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April 2014 Archives

April 2, 2014

Dining Takes a Good Turn at the Garden Grill

Andrew Rossi

Despite the countless times I have visited Epcot's Land pavilion, the Garden Grill Restaurant was one of the few Epcot dining locations to which I have never been. Many a time, when walking past to go ride Soarin' or Living with the Land, I have commented on how this was a restaurant that I really wanted to try. However, for one reason or another, I continually put it off. This might have been due to the fact that there are so many restaurants at Epcot which I really enjoy or the simple fact that the Garden Grill is only open for dinner and its limited operating hours make reservations a little harder to come by. Whatever the reason, I finally decided to give the Garden Grill a try and I went in not really knowing what to expect. I knew that the dining room rotated, dinner was served family-style, and that it was a character dining experience, but that was about it. After having finally dined there, I can say that the Garden Grill surpassed my expectations and might actually be my new top location when it comes to character dining.


The Land pavilion has always had a restaurant in the current location of the Garden Grill, but it has gone through a series of iterations. When the pavilion opened in 1982, the restaurant was known as The Good Turn and remained that way until 1986. From 1986 through 1993 the restaurant was named The Land Grill Room. Along with the name change, the restaurant has changed in other ways as well. Most noticeably, the restaurant did not always feature characters, meals were not always served family-style, and for a good portion of its history the restaurant was open for both lunch and dinner. One thing that has stayed consistent throughout the restaurant's history, however, is its rotating dining room. In fact, the Garden Grill is the only rotating restaurant in all of Disney World.

As noted above, one of the things that makes the Garden Grill so unique is that it is a rotating restaurant. Throughout the course of your meal, the restaurant slowly moves around in a counter-clockwise motion to allow diners to have a bird's eye view of the Living with the Land boat ride below.

Passing by the rainforest scene, there is not much to see as the lush vegetation dominates most of the view. If you look closely, you might be able to catch a glimse of the waterfall through the foliage.


However, the plants and trees give way as the dining room rotates towards the desert and the American prairie, passing by a series of large rock formations.


The view then opens up to reveal the open grasslands below, complete with a family of buffalo animatronics.


Next comes the classic American farmhouse, which even allows diners to catch a glimpse through the windows into the house's second floor. Overall, it provides a unique perspective of Living with the Land, especially for someone who has ridden the ride many times.


The dining room is split into lower and upper levels to offer all Guests a good view as they rotate. The lower level is comprised of semi-circular booths that face outward.


Meanwhile, the upper level is composed of tables and chairs positioned high enough so that their view is not inhibited by those Guests sitting on the lower level.


Of the two, I would give the edge to the tables on the lower level in terms of having the better view, but anyone is more than welcome to go and stand along the railing to look down on the boat ride below as the restaurant passes by.


Of course, not all of the entire circuit the dining room makes overlooks the boat ride and at these points the walls are adorned with detailed painted murals depicting lush plants, trees, ferns, and flowers. If you look carefully, you might even be able to spot a very well-hidden Mickey.


Another major component of the Garden Grill is its characters. Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale are all present and leisurely make their way around to each of the tables. This is an area where I felt the Garden Grill really excelled when compared with other character dining experiences. I felt as though we had some really good character interactions during our meal and they offered us plenty of time to take pictures and play around with them. Each one of the characters also came to our table multiple times throughout the course of our meal. This is quite a contrast to other character dining where the characters seem very rushed and briefly stop by your table for a quick picture before moving on. If you are dining with children who really love meeting Disney characters, the Garden Grill is a fantastic option. It also allows you to see Mickey in his farmer outfit, which you cannot find him in anywhere else.


Overall, the Garden Grill provides a casual and relaxing setting. Its atmosphere relies more on the sights of the boat ride below rather than anything in the actual dining room to help set the feel and the restaurant's characters adds an additional level of whimsy and fun to the dining experience. With the sounds coming from the boat ride below, it is not really a quiet restaurant but this is also not exactly the type of place you would go if looking for an intimate and romantic night out. The Garden Grill is a restaurant that definitely appeals to families, but even bigger kids will enjoy the scenic views and fun character interactions they have during their meal.

The Menu:
The Garden Grill features a pre-fixe menu offering an appetizer, entrée, and dessert all served family-style. The meal begins with a fresh Farmer's Salad. The salad included an assortment of vegetables such as onions, peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes along with hard boiled eggs and bacon bits. It is referenced on the menu as a "Harvest-Inspired" salad, which means that its contents can change depending upon what is in season. It is a very light and healthy way to start the meal and a good reminder of the fresh produce being grown in the greenhouses at the Land pavilion.


After the salad comes the main course platter that includes an assortment of the three entrees of turkey, fish, and beef, each of which come with their own accompaniments. The turkey is served with a lemon-caper sauce, which we chose to have served on the side. I was very intrigued by this sauce and was surprised by how well it paired with the turkey. The turkey itself was juicy and tender, but the flavor of the lemon and capers really added a light and refreshing flavor that was a nice departure from your typical gravy. Along with the turkey was an artisan bread pudding, which was basically your traditional-style stuffing. There was nothing really noteworthy about this side dish, but you can't go wrong pairing turkey with stuffing.


Next was the sustainable fish of the day, which in this case was Mahi Mahi that came topped with a roasted tomato and pepper compote. Mahi Mahi is a very mild-flavored fish and I found this preparation of it to be just a little on the dry side. However, the tomato and pepper compote provided a tremendous amount of flavor and just the right amount of spiciness to give the fish a much-needed kick. The fish was served atop fresh garden vegetables that included a mixture of zucchini and squash.

The last entrée item on the platter was a char-grilled filet of beef that came topped with a red wine butter. For me, this was the part of the main entrée that really stole the show. The beef was so moist and tender with hardly any fat and the red wine butter provided even more rich flavor that complimented the beef extremely well. While the first portion of beef we received was a little more on the rare side, one of the members of our party requested some that was cooked well-done and this was quickly brought out to her. Along with the beef came a generous portion of buttermilk mashed potatoes which were just the perfect consistency, smooth and fluffy.


Of course, since this family-style meal is all-you-care-to-eat, there is no shortage as to the amount of food you can get. Rather than bringing you out an entirely new platter, however, the server will simply ask you what you would like more of and then bring out additional plates with those items.

After all this food, there was still dessert to be had. The dessert was a freshly baked harvest fruit cobbler that came topped with vanilla bean whipped cream. The types of berries included in the cobbler can change depending on what is in season, but this one was blueberry. The dessert came served piping hot, the ooey-gooeyness of the berries and the light, fluffy cake combining perfectly with one another. The only thing I wish was that this dessert had been topped with vanilla ice cream. Despite this, the whipped cream served on top was so smooth and provided a nice refreshing flavor to the dessert.


Overall, the entire meal is one which is very much inspired by the Land pavilion, its greenhouses, and the boat ride that passes just below the restaurant.

Sometimes at restaurants where the meals are served family-style there is a tendency for each course to be brought out in rapid succession, making your meal feel very rushed. I was glad to see that this was not the case at the Garden Grill and the meal progressed at a calm and relaxing pace. I also found the service to be very attentive. Our server was constantly checking in with our table to see if there was anything that we needed and whether she could bring us any more food. In addition, when we were having trouble locating the hidden Mickey on the dining room's mural she got out a laser pointer to show us exactly where it was.

I would also include all the characters as a part of the service. While at other character dining locations you sometimes feel as though the characters are rushing from one table to another, at the Garden Grill we were able to have some great interactions with Mickey and the gang. Each character spent a good amount of time at our table and we were able to get multiple pictures with each of them. This in particular is one element of the Garden Grill that really helps to separate it from other character dining locations.

Dining on a Budget:
This is one thing that is a little difficult to do at the Garden Grill. Combining the all-you-care-to-eat nature of the menu along with the restaurant's characters makes this dining experience a little pricey. The price for adults can range anywhere between $37 and $41 depending on whether it is off season or peak season while the children's price ranges between $18 and $20. At the same time, however, these prices are comparable to a character dining experience like dinner at the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom and less expensive than Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary. But, like as previously stated, the character interactions that you will have here are better than these other locations. If you have children that really enjoy meeting the Disney characters, then the Garden Grill is definitely worth the price and that's on top of the high quality food as well.

The Garden Grill is on the Disney Dining Plan and is worth one table service credit, making it a really good value for your money. The restaurant also participates in Tables in Wonderland, allowing members to receive their 20% discount. However, there are no additional discounts for Annual Passholders or Disney Vacation Club Members.

The Overall Experience:
This was my first time dining at the Garden Grill and the restaurant exceeded my expectations in every way. I am not usually one who does character dining experiences, but I really enjoyed the interactions I had and great photos I got with Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale. In addition, the unique aspect of the dining room rotating and offering great views of the Living with the Land boat ride below help to make the dining experience even more memorable. On top of all this, the food features a wide assortment that offers a little something for everyone; served family style and all-you-care-to-eat, you will definitely not leave this restaurant hungry. While it might be a little on the more expensive side, I felt as though I completely got my money's worth when dining here between the restaurant's unique atmosphere and quality food offerings. If you are looking for a fun dining experience for the entire family then the Garden Grill is definitely worth a try.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of the Garden Grill and post your own too!

April 9, 2014

Jim’s Attic: The Story of Beacon Joe

The Story of Beacon Joe
By Jim Korkis

Which original Disney character appears in three different attractions at Walt Disney World and was originally created for Disneyland?

I always hated it when teachers asked questions like that and they already knew the answer" and I was a public school teacher for several years after I graduated college so I always tried to help the students with the right answer.

The answer is in the title of this blog installment: Beacon Joe.

However, for many Disney fans that can still be a puzzling answer. When The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction opened in May 1967, it was the last Disney attraction personally overseen by Walt Disney himself.

It was Walt's idea to have the shallow boats drift leisurely through the Blue Bayou before plunging down a hidden waterfall to begin the pirate adventure. The musical chirp of unseen crickets and the faint glow of fireflies against the background of an indigo sky dotted with stars and slowly wafting clouds artistically frames this location to give it a false sense of calm.

The always innovative Walt Disney conceived of a quiet, upscale restaurant that would actually be inside an attraction. It was an idea that had never been done before and it was an instant hit with the many visitors to Disneyland. (My favorite treat at Disneyland is a Monte Cristo sandwich in the restaurant.)

There were discussions of including live entertainment in this quiet, restful environment but after a dress rehearsal during a trial dinner, Walt reportedly said, "In this restaurant, the food is going to be the show, along with the atmosphere".

Right across from the Blue Bayou restaurant and to the left of the guests in the boats is a shack where a bearded man wearing overalls leisurely rocks back and forth plucking out a tune on his banjo. That's Beacon Joe.


Disney Legend Marc Davis designed both the character and the shack. In fact, the initial concept drawings came from his original designs for a Thieves Market that was going to be part of the attraction when it was planned to be a walk-through experience.

The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction was initially not going to be installed in Florida so to brighten up the steamboat voyage around the Rivers of America in Frontierland, Davis installed Beacon Joe and his shack just around an upper curve in the river.

Joe was not there at the opening in 1971 but made his appearance sometime in late 1972 just before the opening of Tom Sawyer's Island in 1973 along with other residents added to the river banks like the Native Americans in their village.


Joe is the last outpost of civilization before guests drift into the frontier wilderness.

He sits on the porch of his shack in front of Alligator Swamp smoking his corncob pipe. He keeps track of the river's occasional course changes and marks the river accordingly for the river traffic.

His faithful dog intensely watches a jumping fish (that looks suspiciously like a repainted piranha from the Jungle Cruise) with his head turning from left to right.


Beacon Joe also appears in Tokyo Disneyland. He can be seen fishing, surrounded by barrels and with his faithful dog on the nearby stairs, near the large trestle of the Western River Railroad as the steamboat maneuvers around the Western River.

However, I mentioned that Beacon Joe appears in three different attractions just at Walt Disney World. It is not unusual for the Disney Company to re-use audio-animatronics sculpted figures. For instance, President Thomas Jefferson shows up as a sheriff on a balcony in The Great Movie Ride, along with some Caribbean pirates re-used as gangsters earlier in the attraction.

The character sculpt of Beacon Joe is used in The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as the standing pirate in the last jail cell at the end of the ride trying to coax a dog to give him the key to the door. He also shows up clean shaven and wearing a crown at the ballroom banquet table in The Haunted Mansion.

Just like a supporting character actor in a film, Beacon Joe quietly makes his appearances to help the storytelling but never feels the necessity to be the star of the show. However, now, you know where he is and why he is there so give him a wave or a shout on your next visit.

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

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":

April 13, 2014

The Evolution of Disney Tickets

Gary Cruise banner

Walt Disney World tickets have certainly changed over the years!

No, I'm not going to rant about the price of tickets; other folks have that very well covered! I think that Disney tickets have always represented great value, so I'm going to talk about the tickets themselves. Let's look at the form of the tickets; are they paper or plastic? What they will buy for you? How have they changed through the years?


In the beginning there were E-Tickets. Yes, I know . . . there are at least two generations of folks out there who don't know what old geezers like me are talking about when we refer to an E-Ticket. So, let me explain!

In 1971 when Walt Disney World opened they used the same ticketing system that had worked successfully at Disneyland since 1959. Guests paid a small General Admission fee ($3.50 for an adult) and then paid an additional fee for each attraction they visited. The attraction fees were paid using pre-packaged booklets of tickets which guests could purchase at the Ticket and Transportation Centre or at several booths in the park.



The most popular attractions were referred to as "E-Ticket Rides" since they required an E-Ticket from your book. The mildest or least popular attractions required an A-Ticket. All rides and attractions were marked with the type of ticket required!


In those early years there were several "Adventure Magic Key Ticket Books" with tickets for 7, 9 or 11 adventures. The 11 Adventure Magic Key Ticket Book cost $5.75 in 1971 and contained one A-Ticket, one B-Ticket, two C-Tickets, three D-Tickets and four E-Tickets. Additional tickets could be purchased individually if you needed them.




At each attraction guests would tear the appropriate ticket out of their booklet and present it to the cast member. It sounds cumbersome by today's standards, but that's the way things worked 40 years ago and it worked well.


Prices slowly increased during the 70's and the ticket booklets changed as well. By 1976 there was a 2 day 18 Adventure Book.

When I first visited the Magic Kingdom in 1977 things were a bit different; they were still selling books of tickets, but guests could now purchase a 2-Day Magic Kingdom Passport which covered Magic Kingdom admission for 2 days, all rides and attractions, two days transportation to Magic Kingdom and the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Center. This was my first Disney ticket; although the Adventure books continued until 1982 - I never used an E-Ticket!




Things changed in late 1982 when EPCOT opened. The ticket booklets were phased out in June of that year and guests could only purchase one day passports for either park or multi-day World Passports which included both parks and allowed access to all attractions. These paper tickets were stamped with the date as guests entered the park. Re-entry was permitted with a hand-stamp. (The "Park-Hopper" was born! However, it wasn't until 1994 that the term "Park-Hopper" was coined by Disney and added as a ticket option.)




The first Annual Passport was introduced in 1982; what a bargain at $100.00. Alas, I have no picture of one of those original passports. Today Annual Passports entitle holders to discounts in many Disney shopping and dining venues as well as periodic discounts at some Disney resorts. I have been unable to determine if these discounts were available in the 80's.


The Annual Passport pictured below, purchased in November 1989, was the first of many Annual Passports for my wife Carol. In addition to unlimited entry at the theme parks, it also provided free parking and a discount at Disney resort hotels.



Disney-MGM Studios opened May 1, 1989 and that brought some more changes. The one-day ticket now cost $28.00 and covered any one of the three parks, with a re-entry privilege, but no park-hopping.



The three, four or five-day World Passports did allow park-hopping.



The 1990's brought a multitude of changes. In 1990 a 5-Day Plus Super Pass was introduced. It covered all three theme parks, plus Pleasure Island, Typhoon Lagoon, River Country and Discovery Island. Wow - that's a lot of park hopping for $110.00

What could possibly be better than 5-Day Plus Super Pass? I'm so glad you asked! In 1991 along came the 5-Day Super Duper Pass - it included unlimited admission to the Disney-MGM Studios, Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center any five days with no expiration date, plus unlimited admission for seven days to Typhoon Lagoon, River Country, Discovery Island and Pleasure Island. Naturally it included unlimited use of the transportation system linking the parks.


In 1992 technology began to creep into the ticketing process. Disney switched from all hand stamped tickets to turnstiles that automatically read the ticket's bar code, stamped the admission tickets and punched out a number from the lower left corner of the ticket each time an admission was used. At the same time, 4-Day All Three Parks Passports were replaced by a 4-Day Super Pass and a 4-Day Super Duper Pass.

In 1994 they discontinued sales of the Super Pass and Super Duper Pass and coined a new term, Park Hopper, when they introduced the 4-day Park Hopper and the 5-day World Hopper. Disney introduced the first Premium Annual Passport this year, to the best of my knowledge this was the first plastic card, credit card sized. The Premium Annual Passport included unlimited access to the three theme parks, two water parks, Pleasure Island and Discovery Island.

I haven't been able to determine when Walt Disney World began adding guest pictures to Annual Passports, but it was 1989 or earlier since Carol's picture is on that 1989-90 passport pictured above. Those guest photos were discontinued in 1996, the same year that mylar paper tickets with a magnetic strip on the back replaced the previous paper tickets with bar codes.

For the first time, different categories of ticket displayed the same image on the face of the ticket. A 5-day ticket and a 10-day ticket might look identical on the surface; the magnetic strip contained information on the guest's entitlements and privileges. Biometric finger scanners were added in conjunction with the new magnetic strip tickets.


Both Disney's Animal Kingdom and DisneyQuest opened in 1998. Admission to the Animal Kingdom park was included in all multi-day Park Hopper passports and admission to DisneyQuest was included in the Premium Annual Passport.

The next significant change in tickets took place in 2005 when the "Magic Your Way" ticket was introduced. This ticket plan has changed a bit but remains in effect today. Guests could purchase a one, two, three or four day Magic Your Way Base Ticket which gave access to any one park each day of the term - there was no Park Hopping with the base tickets. There were also five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten day Magic Your Way tickets which gave guests the option of purchasing a Park Hopper feature and a Water Park Fun & More feature.


In March 2010 the new Premier Passport was offered. This ultimate passport includes all the features of the Premium Annual Passport, unlimited access to the four Florida theme parks, the two Florida water parks and DisneyQuest but it also includes unlimited entry at both Disney theme parks in Anaheim California. Sounds like a "must-have" for every true Disney fan! Carol and I used Premier Passports in 2010 and again in 2013. We really enjoyed the 20% discount on merchandise and food purchases and were disappointed when Walt Disney World reduced it to 10% in 2013. The discount is still 20% at Disneyland Resort in California.


This brings us to the most significant ticketing change in Disney history - Magic Bands.


Disney is spending about a billion dollars (that's right - billion - with a "B") to take advantage of RFID technology. The program started trials in September 2013 with selected resort guests and was very recently expanded to include Annual Passholders. These guests now receive a wrist band which contains an RFID chip.


The ticketing structure and pricing remains unchanged and guests still receive a plastic ticket in the form of a Key To The World Card or Annual Passport, but all of their entitlement data is programmed on the RFID chip. There is no need to show your ticket when you enter a park, just hold your Magic Band up to a scanner, place your finger in a biometric reader, and away you go.


The band also unlocks the door to your room in a Disney resort and it will open the entry gate when you drive into the resort. If you have a credit card on file with Disney and have elected to have charging privileges, the band even acts as your credit card - just scan it and enter your PIN.

What else can the bands do? Well, some pretty amazing stuff! You can use them with the "My Disney Experience" program to manage FastPass+. Up to 60 days before your trip to Walt Disney World, from the comfort of your own home, you can go online and book up to three FastPass+'s for each day of your trip.

On the appointed day, during the pre-determined one-hour time window you simply head to the FastPass Return line, scan your Magic Band and away you go! There is no need to get to the park early and rush off to pick up a FastPass. How cool is that! Alas, you can only get FastPass+'s for one park per day - no Park Hopping. I hope that option comes along soon.

A quick word of advice - be sure to use My Disney Experience to book your FastPass+'s in advance. All the old FastPass distribution machines have been removed from the parks. There are a few FastPass+ kiosks in the parks but at this point in time the lines are long. Very long!

So, in 43 years Disney has moved from little booklets of tear-out tickets to the amazing RFID technology of today's Magic Bands. I don't know about you, but I have certainly enjoyed the journey!

I wonder what the next step in the evolution will be?

P.S. AllEars.net Archivist Jack Marshall has compiled a very detailed list of prices for specific tickets, year by year, and pictures of hundreds of vintage old tickets. Click this link to see more: WDW Ticket History

April 16, 2014

Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - April 2014



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.

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

Here's April's challenge!

James says: So, this month we continue with the animated character series. Behind every successful man (mouse) there is a woman (womouse?), and Mickey is no exception! This month we delve deeper into the life of Minnie Mouse, but we still wonder if Mickey will ever make an honest mouse of her!

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


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 May 7, 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-May.

Thanks everyone for playing!



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


Of course, as many of you knew, Pluto is indeed a bloodhound. We received 82 correct repsonses.

The winner of a Cinderella collectible pin was Susan G. from Scarsdale, NY. Congratulations to Susan and thanks to everyone for playing!

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

April 23, 2014

Jim’s Attic: Theater of the Stars Handprints Part One

Theater of the Stars Handprints Part One
By Jim Korkis

Most Disney fans are aware that the handprints in the forecourt of the Chinese Theater at Disney Hollywood Studios are real. Between 1989 and 1995, some well-known entertainment celebrities placed their hand and foot prints into the wet concrete blocks.

Many of those blocks were not installed but stored backstage. In addition, depending upon the willingness of the participants, a duplicate or two were made in case of damage to the original.

When Sunset Boulevard opened in July 1994, a new Theater of the Stars (designed to be reminiscent of the fabled Hollywood Bowl) was opened. In the forecourt entrance to the 1,500 seat theater, some of those previously unused blocks were placed in that location.

Originally, the theater was located on Hollywood Boulevard at approximately the area where Sunset Boulevard begins today from May 1, 1989 to May 2, 1993. The overwhelming popularity of the park dedicated to the Hollywood that Never Was but Always Will Be resulted in immediate plans for an expansion.


Without fanfare, in a effort to enhance the re-location of the theater, the Walt Disney World Imagineers decided that they would use some of the celebrity imprinted blocks that were in storage and the most logical place was the new Theater of the Stars.

Here is a chronological listing of all of those blocks. Some blocks were undated. Many of these entertainers had long and varied careers with many triumphs. Because of space, I have limited the identifications to their best known credit which in most cases was television oriented.

Sherman Hemsley 5/23/89
George Jefferson on the CBS television series All in the Family (1973-1974) and The Jeffersons (1975-1985)

Loretta Swit 5/28/89
Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan on M*A*S*H (1972-1983).

Martin Mull 6/7/89
Block includes a caricature of his face
Leon Carp, Roseanne Conner's boss (and later business partner), on the TV series Roseanne (1991-1997).


James Doohan 7/3/89
Block says "Beam Me Up".
Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, Chief Engineer of the starship the U.S.S. Enterprise, in the original television series and original film series Star Trek (1966-1991).


John Astin 8/26/89

Gomez Addams on The Addams Family (1964-1966)

Bob Denver 10/15/89

Block also includes the name "Gilligan"
The hapless shipwrecked sailor Gilligan on Gilligan's Island (1964-1967)

McLean Stevenson 12/19/89
Lt. Colonel Henry Blake on the TV series M*A*S*H.

Howie Mandel 2/2/90
Judge on America's Got Talent starting in 2010.

Lou Ferrigno 4/18/90
The green monster known as the Hulk in the television series The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982) and as himself in the sitcom The King of Queens (2000-2007).

Monty Hall 6/14/90
Block says "Let's Make a Deal"
Developer, producer and host of tv game show Let's Make a Deal (1963-1991)


Tom Poston 6/24/90
He placed an extra upside down hand in between his two hand prints
George Utley, bumbling country handyman of the Stratford Inn, on sitcom Newhart (1982-1990). He was nominated three times for an Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for this role.


David Leisure 7/7/90
Charley Dietz in the sitcom Empty Nest (1988 - 1995) and fictional (and "lying") automotive commerical "pitch man" Joe Isuzu.

Charlotte Rae 8/28/90
Edna Garrett, the housemother of Eastland boarding school, in the sitcom The Facts of Life (1979-1988)

George Wendt 8/31/90
Norm Peterson on the television show Cheers (1982-1993)

In Part Two, I will document the remaining blocks and why you might consider taking a look at them soon to photograph them or to place your hands in the prints and see how you measure up before they fade away.

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

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":

April 24, 2014

Jim’s Attic: Theater of the Stars Handprints Part Two

Theater of the Stars Handprints Part Two
By Jim Korkis

In the last installment of my guest blog, I listed some of the handprints that are installed in the forecourt of the Theater of the Stars on Sunset Boulevard at Disney Hollywood Studios.

Listed here are the remainder of those blocks in chronological order. The undated blocks are listed at the end.

These performers had many triumphs in their varied careers but for the sake of space, I have listed their most prominent credit which is usually television related.

Meshach Taylor 10/4/91
Anthony Bouvier, the assistant at at the fictitious Sugarbaker interior design firm in Atlanta, Georgia in the CBS sitcom Designing Women (1986-1993).

Tim Conway 11/26/1991

American comedian known for his many different characters on The Carol Burnett Show (1975-1978) as well as his appearances in Disney live action comedies like The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975).


June Lockhart 11/26/91
Mother in the television series Lassie (1959-1964) and mother Dr. Maureen Robinson in television series Lost in Space (1965-1968).

Vanna White 3/24/92
Hostess on the game show Wheel of Fortune since 1982.

Woody Harrleson 4/6/92
Bartender Woody Boyd in the sitcom Cheers! (1985-1993) although modern audiences probably think of him as Haymitch Abernathy, the District 12 mentor of Katniss, in The Hunger Games (2012).

Ben Vereen 11/3/92
Popular actor, singer and dancer who was nominated for an Emmy for his role as Chicken George in Alex Haley's landmark TV miniseries Roots (1977).

Alex Trebek 11/15/92
Block says "Who is"..Alex Trebek?
Host of the syndicated game show Jeopardy! since 1984.


Fess Parker 11/29/92
Davy Crockett (1954-1955) for the original Disney weekly television show and Daniel Boone in the NBC television series Daniel Boone (1964-1970).


Valerie Harper and Cristina 12/4/92
Rhoda Morgenstern in the television series The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1974) and its spin-off, Rhoda (1974-1978). Cristina is her adopted daughter.

Howard Hesseman 9/17/93

By his handprints he placed the letter "L" with an arrow pointing to his left hand and an "R" pointing toward his right hand.
Disc Jockey Johnny Fever on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinatti (1978-1982) and teacher Charlie Moore on Head of the Class (1986-1990).

Peter Graves 10/2/93
James Phelps, the gruff director of the Impossible Missions Force on the TV show Mission: Impossible (1967-1973, 1988-1990) and as Captain Clarence Oveur in Airplane! (1980).

The following blocks are undated and are listed alphabetically:

Steve Allen
American television personality, musician/composer and author.

Morey Amsterdam
Buddy Sorrell, the comedy writer, on CBS sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966).

Imogene Coca
American comic actress who worked extensively with legendary Sid Caesar and appeared frequently as a television guest star. She was the irritating Aunt Edna in the comedy film National Lampoon's Vacation (1983).

Florence Henderson
Mother Carol Brady on the ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch (1969-1974).


Jayne Meadows
American actress and wife of comedian Steve Allen. Meadows older sister Audrey played Jackie Gleason's wife on the sitcom The Honeymooners.

In the early years of Disney MGM Studios, there were imprinted blocks made for the forecourt of the Chinese Theater but never installed because of the expense of tearing up the existing concrete, putting in and securing the new block. Those unused blocks were stored backstage but I have no idea where they are today.

In early December 2013, the Disney Company filed paperwork with Orange County to expand the Theater of the Stars, prompting many rumors about what might be planned for the area.

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


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":

April 27, 2014

The Tickle Trunk – Memories of Disney

Gary Cruise banner

Carol has a Tickle Trunk. It's filled with wonderful Disney memories!

Most Canadian readers will remember Mr. Dressup, Casey, Finnigan and the Tickle Trunk . . . but for others, I will explain. Mr. Dressup was the star of a children's show which ran on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network from 1967 to 1996. His sidekicks were two hand puppets, Casey and Finnegan, a child and a dog who lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup's back yard.


In most episodes Mr. Dressup would get a costume from a big, brightly painted steamer trunk which he called his Tickle Trunk. The costume might be for an animal, policeman or fireman. Donning the costume (after all, he was Mr. Dressup), he would play the role suggested by the outfit. The Tickle Trunk appeared to be charmed - it always had the right costumes, in the right sizes, neatly folded at the top. That simple steamer trunk really was magical; it transported Canadian children to some very imaginative places for three decades!


Mr. Rogers Neighborhood aired in Canada too, but if you ask any Canadian kid of that era they will assure you, "Mr. Dressup was waay more fun!"

I've mentioned before that Carol saves every piece of paper from each Disney trip, tickets, park maps, resort check-in packages, brochures, flyers, napkins . . . you name it, she probably has it! When she gets home all of that material finds a permanent spot in a big wooden trunk - for years now we've called it Carol's Tickle Trunk!


Of course, Carol's Tickle Trunk is magical too. Whenever she opens the lid we are instantly transported to our happy place! The best of memories come floating out!


As you might expect, the trunk has been full for years. It takes some management! When we get home from a trip some new treasures go in and some older treasures get culled and placed in new homes.

When Carol started collecting pins in earnest in 2001 she scoured the Tickle Trunk and pulled out some classic old pins. They now have a special place of honor in her pin collection.

Her collection of Disney buttons, acquired over the decades, now live in a button bucket!

The resort registration packages from each Disney trip, along with park maps, timetables, and plenty of other paper now fill a filing cabinet drawer. Each trip is in its own folder.

But there's still plenty of treasure in that magical wooden trunk!

Just a week or two ago I was writing a blog about Disney park tickets, so naturally we had to go to the Tickle Trunk to find a few old ones. On the way to the bottom of that trunk, where those tickets from 1977 live, we uncovered some buried treasure!

What did we find? Here's a small sampling:

Ten old copies of the "Walt Disney World News"
This four-page newsletter was produced by Disney, a fresh copy each month in the early years, and included in check-in packages at all Disney resorts. The tabloid sized papers are full of fascinating information!



Magic Kingdom Club/Disney Club Membership packages
Who knew Disney had so many clubs . . . The Magic Kingdom Club, the Magic Years Club and the Disney Club. Carol has old membership cards, brochures and magazines for all of them!




Dinner á la Disney & Breakfast á la Disney Tickets
Before there were character meals there was Dinner á la Disney! Dinner was served in the Trophy Room at the Golf Resort, now known as Shades of Green. Breakfast á la Disney was served aboard the Empress Lily, now known as Fulton's Crab House. There were no character meals in the Magic Kingdom in the early years!


River Country / Discovery Island Tickets
River Country was the original Disney water park, located beside Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Two slides dropped guests into a man-made pool. The rest of the slides and water adventures took place in the natural waters of Bay Lake.



Just across the water from River Country was Discovery Island, a tropical paradise filled with exotic birds and blossoms.


Disney Matchbook covers
In days of yore cigarette smoking was allowed in most areas at Walt Disney World and most resorts and restaurants had matches available for guests. Carol's collection lives in a pretty metal box in the Tickle Trunk.


Children's "Wonders of Walt Disney World" Books
This program of day-long seminars was offered by Disney for children from 10 to 15 years of age. Son Rob went on two of the four seminars they offered in the mid 80's and Carol has the proof!



Disney Post Cards
Yes, there are postcards. Lots and lots of postcards.




But there's something all those things have in common. All of that stuff, all those oddities and curios which remain in that trunk; they are all filled with fond memories of happy days. Sweet recollections from magical Disney trips!

Stay tuned, once in a while I'll pull something out of the Tickle Trunk and tell you a little bit more about it in a new blog.

April 30, 2014

Discover a "Place of Delight" at Yak and Yeti Restaurant

Andrew Rossi

Animal Kingdom is a park that prides itself on creating a completely immersive experience for its Guests. The attention to detail throughout the park makes you really feel as though you are travelling to faraway lands in Asia and Africa. From the architectural designs of its buildings to the tiniest bits of theming, Animal Kingdom is truly a sight to behold. This high degree of immersion is present no matter where you visit in the park. Whether it be the attractions, animal walking trails, shops, or restaurants, every location has its own unique story to tell. One such location is the Yak and Yeti Restaurant. In Sanskrit, Anandapur means "place of delight." Located within this tiny village in Asia, the Yak and Yeti Restaurant can certainly be considered a "place of delight" for your taste buds.


While Yak and Yeti is an original dining location that can be found nowhere else except for at Animal Kingdom, it is operated by a company that has a variety of other restaurant concepts around Disney World and the country. Landry's Restaurants is responsible for such other dining locations as Rainforest Café and T-Rex, but the dining experience offered at Yak and Yeti is certainly different from these other two restaurants. Yak and Yeti has its own unique back story, which helps you become more immersed in the setting the restaurant provides and connects it with the theming of the rest of Asia and Animal Kingdom as a whole. To provide just a brief description of the restaurant's story (which is conveniently located on the backside of the menus), the village of Anandapur sits on a highly traveled road to India upon which journey many travelers, pilgrims, and traders. In the village, a merchant named Arjun decided to convert his home into the Yak and Yeti hotel, which would cater to wealthier adventurers. Its décor and furniture are "an amalgamation of mismatched artifacts Arjun has collected through his years of travel in Southeast Asia," and located at the center of the hotel is the Yak and Yeti Restaurant.


One of the things that Yak and Yeti does so well is really immerse you in its story. From the moment you set foot inside the restaurant, you really feel as though you are entering into someone's home. This is aided by dividing the restaurant into a series of smaller dining rooms, each with its own unique color scheme, light fixtures, and furniture. If you are put off by the over-the-top theming and generally loud nature of Rainforest Café and T-Rex, this Landry's restaurant is nothing like either of those two. While it still has tremendous theming, the overall feel of Yak and Yeti is much more quiet and subdued but no less immersive.

The restaurant certainly has an exotic feel, but at the same time its theming of being a house converted into a hotel and restaurant makes it warm and inviting. As soon as you enter the restaurant the story begins to unfold. While your eyes may immediately be drawn to the large suite of armor, you might also notice some suitcases on the floor on either side.


The podium where you check-in not only contains a very outdated looking cash register, but if you look closely on the wall behind you can also spot keys to the various hotel rooms.


The first dining room you enter has the grandest appearance, dominated by imposing suits of armor as well as its high ceiling and strands of lights suspended from above.


As in most houses or hotels, there is a staircase that takes Guests to the second floor, its rich, dark wood giving it a very antique feel.


Atop the staircase is a grand chandelier, one of a number of pieces that help give the restaurant a more upscale feel. This is clearly the house of someone who is very well to do.


Throughout the other rooms there are little touches that lend a homier and more intimate feel to the restaurant, such as curtain, mismatched furniture, and area rugs.



Of course, the main attribute of the restaurant's theming are all the statues, vases, urns, pots, tapestries, and other knick knacks that the hotel proprietor has collected on his journeys through Asia.


Every room has something different to offer. While the bigger pieces quickly grab your attention, there are also shelves and cabinets full of smaller items that may go unnoticed by many Guests.




Black and white photos and paintings also help to give the theming a more personal touch.


Of course, being at Animal Kingdom, animals also have a large presence as you meander through the various rooms.


As with the rest of Animal Kingdom, Yak and Yeti's tremendous theming and attention to detail help to transport Guests to another time and place. No matter where in the restaurant you are dining, you are completely immersed in the story and Guests are encouraged to get up and walk around to explore even more.

The Menu:
The menu at Yak and Yeti takes it inspiration from its atmosphere and surroundings. Offering dishes with an Asian flare, there are several items on the menu that are a little more on the exotic side. Don't let that frighten you, however, since the menu has such a variety of options that there is something for almost everyone, even those who are less adventurous.

Among the appetizers are Seared Ahi Tuna ($11.99), sesame-encrusted and served with wasabi aioli and sweet chili slaw, Thai Chili Chicken Wings ($9.49) tossed in a sweet Thai chili sauce with spicy Asian pickled cucumbers, Pork Pot Stickers ($8.99) prepared either pan seared or steamed and accompanied by soy lime dipping sauce, Wok-Fried Green Beans ($8.49) with a sweet Thai chili dipping sauce, Pork Egg Rolls ($8.99) with a chili plum dipping sauce, Lettuce Cups for Two ($13.99) filled with minced chicken breast, chopped vegetables, and a maple tamarind sauce, and the Dim Sum Basket for Two ($13.99) featuring pork pot stickers, shrimp siu mai, cha su bao, and pork sie mai steamed on a banana leaf with soy lime dipping sauce.

There are a number of entrée choices, ranging from the exotic to the more traditional. These include the Seared Miso Salmon ($24.99) served with jasmine rice, baby bok choy, and a shiitake mushroom stir-fry, Crispy Mahi Mahi ($24.99) served with a Cantonese sweet and sour sauce, jasmine rice, and stir-fried vegetables, Duck with Anandapur Glaze ($24.99) topped with an orange wasabi glaze accompanied by jasmine rice and stir-fried vegetables, Tempura Shrimp ($19.99) with a chili plum sauce, coconut-ginger rice, and stir fried vegetables, Malaysian Seafood Curry ($22.99) featuring mahi mahi, scallops, clams, mussels, shrimp, zucchini, and tomatoes in a red curry coconut broth with jasmine rice, Lo Mein with either Chicken ($18.99), Shrimp ($19.99), or as a combo ($19.99).

More traditional items include the Baby Back Ribs ($26.99) with a hoisin BBQ sauce, chicken fried rice, and a sweet chili slaw, or the Kobe Beef Burger ($18.99) topped with sesame-soy sauce, mayonnaise, and a choice of shiitake mushrooms, scallion compote, or Asian slaw. There is also Bourbon Chicken ($18.99) with tempura chicken, carrots, green onions, and a sweet bourbon sauce with jasmine or brown rice, Maple Tamarind Chicken ($19.99) with an Indonesian tamarind glaze, coconut ginger rice, baby bok choy, and a shiitake mushroom stir fry, Shaoxing Steak and Shrimp ($26.99) combining skirt steak with tempura-battered shrimp served with jasmine rice, stir-fried vegetables, and chili plum dipping sauce, Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli ($19.99) with either jasmine or brown rice, Sweet and Sour Chicken or Pork ($18.99) accompanied by bell peppers, pineapple, and served with jasmine or brown rice, and Crispy Honey Chicken ($18.99) with broccoli, carrots, and jasmine or brown rice.

You will definitely want to save room for Yak and Yeti's signature dessert, the Fried Wontons ($8.99), filled with cream cheese and skewered with fresh pineapple. There is also Chocolate Cake ($6.99) topped with a raspberry sauce Mango Pie ($6.99) with a shortbread cookie crust, fresh whipped cream, and raspberry sauce, and New York Cheesecake ($6.99) with a mango and strawberry coulis and fresh whipped cream.

For my meal I decided on the Maple Tamarind Chicken. Tamarind is an ingredient that is quite common in Southeast Asian cuisine and it provided a definite kick to the glaze that topped the chicken. However, the distinct flavor of the tamarind was countered by the sweetness of the maple, which helped to balance each other out and make the glaze not too overpowering while still providing a very nice flavor for the chicken.


I have never had bok choy before, so I was not really sure what to expect. Sometimes referred to as "Chinese cabbage," I did not find the bok choy to have much flavor. I far preferred the shiitake mushroom stir fry, and this is from someone who is not necessarily a big mushroom fan. The mushrooms were prepared perfectly so they were not too soft and their flavor really matched well with that of the chicken and its glaze. Finally, there was the coconut ginger rice, which I had been very intrigued by when reading the menu. The rice actually had really good flavor, although the ginger was a little bit more noticeable than the coconut. My only complaint was that the rice was a little on the dry side. Overall, however, this was a very tasty and flavorful entrée.

For dessert there was no hesitation when I ordered the Fried Wontons, which I had heard from many is a dessert that is not to be missed. Having finally gotten to try it myself, I would say that this dessert alone is worth making a trip to Yak and Yeti. Light and flaky on the outside, with a smooth cream cheese center, the wontons were amazing in and of themselves. But it did not end there.


The wontons were accompanied by fresh pineapple and strawberries, which added a light and refreshing component to an otherwise rich dessert. What truly made the dessert, however, was a deliciously sweet honey-vanilla sauce that came drizzled over the top and was perfect for dipping the fruit in. Alongside all of this was a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which added yet another component to the dessert. While its $8.99 price tag may seem a little steep for a dessert, it is absolutely worth it in terms of both quality and size. This is a dessert that can easily be split amongst two or three people.

Since Yak and Yeti is not a Disney-owned restaurant, the service can be a little less predictable. Going from experience I have had dining at other Landry's locations at Downtown Disney, I have had some servers who have been fantastic and others who were less than stellar. Unfortunately, my server at Yak and Yeti fell into the latter category. Throughout the course of the meal, my server just seemed to be uninterested. He was very much just going through the motions; he took my order, brought out my drink, my food, my check at the end of the meal and that was about it. I would like to point out that I saw servers at other tables having very good interactions with their Guests, joking around with them and telling them about different aspects of the restaurant. A girl at the table next to me had a food allergy and the chef personally came out and told her that he could prepare a full course meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) that would accommodate her allergy. It was just unfortunate that my server was not up to the high standards you expect when dining at Disney World.

Dining on a Budget:
The prices at Yak and Yeti are fairly economical by Disney standards. While there are certainly some items that are more on the expensive side, there are also some bargains to be found as well. Items like the Tempura Shrimp for $19.99, Chicken Lo Mein for $18.99, or Sweet and Sour Chicken or Pork for $18.99 are all less-expensive options. Not only that, but all the portion sizes are very generous, so you definitely get what you pay for. If this is still a little too pricey for you, there is always the Anandapur Local Foods Café located right next store that features menu items very similar to Yak and Yeti. This counter service restaurant features dishes such as Beef Lo Mein, Honey Chicken, Mandarin Chicken Salad, and Sweet and Sour Chicken ranging in price from $8.99 to $10.99. It is a great option if you are looking for a quicker meal at an affordable price.


Despite not being operated by Disney, Yak and Yeti does participate in the Disney Dining Plan and is worth one table service credit for both lunch and dinner. While it does not accept Tables in Wonderland, it does offer both Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members a 10% discount. If you visit Disney World often, or live in an area where there are Landry's restaurants, you may want to consider enrolling in the Landry's Select Club. For a one-time fee of $25 you will earn one point for each dollar you spend and once you reach 250 points will receive a $25 reward. In addition, you receive a $25 reward for enrolling that you can use on your next meal and an additional $25 reward each year on your birthday.

The Overall Experience:
Yak and Yeti is a very unique dining experience that truly immerses you in its story through incredible theming and attention to detail. The restaurant's exotic feel is carried throughout its atmosphere and onto the menu as well with a wide array of Asian-inspired dishes. Beef, pork, chicken, or seafood, there is something for everyone and the portion sizes make this restaurant a good value for your money. With so few sit down dining options available at Animal Kingdom, Yak and Yeti is definitely worth a try. It is a restaurant that offers a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the theme park crowds, but at the same time it still allows you to continue to be immersed in the same intricate detail and storytelling that you find around the rest of Animal Kingdom.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of Yak and Yeti and post your own too!

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About April 2014

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

March 2014 is the previous archive.

May 2014 is the next archive.

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