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October 3, 2016

A long-time Disney fan passes away: This is Alice's story


Alice, right, and her sister Estelle - Mickey plush in hand - posed for a photo in the lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge in 2010.

Her name was Alice.

She was born in 1924, the third of four children whose immigrant parents came to this country from eastern Europe [specifically, Ukraine and a long-forgotten nation called Prussia]. She lived her early years in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., then grew up in Brooklyn. She graduated from Grover Cleveland High School in Queens in 1942.

Her father Michael was a tailor, her mother Mary worked at a variety of menial jobs, often overnight, for very little money. Alice and her siblings lived through the Depression, so money was always tight. But through it all, the bond between Alice and her younger brother Bill and older sisters Therese and Estelle was always strong, always loving.

After World War II, Alice worked in Manhattan and, a few years later, started dating a strapping young man from Queens named Richie, who had served honorably in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the U.S. Air Force. Prior to his war service, Richie worked at several jobs, including at the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair, just a short drive from his home in Whitestone.

Alice and Richie were married in 1949 and the two embarked on a 40-year journey together which ended when he died in 1989. Along the way, they had two children, a boy and a girl, lived for a time in Ridgewood, Queens, and then on Staten Island for nearly 20 years before retiring to a community called Crestwood Village in Whiting, N.J.

During those retirement years, Alice and Richie often took motor tours or train trips across the country, to places in Florida, the Midwest or the Northwest, often to attend Air Force reunions. They took these trips in a car or on a train because Richie, the Army Air Corps veteran, refused to step onto a commercial airliner. After Richie's death, Alice expanded her travel itinerary with her sister Therese, taking cruises to places like Alaska, Tahiti, Hawaii, Bermuda and Nova Scotia. "There's nothing like a cruise," she'd always say.

Alice had plenty of hobbies, too: Taking photographs with her trusty Kodak camera, growing and tending to flowers, painting in oils and doing intricate mosaics. Many of the paintings and mosaics she did were of colorful floral arrangements.

Alice was all smiles as she posed for a photo with Chef Mickey Mouse in Disney's Contemporary Resort.

In 1992, Alice's daughter-in-law Janet asked her if she'd like to join her family on a trip to Walt Disney World. She agreed ... and she had the time of her life.

That was the first of many, many Disney trips for Alice. She went to Walt Disney World about a dozen times, sometimes riding on Amtrak's AutoTrain from Virginia to Sanford, Fla. She went to Disneyland in the late 1990s and renewed her love of cruising during two Disney Cruise Line excursions, one to the Bahamas in 2002 on the Disney Wonder, the other to Canada in 2012 on the Disney Magic. Her home was covered with photos and memorabilia from those trips, many showing her smiling alongside Mickey or Minnie Mouse.

Alice took this interesting photo of poncho-wearing guests walking around World Showcase in Epcot during a rain shower.

Some of those photos showed Alice seated in a wheelchair, as her health became an issue during her later years. But the fact that she used a wheelchair never deterred her and, in fact, made her a celebrity of sorts among cast members, who often gave her special treatment.

Alice's last trip to Walt Disney World was during the fall of 2010, when she was 86. Her then-93-year-old sister Estelle, also a widow, went along on that adventure, in part to see what all the excitement was about. Indeed, whenever Alice returned from her many Disney trips, she came back with stories of special experiences, including enthusiastically riding on Splash Mountain, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and her favorite attraction, it's a small world.

Alice reveled in showing Estelle around the Magic Kingdom, which at the time was decked out in all its Christmas finery. She took special pride in pointing out the amazing floral arrangements and topiaries that are displayed so prominently around the property. They posed for pictures together at a number of places, often holding Mickey Mouse plush dolls. They even lined up their matching wheelchairs side-by-side along Main Street U.S.A. to watch, wide-eyed, as the afternoon parade passed by in front of them.

That Disney trip, like her life itself, was filled with wonderful, cherished memories. While Disney was important, first and foremost to her were her children and their spouses, her five grandchildren and her five great-grandchildren.

When Alice passed away on Sept. 21, those Disney memories became even more special to those she left behind. Those precious memories were captured and preserved in the photos of her and the photos taken by her, which fill dozens of photo albums.

Why is Alice's story so special? She was my mom.

When she passed away, her daughter Wendy, my wife Janet and I were at her bedside in the hospital. Since her passing, we have been flooded with a myriad of emotions, most of them happy thoughts of a life well-lived.

That's me decked out in my official Davy Crockett outfit, circa 1955.

She was the one who nurtured my love for music and art. Indeed, she bought me one of those John Gnagy "learn to draw" kits back in the '50s and I honed my artistic abilities while watching him on television. Years later, my mother and I attended art classes together, which are among my fondest memories of her.

She was the one who was instrumental in setting up family trips to Freedomland U.S.A. in the Bronx in the early 1960s and to the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair in Queens, thus planting in me the seeds of affection for theme parks in general and Disney in particular.

She was the one who allowed me to watch the Mickey Mouse Club on our tiny black-and-white TV set after school. And she - caught up in the national hysteria - managed to buy me a complete Davy Crockett costume, right down to the coonskin cap, which I took great pride in wearing.

Alice packed a lot of living into her 92 years. Corny as it might sound, I'd give just about anything to push her up Main Street one last time.

October 7, 2016

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® newsletter, our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) supplies us with a puzzle of his own design.

Every month, James also 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!

James writes:

Sorry for the delay this month! Here is the solution to the August crossword puzzle.


We received 43 correct responses; all of you knew that the Omnimover ride system is/was used extensively throughout Disney theme parks around the world, mainly as a way to transport guests safely through attractions, especially dark rides through which it would not be prudent to walk. This transportation system has been used in a multitude of Disney attractions, the first being Disneyland’s Adventure Thru Inner Space, where the vehicles were called “atomobiles.” In addition, they could be found in Epcot’s "World of Motion,” “Horizons” and “Living Seas.” Currently, this system continues to be used effectively in the “Haunted Mansion,” where guests ride in “doombuggies,” the ”Living Seas with Nemo and Friends,” where the vehicles are known as “clammobiles,” and also “Buzz Lightyear,” where guests travel (and even control) their “star speeders."

The winner of a Mickey pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Matt N., of Carlisle, PA.

If you missed it, that’s OK, because here’s another chance.


This month we continue with the special crossword puzzle series, concentrating on Disney History. The subject of this month’s puzzle will be “This Month in Disney History: September.” All of these events happened sometime during the month of September. Please note, for this puzzle ALL of the clues are used.

The object is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, send me the answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on October 27, 2016. 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 in late September.

As always, any feedback on the puzzle format or topics would be appreciated! Drop me a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.


October 16, 2016

The Utilidors at Magic Kingdom

Gary Cruise banner

Did you know that as you walk along Main Street USA at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom you are walking on the second floor of the park?

Yes, it’s true! As you walk through the Magic Kingdom there is a whole unseen world just below your feet. It’s a series of service tunnels which cast members call Utilidors. The name is a mash-up of Utilities and Corridors.

Florida is very flat and it’s mostly made of sand. If you dig a hole almost anywhere in Florida you will find water just a few feet down! That’s why very few homes in Florida have basements; most are built on concrete pads which lay directly on the sand.

Back in the mid 60’s when Disney began construction in Florida the Utilidors were the first thing they built! They didn’t excavate the tunnel system; they built it on top of the ground. Then as soon as the network of tunnels and service areas was completed they began dredging sand to create the Seven Seas Lagoon. All the sand they dredged was piled around the Utilidors and raised the ground level throughout the Magic Kingdom by 10 to 12 feet. Just like that the Utilidors were underground!

Here’s an experiment for you! The next time you are entering the Magic Kingdom, after you’ve gone through the bag-check area, stop for a minute and look ahead toward the Main Street Train Station. Do you see that gentle but steady upward slope? Now turn 180° and face the Seven Seas Lagoon. Do you see the downward slope?

That’s where all the sand went when they created the lake. As you walk up that slope you are walking from ground level to the second floor!

Magic Kingdom Utilidor construction

The picture above shows the construction of the Utilidors. Click on the image to see a larger version. Those cars and trucks in the foreground, at the very bottom of the picture are parked in the Utilidor, in the area that we now know as The New Fantasyland. In the background you can see Cinderella Castle taking shape, and at the very top of the picture are the buildings at the top end of Main Street USA. The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on the left and Casey’s Corner on the right. The Utilidors run under all of it!

Over the years Carol and I have enjoyed a number of tours at Walt Disney World. I really enjoy getting behind the scenes to get a glimpse of the “backstage” areas and listen to some of the insider information that the guides share with guests.

One of our first tours was the “Keys to the Kingdom” tour at the Magic Kingdom and it remains one of my favourite!

Why was it special? Because we got to go down into the Utilidors!

We weren’t there very long, but it was a real eye-opening experience.

There really is a tiny city down there that is totally invisible to guests just a few feet above!

Overhead are color-coded pipes, ducts, flues and conduits carrying all the necessary utilities to keep the theme park functioning. On the walls are signs and arrows providing directions to the many corners of the park which can be accessed underground.

Underfoot are tiled or polished concrete floors, some with directional stripes like in a hospital to help folks navigate. “Follow the purple stripe to the wardrobe department.”

It’s a hive of activity. People, equipment and merchandise are in constant motion.

There are forklifts moving inventory to the stores and restaurants above, there are cast members walking to work or heading to a break room or a meeting room. There are lockers and lunch rooms for the cast members, wardrobe, makeup and personnel departments. Cast members can even do their banking or get a hair cut in the Utilidors.

As our tour group walked through the main corridor beneath The Emporium we heard a very loud rumble overhead. It was so loud that our tour guide paused in her presentation and continued once the racket had died down. “That was the trash going to the recycling department.” she said.

There is a system of big pipes overhead that form a huge air-powered garbage chute, sort of like a giant central vacuum system. Cast members open hatches located in backstage areas around the park and toss in the trash. It all gets sucked to the central recycling area where it’s sorted for processing.
Not my idea of the world’s best job;
• “paper in dumpster A”
• “plastic in dumpster B”
• “food waste in dumpster C”
• “carefully wipe the sunglasses and cell phones then sent them to Lost and Found”

Magic Kingdom Utilidors

The diagram pictured above shows the extent of the system of tunnels. It extends south to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, north to the Pinocchio Village Haus Restaurant, east to Tomorrowland and west to Frontierland and Adventureland.

Disney asks guests to refrain from taking pictures while backstage, so I have no pictures of the Utilidors to share with you. The two images I have included in this blog are used in many web sites with no source mentioned. Whoever originally provided the images, thanks for sharing!

There’s plenty more than the Utilidors included in the Keys to the Kingdom tour, but in my opinion the opportunity to walk down those stairs and navigate a bit of the tunnel system was worth the entire cost of the tour!

If you haven’t already done the tour, give it some thought for a future trip!

Details can be found HERE.

October 17, 2016

Until Shanghai, railroads have been chugging through Disney parks since 1955


Walt Disney, left, proudly surveys Disneyland as the E.P. Ripley pulls into the station on opening day, July 17, 1955. With him are then-California Gov. Goodwin Knight, center, and Fred Gurley, president of the Santa Fe Railroad.

When Shanghai Disneyland opened to the public on June 17, there was one classic Disney attraction conspicuous in its absence.

A railroad.

Disney's creative team, which traveled to China years ago to begin planning the newest Disney theme park [its 12th worldwide], took the unprecedented step of asking residents what they wanted to see included in the park.

A grand circle tour of the property in a classic train powered by a steam engine was not one of them. Since many of Shanghai Disneyland's guests arrive at the park via high-speed, ultra-modern Maglev trains, perhaps those people surveyed had a point.

Still, the idea of a Disney park without a railroad is a bit unsettling.

For much of his life, Walt Disney had a near obsession with railroads. In his youth, he used to work on trains, selling newspapers and snacks to passengers. Years later, he created a miniature railroad in his own backyard, calling it the Carolwood and Pacific. During the years-long design phase of Disneyland, no matter how often concepts would change, one thing remained constant: "It will always be surrounded by a train," Walt would say.

In large part because of Walt's love of railroads, Disney's Magic Kingdom-style parks around the world have always included a railroad. All the lines circle the outer rims of the parks and serve two purposes: To supply weary guests a mode of transportation so they can get from one end of the park to the other ... and to give guests entering the park a nice overview of all the lands they are about to explore ... the proverbial Grand Circle Tour.

The Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad pulls out of a station at the Happiest Place on Earth [Courtesy of Disneyland]

When Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad was one of THE main attractions. In fact, during ABC-TV's live broadcast of opening day, co-hosts Art Linkletter and Ronald Reagan were seen at the Main Street train station awaiting the arrival of the steam-powered locomotive E.P. Ripley with Walt Disney aboard. Also on the train were California Gov. Goodwin Knight and Fred Gurley, president of the real Santa Fe Railroad. All were sporting authentic-looking striped railroad engineers' caps.

Following the train ride, Gov. Knight described Disneyland as "a wondrous community with all the charm of the old world and all of the progress and ingenuity of the new world." Gov. Knight would later stand by Walt's side as he gave his famous "To all who come to this happy place ..." welcoming speech.

The Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad certainly embodied an old-world flavor. It took several years for the "steam freaks" [as Disney Legend Bob Gurr calls them] in Disney's machine shops to design and perfect the 5/8ths scale steam locomotives used on the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad. They included Earl Vilmer, Eddie Sargeant, Dick Bagley, Ward Kimball, Roger Broggie and Ed Lingenfelter. All were well-versed -- and extremely passionate -- about steam trains.

Two Santa Fe & Disneyland trains were in operation during the first few years of Disneyland's existence, one modeled after a classic turn-of-the-20th century passenger train, the other similar in design to freight cars. A third style, the so-called excursion model, debuted in 1958. Over the years, forward-facing seating would be changed to give guests a better sight-line of all the magic in front of them.

The Casey Jr. Circus Train has been a mainstay at Disneyland since 1955. [Courtesy of Disneyland]

But Walt and his Disneyland designers weren't satisfied with just one train in the park.

The Casey Jr. Circus Train debuted just 15 days after Disneyland opened, giving the park a second rail-themed attraction. The circus train, modeled after the 1941 Disney film Dumbo, takes guests through an enchanting miniature world populated by scenes from some of Disney's most enduring animated classics.

The fact that the train has to climb a steep incline [remember the film's "I think I can, I think I can" sequence?] during its run gave Disney's designers a big headache early on. "Disneyland's maintenance department built up an enviable expertise in keeping troublesome rides in operation," wrote Gurr in his book Design: Just for Fun [APP-Gurr Design Publishing]. "There really was no way to stop and rebuild things during that first summer season. Just weld and fix, weld and fix."

The Casey Jr. Circus Train "gave us fits," according to Gurr. The locomotive "had a tendency to rear backwards going up Impossible Hill [well named]. Upstop rails had to be added to the tracks right away."

To this day, the attraction is a Fantasyland mainstay. The Casey Jr. train is a fixure in Disneyland Paris as well, but with key a twist: In France, a roller coaster-style track is employed, allowing it to go a bit faster and to take sharp turns with ease. The tubular track also prevents any problems when the train chugs up any inclines.

The Rainbow Caverns Mine Train debuted in 1956 and gave guests a variety of desert-themed scenes to enjoy during their ride. [Courtesy of Visit Anaheim]

A third Disneyland train, the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train through a Living Desert, debuted in 1956. Unlike the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad, the Rainbow Caverns train was electric, using battery power to get around. The wooden bodied cars, designed by Gurr, looked like actual ore cars ... the kind you'd expect to see while traversing through a desert. A Nature's Wonderland sequence was added to the trip in 1960 before it shut down for good a few years later.

Gurr had a big hand in designing Disneyland's Viewliner train, which debuted on June 26, 1957. The Viewliner's track layout was located in Fantasyland, where the Mickey Mouse Club Circus had underwhelmed guests from 1955-1956.

Gurr drew his inspiration for the design of The Viewliner from General Motors' streamlined -- and short-lived -- Aerotrain. "I thought it was the slickest thing on rails," he wrote. He even designed the train's power source, modeled after a Chevrolet automobile engine.

The Viewliner's sleek, all-metallic, futuristic design certainly caught guests' attention ... but failed to generate much excitement. The Viewliner lasted a little over a year before closing in September of 1958. It was replaced, in part, by another futuristic mode of transportation: The monorail.

The Walt Disney World Railroad chugs into a station at the Magic Kingdom. [Courtesy of Walt Disney World]

When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, a steam train greeted guests, with the Main Street station serving as a welcoming icon. Much like Disneyland, guests on board the Walt Disney World Railroad got a great look at some of the park's attractions ... and an even better look at areas where park attractions would one day be built. Since park staples Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain had yet to make it off the drawing board, the train would leave the Adventureland area of the park and head off into thick shrub- and tree-lined foliage before returning to other developed areas of the Magic Kingdom near Fantasyland.

Unlike Disneyland, the WDW Railroad was the only train attraction for guests in the park when it opened. There was, however, another train that gave "steam freaks" a thrill. That train attraction was located on the Fort Wilderness grounds from 1973 to 1980.

According to David Leaphart, who has authored a superbly researched two-volume set on the Fort Wilderness line, there many misconceptions have arisen over the years regarding the Fort Wilderness trains.

For instance, reports that the trains were 4/5ths scale were incorrect. "That came from a cast member of the Fort in a 1977 revision of the Disney Maintenance Manual," Leaphart said a few years ago. "According to the Imagineers who built the trains, they were full scale, not 4/5ths."

The cost to ride through the wooded campgrounds varied from free to $1. "The operating distance for the trains was 2.6 miles, not 3.5 miles as seen on the Web," Leaphart added.

Leaphart interviewed a number of key people involved in the Fort Wilderness railroad's construction and operation.

"I was lucky to be able to get the details from Vern Conner, who was the trainer for the railroad crew for a couple of years and developed training material," he said. Leaphart also worked with Jimmy Graves, the foreman of the line during its entire existence.

The Wildlife Express Train makes its way from the Africa section of the Animal Kingdom Park to Rafiki's Planet Watch.

Over the years, of course, train-based attractions have popped up in the oldest and newest WDW theme parks.

Big Thunder Mountain was added to the Magic Kingdom landscape in 1980, while the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was a key component of the New Fantasyland makeover a few years back. In Animal Kingdom, Expedition Everest includes an exhilarating train ride from the village of Anandapur through the massive mountain in search of the Yeti. There's also the Wildlife Express Train, which carries guests from the Africa section of the park to Rafiki's Planet Watch and back.

Walt's love a trains is alive and well throughout Disney Parks worldwide, with the notable exception of Shanghai Disneyland, where the unmistakable sound of a steam-powered train is missing.

October 29, 2016

Teen Talk: Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

by Kacie Brady
AllEars Guest Blogger


As you probably know, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a "spook-tacular" event held every year at Disney’s Magic Kingdom from mid-September through the end of October. This hard-ticket event includes trick-or-treating, riding rides, character dance parties, buying special treats, and more! Parents and children alike can dress up, have fun, and indulge their spooky side.

When attending any Halloween party, the first thing to consider is what costumes to wear. Most everyone is dressed in costumes, including adults, at Mickey’s-Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. My family has always been into matching costumes, and this year we went as Star Wars characters!


We saw several cute costumes at the party, but my favorites were Becky and Gerald from Finding Dory. Get creative with your costumes, because in Disney World no one is too old to dress up like their favorite characters. If you are not into costumes, consider getting the family matching Halloween shirts. There are some cool photo ops at the party, and it is always fun to take pictures in costumes.

Another thing you need to decide before you get to the park is what things you would like to do at the party. The park is open to people going to the Halloween party from 4 o'clock to midnight, however the Halloween activities do not start until 7 p.m. It is good to plan ahead on how to spend your hours at the party, as it offers events for families of all ages. Trick-or-treating and meeting characters might be fun for younger kids and the parades and shows are fun for all ages (they were my favorite!).

Once you are in the park, there are several things your family can do. If your family would like to ride rides, the wait times are shorter than usual during the party. We did notice that the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train only had a 20-minute wait! So, if your family is full of ride enthusiasts, this would be a good time to ride them.

My family wanted to do more of the unique experiences than the rides, but we rode a few, which were welcome breaks from the walking.

There are 13 trick-or-treating locations around the park at which cast members pass out candy. Trick-or-treating is a lot of fun, especially for me since I am too old to trick-or-treat in the "real" world. At Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party, kids of all ages are able to join in the trick-or-treating fun! Disney does not skimp on the candy, as all four of us left with two bags of candy each! Also, there are two Allergy-Friendly Centers at the park, where you can get a special trick-or-treat bag that lets cast members know you have an allergy. You can then get allergy-friendly candy at the trick-or treat locations.

The unique character meet and greets at the party are also great. You can meet characters from Nightmare Before Christmas, Aladdin, Tarzan, and many more. You can also get your dance on with the Monsters Inc. characters in Tomorrowland at a fun Halloween dance party, an event that that only happens at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. They hand out candy during the dances, and you can dance with your favorite monsters to tunes like,“I Want Candy.”

Some more unique experiences of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party include Happy Hallowishes, Mickey’s Boo-to-You parade, and the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular. I feel like Happy Hallowishes, Mickey’s Boo-to-You parade, and the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular were the stars of the party! Happy Hallowishes had elaborate firework displays set to spine-tingling villainous songs. Mickey’s Boo-to-You parade was very entertaining, and the Boo-to-You song will stick in your head for hours. The parade floats, the synchronized dancing, and the special characters were all wow factors of the parade. The Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular was a wonderful stage show. It was humorous, had cool effects, and had many favorite villains.

There is also special merchandise and food for sale that is unique to the party. Some of the special foods available include candy corn soft-serve ice cream, pumpkin spice cupcakes, spider cupcakes and worms and dirt, and creepy ice cream cookie sandwiches. Some of the special merchandise includes event t-shirts, Magic Bands, and trading pins.

As I said, the park lets people in for the party at 4 o’clock, but the special Halloween attractions are not open that early, so my family and I went to grab a bite to eat and ride some rides. This ended up being a good decision, because during the party all of the dining was packed, and we were able to enjoy other things. While we were eating, we looked at the party map and planned our method of attacking all the fun. It helps to know what everyone wants to do, that way when it gets crowded you are not trying to decide where to go.

Once the party started at 7, we went to the trick-or-treat lines. Although the lines looked dauntingly long, we never waited long in them, because the cast members kept them moving quickly. I would recommend doing the trick-or-treat lines during a show or parade. We went through the lines during the first parade, and it was not that crowded at all. First stage shows are always more crowded than the later ones, so it may be wise to do trick-or-treating during the first show, and watch the later ones.


After we hit all of the trick-or-treat locations, we decided to go to Tomorrowland, and dance with the Monsters Inc. characters. The dance party was lots of fun, and we got to see several monsters including Sully, Mike Wazowski, and George. The cast members also passed out candy during the song “I Want Candy”. They taught us different dances, and everyone made a conga line!

We then decided to ride some more rides before the Happy Hallowishes firework show started. The Happy Hallowishes fireworks were incredible! There were fireworks that surrounded the park, and the villains singing the songs made the whole thing feel spooky and magical. After Happy Hallowishes was over, we decided to watch the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular. Since the entertainment was one after the other, we were unable to get to see all three up close, so we decided to sit on the parade route to watch the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, and Happy Hallowishes. However, even without a good view, it was a highly entertaining. The show featured the Sanderson Sisters from the movie Hocus Pocus, and it was a Broadway–caliber performance. The show included special lighting on the castle, fireworks, and some familiar villains including Oogie Boogie, Dr. Facilier, and Maleficent.

After the Villain Spelltacular, we watched Mickey’s Boo-to-You parade. Although we could not see the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular as well, it was good we got our spots for the parade early, because there was not even standing room available later on. The Boo-To-You parade was my favorite event of the whole night. We loved the dancing ghosts, the Pirates of the Caribbean float, and the villains. You could smell candy as the Wreck-It Ralph parade float went by, and the bears from the Country Bear Jamboree pretended I was choking them when I "used the force!" After we watched the parade, we had time to ride one more ride.

Around midnight we decided to call it a night and head back to the resort. We left the party happy and satisfied with our experience and also with several bags of candy! Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a wonderful event that allows people of all ages to act like kids on Halloween. Every event that Disney puts on is spectacular, and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary did not disappoint -- we will definitely be going again!

October 30, 2016

Make a Mickey Lamp Post

Gary Cruise banner

Have you ever visited Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and admired those wonderful lamp posts with the Mickey Mouse ears?

Mickey Lamp decorated for Christmas

Me too!

Many of the campers at Fort Wilderness proudly display them at their campsites.

When I first saw one I was so taken with it that I asked the camper, “Where do you buy them?” I was disappointed when he replied, “You can’t buy them; you have to make them.”

But my wife Carol was determined to have one so she did a bit of online exploring and soon found a rudimentary parts list. I assembled the parts and started to build one. I was surprised at how easy it was!

That first one turned out quite well, so well in fact that several friends wanted me to make them one too. By the time I had made a few dozen lamps I had refined my technique.

Here are some instructions which you can use to make your own. Keep in mind I am not a certified electrician and am simply offering the "how to" that worked for me. Your mileage may vary; use caution, always, when building electrical lamps. Seek professional advice as needed.

After all, no true Disney fan should be without one! All of your friends and neighbors already think that you’re a crazy Disney nut . . . why not prove it to them by building one of these beauties!

All the parts you need are available at Home Depot. If your local store doesn’t carry all the parts you can easily order them online.

Mickey Lamp Parts

The parts to build a complete lamp (including the base and smaller lights to illuminate the ears) will cost you about $150.00 - $160.00

The lamps are weatherproof; we have had one on our backyard patio, fully exposed to the elements, for about 6 years. It has endured summer sun, heat and humidity as well as Canadian winter winds, ice and snow and it continues to shine brightly every night!

The key parts to build the head are:
Mickey Lamp Parts List

Step 1: Build Mickey’s head
To do this you simply drill two 3 ¼ inch holes in the 12 inch globe and glue the 6 inch globes into these holes. Begin with the 12 inch globe. Apply masking tape across the top of the globe along the center line in order to mark the centers for the holes needed to mount the smaller globes. Draw a line at the “top dead center” of the lamp and then measure down 4 inches on each side and make another mark. This will mark the centers for each ear hole; the centers should be 8 inches apart.

Mickey Lamp 12 inch globe

Drill a small lead hole for each ear and then use your electric drill and a 3 ¼ inch hole saw to cut the ear holes. (If you don’t have a 3 ¼” hole saw you can buy one [$15.97 at Home Depot] and the arbor needed to attach it to your electric drill. Any employee at Home Depot can find these tools for you.)

When you use the hole saw, keep it flat to the surface of the globe and keep it moving at all times. If you stop the saw in the middle of the cut it may jam and crack the globe. Use light pressure, don't press too hard.

Mickey Lamp 12 inch globe with holes

I have found that the hole saw melts it's way through as much as it cuts it's way through. Just rub around the edges with a file or sandpaper to remove any beads of melted acrylic and you're ready to glue!

Remove the tape and glue the smaller globes into these holes, clamp until the glue is set.

Mickey Lamp 12 inch globe with ear

I use LePage’s Flexible Plastic adhesive which is sold in Home Depot in Canada. In the USA look for Loctite, it’s the same product.

Mickey Lamp Glue

The Globe Fitter attaches to the bottom of the 12” globe and holds the light bulb. It is designed to clamp onto a standard 3 inch metal lamp post also sold at Home Depot.

Mickey Lamp Globe Fitter

Step 2: Illuminate the Ears
After building my first few lamps I decided to add smaller bulbs to illuminate the ears as well as the larger globe.

Begin with a piece of metal strapping, about 4 inches long. Bend about ¼ inch on each end so that the ends will create a “friction grip” on the flange of the 6” globe. That flange is now visible inside the 12” globe.

Make 2 of these pieces, one for each of Mickey’s ears.

Cut a length of outdoor Christmas lights so that you have 2 socket and enough cord on one end to attach a plug. Use pop-rivets or hot glue or tape to attach each socket to one of the metal straps you just made. Attach a plug which will plug into the new white socket (pictured below) inside the globe.

Mickey Lamp Ear lights
Your assembly should look like this.

Here is a detailed look at the light socket riveted to the strap.

Mickey Lamp Ear lights close up

Note the 90 degree bends in the ends of the strap which provide that “friction grip” on the flanges of Mickey’s ears, inside the larger globe. Bend them to provide a snug fit and just press them on.

Mickey Lamp 12 inch globe with fitter

Mickey Lamp 12 inch globe inside

Step 3: Attach Mickey’s head to a lamp post
You can order a 3 inch lamp post online from Home Depot (search #501817) for $58.90 but your local store probably carries them, along with the mounting bracket (search #502211) for $14.36.

If you are going to permanently mount your lamp on a patio or deck, these items are what you need. The globe fitter was designed to clamp directly onto that 3" post. Just wire it up, install it on your patio or deck and you are all done!

Congratulations, you have just built a Mickey Lamp – don’t you feel proud?

Step 4: Need a portable lamp?
If you are like me, and prefer to have your lamp more portable, the rest of these instructions are for you!

I need to have one that comes apart easily to store in the hatches underneath our RV. I use standard 2 inch ABS pipe for the post but PVC pipe is very similar and works well too. ABS or PVC is the pipe used by plumbers for household drains and it’s available in any building products store. It’s light, easy to work with and it doesn’t rattle in the RV. You need one piece of 2” ABS pipe about 5 feet long and one coupler (that is the piece plumbers us to glue two pieces of ABS pipe together). NOTE: You do not need any glue!

Let’s start by getting the globe fitter ready to attach to the ABS pipe. First step: Attach a standard plug to the globe fitter.

Mickey Lamp Globe Fitter with plug

Now you need to attach the ABS coupler to the globe fitter. Remove the three clamp screws from the fitter:

Mickey Lamp Globe Fitter remove screws

Insert the ABS coupler in the hole on the bottom of the globe fitter (it’s a very loose fit) and drill small lead holes through the holes where you removed the clamp screws.

Use 1 inch screws to attach the coupler to the globe fitter. You have simply swapped the small retaining screws for 1 inch screws which hold the ABS coupler tightly in place.

Mickey Lamp Globe Fitter with coupler

This piece will now slide on and off the ABS drain pipe which will be your post. This makes it easy to take the lamp apart and move it. Do not use glue!

Now drill a ½ inch hole about a foot from the bottom of the ABS pipe and feed a length of power cord up through the pole. Add a female receptacle to the top end of the cord and a male plug to the bottom.

Mickey Lamp post assembly

Plug the fitter into the female receptacle you just added to the top; slide the globe fitter onto your post and install a 25 watt frosted light bulb. Place the globe on the fitter and enjoy your lamp.

You will need to devise a base for the lamp. I use patio umbrella bases I buy at Wal-Mart or Christmas Tree Shops for about $25.00. You simply use a chisel or hacksaw to knock off the nut which holds the retaining bolt and the ABS post slides over the post on the umbrella base. I paint it black to match the post and secure it with two or more screws.

Mickey Lamp base

Be sure that your base is wide enough and heavy enough to prevent your lamp from blowing over. I would not use a base weighing less than 30 pounds! The cast metal or composite umbrella base has worked very well for me. Christmas tree bases, or those plastic umbrella bases you fill with water or sand are not very reliable. If your lamp blows over it will shatter!

Mickey Lamp Better Base
This is the base I have been using recently. It's composite material,
weighs 30 pounds and is available at Wal-Mart or Christmas Tree Shops.

Would you like to add a cross-bar to the post? A place to hang a flag, pennant or sign? That's very easy to do . . . just cut a length of 3/4" dowel to the length you want and drill a 3/4" hole through the ABS post. Be very careful to keep the holes exactly even so that your cross-bar will be level. Use a drill press if you can, or measure very carefully!

Slide the dowel through the two holes and add some decorative end caps. I use wooden drawer pulls from Home Depot, the kind you find on the drawers in your kitchen cupboards. Just screw one on each end of the dowel to add the finishing touch to your cross-bar.

Some ingenious folks have used unique things to make a heavy base for their lamps. My favorite so far is an old farmer’s milk can painted in Mickey’s colors, red, black and yellow. It looks great!

Our friend Al made a pair of decorative Mickey coloured boxes to support his two Mickey lamps. This box represents Mickey, the other has smaller polka-dots and more of them. It holds the Minnie lamp. The boxes are a nice personal touch to make his lamps very elegant and distinctive!

Al's Mickey Lamp With Custom  Base

Building your own Mickey lamp is fun but you will soon find that your fun has just begun. Think of the great times you're going to have decorating Mickey for the seasons!




Use different coloured bulbs, use strings of lights, add pennants and banners, masks, hats, ribbons . . .

So what are you waiting for? Get busy building your very own Mickey lamp!

October 31, 2016

Ted Kellogg's fascinating life stories will come to life in new book


Former Walt Disney World cast members reminisce about the good old days over lunch. From the left are Bill Sullivan, Bill Hoelscher, Ted Kellogg, Tom Nabbe and Dwight Dorr. [Courtesy of Tom Nabbe]

In the late 1960s, word filtered through the ranks of cast members at Disneyland and the Walt Disney Studios in California that there might be the possibility of career advancement. There was one slight caveat, though. You had to be willing to relocate ... all the way across the country, to a nondescript piece of swampland in central Florida.

Despite that geographic hurdle, many people applied for the project, but only a select few were chosen to take part in the development of Walt Disney's "latest and greatest dream" ... Walt Disney World.

Most of the folks who lent their considerable expertise to the creation of the Vacation Kingdom of the World are retired now, living the good life in and around the now bustling city of Orlando. A group of those retirees gets together on a regular basis at a local restaurant, to swap stories about the grandkids, of course, as well as those early days in Florida and the challenges each faced in helping to bring Walt Disney World to life.

The unofficial leader of the club is Disney Legend Tom Nabbe, who got his start at Disney playing the role of Tom Sawyer at Disneyland when Tom Sawyer Island debuted in 1956. When he outgrew the part, Tom would go on to supervise the construction and operation of the monorail system at WDW before taking on the less visible, but no less important job of logistics.

It was through Tom that I was privileged to meet Ted Kellogg, whose extensive seafaring resume in the 1960s made him the perfect candidate to supervise all of the watercraft that would ply the waters when WDW opened in 1971.

From the left, Steve Baker, Ted Kellogg, Bill Hoelscher and Tom Nabbe pose for a photo in an Orlando restaurant. [Courtesy of Tom Nabbe]

As most everyone knows, the Walt Disney Company has always been about storytelling. Stories are what fuel the entertainment giant’s engine, be it in the theme parks, on its cruise ships or on the small or big screens. Ted Kellogg worked for Disney for 32 years and during his time at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, he had some pretty interesting experiences. Prior to working for Disney, though, he participated in a variety of thrilling, sometimes life-threatening adventures on land, at sea and under water. His adventures included a months-long trip through Central and South America with two friends.

Ted also had a “second career” at Walt Disney World after leaving watercraft – supervising a wide variety of extensive renovations on WDW property, including the lobby of the Polynesian Resort and the remodeling the California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort.

For the past six months, I've been working with Ted in compiling his fascinating life stories into a book, which is scheduled to be published by Theme Park Press in a few months. To give you a taste of what's to come, I've put together a few of Ted's Disney-related stories which I find to be particularly fascinating.

Ted's Disney career began in 1967 working as a part-time cast member in Disneyland. Since his resume included hundreds of hours at sea, he was assigned to Frontierland, where the keel boats, the Mark Twain riverboat and the Columbia sailing ship were docked. On one momentous night in late 1967, it was decided to put a new keel boat into service and Ted was selected to pilot the boat, The Gullywhumper."

The Gullywhumper keel boat met its demise in Disneyland in 1997. When the boat went for its maiden voyage in 1967, pilot Ted Kellogg had all he could do to keep it from toppling over.

"The original keel boat had seating on the upper area for 12 people; now we could carry 24 passengers" on the new boat, Ted recalls. "It was at night, about 10 o’clock, when they brought it around for its 'maiden voyage.' It had an upper deck where people could climb up a ladder and sit up there." Ten people showed up for what turned out to be a harrowing experience.

"I backed up the keel boat away from the dock and we’re cruising along. I’m giving my spiel and we get to the first corner, near where the fort is, and I start to make the turn [unlike the Mark Twain and the Columbia, the keel boats were free-floating and didn’t run on a track], and I knew something was dreadfully wrong. All of a sudden, the deck just starts coming awash with water. I had to let go of the tiller and hang onto the ladder or I would have fallen in. I thought we were going to roll over. Finally, I pulled myself up and it turns out I may have been the difference between us rolling over and sinking."

The boat was bobbing back and forth before it finally righted itself. "I tried to lighten the mood a little and told the passengers that this was an E ticket attraction and I hoped they all enjoyed themselves. But the people were pretty shaken up … their eyes looked like doorknobs. Anyway, after that, for the rest of the trip, I took it nice and easy and didn’t take any corners too quickly. When I got the boat back to the dock, my supervisor asked me, 'How was it?'"

A still-shaken Kellogg got right to the point: “There’s no ballast in the bottom of the boat to off-set the added weight on the upper deck, to keep the boat upright. Those boats need ballast!" Years later, the keel boats were decommissioned forever when one actually did tip over and spilled guests into the Rivers of America.

Piloting the Mark Twain was a different story for Ted. "Unlike the keel boats, the Mark Twain is on a track and doesn’t require much in the way of navigational skills," he said. "The biggest responsibility was giving the guests that spiel every time you left the dock. Not very challenging, especially for a guy like me."

After Ted and his new bride Bonnie moved to Florida in 1970, he was knee-deep in challenges in helping to get WDW up and running ... and not just on the boating end of things.

Ted Kellogg had a hand in bringing the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction to life, using his SCUBA diving skills to install floating "fish" at the bottom of the tank.

"Before the park opened, anyone who possessed a special skill was asked help out wherever they could." Ted said. "One day, the call went out for certified SCUBA divers. I was certified, so I applied. I had some free time, because my boats were still being worked on in dry dock.

"They took me over to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction in Fantasyland. They had filled the lagoon with water and needed to have the 'fish' installed."

Ted was given a drawing of the attraction's underwater layout and worked on one section at a time. It was a complicated process.

"You would go down and install the fish by putting a hole in the bottom of each fish that would hold it upright and then attach monofilament lines to small eye screws on the bottom fish. Then you’d have to drill two small holes into the tank floor, twist in anchors and attach the monofilament line from the fish to the anchors and set them at the proper height."

The project lasted about a week, but it left Ted feeling more than a little irritated. "Getting all the fish in there was really nice, but there was one problem: The underwater rocks and coral displays, some were made out of Fiberglass and there were lots of tiny Fiberglass particles floating in the water. You’d get water in your wet suit and you’d start to itch. I must have itched for a week after that job."

The Electrical Water Pageant has been a mainstay in the waters around the Magic Kingdom for nearly five decades. In an attempt to add to the beloved attraction, WDW tried to shoot fireworks from the barges. It proved to be a dismal failure. [Photo by Deb Wills]

As the supervisor of watercraft, Ted was involved in every phase of boating at WDW, including the still-popular Electrical Water Pageant. The show debuted shortly after the Magic Kingdom opened and was a big hit.

A few months later, "somebody came up with the bright idea that we ought to be able to have the light show AND shoot off fireworks from the barges," Ted remembers. "Since there was only a driver in the front and a driver in the back and nobody was in between, they decided to put these boxes of mortars on board. Though the pontoons for the light show were huge, they added so much weight with the rigging and the generators and the speakers, they had to get these huge blocks of foam and install them in between the pontoons so we'd still be able to drive the boats without having too much hindrance.

"These blocks were huge and each pontoon needed six of them. They were all secure with special aluminum framing. They put the fireworks on top of all this and no one gave it a second thought."

From all reports, the light and fireworks show projected from the Electrical Water Pageant pontoons was absolutely spectacular and went off without a hitch ... or so everyone thought.

"When I got to the canal where the pontoons are stored [between the Magic Kingdom and where the Grand Floridian is today] the barges looked like they had been to war. The sparks from the fireworks had burned these huge holes through the foam. It’s a wonder the foam hadn’t caught fire. It was just a mess."

That was the first – and only – fireworks display from the Electrical Water Pageant show.

Keep an eye out for Ted Kellogg's book. It'll be chock full of these and many other intriguing stories of Ted and his truly interesting life.

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About October 2016

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in October 2016. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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