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March 12, 2014

Jim’s Attic: A Short History of Tony’s Town Square Restaurant

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A Short History of Tony's Town Square Restaurant By Jim Korkis

When Main Street U.S.A. opened at the Magic Kingdom in Florida in October 1971, right there in Town Square was the Town Square Café with an open air porch where patrons could watch the stream of guests rushing in and out of the park.

The food and beverage location offered breakfast, lunch and dinner and was themed to the elegant Victorian era. Originally, the venue was going to be sponsored by a coffee company but the proposed participant backed out.

It ended up being sponsored by Oscar Mayer from 1971-1981. Diminutive spokesman for the company, Little Oscar (actually affable George Molchan) in his white chef's hat, was there greeting guests and handing out the iconic wiener whistles to eager children.

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However, it was not a variety of Oscar Mayer hot dogs that were served at the location but upscale fare like a Monte Cristo sandwich and Crepes Jambalaya. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola were available as well on the menu.

When Oscar Mayer declined to renew its sponsorship, the location was taken over by Hormel who handled the operation from 1981 to 1989. The menu was a large four page newspaper entitled "Town Square Times" with the first page devoted to the history of the Hormel company. The new sponsor still sold a Monte Cristo sandwich along with a Main Street Deli Plate and Fresh Catfish.

When Hormel decided not to continue sponsorship in 1989, the Disney Company did an extensive rehab of the restaurant converting it into Tony's Town Square Restaurant.

The restaurant references the Italian restaurant in the Disney animated feature classic Lady and the Tramp (1955) where two canines shared a romantic moment over a plate of spaghetti and meat balls.

The proprietor of the film's eatery is a larger-than-life, black-mustached, friendly character named Tony voiced by actor George Givot, known for his dialect comedy and fine singing voice, who passed away in 1984.

After a recent rehab, Tony's image is now smiling from a brand new overhead sign.

The waiting area has a television playing a clip from the film and the interior of the restaurant is decorated with Lady and the Tramp artwork as well as a sculpted fountain.

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For over thirty years, Don "Ducky" Williams has been a Senior Character Artist at Walt Disney World. During that time, he supplied artwork for memorable pieces of merchandise like the special limited edition lithographs for the Disney Cruise Line and the Disney Vacation Club.

Sometimes, his talents were tapped for unusual projects like Tony's Town Square Restaurant.

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"I did the artwork for all the china, signage, menus, etc. In fact, when it first opened, it had plates, saucers, creamers and more with my Lady and the Tramp artwork on it," commented Williams when I interviewed him. "They found the guests loved it so much that they kept stealing it so they replaced them with regular china. The remainder they had they sold at Disneyana conventions.

"Do you see all those framed paintings on the wall? There are twelve of them and I did them all. Those are the original paintings framed under glass, not prints or reproductions. If they ever change out that place, I would love to have those back to put up in my house."

Don Ducky Williams

Disney enthusiast Greg Ehrbar was responsible for writing the original two-sided kid's menu that was designed to resemble the comics section from the "Main Street Gazette". Besides the menu, it featured games and puzzles and an original comic strip. Unfortunately, this particular menu has been retired.

Some Disney fans are unimpressed with the menu offerings at Tony's but everyone is appreciative of the artistic "theming" of the space and how it captures the spirit of one of Disney's most beloved animated features. I wonder if there are any left over hot dogs in the back from Oscar Mayer for Tramp's many friends?

Deb's Note:
Ducky was a special guest of AllEars during our December to Remember Celebration in 2011. We designed a special AllEars Trading Card dedicated to his work at Tony's Town Square.

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RELATED INFORMATION AND LINKS
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.

====================
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":


March 15, 2014

Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - March 2014

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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!

James says: This month we continue with the animated character series. That lovable pup, Pluto is next.

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

http://allears.net/ae/mb031514.pdf

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

The object is to have fun, of course, 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 April 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-April.

Thanks everyone for playing!

And GOOD LUCK!

FEBRUARY SOLUTION:

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

http://allears.net/ae/mb021714-key.pdf

The name of Goofy's duck decoy in the 1947 short, "Foul Hunting" was Clementine. We received 65 correct responses.

The winner of this month's random drawing from all the correct responses was Michael M. from Northwood, OH. Michael won a collectible Disneyland Haunted Mansion pin. Congrats and thanks for playing!

As always, James would love to hear any feedback, or any ideas for themes you'd like to a see covered. Drop James a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

March 23, 2014

The Imagineers - Doing It Right!

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I am a big fan of the Imagineers! I am constantly awed and impressed by the way they design and build all of those components that make up the Disney Parks and Disney Cruise Line ships.

Of course, Walt Disney was the first Imagineer . . . even before he invented that job title. Walt was an artist and animator - he honed his skills in the days before 3D, computer generated graphics and digital images. He created hours and hours of engaging entertainment using nothing more than a pencil, paper and his amazing imagination.

In the earliest days of his career Walt devised some unique drawing and photographic techniques and used them in his animations in such a subtle way that viewers were unaware that their eyes were playing tricks on their minds. When Disney Studios began producing live-action movies they acquired another set of skills - creating backdrops and background scenery, using creative camera angles to control what the viewer sees.

I guess it was only natural that when Walt set out, over 60 years ago, to create a theme park he would employ all those skills and techniques he had perfected over the years. He surrounded himself with creative people, who he dubbed Imagineers, and motivated them to follow a consistent approach to their work.

Walt's approach was quite simple . . . just like his animated cartoons or live-action movies; everything began with a story board. Every building, every thrill ride, every attraction began with a highly detailed story board. First and foremost there had to be a "back-story" and then every detail of the building, ride or attraction had to be consistent with that back-story.

This has resulted in an amazingly immersive experience. Disney parks are like no other parks I have ever seen. They are designed to totally engage you in the time or place which surrounds you. Tomorrowland feels like the future . . . Frontierland puts you in the Wild West . . . Main Street USA takes you back over 100 years to the early 1900's.

When I first visited the Magic Kingdom 36 years ago I was instantly impressed by the consistent attention to detail and quality throughout the parks. Since that time I have traveled to some of the places that are recreated on Disney property and those travels have done nothing but heighten my respect for the Imagineers and the way they replicate these worlds for our enjoyment.

Let me give you a few examples.

Our favourite Moderate Resort is Port Orleans French Quarter and we had stayed there several times before we visited New Orleans. When we arrived in the original French Quarter my eyes just popped . . . Wow! The Imagineers did a terrific job recreating the building style - but they somehow cloned the exciting atmosphere of the French Quarter as well.

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The French Quarter in New Orleans

Then just a few years later we made our first trek west to Disneyland. Once again my eyes popped as we strolled through New Orleans Square. Awesome - a jazz band was playing and it felt just like being in New Orleans at Jackson Square. The galleries draped with beads . . . perfect!

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Disneyland's New Orleans Square

During one of our California trips we headed to San Diego and stopped at the beachfront Del Coronado Hotel. The Grand Floridian Hotel was modeled after the Del Coronado. How do you think the Imagineers did with the project?

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Hotel Del Coronado

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Grand Floridian Hotel

Last summer Carol and I took our motor home and toured the Jersey Shore. Miles and miles of beautiful sandy beaches and all those boardwalks. Of course we were drawn to compare the Atlantic City Boardwalk with the Disney version - another great replication.

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Atlantic City Boardwalk

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Disney's Boardwalk

Since I'm Canadian I naturally have to look for some Canadian icons to compare. Let's focus for a minute on the Canadian Pavilion at EPCOT. The pavilion itself is modeled after the Chateau Laurier Hotel, on the banks of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, our national capital.

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EPCOT's Canada Pavilion

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Chateau Laurier Hotel

The gardens at the Canada Pavilion are meant to duplicate the magnificent Butchart Gardens in Victoria British Columbia. What do you think of the copy?

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Gardens at the Canada Pavilion

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Butchart Gardens

The Imagineers do so many creative things to engage, amuse and even educate us. Think of the time you spend waiting in line at Toy Story Midway Mania, Expedition Everest or Kali River Rapids. If you are like me, you are seldom bored waiting in line. Those queues are filled with artefacts, memorabilia and oddities, many of them gathered by Imagineers as they travelled the world researching the Himalayas or some other exotic locale to develop their back-story. There's always something interesting that catches my attention. If you have ever been in a queue and a fat old man with a white moustache waved you past while he looked at some little trinket - that was probably me!

Do you always see what the Imagineers do? No, of course not, and neither do I. But once in a while we all need to stop rushing from one thrill ride to the next and take a minute to just look around and savour our surroundings. Look for the little things; try to focus on the things the Imagineers didn't really have to do - but they did them anyway!

Try this: Next time you are leaving Splash Mountain, stop for a few minutes in the Briar Patch, the little shop on the right as you climb the steps. There are rocking chairs in the shop - sit down in one, stretch out and relax, then look up at the ceiling. What do you see? Briars and roots - you really are in the bottom of the briar patch! That's what I mean - they didn't have to do that but what a great idea!

Do you have a favourite Imagineering idea? Something the Imagineers created that really adds to your Disney experience?

March 26, 2014

Jim’s Attic: The Mickey Mouse Glasshouse Balloon

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The Mickey Mouse Glasshouse Balloon
By Jim Korkis

As a young boy, one of my delights was getting a Mickey Mouse helium balloon at Disneyland.

A Mickey ear-shaped latex balloon has actually been around since the 1940s. Filling it with helium so it could float seductively in the air was something unique when it was introduced by Nate Lewis early in 1956 at Disneyland.

Recently, I got a chance to do a lengthy interview with Treb Heining who began his life-long career as a "balloon guy" when he first started selling Mickey Mouse helium balloons at Disneyland in 1969. He was just fifteen years old and he turned the experience he got working at Disneyland for several summers into a remarkable career.

Heining has been responsible for the balloon effects at eighteen Super Bowls, the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics Games, and every Republican National Convention since 1988 as well as two presidential inaugurations.

He is the creator of the "balloon archway" that has become so commonplace but more importantly, he created both the Mickey Mouse helium balloon inside of a clear balloon, known as a glasshouse, as well as the Mickey Mouse helium balloon that lights up specifically for Disney theme parks.

Heining's highly successful Glasshouse Balloon Company, Inc. employs over 50,000 people worldwide and has provided balloon effects for many Disney events.

"The Mickey Mouse balloon is by far the hardest balloon to inflate," Heining told me. "Latex balloons don't do well in the sun or extremely hot temperatures. The sun causes the latex to "oxidize" (turn from a shiny finish to dull) and eventually, as the helium leaks out, Mickey can lose an ear as it deflates.

"In the early days they sold both the Mickey Mouse balloon and also regular round balloons known as Agates. They also experimented with putting a mousehead inside another clear latex balloon. This is where the term glasshouse balloon came from as the guests called this balloon -- a mousehead inside of a clear latex balloon -- 'Mickey Mouse in a glasshouse'."

The problem with this type of balloon was oxidation. The clear outside balloon would age quickly in the sun and as the interior oxidized it made it difficult to see the Mickey Mouse balloon inside of it. So, this experiment was quickly abandoned for just the regular familiar mousehead.

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Almost two decades later, working with Henry Unger & Associates in the late 1980s, Heining stumbled on a way to overcome the challenges. Unger introduced him to a Japanese product called the "T" balloon where a small round plastic balloon could cover nine and eleven inch latex balloons.

Playing around with the product, Heining discovered he could make the "T" balloon big enough to inflate a fifteen inch mousehead balloon inside of it.

"Once we had the initial run of product, we decided it was important to test it first before presenting to Disneyland," recalled Heining.

"I approached the Los Angeles County Fair folks about running a balloon concession that September and they loved the idea. That gave us a chance to test the product in all types of conditions including very hot temperatures. The glasshouse balloon performed very well. The outside plastic part kept the latex inside from oxidizing (getting cloudy) and the balloon itself would float for weeks and weeks -- in most cases more than a month.

"The name glasshouse came from a friend -- Karen Lampson -- who told me that guests at Disneyland used to call the Mickey Mouse inside the clear balloon (both latex back then) Mickey Mouse in a glass house. It seemed logical then to call this new balloon: glasshouse.

"Henry set up the meeting with Disneyland and once we walked in with an umbrella of 50 glasshouse, the only question was how soon we could deliver to the Park."

On that first day in 1996, the glasshouse balloon sold in only one location in Tomorrowland outsold three to one the mylar foil balloons sold in five other locations throughout Disneyland.

"The glasshouse balloon took over the number one spot in Outdoor Vending very quickly and remains the top selling balloon of all time," stated Heining.

In 2002, Heining enhanced the experience once again with the introduction of a colorful light up stick inside the balloon.

"Balloons are happy and when done in the right way, create joy for both children and adults. When they see hundreds or thousands perfectly inflated and arranged, it creates its own magic and takes them to a place that nothing else can," Heining told me.

RELATED INFORMATION AND LINKS
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.

====================

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":


March 28, 2014

Disney Vacation Club Member Magic at Splitsville

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by David Abel
AllEars® Guest Blogger


Back in February, Disney Vacation Club announced "Member Magic," featuring a collection of discounts and events especially for Vacation Club members. One of the new events featured is Member Night at Splitsville Luxury Lanes™ at Downtown Disney. My traveling party during the Flower & Garden festival opted to experience this new event, so we booked a 5 p.m. session the first week of March. (At the time, there were 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. sessions. Now the DVC Members' website indicates only a 6 p.m. event.)

We arrived at Splitsville a few minutes early and checked in at the main desk, providing our names and shoe sizes. Once our shoes were ready, we were escorted to our lane, lane #1 along the windows on the first floor. We soon found out we'd be joined by another family bringing the total number of bowlers on our lane to eight!

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As with any bowling outing, the event was only as fun as you make it. We had two full hours of bowling time, but with everything going on (including the food to be talked about shortly), we only bowled one full game and about four more frames.

With the package, which cost $188 for a party of four, we each received a 'Signature beverage' (a glass of beer or wine, or a refillable souvenir [soda] cup), a shared appetizer (one for every two people) and an entree. We ordered the Blazing Chicken and Alley Nachos for our appetizers, and then we ordered a Steak Fajita Bowl, Cheeseburger Deluxe and two Cheese Pizzas.

When a server came for our drink order, I asked for a raspberry ginger ale and was told they didn't have that. When I commented that I thought they had a 'Coke Freestyle' machine, I was told that wasn't included in our package, so we just ordered four regular sodas. The server brought us our beverages and then he never came back. I noticed DVC members at other lanes receiving the souvenir cups for the Freestyle machine. These members told me that the cups were included, so I asked the server taking care of the lane next to us, and she brought us our cups.

The food pretty much came all at once and we hardly had enough room on the table for all of it!

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At the end of the event, we were given a 'bill' even though we had pre-paid. The waiter explained that we didn't need to pay it, but that it was only 'informational,' as gratuity was not included. On our way out, I asked about the 'special gift' listed on the website and we were each given a pair of Splitsville socks.

So how do I really feel about the event? Having been a Disney Vacation Club member since the very beginning, I must say this is the most disappointed I've been with anything related to DVC. Most of this disappointment falls directly on Splitsville, but some I feel also falls on DVC.

In the recent issue of Disney Files Magazine, there's a description of the event: "The special package includes an extended bowling time of an hour and 45 minutes with shoe rental, a shared appetizer, a select entree, a signature beverage and a special Disney Vacation Club gift, all for a fixed price that represents a significant savings off the regular cost of a standard bowling session with equivalent food and beverage. Special decor and entertainment, including music by Radio Disney, add to the festive atmosphere."

The 'extended bowling time of an hour and 45 minutes' is confusing as that's the time shown on Splitsville's website for 6-8 people, and we actually bowled for two hours. Maybe this is a misprint in the magazine.

The amount of food, coming as it did all at one time, was too much for the tables at the alleys, especially since we had eight people bowling and eating. I would have preferred to have the appetizers while we bowled, and then the entrees afterward (when our bowling clock was done ticking).

Maybe I set my expectations too high, but I don't really consider a pair of Splitsville socks to be a "special Disney Vacation Club gift." I was hoping for an exclusive pin designed for the event.

I also question whether the "fixed price represents a significant savings off the regular cost." As I said before, I was charged $188 for the four people in my party. By my calculations, the regular cost of our event was $213.80, indicating there was indeed a 12 percent savings. However, had we really been there "on our own," we would have used our Tables In Wonderland card on the food and beverages and we wouldn't have purchased the Splitsville socks. Our bill would have been $167.84, which would have been 10.7 percent less than the DVC's "significant savings" price.

As for the special decor, there were balloons tied to the ball returns. Maybe there was music by Radio Disney, but we didn't really pay notice to that. We didn't see or meet any representation of Disney Vacation Club, or anything that made it really special.

Splitsville was hosting a major reception event the night we were there, and the whole second floor was dedicated to that. I wonder if that event had not been going on, would we have had a different experience? I really hope other members have better feelings about this event than I did.


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About March 2014

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in March 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2014 is the previous archive.

April 2014 is the next archive.

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