it was decided to build the ship in two parts, with the bow being built in the company's Ancona shipyard and the stern 100 miles north in Marghera.

In April of 1997, the arduous, days-long task of marrying the bow to the stern began; the two parts were joined a few days later. While construction continued in Italy, interior design elements and philosophical decisions were made back in the United States. The ship would feature industry-first rotational dining, where guests and their servers would rotate among three signature restaurants each night. There would be expansive areas devoted to children, as well as night spots dedicated to adults. And Disney-branded, Broadway-quality entertainment in the elegant Walt Disney Theater would be a top priority. It also was decided to acquire an island in the Bahamas, renamed Castaway Cay, where DCL guests could spend a day romping and relaxing in on the idyllic Caribbean hideaway.

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The Disney Wonder is guided through the Panama Canal. [Orlando Sentinel]

After construction was completed, the Disney Magic made its first trans-Atlantic trip to the United States and was christened in Port Canaveral, Fla., in 1998. A year later, the Magic's sister ship, the Disney Wonder [also built by Fincantieri, but in one piece] set sail in August of 1999. Both ships carry 2,700 passengers. In recent years, the Wonder has been positioned on the West Coast of the United States, making port calls as far north as Alaska and Canada and as far south as Mexico and Panama. Meanwhile, the Magic has spent several seasons sailing the waters of the Mediterranean, as well as ports from New York to New Brunswick, Canada.

With the unquestioned success of the Magic and Wonder, Disney decided to expand its fleet with the addition of two larger, more technologically advanced ships. Both the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy feature similar characteristics as the Magic and Wonder, but both are 40% larger and can carry up to 4,000 guests. And both the Dream, which debuted in 2011, and the Fantasy [which was christened in New York City in 2012] were built in the Meyer Werft Shipyards in Papenburg, Germany.

On the horizon for Disney Cruise Line are the additions of three new ships, currently being built at the Meyer Werft facility. The yet-to-be-named ships are due to be launched in 2021, 2022 and 2023. In keeping with Disney's philosophy of being kind to the environment, the new ships will be powered by cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas.

As you might expect, the ships will be state-of-the-art, but will still evoke the "modern classic" feel first featured on the soon-to-be 20-year-old Disney Magic.

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