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December 2, 2013

Whatever Happened to the LiMOUSEine?

Jim's Attic: Whatever Happened to the LiMOUSEine?

I grew up in Southern California so I have a particular fondness for Disneyland and greatly appreciated that I could enjoy some of its unique but limited promotional activities like "Blast to the Past" where the fun, music and fads of the 1950s and 1960s (like surfing) were mixed with Disney parades and other entertainment in the Spring of 1989.

However, Walt Disney World has had one of its own unique but limited promotional events in the Spring of 1989 as well that some folks have seem to have forgotten today.

Are any of the readers of this blog old enough to remember Mickey Mouse's LiMOUSEine? It was a car especially built for the costumed Mickey Mouse.


To promote the May opening of the Disney-MGM Studios, the LiMOUSEine with a costumed Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney World Ambassador Kathleen Sullivan, departed Orlando on March 5, 1989, for a multi-city East Coast tour, beginning in Indianapolis.

The driver was Bill Marable, a former Disney bus driver, who often had to skillfully maneuver the 9,000 pound, six-wheeled vehicle that was 40-feet long through narrow and awkward turns during the trip.

The Rolls-Royce front end with gold-plated radiator shell and trim had a 24-karat Mickey three-circled head shape. There were custom-built Mickey ears over the front wheel wells, flashing Mickey shaped turn signals and "ear view" mirrors.

After all, this was publicized as Mickey's home-away-from-home so all those Mickey touches were appropriate. The interior was filled with many high-tech gizmos of the day but also included a special cheese tray stand to hold some of the many cheeses that were in the cabinets.

Designed by Disney artist Tom Tripodi, at a cost of more than $100,000, the LiMOUSEine was built by Ultra Limousine Corp., of Brea, California, from a potpourri of car parts. Ultra would later build the famous Mickey "Mouseorail" vehicle made from the shell of a red Mark III monorail front cab for a West Coast promotion the following year.

The base vehicle for the LiMOUSEine was a Lincoln Town Car cut in half, and stretched more than 20 feet on a beefed-up frame.

After its tour, it was repainted and had the "mouseified" elements removed. It was refurbished for the "Magical World of Barbie" show at the American Garden Theater at Epcot's World Showcase in 1994 when Mattel became a corporate sponsor at the Disney parks.

Do any readers remember that controversial show? The Disney Company claimed that Barbie was perfect for Epcot because she impacted so many world cultures over the years.

Barbie was the "Ambassador of Friendship" and a video tape with excerpts from her 20-minute stage show at the American Gardens Theater in front of the American Adventure could be bought from Mattel for a penny with the purchase of specially marked Barbie dolls.

Let's all sing along with Barbie in Paris:

"When you're not happy with what you wear,
And you know you've gotta do something with your hair.
It's time to take drastic action,
Pull out all the stops.
It's a fashion reaction,
You take it to the very top.
You've got the touch, the Barbie touch,
All you've got to do is accessorize!"

Barbie arrived at her show in the LiMOUSEine that was painted pink with metallic sparkles and included Barbie memorabilia inside. Devoted fans could meet both Ken and Barbie and have their pictures taken with them outside the car. The show ended May 11, 1995.

That Barbie Touch experience was another uniquely Walt Disney World experience that Disneylanders missed.

The LiMouseine finally ended up in the "boneyard" of Disney-MGM Studios Backlot Tour for awhile and was eventually placed in storage.

I have no idea if it still exists or where it is today but maybe some readers can supply some memories or additional information.

Deb's Note: Several years ago I searched for photos of the LiMouseine and reader Ted sent me a few he took at the Orlando Auto Show in 1989. Here they are:






December 3, 2013

The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream, Part 5

disneyland-story.jpgEDITOR'S NOTE: Over the last few weeks, AllEars.Net has been highlighting exclusive excerpts from Sam Gennawey's new book, The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream. This week, we present the last in our series of excerpts. The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream is the story of how Walt Disney's greatest creation was conceived, nurtured, and how it grew into a source of joy and inspiration for generations of visitors. Despite his successors' battles with the whims of history and their own doubts and egos, Walt's vision maintained momentum, thrived, and taught future generations how to do it Walt Disney's way. The Disneyland Story is now available for purchase (click on the image at left to link to Amazon).

California Living
by Sam Gennawey

In September 1960, Walt started to explore other ideas that would enhance the Disneyland experience. The area around the park was growing rapidly and without any consideration for the beautiful aesthetic he was trying to achieve inside of the berm. WDP controlled 133 acres adjacent to the park. A study by Economics Research Associates (ERA) considered opportunities such as a convention facility with an auditorium, more restaurants, and an idea proposed by Disneyland marketing director Ed Ettinger called California Living.

Post-War Southern California had grown rapidly, and a lifestyle had developed that combined an outdoor orientation and informality. To exploit this trend, the Los Angeles County Arboretum had added two residential garden displays in conjunction with Sunset magazine in 1958, and attendance had more than doubled. Inspired by the Arboretum's success, Walt in 1960 was considering a continuing exhibition at Disneyland that represented the best of living in California. The project was described as "a show, an idea mart, and a merchandise mart on themes and products related to the home and leisure pursuits, combined in a comprehensive and integrated exhibition and display." Approximately 8-12 model homes would have been built representing the various regions of the state, including the beaches and the mountains. Guests would experience first-hand the active California lifestyle.

California Living would include more family-style restaurants themed to match the type of food served. The interiors would include dioramas and "other techniques" to enhance the theme. There would be a California Arts and Crafts area with products on display and for sale. Projected attendance was 1 million guests at opening, with an admission charge of $1.50. A 1,000-seat auditorium was also under consideration as part of the project

December 8, 2013

Our Disney Christmas Village

Gary Cruise banner

Many years ago my sister began creating a monster. She took a liking to Department 56 "Dickens Village" pieces and each year she gave us a new one as a Christmas gift.

The collection grew year by year and soon we had a complete intersection . . . then two . . . so they became part of our Christmas tradition. Each year we put up our Dickens Village for the holidays.

Of course, this sort of thing is right up Carol's alley . . . so she added accessories and her personal artistic touches! When there were so many pieces that they began to disappear, one behind the other, she called on me for help. I built a styrofoam base and styrofoam cutouts which elevate the houses in the back, making them more visible.


The Dickens Village comes out each autumn and throughout the holiday season it adorns the top of my roll-top desk.

You can only imagine Carol's glee when she discovered Department 56's North Pole Series. It has some Disney themed houses! She just had to have a few pieces to add to the Dickens Village . . . NO . . . WAIT . . . that doesn't work. Those North Pole pieces just don't work in a Dickens Village.

What to do? How about a second village?

So I started cutting more styrofoam while Carol collected houses and accessories.


Now we have a Disney Village which takes over our kitchen hutch every fall. Some of the pieces are Department 56 and some she spotted on Disney shelves and couldn't resist!

Look very closely at all the accessories and you'll see plenty of Disney characters enjoying a holiday wonderland.


As you wander through the village from left to right you will pass the M & M's Candy Factory, the Disneyland Fire Station, Mickey's House and Piglet's Treehouse.


Further down the street you will find Geppetto's House, Goofy's House, Cratchit's Cottage and Scrooge McDuck & Marley's Counting House.


The Reindeer Flying School is conveniently located in front of the Reindeer Feed Store and beside Mickey's Ear Factory.


At the end of the block you will find the Mickey Mouse Watch Factory and Mickey's Playhouse which features a miniature version of the "Ear-full Tower".

Carol spends hours every year, arranging each building just so! Then the accessories are added with thoughtful care . . . there are bridges, fences, trees, garland, lights . . . and of course plenty of Disney figures. She even found a spot for the Grinch and some pink flamingos!

It's quite impressive once it's all finished.

After the holidays, Carol agonizes when it's time to take it down. One year it stayed up until the end of January!

I wonder how long it will stay up this year?

December 9, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms


Disney Editions has just released "Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms," an engaging and informative book by Marty Sklar, Disney Legend and longtime leader of Walt Disney Imagineering. With introductions by Ray Bradbury and Richard M. Sherman, and a number of interesting photographs, the book is sure to delight all kinds of Disney fans.

"Somewhere in the world, there's a Disney park open every hour of every day; literally, the sun never sets on their operation on three continents around the globe." In an article about his book in a recent edition of Disney Files Magazine (a Disney publication for Disney Vacation Club Members), Sklar explained that he had four major reasons for writing this book about his career (and I am paraphrasing): 1) he had a unique experience among all Disney Cast Members in that he is the only one to have participated in the openings of all of the 11 Disney Parks around the world; 2) he wrote a large amount of personal material for Walt Disney during the early years of his career (many of which are widely quoted, and well known); 3) he was the creative director for the Imagineers during two very distinct periods in Disney history "after Walt" (basically the pre- and post-Michael Eisner years); and 4) he wanted to provide readers with a special view into Walt Disney Imagineering.

There have been many books published about the history of Disney and its companies in their various iterations, many of which were written as memoirs by the men and women who took part in that history. I have not read any of them (until now!), but they have been written. I am a big Disney fan, and love planning vacations, going to the Parks and watching Disney movies. I once discovered pretty quickly, during a Disney cruise trivia contest, that while I may have experienced the results of the Disney creative processes, I know very little about the processes themselves, or about the rich history surrounding the Disney approach to "Imagineering." ("At WED, we call it "Imagineering" -- the blending of creative imagination with technical know-how.") So, when I read the article in Disney Files, I thought it was time that I dug in, and Sklar's book looked like just the place to do it.

Firstly, I'm not sure whether to call this book a history, a memoir or an autobiography, but it really doesn't matter. Sklar presents his material in a generally chronological, but also thematic format. As noted in the subtitle, "My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms," much of the book focuses on Sklar's contributions to the openings of all of the Disney parks throughout the world, from Disneyland in 1955 to Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005, and the beginnings of Shanghai Disneyland, which is expected to open in 2015. Sklar has been involved in the openings of all of the eleven Disney parks (Trivia question: can you name them all? Caveat: in this case do not include the water parks or DisneyQuest.), and was instrumental in helping to shape the attractions and experiences that millions of guests enjoy every year.

Sklar started his Disney career in 1955, as the result of a telephone message that was waiting for him at his fraternity house at UCLA while he was still a student. The call was from Card Walker, then the head of marketing and publicity for the Walt Disney Company. He initially thought that the message was a prank, as one of his fraternity brothers' fathers was an executive at a Vegas casino, and that "Card Walker" must have been a "card dealer." He did end up returning that call, and having been recommended for a writing job by a UCLA alum on the basis of his work as the editor for the UCLA Daily Bruin, started down a long, creative and storied path toward becoming a Disney Legend.

During his early years, Sklar was a writer and "ghostwriter" who was responsible for creating copy for many official Disney publications (including annual reports and public relations pieces) and for scripts for Disney leadership (including Walt) for personal and television appearances. Many quotes that are familiar "Waltisms" were actually written by Sklar! ("The way I see it, Disneyland will never be finished. It's something we can keep developing and adding to.") In reading these examples, and in a quote that appears to have come directly from Walt -- which Sklar includes near the end of the book -- it is clear that he was very successful in capturing (and perhaps heavily influencing) Walt's signature, folksy speaking style.

Sklar spent a good deal of time in the book discussing the development of attractions for the 1964 New York World's Fair, particularly on how Disney used the development of those attractions to set the groundwork for upcoming attractions in the Disney Parks. "In fact, Walt's vision for using a temporary event as a testing ground for permanent attractions proved to be a stroke of genius." These attractions involved: the first use of audio-animatronics (Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln for the State of Illinois, Carousel of Progress for GE, Magic Skyway for Ford), a greater focus on ride capacity ("it's a small world," Carousel of Progress), and on innovations in transportation (WEDway PeopleMover technology). He noted that technology often had to catch up with Walt's vision (and still does): "A good idea may come back to life in the world of Disney . . . but a great idea will find its way into our parks somewhere in the world." For example, Walt wanted to build a rollercoaster-style ride in the dark in Disneyland, but it took years for that idea to take off with the development of Space Mountain (pun intended).

Sklar also goes into great depth about the development of Epcot, particularly on efforts to line up critical corporate sponsors for many of the attractions, which was by no means easy and meant numerous trips from California to other parts of the country to nail down the sponsorships. Sklar was instrumental in developing the sponsorship nomenclature for sponsored attractions: "XX Attraction presented by XX Company" as in SPACESHIP EARTH presented by Siemens. "A key to maintaining the Disney standard is consistency around the world." As a result, all sponsored attractions in any Disney Park, wherever they are located, are named this way.

He also recounted the painstaking development of Epcot's vision of technology and the future, and answering the question of how Disney could tell "entertaining and meaningful stories about energy, transportation, communications, food." In one entertaining anecdote, Card Walker asked Sklar how the Imagineers planned to entertain guests on the planned boat ride in the Land pavilion. Sklar replied: "Don't worry Card, we'll be watching lettuce grow!" Sklar recounts that Walker was not amused, but guests have been enjoying watching lettuce (and bananas and nine-pound lemons) grow from the boats in the Living with the Land attraction for decades.

Since this book is an official Disney publication you might be thinking that all will be shiny and bright, with no recollections that would tarnish the Disney image. However, while the book is certainly not a tell-all, and Sklar had great praise for many of his fellow cast members, he does not pull any punches when it comes to those with which he bumped heads. I did find it gratifying, however, that it did not seem in these few critical passages that Sklar was trying to "trash" any of his fellow employees (particularly Paul Pressler) or others with which he had less than positive encounters along the way. Rather he used these occasions to point out how there are always tensions in the creative process, and that while normally this tension is central to success, in some circumstances it is not at all helpful.

Sklar also devotes quite a bit of the book, particularly the last chapters, to his philosophies of leadership and "followership." "The luckiest and smartest leaders I watched as role models as I grew up at Disney always surrounded themselves with people who were smarter, and more talented and productive than they were." Any reader who either is a boss or has a boss (in other words, pretty much all of us) would do well to pay close attention to Sklar's expanded "Mickey's Ten Commandments." Sklar feels strongly that leaders need to be mentors, and should work hard to train and develop young talent, a view that I'm sure was closely informed by the mentoring that he was given as a young (not even out of college!) Disney employee. " . . . Walt never hesitated to interweave age and experience with you and exuberance . . . " and neither did Marty Sklar.

Not having a solid background in Disney history, I did find myself wanting to draw organizational diagrams and family trees to try to keep track of the myriad names and changes in organizational structure over the years. The amount of detail presented in the book was gargantuan. Finally, when I just relaxed, read along, and didn't worry about keeping track of who was who, and who worked where when, I enjoyed the book much more. For those who already have a strong historical knowledge, I am sure that you will have no problem following along, and will be delighted to hear some new stories (or new takes on old stories) about your favorite personalities. I highly recommend this book for fans of Disney history, particularly related to Imagineering, who would enjoy Sklar's first-hand recollections and insightful musings on leadership.

As Marty Sklar exhorts us: "Life is like a blank sheet of paper. You never know what it can be until you put something on it. So Dream It! Do It! And work hard to do the best possible job. What are you waiting for?"


Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was ten years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have now visited every one of the Disney parks throughout the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Order Marty Sklar's book through AllEars.Net's Amazon.com store:

December 16, 2013

Forgotten Disney Resort History

Jim's Attic: Forgotten Disney Resort History
By Jim Korkis

I was recently interviewed on a podcast about my new books and one of the hosts peppered me with the typical rapid fire questions like who was my favorite character, favorite park, etc.

The only time I stalled was when I was asked my favorite resort. I like most of the WDW resorts for different reasons but being pressured I answered The Boardwalk because I love the attention to the time period and the atmosphere of old world elegance. If I had been asked minutes later, I might have said Wilderness Lodge because it takes my breath away.

It just got me to thinking about hotels that were Disney related before Disney built resorts.

Ardent Disney fans may know that Walt's parents, Elias and Flora Disney, actually lived in the Central Florida area. They were married here in Kismet (a town that no longer exists) in January 1888. That year, they managed the Hallifax Hotel in Daytona Beach.


No, that hotel no longer exists either although there is still a Hallifax Avenue where the Hallifax Hotel once stood.

While things were great during the Summer months with the tourists driving down (even in 1971 when Walt Disney World opened, roughly ninety percent of the tourists came to Florida in cars), when the Fall came, things dropped off so significantly that the Disneys decided to move to Chicago, Illinois where Elias found work as a carpenter for the upcoming Chicago World's Fair.

So while there was a little hotel management in the Disney DNA, when the Disney Company first came to Central Florida, they depended upon The Cherry Plaza Hotel, Robert Meyer Motor Inn, and Hilton Inn South.

On November 15, 1965, Walt Disney and his brother Roy lunched with Governor Haydon Burns in his suite at the Cherry Plaza Hotel at 431 E. Central Boulevard in Downtown Orlando right before making the fateful public announcement that Disney was coming to Florida. (No, that hotel is long gone as well.)
Walt Disney walking into the Cherry Plaza to make an announcement that would forever change Orlando. Source OrlandoRetro.com

Afterwards, Walt and his team left because they had accommodations at another hotel that was supposedly their favorite, the Robert Meyer Motor Inn that had opened in 1963 and was considered very upscale in its day.

General William "Joe" Potter was staying at the Robert Meyer when he first read the story by reporter Emily Bavar in the Sentinel-Star newspaper that Disney was the mystery industry going to build in Orange County that prompted the need for the press conference.

Image: D23.com

The Robert Meyer Motor Inn became the Kahler Plaza and then, in the late 1970s, the Harley. It became the Four Points by Sheraton in the late 1990s but closed in 2004 to evolve into The Metropolitan at Lake Eola condominiums.

Orlando attorney Finley Hamilton dabbled in real estate. He had opened a Hilton Inn on Colonial Drive and then acquired ten acres on Sand Lake Road near an I-4 ramp to build the Hilton Inn South. The two story, horseshoe shaped hotel had 140 guest rooms and a covered pool as well as several meeting rooms.

Because it was so near Disney property, the Disney Company offered to manage it for Hamilton for sixteen months until Walt Disney World opened so they could train their staff for the Contemporary and the Polynesian. Hamilton and his partner paved the nearby dirt road. Hamilton wanted to call it "Hamilton Drive" but there was another street by that name in Orlando so he had to settle for "International Drive".

Although it had been open since 1968, The Hilton Inn South opened May 1970 under Disney management and was the location where Disney executives stayed, as well as Disney transfers who had not found a permanent home yet. It was also open to the general public but the standards were extremely high because Roy O. Disney himself visited frequently and commented on flaws.

The Hilton Inn South no longer exists but it was originally in the same general area as the big McDonald's and entrance to Quality Inn on Sand Lake Road.

Did any All Ears readers ever stay at these hotels in their prime and if so, what were they like?

December 17, 2013

Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - December 2013

Holly Bar



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:


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

This month we are going to take a temporary break from the classic animated characters and try a special Disney Parks for the Holidays edition. We will return with a puzzle on Donald Duck next month.

There is a word bank for this particular puzzle, and ALL of the words in the word bank are used in the puzzle.

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.

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

Send the bonus term or phrase no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on January 10, 2014. 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-January.


Holly Bar


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


As 53 of you knew, the watch that Mickey wore in the short film, "Mickey's Big Break" was, ironically, a Michael Eisner watch. At the time Mr. Eisner was the CEO of the Walt Disney Company.

The winner of this month's Disney collectible pin is Ron H. of Naugatuck, Connecticut. Ron's entry was picked at random from all of the correct responses.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

We hope you enjoy this Mousy Mindboggler, and we welcome any comments or suggestions. And if you have an idea for a puzzle theme that you'd like to see, drop James a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Thanks and Happy Holidays!

Holly Bar

December 18, 2013

D23’s Holiday Splendor


D23's Holiday Splendor Event Friday, December 6 and Saturday, December 7, 2013

What if you had an opportunity to view the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights with just a handful of others, all of you with special ears that blink in time with the lights and music? How about reserved seating for the Candlelight Processional and a private dessert party while you watch IllumiNations, Reflections of Earth? Are you interested in Disney history, and how the holidays have been celebrated at Disney Parks throughout the years? If so, D23's Holiday Splendor event may be for you! The schedule for the event starts with an evening viewing the Osborne Lights in the Hollywood Studios, then continues the next day with a full day of scheduled events in Epcot. (Please pardon the quality of the following photos. Somehow I got out of the house without a real camera on this trip, and only had my phone to snap pics with.)

Friday, December 6. Private viewing of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

The event began with check in at 8:15 p.m. on Friday evening at the Premier Theater in Disney's Hollywood Studios (near the Lights, Motors, Action show at the back of the park). Guests who did not have park tickets were able to check in at the entrance to the Park, and were escorted to the Premier Theater. After checking in we were given a set of "Glow with the Show" ears,


and a pair of special glasses, that we were instructed to bring with us the next day as well. (I wish that the cast members had actually let people know what the glasses were for, as I saw that some folks never put them on.)


After getting the goods, we were instructed to meet at the Studio Catering Company at 8:50 p.m. to gather for our private viewing time. At 9 p.m., after the rest of the park guests exited, the Lights were turned back on just for us! We had 15 minutes as a group to wander around and see the lights. It was a pretty amazing sight, as everyone in the group (I'd guess about 100) had on the Glow with the Show ears, which were blinking in unison with the music. The glasses made the lights look like little Mickey's. I think I remember them being handed out to everyone as they entered the viewing area a few years ago, so these might have been leftovers from then. It was a great start to the event!


Saturday, December 7. Breakfast, holiday presentations, The Scavenger Hunt, access to the Hospitality Suite in The American Adventure pavilion, reserved seating for The Candlelight Processional, dinner in the Rotunda in The American Adventure pavilion, Illuminations Dessert Party.

At 9:30 a.m., check-in started at the Odyssey pavilion in Epcot. Today, everyone attending the event needed to have valid park admission. If you had checked in already the night before, showing your lanyard to the cast member at the door gained you admission to the lobby of the pavilion, where a "light" breakfast buffet was spread. Guests who had not attended the Osborne Lights portion of the event the night before checked in and received their Glow with the Show ears and Mickey glasses.

I was pretty impressed with the "light" breakfast, having expected maybe some pastries and coffee. Offerings included a selection of mini muffins, a nice fruit salad and an egg, hash brown and sausage casserole. There was also coffee, tea, orange juice and water.

As guests entered the room to claim seats, there was a display of yummy holiday pastry treats to be oohed and aahed over, in addition to a display of some choral robes for the Candlelight Processional.




After everyone sat down with their breakfast, Laura Sanchez, from D23 Events kicked things off with a welcome and an overview of the day.

Steve Vagnini, Disney Archivist, presented Walt at Christmastime, showing archival photographs of Christmases and Christmas traditions throughout Walt's lifetime, from wishing for a new pair of boots to keep him warm on his childhood paper route, to the lists he kept of presents that were given to the children of Disney Company staff, to the television Christmas specials of the early 1960s.

Disney pastry chefs, Jeff Barnes (the Contemporary) and Yoly Lazo Colon (Epcot), then talked about Holiday Sweets, particularly focusing on the processes involved in creating the amazing gingerbread houses, trees and other displays throughout the resort (they get started making the gingerbread in January!), but also including other yummy treats on offer.


Here are some photos of several of the creations the chefs discussed that I took later in my trip:

The Mary Blair-inspired gingerbread tree at the Contemporary (which had to be specially anchored because of the vibrations of the monorail passing through)


and the gingerbread installation in the Land Pavilion at Epcot, which has contributions from all of Disney World's head pastry chefs.




(May I also say that the Linzer cookie that I bought at the Contemporary was just about the most amazing cookie that I have ever eaten! If you can, you should run right over there and buy one now!)

Next up was Forrest Bahruth, Show Director, Candlelight Processional, who gave a very interesting history of the event, starting with a group of a capella singers in Disneyland in 1955, continuing to the opening of the show in 1994 at Epcot. Bahruth also explained some of the changes made this year to the current show, including changing the backdrop, adding new "stained glass windows" on the sides of the stage, updating the choir robes, and changing the shape of the "tree" made of singers, and updating the narration to be more understandable for international guests.


Behind the Magic of Glow with the Show was the topic of the next presentation, from Erin Catalano, Disney Park Merchandise. Swearing us to secrecy, Catalano gave us a basic explanation of the technology behind the operation of the ears, which light up and blink in sync with the music and visuals of several shows in Disney parks around the world. The special ears were first developed to be used in conjunction with The World of Color show at Disney's California Adventure, and were then adapted for the fireworks show at Disneyland Paris. At Walt Disney World, the ears can currently be used with Fantasmic! and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at the Hollywood Studios, and Celebrate the Magic and Wishes at the Magic Kingdom. Tip: Batteries can be replaced free of charge at any shop that sells the ears.

Finally, Graham Allan, Historian, presented Seasons Past, a presentation of remembrances from seasonal presentations of the past thirty years in the parks. He showed clips of various Christmas parades in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and a particularly interesting clip of a special Christmas water pageant at Tokyo DisneySea.

After the presentations, it was time for The Scavenger Hunt! (Alternatively, guests could take time to view the Holidays Around the World offerings, ride the rides or just hang out in the Hospitality Suite in the American Adventure Pavilion.) I opted to do the scavenger hunt, and spent a crazy four hours trying to track down all of the 100 items. (YOU try to count all of the red baubles on the main Epcot Christmas tree, it is not as easy as it sounds.) Next year I need a team!

At 5:45, we gathered in front of the American Adventure Pavilion to be escorted to our reserved seats for the Candlelight Processional, which was being narrated by Whoopi Goldberg that evening. I was a bit disappointed as our seats were way at the back on the side, and did not offer a very good view of the stage. Guests with dinner packages were seated in front of us. I did enjoy the show, however, and made special note of the changes that were pointed out earlier in the day by Forrest Bahruth.

After the Processional, we proceeded to dinner in the American Adventure Rotunda. As we entered the Rotunda, servers were waiting with, wait for it, trays of wine and beer. After the exhaustion of the scavenger hunt, I was ready for that adult beverage (and there was an open bar at the back, if anything other than wine or beer was desired).


The dinner was served buffet-style and was really quite delicious.


After dinner, the winner of the scavenger hunt (with a score of 91!) and the runners up (73, and 74, I believe) were announced, and we were directed to the back of the room, where two special guests were waiting to meet all of us!


As we left the Rotunda, we picked up our goodie bags, which included special artwork prepared just for the event, and a yummy cookie among other fun items.



The group was then escorted to the Terrace des Fleurs near the France Pavilion for a Dessert Party and IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth viewing. The desserts were yummy, and the view of Illuminations was amazing!


So in the end, did I think that the Holiday Splendors event was worth the relatively steep purchase price of $205? Considering that the event allowed premium viewing opportunities for three of the major Disney World Holiday events (the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, the Candlelight Processional and the holiday version of IllumiNations), included two substantial meals (and alcoholic beverages!), the Glow with the Show ears, a bag full of goodies, in addition to the presentations, I actually do feel that it was a good value. I did wish that the event were run a bit more like a tour, however, as I felt that we were simply turned loose on the Osborne lights without any real welcome, and there were no introductory remarks for either the Candlelight Processional (also our reserved seats for this were pretty terrible) or IllumiNations, either. I understand that this was the second year for this event, and it would be great if they offered it again next year, as I REALLY would like to win that scavenger hunt!


Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was 10 years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited every one of the Disney parks throughout the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.

December 30, 2013

Historical Fun Facts

Jim's Attic: Historical Fun Facts
By Jim Korkis

Over the years, I have gathered little oddball fun facts about Walt Disney World but sometimes, they can not be expanded into a full article. In addition, sometimes an area changes, so the information is no longer valid.

Here is a handful of that strange stuff in one of my archive files that I thought you mind enjoy knowing:

During the Bicentennial Celebration of the U.S. Constitution at Walt Disney World, one of the temporary displays in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom was a reproduction of the original Liberty Bell loaned from the Mount Vernon Memorial Park of Fair Oaks, California through June of 1989.

However, Disney guests loved the reproduction so to provide a permanent display, Disney Show Properties and Interiors purchased a new replica. It was cast by Paccard Fonderie of Annecy, France using the original Liberty Bell mold. The new bell took its place of honor just before July 4, 1989 where it remains to this day.


The bell was made primarily of copper but also contains tin, lead, zinc, arsenic, gold and silver. It stands eight feet high, including stock and weighs two and a half tons.


DISNEY'S BIG BANG. Here's a Disney culinary treat I never remember enjoying but maybe some readers have tasted it. I have had a lot of Disney menu favorites over the years that have disappeared completely.

When the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant opened at Disney MGM Studios on April 20, 1991 (were any of you surprised it was not open with the park in 1989?), it had some very unique food offerings including "The Big Bang".


Yes, that is what the creamed popcorn soup concocted by Disney MGM Studios Executive Chef Reimund Pitz was labeled on the menu.

"Popcorn was the number one best seller at the drive-in movie, so we played around with a lot of different ideas and came up with a velvety popcorn soup," said Pitz when the restaurant opened. "All of our ideas are themed to the drive-in era. We took the old classics and added a new flair."

HORSING AROUND Here's something interesting from a WDW attraction that no longer exists. I hope a handful of you might remember the SuperStar Television show at Disney MGM Studios where Disney guests were chosen, costumed and through the miracle of blue screen added into scenes in some popular television programs.


One of those experiences was riding on a horse in a scene from the popular television Western series "Bonanza". Audiences were probably enjoying the discomfort of the performer so much that they never wondered about the horse.

I was able to confirm many years ago that the sculpted horse had been recycled from the motion picture The Godfather (1972), famous for a scene with a realistic looking horse head. The Disney Company even sent the information out to the media in 1996 as a fun fact for Walt Disney World's 25th Anniversary celebration.

Is it still in storage in a WDW prop warehouse or does it appear somewhere else on property? Unfortunately, I don't know.

If you emptied all the water from the Living Seas with Nemo at Epcot into one-gallon milk jugs and laid them side by side, they would stretch from New Orleans to Raleigh, North Carolina, approximately 540 miles.


The DNA Tower that stood in front of the entrance to Wonders of Life at Epcot was 5.5 billion times larger than the DNA molecule it represented. It would have been just right for a human six million miles tall.


MOST PHOTOGRAPHED AT EPCOT. In 1995, it was determined that the most photographed thing at Epcot was not SpaceShip Earth. Believe it or not, it was General Motors' model automobiles and prototypes in Future World exhibited at the World of Motion attraction (which closed January 1996) according to the Disney publicists connected with the WDW News & Information department.


Would any of you like me to go deeper into my files to find more WDW Fun Facts?

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About December 2013

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

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