« September 2013 | Main | November 2013 »

October 2013 Archives

October 6, 2013

EPCOT Trade Celebration 2013 – Part 2

Carol Cruise banner

To conclude my report on the annual EPCOT 2013 Trade Celebration I want to share some photos of the gifts and merchandise that I brought home from the event. If you missed Part 1, you can read it HERE.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, this year started last September with the first pin of the month being released at the 2012 event. I purchased the broken mirror pin that had the picture of Cruella in the background. At that time I was undecided whether I would keep the pin or trade it based on the fact that I didn't think I could get all 13 pins and I wasn't a particularly villainous fan. However, with the help of some friends, a few trades and purchases of my own I did end up with all 13-Refections of Evil pins. The last pin was made available on the event Random Selection Process. The "RSP" is a sort of lottery used to allocate Limited Edition pins which are sold in small edition sizes.

The_First_and_Last_Countdown_Pins

I was lucky this year and got all the pins that I put on my Random Selection Process order.

RSP_Pins

Every year there are mystery pins and this year was no different. Each attendee could purchase up to 6 boxes. Each box contained 2 mystery pins and if you were lucky one of those pins could be a chaser. The Villains are limited release and the chasers, bricks to go with each Villain, are all limited editions of 213. I got a chaser in every one of my boxes.

Mystery_Pin_Box

Villains_and_Bricks

When you picked up your goods on registration day you also got the items from the Vinylmation Random Selection Process.

Evil_Queen_Vinylmation

Annual_Passholders_Cel

There were also registration gifts for each event.

Registration_Gift_Pin

Registration_Gift_Vinylmation

On Friday, the "Club 13" Day, I spent most of my time looking on the pin boards and in Vinylmation boxes for the event Vinylmation chasers and the event Mystery Pin mirror shards. I was able to find them all.

Vinylmation_Chasers

Broken_Mirror_Shards

There was a merchandise store with Limited Edition items specific to the event or items released early to event attendees. There were also a few items left over items from the Random Selection Process and a 13- Reflections of Evil completer pin, a Limited Edition of 500.

Completer_Pin

Madam_Mim_Vinylmation

During the event they brought in cases of the not yet released Nightmare Before Christmas 2 Vinylmation Series. Registered guests could purchase these before they went on sale to the public. I bought 2 boxes and I got the chaser . . . lucky me! This series is scheduled to be released at D Street in late October, just in time for Halloween.

Vinylmation_Chaser

We received our lunch in this nice insulated lunch bag.

Gift_Lunch_Bag

At the conclusion of the Club 13 Trade Day (Friday) we received a parting gift, the Reflection of Evil mirror and a pin.

Gift_Mirror

Club_13_Pin

The Saturday Villainous Breakfast gift pin.

Villainous_Breakfast_Pin

I purchased a mat from the merchandise store that I can display my pins on.

Countdown_Pins_and_Mirror

At then end of the pin trading event we were all given a boxed pin set that contained Villain prospects from Pixar.

Boxed_Set_of_Villain_Prospects

The Sunday morning Villainous Breakfast gift is one of my favourites, the Evil Daisy Duck.

Vinylmation_Daisy_Duck

I mentioned in my blog that I was able to make some good trades with the chasers I got from the blind box, this is my favourite. It is the chaser from the Vinylmations Classic Collection, released November 12, 2012.

Vinylmation_Oswald

That pretty much summarizes why my suitcase was almost overweight on my flight home!

October 7, 2013

Jim's Attic: Century 3

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

Horizons%2003.jpg
I miss the "Horizons" attraction at Epcot.

I miss visiting Sea Castle Resort, Mesa Verde and Brava Centauri and was always impressed with the OmniScreen images, especially the rocket launch.

If Westcot in Anaheim would have been built in the 1990s, it was planned to include a version of the Horizons attraction because guests genuinely enjoyed the attraction in Florida.

On January 9, 1999, Horizons closed permanently. However the creation of the attraction started when the idea for a "space pavilion" was pitched to be part of Epcot Center as early as 1979.

This attraction in FutureWorld was originally going to be called "Century 3" (sometimes spelled "Century III" on some documents). Just a few years after the United States Bicentennial in 1976, people were looking forward to the third century so that was the inspiration for the title of the attraction.

Century3.jpg

However, concerns were brought up that foreign guests wouldn't "get" the implication so a more universal name needed to be used.

The attraction was temporarily named "Futureprobe" which Disney quickly discovered called to mind some type of unpleasant medical procedure or instrument.

The name "Horizons" was chosen after many discussions with sponsor General Electric and Disney for the implication of always striving to reach the horizon and when you finally get there, there is another horizon in the distance, and another. The point of the pavilion was to show an achievable future based on existing technology.

Horizons opened exactly one year after Epcot Center opened. Amusingly, the phrase in the attraction "If we can dream it, we can do it" that is often falsely credited to Walt Disney was in reality the creation of Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald who modeled for the audio-animatronics young man character with the solo sub personal submarine.

Horizons%2030a.jpg

Recently, I ran across an interview that Imagineer Claude Coats gave to "Orlando-Land" magazine in 1981 where he explains what the "Century 3" attraction would have been like and here are some excerpts from that interview. Coats is one of those "forgotten" Imagineers who was deeply involved in the design of the original Fantasyland at Disneyland and was a mentor to young Tony Baxter.

"We're going to use a ride device with cars that hang from an overhead rail. It will move 1.8 feet per second. We'll make guests feel they're celebrating the nation's tri-centennial, looking back over the last 100 years.

"You will make a two-minute ascent to Future House through thoughts about the future from the past. Then you'll enter a theater for a probe of the future. The screen is more than eight stories high-the biggest screen ever.

"It will curve over above the audience to give a planetarium effect. The audience will get views of outer space and inside the molecule. We're taking people to places they've never seen before. Like inside an electron microscope. Into living cells. Out to the rings of Saturn. Along the DNA life chain. There'll be many blowups of microscopic stuff.

"It's a celebration of the good times ahead of us. We'll show future urban development. A family celebrating their 100th wedding anniversary, which will be a common thing. We'll show a complete new lifestyle. And robot mining. An undersea habitat. Underground homes. Desert farming. Hobbies, cooking, music as they will be in the future.

"We'll end up going into a space habitat. We'll show work and health activity in space. Manufacturing. Mining of minerals from planets or asteroids.

"At the end of the experience, we'll tie the whole thing into the family unit."

Guests would have then left the show and still in their ride vehicles be taken into a polling area where lights would light up on the dashboard of their vehicle where they could push buttons to indicate their feelings about what they just saw. The results would be instantly tabulated so guests could compare their reactions against those of others who experienced the attraction.

This is the attraction that we might have gotten that evolved into the Horizons attractions some of us miss today.

Here's a brief glimpse at Horizons before it closed:

RELATED LINKS
====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


October 9, 2013

Experience a World of Flavors at Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival

Andrew Rossi

Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival has returned for its 18th year. As always, the Food and Wine Festival features a variety of events and demonstration in addition to the popular marketplaces scattered around World Showcase. One of the most enjoyable things about the festival is that it allows you to sample the cuisines of many different countries that you do not normally get to experience. The festival is a dream come true for the adventurous eater, allowing one to encounter new ingredients, flavors, and dishes both exotic and unique. With so much to see and do, you could easily spend a whole day (or more) enjoying all the festival has to offer. To start off, here are just a few tips to maximize your time and get the most out of your Food and Wine experience.

Festival_Welcome_Signage.jpg

Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days of the week at the Food and Wine Festival, when many of the locals come to enjoy the event. This results in greater crowds and congestion along the World Showcase promenade and much longer lines at the food stands. It is best to avoid the weekends. If you can, try to visit Monday through Thursday when the lighter crowds make the festival much more enjoyable. In the same vein, World Showcase opens at eleven o'clock and this is definitely the best time to head over to sample the various festival marketplaces. Most guests tend to spend the morning in Future World and then make their way to the back of the park in the afternoon, resulting in larger crowds and longer lines as the day progresses.

Just as with everything at Disney World, it helps to plan ahead when attending the Food and Wine Festival. If you just walk up to every booth and order what sounds good you will end up spending way too much money. Almost every dish offered at the festival sounds, smells, and looks really good, but there will be some dishes that stand out to you more than others. It is better to see what every stand has to offer and then decide on the dishes you want to try most. Although the portion sizes of the food may seem small, they can be filling and after having just three or four different dishes you can easily find yourself starting to get full. Do not rush and get a lot of food from the first few stands you visit and, if traveling with someone else, you may want to consider sharing dishes, which also allows you to sample an even greater variety.

This year's 46-day festival features over twenty-five ethnic marketplaces and more than 220 food and beverage menu items. In addition to returning favorites such as Ireland, Australia, and Argentina (just to name a few), this year's festival marketplaces also include the return of Brazil as well as a brand-new Scotland booth marketplace. Here are some of the highlights.

Argentina is consistently one of the most popular of the festival marketplaces. Distinguished by its bright yellow color, this marketplace is also marked by the amazing aromas of the food being prepared inside.

Argentina.jpg

The Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée is one of my must-have items at the festival each year. The chimichurri sauce has a very strong and distinctive flavor (like a slightly spicy pesto) and definitely gives the dish a bit of a kick. The boniato puree, on the other hand, is milder and has the texture, consistency, and flavor of mashed potatoes. The beef itself is tender and juicy, its flavor really enhanced by the chimichurri. While its $5.00 cost makes it more expensive than many other dishes at the festival, it is a high-quality dish that is certainly worth the price.

Beef_Skewer.jpg

Australia is a marketplace whose menu has gone through some changes over the years, but this year's offerings might be some of the best it has ever featured.

Australia.jpg

A new dish to the festival this year is the Garlic Shrimp with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon Myrtle and Rapini. This dish features three generously sized shrimp and tremendous flavor. If you are a fan of garlic, you will certainly love this dish. Contrasting the garlic-flavored shrimp is the rapini. Also known as broccoli rabe, this vegetable has a distinct and slightly bitter flavor, but one that matches very well with the shrimp. For $4.50 it is definitely a good portion size and packs a serious amount of flavor.

Garlic_Shrimp.jpg

South Korea was introduced to the festival just a few year ago and since its inception has been a big success. This year's marketplace features a new offering in addition to a returning favorite.

South_Korea.jpg

The Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce is new to the festival this year. The kimchi dog itself is a little spicy, but not overwhelmingly so, and the mustard sauce provides another added kick. Countering this, however, is a light and refreshing coleslaw which provides a nice mild contrast. While the portion size may not be the largest, this is still a good value at $3.75 and is certainly something unique among the festival offerings.

Kimchi_Dog.jpg

Africa is the new name of the marketplace which in previous years has been South Africa. With the name change comes some new flavor as well.

Africa.jpg

The Berbere Style Beef with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato, Okra and Pap is certainly not a dish for the faint of heart; it is definitely one of the spicier dishes at the festival this year. This dish can be likened to a spicy stew or a gumbo, and one with a great amount of flavor. All of this spiciness, however, is in contrast to the pap which has a flavor and consistency very similar to grits and helps provide some balance to the dish with its mild flavor. With a very generous portion size, this is one dish that is good to share and its $4.25 price also makes it a great value.

Berbere_Beef.jpg

Florida Local is the marketplace that highlights the various tastes and flavors of the host state, relying on locally-grown products and featuring an assortment of in-state wines and beers.

Florida_Local.jpg

It is here that you can find the Florida Grass Fed Beef Slider with Monterey Jack and Sweet & Hot Pickles. The beef slider was surprisingly juicy and the Monterey jack cheese provided just enough of a kick. I am not usually a fan of pickles, but their sweetness adds some nice extra taste that contrasts that of the beef and cheese. While not anything fancy or exotic, this is a good dish for those who may be a little less adventurous and for $3.75 definitely worth the price.

Beef_Slider.jpg

New Zealand is a marketplace that typically has some intriguing choices and this year's festival is no different.

New_Zealand.jpg

I am not usually a fan of mussels, but the Gratinated Green Lip Mussels with Garlic and Herbs looked absolutely fantastic (not to mention that it seemed as though everybody at the marketplace was ordering them). This is another dish with a tremendous amount of flavor, with the garlic and herbs really enhancing the taste of the mussels. The mussels themselves were cooked to they were perfectly tender while the coating of bread crumbs on top added some additional flavor and texture to the dish. With three good-sized mussels, this is definitely a great value at $3.00.

Mussels.jpg

Belgium has always been the place at the festival to find waffles and this year the marketplace features three to choose from.

Belgium.jpg

When you think of waffles, one topped with beef might not be the first thing that comes to mind but that is exactly what is featured in the Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef. This is such a unique and flavorful dish. To start, the waffle itself is so soft and fluffy with the potato giving it just a slightly heavier consistency. Meanwhile, the braised beef is so tender and flavorful and it actually pairs extremely well with the waffle. Overall, this is probably my favorite dish at the festival thus far and its generous portion size is definitely worth its $4.00 price.

Potato_Leek_Waffle.jpg

Desserts & Champagne is a great marketplace to end your journey around World Showcase, providing a selection of smaller-sized dessert offerings.

Desserts.jpg

There are two choices that are standouts to me at this marketplace. The first is the Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake. Don't let the portion size fool you. Although it appears small in size, it is definitely a rich and filling dessert. Surprisingly, the flavor of the hazelnut is not as prominent as one might expect and the dessert had more of a chocolaty taste. For $1.75, this is a great conclusion to you Food and Wine adventures.

Hazelnut_Cheesecake.jpg

The second intriguing option is the Frozen S'mores. This frozen drink is a kicked-up version of a refreshing chocolate smoothie. Coming topped with marshmallows, chocolate shavings, and graham crackers, this is a drink that you might also need a spoon to enjoy. It is also very sweet and it's portion size just large enough. The prefect refreshment on a hot Florida day, this dessert is certinaly worth its $3.00 price tag.

Frozen_Smores.jpg

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival continues through November 11. If you have never experienced the festivities before, it is definitely worth a visit. Be sure to come hungry!

Festival_Decor.jpg

You can further examine all the marketplaces and menus this year's Festival has to offer here.

See how others are rating the various Festival marketplace offerings here.

If you have been to the Food & Wine Festival this year, you can take part in the survey as well by clicking here.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

October 13, 2013

The Cabins at Fort Wilderness

Gary Cruise banner

If you have read some of my previous blogs, you will know that Carol and I are huge fans of Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. We just love spending time there in our RV . . . but I've often wondered what it would be like staying in one of the cabins. Carol stayed there many years ago, but I've never had the pleasure.

I follow a couple of online communities which are focused on camping at "The Fort" and I was delighted to read a trip report posted by Shelly E. from Minnesota. She and her family took their first trip to Walt Disney World last year and stayed in the cabins. I strongly suspect that there will be many more trips to Fort Wilderness in Shelly's future.

Here's how Shelly described the experience in her trip report:

This was our family's first trip to Walt Disney World. Actually it was our family's first and only trip ANYWHERE for more than two nights in all our time together as a family! It was February of 2012- we chose to stay in the cabins because with six of us it seemed the cheapest way to go. At that time we had NO idea how much we would fall in love with the Fort. This first picture is arriving at the Fort . . .

Arrival

Here is another . . .

Check-in

The kids totally fell in love with the pool (of course!) . . .

The_Pool

The_water_slide

We did the penny machines in front of Pioneer Hall and the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue!

Penny_Machine

Hoop-Dee-Doo_3.jpg

Hoop-Dee-Doo_2.jpg

We had no idea what to expect when we made our reservations. We made them there simply because we wanted to qualify for free dining, and it was one of the few ways we could all stay in one room. After staying there for 10 days, we completely fell in love with the Fort.

There is just something special about it there. I think for every family, it's probably different things that make it special. For us, I'll tell you what some of the things were.

Getting up in the morning and being surrounded by nature. Beautiful trees all around us, chipmunks, little lizards, birds, sunshine, flowers and most of all peacefulness. There is so much peacefulness at the Fort. Driving a golf cart to the laundry facility, passing people who are out walking dogs or biking - everyone is friendly and happy to be there. It's just such a "welcome home" kind of feeling.

Fort_Wilderness_flowers
The gardens at "The Outpost" (check-in) are designed to attract butterflies.

The boat ride to the Magic Kingdom is simply amazing. We never got tired of it! Compared to riding a bus, the boat is magic in itself.

Being able to sit on the beach at night, with not too many people around, and watch the Wishes fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant. I know so many people say there's nothing like watching it from Main Street, but I feel there is nothing like watching it from a beautiful sandy beach, laying in a lounge chair, holding your husband's hand in the quiet of the moonlit night, watching and listening to the magic all around us.

Being able to walk in the barns, and actually see the working horses at Disney in their home environment - it was so cool! Of course, we own a horse boarding and training facility in Minnesota, so this was right up our alley! But even for others, this seemed like a beautiful and interesting place to visit.

At_the_horse_barns

Those are just a few of the things.

The cabins themselves were wonderful - we loved them! The kids all slept in the back bedroom, and we had the pull down bed, which we both thought was REALLY comfortable. It's not super big, but it was soft and nice! The dishes were clean, the housekeeping was wonderful, and it was just nice to be able to come back each day to a place that felt like a "home" and not just a "room".

Cabin_exterior

Cabin_interior

Towel_Art_from_Mousekeeping
The kids couldn't wait to get back each day to see what Arnold (our Mousekeeper) had created.

A reader from the United Kingdom who is planning to stay in the cabins posted a few questions. She asking if Shelly's family had rented a golf cart and whether there were good places to eat at Fort Wilderness. Here is Shelly's reply:

We are a family of six. My husband, myself and two sets of twins ages eight and eleven. For us, having a golf cart was wonderful. We used it each time we went to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom or Downtown Disney. We took the golf cart up to the area where all the buses come for the other parks, and then later on it was waiting for us when we came back.

At_the_Bus_Stop

It saved a lot of time waiting for the internal buses, which is nice when you have younger kids. We also used the golf cart when we went to the pools or the campfire sing-a-long and movie. It was especially handy when it was time to do laundry. And this year when we go at Christmas, we are actually renting TWO golf carts, just because our kids are a little bigger, and instead of a 6-seater, we reserved two 4-seaters. It will allow us a little more freedom; we won't all have to be ready at the same time to go anywhere. And we're really excited about just exploring the whole Fort - we didn't have enough time to do that our first trip.

As for eating - we were VERY lucky in having free dining and we tried so many wonderful restaurants all over the parks. But there were a few times we did eat at the Fort - we got pizza once and ate it down by the lake - there were tables set up down there. I think they were actually on part of the dock, but I could be wrong. We got chicken there once too, and they had some other choices there, but we didn't get a chance to try a lot of them. There seemed to be enough things that everyone should be able to have a nice meal there. And we actually had a few things at the Meadows Pool snack bar - they had a chicken sandwich there that was really good! There were a few other sandwiches that I thought sounded good too! Another thing I remember about eating at either place was the people working there; they were always so NICE!! Sometimes, to me, that's more important than how big or how many choices a place has.

Since returning home the family's love of Fort Wilderness has not diminished a bit. In fact, they bought a motor home and will be driving "The Beast" over 1,700 miles, arriving at The Fort December 22, 2013 to spend a magical family Christmas in their new favourite place. Then they drive another 1,700 miles home! WOW!

The_New_Motor_Home

How about you? If you're looking for an economical vacation option and a very laid back, rustic, homey environment - the cabins at Fort Wilderness might be for you.

You can find more details about Fort Wilderness cabins and plenty of pictures from the campground here.

October 16, 2013

Mid-Month 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® Bits and Bites issue, our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) supplies us with a puzzle of his own design. The puzzles have some sort of Disney theme, of course, but will not be restricted to the Disney theme parks. The type of puzzle is up to James. Also up to him? The bestowing of a prize -- a collectible Disney pin from his extensive collection.

Around the middle of each month, James also Shares the Magic in another way -- by posting a puzzle here in this AllEars.Net Guest Blog. Again, the subject of the puzzle will vary, and James will award the winner of the challenge a collectible Disney pin!

Here's the link to this month's puzzle:

http://allears.net/ae/mb101713.pdf

So... Think you know Disney inside and out? Put on your thinking cap!

This month's new puzzle continues the theme park subject by looking at DIsney's Animal Kingdom. The bonus clue this month shouldn't be near as tough as last month's! Good Luck!

The object is of course to have fun, BUT if you want a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, arrange the letters that are circled in the puzzle to come up with the answer to the bonus question, which relates to the puzzle theme. This month, we think that the bonus clue is tough enough that you'll actually have to complete most of the puzzle to come up with the solution! Good Luck!

Send your resulting answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com

Send the bonus term or phrase by email no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on November 8, 2013. 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, along with a new puzzle, in mid-November.

GOOD LUCK!

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

SEPTEMBER SOLUTION:

Here is the answer key to last month's Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler:

http://allears.net/ae/mb091613-key.pdf


As many of you discovered (142 of you!), the bonus clue answer was Capt. Horatio Witherspoon, for many years serving as the preshow narrator for the Voyage of the Little Mermaid attraction. His voice is long gone, but a picture of his wife is still hanging on the wall of the preshow area, along with many other artifacts; make it a point to check them out!

The name picked at random from all of the correct responses to receive a DIsney pin was Rachel M. of Quincy, MA.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

We hope you enjoy this Mousy Mindboggler, and we welcome any comments or suggestions.

October 20, 2013

"Simple is Delicious" at the Wolfgang Puck Express

Andrew Rossi

For my latest review I have decided to do something a little different. While all my past reviews have focused on Disney's table service dining locations, I have realized that I have been overlooking the numerous counter service restaurants located around property. For many Guests travelling to Walt Disney World, these quick service dining locations are their primary dining options, either because they want to dine on a budget or they don't want to spend the time it would take to have a full service meal. One of the great things about Disney World is that it features a tremendous variety of counter service options that go beyond merely hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken nuggets. In fact, some of the quick service locations across property offer dining experiences that are nearly just as good as a full service restaurant. This review will highlight one such location.

When one hears the name Wolfgang Puck, the thought of a casual, quick service dining experience is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. This is, however, exactly what is offered at the Wolfgang Puck Express at the Downtown Disney Marketplace. Specializing in sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and pastas, this restaurant certainly lives up to its slogan that "simple is delicious."

WP_Signage

Overview:
Downtown Disney offers plenty of dining options and features a wide array of cuisines, but despite this it always seems as though every restaurant is packed. For those Guests who have not made reservations in advance, this often means very long waits. Fortunately, there are several quick service locations here as well for those Guests who may not want to wait. Tucked back between Disney's Days of Christmas and Mickey's Pantry, the Wolfgang Puck Express can sometimes be overlooked, but it offers a dining experience worthy of its famous namesake.

WP_Exterior.jpg

Presenting a more casual take on some of the signature dishes that made chef Wolfgang Puck famous, this dining location offers a great alternative to the large crowds found in Downtown Disney's various sit down restaurants. The restaurant is what could be considered an "enhanced" counter service location; you place your order at the counter as you enter, find a table to sit at while your food is being prepared, and then have your meals delivered directly to your table. The result is the feel of a sit down restaurant but with much quicker service.

Atmosphere:
The Wolfgang Puck Express is not the largest dining venue, but it still offers plenty of seating. While the restaurant used to feature a large covered patio for outdoor seating, this space has now been enclosed to allow more diners to enjoy the climate-controlled environment during the hot summer months.

WP_Dining_Room

There are still a few tables located outside for those wishing to dine al fresco. What is nice about the restaurant's location is that it is tucked out of the way, so if you are eating outside there are not a lot of people walking and there is very little noise. While the restaurant's decor has no specific theme, the overall design is very minimalist and simple, giving it a casual and laid back atmosphere.

WP_Dining_Room2.jpg

The restaurant's sense of openness, with its high vaulted ceilings and numerous windows which allow for plenty of light, give the dining room a sense of being larger than it actually is. The only real visual décor elements in the main dining area are black and white photographs on the walls.

WP_Photos

One of the best elements of the restaurant's atmosphere is the area just after the counter where you place your order.

WP_Counter.jpg

As you make your way into the main dining area you pass through a room that makes you feel as though you are walking through the kitchen. Not only are there pots and pans hanging from racks on the ceiling, but you are able to see right into the area where the chefs are preparing the food as well as the large oven used for making the pizzas. This part of the restaurant presents a bit of a contrast from the main seating area, a more classic style as opposed to the modern feel of the dining room.

WP_Kitchen.jpg

WP_Oven

The Menu:
For a counter service restaurant, the menu at Wolfgang Puck Express is very extensive. It is certainly safe to say that it is a menu that offers something for everyone. It starts with their numerous salads which include Butter Lettuce ($7.00) with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, Caesar ($7.00) or served with chicken ($11.00), Chinese Chicken ($11.00) with crispy wontons, cashews, ginger, and a sesame honey dressing, Roasted Beet ($9.00) with goat cheese, oranges, candied pecans, fresh greens, and balsamic dressing, Curried Chicken ($13.00) with apples, lettuce, golden raisins, avocado, and toasted pecans, Rotisserie Turkey Cobb ($14.00) mixed with eggs, bacon, beans, tomatoes, gorgonzola, avocado and balsamic, Greek ($10.00) topped with feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and a creamy yogurt dressing, and Barbecued Chicken ($11.00) with romaine, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, crispy tortilla strips, and ranch dressing.

If you are more in the mood for a sandwich there are several to choose from. These include the Pesto Chicken Salad ($10.00) topped with romaine, red onions, and plum tomatoes, the Rotisserie Turkey Club ($13.00) with avocado, bacon, red onion, plum tomatoes, and romaine, Chicken Aioli ($10.00) with mozzarella, romaine, tomatoes, red onions, and a cilantro aioli, the Roasted Turkey ($14.00) topped with cheddar, caramelized onions, arugula, port wine sauce, house dressing, and a horseradish cream, Meatloaf ($14.00) accompanied by provolone, bacon, tomato chutney, horseradish cream, and crispy onions, and the Roasted Vegetable ($13.00) with mozzarella, pesto, lettuce, tomato, and a horseradish cream.

The menu also features a number of pizzas prepared in the restaurant's wood-fired oven. Among these are the Traditional Margherita ($11.00), Fennel Sausage ($11.00) topped with pesto, roasted sweet peppers, and mozzarella, the Classic Cheese ($10.00), Pepperoni and Mushroom ($11.00), Barbeque Chicken ($13.00) topped with red onion, cilantro, tomatoes and a smoky BBQ sauce, Seasonal Vegetables ($12.00), Four Cheese Pesto ($12.00) featuring parmesan, mozzarella, fontina, and goat cheese with plum tomatoes, fresh basil, and sun-tomatoes, and the Spicy Chicken ($13.00) with sweet peppers, tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and parmesan.

For those looking for a heartier meal than sandwiches, salads, or pizzas, there are also several "Wolfgang's Classics" to choose from. These include a Half Rotisserie Chicken ($16.00) topped with garlic butter and rosemary and accompanied by mashed potatoes, Oven Roasted Salmon ($18.00) topped with fennel, tomatoes, arugula, and a horseradish cream, Spaghetti ($12.00), Spaghetti and Meatballs ($16.00), Spaghetti Bolognese ($15.00), Chicken Alfredo ($15.00) with peas and bacon, Macaroni and Cheese ($11.00), and Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf ($15.00) topped with a port wine sauce and crispy onion rings and served alongside mashed potatoes.

For my meal I started with the Butternut Squash Soup ($6.00), which was absolutely delicious. Smooth and creamy, it was just the right consistency. The soup came garnished with chives and a roasted pepper swirl, which proved to be the perfect complement to the squash by adding a little kick of spiciness. The soup itself was somewhat sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and the red pepper and chives actually helped to enhance the flavor without being too overpowering. The soup was thick, rich, and filling and also came with a small slice of bread which was perfect for dipping. The serving size is large enough that this could easily be split between two people.

WP_Soup

Next I chose the Barbeque Chicken Pizza ($13.00). The barbeque sauce itself had a little hint of smokiness, but it certainly did not overpower the other ingredients. In fact, I would not have minded if there had been a little more barbeque sauce on the pizza. The pizza came topped with a good amount of chicken and red onions that paired very well with it and added even more flavor. I was worried that the cilantro would be too strong, but there was just the right amount to compliment the other flavors and provide an added little kick. The pizza itself had a very thin crust, nice and crispy along the edges but softer toward the center. The dough was light and cooked to perfection, with the edges of the pizza just slightly burned enough that it added to the flavor. Again, this is another dish that could easily be shared, especially if starting with a soup or salad beforehand.

WP_Pizza

Service:
At a counter service restaurant one of the things you expect is fast service and the two servers taking orders were very efficient so the line of Guests ordering never became too backed up. Because of the way the restaurant works, once you place your order at the counter you then find a table in the dining room and have your food delivered to you. While the food was brought out in a timely manner and the server asked me if I needed anything when he first delivered my meal, it seemed as though all the servers walking about the dining room were most concerned with getting the tables cleaned and turned over rather than checking in on the Guests who were eating. While this is certainly important in a quick service restaurant that has a high turnover rate, it seemed to come at the expense of their interaction and attention to the Guests who were currently dining there.

Dining on a Budget:
The Wolfgang Puck Express is a great option for dining on a budget, especially if you want an experience similar to the Wolfgang Puck Café (also found at Downtown Disney) at a more affordable price. For example, the Butternut Squash Soup that costs $6.00 at the Express is $8.00 at the Café. While the menu selections are fewer and simpler than the Café, the quality and taste are just as good. In addition, you will find that the portion sizes at Wolfgang Puck Express are big enough that sharing a dish between two people becomes an easy way to save even more. If each person were to get a soup or a salad, splitting a sandwich or a pizza would be more than enough for a meal. If you are still hungry, you could always get a dessert as well, all of which are also reasonably priced.

If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, the Wolfgang Puck Express is one of the best values for your counter service credits as the meals you will find here are of tremendous quality (certainly better than just getting a burger or hot dog in the park) and the serving sizes large enough that you will almost certainly have leftovers. The best way to maximize your Disney Dining Plan is finding those restaurants that will get you the most for your money. For example, you could get a cheese pizza from Pizza Planet for $9.00 or you could go to Wolfgang Puck Express and get the Barbeque Chicken Pizza for $13.00 or even something like the Oven Roasted Salmon for $18.00 all for the same one counter service credit. In many ways, dining at Wolfgang Puck Express is almost like dining at a table service restaurant for a counter service credit.

The Overall Experience:
At this point I should note that while this review is of the Wolfgang Puck Express located in the Downtown Disney Marketplace, there is also one on the West Side as well. However, the West Side location is smaller and its menu options are more limited. The Wolfgang Puck Express is a great place to grab a quick bite to eat and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Downtown Disney who does not feel like waiting a long time for a table at one of the sit-down restaurants. Bearing the name of Wolfgang Puck, you know that the food is going to be of a high quality and the Wolfgang Puck Express certainly delivers, offering a calm and relaxing meal in a quiet and laid-back environment. Not only is it one of the better counter service restaurants to be found in Downtown Disney, but I would consider it one of my favorites among all quick service restaurants in Disney World.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of the Wolfgang Puck Express and post your own too!

October 21, 2013

Floral Mickey Disneyland Entrance

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

Jim's Attic: Floral Mickey By Jim Korkis
dlpostcardsnet2.jpg

Some of us, myself included, have visited the Disney theme parks so often over the years, that we start to take things for granted.

I remember as a kid going to Disneyland with my family and the very first thing we always had to do after we got through the turnstiles was to rush to get our picture taken in front of the huge Floral Mickey with the train station in the background.

In fact, at one time, it was documented that it was the most frequently taken photograph at Disneyland. Today, there are so many other options, it is sometimes overlooked by regulars even though it remains a favorite of first time visitors.

When Disneyland opened in July 1955, the very first thing that guests saw was the huge, smiling face of Mickey Mouse created in colorful flowers at the entrance of the park.

"It was the most photographed location at Disneyland," claimed Disney Legend Bill Evans who supervised the landscaping of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. "Everybody took a picture standing in front of it."

bill-evans.jpg


"It was Walt's idea," said Evans in 1985 when I interviewed him. "Just like the face before every (theatrical) Mickey (Mouse) cartoon and audiences would start cheering and applaud."

Beginning with the short cartoon, "Mickey's Nightmare", in 1932, every Mickey Mouse cartoon began with the face of Mickey Mouse with beams of light in the background. When Mickey cartoons were produced in color three years later that back ground was yellow.

That image brought cheers of recognition from audiences around the world because they knew it signified that they would be seeing Mickey Mouse and entering the world of Disney.

It is clear why Walt would want a similar image at the front of Disneyland, especially since he had designed the park as a film experience with each land representing one of the most popular movie genres of the day.

Evans built a light wooden framework for the outline of the head and individual sections like the eyes, ears and nose and then filled it in with thousands of plants. Depending upon the seasons and what bedding plants and annuals were available or even at the whim of the landscapers, the colors might change drastically.

dlpostcardsnet1.jpg

For a brief time, there was even an attempt at Disneyland to do a side view of Mickey's head rather than the more familiar front view but it was not as popular.

dlpostcardsnet3.jpg

Over the years, the shape of Mickey's head, as well as the individual facial elements, has changed significantly while still remaining identifiable as Mickey Mouse. Special limited edition "occasion-themed" variations have appeared like an orange version for Halloween.

Originally, the face was just called the "Mickey Mouse Planter" but in recent years has been referred to as the "Floral Mickey". Evans mentioned to me that it was a "parterre", a French term for an ornamental garden that forms a distinctive pattern.

With all the emphasis on Fast Pass and Magic Plus and the need to rush madly into the park and not waste a minute, I doubt whether many frequent guests today take a moment to stop and just appreciate the craftsmanship and significance of the Floral Mickey that for over half a century was the emblem of a Disney theme park.


Post card images from http://www.disneylandpostcards.net/

RELATED LINKS
====================

Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South AND

"The REVISED Vault of Walt":

October 27, 2013

People You Meet In Line

Gary Cruise banner

One thing you can count on at Walt Disney World or at Disneyland . . . you will spend plenty of time in lines.

The Imagineers do a terrific job designing the queues; they build in plenty of things to grab your attention and keep you occupied while you wait. Think of your time in line at Toy Story Midway Mania. Have you heard someone say, "I had the Candyland game when I was a kid." or, "I had a ViewMaster."

Toy_Story_Decor

Toy_Story_Decor

Have you read all the barrels and signs in the queue at The Jungle Cruise?

Jungle_Cruise_Sign

Jungle_Cruise_Sign

Have you examined all the crates, steamer trunks and suitcases in the pre-show room at MuppetVision 3D?

MuppetVision_Decor

MuppetVision_Decor

But after twenty or thirty times through the line you have probably seen it all . . . what do you do now? I tend to fill my wait time talking with my neighbours. I'm a chatterbox and I find it easy to talk with fellow Disney fans. That's another good thing about those lines - they are full of people who share my Disney mania. They're usually very easy to chat with.

While yakking with folks in line we've been able to give a number of people some helpful hints - and we've received some great suggestions too. I remember a couple waiting in line at Toy Story Midway Mania. Their son, four or five years old, didn't want to be there. He didn't want to ride . . . and he was making quite a fuss about it. I leaned down and asked him, "Do you like video games?" Naturally he did, so I told him that he was lined up to go through a giant video game. The car he was going to ride in had a gun and he could shoot all kinds of stuff. Wow, did that change his attitude - he was suddenly eager to ride!

We have given some surplus FastPasses to the folks next to us and we've received some FastPasses too. Sometimes we just keep bumping into the same people again and again. The folks I chatted with yesterday at the Magic Kingdom just might turn up across the aisle from us at lunch in EPCOT today. Occasionally we encounter people so often that we begin making jokes about it!

Carol was in line at the annual EPCOT Trading Event last September when the fellow behind her struck up a conversation. He asked, "Do you write the Pin Trading blogs for AllEars.net?" When she nodded and said yes he replied, "You're the reason I'm here!" He was from England, had read her blogs about previous events and felt he just had to cross the Atlantic to check it out.

Often it really is a small world!

We have even struck up some lasting friendships in line. A few years ago, it was my birthday May 1st 2010, we were at EPCOT waiting in line for Soarin'. When we reached the load area I told the cast member, "We'd like to ride in row B1." (You end up in the middle, on top, with no feet dangling in front of you.) The cast member said, "Wait with that couple over there and I'll get you all on the next ride." So we joined another couple along the back wall. I nodded to the man and said, "You obviously know the best row to ride." He grinned and said, "Yes, we love Soarin' and B1 is the best seat in the house." One thing led to another and before long he asked, "Where are you staying?" When he heard we were at Fort Wilderness in our RV his reaction was immediate, "We have to talk! I'm planning to retire within the next year and we've been talking about travelling in a motor home."

After the ride we all went to Sunshine Seasons and spent 45 minutes chatting over coffee. Al and Jane, from a suburb of Kansas City Missouri, had all sorts of questions and we answered all that we could. We exchanged names and e-mail addresses and urged them to come and tour the campground.

A few days later they pulled up to our campsite in a golf cart. They were touring Fort Wilderness and they really liked what they were seeing!

Once we got home the e-mails started coming - fast and furious. Al and Jane were serious about this RV purchase and they were full of questions. How do the utility hook-ups work? What kind of GPS do we use? Does your motor home have a washer/dryer? How do you like this floorplan? Etc., etc., etc. We e-mailed back and forth for almost a year. It was really a lot of fun helping them spend a bundle of money!

After what seemed like a hundred e-mails they had decided on their "dream machine", a brand new 37 foot 2011 Winnebago Itasca Suncruiser. They call him Alf and he's a beauty!

Alf's maiden voyage was in April 2011; Al and Jane loaded up their two cocker spaniels, Nico and Smudge and struck out for Fort Wilderness! The dogs pronounced the experience a howling success and they have now enjoyed six leisurely vacations at "The Fort".

Alf_and_the_dogs

Carol and I have been camped within a few campsites of Al and Jane on three of those six occasions and we are looking forward to seeing them again in December 2013.

Nico_and_Smudge

We enjoy hanging out with them. We've spent time walking dogs with them; we've shared a few meals and lots of laughs with them. The ladies even shop for each other . . . Jane has scored some great pins and Sorcerer cards for Carol!

When we aren't there at the same time as Al and Jane, we always follow along on their blog site. A nice friendship has developed. You can find their blog here.

You often meet some of the nicest people in line, if you take the time to say hello. So the next time you find yourself standing in line, just a trifle bored, say "Hi" to someone.

You might be pleasantly surprised at what develops.


Return to Blog Central

About October 2013

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in October 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2013 is the previous archive.

November 2013 is the next archive.

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