Book Reviews Archives

November 27, 2017

'Ink & Paint' is a celebration of the women who toiled behind the scenes at Walt Disney Animation


A painter carefully places color onto a celluloid sheet as she works on a scene from "Pinocchio." [The Walt Disney Company]

The next time you have the opportunity to watch a classic Disney movie, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Bambi or Pinocchio, make sure to read the opening credits.

Some of the most famous animators to have ever put pencil to paper for the Walt Disney Animation Studios will be listed. You'll see names like Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, Woolie Reitherman, Ollie Johnston and Marc Davis.

Giants of animation, to be sure. But the fact of the matter is, their success wouldn't have been complete without the contributions of the scores of women who turned their sketches into camera-ready cels.

The names Ruthie Tompson, Marge Champion or Arlene Ludwig probably don't ring a bell. The same likely holds true for Hazel Sewell, Mary Weiser or Lillian Bounds.

But for every well-known artist in the Disney fold during the Golden Age of Disney animated films, there were 10 women working behind the scenes, most toiling as inkers and painters. Their job was to transform the artists' rough pencil sketches into sharp, colorful works of art on celluloid sheets that ultimately would become a full-length animated motion picture.

These women, whose anonymity belied their vitally important contributions and their talent, are the subject of a new Disney Editions book, Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney's Animation, by Mindy Johnson. More than a deep dive into the history of Disney animation, Ink & Paint is a celebration of the women who not only received little credit for their artwork, but often had to endure difficult working conditions to make each film the success it became.

"I had always been fascinated with the [Ink & Paint] department," Ms. Johnson said in a recent interview. "I would find myself walking through the hallways and peering in on all those extraordinary colors. When I pitched the idea to my editor, we both thought it would be a charming little volume on tea cakes and tea time, paint smocks and the tunnel of love.

"Everybody underestimated what was going on there."

It took five years to put together Ink & Paint, which Ms. Johnson called "a journey, but a labor of love."

"When I started, not much had been written about the subject. There was this myth of pretty girls tracing color and that was kind of all that anybody knew about it."

The cover of "Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney's Animation," by Mindy Johnson and published by Disney Editions. [Disney Editions]

Ms. Johnson interviewed scores of women for the book, some surviving inkers or painters, as well as many of the offspring of the women whose story has been waiting to be told for decades.

"It was a very eye-opening experience," Ms. Johnson said. "In terms of what existed on women's roles in ink and paint, there was hardly anything at all. So we had to sort of think peripherally, and re-approach how we could use [the Disney Archives]. It took a different approach, a different way, a different thought process.

"We found some real gems during the research. Meeting members of family, retracing experiences, really opened things up quite a bit. We went through closets and under beds. We saw a lot of private collections."

Ink & Paint measures a hefty 10" x 13" and is 384 pages in total. It is brimming with Ms. Johnson's easy-to-read, yet thorough reporting, beautiful photos [many borrowed from willing interviewees] and wonderful archival illustrations. "As you can see by the out-of-control bibliography, I conducted an extensive amount of interviews and, quite frankly, with the number of ladies who were working at the Studio at the time, I just scratched the surface" on the women who were completely unsung and whose story was totally overdue.

Author Mindy Johnson, who devoted five years in researching and writing the story of the women of Walt Disney's animation in "Ink & Paint."

I asked Ms. Johnson if there were any women still living who had worked on Disney's earliest animated shorts and she was quick to respond. "Yes, we have one [although there may well be other ladies out there]: The amazing Ruthie Tompson."

Ms. Tompson turned 107 back in July. As a young girl growing up in Los Angeles in the early 1930s, she'd often walk past the Disney Brothers Studios and peak through a window to watch the small team of artists at work. One day, Walt Disney himself invited her inside for a quick tour of the office. A few weeks later, Walt asked Ruthie and a few of her neighborhood pals to appear as extras in the latest Alice comedy they were working on.

"Going into the animation lab was a wonderful experience," Ruthie told Ms. Johnson, "watching the drawings being made ... What kid wouldn't be fascinated? I'd sit there all day. Roy [Disney, Walt's brother] would finally say, 'Don't you think it's time for you to go home for dinner?'" Ruthie would go on to become one of the most respected members of the Ink and Paint Department.

Earlier this year, Ms. Johnson presented an event at the Motion Picture Academy, writing, creating and shaping it, which celebrated the trailblazing women of animation, both at Disney and at other animation studios. Ruthie Tompson was in attendance, as was Marge Champion [the fabled dancer who served as a model for the artists working on Snow White] and famed publicist Arlene Ludwig.

"With Ruthie in the room and with a handful of women in animation over the years up until today, we had at least one women who had worked on every Disney animated film ever created," Ms. Johnson said. "A few weeks ago, it was my deep honor to present Ruthie with a copy of my book. We sat for a couple of hours and poured over it and talked about everything. It was sort of a yearbook to her."

Walt Disney holds some swatches of color as he visits the Ink & Paint Department in the 1960s. [The Walt Disney Company]

Ink & Paint is filled with many fascinating stories and a host of intricate details. For instance, everyone knows about Walt's love of trains; but did you know that he had a soda fountain installed in his home so that his daughters, Sharon and Diane, could entertain their friends?

The book begins with an essay about women, titled "What I Know About Girls," which was written by Walt himself. It appeared in Parents magazine in January of 1949. "That was something I came across quite a while ago and felt that if it wasn't the introduction, at least it needed to be part of the book," Ms. Johnson said.

There also are a number of sidebars sprinkled throughout the book, called Feminine First, which offer an in-depth look into some of the lesser-known figures in Disney animation and animation in general. "It became apparent that a number of women needed to be highlighted and featured," Ms. Johnson said. "Women were really breaking ground in some pretty amazing areas. It was important to me that you heard as much of these ladies' stories and their voices as possible."

Ms. Johnson also delves into the working conditions the inkers and painters endured during those early days, even though "in the 1930s, the country was in the height of the Great Depression, so having a job at all, particularly at Disney, was like, as one of the ladies put it, 'You won the lottery!'

"So there was a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of pure gusto and moxie going on among everyone." Ms. Johnson also pointed out that at the time, members of the Ink & Paint Department made more money -- 15 dollars a week -- than a school teacher.

It also was a time when the concept of air-conditioning didn't exist.

"In trying to keep things cool, they experimented with a few things," Ms. Johnson said, "but always it was about retaining the clarity and pristine state of the cels. So dust and other things were an issue. when they had to institute smocks and hairnets and visors, it did get a little stuffy." Heat and humidity not only made working conditions uncomfortable, they also played havoc with the integrity of the paint, often causing it to run or flake.

"If it was too hot, they would shut down and they'd come in during the evenings and early mornings. They [Disney] weren't slave drivers in that regard, but they had to meet deadlines for the films. George The Ice Cream Man did a bang-up job during those hot summer months!"

Still, the hours were long and the work was tedious for the members of Ink & Paint.

It was the inkers' job to trace over the artists' sketches onto celluloid, using black ink. The desired qualities for an inker were accuracy to the pencil drawing; consistency of the pen line, and the ability to improve on the drawing. Inkers used pen points that ranged from fine to super heavy. According to Ms. Johnson, "Drawings were far more than 'traced' or 'transferred;' they were translated. Each pen stroke required interpreting the animator's intent while keeping specific touches of individuality and style intact." To achieve a sure line, Ms. Johnson added, "many inkers controlled their breathing between lines." To maintain a steady hand, inkers would refrain from smoking or drinking coffee.

Once the cels dried, they were checked for uniformity and completion. If a cel didn't measure up, it was sent back to be re-inked. Once each cel passed muster, it was sent to the painting department, where painters would begin the equally arduous task of adding color to the reverse side of the cel. A painter would use one color at a time on cel, put it aside to let the ink dry [about three hours] and then move on to another cel. Depending on the scene, a cel might require dozens of color applications.

"For the most part, they were young, they were excited and they loved what they were doing," Ms. Johnson said. "There was a camaraderie, because they could see the end result. Their work ethic, too, was important. And their work was valued and appreciated."

Some of the women as shown at work in Disney Animation's Ink & Paint Department. [The Walt Disney Company]

The inkers and painters were talented artists in their own right who were subjected to regular performance evaluations. Prospective new hires were given portfolio reviews every Tuesday. It was a grueling process. "Sometimes, even a woman's signature or how they filled out their application forms" would be scrutinized. "Even though they came in with a high level of talent, they still had to go through an extensive training program." If 40 women initially took part in a training session, perhaps three would make the cut and become either inkers or painters.

In reality, the level of talent and artistry in Ink & Paint was extraordinary. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Hazel Sewell, the older sister of Lillian Bounds, one of the company's original inkers and painters who would go on the marry the boss, was in charge of the Ink & Paint Department and was the person who championed an escalation of caliber and talent within the ranks.

"Hazel was the first to institute an all-female department," Ms. Johnson said. "She was the first to say that women were better ... that they would get the work done faster and they're harder workers."

There was another woman, Mary Weiser, who single-handedly transformed inking and painting. In the 1930s, after Walt built a then-state-of-the-art facility designed specifically for the inkers and painters, Ms. Weiser developed the first and only paint lab for animation.

"At one point, when they began working on the color for Flowers and Trees in 1934, there were about 80 colors on the shelves," Ms. Johnson said. "Transitioning from then to the early work on Snow White, they went from 80 shades of color to 1,500 shades, many of which were developed and cultivated ... translucent solutions and adhesives and sprays and inks. They even found a formula for hand lotion. They needed something that wasn't going to leave a greasy residue on the cels, and yet the hands of the artists needed to be supple."

In her research, Ms. Johnson found a memo from the company's production managers to the men in the in-between department [in-betweens are the drawings which create the illusion of motion]. "Walt was always mindful of the women's working conditions," Ms. Johnson said. "The memo to the in-betweeners said, 'Watch your language. Walt wants this to be a comfortable place for the women to be working.'"

Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney's Animation is the story of the ladies who not only pioneered animation in the early days, it carries on to the women who helped develop the CAP computer-generated technology. "I felt like it was a more natural ending to bring you up to the CAP era. Who the women were and who was at the forefront of that technology, to sort of book-end it."

Ms. Johnson, the author of Tinker Bell: An Evolution, is currently doing book signings and presentations at book stores and colleges in support of Ink & Paint. She's hoping to turn her book into a college course. "It's important not to let the title sway you," she adds. "The book goes far beyond the women of Ink & Paint, but also tracks where women progressed and advanced into animation, editing, backgrounds, writing ... virtually, every discipline of the animation process."

"I've pitched this as a class," she said, "and there are a couple of places already considering it." She's also in the early stages of developing a documentary.

Overall, "It’s been great fun. It was a real delight to meet some of these ladies and the children and the grandchildren. It was powerful. I can’t tell you how many came to me with boxes or portfolios or love letters. A whole bag of wonderful art and materials … often with tears in their eyes in jubilation.

"Many of their responses were: ‘Finally, they’re going to get their stories told.’"

September 20, 2014

Walt Disney World Hidden History - Book Review


Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes,
2nd edition by Kevin Yee
By Alice McNutt Miller

If your family is anything like mine, when you arrive at one of the parks at Walt Disney World, say the Magic Kingdom, you sprint down Main Street USA toward whichever attraction for which you have your first FastPass+, without looking up, down, or around you. You miss the little details. A LOT of little details: references to Disney films and former attractions; tributes to Imagineers and prominent Disney personalities; and many other hidden gems. What you really need is a guidebook to show you where to look.


Keven Yee has just released the 2nd Edition of Walt Disney World Hidden History, a comprehensive update of the 1st edition of the book, reflecting the myriad changes in the parks since its original publication in 2011 (See Review) .

This edition includes over 150 new and updated references, and tons of color photos. The format of the new book is the same as in the first edition, taking the reader on a virtual tour of each of the parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) starting with the entrances, and moving through each of the "lands." There is also a "General Walt Disney World" chapter that includes references found throughout the resort, including in the water parks, resort hotels, Downtown Disney. Yee also throws in a bonus chapter on "History at Universal Studios Florida" and includes helpful lists of current and former attractions and of the individuals honored in the Main Street USA windows in the Magic Kingdom, as well as a comprehensive index.


New inclusions of note include those devoted to references in the Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse, Storybook Circus and other New Fantasyland areas. After reading Yee's book, I think Disney history buffs who have not yet taken in the sights in Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse (including me!) would be well advised to do so. This area is full of subtle and not-so-subtle references, including tributes to famous (animators Wilfred Jackson, Fred Moore and Ward Kimball) and not-so-famous (marketing executive Scott Tilley) Disney personages, and installations celebrating Disney parks and attractions throughout the world.


The New Fantasyland section sheds light on some of the newer references that park-goers may have certainly noticed, but not understood. Whose portrait is that hanging prominently in the back of the Bonjour Village Gifts? Why Magic Kingdom Vice President Phil Holmes, of course! Next time you are in the gift shop, take a closer look: "Numerous winks in the painting pay tribute to changes during his tenure: a ring with '40' stamped on it (the 40th anniversary of the park in 2011), Aladdin's lamp (the addition of Magic Carpets of Aladdin), Snow White's apple (the closure of Snow White's Scary Adventures), peanuts (for the addition of Storybook Circus), bronze statue of Donald Duck (the trinket given to Cast Members when they pass 40 years of service), and a map of the Magic Kingdom showing Mickey's Toontown Fair (the first land to close).

While I very much enjoyed the updated edition of the book, I still wish that it were organized in a more user-friendly way. Other than separate chapters for each park, , and without sub-headings for the various park locations, the topic headings are rather random, referring alternately to attractions, names of Imagineers, dates and other unrelated items. The best way to make sense of the flow would be to read the book, in order and with a park map next to you, as the references will take you on a relatively linear tour of the parks.

The book has been painstakingly researched, however, and color photos enhance the presentation. I'm not sure Yee has missed any references, as he seems to have scoured every inch of the parks for them. Readers-serious Disney history buffs and casual park visitors alike-will certainly find something to enjoy. And something to search for on their next visit!

Disclosure: The author provided a complimentary review copy, however my opinions are my own. The above link to the book is via the AllEars Amazon affiliate store.

January 17, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Tinker Bell: An Evolution


Tinker Bell: An Evolution

By Mindy Johnson with a Foreword by John Lasseter

Disney Editions has recently published a lavish tome dedicated to the development and history of the beloved, but slightly naughty, fairy Tinker Bell, designed in collaboration with the Animation Research Library. The book traces the history of the sparkly sprite from her origins as essentially a circle of lamplight in J. M. Barrie's original "Peter Pan"� stage play to a fixture in Disney Parks, flying over nightly fireworks shows, to a character with a voice and a bevy of forest friends residing in Pixie Hollow in recent Disney movies.

The first part of the book delves into Disney's long quest to bring Barrie's play to the big screen, reflecting the same perseverance shown by Walt when he decided that he absolutely had to secure the rights to another beloved story that is chronicled in the current Disney film, "Saving Mr. Banks." Disney received the okay to move forward with the project in 1939 after securing the rights from the Great Ormond Street Hospital (to which Barrie had left the rights on his death). Production ground to a halt during the 1940s as a result of a number of difficulties, including an artist's strike in 1941 and the war in Europe. During that time, Disney turned its attention to making money by doing work in support of the war for the government, including military training films. The movie came back into development in 1945 after the war ended, and inched along for years as the company tried to get back on a firm financial footing. After years of developing the story, the film got the final green light to move forward from Walt in 1950, and a team was assembled to work on the film.

During this time, legendary Disney artist Mary Blair got involved in the film. "Her conceptual work on "Peter Pan" defined the role of Tinker Bell as the ever-present wisp who darts along on Peter's adventures." Johnson explains that in developing the overall story for the film, Disney artists invested a great deal of time and effort into developing the appearance and personality of Disney's most famous fairy. "It seems reasonable to conclude that when concocting their recipe for Tinker Bell, the Disney animators combined equal parts Blue Fairy and Fantasia sprite -- with a generous dollop of personality thrown in." The film was finally released in 1953-- after thirteen years of development, three years of active production, the painting of over a million animation cels and $4 million in production costs -- and a star was born.

When Walt made his early forays into television in the 1950s, he realized that he needed a character to help introduce the shows. Tinker Bell was the "perfect blend of magic and wonderment," and became a fixture in the opening sequences of several of the Disney shows, and now in the opening sequences of Disney movies. Tinker Bell has been an ambassador and symbol for the Disney brand for decades, also appearing "in person" in the parks -- she first "flew" over the park in 1958 and has continued in various iterations ever since -- and helping to sell merchandise as varied as park souvenirs and peanut butter.

This lovely book is chock full of photos and previously unseen concept art, as well as well-researched history of both the Tinker Bell franchise and Disney's long journey in getting J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan" to the screen. It book will delight both Tinker Bell and Peter Pan fans, and will look gorgeous on any Disney fan's coffee table.


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

EDITOR'S NOTE: Order Tinker Bell: An Evolution through AllEars.Net's store:

December 9, 2013

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

November 18, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Vault of Walt: Volume 2: MORE Unofficial, Unauthorized, Uncensored Disney Stories Never Told


Vault of Walt Volume 2
Jim Korkis has followed his books "The Vault of Walt: Unofficial, Unauthorized, Uncensored Disney Stories Never Told" (2010, Ayefour Publishing, out of print) and "The Revised Vault of Walt" (2012, Theme Park Press) with "The Vault of Walt: Volume 2: MORE Unofficial, Unauthorized, Uncensored Disney Stories Never Told" (2013, Theme Park Press. Readers may be familiar with Korkis' work through his frequent contributions to the AllEars Newsletter and blogs, and if you like his unique combination of history and storytelling, you will love Volume 2.

Korkis grew up in Glendale, California, and Mrs. Margaret Disney, the wife of Walt Disney's older brother, Herbert, was his first grade teacher. When he learned of her connection to Walt Disney, Korkis drew a picture of Jiminy Cricket to give to her. "I proudly gave the drawing to Mrs. Disney in the hope she would rush to the Disney Studios where, without a doubt, I would be instantly offered a job so that I wouldn't have to learn any multiplication tables (which I still do not know to this day)."

Well, he didn't get a job with the Disney Company until 1995, but that did not stop young Korkis from setting out immediately on a path to his future. He recounts that at the age of twelve he wrote down the names rolling through the credits of the weekly Disney television program then went through the phone book and made some calls. Many of the people he reached were kind enough to speak with him about his Disney passion, and luckily for us, he either took notes or recorded the conversations. Those conversations, others he has had with Disney personalities throughout the years, and facts dug up through extensive research, make up much of the content of the book, and provide the basis for the engaging stories that are told there.

Korkis sets out to preserve unwritten and potentially forgotten Disney stories before they disappear forever. He does so in a bright and engaging manner, capturing the reader with vividly drawn tableaux. The book is organized as a series of stand-alone tales, so they can be read independently from each other. They are grouped by theme: Walt Disney stories; Disney film stories; Disney Park stories; and other Disney stories. While there are some facts that are repeated in several stories, it is not necessary to read them in the order in which they are presented. A reader could easily sit down and plow through the entire book in one sitting (it is that entertaining!), or could choose to "dip" in for only one or two chapters. The tone is easy and conversational, while still conveying a LOT of facts. You almost feel that you are sitting in a cozy chair and having the conversations yourself.

Korkis has included a handy index, so fans of particular personages, films or parks can find their interests quickly and easily. The selected bibliography provides additional resources for those who want to dig into a particular subject more deeply.

Here are a few tidbits from the book that I found quite interesting:

Walt Disney Stories

Korkis makes many connections between experiences Walt had early in his life had significant impact on the work that many of us are now very familiar with. In the chapter about Walt's early childhood and teenage years in Chicago, Korkis recounts that the stories about working in the construction of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair that Walt's father Elias told him, obviously had an impact: "It was a place where an entire family could go to have fun together, and it was educational and entertaining. Obviously, those concepts greatly influenced Walt's thinking about a future entertainment venue, in particular, EPCOT." It is clear that Elias' experiences with the 1893 World's Fair led Walt to his own involvement in the 1964 New York World's fair, with several of the attractions developed for that fair still in use in Disney Parks today.

Disney Film Stories

I took great pleasure in the fact that the subjects of section of the book on Disney films stories were not necessarily the most famous of Disney productions. The chapters brought back many memories of watching such films as Blackbeard's Ghost and Toby Tyler in serialized form on the version of the weekly Disney television program that I watched as a kid (The Wonderful World of Disney).

"Blackbeard's Ghost" is not a bad film, but it is not a memorable one, either." Korkis tells the story of the making of this less well-known film, which happens to be the last live action film that Walt had direct input into before he died. I happen to like this film very much (see my comment above about The Wonderful World of Disney). I laughed out loud (with apologies to the nice lady sitting next to me on the airplane!) as I read the intriguing vignettes about the many difficulties with the special effects used in the film (fly wires that drew blood!), and stories about the talented (but slightly difficult) cast (including Peter Ustinov, Suzanne Pleshette and Dean Jones).

In the chapter on the making of the 1958 film, The Shaggy Dog, Korkis writes about the long and strange arc of getting to the point of actually making the film, from Walt's purchase of the rights to the book The Hound of Florence, on which the film is loosely based to multiple rewrites of the screenplay, to Walt's curious decision to make the film in black and white rather than in color (possibly to save on production costs). Writer Bill Walsh said of the project: "We get stories in a strange way here. We don't literally get stories as stories. We get springboards or ideas and we develop the story around that. Like for The Shaggy Dog, which was based on a book by a guy named Felix Salten [also the author of Bambi, a Life in the Woods, on which the Disney film was based]. Kind of a nutty little thin book called The Hound of Florence. That was always on the shelf here, and nobody knew what to do with it, because it was kind of nutty. It was kind of a strange little book. It was completely impossible to read."

Just in time for the upcoming release of the movie, Saving Mr. Banks, readers will enjoy the chapter devoted to the negotiations between Walt and P.L. Travers to bring her Mary Poppins stories to the big screen. They began in 1938, when Disney first enquired about getting the rights to Travers' books, and continued until the film was finally made in 1964. The chapter recounts the many years of back and forth, as Walt and Travers parried back and forth about control over the content of the film. What comes through is that both were stubborn. In 1944, Walt asked his brother, Roy to fly out to New York to begin discussions with Travers on the availability of her book, and to "learn more about her personality." "Upon his return, Roy reported that Travers was cagey, a strong-willed 'Amelia Earhart type -- someone who seemed pleasant and soft on the surface, but was really tough as nails." While the negotiations dragged on, with Travers arguing that Walt's proposed story for the film was not true to the character in her books, Walt was so sure that the final project would move ahead that he had the Sherman brothers begin writing songs for the film. In the meantime, Travers prepared her own proposed version, which included material that Walt was not at all interested in including, and specifically did NOT include material that he wanted in. They also clashed over the choice of the actors to play Bert and Mary. It seems that the prospect of becoming enriched by the film finally got Travers to back down, and it was made according to Walt's vision. She maintained until her death in 1996, however that she was not happy with the outcome of the film: "How much better a film it would have been had it carefully stayed with the true version of Mary Poppins." When she complained to her lawyer, Arnold Goodman, that she had been "tricked" by Disney, and that her stories had been mutilated, he reminded her: "You should repeat three times nightly -- before and after prayer . . .'But for Mr. Goodman, I would never have sold Mary Poppins to Walt Disney and would now not be rich."

Disney Park Stories

In his stories about the Disney Parks, and some of their most famous attractions, Korkis points out the effort and attention to detail that Walt and the Imagineers went to in creating them. In the chapter, "The Story of Storybook Land" -- the attraction that is now Disneyland's Storybook Land Canal Boats -- Korkis recounts: "Walt demanded great attention to detail, from the tiny stained glass windows to the small toys behind the frosted glass of Geppetto's toy shop to the cobblestone streets paved with individually placed pebbles. One contractor, frustrated at being unable to cut some corners, and concerned about all of the labor and expense . . . asked him [Walt], 'Who'll know the difference?' Walt sternly replied, 'I'll know the difference.'"

Did you know that Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle was not always referred to as Sleeping Beauty Castle? According to Korkis, in early written materials the castle was variously referred to as "The Medieval Castle," "Fantasyland Castle," and even "Robin Hood's Castle." Walt even referred to it as "Snow White's Castle" on an early episode of his ABC television show (this answers my daughter's heartfelt question to Snow White during a visit to Disney World when she was much younger: "Poor Snow White. Why don't YOU have a castle?"). Disneyland's castle was basically an empty shell for its first years, with the walk-through attraction not being added until several years before the release of the film, Sleeping Beauty, in 1959. Korkis narrates an amusing story about when Walt took Imagineer Ken Anderson for a tour of the empty structure, telling him that he wanted to install an attraction inside that would promote the film. It seems that while there wasn't much in there, it WAS occupied -- by about a hundred feral cats. Needless to say, the cats needed to be removed before the installation of the exhibits began: "Walt arranged for the bathing, grooming and eventual relocation of the 'castle cats' and found them new families despite the recommendations of some of his staff to find a more speedy and permanent solution."

After reading the book, I wondered about the fine line between Disney stories and Disney legend. Korkis devotes an entire chapter to "a cute Disney story that never was," and notes that Walt Disney himself, was sometimes the source of "less than factual" information. This is a book of stories, and stories come from people; people who are not always reliable narrators. The nature of stories is that they are passed from person to person, and change in subtle and not-so-subtle ways as they metamorphosize into legends. In the chapter "Flying High with Walt," Korkis recounts the following: "According to Mark Malone, son of the pilot Chuck Malone, his father told him that during that fabled flight over Florida [to finalize the location for Walt Disney World], Walt spotted El Morro fortress while flying over San Juan, Puerto Rico, and remarked that it would be the perfect look for his new Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland." I may be a long way from 7th grade geography, but I don't remember Puerto Rico being very close to Florida. I wonder if this is a story that has now become a legend; a legend that Jim Korkis has worked to preserve for posterity. Cheers!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Order Jim Korkis' latest book on Amazon, via AllEars.Net's special link:


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

November 9, 2012

From Dreamer to Dreamfinder: A Life and Lessons Learned in 40 Years Behind a Name Tag - Review


From Dreamer to Dreamfinder: A Life and Lessons Learned in 40 Years Behind a Name Tag by Ron Schneider

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a performer in a Disney show? Or maybe how those shows were dreamed up and brought to life? If so, this book may be for you! Author Ron Schneider chronicles his years as a performer, writer and creator of a variety of "themed entertainment." Before reading this book, I instinctively knew what themed entertainment was -- as most regular theme park visitors do -- but I did not know there was such a nice, succinct way to describe it! There is also, believe it or not, a Themed Entertainment Association! Who knew? But I digress...

Part memoir, and part how-to book, From Dreamer to Dreamfinder will appeal to a broad spectrum of Disney and theme park fans. This highly entertaining (pun intended) book follows Schneider's career chronologically and includes Appendices that will be useful for anyone who is interested in his views on how to properly "do" themed entertainment.

The book starts with an overview of Schneider's childhood in Southern California, where the newly opened Disneyland played a very large part in shaping his childhood and his future career. His stories then move through his (short-lived) college and (long) working years, as a contributor to a wide variety of themed entertainment venues, including Magic Mountain (as Professor Samuel J. Spilliken, a performer in the Spilliken Corners Craft Village), Womphopper's Wagon Works Restaurant (as C.L. Womphopper, "a legendary slick-talking wagon salesman who invented wheeling and dealing"), Disneyland (among others as a hander-out of costumes for Fantasy on Parade, and various characters-including Pecos Bill-in The Golden Horseshoe), Walt Disney World (most famously as the creator of the Dreamfinder, and also as a member of the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor cast), Universal Studios Florida (as a manager of the Celebrity Look-Alikes program, and hilariously, as a not terribly successful Santa Claus), the Fort Liberty Wild West Dinner Show (as Professor Gladstone) and Chuck E. Cheese's (!).

As I read the book, I gleaned a few lessons from the highly entertaining stories:

Don't be afraid to takes risks, the rewards can be memorable. In an early chapter, Schneider recounts a meeting with Disney archivist Dave Smith in 1970, the invitation to which he got as a result of an unsolicited congratulations note that he sent on reading in Variety that Smith had been appointed the Keeper of Disney History. During that meeting Smith gives Schneider an impromptu backstage tour of the Walt Disney Studios, including of Walt's formal office. Schneider is immediately struck with an overpowering urge "the kind no man can resist... so I ask Dave where the bathroom is. I fully expect to have to go back out into the hall to use the men's room, but he points to an adjacent door and I step into Walt Disney's personal bathroom. I would have known it anywhere... the wallpaper is covered with small graphics of antique steam trains. Humbled, I take a seat."

Be persistent. Schneider was successful in reaching his goals of working in the themed entertainment industry through persistence. While he was not always successful in getting the particular job he was auditioning for, he always tried to both use that experience to learn something, and also to open additional doors for himself. For instance, Schneider had been cast as a part-time character for the Golden Horseshoe Review at Disneyland, and was a huge fan of Wally Boag, who created the Pecos Bill character in that show. When Boag finally decided to retire, Schneider hoped to be hired to replace him. The problem was that soon after Boag left Schneider lost his voice and could not do the show for a few weeks. By the time he returned, another performer had been cast as Boag's replacement. While some would view this as a huge setback, Schneider takes the positive view that this allowed him to be open to other opportunities, specifically the one he is most remembered for: as Dreamfinder at Epcot's Imagination Pavilion.

Getting to know the right people at the right time is critical to moving one's career forward. Schneider paints vivid pictures of a number of Disney and other themed entertainment personalities whom he has met and worked with over the years. In fact, Schneider was able to secure his gig as the Dreamfinder through keeping up communication over the years with a number of Disney Imagineers. Once he has heard about the new Imagination Pavilion at Epcot, and of the characters of the Dreamfinder and Figment, Schneider arranges to hear a recording of the Dreamfinder's voice and after practicing it, leaves the message on his answering machine in the voice. Soon after a few calls from Orlando, Schneider is on his way to create the character for the opening of the pavilion. If not for the relationships he made, and for keeping those contacts up-to-date, he might never have gotten this opportunity.

There are many ways to measure success. After recounting the long and somewhat circuitous route that he took to getting the Dreamfinder position, Schneider notes that an Epcot employee had been keeping track of his interactions with guests: "'I'm counting the number of people you're affecting. Not just the ones who interact with you, but the number that stop and smile or stay and watch for any length of time. You're averaging about 600 people every thirty minutes.' Roughly double what I was doing at the Horseshoe! That's good to know."

Keep moving and growing. Schneider changed jobs often. Sometimes this was out of necessity, but often it was by design.

"Things might have gone on like this for a while if it was anyone else but me. After 10+ years of keeping an eye on the horizon looking for the next step forward, I've gotten into the habit of moving on after a few years. Especially if my current situation isn't evolving."

It is important to stay true to your own sense of the quality of your work. In recounting a particularly unsuccessful holiday stunt involving Santa and his sleigh at Universal Studios, Schneider points out that it is often important to admit that something doesn't work, and return to the drawing board: "The point is if you're going to invest the time, money and effort (and most precious of all, your guests' credulity) in an idea, make sure it's going to work out the way you wanted. If not, change plans!" There were times where Schneider either quit a particular job, or chose to step into a different role, if he felt that quality was being compromised or that his own standards could not be met as a result of constraints put on him.

When Robert Earl, the theme restaurateur who started the Planet Hollywood franchise, was recruiting him for the Fort Liberty Wild West Dinner Show, Schneider asks: "'Do you mind if the show's good?' He replies, 'Not at all.' I smile, 'Then we'll get along fine.'"

Link that goes to Amazon Affiliate Book Store for AllEars.

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

October 7, 2012

Unearthing Hidden Treasures: A Review of “Epcot: The First Thirty Years"


Unearthing Hidden Treasures: A Review of "Epcot:
The First Thirty Years; An Unofficial Retrospective"
by Jeff Lange and Kevin Yee

Just in time for Epcot's 30th Anniversary, Jeff Lange and Kevin Yee have written a new book that provides a panoramic overview of its attractions, both past and present. The book is not exactly a history of the park-although it does start with an introduction that takes the reader through the basics of Epcot's creation-but is more of a "look back" at the various attractions that have surfaced in the park over the years. As the "retrospective" in the subtitle points to, the book provides the reader, both in words and photographs, a survey of Epcot over the years.

Unearthing Hidden Treasures
takes readers on a journey through each of Epcot's pavilions, first in Future World, then World Showcase. Each current and historic pavilion has an entry-in alphabetical order-that includes a description of the pavilion and its attractions, and is accompanied by a number of color photographs. (The print edition that I reviewed included color photographs, but I understand that there are both print and Kindle editions, that include black and white photos instead.) While the alphabetic order is useful for letting readers find the descriptions of favorite attractions quickly, I found it a bit hard to follow, for instance, when the Test Track and World of Motion attractions were not described together (as they occupy the same pavilion space).

The Land - Unearthing Hidden Treasures:  A Review of Epcot: The First Thirty Years

As a relatively recent visitor to Epcot (my first visit was in 1999), I found the accounts and photos of attractions no longer in existence to be fascinating. For instance, I have heard many Disney fans lament the demise of Horizons, but I never understood what the attraction was about, or how it worked (multiple endings?), but after reading the description of the attraction, and seeing the amazing pictures, I can now see what it is that others miss.

Horizons - Unearthing Hidden Treasures:  A Review of Epcot: The First Thirty Years

I was also happy to revisit in the book's pages long-shuttered attractions that I did have the good fortune to experience before they were closed (Body Wars, anyone?), and to read about the evolution of pavilions that have not been shuttered, but rather have transformed substantially over time (for instance, The Land and The Living Seas with Nemo and Friends).

The Living Seas - Unearthing Hidden Treasures:  A Review of Epcot: The First Thirty Years

Not only did I get a glimpse of attractions that I never got to experience, but the book is chock-a-block with Epcot trivia. For instance, did you know that there was once a show called "The Magical World of Barbie" in the America Gardens Theatre (alas, no pictures!) or that Canada is the only pavilion in the World Showcase built with neither funding nor support from the country that it represents (oh, Canada, tsk, tsk)? Neither did I! I also now have a better understanding of why some of the attractions that I never quite understood are the way they are (Journey into Imagination with Figment-I still don't get that one).

Lange and Yee also include sections on Entertainment (including my personal favorite, the now-defunct Tapestry of Nations parade), Events (Flower and Garden Festival, International Food and Wine Festival) and several Epcot Tribute Displays. They conclude with a helpful Timeline and a full Index.

Unearthing Hidden Treasures:  A Review of Epcot: The First Thirty Years

What I really liked about this book: It was like an Epcot travelogue! The hundreds of beautiful photos will provide readers with an illustrated trip around the park any time they feel the need for an Epcot fix.

What I wish was included: For me, more than any other of the Disney Parks, Epcot is about shopping and eating. I wish that the authors had dedicated some space to coverage of the various shops and restaurants, as many of those are destinations in themselves, and I'm sure must have changed and evolved over time, just like the attractions housed in the pavilions.

Happy 30th Anniversary, Epcot! And thanks to Jeff Lange and Kevin Yee for producing such a lovely tribute.

Link goes to Amazon Affiliate Book Store for AllEars.

Images provided by the authors.

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

October 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to the 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival


REVIEW: Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to the 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival by AJ Wolfe

AJ Wolfe, writer of the online "Disney Food Blog" has issued a comprehensive (and timely) e-book Guide to the 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. You'll not only want to buy this guide to help you plan for your visit to the Festival beforehand, but also to have it in your pocket during your visit. I plan to take it with me on my iPhone next month when I visit the Food and Wine Festival with my family.

The Guide is available as an e-book, which, when purchased, is downloaded as a .pdf file. Once downloaded, you can save the file as an e-book in iTunes, and then download the file to your iPad, iPhone or other device. I tested the guide on my laptop, iPad and iPhone, and preferred the iPad to the others, as outside links worked best from this platform. Note that if you are reading the Guide on any device in a place where you cannot access the internet, the external links will not work.

As with all of the DFB e-books, Wolfe starts by giving the reader a "how-to" on using the Guide and helpful advice on getting to Epcot and navigating the Festival. The guide includes descriptions of all of the Festival events, a full day-by-day schedule, tips on how to use Disney Dining Plan snack credits at the Festival, instructions for how to book and pay for events, and a full set of indexes to help you to find your favorite chef, food, wine or beer at the Festival.

While it may be too late to book some events (check Disney's website to determine whether admission to the event you would like to attend is still available), the Guide offers helpful information on how to book, and where certain discounts might be available. Check this section out, particularly if you have a Tables in Wonderland card, an Annual Pass or are a Disney Vacation Club Member.

The Guide highlights what is new for 2011, including HGTV events (HGTV is a sponsor of this year's Festival), Mixology Seminars and a real Cranberry Bog (can't wait to see this one, although it would be REALLY cool if you could wade through it in hip-waders like you seen in the TV commercials!), and other signature new and special events. I am very sorry that I will miss the October 29 "Kitchen Memories Healthy Dining Event," as it will feature my favorite TV chef and globe-trotter Andrew Zimmern (and his kids!).

The "What's New" section lists all of the new International Marketplace Booths and new menu items for this year, and is followed by in-depth pages on each of the (new and returning) booths-including gorgeous photos sure to make your mouth start watering. My family and I plan to do at least one "Lunch Around the World" when we visit next month, and after reading this guide I know that my lunch will include a Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple and Spicy Mayonnaise from the Hawaii booth (it takes longer to say the name than it will probably take for me to wolf one of these tasty morsels down) and Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries from the Scandinavia booth. Wolfe also offers helpful tips for touring the food booths and paying for your bites.

The Guide's in-depth descriptions of the Festival Special and Signature Events, Low-Cost Seminars, Demos and Activities, and Celebrity Chef Spotlights should help readers sift through all of the myriad offerings to decide what events will fit their tastes and budgets. The descriptions include the Where, When and How Much for each event.

Can't wait for the Eat to the Beat concerts? The Guide includes a helpful list of Songs You Should Know by Heart by each of the featured artists, so that guests can jog their memories and prepare to hum along (or sing out loud if you are my husband or one of my daughters). And yes, "Hold on Loosely" is a .38 Special song, not a Night Ranger song-that one is "Sister Christian," and if you visit the Festival on the right days you can hear BOTH of them. (The '80s were SO long ago . . . )

Finally, the Guide offers touring strategies (one day, two days, on a budget, with the kids, etc.) and some suggested World Showcase Booth Crawls. I like the idea of the Continent Crawl (particularly the Jerk Spiced Chicken Drumstick from the Caribbean Islands and the Black Pepper Shrimp with Sichuan Noodles from China), but what about Antarctica? Throw in an Itzakadoozie ice pop and it's complete!

Other Disney Food Blog E-book Reviews by Alice:

Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks

DFB Guide to WDW Dining

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

AllEars belongs to an affiliate program with the Disney Food Blog ebooks.

September 13, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks


REVIEW: Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks by AJ Wolfe


AJ Wolfe, writer of the online "Disney Food Blog" has followed her e-book, The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining: Steps to a Stress-Free, Personalized Plan, with a new e-book devoted entirely to snacks that can be found in the Magic Kingdom.

As noted in my previous review of the comprehensive dining guide, the new mini-guide is available as an e-Book, which, when purchased is downloaded as a .pdf file. Once downloaded, you can save the file as an e-Book in iTunes, and then download the file to your iPad or iPhone. Again, I tested using the guide on my laptop, iPad and iPhone, and preferred the iPad to the others, as outside links worked best from this platform. Note that if you are reading the book on any device in a place where you cannot access the internet, many of the links will not work. However, as I explain below, the iPhone version may be some Magic Kingdom guests' best friend.

Ok, now on to the snacks!! Wow. I never knew there were so many choices! We have our family favorites, of course, including turkey legs (um, ok, not MY favorite, but my husband and daughters REALLY like them!), Mickey Ice Cream sandwiches and Itzakadoozies, but it appears that in all of my visits to the Magic Kingdom, I have not been paying close enough attention to all of the wonderful goodies hiding in the food kiosks that I always bypass, and the shelves at the back of the gift shops.

The food guide identifies both sweet and savory snacks that cost between $1 and $5 (although some cost more), offers advice on getting the best snacking bang for your buck, and reveals the availability of some snacks, toppings and add-ons that aren't on Disney menus, but that are available to those who know to ask. The guide also includes suggested themed Magic Kingdom "Snack Crawls" (most intriguing, the "Ice Cream Headache Crawl"), snack pairings (popcorn and an English Toffee Bar anyone?) and meals that can be made out of snacks (soft pretzel with Chicken and Wild Rice Soup from Sleepy Hollow).

The guide is organized by taste (savory, then sweet), with alphabetical listings for each snack (Baked Potato, Ball Park Chili Cheese Nachos, Breadsticks with Marinara Sauce, etc.), and there is an index that lists each snack by each Magic Kingdom "land," so that readers can easily locate that English Toffee Bar for the popcorn and Toffee Bar pairing at the Prairie Outpost and Supply in Frontierland.

Each snack has its own page, a description of the atmospherics, price and whether it is available as a snack credit on the dining plan. It is this feature that may end up being most useful for those guests on the Dining Plan. Have you ever been in the Magic Kingdom on the last day of your Disney World vacation with three snack credits left, and you are not sure how to use them? If you have loaded this mini-guide onto your smart phone, you will be able to find those snacks throughout the Kingdom that you can use your remaining credits on, and maybe even score a souvenir to take home with you (you know your co-worker will love those Mickey Mouse Coconut Patties!).

This is the first Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide, and Wolfe promises us that there will be more, including:

• The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
• Dining Strategies for Specific Locations and Resorts
• Dining with Special Diets in Walt Disney World
• Dining in Disneyland
• Dining with Kids in Walt Disney World

My mouth is watering already!

To purchase the Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks with a $2 Discount, use Code: ALLEARS

AJ has also recently published the Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to the 2011 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival e-Book. We haven't done a formal review yet, but it looks to be another excellent comprehensive guide by the Disney Food Blog!

Click here to view more details $2 Discount, use Code: ALLEARS


DISCLOSURE: AllEars® received a complimentary review copy of the Magic Kingdom mini-guide. AllEars® is a member of the DFB affiliate program. This did not influence the review in any way by Alice McNutt Miller, an independent reviewer and guest blogger for AllEars®.

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

May 29, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Walt Disney World Guide to the Magic for Kids by Tim Foster"



Let me start this review by saying that when my 14-year-old daughter picked it up after seeing it on the counter in my kitchen, she immediately said: "Wow! This is so cool!" I thought that it was pretty cool, too.

The Guide to the Magic for Kids is more than just a Disney World guidebook aimed at kids (I'd say it would appeal most to kids between the ages of about 5 and 12), it is also a sticker book, an autograph book, and a trip journal. The Guide covers all four Disney World Theme parks and includes a very helpful couple of pages upfront explaining how to use the book, the symbols used, and ways to get the most out of it.


Author Tim Foster has created a truly interesting guide to Walt Disney World that kids (and their grown-ups) can use to determine what an attraction is all about, what it will be like, whether it will be scary, and other pertinent information about snacking and shopping in each area of the park.

The book starts with a description of how to use the book, with a visual explanation of what the handy symbols and used throughout refer to and what information is included (my faves: Hidden Mickeys and Scavenger Hunts). He then follows with some basic tips for making any visit to Walt Disney World more enjoyable ("Take your time!" "Take a break!") and an index of attractions.


The book is then organized by park, by section or "Land" within each park, and by each attraction within that section of the park. Section pages list extra "stuff" to look for, a description of the shopping offered (not sure a 5-year-old would care much about this, but tweens and some grown-ups definitely would) and suggestions for where to find kid-friendly snacks or meals.

Attraction pages describe what type of ride or attraction it is, what you can expect to see or do on or in the attraction and whether or not it is scary (I didn't always completely agree with these assessments). There is also space for kids to check off whether they did the attraction, how they rated it, and notes about things that they liked about the transaction. The pages for each country in Epcot's World Showcase also include spaces for passport stamps and cast member autographs and spaces to draw and color each country's flag.


Scattered throughout the book are interesting bits of trivia ("Did You Know?"). Some examples: "Did You Know? The World Fellowship Fountain [in Epcot's Future World] was dedicated during the opening festivities of the park by Lillian Disney." "Did You Know? As you enter Dinoland, U.S.A. [in Disney's Animal Kingdom] you'll pass under the Olden Gate Bridge, which is actually a replica of a 40 foot tall Brachiosaurus skeleton."

Here are the things that I liked about the book:

• It was well-organized and easy to navigate. I liked the up-front explanation of how to use the book. The extensive index was helpful for quickly finding a particular attraction (although I kept flipping to the back of the book to find the index, and it is strangely located near the front).

• Color-coded pages allow you to flip quickly to a particular park.

• The "Did You Know?" entries add color and an additional level of interest to the entries.

• This book may actually entice your kids to do some thinking and writing during vacation!

Parents should note that the size of the book (and it is definitely meant to be brought with you as you are touring the parks) is not especially compact. It will be very difficult to be a "Guest Without Bag" if you are toting it around all day. That being said, most parents with kids are toting around lots of stuff for their little Mouseketeers. Just be sure to leave enough room in your backpack or stroller basket for the book!

This book is definitely for:

Kids who like to know more about the attractions they are about to experience than it says on the "You must be 44" tall to ride this ride" signs. Kids who like to keep notes about their trips, and want to keep all of their ink-based souvenirs (autographs, passport stamps, etc.) in one neat and tidy package.


Parents who want additional information on whether particular attractions will be right for their kids, or who are looking for a guidebook that will turn into a great trip souvenir for their kids.

This book may not be for: Kids who don't really care to know much more about an attraction other than that they are tall enough to ride.

DISCLOSURE: Guide to the Magic is a paid advertiser in the AllEars® newsletter and provided a complimentary review copy of the book. This did not influence the review in any way. Alice McNutt Miller is an independent reviewer and guest blogger for AllEars®.

Photos provided by Guide to the Magic.

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

May 22, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: " From Screen to Theme " by Brent Dodge


From Screen to Theme:
A Guide to Disney Animated Film References
Found Throughout the Walt Disney World Resort by Brent Dodge

Are you the type of person who searches for references to your favorite Disney films when you visit Walt Disney World? Do you wonder where you can find your favorite (and sometimes obscure) characters from those films (J. Worthington Foulfellow*, anyone?) for a Character Meet and Greet? Do you wonder if you can find Flick anywhere in the World other than in the "it's tough to be a bug" attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom?** If so, this may be the perfect book for you!

Author Brent Dodge's volume covering references to animated Disney films throughout Walt Disney World is fun to read, well-organized and very thorough. Dodge starts with a note about which films are and are not included in the book (only animated films, and only those films for which he believes that the references will be more than fleeting) and how to easily navigate the pages to find the references to your favorite films. The films are listed in date order; that is in order of the dates on which they were released in theatres. The index at the back of the book has listing for both the films and characters, so it is very easy to find all of the references for say "The Aristocats," or for those specifically for Marie.

The section for each film includes the title of the film, the date of the film's release, an enlightening and concise description of "The Film in Three Paragraphs," references in each park, references found in Downtown Disney, and references found in the resorts. References range from the more obvious (Peter Pan's Flight is, in fact, based on the movie "Peter Pan") to the more difficult to spot ("If you enter Disney's Days of Christmas [in Downtown Disney] through the first door on your left hand side while coming from the Marketplace bus stop, you can find the fairies from "The Nutcracker Suite" ["Fantasia"] on the ceiling).

Dodge also includes a variety of "Fun Facts" for some of the films, including film references that can be found in other Disney parks around the world and other interesting tidbits. For instance, in the section on "The Three Caballeros," which takes center stage in the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros in Epcot's Mexico Pavilion, Dodge notes that: "Even though the Three Caballeros attraction is in Mexico, Panchito is the only Mexican among the three. Jose [Carioca] is Brazilian and Donald [Duck] is American." I did not know that!

The book also points to some areas where Disney had some rather confusing and/or mixed film references, but has since moved to make them more consistent. In Cinderella Castle: "Before 1997, Cinderella's Royal Table was actually called King Stefan's Banquet Hall. King Stefan is actually the father of Princess Aurora, or as most know her, Sleeping Beauty."

Here are the things that I liked about the book:

• It was very well-organized. It is easy to find the references for particular films or characters.

• The directions for finding the references seem to be very easy to follow. [I have not actually had the chance to field test this book, however.]

• It appears that the references for each of the listed films are exhaustive. Dodge does ask readers to update him if they find references that he has either missed or that have been added since the publication of the book, and his website,, has a section for updates.

• The "Film in Three Paragraphs" inclusions are particularly useful for remembering the specifics of the films, and helping the reader to decide which of the films' characters they are most interested in finding.

• The "Fun Facts" add color and an additional level of interest to the entries.

This book is definitely for: Those who are looking for all of the references to their favorite animated films and their characters in Walt Disney World, and who like their guidebooks to be peppered with interesting factoids. I will definitely take this book with me on my next trip to the World so that I can make sure that I spot J. Worthington Foulfellow (now that I know what his name is!) as my family and I tour the parks.

This book may not be for: Those who are not interested in finding the more obscure references to Disney animated films in the parks.

Dodge has indicated that he is working on a similar book with references to Disney live-action films. I will definitely buy this one once it is available. Brent?

* J. Worthington Foulfellow is the sneaky fox, who with his cat friend, Gideon, leads Pinocchio astray by convincing him to join up with the evil Stromboli ("An Actor's Life for Me") and later to venture to Pleasure Island, where Pinocchio and the other boys there are turned into donkeys by the equally evil Lampwick. I have to admit that I did not know this character's name before reading this book!

**Observant guests can catch references to Flick in several places in the Magic of Disney Imagination attraction in Disney's Hollywood Studios, or may catch him at a Character Meet and Greet on the Discovery Island Trails at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Purchase the book via the AllEars Amazon Store!

DISCLOSURE: AllEars® received a complimentary review copy of the book. This did not influence the review in any way. Alice McNutt Miller is an independent reviewer and guest blogger for AllEars®.

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

March 1, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Walt Disney World Hidden History"


by Alice McNutt Miller
Guest Blogger

"Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions & Other Tributes" by Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee has written an enjoyable guide to the "hidden history" of Walt Disney World (with a bonus chapter on "History at Universal Studios Florida"), pointing out tributes to Disney personalities, park milestones and opening dates and remaining bits of now-defunct attractions. The book is organized by theme park and has helpful appendices that include the operational dates of now-gone attractions, and the individuals listed on the various windows of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. A person could easily use the book on a "live" tour through each of the theme parks, searching for these interesting historical tidbits (unfortunately, I have not been able to do this yet!). Disney Imagineers left a huge number of homages to themselves, to Imagineers who had gone before them, and to previous Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions scattered throughout the parks. This book will lead the reader on a voyage of discovery of intertwined historical references and remembrance of things past.

I found the book's descriptions of "reused" or "repurposed" items particularly interesting. Yee describes a number of animatronic figures that show up in different guises in different attractions. For instance, the ghostly old woman in the rocking chair in the Ballroom scene in the Haunted Mansion is the same figure as the grandmother in the Carousel of Progress, and many of the animatronic figures in Epcot's Spaceship Earth are copies of figures in the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom. It is a great testament to the ingenuity of the Disney Imagineers that they are able to find multiple uses for these complex (and expensive!) figures.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of old attractions, how they have changed into newer ones, and what they left behind. A good example is the section where Yee describes the changes that have occurred over the years in the "Journey into Imagination with Figment" attraction at Epcot. I must admit that this attraction continues to befuddle me. I know that it has loads of enthusiasts, but I just don't get it. After reading Yee's description of the changes in the ride, and the elements remaining from earlier versions, I still don't get it. However, I will look for the references to one of my all-time-favorite childhood movies -- "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" -- the next time I ride.

Here are the things that I liked about the book:

• It was obviously well-researched, and had tons of very interesting information, particularly for those who are either interested in the park histories, or who may be finding themselves missing a now-defunct attraction.
• The entries were laid out generally in order of proximity within each theme park, so finding them should be relatively easy.
• The book was fun to read, even at home when I was not able to actually look at the item being described.

However, I did find the subject headings a bit difficult to follow. Some refer to the attraction or building, some to an event, some to a particular person such as an Imagineer. I would have preferred more consistency in the labeling.

This book is definitely for: Those who want quick, concise historical information on "hidden" remnants and tributes scattered throughout Walt Disney World. This is the type of book that deserves to be taken to the parks with you, so that you can dip into the interesting trivia as you tour.

This book may not be for: Those who want more in-depth historical information on attractions, buildings, artwork and other structures, or Disney personages. While there was lots of basic information, I found myself wanting more in some instances. That may need to be the subject of a future book review...

Happy digging everyone!

"Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions & Other Tributes" by Kevin Yee is available on Amazon through the AllEars.Net store HERE There is also a Kindle version of the book.

EDITOR'S NOTE: AllEars.Net received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author.

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