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January 9, 2017

Charlie Ridgway and Rick Sylvain: Two Disney PR guys with the "write" stuff

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Rick Sylvain, left, and his former boss, Charlie Ridgway, crossed paths in England several years ago. As Rick puts it: "This was taken in 2007 after a travel writers' convention in Manchester, England. Two friends and I were getting our rental van serviced deep in the English countryside. Who do we run across on that day, at that hour, at that minute, in that town, but Charlie, off on his own adventure? He had stopped for a candy bar. Long odds. Lottery odds. Must have been some sort of kismet. I love Charlie's smile in this photo." [Courtesy of Rick Sylvain]


Press events at Walt Disney World, as well as my interactions with numerous Disney cast members, have been an integral part of my reporting on all things Disney over the last 35 years.

These experiences and the bonds that I've forged were so important to me that I wrote a book about them, On The Disney Beat: Over 30 Years of Chronicling the People and Places in Walt's World [Theme Park Press]. Through many of the press events I've attended and during the many interviews I've conducted, I've met some outstanding people, many of whom I consider friends.

So it was with sadness when I learned on Dec. 24 of the passing of Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway, who was a key figure in my journalistic journey through Disney's world. Charlie was an important part of my book, from my first invitation to a Disney press event he supervised in 1986 to an extensive interview I had with him in 2014.

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Charlie in 1992. After learning that my extended family and I would be in WDW during August of that year, he invited us to join him for an unforgettable afternoon. We [I believe there were eight of us] met him at 12:30 at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom and he walked us back stage to his waiting company van. The afternoon parade was in the process of queuing up and he made sure the younger ones in our party looked away, lest they see a character out of costume, thus spoiling the magic. He drove us all to the then-new Yacht Club Galley, where we chatted about a wide range of Disney-related topics, including the opening of several on-property resorts. I still have his business card, with his work phone number and his [get this!] Telex number.

Charlie was best known for dreaming up new and better ways to get the word out on Disneyland [he was hired in 1963] and later Walt Disney World, where he settled in as Press and Publicity director about a year before the resort opened in 1971. In those days, Disney did very little advertising, so it was up to the Press and Publicity folks to publicize the parks. And Charlie did it in a way that was creative, imaginative, fun and, most importantly, effective. Charlie retired a few years after our lunch, although he was often called on by his colleagues to lend his expertise on a number of projects.

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Charlie Ridgway holds a Donald Duck figure as Rick Sylvain looks on during a 90th birthday celebration for Charlie in 2014. [Walt Disney World]

During the most recent WDW press gathering in November 2016, I was able to renew acquaintances with Rick Sylvain, a man I've known since the 1990s, when he was hired by Charlie to work on WDW's PR team. Following in Charlie's rather large footsteps, Rick was as sound a PR man as you could find, always ready to help out and always going above and beyond to make sure you had all the information you needed to make your story complete. Rick retired from Walt Disney World's Press and Publicity Department in 2015, but still has his hand in PR work.

It was Rick who helped me secure an interview with Charlie, a man he considered a beloved mentor, in January 2014. "It was Charlie who rescued me from a nasty strike at The Detroit Free Press [where Rick was a travel editor of considerable import] and got me to come down here to work for him," Rick told me a few years ago. "It was Charlie who launched me on 20 years [at Disney] that I will never forget."

The bond between Rick and Charlie was strong. During Charlie's retirement years, the two got together as often as they could. In fact, a few weeks before Charlie died, Rick and several other members of "the old guard" were supposed to take Charlie out for a holiday celebration, but it had to be canceled. Rick considered it an honor and a privilege when Charlie asked him to write the foreword to his book, Spinning Disney's World, upon its re-release in paperback.

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Tom Bergeron, left, chats with actor Michael J. Fox during a press event in New York City to announce the beginning of the Let the Memories Begin Disney Parks campaign in 2010. [The Walt Disney Company]

When I think of how many times I've had the pleasure of Rick's company, as well as his witty repartee, it dredges up some pretty fond memories. Many of the press gatherings he had a hand in putting together were held in New York City, so he knew I was pretty close by and would always make an effort to be in attendance.

There was the event to promote the Let The Memories Begin initiative on the West Side of Manhattan in 2010, which was hosted by Dancing With the Stars' Tom Bergeron and featured an appearance by actor Michael J. Fox.

There was the Limited Time Magic event in midtown Manhattan in 2014, where artisans carved several Disney-themed ice sculptures right on Broadway to emphasize how quickly things come and go.

In 2015, he invited me to a special press preview of the re-imagined Disney Magic; the ship, which had been overhauled a few months before, sailed up from Port Canaveral and docked in Manhattan for just one day before heading to Europe for its summer season.

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The Disney Dream was christened on Jan. 19, 2011 at Disney Cruise Line's Port Canaveral port. [Disney Cruise Line]

And then there were the christenings of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruise liners, both lavishly produced press events that would have made Charlie proud.

The day before the Dream event at Port Canaveral, Fla., on Jan. 19, 2011, Rick invited me to join an exclusive press tour of the then-new Wild Africa Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

He wanted to make sure that we journalists [a group of about 10 of us met in the lobby of the Grand Floridian] would get the full experience, so he was with us every step of the way. Included in the trek were two treacherous trips across swaying and rickety rope bridges, with an assortment of hungry hippos and smiling crocodiles watching our every move with more than casual interest some 30 feet below.

"It's nice to feel the ground under my feet," Rick said after traversing the second bridge and climbing down from the lofty perch.

The Disney Fantasy christening took place in New York City in February 2012. Rick made sure I got to meet Jay Rasulo, then Disney's CFO. I had conducted a lengthy interview with Jay a few years before and was anxious to meet him in person.

At a press event during the spring of 2016, I ran into Rick at Morimoto Asia, a wonderful upscale Asian restaurant in Disney Springs. I mentioned to Rick how I was now writing a blog for AllEars.Net and he was positively effusive in his praise for the site. "Truly, the best Disney website out there," he said.

Like Charlie, Rick had a strong understanding of how to supply folks in the media with exactly what they need to get the most out of their stories about Walt Disney World. It made sense, since both men grew up in the newspaper business and always had a kinship with journalists.

"I always tried to hire people with newspaper backgrounds," Charlie told me during that 2014 interview, "because I felt that they knew what the news guys wanted and how to get it to them."

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Charlie Ridgway is interviewed during Walt Disney World's 15th anniversary in 1986. [Walt Disney World]

Charlie was among a handful of people still around who worked and interacted with Walt Disney. After toiling for years as a newspaperman in Southern California [he wrote a lengthy pre-opening feature on Disneyland, covered Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1955, and often wrote human interest stories on the park] Charlie was hired by Disney in 1963.

On Walt, Charlie said, "he had supreme confidence that he would know what the public wanted. And he was right 98 percent of the time. He had a tremendous ability to pay attention to every little detail, and yet know the overall picture as well, and he paid attention to the tiniest little detail in everything he did. Sometimes that put off some people, but overall, those who stayed with him for any length of time appreciated his talent so much that they didn't mind going all out for him."

Like Walt Disney himself, Charlie Ridgway long understood that while there's very little adult in each child, there's plenty of child in every adult.

As Rick Sylvain put it on the occasion of Charlie's 90th birthday: "Charlie, for me, embodies the true Disney spirit -- consummate professional, but a kid at heart. I know I and my colleagues can truly say that thanks to Charlie's inspiration, we can fly. Ideas define this man. Then and now."

Although Charlie hired Rick Sylvain in the mid-1990s, they had known each other for years, having gone on a number of travel junkets together, including several harrowing adventures in Egypt and Jerusalem in 1983, which are detailed beautifully in Charlie's Spinning Disney's World
book.

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The Disney characters gather for a publicity photo in front of Cinderella Castle during WDW's 15th anniversary, one of the hundreds of Disney events Charlie Ridgway had a hand in. [Walt Disney World]

When I saw Rick at the press event this past November, I quickly sought him out. And I made sure to give him a copy of On The Disney Beat, in large part because he had such a big hand in making it happen.

A few weeks after the event, Rick sent me an email that touched me on so many levels.

Hey Chuck:

So good crossing paths with you this month. Just finished your book - thanks for the copy. I laughed, I cried, I reminisced. Too many favorite parts to recount here - so I won't begin to try. True to your craft, you report All Things Disney so well. A book with lots of heart.

Rick went on to explain how my book actually inspired him.

Your wonderful narrative stirred for me so many personal stories from those 20 years. I remember walking around Epcot one afternoon in 2005 when a wheelchair-bound woman spotted my name badge and asked me to take her picture. We were at the red phone booth in the U.K. pavilion. Of course, I obliged her.

"Where you from?" I asked her.

"New Orleans," she said.

"What brings you here?"

"I lost everything in Katrina and just wanted to smile again."

That was powerful.

Another time, I was criss-crossing New York City a la Charlie [but not nearly as well] and had scored an audience with then-editor Walter Anderson of Parade Magazine. Nervous beyond words in the presence of this media giant, I pitched Animal Kingdom. Quiet enveloped the room. Walter sat back on his sofa, summoned his design editor and announced they were scrapping a coming cover story in favor of Animal Kingdom in words and pictures.

I left the Parade offices on Cloud Nine. The following week, I was working with famed Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Eddie Adams, setting up his cover shoot.

That's the pull of Disney you write so beautifully about. Again, thanks for my copy of On The Disney Beat. I will treasure it.

As I will my association with both you, Rick, and Charlie ... two class acts ... and two men who definitely had the write stuff.

January 15, 2017

Classic Boats at the Dockside Bar

Gary Cruise banner

Last fall Carol and I enjoyed our first dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant in Disney Springs. On our way to the check-in desk we paused to watch the Amphicars come and go at the launch ramp directly beside the restaurant entrance.

Amphicar Landing

Our meal was a wonderful experience; we savoured delightful food as we sat overlooking the waters of the lagoon. I was mesmerized by the Amphicars which sailed past throughout our dinner. The old classic cars . . . or boats . . . or whatever they are, were shining brightly in the long rays of the setting sun.

Amphicar

Amphicar

I was so wrapped up watching the Amphicars that I didn’t even notice the other classic boats until it was almost dark. A wooden dock runs from south end of the Boathouse Restaurant out to the Dockside Bar, built on posts in the middle of the lagoon. The dock carries on past the bar and at the opposite end reconnects with the Boathouse Restaurant at its northern end. The outer portion of the dock is lined, on both sides, with some amazing old boats.

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The Dockside Bar is directly under the balloon. The classic boats are to the right.

After dinner we wandered out along the dock and took our time admiring an astounding array of teak, mahogany, fiberglass, brass, steel and chrome.

It took me back to my youth. I grew up in a small village on the north shore of Lake Erie and as far back as I can remember we had a power boat docked along the river right behind our home.

I tried to capture a few pictures, but there just wasn’t enough light for our little point and shoot camera. Here are the best shots I got that night.

Cadillac Sea Lark

Cadillac Sea Lark

Look at those tail fins on the 1956 Cadillac Sea Lark! Wow!

I just had to see some more of those boats, so just a few days later we drove back over to Disney Springs. We walked past the Boathouse check-in podium, through the restaurant and out onto the dock leading toward the Dockside Bar.

The flashbacks began almost immediately! The mahogany boats reminded me of the first boat I remember, our 1954 18’ SeaBird Runabout. It was built in Ontario by the Port Carling Boat Works and was powered by a 4 cylinder Buchanan engine which put out a whopping 60 horsepower! I don’t have a picture of our old boat, but here is a SeaBird from the same era!

SeaBird

This beautiful old Chris Craft sure reminded me of our SeaBird!

Chris Craft

The wooden and fiberglass gems line the dock, and each one has a plaque describing its history and background. Take time to read the messages, each of the boats has a story to tell!

Classic Boats

Gods Time

God's Time was one of my favourites, I love those gull-wing doors in the top!

Gods Time

Gods Time

Walts Dream
Walt's Dream is a 1947 Chris Craft Runabout, beautifully restored.

If speedboats are more to your liking, here are a couple of beauties!

U22 Alter Ego
Alter Ego is a 32' Hydroplane powered by a 1500 horsepower Allison V12

G-99 Miss Belle Isle
G-99 Miss Belle Isle

Do you like fiberglass and fins?

Here's a daylight picture of that 1956 Cadillac Sea Lark.

Sea Lark

1950s Fins

There are lots of other 1950's fins to see!

Marilyns Meteor Mate

Even the big Mercury outboard engine is pink on Marilyn's Meteor Mate.

Marilyns Meteor Mate

Marilyns Meteor Mate

Gadget

Keep an eye out for Gadget, a teeny weeny tug boat and the beautifuly restored steam powered boat pictured below.

Steam Power

The Boathouse

Next time you visit Disney Springs take a stroll along the dock beside The Boathouse and enjoy some nautical history!

January 19, 2017

Disney Pin Quest at Magic Kingdom Park

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by J. Scott Lopes
Guest Blogger, AllEars.Net

I recently embarked on a quest at Magic Kingdom, a quest that took me to every corner of the park. It was the Disney Pin Quest, a scavenger hunt that leads you to acquiring a complete set of pins. (There's a Disneyland version of this Pin Quest, which is almost identical. You can read about it HERE.)

In order to start the journey, you need to purchase an adventure kit and clues. The starter kit, which costs $14.99, includes a lanyard, a decoder medal (more on this later), a pouch, and a map.

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This kit can be purchased at the following locations:

– Fantasy Faire, Fantasyland
– Big Top Souvenirs, Storybook Circus in Fantasyland
– Briar Patch, Frontierland
– Frontier Trading Post, Frontierland
– Curtain Call Collectibles, Main Street, U.S.A.
– Tomorrowland Light & Power Co, Tomorrowland

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I started at the Trading Post where I purchased my adventure kit and first clue. (Each clue costs $9.99, by the way.)

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You purchase the clue, and once you find the answer, your reward is a pin.

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When you first start out, or if you get stuck, friendly cast members are there to help you.

Once you are rewarded with the pin, you use the decoder medal to read the coordinates (a letter and number), which you then use to find the next location on the map. The map does show 10 locations, but only 6 are part of the quest. As you collect each pin, the NavigatEAR will stamp your map, and you can also write the letter from the back of the pin in the spot on the map that corresponds to the clue number (this will spell out a hidden message).

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Once you get the letter and number coordinate you will be able to find their intersection on the map to locate the next location. After collecting all six pins you return back to the Trading Post or Curtain Call CollectIbles to use the hidden message, so that you are able to purchase the final completer pin.

I had a lot of fun and recommend that everyone try this. It's also a great activity to do in a group -- I had family along for my journey, which was helpful at times.

One warning: there can be a lot of walking involved. In my journey, I used the Walt Disney World Railroad to travel between some locations, and most of the time the next location was on opposite ends of the park. I took my time completing the quest and took in a few attractions -- as well as a Dole Whip! -- in between collecting clues and pins, but the quest took me about four hours. If you focused on just completing the quest without interruption it probably would take closer to two hours.

The adventure kit is $14.99, each clue is $9.99, and the completer pin is $4.99. Altogether, this quest costs about $80 plus tax, not counting any applicable discounts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J. Scott Lopes is a long time Disney fan who first went to Walt Disney World as a child in 1989 and has enjoyed traveling to Orlando ever since. He is interested in all things Disney Parks-related, especially in the Walt Disney Imagineering division and all of the work and detail that they put into everything that they engineer.


The Mousy Mindboggler

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

If you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, you'll know that we run a little game called the Mousy Mindboggler. Sometimes it's a word game, sometimes it's a riddle, sometimes it's some other brain-teasing challenge -- but it's always fun!

Once each month, in the AllEars® 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:

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Here is the solution to the last crossword puzzle.

http://allears.net/ae/mb120116-key.pdf

We received 41 correct responses; all of you knew that the working title of the film that would eventually be released as "Fantasia in November 1940 was the Concert Feature. Another little-known fact about the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment is the fact that originally Dopey was considered to play the part of the Sorcerer's Apprentice, a role that would eventually go to Mickey Mouse instead.

The winner of a Tinker Bell pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Marianne M. of Barnegat, NJ. Congratulations!

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

http://allears.net/ae/mb011917.pdf

That last puzzle wrapped up the “This Month in Disney History" series, which we started in December 2015 in recognition of the 20th Anniversary of AllEars.Net.

Now we are going to completely change gears by starting a series (a very long series!) of puzzles honoring Disney's extensive list of live-action films. So, it would make sense that we start with the first live-action film, 1950's “Treasure Island.”

Other partial live-action films had been produced prior to 1950, such as “Song of the South” and “So Dear to My Heart,” but these films also contained animated sequences. Due to its violence, this film would probably have been Disney’s first PG-rating, but the rating system did not exist at the time. This film was reissued in 1975 without some of the violent scenes in order to obtain a more favorable G-rating.

The object of this puzzle 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 January 31, 2017. 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 sometime in February.

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

Thanks for playing, everyone!

January 23, 2017

Documentary shows how Bob Gurr created so many classic Disney attractions

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Bob Gurr holds a copy of his book, "Design: Just For Fun," after its release. [Ape Pen Publishing]

If there's such a thing as a blueprint for an exciting, fun-filled, never-a-dull-moment retirement, Bob Gurr seems to have created it.

Which, in a way, makes perfect sense, since Gurr is the man responsible for creating so many of the exciting, fun-filled, never-a-dull-moment ride vehicles and attractions we've come to know and love in Disney parks around the globe for decades.

Gurr, who is 85, has packed so much into his retirement years that it's almost impossible to pinpoint a time when he's actually stopped working and commenced sitting back in a rocking chair and relaxing. For the record, Gurr officially retired from the Walt Disney Company in 1981 ... but that didn't stop him from working on a number of "side" jobs, among them: The grand finale production at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles ... the monstrous King Kong Audio-Animatonics figure at Universal Studios ... and the complicated stage apparatus used during Michael Jackson's Victory Tour in 1984.

Also during his "retirement," the affable Gurr has "gone on something like 45 cruises," to places like Hawaii, Tahiti and the Caribbean, done dozens of panel discussions and presentations, written and promoted his own book [Design: Just For Fun, APP-Gurr Design], and, most recently, spent more than a year putting together a documentary, Bob Gurr: Turning Dreams into Reality, available through Ape Pen Publishing.

The documentary, which debuted last year at the popular Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet, is not so much a story of Gurr's life as it is an outline of just how Gurr created some of the industry's most innovative and ground-breaking theme park attractions. In short, it's not about what he did, but how he did it.

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Bob Gurr takes a spin on a scale model of a monorail during a Disney fan event several years ago. [Ape Pen Publishing]


Carlene Thie, who owns Ape Pen Publishing and who had a big hand in helping Gurr get his book published and was the driving force behind The Bob Gurr Roast in 2015, "Had this long-term idea," Gurr said in a recent telephone interview. "She said, 'I want to do a documentary on your life.' And I said, 'No, no, Carlene. There are so many videos available on my life on YouTube and so forth.' But she was very insistent."

Finally, Gurr told Carlene that "if anyone was going to do a documentary, we should look at HOW I was about to do stuff. We finally agreed to sit down and start talking about it. It was the spring of 2014. By that time, she had assembled a few people, a screenwriter and a videographer. Then she had three friends who were in the videographer business and she was trusting them. She said she wanted to get me on camera and record me so I could tell my story. I said that I didn't want anything to do with that kind of project, but I told her to go get some witnesses who actually watched how I worked.

"So I gave her a list of eight people, and in about two months, she got everybody on the list ... Marty Sklar, Garner Holt and a bunch of other people. Even the head of Walt Disney Imagineering. She got them to agree to come out on a Saturday and a Sunday, four people each day."

The only problem was, she didn't have any place to record them. In lieu of a studio, Bob suggested using his own house in Tujunga, Calif. "So we put tarps over the windows. I told her to bring her photographers in the house and I'd sit in the backyard and run the hospitality food tent. People came and went and I'd greet them.

"Six months later, I called her up and asked her, 'Where's your documentary?' "and she said," 'Uh, Bob ...'"

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Gurr poses for a photo with fellow Disney Legend Marty Sklar at a D23 event. [Deb Wills]

Turns out what was filmed wasn't very good. "A train wreck," is how Gurr described it. To make matters worse, it was estimated that it would cost upwards of $50,000 to repair the damage.

Carlene gave Gurr a copy of what was filmed and he poured through the 10 hours of video. When he was finished, he came to a conclusion: "Despite all the wreckage, there was precious content about the theme park industry in general. I said it would sure be a shame to lose all that stuff just because she had a bad crew."

That crew "made more mistakes than you can imagine," Gurr said. "They screwed up the lighting, the sound quality was quite poor, they even walked in front of the cameras. If you wrote down all the major mistakes a film crew could make, they made them.

"Finally, I said to Carlene, 'Buy me a new Macintosh with a quad core processor and all the software and I will teach myself to be an editor of PBS quality. That's the cheapest way you'll ever get out of this thing."

So Carlene bought him the equipment he needed and he began a months-long editing process. "After a while, I began to figure out the story. It was fascinating listening to people from different companies and different eras describing how Bob Gurr works. It slowly dawned on me how I work and I work totally differently than other people work. You know in any line of work, you always think that everybody works the same and then it dawns on you later that when you've got witnesses, no, maybe you don't work like that."

During his Disney days, Bob Gurr had a reputation of being somewhat of a genius. After all, he played significant roles in such classic Disney attractions as the Autopia cars, Matterhorn Mountain, the submarine voyage, the Disney monorail system, the Abraham Lincoln figure at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, and the development of Audio-Animatronics.

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Bob Gurr offers his advice during a remodeling of the Autopia track at Disneyland. [Walt Disney Imagineering]

"People would say, 'Didn't you know Gurr's a genius?' and I'd say, 'No, no, I just work here. Whatever Walt wanted, I did. Whatever Michael Jackson wants ... you just did it.. On top of that, I never went to engineering school and I had no qualifications to do any of this stuff and Walt never gave it a thought, he didn't care.

"And looking at my life backwards, these guys [the eight 'witnesses' who came to his house on that fateful weekend] are explaining it, and I thought, now I could write a story that would make sense."

Then he invited some friends to drop by and help with the project.

Following Gurr's lead, those friends dove right in. "They'd show up here and the minute they looked at the computer, they'd start taking notes and writing things furiously on paper" and a script began to take shape.

Gurr then began the arduous task of editing. "Sound editing is really fascinating," he said. "Luckily, my nephew, Eric Johnston, has five Emmys. He's a recording engineer for X Factor and Dancing with the Stars. He said, 'When you get the sound tracks to where you want them, I'll go through them and clean up all the technical problems in the audio.'"

Meanwhile, Carlene Thie was beginning her own long journey. "It took about a year for her to get Disney's approval to use the images of the things I designed," Gurr said. "They wanted thousands of dollars for the licensing fees. I told her to keep writing them every few weeks and wear them down. Every time she did, the price went down a little bit. I think they got down to where they got just enough money that it would be a contract."

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Bob Gurr, third from the right, poses for a photo after he was roasted in 2015.

Gurr then threw himself head-long into video editing. "From a technical standpoint, I became totally fascinated with video editing," which was a painstakingly long and tedious process. "I had to swap out all the poor quality and I had to construct the soundtracks by hand."

During the final stages of putting the documentary together, Gurr had to compile credits for the film. "I left on all the names of the people who did such a bad job. The people who actually did all the work were my nephew, Carlene Thie and myself. But I knew it's completely wrong for a person to edit their own life documentary. It's just not right.

"So, when you look at the credits in the back of the film you'll see Eric Johnston, Carlene Thie and 'editing done by a new company called RescueEdit Services.'

"That's the final joke," he laughed.

Bob Gurr: Turning Dreams into Reality can be purchased through Ape Pen Publishing at www.apepenpublishing.com. To view Bob Gurr's website, go to www.bobgurr.com.

January 29, 2017

A Disney-fied Golf Cart

Gary Cruise banner

On May 1, 2010 Carol and I were celebrating my birthday at EPCOT. Naturally we had to take a ride on Soarin’

As we waited in line we struck up a conversation with another couple who seemed to be avid Disney fans, just like us. When they heard that we were staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground in our motor home they were suddenly full of questions. Retirement was on the horizon for both of them and a motor home was something that they had talked about. They thought it might be a nice way to spend their golden years!

When we finished our glider ride over California the four of us chatted about motor homes and Disney camping as we enjoyed coffee and a snack at Sunshine Seasons. Who knew that a chance meeting in a queue almost seven years ago would lead to the friendship we now enjoy with Al and Jane from Blue Springs, Missouri.

We swapped e-mail addresses that day and over the next few months Carol and I answered all sorts of RV related questions. About a year later they bought their first rig, a brand new 37-foot Winnebago. They’re now retired and enjoy dividing their year in two halves; the warmest six months they spend at their home near Kansas City and the coldest six months they spend in their new 43-foot Winnebago motor coach at Fort Wilderness.

We have camped beside Al and Jane, or across the road from them, about a half dozen times and we always enjoy hanging out with them. Even our dogs have become friends; they look forward to going to the Halloween Pet Parade together every year!

Last October we were camped across from our friends when they took delivery of their newest toy, a beautiful customized golf cart.

Custom Disney Golf Cart front

Custom Disney Golf Cart rear

It’s a Star Roadster 2+2 made by the Star EV Company of Greenville South Carolina. It’s electric powered and street legal.

Custom Disney Golf Cart driver side

Custom Disney Golf Cart passenger side

While they were considering buying a cart they spotted a used EZ-GO that had some nice Disney themed art painted along each side. They didn’t buy that cart, but when they did decide it was time to buy they went to the same dealership in Indiana who had arranged for the customized air-brush painting on the used cart.

I asked Al, "You live in Missouri and bought a golf cart made in South Carolina that you will be using in Florida. Why did you go with a dealer in Indiana?" "Well," he replied, "I really liked the work that the Indiana air-brush artist did on that EZ-GO cart, so I bought from the same dealer. I'm glad I did, they were great to deal with!"

Once Al and Jane had picked out the retro roadster and worked out the purchase details they began selecting the art which would adorn the cart. With so many Disney characters to choose from I am sure this was not an easy process.

Custom Disney Golf Cart hood

An image of Cinderella Castle covers the hood and the banner reads “A dream is a wish your heart makes”

Custom Disney Golf Cart Lady and Tramp

Lady and the Tramp appear on a front fender. Al and Jane are “dog people”. Their three cocker spaniels travel with them, and in their working lives one of their businesses was a dog training and obedience school in Blue Springs.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Tinker Bell

Tinker Bell graces the other front fender; she’s one of Jane’s favourite characters!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Mickey and Pluto

Mickey and Pluto on the driver’s side; Mickey because he’s the big cheese and Pluto because they’re dog people!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Cruella

Jane’s favourite villain, Cruella De Vil on the driver’s side.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Dalmatian puppy

One of the Dalmatian puppies hides just around the corner from Cruella, under the driver’s seat.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Mickey

Mickey Mouse on a rear fender.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Minnie

Minnie Mouse on the other rear fender.

Started with a mouse

Across the back, “Never forget, it all started with a mouse”

Custom Disney Golf Cart Boo

One of Al and Jane’s cocker spaniels is named Boo, so this character is a natural!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Chip and Dale

Chip and Dale are another pair of favourite characters, but they’re also park icons at Fort Wilderness. Those pesky chipmunks are featured on a lot of campground merchandise!

I think that Al and Jane picked the art very wisely and the air brush artist did a great job applying it to the cart. The results are stunning!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Upholstery

Custom Disney Golf Cart Upholstery

The dealer even arranged for the custom upholstery, Mickey’s colours and a smiling Mickey icon! Beautiful!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Wheel

Why not include custom wheels?

Custom Disney Golf Cart Headlight

And teardrop headlights?

Here are Al and Jane driving their cart in the annual Halloween Golf Cart Parade at Fort Wilderness!

Custom Disney Golf Cart in parade

You can find Al and Jane (and their cart) in the 700 loop during that colder half of the year. If you see them around the campground be sure to say hello! They like to talk about their new toy.

Al recently told me, “We can't go anywhere without some one wanting to take pictures of it. I think it is probably in hundreds of people's vacation pictures.”

Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. It really is a cool ride!

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About January 2017

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in January 2017. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2016 is the previous archive.

February 2017 is the next archive.

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