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March 20, 2017

This blogger's been busy: Two new books recently released

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The entrance to Disneyland Park in France goes under the Disneyland Hotel. [Ginny Osborne]


When my first book was published, I had what can be best described as a George McFly moment.

You remember the scene from Back to the Future: Surrounded by his family, George proudly opens a box containing copies of his newly released book. He's obviously excited about adding the title of "author" to his resume as he glances, chest puffed out, at the hot-off-the-press finished product.

Even in this age of portable devices, telecommunications and digital wizardry, it's still quite a thrill to see your name on the cover of an honest-to-goodness, printed-on-paper book. As the author, you know how hard you've worked and how proud you are to see the finished product; the only thing that's left now is waiting on the public's response, which, of course, you hope is positive.

I had another George McFly moment the other day when not one, but two of my books arrived at our doorstep in a plain cardboard box -- the re-release of my first book, Disney's Dream Weavers, and the brand new An American in Disneyland Paris .

I must admit, there's always a bit of trepidation when something you've written "goes public." The hope is that everyone loves what you've written ... the fact is, some people may not. As in life itself, you take the good with the bad.

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The cover of "An American in Disneyland Paris."

It's truly gratifying, then, when an unsolicited comment comes your way from someone you've known and respected for years.

"What great journalism you are doing," wrote Rick Sylvain, the former print and on-line manager for Walt Disney World media relations. "Your deep dive into the personalities that shaped Disney is important reading, not only now, but for future generations. As Charlie Ridgway and others pass on, their stories live on."

Humbling, to be sure, but much appreciated.

And so, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure, that I steer you toward my latest releases:

** Disney's Dream Weavers

** An American in Disneyland Paris


Disney's Dream Weavers was first released in 2012 by Dog Ear Publishing. It was a three-year labor of love that began innocently enough when I filled in for a columnist colleague at the Staten Island Advance, who missed work for several months after surgery.

His column dealt with the people and places on Staten Island in bygone eras from the 1940s into the 1980s. For reasons I can't really explain, I decided to write several substitute columns on Staten Islanders' participation at both the 1939-1940 and 1964-1965 New York World's Fairs, both of which were held on the same site in Flushing, Queens.

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The cover of "Disney's Dream Weavers."

The highlights of the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair were, of course, the four Disney-created attractions: Ford's Magic Skyway, Carousel of Progress, it's a small world and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln in the Illinois state pavilion.

I researched the 1964-1965 Fair, corresponded with folks who had attended and also drew on my own experiences as a Fair visitor. As I dug into the Fair, I came upon references to another amusement park popular during that era - Freedomland, which also was open in the early 1960s and was located relatively close to the Fair in The Bronx.

I had attended Freedomland as well, and have fond memories and some grainy photos to prove it. In researching Freedomland's story, it quickly became apparent to me that there was a link [a common thread, if you will] that ran through Disneyland, which opened in 1955, Freedomland [1960-1964] and the World's Fair.

Many of the people who had helped bring Walt Disney's dream of a park where parents and children could have fun together [the people who had, as I wrote, brought Disneyland from "fruit field to fruition"] also made significant contributions to both Freedomland and the World's Fair.

Unbeknownst to most of us, at about the same time Freedomland was shutting down and the World's Fair was in full swing, Walt Disney and some of his trusted lieutenants were scooping up land in central Florida to build what would turn out to be The Vacation Kingdom of the World.

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A German band plays a song in front of the Eastman Kodak building at Freedomland in 1962. The building to the left is a replica of the R.H. Macy's store in Manhattan. [Chuck Schmidt collection]

As the idea of putting together a book on that link among the four venues began to take shape, I was able to score interviews with a number of key people ... like Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, Charlie Ridgway, Jack Lindquist, Tom Nabbe and Tony Baxter on the Disney side, and Ben Rossi, Bob Mangels and Mike Virgintino, speaking on behalf of Freedomland. Their combined insight helped, in my mind, to legitimize the book.

When Bob McLain of Theme Park Press agreed to re-release Disney's Dream Weavers, I could think of no better person to write a foreword to it than Mike Virgintino, who grew up near the park as a youth and has written about it extensively over the years. Along with a group of other "Friendly Freedomlanders," as they call themselves, he helped spearhead an initiative that resulted in the placement of a commemorative plaque near where the park's entrance once stood in the Baychester section of The Bronx.

Mike also has been a huge help to me in promoting my books over the years. I'm happy to report that he's currently working on his own book dealing exclusively with Freedomland.

An American in Disneyland Paris came about thanks to my ability to take notes no matter where I am. My wife and Janet and I joined our friends Gail and Julian Robinson on the trip of a lifetime in September of 2015, seven months after I had retired from the newspaper business. We visited Paris, France, Disneyland Paris and then sailed on the Disney Magic for its trans-Atlantic re-positioning cruise. [As luck would have it, also on that cruise were Deb and Linda!]

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Paris, and the Eiffel Tower, as seen from the Montparnese Tower. [Julian Robinson]

The fact that Julian grew up in England and had visited Paris on many occasions over the years allowed us to see the City of Lights not as first-time tourists, but as seasoned visitors [For example: Our trip to the Montparnese Tower, where we were able to view magnificent Paris from 56 stories above, right before sunset]. We saw things that very few tourists see and, if nothing else, his experienced hand allowed us to navigate the complicated underground rail system quite smoothly.

And when it came to Disneyland Paris, both Gail and Julian were park veterans. During our five-night stay, we got to enjoy things we probably might have overlooked, like Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and Walt's, a Club 33-type restaurant on Main Street that's open to the public.

To top off our trip, we flew from Paris to Barcelona, Spain, where we boarded the Disney Magic for an unforgettable 11-night adventure.

Among the highlights: Sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar, where one can see two continents, Africa and Europe, by simply turning your head; a day-long visit to the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira; a number of presentations by several Disney Imagineers, giving incredible insight into what goes on behind the magic; behind-the-scenes tours of the ship, and a glorious finale on Castaway Cay.

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The Portuguese island of Maderia is located off the coast of northwest Africa. [Julian Robinson]

Photos taken by Gail and Julian during the trip enhance the book immeasurably.

Some time in May, another book I had a hand in will be published. It centers around some amazing, real-life adventures experienced by former Walt Disney World boating supervisor Ted Kellogg.

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.

December 11, 2016

Science At Your Feet

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When you rush through EPCOT’s Future World early in the morning, part of that mad dash toward the standby line at Soarin’, do you ever notice the big circle on the ground?

Most of us don’t see it; we’re all so focused on getting to our next attraction, the next thrill ride, that we totally miss some pretty interesting stuff Disney’s Imagineers have built into the theme parks.

That’s it in the picture below, right in the middle of that big, open concourse.

Ring of Discoveries

That big circle is one of the things that most people walk right over without seeing, but for the few who stop and look, it’s pretty interesting. That odd piece of architecture is a history of scientific discoveries . . . arranged in a series of concentric circles. It’s a round timeline.

At the center are a few quotations from some well known scientists.

Quotation

Quotation

Quotation

Stones marking the most significant discoveries are arranged all around the circle; the oldest discoveries are closest to the center and the most recent are at the outer edge.

Here are a few examples from the Prehistoric Era:

Prehistoric Era Stone Tools

Prehistoric Era Fire

Prehistoric Era Wheel

That first ring, the Prehistoric Era covers a span of about 2 million years, discoveries were slow to develop back at the dawn of civilization. But things accelerated as the centuries passed. By the time of the Renaissance humanity was making great strides. Here are some samples from the Renaissance Period:

Renaissance Period Astronomical Telescope

Renaissance Period Scientific Method

There was another dramatic increase in the rate of change during the period historians refer to as The Industrial Revolution. There were lots of discoveries during the Industrial Revolution:

Industrial Revolution Steam Engine

Industrial Revolution Electric Generator

Industrial Revolution Genetics

Industrial Revolution Electric Light

Industrial Revolution Radio Waves

And the rate at which important discoveries were made increased even more in the 20th Century:

20th Century Quantum Theory

20th Century Airplane

20th Century Television

20th Century Computer

20th Century Nuclear Reactor

20th Century DNA

20th Century World Wide Web

So, the next time you’re rushing off to Soarin’ be sure to take a quick look down to see where that big ring of concentric circles is.

Then once you’ve enjoyed your ride stroll back to that concourse and have a closer look at the visual treat the Imagineers put there for you to enjoy!

November 20, 2016

Change has been the name of the game at Walt Disney World

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Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom has seen many changes over the years. The most recent was the placement of a Starbucks on the site of the bakery. [Walt Disney World]


Walt Disney World has been compared to a living, breathing entity, in the sense that it is always growing, always changing.

During a recent visit to the Magic Kingdom, my son Gregg, grandson Ryan and I paid a visit to The Hall of Presidents, where we saw and heard evidence of that metamorphosis.

To begin with, since it first swung open its doors in 1971, The Hall of Presidents has added seven presidents to its collection, with an eighth due to join the crew this January.

During the pre-show, we were reminded that there was no eating, drinking or smoking and that flash photography was not permitted to protect the dignity of the presentation. Then the cast member added that cell phones should be switched off.

It got me to thinking. Who, in 1971, would ever have thought that guests would have the ability to carry portable, lightweight cellular devices with the capability of making phone calls, sending electronic messages or even taking photos?

And who would have thought that just around the corner from The Hall of Presidents that you could take your devices to a designated area where you could plug them in to recharge them?

Yes, a lot has changed in the 45 years since Walt Disney World opened. Here are a few that come to mind:

Perhaps the place that's most representative of change in Walt Disney World is Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom. Although the storefronts look pretty much the same as they did 45 years ago, what's being offered for sale today is vastly different from what was available back in the day.

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Parades along Main Street have become more elaborate over the years. Here, Mickey leads the gang in 1972. [Chuck Schmidt collection]

For instance, the Main Street lineup of shops in 1971 included a Tobacconist, a Card Shop, the Wonderland of Wax Candle Shop, the Greenhouse Flower Shop, the Cup 'n Saucer China Shop and a Camera Center. Most of the stores were sponsored by corporations, such as GAF, Smuckers, Elgin and Hallmark. Over the years, most of those shops along Main Street evolved into Disney merchandise-exclusive outlets, although the opening of the Starbucks in the Main Street Bakery suggests that we might be headed back to the days of corporate sponsorship.

Still-photo cameras and video recorders also are emblematic of the changes that have swept over WDW over the years. Remember the days when you needed to make sure you had enough film in your camera? Or whether you wanted black-and-white or color prints? GAF was the official camera sponsor for WDW back in the 1970s and they offered four pages of photo tips in the park's information guide.

And, if you were like me, remember lugging those gigantic video cassette recorders on your shoulder? Yes, over the years, I did film some very memorable scenes, but with the demise of the VCR player, those cassettes are but a distant memory. And now, all of you memories can be recorded on a single, hand-held device.

Over the years, the proliferation of strollers and wheelchairs in the parks has been astounding. In fact, single and multi-seat strollers, as well as standard and electric wheelchairs became so plentiful, that designated parking areas are now the norm, with Disney cast members assigned to make sure those spots are kept orderly.

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Cinderella Castle has evolved from a beloved icon into a veritable artist's palate, with colorful projections now the nightly norm. [Walt Disney World]

Cinderella Castle, always a beloved, iconic and stately structure, has evolved into a veritable artist's palate over the years, with the transformation never more evident than during the holidays. It's during this time of year in particular when Disney's creativity truly shines as the castle magically transforms into an ice palace, shimmering and glistening during the evening hours. And with the flip of a switch, projections of all shapes, sizes and colors are splashed onto the castle's front, giving guests a truly jaw-dropping experience.

Disney character appearances also have evolved over the years. When the park opened, the characters roamed freely, sidling up to guests almost out of the blue. And they were a pretty diverse cast: Giuseppi Cat, Br'er Bear and Jose Carioca joined the likes of Minnie [dressed in yellow], Mickey, Donald, Pluto and Goofy walking among guests. These days, of course, the characters are kept in a more controlled environment, often indoors at meet-and-greets or at breakfasts/dinners. And the popularity of the Disney princesses has increased the stable of characters exponentially.

The characters have always participated in parades down Main Street, but today's parades are light years ahead of where they were during the park's first few years. Where once there were just marching bands and a few characters dancing their way down the street, there are now elaborate and colorful floats, some with fire-breathing dragons, with scores of heroes, villains, princes and princesses along for the ride.

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Bollards have sprung up throughout the Walt Disney World property following the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Security also has evolved over the years, with the biggest uptick coming after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Prior to 9/11, who among us had ever heard of a bollard. You know, those large poles that are strategically placed in front of entrances to prevent vehicles from going into places where they shouldn't. Post-9/11, they started popping up just about everywhere ... at parks, resorts, shopping areas. We even saw a string of them going from the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon right up to the monorail station at the Ticket and Transportation Center.

And then there are bag checks as you enter the parks. Gone are the days of walking into the parks carrying just about anything, either innocent or untoward. The men and women who sort through your bags are generally pleasant and professional, but the process is time-consuming and the lines are almost as long as they are for an attraction. As an added measure of security, some guests are now pulled over at random to go through an airport-type screening.

As it turns out, what we've mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the way WDW has changed over the years. In no particular order, we noted the emergence of the Disney Vacation Club [now in its 25th year]; the proliferation of on-property resorts; an entire network of bus transportation to and from those resorts to the parks; "special ticketed events" so popular during the holidays; the expansion of the hub area in front of the castle ... the list goes on.

Lastly, we have noticed an increase in the amount of service animals that accompany guests in the parks. They are so popular, that Disney has designated special areas in the parks for the animals to go to relieve themselves.

And we're not just talking dogs, either. Recently, while checking out all the aquatic life in The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion in Epcot, we came upon a group of three women, each with a service animal. There were two dogs ... and a pony. That's right. A pony. The times really are a changin'.

October 31, 2016

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2016

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

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

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

A railroad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 19, 2016

Marty Sklar to be honored by Walt Disney Family Museum

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Marty Sklar accepts a donation, bound for Ryman Arts, from Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet founder Don Morin, left, and Beci Mahnken, president of Mouse Fan Travel. [Courtesy of Don Morin]


If Marty Sklar knew how hectic retirement was going to be, there's a chance - albeit a slim chance - he might have eschewed jetting around the world and willingly signed up with the checkers and rocking chair crowd.

Marty retired in 2009 after more than 50 years with the Walt Disney Company, serving as the Vice Chairman of Walt Disney Imagineering over the last years of his storied career. In addition to being the only person to have been in attendance at the opening of all 12 Disney theme parks worldwide, Marty played significant roles in Disney's participation at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, the development of Walt Disney World in the 1970s and the conceptualization of Epcot in the 1980s.

Since retiring, life seems to have become more hectic over the past few years for Marty. Prior to hanging up his nametag and earning a well-deserved window on Main Street at Disneyland, Marty was approached by then-Disney Parks and Resort chairman Jay Rasulo about becoming "a Disney Imagineering ambassador." The job description: Keep spreading the pixie dust ... and in doing so, help to enlist more gifted and talented people to join Disney's creative wing.

Marty gladly accepted, in large part because he knows all too well that he is THE main conduit to Walt Disney, having worked side-by-wide with him for more than a decade as his go-to wordsmith. Marty wrote many of Walt's messages, publicity and marketing materials, as well as Walt's annual report. He also got an intimate look at Walt Disney, the man ... what drove him, what inspired him and what his hopes and dreams were for the entertainment giant he founded way back in the 1920s.

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Marty Sklar talks to guests at a D23 event. To his right is Disney legend Bob Gurr, while to his left is fellow Legend X. Atencio. [Deb Wills]

Walt Disney is arguably the single most important person in Marty's life, outside of the family he cherishes. So when Marty talks about Walt during his jam-packed presentations around the country, it's from a place that few people have ever been privy to. It's obvious as people listen to Marty speak, they are hanging on every word, eager to soak in all that he has to ell them.

After settling in as Disney Imagineering Ambassador, Marty took his prolific writing skills to a new level: He wrote his well-received memoir, Dream It! Do It! The success of the book and the subsequent - and often strenuous - book signing tour that resulted spawned a follow-up tome, One Little Spark!, which took a deep dive into what it takes to become a member of Walt Disney Imagineering.

On Nov. 1 at Disney's Grand Californian Resort & Spa, Marty Sklar will be the recipient of the Diane Disney Miller Achievement Award at the Walt Disney Family Museum's second-annual fund-raising gala, putting an exclamation point on a stellar career of making magic. Anyone who is anyone in Disney's vast world will be on hand to show their appreciation to a man who so embodies the spirit, the drive and the inspiration of Walt Disney.

"I'm very honored, and, of course, could not say 'no' when Ron Miller called me," Marty said. Songwriting legend Richard Sherman was the first recipient of the prestigious award last year, named for the Walt's oldest daughter, who passed away in 2013.

Like a passenger on a classic Disney roller coaster, Marty Sklar's retirement years have been much like a high-speed thrill ride. Even though he turns 83 in February, he's taken Jay Rasulo's comment about his appointment - "You are the hardest working ambassador in the world!" - to heart and has flown with it. Literally.

His appearances following the release of One Little Spark! last year are a case in point. "The book tour for One Little Spark! has been going crazy," he said earlier this summer. "I'm just back from the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago – there was an audience of 700 for our presentation. I signed 500 books in five hours!

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During his visit to Shanghai Disneyland in July, Marty was interviewed by the Chinese media following the re-release of his book "Dream It! Do It!" in Mandarin. [Cheers Publishing Company]

"Before that, there were 400 people at Fort Worth Museum of Science & History in Texas; 200 at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, and 300 for a UCLA event at the Chuck Jones Cultural Center in Orange County, California."

If you get the idea that Marty Sklar is a bit of a rock star in the Disney firmament, you wouldn't be far from the truth. His presentations and book signings draw enthusiastic audiences of the young and the young at heart, all seeking words of Disney wisdom from a master story teller. His talks are fact-based without getting bogged down in too much detail, and they often are sprinkled with Marty's dry sense of humor.

Although the book signing tour earlier this year might seem hectic to most, it was actually a prelude to a series of mid-summer jaunts that probably would have exhausted an Olympic athlete.

It started in mid-July when Marty flew from Los Angeles to Shanghai, China, for the opening of Shanghai Disneyland. Marty had some misgivings about going since, as he put it, "On the other 11 parks, I was actively involved. On 10 of them [except for Disneyland Day One], I had an active part in creating them. Shanghai is different; I've had nothing to do with it."

Bob Weis, Walt Disney Imagineering's current creative leader, thought otherwise. "On my watch, he won't miss any openings. He's far too modest. His imprint is on Shanghai, as it is on all the other [parks]." So Marty was on hand for the grand opening, and even spent some time promoting his two books for the Chinese media. Dream It! Do It!, in fact, was re-released in Mandarin to coincide with the park's opening.

He returned to Los Angeles, only to turn around and fly up to Seattle a few days later for the annual Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet, "It's the best-run Disney fan event around," he said. "Don Morin [PNWMM's founder] does a great job and the fans come from all over the country. Saturday's program and sale of Disney stuff was a huge hit. There were 500 in attendance, which included 450 fans [the max] and another 50 sponsors.

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The late Diane Disney Miller with songwriter Richard Sherman, the first recipient of the Diane Disney Miller Achievement Award. [The Walt Disney Family Museum]

"On Sunday, Bob Gurr and I did a session together - our usual attempt to be clever and funny and also to convey information about working with Walt."

Marty then flew from Seattle across the world to England to join his family for a special occasion: Grandson Gabriel's graduation from the University of Kent in Canterbury. In doing so, Marty had to pass up on an appearance at a Ryman Arts fund-raiser. Ryman Arts is a cause near and dear to Marty and his wife Leah, both of whom were co-founders of the free arts education program named in honor of legendary Disney artist Herb Ryman.

"The graduation took place in Canterbury Cathedral, which was built in 1100, and was the site of much early conflict between church and state, including the murder of Thomas Becket," Marty said.

During an email exchange after his arrival, Marty noted that the time stamp on the missive "really is 5:45 a.m. I'm getting on a fast train at 8 for Canturbury and Gabriel's graduation."

Following the graduation and spending time with his son Howard and his family, there was another long flight back to Los Angeles and home.

When it was suggested that all of his globe-trotting had earned enough frequent flier miles to qualify for a real-life Mission to Mars, Marty was quick with a quip.

"Actually, I think of my Los Angeles-to-Shanghai, then Los Angeles-to-Seattle-to-London-to Los Angeles madness as Mission to Sklars. That's more than enough for one summer!"

Marty won't have to travel too far from home to receive his award on Nov. 1. And it's only fitting that the ceremonies will be held within the confines of Disneyland, a place that's been a second home to him since 1955.

July 10, 2016

What Do You Do When The Planning Is Done?

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One of the Facebook pages I read on a regular basis is “You May Be a Canadian Disney Addict If . . . “ The page is populated by dedicated Disney fans from across Canada and describes itself as “Where everything Disney meets the Great White North.”

I was fascinated by a post I saw there just a few days ago.

Christine M. from Hamilton, Ontario wrote: “Do you ever feel sad when your trip is all planned and there is nothing left to do but wait? Sometimes I make up imaginary things to keep me busy, like making itineraries I won't actually look at, just to have something vacation related to do. I am at 96 days - ADR's are done and it’s too early for FastPasses. What else can I do to feel the Disney magic while I wait?

I’m sure we’ve all felt Christine’s frustration. While you plan your Disney vacation there are spurts of activity as you hit those important time thresholds; you can make your hotel reservations as much as 499 days in advance, book your dining reservations 180 before your trip and make those FastPass+ bookings at the 60 day mark. (By the way, do you need a handy tool to help you determine those important booking dates? Try the Planning Strategy Calculator. It’s easy and it’s free. Give it a try by clicking the link HERE.)

For many of us, the planning is almost as much fun as the trip! So how do we keep the magic alive during the lulls, between those key dates, those brief flurries of activity? As you read above, Christine makes up imaginary itineraries. They are quite detailed, and even colour-coded. It sounds like she puts a lot of effort into schedules she will never use!

Some of the other readers offered some interesting comments and suggestions.

1. Cheryl S. from Uxbridge, Ontario, Charissa T. from Jordan Station, Ontario, Allainna S. and Tara K. all watch Disney related YouTube videos and vlogs.

2. Jen L. from Georgetown, Ontario makes Mickey ears and door decorations to pass the time.

3. Laura M. from Hamilton, Ontario suggests: “Watch YouTube videos of where you will be staying and rides you like. Read Disney trivia. Watch movies related to particular rides.”

4. Michelle G. keeps checking her airline for cheaper flights, earlier in the day.

5. Jennie B. makes Disney activity books to keep her kids busy on the plane.

6. Tara H. shops for Disney themed outfits. (Tara must be a “Disney-bounder”)

7. Michelle B. reads Disney Food Blogs and plans all of her family’s meals.

8. I chuckled when I read Lisa C.’s comment. She wrote, “Thank God it's not just me!

No Lisa, you can be absolutely certain that it’s not just you! I could visualize my wife Carol and a lot of our “Disney friends” as I read the comments and activities listed above. I think most Disney fans enjoy the planning almost as much as they enjoy the trip itself!

There are plenty of tools to help plan your Disney vacation. The shelves in your local book store probably contain a number of different books dedicated to planning your Disney trip, but it’s also nice to have first-hand tips from other travellers. Don’t forget to check out the AllEars Reader’s Tips Archive; it’s just packed full of good ideas. You can find it by clicking the link HERE. In fact, that’s something you can do between those key booking dates, read some helpful tips from AllEars fans.

Of course, there have to be many other ways to keep your entire family excited and enthused about your upcoming trip. Why don’t you share some of your ideas with us!

How do you keep the Disney magic alive during those planning lulls?

June 20, 2016

Disney fan clubs have captured people's imaginations, and fueled their passion, for years

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The Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet planning committee. That's founder Don Morin, second from the right. [Courtesy of the Northwest Pacific Mouse Meet]

CHUCK SCHMIDT / Still Goofy about Disney
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

During the weekend of May 14-15, 2011, I attended my first Disney fan convention. I walked through the doors of the Contemporary Resort's Convention Center at Walt Disney World at 8 on that Saturday morning and stepped into a different version of Disney's world ... a world populated by people wearing Mickey Mouse ears and Figment T-shirts, Disney-themed leather jackets and multi-colored vests adorned with the faces of Disney characters ... a world where nostalgia and memories were about to be rekindled and celebrated, with the help of many of the people who played such an integral role in generating all those warm memories in the first place.

I was walking into D23's Destination D: Walt Disney World's 40th. Even though I was a first-time fan event attendee, I felt a kinship with all those in attendance and anxiously looked forward to drinking in everything the two-day experience had to offer.

It turned out I was late on this very important date. Even though the first of the speakers and presenters wouldn't take the stage for another hour and a half, the queue stretched farther than the eye could see, from one side of the massive entrance lobby to the other, then around a corner and beyond. I walked to the end of the line, official event lanyard dangling from my neck, and joined the others, who didn't seem to mind the long line at all.

After the doors opened and everyone filed into the massive auditorium, I began to understand what all the excitement was about: What followed was a weekend worthy of an E Ticket park attraction: Exciting, thrilling, fun and entertaining, with memories that will truly last a lifetime.

D23, of course, is the official fan club of The Walt Disney Company. It was formed in 2009 as a way to keep Disney fans "in the middle of the magic." The group has its own website, throws a huge biennial Expo in California and even publishes its own magazine four times a year.

At each D23 Expo, the past, the present and the future all share the spotlight during the always jammed-to-the-rafters event in Anaheim, Calif. Disney Legends reminisce about their glory days, product displays give attendees an idea of what's hot on the market now, while Disney's top executives take the opportunity to introduce new theme park attractions or upcoming blockbuster movies to appreciative audiences.

In addition to its Expo, D23 offers a variety of events around the country for its members, including behind-the-scenes tours and exclusive movie screenings. On Nov. 19-20, they'll be hosting a major event at Walt Disney World. It's called Destination D: Amazing Adventures, to be held in the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World. Presenters and panelists will include Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Tony Baxter; Walt Disney Imagineers Joe Rohde, Chris Merritt, Jason Grandt and Wyatt Winter; producer Don Hahn (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast); and Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline. A selection of exclusive Imagineering merchandise as well as limited-edition pins, T-shirts and collectibles themed to the event will be available for purchase by eager fans.

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Disney Legend Marty Sklar signs a copy of his first book, "Dream It! Do It!", during an appearance at a Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet. [Courtesy of the Northwest Pacific Mouse Meet]

But D23 is far from the only Disney fan club out there. Regular gatherings, whether they are once a year, every other year or every few months, are the hallmarks of these groups ... as is their affection for all things Disney. They get together to share that mutual love, reveling in the past while keeping a watchful eye on what's planned for the future.

One of the most popular fan gatherings, the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet, is held in Lynnwood, Wash., outside of Seattle, each year [it'll run from July 9-10]. Guest speakers this year include Disney Legends Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar, as well as Disney artist and historian Stacia Martin. In addition to its main event, the group also hosts smaller 'mini-Meet Ups' throughout the year both locally, in the parks and at other select locations, including at the D23 Expo.

Founded in 2009 by Don Morin, the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet strives to capture the essence of what it means to be a Disney devotee. Morin is proud to say his Mouse Meet is "by Disney fans, for Disney fans."

Morin's love of Disney began in 1974 when his grammar school class was asked to write a report on a famous person from the 1900s. He chose Walt Disney. The experience "had a profound affect on me, for sure," he said. From that point on, with his Disney switch flipped, "I had a desire to learn who was creating all this magic."

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Stacia Martin, an artist and Disney historian, will be featured during this year's Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet. [Courtesy of the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet]

The Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet grew out of that quest to take a deep dive into Disney history and culture. Morin says he devotes hundreds of hours into giving guests as rewarding an experience as possible; he has many hard-working volunteers helping him to achieve that goal. The work includes "prep on so many levels. Contacting vendors and guest celebrity speakers; working with the convention center and the volunteer team; updating the website; planning, building displays and securing photo ops; writing, producing and recording videos, scripts, travel, set-up and so much more. It's definitely a love and a passion for what I do for Disney fans."

This year's event is already sold out, with a crowd of about 500 fellow Disney fanatics expected to be on hand for presentations, product displays, memorabilia sales and, as an added treat, Dole Whips.

Marty Sklar, the former creative leader of Walt Disney Imagineering, has high praise for the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet and Don Morin.

"It's the second time for me, and I know it is for Bob [Gurr]. Don Morin runs such a great show and is a grand host. He's had Tony Baxter, Don Hahn, Kevin Rafferty and many other Disney and Pixar people participate in the past."

Getting Disney's blessing is a major coup for Morin. In 2015, D23 participated in the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet by supplying guest speakers. This year, D23 will be a sponsor. [The Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet has a number of sponsors, including AllEars.Net].

"Earning the respect and partnership of so many people over the years has been key to longevity, growth and building of the PNW Mouse Meet brand," Morin said. "From early on, guest celebrities have been so impressed with the event, how it is run, what it represents and what it offers the guests, that these guest celebrities go back home and talk to others about the event and even recommend them being a part of the event in the future.

"One Disney Legend has been noted as stating several times, 'The Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet is by far the best fan run Disney fan event in the country.'"

During the 2013 event, Morin presented a donation to Marty Sklar earmarked for Ryman Arts, a cause near and dear to Marty's heart [he and his wife Leah, as well as Lucille Ryman Carroll, Sharon Disney Lund and Harrison and Anne Shaw Price founded the arts education group in 1990 in honor of Disney Legend Herb Ryman].

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A poster advertises the upcoming Disneyana Fan Club event where proceeds will benefit Ryman Arts. [Courtesy of Disneyana Fan Club]

Another well-known Disney fan group, the Disneyana Fan Club, will be holding a dinner and fundraising event of its own on July 13 in Garden Grove, Calif., with proceeds also going to Ryman Arts. "This event is our 'big' fundraiser for Ryman Arts," said Dennis Ritchey, Ryman Arts Fund Raising Event Coordinator for the Disneyana Fan Club. "This will be our 10th year doing this and currently we are about $4,000 away from having donated $100,000 to Ryman Arts over the past 10 years." The club also holds fundraisers throughout the year for other worthy causes.

The Disneyana Fan Club is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich legacy of Walt Disney. Its common goal is to provide Disneyana enthusiasts of all ages from around the world with news, information and events that enhance their experience with, and love of, all things Disney. The group also publishes a member newsletter, called the Disneyana Dispatch.

The Disneyana Fan Club holds an annual gathering, called DisneyanaMania Convention, July 13-16, while staging other events at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

"In addition to our annual convention in July, we usually have several special events," Ritchey noted. "Last year, we had an event at the Smoke Tree Ranch, and a great afternoon at the Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood, where Lisa Henson accepted our Legends Award posthumously for her father."

Cathy Perrone, a Disneyana Fan Club board member in charge of special events, adds that the group "hosts events that showcase some of the finest talent the Disney brand has to offer. ... A recent outing was a weekend at Walt's 'happy place,' Smoke Tree Ranch in Palm Springs. Our group was able to see Walt and Lillian's two homes, learning why they were so special to them."

Ms. Perrone added that Disneyana Fan Club prides itself "in bringing 'intimate' experiences so our members and their guests are able to speak to, shake hands with and, yes, get autographs and pose for pictures" with some of Disney's most prominent Legends.

"One of our personal favorites was a magnificent luncheon in the Magic Kingdom Ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel. There, we were treated to a rare opportunity with eight of the original Mouseketeers. They surprised us with interviews, live music and dance. To top off that special day, Tommy Cole sang 'Annette,' which was written by Disney Legend Jimmy Dodd."

At its DisneyanaMania Convention, "we have an annual Luncheon with a Disney Legend. This is an opportunity for our organization to honor and salute those individuals who have helped make so many of our dreams come true through their talents, skills and artistry.

"We began this tradition in 1993 and to date have bestowed this honor to 137 individuals," Ms.Perrone added. "While a few have been presented posthumously, I'd say 98 percent of all those honored were able to attend in person and were very moved by this honor. It is a highlight of our club and one that makes it very special."

According to Ritchey, "there are Disneyana Fan Club chapters throughout the country and we have members worldwide."

There are other clubs out there, as well ... smaller, less well-known, perhaps, but drawing devoted Disney fans to the fold. Many are popular online sites, some are tied to the Disney Vacation Club, like Mouseowners. But all have one thing in common: A desire by its participants to spread the word about Disney and share their thoughts, ideas and opinions about their passion.

June 6, 2016

Waxing nostalgic about Disney memorabilia

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The cover of a long-playing Mickey Mouse Club record. The album features 21 hit Mouseketunes. [Chuck Schmidt Collection]

CHUCK SCHMIDT / Still Goofy About Disney
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

What do you think of when you think of Disney?

World-class theme parks, with so many iconic rides and attractions, to be sure. And all those classic animated feature films, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Frozen, and live-action epics like Star Wars and the Marvel franchises ... beloved characters ... a respected cruise line ... a popular time share enterprise ... numerous retail outlets in the theme parks, in malls and online ... a leading television network ...

And let's not forget nostalgia.

"Makin' memories," as they used to say at the Imagination pavilion at Epcot, is a key component to Disney's unparalleled long-term success. A few years back, Disney Parks initiated a year-long campaign called "Let the Memories Begin," because they have long recognized how important memorable experiences are to the fabric of most families.

As a natural extension, memorabilia and collectibles are an integral part of the world of Disney. Just ask anyone who has ever attended a Disneyana or D23 event and you'll get an idea of how great the appeal is for Disney's storied past [more on that in a future blog].

Like most hard-core Disney fans, I love Disney of old. Which goes a long way in explaining why, every time I visit a Disney theme park, I grab several guide maps ... one for use that day in the park, the others to be filed away for future reference. Thankfully, I've done this ever since our first visit to Walt Disney World in 1972. To me, these seemingly innocent maps serve as a window back in time, a glimpse at the way things used to be, a barometer of how things have changed.

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Marty Sklar wrote this in the author's copy of "Walt Disney's Disneyland." [Chuck Schmidt Collection]

Over the years, I've managed to put together a collection of Disney memorabilia that I'm quite proud of. Some of these items I've secured on my own [usually with the help of my wife Janet], others were given to me by family and friends who know of my love of all things Disney.

One of my first "finds" was securing a copy of Walt Disney's Disneyland, a wonderfully detailed book written by none other than my friend Marty Sklar. The books were sold at Disneyland in the late 1960s into the early 1970s as a souvenir of your visit. In truth, the book is a remarkably well-done work, rich in detail about the Happiest Place on Earth.

I found my first copy [Janet and I now have three] of the book at a yard sale in Colts Neck, N.J., in the 1990s.

Years later, in 2011, I had Marty sign the book for me during "a dinner and a conversation" fund-raising event that he headlined in Orlando the night before the D23 event celebrating Walt Disney World's 40th anniversary. It's a cherished keepsake, on many levels.

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The cover of Life Magazine in October, 1971, featuring a "mob-scene" photo of the cast in front of Cinderella Castle. [Chuck Schmidt Collection]

A colleague at the Staten Island Advance, Steve Zaffarano, was cleaning house one day in 2010 when he came across a copy of the iconic Life Magazine edition, dated October 15, 1971, featuring the Walt Disney World cast posed in front of Cinderella Castle.

He brought it to work the next day and asked me if I'd like to have it. A no-brainer, on many levels. A few years after Steve's generous gift, I was fortunate to speak to the man who was chiefly responsible for setting up that classic photo, as well as several other pre-opening magazine features ... Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway.

After making significant contributions to the success of Disneyland, Charlie and his family moved to Florida in 1969 following him being named Walt Disney World's first director of press and publicity.

"The first trip I made when I took the job at the end of 1969 was to go to New York," he told me in 2014. "I went to Time, Life and Look magazines and all the major papers and I also went to Washington to National Geographic.

"The managing editor of Look Magazine (Pat Carbine) said: 'We want to be the first ones with a cover story' [on Walt Disney World]. They wanted to have their reporter come down in April [of 1971; the Magic Kingdom wouldn't open until October], which was way too early. There wasn't that much really finished. But we were able to gerrymander things and produce pictures that looked like it was really done.

"We laid some artificial grass on Town Square so we could shoot City Hall. I think there was a ladder still up on the balcony when we shot it. Look had a very good layout."

As for the Life Magazine cover photo and story: "The idea of going to Life was Sandy Quinn's, who came down in 1967 and was the first Disney guy on the ground ... he became very friendly with a lot of the local news media," Charlie said.

"At the time we were getting ready to plan for the opening, I suggested we do a mob-scene picture and we carried forward from that point. We went to Life with the idea and they liked it and they sent down one of their very best photographers, a guy named Yale Joel. He got up on a stand with an 8x10 view camera to shoot the picture. Of course, that one we shot in front of the castle.

"We assembled as many cast members as we could get there. We actually had 5,000 employees, of which we were able to gather 3,000 at one time for the photo." The magazine is a wonderful keepsake, made even more special after getting input from the man involved in bringing it to Life [pun intended].

Disney memorabilia comes in all shapes and sizes, from Mickey Mouse watches to character figurines to Davy Crockett coonskin caps to vintage stuffed animals ... a.k.a., plush. Vinyl records — you remember them, don't you? — also fall into this nostalgic category.

Our son's mother-in-law, Cindy, came across several Disney recording gems at a flea market a few years ago and gave them to me. All three records — one is a 12-inch long-playing record, the other two are smaller 6- and 7-inch discs — feature the Mickey Mouse Club and The Merry Mouseketeers, as they were sometimes referred to during the show's prime in the 1950s.

One of the smaller records is a Disneyland Record and Book titled "Mickey Mouse, Brave Little Tailor," while the other is titled "Songs from the Mickey Mouse Club" and was part of a series of official Mickey Mouse Club Records.

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"The Mickey Mouse Club March" was featured on this vintage record. [Chuck Schmidt Collection]

The liner notes on the cover of that record are priceless: "Exclusively on these low-priced official Mickey Mouse Club Records are the voices, songs and games from Walt Disney's wonderful daily one-hour TV show. Here are Mickey, Donald and Jiminy Cricket — Jimmie Dodd and The Merry Mouseketeers for your child's enjoyment, participation and education."

The LP — "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club, Mousekedances and Other Mouseketeer Favorites," on Disneyland Records — features a colorful cover, with drawings of Mickey, Donald Duck and Goofy sharing the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse stage with likenesses of club leader Jimmie and Mouseketeers Karen, Cubby, Bobby and, of course, Annette Funicello. The songs on the album run the gamut of what was played during a typical "Mickey Mouse Club" television show, which was broadcast on ABC in glorious black-and-white Monday through Friday in the mid- to late-1950s.

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This letter, from Walt Disney to then-Gov. Goodwin J. Knight, was up for auction several years ago. [Chuck Schmidt Collection]

Several years ago, an auction house sent me photos of several Disney-related items that they were about to put up for bidding. One of the items was a letter from Walt Disney to California Gov. Goodwin J. Knight, sent in December of 1958. It's fascinating, on many levels.

The point of the letter, on official Disneyland stationary no less, was to alert Gov. Knight that he was receiving his Disneyland Gold Pass for the 1959 season. In reading the letter, it's obvious that Walt is quite proud of the fact that many new attractions would be opening at Disneyland during the year, including the Matterhorn bobsleds, a monorail system and a submarine voyage.

If need be, according to the letter, Gov. Knight could contact Walt's secretary, Tommy Walker, by calling her at VIctoria 9-3411. If you manage to get your hands on a time-traveling device, make sure to give Walt a call when you go back to the 1950s. Gov. Knight was among the many honored guests on hand during Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1955.

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A newspaper article, circa 1939-1940, and in French, dealing with Walt Disney's new film, "Fantasia." [Chuck Schmidt Collection]


Mike Virgintino, my Friendly Freedomland pal, occasionally stumbles on Disney-related gems and he generously sends them to me to add to my collection. "I know they'll get a good home with you," he says.

One such item is quite interesting. It's a newspaper clipping, circa 1939-1940, of a story on Disney's upcoming new film, Fantasia. The article features a photo of one of the film's segments, Beethoven's "The Pastoral Symphony."

The only problem is: The article is in French [any French students out there?].

The clipping adds to my Fantasia collection: I have [on loan from my mother] an original program movie-goers received when they saw the movie during its long-running engagement at the Broadway Theatre in Manhattan. The booklet features a wealth of information about the ground-breaking cinematic achievement, including portraits of Walt Disney, Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor and the making of the classic.

There's also one critic's succinct take on the movie: "Fantasia will Amasia." ... as will most items from the Disney vault.

May 29, 2016

Disney’s Halloween Golf Cart Parade

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One of the highlights of the Halloween celebration at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is the amazing golf cart parade.

Imagine a slow moving procession of golf carts festooned with bunting, streamers, signs, banners, cobwebs, ghosts, skeletons, lights and all sorts of seasonal décor.

Last year there were about 140 carts in the parade which stepped off at 5:00 p.m. on Halloween day. Some of those carts were absolutely astounding. Many Disney campers display unbelievable creativity!

Woody and Jessie led the parade in 2014!

Woody and Jessie

Disney bus

No . . . that's not a Disney bus, it's a golf cart!

Fort Wilderness cabin

No . . . that's not a Fort Wilderness cabin, it's a golf cart!

Hitchhiking ghost

Is that a hitchhiking ghost driving a spooky golf cart?

Many carts are Disney themed!

Stitch

Frozen

Toy Story

Tow Mater

Haunted Mansion

Evil Queen

Some have non-Disney characters.

Hulk, Wonder Woman and Superman

Minions

WDW_October_2010_694.jpg

Some are just cute!

Dunkin Donuts

Happy Halloweiner

Seven Dwarfs

Green Bay Packers fan

It takes imagination, ingenuity, money and time to convert a golf cart into a space ship or a hearse!

Star Wars ship

Haunted Mansion Hearse

Horse Drawn hearse

Horse Drawn hearse

You might think that all these fabulously decorated golf carts are privately owned by campers who bring them from home. Some of them are . . . but that is not always the case. Many of them, probably the majority of the decorated carts, are rentals! Yes, folks vacationing in Disney cabins, travel trailers and tents really enjoy renting golf carts from Disney and entering them in the parade. They use their wild imaginations together with materials they have brought along with them to convert the rental carts into rolling pieces of art!

It's just astounding what people can do with cardboard, duct tape, PVC pipe and paint!

There are usually a few pirate ships!

Pirate Ship

Pirate Ship

Here are a couple of Kilimanjaro Safari trucks.

Kilimanjaro Safari

Kilimanjaro Safari

These enterprising campers hooked two rented golf carts together to make the Slinky Dog from Toy Story. What a great idea!

Slinky Dog

Disney judges parade entrants and provides prizes for the best decorated ones. What does it take to win the top prize?

The house from Up

The house from Up

The winning cart in 2012 was a replica of Carl and Ellie's house from the movie Up!

Millennium Falcon

The winning cart in 2015 was a replica of Han Solo's Millennium Falcon.

If you want to see plenty more of those fabulous golf carts click on the white arrow below to watch a 22 minute video of the 2015 parade produced by our good friends at MouseSteps.com

If you find yourself at Walt Disney World on October 31st and you're looking for something really different . . . the Halloween Golf Cart Parade might be just what you're looking for. The last few years it has started at 5:00 p.m. but be sure to call the Bike Barn at Fort Wilderness (407-824-2742) to confirm the time.

Maybe Carol and I will see you there!

Note: Parking is very limited at Fort Wilderness. If you plan to come see the golf cart parade you should plan on using Disney transportation. Come by Disney bus, or catch a boat from the Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort or Wilderness Lodge.

May 15, 2016

Disney’s Halloween Pet Parade

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Every year our dogs Blue and Jake look forward to the costumed pet parade held at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground just before Halloween. It’s the high point on their social calendar!

Back in 2012 our boys Zak and Blue took third place honours with their costumes, Zak as the Headless Horseman and Blue as a canine aviator.

2012 Third Place Winners

The last few years the event has been held on October 30th, in the afternoon, and it always takes place in the off-leash dog park beside the 300 loop of campsites.

Dogs from across the continent . . . and the occasional very wary cat . . . put on their finest Halloween costumes and parade past the panel of judges from the nearby Best Friends Kennel. The nice folks at Best Friends provide all the prizes for the contest winners!

There is always a wide diversity of costumes . . .

Some are purchased.

Eeyore

Some are home made.

Home made costume

Some are formal.

Dog in a tuxedo

Some are just way cool!

Cool shades

Many are Disney themed.

Snow White

Dalmatians

Toy Story

There are cute little pets.

A Maltese named Preston

A cute pair of dogs

There are giant beasts who outweigh their humans.

Great Danes

Some costumes are whimsical.

Tooth Fairy

Cowboy dog

A Packers fan

Some costumes are lavish.

Wicked Witch of the Weird

Here's one of those wary cats I mentioned earlier! Is that Cheshire Cat masquerading as White Rabbit?

Wary cat

Once everyone has paraded past the judging area . . .

Contestants on parade

. . . everyone waits, filled with anticipation . . .

Awaiting the results

. . . while the judges tally the scores!

The judges

Then the results are announced!

The winners in 2010 . . . Jack, Sally and Zero.

Jack, Sally and Zero

In 2015 it was a Star Wars family. The two dogs were dressed as R2D2 and C3PO.

Star Wars family

Our puppies have been shut out since that third place finish in 2012, but they're determined to get back into the limelight. They will parade in their brand new costumes in just under six months and they're already getting excited!

If you're looking for a change of pace at Walt Disney World you might want to drop by for the annual Halloween pet parade. Call the Bike Barn at Fort Wilderness (407-824-2742) to confirm the date and time.

If you can't wait until October, click on the white arrow in the image below to enjoy a ten-minute video of the 2015 event provided by our good friends at MouseSteps.com.

Note: Parking is very limited at Fort Wilderness. If you plan to come see the pet parade you should plan on using Disney transportation. Come by Disney bus, or catch a boat from the Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort or Wilderness Lodge.

Blue, Jake, Carol and I will be there to say hello!

May 1, 2016

Background Sounds and Hidden Messages

Gary Cruise banner

Our friends and family know that Carol and I are avid Disney fans and they often ask us for advice before they visit the theme parks. One thing that we always tell them is, “Take time now and then to simply look around . . . examine your surroundings and notice the level of detail the Imagineers build into everything.”

Look at the architecture, look at the building materials, look at the landscaping and see how they have all been used to create a magical Disney experience.

You probably pass on similar advice to your friends . . . but do you ever tell them to stop and listen? Yes, just stop and listen!

There is a lot of detail in the background sounds that envelop you everywhere you go. Sounds that you may not even be aware of!

When you walk from The Hub and head toward Adventureland, listen to the music that you hear. The gardens are filled with speakers, and while the beat and tempo remains the same, the style of music and even the instruments being played subtly morphs into something completely different as you move from one land to another. Every area in the parks has a unique “loop” of background music and the transition from one to the other is so subtle that you really have to focus on it to notice it at all!

If you keep your ears open, every once in a while you will come upon some quite unexpected sounds. There are some hidden treasures, of an audio nature, tucked here and there around the parks!

Try to find a few of these the next time you’re at Walt Disney World:

• In Town Square at the Magic Kingdom look for the hat shop, Le Chapeau, and find the antique phone on the wall. Pick up the receiver and listen. Children, if you try this you will probably want to ask your parents what a “party line” was. No . . . don’t ask your parents . . . ask your grandparents!

Le Chapeau phone

• As you walk down Main Street USA heading toward Cinderella Castle, take a right turn onto the short lane known as Center Street. Listen carefully and you’ll hear a singing lesson from behind one of the second story windows and the sounds of tap dancing from another window.

Center Street Window

• Take a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (we old codgers know it as the WEDway People Mover) and listen to the sound track – you will hear “Paging Mr. Morrow – Mr Tom Morrow”

There are hidden treasures at Disneyland too:

• On the right side of Main Street, go into the alley half way down the street, opposite the Carnation Café. Just past the flower cart, if you listen carefully, you can hear a dentist speaking with his patient as he drills a tooth.

• At Star Tours, while standing in the queue, you can hear a voice paging “Egroeg Sacul”. That’s George Lucas spelled backwards.

Star Tours sign

• As you walk through New Orleans Square on Royal Street heading toward the train station listen to the sounds from the windows above the rest rooms. Is that a voodoo queen?

• As you stand on the platform at the New Orleans train station you hear the dash-dot-dash of a Morse Code message. If you know your Morse Code you can interpret the opening lines from Walt Disney’s speech on the opening day at Disneyland. “To all who come to this happy place . . . “

• Just above the book of spells at the entry to Snow White’s Scary Adventures is a golden apple. Touch that apple and you will hear the Evil Queen laughing.

Disneyland - Snow White's Apple.jpg

These are just a few of the unique sounds that add to the immersive experience we all enjoy at Disney parks; you probably have some favourites that I haven’t mentioned.

As you rush through the parks, heading from one thrill ride to the next, be sure to pause once in a while to enjoy the subtle magic in the sounds that surround you!

April 17, 2016

A Disney Kitchen

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A few weeks ago we were sitting at our kitchen table when I said to Carol, “We have Disney stuff in every room of the house except the kitchen. Why don’t we have it here too?”

She raised a single eyebrow and gave me that look . . . you know the look that every wife in the world has perfected?
The look that asks the silent question, ‘Are you blind or just plain stupid?’

She pointed in this direction . . .

Kitchen Wall

I got up and took a closer look at the shelf on the wall . . .

Pluto Ornament

Then she pointed down, just a bit lower . . .

I took another close look, this time at the cabinet with the lamp . . .

Fox and Hound and Lady and the Tramp

Next she pointed at the tea cart beside the sliding door . . .

Tea Cart

I found this on the bottom shelf . . .

Disney Basket

Ooops – is it possible I was wrong?

Then Carol stood up and started opening doors and drawers. Not a word was spoken but the message was loud and clear! Our kitchen is full of Disney stuff!

Let’s take a peek at some of it.

Disney Tea Pots and Cups
A Disney Tea Pot, cups, salt and pepper shakers

Disney Trivets
Disney Trivets in a drawer

Cookie Jar and Pepper Mill
A Disney Cookie Jar and Pepper Mill beside the bread box

Disney Coffee Mugs
How could I have forgotten the mugs I drink coffee from every morning?

Disney_towels on the stove
Disney Towels on the stove

Disney Refrigerator Magnets
Disney magnets on the refrigerator

Carol even pulled a few things out and arranged them on our kitchen hutch so I could take a few pictures!

Kitchen Hutch

Disney candles, cutting board and bowl

Disney dishes

So . . . I have to admit it . . . I was wrong! There is a lot of Disney stuff in our kitchen!

How about your kitchen? What Disney stuff do you have tucked away?

March 20, 2016

Disney Fun Around The Country - 2016

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About a year ago I wrote a blog describing several Disney fan events that take place around the country.

Carol and I really enjoy them; it’s an easy way for us to keep the magic alive without making that long trek south!

It’s always fun sharing good times with people who also share our Disney affliction!

Whenever I publish a blog describing one of the Disney collectible or trading events we have enjoyed there is a recurring theme in the comments:

• “I wish I had known about this, I live very close by.”

• “I would love to know when this is next year!”

• “That sounds like so much fun; I’d love to go some time.”

So if you’re looking to spend some happy times with fellow Disney fans, here is an updated version of last year’s blog. It’s a list of a few of those “non-theme park events” coming up in 2016.

These can help you put the maximum “Disney magic” in your life!

1. Trade ‘til You Fade – Apr 29-May 1, 2016 – Somerset New Jersey
This weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders, is a fun-filled experience for those who collect and trade Disney pins and Vinylmations.

CJDPT Logo


CJDPT Meeting Room


CJDPT Name That Toon

There are games, raffles and even an optional gift exchange which can be hilarious! Full details are available on the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders web site HERE.

Read a blog about the 2012 event HERE

2. Southern Ontario “Canadian Disney Addicts”
In June 2015 twenty-four strangers met in a Denny’s restaurant in Whitby Ontario. The only thing we had in common was a love of all things Disney. We spent a wonderful afternoon talking about our happy place, sharing ideas, trading Disney pins and Vinylmations and most importantly, making new friends.

Disney Fans in Whitby Jun 2015


Disney Fans chat about pin trading Jun 2015


Whitby Meet November 2015

You can read about the first event in an AllEars blog HERE.

It was so much fun that we decided to meet every three months. If you live in Southern Ontario please come out and join us at Denny’s Restaurant, 75 Consumers Lane, Whitby from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Upcoming dates are:
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Sunday, Aug 7, 2016
Sunday, Nov 20, 2016

3. Dayton Disneyana – Jun 11 - 12, 2016 – Dayton Ohio
Another wonderful weekend-long event, however this one caters to Disneyana collectors. The Dayton “Plane Crazy” Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club does a terrific job organizing this annual bonanza for Disneyana collectors.

Plane Crazy Logo

A hotel ballroom is chock full of vendors tables overflowing with high quality collectibles. This is not a flea market, these are real collectors selling quality product.

Dayton Collectibles


Lady and the Tramp poster

There are always a few interesting speakers who pass on some fascinating tidbits of Disney history and gossip during afternoon and evening seminars.

Alex Maher and Jim Hill

This year’s event will feature some well known guests:
Margaret Kerry, the original reference model for Tinker Bell
Terri Hardin, a former Disney Imagineer and Puppeteer
Jim Hill, a well known Disney blogger and historian and a very entertaining speaker

A few meeting rooms are set aside so attendees can mix and mingle, there are even some Disney pin and Vinylmation traders.

Busy trading

Full details are available on the Dayton chapter’s web site HERE.

Read about previous events in these AllEars.net blogs:
Dayton Disneyana 2013
Dayton Disneyana 2014
Dayton Disneyana 2015

4. Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet – Jul 9, 2016 – Lynnwood Washington
Carol and I have not attended this annual weekend event held near Seattle, it’s a long way from where we live! But we’ve heard very good reviews from friends who have been there.

Pacific Northwest Logo

There are always some top-notch speakers and interesting activities. Tickets always sell out quickly, so be sure to register early! It's a good idea to book a room at the host hotel for the evening before the event; there are some special activities for those who check-in early!

PNW Speaker Tony Baxter


PNW Photo Spot


PNW Dole Whip

Fellow AllEars blogger Jeanine Yamanaka wrote about the 2014 event, you can read about it HERE.

Arrangements for the 2016 meet are not yet finalized, but you can read more details on their web site HERE:

5. Swap ‘til You Drop – Oct 28-30, 2016 – Somerset New Jersey
Another fun-filled weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. The format for this event is very similar to the Trade ‘til You Fade event held each spring. Refer to their web site HERE:

So . . . if you’re feeling blue because you can’t get to one of the Disney parks . . . why don’t you plan to attend one of these locally organized fan events!

Disney fans always make a fun-loving group; imagine how easy it is to make new friends when you are surrounded by kindred spirits.

Maybe Carol and I will see you there!

February 21, 2016

Windows on Main Street

Gary Cruise banner

Do you ever stop to look at the windows on Main Street USA? Each of those windows pays tribute to someone who has a significant place in Disney history . . . and each window tells a story.

Academy of Fine Art

When Walt first imagined Disneyland he wanted Main Street to resemble the commercial hub in a turn-of-the-20th-century American town. Harper Goff was one of the early Imagineers who played a key role in designing that magnificent park entrance at Disneyland. It reflects Walt’s memories from his younger years in Marceline Missouri and Harper Goff’s recollections from his formative years in Fort Collins Colorado. Walt Disney said, "For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather's youth."

The storefront windows display goods on sale in the shops along Main Street, but if you look at the second story windows you will see some make-believe businesses. Walt decided to use those windows, and those imaginary businesses, to honour the many people who helped him make his Disneyland dream a reality.

When Walt Disney World opened in Florida in 1971, the Magic Kingdom included Main Street USA and more of those special tribute windows. In fact, every Disney park around the world has a Main Street.

Let’s take a look at a few windows:

Ken Anderson

Walt referred to Ken Anderson as his “jack-of-all-trades”. He was an artist and had a background in architecture. Those factors made him an invaluable resource for Walt as Disneyland was being designed and built. The Ken Anderson window, above the Market House in Disneyland, also shows Walt’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. Anderson was an avid fly fisherman . . . and everyone knows that fly fishermen do not need bait!

Roy Disney Family

The Disney family is well represented in this window above Crystal Arts in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It honours Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney, his wife Patty and their children Roy Patrick, Abigail, Susan and Timothy. The entire family were avid sailors!

Card Walker

Look above the Emporium in Florida for Card Walker’s window. He was President, CEO and finally Chairman of Disney before retiring in 1983. The reference to psychiatry and justice of the peace attest to Walker’s skill at keeping the many divisions in a large organization moving in the same direction.

Charlie Ridgeway

Charlie Ridgeway worked in Disney’s Publicity Department from 1963 until 1994. His book, Spinning Disney’s World, details his career and gives some fascinating glimpses behind the scenes. It should be part of every Disney fan’s library. Look for Charlie’s window in Florida, above The Arcade.

Marty Sklar

There’s an interesting story behind Marty Sklar’s window at Disneyland and Marty himself tells the story in the Foreword he wrote for Chuck Snyder’s book “Windows on Main Street”. It seems that Marty was still working, as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador, at Disney in about 2008 when they proposed a window for him at Disneyland; that created a bit of a dilemma!

You see there are very clear rules about the windows at Disneyland, and Marty Sklar was responsible for enforcing them. The rules are: 1) Only retired employees, 2) Only the highest level of service/respect/achievement and 3) Agreement between individual park management and Walt Disney Imagineering. The awarding of windows is a bit less rigid at other parks; Mr. Sklar already had windows at Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom. But when the Disneyland window was offered he was still working and he respectfully declined.

Marty's magic day came July 17, 2009; the day he retired his Disneyland window was dedicated. You can find Marty’s window at Disneyland’s City Hall.

Chuck Snyder book

There are several books about the windows lining Disney’s Main Streets and the one pictured above, written by Chuck Snyder and published by Disney Editions, is part of my Disney library. You can buy the book online through the Amazon links below or pick up a copy in the theme parks.

Ub and Don Iwerks

Ub and Don Iwerks have a Magic Kingdom window, above The Bakery. Ub was with Walt from the beginning and helped create both Mickey Mouse and the multi-plane camera used in those early days of animation. Ub’s son Don was a Disney cinematographer for over 35 years and helped perfect the Circle-Vision camera.

Jim Cora

Jim Cora has two windows, one at Disneyland, above Disney Clothiers, and the window pictured above which is in Disneyland Tokyo. Jim began his Disney career in 1957 as a part-time attraction host at Disneyland and by the time he retired in 2001 he had risen to Chairman at Disneyland International.

Mark and Alice Davis

Marc and Alice Davis are the only husband and wife team to have windows. Look above the Disneyana Shop in Disneyland. Marc was one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” of animation. He joined Disney in 1935 and spent his entire career there. His achievements are too many to review here, but you can see evidence of his talents in The Enchanted Tiki Room, It's A Small World, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Alice is a Disney Legend. During the mad scramble to design and build those four famous exhibits for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, Alice worked with Mary Blair to create more than 150 costumes for "It’s A Small World". She continued designing costumes for audio-animatronic figures, live action movies, even animated characters until her retirement in 1974.

Owen Pope

Owen Pope and his family were the only people to ever live in the Disneyland park. Mr. Pope was a horseman; he bought all the horses for Disneyland, he trained them, built their saddles, he even built the wagons and coaches used in Frontierland. In 1971 Owen Pope and his wife Dolly moved to Walt Disney World where he managed the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Tri-Circle-D Ranch is home to all the Magic Kingdom horses!

Wally Boag

Wally Boag is another Disney Legend and you’ll find his window above the Blue Ribbon Bakery, beside the Carnation Café, at Disneyland. Walt Disney sat in on Mr. Boag’s audition in June of 1955 and offered him a two-week contract to perform as Pecos Bill at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue. The show opened July 17, 1955 and Wally Boag performed there until he moved to Walt Disney World in 1971. He directed and performed in a similar show at the newly built Diamond Horseshoe Revue before returning to Disneyland in 1974. By the time he retired in 1982 Wally Boag had performed close to 40,000 shows in Disney parks!

Those are just a few of the hundreds of windows; this blog has barely scratched the surface. If you want to read more about the amazing people hidden behind those windows on Main Street I recommend that you buy one of the handful of books on the subject!

I wonder if Disney would ever accept nominations for new windows? If they did, I know who I would nominate . . . Oscar Martinez!

Oscar Martinez

Oscar began his Disney career on Dec. 29, 1956 and in 2011 he was honoured as the one and only employee to record 55 years of continuous service in any Disney company. During those 55 years at Disneyland he has trained thousands of cast members and has become a favourite of many guests, including Carol and I. We make sure we stop and visit with him every time we get to Disneyland.

Oscar Martinez

To commemorate Oscar’s 2011 milestone The Walt Disney Company created a special 55-year Snow White-themed service award. It’s unlikely that anyone else will ever achieve this milestone, so Oscar’s award is destined to remain one-of-a-kind!

Oscar's 55 Year Award

What do you think? Doesn’t Oscar Martinez deserve a window? Once he retires that is!

I’ll end this blog by suggesting a new game you can play at any of the Disney parks!

In an article written for the Summer 2005 issue of Disney Magazine Diane Disney Miller quoted her father Walt, “...if people were waiting in line, then you had to create more entertainment to keep them happy.” That explains the wonderful interactive queues we all experience in the theme parks, and it also suggests a second reason for those Main Street windows. They can help keep you entertained while you wait!

So . . . the next time you’re waiting along Main Street for the three o’clock parade take a minute to look around at those windows. Some of the names you may recognize immediately. But - when you see a name that isn’t familiar, pull out your smart phone and search the name on the internet. Involve your family; make it a game to see how many of the people honoured in those windows you can identify!

Learn more about the Main Street Windows:

February 7, 2016

Disney Postage Stamps

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Yes, you read that title correctly; there really are Disney postage stamps! They’ve been around since September 11, 1968 when the US Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the life of Walt Disney.

That stamp featured a portrait of Walt, surrounded by children of the world.

1968 Walt Disney Commemorative Stamp

It was an immediate hit with stamp collectors around the world who scrambled to buy the stamps and some limited edition “First Day Of Issue” envelopes. Philatelists (stamp collectors) refer to these special envelopes as “covers”.

1968 Walt Disney Commemorative Stamp Covers

Over the next twenty years the Disney licensing machine operated in high gear as Disney artists produced custom art work for countries all around the world which were producing Disney postage stamps.

That’s when Carol began her collection, in about 1989. Her first purchase resulted from a magazine ad she saw; it was a packet of 100 stamps from around the world that she purchased from a philatelic distributor in Calgary Alberta.

Since then she has kept her eyes open and her ear to the ground, following for new releases, and she has made some good buys! She is strictly a "topical collector" - she focuses entirely on Disney stamps!

All of the images below come from Carol’s collection. In most cases you can click on the image to see a larger version.

Let's look at some of Carol's Disney stamps from the 1980's, starting with this group from Dominica, a small island-nation in the Lesser Antilles. They featured a Peter Pan theme and were produced for Christmas 1980.

1980 Dominica Peter Pan Christmas
(Did you remember to click on the picture to see a larger version?)

That same year Grenada sold two series of Christmas stamps, one based on Bambi and the other featuring Snow White.

1980 Grenada Christmas

In 1982 the tiny South Asian nation of Bhutan had a special issue of stamps based on Disney's Jungle Book.

1982 Bhutan Jungle Book

There were even stamps to commemorate the 1982 World Cup, played that year in Spain. The soccer themed stamps weren't produced in Spain though, they came from Dominica.

1982 Dominica World Cup

In 1983 Anguilla, a British Territory in the Caribbean, had a series of Christmas stamps showing Disney characters in scenes from Dickens stories.

1983 Anguilla Christmas

A series issued by Antigua and Barbuda celebrated Donald Duck's 50th birthday. Donald and his nephews were shown enjoying a Caribbean cruise vacation for Christmas 1984.

1984 Antigua Cruise Holiday

The theme was "50 Years Of Color Animation" in the series issued by Romania in 1985.

1985 Romania 50 Years of Color animation

In 1988 there was a huge stamp exposition in Chicago. "Ameripex '86" was hailed as The World's Fair of Stamps. The stamps below were produced for that event by Grenada and the Republic of Maldives.

1988 Grenada and Maldives Ameripex

Let's conclude our little postage stamp tour of the 1980's by looking at this cute little Christmas train from 1988. These stamps were produced by St. Vincent, another tiny island-nation in the Lesser Antilles.

1988 St. Vincent Christmas Train

There was a Canadian addition to Carol's collection in 1996. Canada Post and Walt Disney World joined forces to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World by issuing a stamp series featuring Canada's most popular bear. She didn't even have to fly south to get these stamps, she picked them up in our local post office!

1996 Canadian Winnie The Pooh Stamps

Since the new millennium began there have been frequent releases by the US Postal Service, based on "The Art of Disney", and Carol has collected them all.

First came the "Art of Disney Friendship" series in 2004. The four stamps in the series depict some of your favourite characters with their best friends!

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Sheet

Naturally Carol bought the "First Day Of Issue" covers!

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Covers

The series also included a set of four 8" X !0" prints. My princess bought them as well, to complete her set.

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Prints

The theme for 2005 was "Celebration" and Carol was thrilled when this offer from the US Postal Service arrived in the mail!

2005 Celebrate The Art Of Disney Advertising Poster

The Celebration stamps portray Disney characters enjoying festive activities; music, dancing, a birthday and a tea party.

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Sheet

Once again she ordered the First Day Of Issue covers!

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Covers

. . . and the 8" X 10" prints . . .

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Prints

. . . and the postcards . . . you just cannot get too much of a good thing!

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Postcards

Things took a romantic turn in 2006. What could be sweeter than these Disney couples?

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Sheet

As you probably guessed, Carol just had to have the First Day Of Issue covers! They were released at the 2006 EPCOT Flower and Garden Show and each cover shows the corresponding topiary that was on display during the festival.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Covers

. . . and the 8" X 10" prints.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Prints

We attended the Flower and Garden show that year and Carol was lucky enough to pick up one of the special framed cachets. It was a Limited Edition of 185.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Cachet

Magic took center stage in 2007. There were four magical moments from Disney animated feature films depicted on the stamps that year.

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Sheet

Of course she bought the First Day Of Issue covers and the prints . . .

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Covers

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Prints

. . . and the postcards!

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Postcards

In 2007 the stamps shone their spotlight on Disney Imagination.

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Sheet

Carol added a sheet of stamps, the First Day Of Issue covers and the prints to her collection.

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Covers

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Prints

The next issue from USPS was in 2011, the "Send A Hello" series showing characters from five popular Disney/Pixar animated features.

2011 Send A Hello Sheet

Carol bought the standard covers and the First Day Of Issue covers.

2011 Send A Hello Covers

In 2012 they followed with the "Mail A Smile" series, once again depicting five Disney/Pixar films.

2012 Mail A Smile Sheet

Once again Carol bought both sets of covers.

2012 Mail A Smile Covers

Alas, there haven't been any new releases in North America in the past few years, but Carol continues to keep her eyes and ears open looking for new philatelic treasure!

There are some resources available for aspiring Disney philatelists! There is an out-of-print book dedicated to collecting Disney stamps; there are Disney stamp collecting albums and kits; there is even a Facebook page for Disney stamp collectors. A simple Internet search should help you find these resources if you want to read more, or begin your own collection!

January 24, 2016

FastPass+ - Love It or Hate It?

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About a month ago Carol and I joined a group of AllEars.net readers at Tomorrowland Terrace for a “Meet and Greet”. I really enjoy this sort of get-together; any time Disney fans gather there’s always plenty of friendly chatter about our similar experiences and I usually come away having learned something new about my happy place.

December 2015 Meet and Greet

That particular Sunday morning I spent a few minutes chatting with a couple who read my blogs. I mentioned that I’m always on the lookout for new topics; was there anything they’d like me to write about? “Why yes,” they replied, “How do you use the FastPass+ system? We’ve been here for three days and had three FastPasses each day. We have yet to use a single one of them.”

I rolled that thought around in my mind for a second or two then replied, “I’m not really sure I can help with that. Carol and I seldom use all of ours either. We typically book three each day we are at a park, but we often only use one or two of them.”

We spent a few minutes talking about the reasons why we didn’t take advantage of the passes; as you might expect, our reasons were quite similar.

Let’s take a look back at how the new FastPass+ system has changed our park experiences . . .

FastPass vs FastPass+

Remember those old paper FastPasses? They were introduced in 1999 and gave the holder a one hour reserved time slot for a ride. When they returned during that hour they could enter through an “express lane”. FastPasses were only available for the most popular attractions at each park; the majority of rides or attractions did not have a FastPass line. The most avid guests would arrive at the park for “rope-drop” and as soon as the park opened they would hurry to the FastPass Distribution area for their first ride of the day.

Philharmagic FastPass Distribution

The voucher they received stipulated a time when they could pick up a second FastPass for a different attraction.

Hollywood Studios FastPasses

The system worked very well; guests would often pick up a FastPass then ride another non-FastPass attraction while they waited for their appointed time. It was a simple, but effective system that allowed guests who spent a few minutes planning to enjoy more rides in a short time.

Disney FastPass Logo

Then in 2013 Disney began rolling out the next generation . . . FastPass+ . . . at Walt Disney World. It has not been implemented at the other Disney theme parks yet.

Fastpass+ Logo

It was all part of a huge project code-named "Next Generation Experience". The project had a billion dollar budget and included MagicBands, FastPass+, My Disney Experience, and PhotoPass Memory Maker, four technology advances we’ve probably all become familiar with during the past couple of years.

So how does FastPass+ work? Well, it’s quite a bit different! There is now a FastPass+ line at virtually every attraction and the passes can be booked in advance. If you have pre-purchased your park ticket and are staying in a Disney resort you can book FastPass+ (3 per day) up to 60 days in advance using the online “My Disney Experience” system. If you have pre-purchased a park ticket or hold an Annual Pass you can use the same system to reserve FastPass+ (3 per day) up to 30 days in advance. There is even a mobile app available for smart phones and tablets which lets you manage and change your FastPass+ bookings.

My Disney Experience app

Day guests, who purchase tickets the day of their visit can also book FastPass+ but they have to line up at one of the kiosks in the park to select their passes from whatever remains available.

Regardless of when or how you booked your three FastPass+, once they have been used, or expired, you can book additional passes (only one at a time) at an in-park kiosk.

FastPass+ Kiosk Sign

So how has this impacted the guest experience?

There are some positive aspects, and there are also some negative ones; let’s look at a few of the good things first!

Very Convenient, Very Easy:
“My Disney Experience” is a wonderful tool to help with your trip plan. All of your resort details, FastPass+ selections, dining reservations, etc. appear in one location. It’s easy to use and accessible from your desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone.

No need to rush:
You don’t have to be there at rope-drop and scurry back to Pixar Place for that FastPass+ at Toy Story Midway Mania. Carol and I always feel pretty smug as we wander slowly through Hollywood Studios to use the FastPass+ which she booked 60 days prior . . . that’s a very good benefit of the new system.

Fireworks and Parade viewing areas:
Special viewing areas have been set aside for guests who book FastPass+ to watch parades, fireworks and the nightly Capture The Magic show. These areas offer great views and are not nearly as crowded as surrounding areas. Another great advantage!

FastPass+ Logo

Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages as well.

Flexibility is restricted:
The new system forces you to commit to visiting a theme park 30 to 60 days in advance and restricts your ability to be spontaneous. For example, you have pre-booked FastPass+ for Animal Kingdom but when you wake up it’s pouring rain. Before the new system you might have decided to go to EPCOT that day and visit Animal Kingdom later in your vacation. It’s no longer that easy . . . it’s really tough to let those FastPass+ go!

Park-Hopping is difficult:
All three FastPass+ must be booked at the same park. This restricts your ability to hop from one park to another. Yes, once your three passes have been used you can hop to another park and book another FastPass+ at a kiosk, but it’s not nearly as easy as it used to be!

You can’t always get what you want:
The day has finally arrived, it’s 60 days before your vacation and you sit down to make your FastPass+ bookings for Hollywood Studios. Naturally you want Toy Story Midway Mania so you book it first. Then you move on to your second favourite and book the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. For your last selection you would like Rock ‘N Roller Coaster . . . but wait . . . it’s not on the list. Why can’t you see it? It’s not available and you will not be able to book it because the attractions at Hollywood Studios and EPCOT have been “tiered” to ensure fairness. Guests can select one Tier 1 attraction and two Tier 2 attractions. Toy Story Midway Mania and Rock “N Roller Coaster are both Tier 1, so you cannot reserve them both. That’s a big disadvantage! To see more detail about FastPass+ and Tiering read the AllEars page HERE.

Longer standby lines:
Imagine when you couldn’t get Rock ‘N Roller Coaster in that example above that you decided to go anyway and use the standby line. Wow – it was slow! Yes, the FastPass+ system seems to be putting more people than ever before into the FastPass line and this naturally slows down the standby lines. Even attractions that didn’t have FastPass lines in the old days now have long and slow standby lines as people whisk past in the new FastPass+ line. Another reason it’s difficult to be spontaneous!

Long FastPass+ lines:
Yes, the FastPass+ lines are sometimes long, very long. When we visited the parks in late October 2015 the FastPass+ line for Kilimanjaro Safaris was contained by a temporary system of posts and ropes. It stretched from the FastPass+ entrance all the way to the standby entrance. During the same trip the FastPass+ line for Toy Story stretched all the way back to One Man’s Dream.

What about inexperienced visitors? Do cast members explain FastPass+ to day guests? It’s difficult for me to imagine myself as a day guest, visiting Walt Disney World for the first time, but I suspect that if I were that day guest, I would be disappointed by what I found in the parks. Huge lines everywhere I looked and people hustling past, right beside me, in an express lane. I’m not at all sure I’d be back.

So how does the new system work for Carol and I? Well, I’d like to tell you it’s fabulous. I’d like to tell you that it’s the best thing ever . . . but that would be a very big exaggeration. If we were to boil our feelings about the system down to a single word, that word would be “meh”.

We would be quite happy to return to the old system.

Peter Pans Flight FastPass

Carol really enjoys planning our Disney adventures and she takes full advantage of My Disney Experience. It’s a good tool for planning and making reservations, but the new FastPass+ just isn’t a perfect fit for us. We all too often find ourselves a bit frustrated that we have three attractions booked at EPCOT and yet the weather is perfect for a trip to Animal Kingdom. We could not accurately forecast the weather 60 days ago and there’s just no room in the new system for the kind of spontaneity or improvisation we’re used too!

Imagine this scene; Carol is booking our day at Hollywood Studios. She has a 9:30 FastPass+ at Toy Story Midway Mania and a 10:45 pass at Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. She asks my opinion, “For our third FastPass+, would you rather have Disney Junior at 11:40 or the Frozen Sing-Along at 12:15?” My reply is quick, “Neither”! So she leaves it at the two she has already booked and the program automatically assigns us a third pass at Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. We haven’t watched that show since 2002 and I don’t think we’ll use that FastPass+ to see it this time. We very seldom use all three of our FastPass+.

So to that couple who asked how to use FastPass+ all I can say is, "We feel your pain and we share your frustration."

Yes, FastPass+ has some good points, but in our particular case they are slightly outweighed by the bad points.

How about you? Do you love FastPass+ or do you hate it?

January 3, 2016

Disney Soaps and Lotions

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Do you have a shelf that looks like this?

Medicine Cabinet Soaps and Lotions

Is your travel bag filled with these?

Generic soaps and lotions

When you work on a crossword or Sudoku puzzle do you have one of these in your hand?

Disney Pens

If you answered yes to those questions you are in good company. I think almost every Disney fan takes home a pen or two and some of those handy little packages of soap and bottles of shampoo and lotions each time they stay in a Disney resort.

They are so handy to have, just the right size to carry along when you travel and the lotions are perfect for the night table beside your bed at home. Since they all say “Disney” right there on the package they’re collectibles as well!

Every day Mousekeeping drops off a fresh supply in your room and it accumulates much faster than you can possibly use it. The only logical solution is to take it home!

As you might expect, Carol has quite a varied collection. Let’s look at a few items.

These days everything is generic, every resort has the same soaps and shampoos . . . but in days of yore it was different; and Carol has collected the proof!

Grand Floridian soaps and lotions

The Grand Floridian Resort used to have a complete line of specialty products to enhance the experience for guests. That green bottle in the back row is shampoo for the ladies; to its right is a dark bottle – that’s shampoo for the men! The ladies and the gents apparently had to share conditioner; it’s on the far right. The white jar in the front is facial cream and the green tin is a sewing kit. Alas, even the mighty Floridian uses the generic line these days!

Contemporary and Fort Wilderness soaps

Here are a couple of soap bars from that same era, the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Disneyland Hotel soaps and lotions

When we last stayed at the Disneyland Hotel in 2011 they still provided specially branded toiletry products, including a shower cap. That’s something that’s rarely seen these days!

Disney Cruise Line soaps and lotions

The Disney Cruise Line has a line of H2O Spa soaps and lotions; Carol likes the H2O products and always brings home every drop Mousekeeping leaves in the stateroom.

Now let’s look at some of the generic soaps and lotions.

Generic soaps and lotions

This group of products from several years ago included two different styles of bottled body lotion, facial soap that was wrapped and also boxed, and a handy little sewing kit.

Generic soaps and lotions

Here’s another old group of generic soaps.

Generic soaps and lotions

And still more old soaps. The cellophane wrapper lets you see the Mickey embossed on the round bar.

Generic soaps and lotions

It looks like H2O is now the exclusive supplier for Disney resorts; it’s the only brand we’ve seen in the resorts during our recent trips.

Carol has pulled out all those unique "resort-specific" items in her collection and tucked them safely away in her Tickle Trunk. It would be a shame if they were used by accident; they’re irreplaceable!

How about you?

Do you have a collection of old Disney soaps, shampoos, lotions and toiletries?
What’s your favourite?

August 2, 2015

Dayton Disneyana 2015

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It’s a long drive from our home in south-eastern Ontario to Dayton Ohio, 615 miles to be exact! That’s about 10 hours of driving but it was a trip we had been looking forward to for quite some time!

This was our third trek to Dayton for the annual Disneyana Show & Sale hosted by the Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club.

Dayton Disneyana Logo

This year's event was held in a new venue, The Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn, and the organizers had lined up a great list of speakers. For Carol and our son Rob, it’s all about the collectibles and the trading; for me it’s the speakers and seminars!

There’s something for everyone in Dayton!

Friday June 12, 2015
We pulled away from home at precisely 6:00 a.m. and made great time for the first couple of hours; then we hit Toronto at rush hour and slowed down! Once we were through the city, traffic moved steadily again. We crossed the Detroit River on the Ambassador Bridge and pulled up to the U.S. Border in Detroit at noon.

Ambassador Bridge

By 12:45 we had crossed the Ohio State Line; Rob and Carol needed some retail therapy so we made a brief stop at the Disney Store in Toledo. I thought they would be able to waste an hour, but they were back in only 45 minutes, hardly time for me to have a decent nap!

We arrived at the Holiday Inn just after 6:00 p.m. and by 6:30 we were unpacking in our rooms. We had agreed to meet Rob in the lobby at 6:45 to head out find a grocery store and have some fast food for dinner.

Holiday Inn Lobby

Before leaving, Rob urged us to go take a look at the big shark on display outside the ballroom! It was Bruce from Finding Nemo.

Bruce

While we were taking pictures one of the event co-chairs, Anita Schaengold, tapped me on the shoulder and invited the three of us to join them for dinner. It was a special dinner for people who had attended the seminars that afternoon. All the seminar attendees and the speakers were there! The speakers were author Bob Welbaum, Tom Tumbusch, of Tomart Publications, noted Disney historian and journalist Jim Hill and Disney Design Artist Alex Maher. We were quick to accept Anita’s kind invitation, filled our plates at the buffet and took our places at a table with families from Maine and Ohio.

Friday night dinner

We chatted over dinner, then listened as each of the speakers described a magical Disney moment from their past. At the end of the evening there were draws for door prizes.

Drawing for door prizes

Rob won a calendar from Disneyland Paris and Carol won a Pirates of the Caribbean themed Post-It Note holder. There was a prize for almost everyone there . . . I was one of three attendees who struck out. Anita didn’t want anyone to leave empty-handed so she asked Alex if he would do three quick sketches and he immediately agreed.

Alex drawing Goofy

It was the best prize I could ask for, a sketch of my favourite character, Goofy, drawn just for me by a very popular Disney artist!

Alex Maher

After dinner a lady came over and said, "Hi Gary, I'm Terri and this is my husband Dan. We're here because I read your blog after last year's event." Not only were Terri and Dan "first-timers" at Dayton Disneyana, they were volunteers as well. They manned the silent auction table most of the weekend. It was great to meet them; I'm glad they took the time to say hello.

We made our way to the car and tracked down a grocery store. It was the only opportunity we’ll have for Carol to pick up a few products we really enjoy and cannot find in our Canadian stores.

We were back to the hotel by 9:30. I settled in for the night, tired after a long day behind the wheel. Carol went down looking for pin traders but there weren’t many there yet. She made one trade and was back to the room before 11:00. We weren’t long heading to bed - Carol had to be refreshed and recharged when shopping started at 8:00 a.m. the next morning!

Saturday June 13, 2015
Morning came early! Carol and Rob had paid a very small fee to be among the 50 “Early Bird” shoppers. This gave them entry to the sales floor 90 minutes before the doors opened to the general public.

Dayton Disneyana 2015 Sign

An eager shopper

Carol thought that it started at 8:00 so they were both in line at 7:45. Unfortunately, the scheduled start was 8:30! Since the two of them were at the very front of the line, they stayed put and held their lead position.

I went into the room where the vendors were setting up and got some “pre-sale” pictures. Once again there was an amazing variety of merchandise. Naturally there were pins and Vinylmations.

Pins

Vinylmations

Merchandise

There were collector plates, mugs and ornaments.

Collectible treasures

More collectible treasures

There were figurines and dolls.

Theme Park Connection display

There were books and movie posters.

Tomart books

Movie posters

Erin and Robby from Morehouse Collectibles, pictured above, came all the way from Anaheim California! That's about 2,200 miles; I guess that makes our 615 mile drive seem like a walk in the park!

A wide variety of goodies

Vintage games

Wow, look at those vintage Disney games! I knew that Carol would enjoy browsing through all the great old collectibles!

Watches

Kitchen sinks and popcorn buckets

When the doors opened at 8:30 she and Rob were waiting anxiously.

Rob and Carol
Don't they look like hitchhiking ghosts?

They were the first through the door!

Let's get shopping!

A shopping frenzy began!

Carol is an avid collector of Disneyana and son Rob has a smaller collection, but he understands his mother’s taste very well so he acts as her eyes and ears!

Rob shops at Theme Park Connection

He has a knack for spotting things that Carol has missed! He bought a few things for his own collection and spotted several “treasures” for Carol.

A cheerful vendor

The Tuppers are retired teachers and now operate Toyland Treasures, pictured above. They drove in from Maine with a truckload of vintage Disneyana.

A happy shopper

I took a few more pictures of the crowd of early-birds and then headed to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.

After breakfast I returned to the banquet hall and picked up Carol’s first load of treasures which I hauled up to our room.

By the time I joined Carol again at 11:00 she was all finished her Disneyana shopping and proudly showed me the rest of her purchases. Her most prized acquisition was the complete Walt Disney World Christmas Village by Department 56.

Department 56 Disney Village

The set includes five buildings and a group of accessories and figurines. She has admired it at a gift shop in Salisbury Beach Massachusetts but they were asking waaay too much money for it. Today she got a bargain!

She spent the rest of the day in the Pin Trading Room.

Pin Trading

The hotel had a table set up just outside the ballroom where they sold fresh sandwiches. They were tasty and reasonably priced! When lunch time rolled around Carol enjoyed one of those sandwiches at the trading table while she carried on making pin deals.

I spent the afternoon listening to the seminar speakers; they kept me occupied from 1:00 until 4:30. The first speaker was Jim Hill, a well known journalist and Disney Historian who gave us a healthy dose of background on the New Fantasyland. Jim is a very entertaining speaker and always shares some little-known insider information.

Jim Hill

Jim concluded his presentation at about 2:15 and Disney Design Artist Alex Maher joined him on stage. Alex had spent the first part of the afternoon at an easel in the back of the seminar room where he worked on several sketches.

Alex Maher and Jim Hill

As soon as Alex joined Jim onstage they began a very interesting interview. Jim asked Alex about his background and the nature of his work with Disney. The dialogue was captivating; we heard that Alex was a Disney fan from the age of five. Long before he began to work for Disney he was a member of the Disneyana Fan Club. In fact, there was so much interesting information during that fascinating hour that I may have to write a blog about Alex Maher and his career with Disney.

Alex continued to sketch

At the end of their interview Alex returned to his easel and we watched him sketch for another few minutes while he and Jim fielded questions from the audience.

Rob took some time off from pin trading and joined me for the final speaker of the day, Disney Legend Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy for the past 28 years.

Bill Farmer

Being a Disney Legend is a big deal, a really big deal! There aren’t very many Disney employees who have been honoured with this title, and even fewer non-employees. Bill is not a Disney employee; he and all the other voice artists are independent contractors, members of the Screen Actors Guild, who are hired on a job-by-job basis.

Have you ever heard of The Annies? The Annie Awards are the "Oscar equivalent" for the animation industry and Bill has been nominated as Best Actor three times.

Annie Award Winner

This year he won the prestigious Best Actor Award for his work on Goofy's Grandma. He performs the voices for both Goofy and Grandma! Watch the cartoon by clicking the red arrow in the image below!

Bill told us a bit about his background, how he began his long relationship with Disney, some of his fondest memories and some of his biggest blunders! As his tale unfolded he kept us all in stitches by playing short video clips and relating his life story using a variety of characters and voices. He was Goofy, Yosemite Sam, Pluto, Doc, Bullwinkle, James Cagney, Walter Brennan, Walter Cronkite, Richard Nixon . . . and many more characters. It was a wonderful session and everyone was delighted that it ran a bit overtime!

Signing autographs and pictures

When the seminars were over Rob joined me in the hall adjacent to the auditorium and before long Bill was there to sign autographs and pose for pictures. What a treat to shake hands with a real Disney Legend! We even met his wife Jennifer!

Bill Farmer's Autograph

Acting goofy with Bill Farmer

By 5:00 Carol and I were back in the room and relaxed for a short while before heading out for dinner. We had signed up for the group dinner, featuring a terrific guest speaker; it was Bill Farmer one more time! After cocktails and appetizers we enjoyed a very nice buffet dinner, then the voice of Goofy took the stage again for his sequel.

Bill Farmer

Although there was a bit of overlap with his afternoon presentation there was also a great deal of new information and insight. The new material was fascinating and even the few gags which were duplicated were hilariously funny; I laughed just as hard the second time around! It was a wonderfully entertaining evening!

Bill Farmer and Darth Goofy

The conference organizers presented Bill with a token gift, a Darth Goofy developed for the most recent Star Wars Weekend event. Bill had not yet seen one and was delighted with the gift!

After Bill's presentation there were some draws for door prizes; no wins for the Cruise family this time! I would have loved the grand prize, a large sketch of my favourite character, Goofy, drawn that afternoon by Alex Maher and signed by both Alex and Bill Farmer . . . but it went to a very good home!

Elsa

Alex did quite a few sketches during the day, including Elsa pictured above. They were all included in the following day's silent auction with the proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House.

Check to Ronald McDonald House

That part of the night wrapped up at 9:00 and I headed to the room to watch the Stanley Cup Playoff hockey game. Chicago defeated Tampa Bay 2 - 1 to take a 3 - 2 series lead! Hooray!

Carol picked up her pins and Vinylmations and struck out for some more trading.

Busy trading

Busy trading

She was back just before the game ended and we were soon off to bed. Tomorrow would be another long day; Carol would trade all day. Rob planned to spend the morning browsing the merchandise and then join me at noon for another seminar.

We planned to pull out to head home by approximately 1:30 . . . which would get us home sometime between midnight and 1:00 a.m. Ouch!

Sunday June 14, 2015
The Vendor displays in the ballroom opened at 10:00 a.m.

Still plenty of goodies on display

New arrivals were still checking in; many people come for just one day, or even for a few hours. Attendance is very reasonably priced!

Admission prices

The shopping traffic was slower Sunday morning, compared to the big rush when those 50 “early-birds” stormed in on Saturday! While Carol and Rob browsed I took time to chat with a few vendors.

Lady and the Tramp poster

Gary & Gary Collectibles come to Dayton every year. When I heard that they were from Missouri I said, “I know a couple in Blue Hills Missouri who would like that Lady & The Tramp poster.” Gary took it down and held it so I could get a good picture!

Lady and the Tramp salt and pepper shakers

His business partner Gary said, “I bet they’d like these Lady & the Tramp salt and pepper shakers too!”

“Yes. They would!” the Gary behind the camera replied!

Like many of the vendors, they have a wide variety of quality merchandise. Everything is reasonably priced, and it seems that on Sunday the vendors are more flexible in their pricing. They prefer to sell it rather than pack it up and take it home.

Bargains waiting for buyers

Gary & Gary Collectibles will have a big sales booth at the D23 Expo in Anaheim this August! Be sure to look them up!

Carol looks for deals

At noon Rob and I headed off to the auditorium to listen in on one final seminar before beginning the long drive.

Jim Hill

Jim Hill gave us some fascinating background information about Disney’s animated feature Alice In Wonderland which was released in 1951.

Jim took us back to 1934 when Walt first considered the idea of an Alice production, and the various concepts that the project went through over the years. At age 41, Mary Pickford, a co-owner of Disney’s distribution company, United Artists, really wanted to portray Alice in a live-action feature to kick-start her fading career. A screen test was completed in 1934 but middle-aged Pickford didn’t come off too well as a young girl; the project was shelved!

Along came Ginger Rogers in 1944. Another screen test and again, young Alice wasn’t portrayed particularly well by a 33 year-old dancer, but an audio recording of the Alice stories, with Ginger as the voice of Alice, did hit the market and sold well!

Jim described how Disney artists tried very hard to remain true to the original illustrations done by Sir John Tenniel for the first publication of the Alice stories in 1865.

Jim shows the original art

More original art

More original art

More original art

He described how what we now consider to be a Disney classic was panned by critics in 1951 when it was first released; it did very poorly at the box office. Jim told us how Disney worked to hard to reinvigorate the feature and make it the success we know today.

Any true Disney fan will be fascinated by the kind of background Jim Hill and his peers can provide.
I strongly urge you to attend fan gatherings like Dayton Disneyana to hear some of these fascinating stories!

There was one more seminar scheduled for 2:00 p.m. but alas, it was time for us to go!

Tinker Bell by Alex Maher

Alex was still sketching

We said our goodbyes as we watched preparations for the silent auction. We heard later that Alex Maher completed 11 large sketches and ten of them were raffled; the sketch of Goofy had been awarded as a prize Saturday night. Proceeds from the sketches were added to the other silent auction items and a little over $2,100 is now on it's way to Ronald McDonald House. Outstanding!

Chip and Dale by Alex Maher

Our friend and fellow Canadian “Disney nut” Gabe is a huge Chip & Dale fan. He was leaving the same time that we did, but he left instructions with a friend who was bidding on his behalf. Gabe is now the proud owner of the Chip and Dale sketch pictured above!

We were northbound on I-75 just after 1:30 and spent the entire afternoon dodging construction and thunderstorms. Temperatures bounced between 80º and 65° again and again as the storm cells passed.

We left the Interstate in Detroit and crossed the border into Canada at 5:45. There were still occasional showers, but traffic moved well on the Canadian freeway, Highway 401. We made a couple of stops for fuel, coffee and a bite to eat and pulled into our driveway at 11:45, tired after a long, but fun-filled weekend.

The 2015 event in Dayton was bigger and better than ever. Rob, Carol and I accounted for 2 of the more than 50 rooms that attendees occupied at the Holiday Inn that weekend. Over 500 dedicated Disney fans and collectors browsed through the merchandise which 21 vendors had displayed on 78 tables. There was an amazing variety of product to choose from; there were vintage Disney figures from the early 1930's and there were brand new popcorn buckets introduced just a week prior at Disneyland! New and old, large and small; it was a collectors paradise!

The vendors came from coast to coast and everywhere in between. I spoke with vendors who had driven to Ohio with fully loaded trucks and vans from California, Maine, Florida, Colorado, Missouri and Illinois.

Dayton Disneyana is a "must-do" event for Disney fans and collectors!
Why weren't you there?

Carol was thrilled with her 25 pin trades. The treasures she bought are pictured below, Rob's are there too!

Free gifts and draw prizes
These are all free gifts and draw prizes!

Rob's purchases
Rob's purchases.

New Disney Village
Carol's new Disney Village. It'll look great when she gets it accessorized for Christmas!

Carol's purchases
The rest of Carol's purchases.

If you are a Disneyana collector you would really enjoy this event. Even if you’re not a collector, just a Disney fan like me, you would get a lot out of the seminars and the speakers. I just love hearing the “insider information”, the historical background and of course the hints as to what might be coming to Disney next!

Event Co-chairs Pam Phillipe and Anita Schaengold together with their committee have once again done a terrific job! Dayton Disneyana just keeps getting better year after year!

As I said at the beginning of this blog, there’s something in Dayton for everyone!

Next year’s event is scheduled for the weekend of June 10 – 12, 2016 at the Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn.

Go to your calendar, right now, and mark your trip to Dayton on it!

The event web site will give complete details as they become available! Check the web site HERE.

Their Facebook page is HERE.

July 19, 2015

Southern Ontario Disney Fans Invade Whitby!

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June 28th was a cool, damp and dreary day in Southern Ontario.

How could we add a bit of warmth to a foul day in early summer?

Carol and I hopped in the car and drove west for two hours to join a group of Canadian Disney fans who were meeting in Whitby Ontario, a small city in the eastern suburbs of Toronto. The group came from far and wide to share their love of all things Disney!

There were 23 adults and 1 child at the first meeting of its kind in the Toronto area. Carol and I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit for a few hours with a half-dozen dear friends and to meet about 15 strangers who share our Disney affliction! It was a wonderful afternoon!

Disney Fans in Whitby Jun 2015

The true roots of the June 2015 get-together can be traced back over a decade to the very early days of Disney Pin Trading! About a dozen years ago Carol was browsing through a “Pin Trading Thread” on one of the popular Internet sites for Disney fans. She said, “Oh, look – there’s a pin trading meet in Toronto in a few weeks.”

We lived about 40 miles west of Toronto at the time and although pin trading was in its infancy, Carol was already an avid collector. We packed some pins into the car on the appointed day; filled with trepidation. This was our first “Disney event”! It was before MouseFest, before MagicMeets, before Reunion and before Carol had gone to any of the Annual EPCOT Pin Celebrations. We had some serious reservations as we drove eastward toward Toronto . . . Who would we meet? How weird would they be?

We had a terrific day! The event was held in one of the meeting rooms at a North York branch of the Toronto Public Library. The crowd was small, but everyone was friendly and we all shared a common interest, our love of all things Disney. Even though I have no interest in pin trading, there was plenty of chatter about many other aspects of our Disney experiences.

Those trading meets carried on for over a year, and we attended every month or two. The group varied, sometimes including a couple of ladies from Buffalo New York. Those dedicated traders crossed an international border then drove about 110 miles to spend a few hours trading pins! That’s dedication!

Alas, over time the crowd diminished. Soon there was just a small core of regulars, Gabe – the chief organizer, Susan, Allison, Carrie, Bob, Juanita, Carol and I. If you’ve read Carol’s blogs about the annual EPCOT Pin Celebrations, you know this group as “The Canadian Connection”.

2010 EPCOT Trade Celebration

2013 EPCOT Trade Celebration

We decided to eliminate the cost of renting a meeting room and began meeting at one of our homes. The trading meets have carried on for a dozen years now; but very little trading takes place any more. Our get-togethers are all about sharing our most recent Disney experiences, and enjoying the good friendships we have developed in the past decade.

About a year ago Gabe said, “Why don’t we try to reach out to other Disney fans in the area?” Everyone agreed to give it a try, so Gabe got to work! The tough part was finding a place to meet. He wanted something close to the freeway, easily accessible and very economical, preferably free! He made stop after stop before he finally found just what he was looking for! A local Denny’s Restaurant had a big area off to one side of the dining room that they only open during peak periods. We were welcome to use it between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon.

Broadcasting news of the meet was much easier now than it was back in 2002 or 2003 when we first met. Social media makes it easy to reach out to our fellow fans. Gabe posted an announcement about his meet on a Facebook page titled “You May Be A Canadian Disney Addict If . . .” and the chatter began!

On the appointed day our group of “old-timers” who have been meeting for over ten years met at Denny’s for lunch at 12:30 and kept an eye on the door as the fans, most clad in Disney t-shirts, started to arrive! Before we had finished our lunch a half-dozen strangers wearing Disney inspired fashions were standing around our table. It was as though everyone was in uniform; there were Mickey shirts, Goofy shirts, Disney Cruise Line shirts and a variety of Disney purses. It wasn’t hard to pick out the newbies as they arrived!

Disney Fans in Whitby Jun 2015

They came from far and wide, Eva & Tarek from Brampton, Ann & Robert from Markham, Terence & Sarah from Markham, Ann & Don from Courtice, Dean and Charissa from Jordan Station, Cheryl from Uxbridge, Katie from Port Perry and Collette, it was a pleasure to meet all of you!

Carol and I drove the longest distance, about 135 miles, but our dedication pales in comparison to Dean and Charissa who drove about 110 miles from Jordan Station, near Niagara Falls. Our drive was all on the freeway with no big cities; we cruised at 75 miles per hour. Dean and Charissa drove through about 60 miles of congested traffic as they came directly through the heart of Metropolitan Toronto. Believe me, Toronto traffic can be nasty; worse than New York City, worse than Los Angeles! They win the award for determination and grit!

So what happens at a Disney Fan Meet? Well, you never know for sure what to expect, but at this one there was lots of chatter, some pin trading, some Sorcerers of that Magic Kingdom card trading and lots of information sharing!

Disney Fans chat about pin trading Jun 2015

Comments overheard included:

• “We’re thinking about going to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party for the fist time. Is it worth it?”
• “We’ll be going to the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival in October; any tips for us?”
• “I’m just getting started in pin trading. Do you have any advice?”

There were lots of experienced Disney fans and pin traders there to answer all the questions raised. It was fun to simply stand back and watch it all happen!

What a terrific way to keep the “Disney magic” alive between trips to that happy place we all share!

Terence and Sarah were married just a few weeks ago and will be honeymooning aboard the Disney Dream in September. Many of us are veteran Disney cruisers so we had plenty of tips to help them enjoy the cruise.

Some of us scoured nooks, crannies and closets to find some Disney trinkets which we donated as door prizes. There was a prize for everyone, and enough booty left over to cover our next meet in November!

The draw brought out some moments of Disney magic right there in Whitby!

Katie and Cheryl

Katie was thrilled with her snow globe, Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. Cheryl can’t wait to fill up her new Pirates of the Caribbean themed post-it note holder/desk organizer and find a special place for it on her desk at home!

Terence and Sarah

Terence and Sarah were thrilled with the set of Walt Disney World prints that Carol found at the bottom of her Tickle Trunk! Do you see the sparkle in their eyes? That’s Disney magic! They were planning to frame those prints and hang them as soon as they got home!

The crowd had begun to thin as folks left to head home when Carol said, “Are you about ready to go?” I was shocked when I looked at my watch! It was 5:45 . . . where had the last two hours gone! Time really does fly when you’re having fun!

We plan to get together again, at the same Denny’s Restaurant from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday November 22nd. If you live within driving distance of Whitby please come on out and join in the fun!

If our little group is too far away, why not organize your own Disney Fan meet! It’s as easy as finding a place to meet and then publicizing it on one of the many social media sites!

That Facebook page I mentioned earlier is already buzzing with discussion about similar get-togethers in London Ontario and Vancouver British Columbia.

Why don’t you make some Disney magic happen in your home town? Get busy and organize something magical . . . just like Gabe did!

July 5, 2015

Disney Collector Plates

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About a year ago Carol said, “I need more room, build me a plate rail.”

The walls in her Disney Room were filled with Disney art and memorabilia and adding new items was becoming a challenge. Her collector plates were hanging in several clusters on the walls and she desperately needed to free up space for some new treasures!

Knowles Collector Plates

I quickly replied “Your wish is my command fair Princess!”

Actually, there was a bit of procrastination and a lot of nagging involved but eventually I got to work building two plate rails in the Disney Room. There are three overhead bulkheads which enclose the steel I-beams spanning the room. They were just the right height to display plates!

Carol claims that she never really wanted to collect plates; she bought her first few out of desperation. It all started back in the early 1990’s . . . Carol was an avid Disney fan and since she is a natural-born collector she craved Disney items. Alas, flying to Walt Disney World every year or two didn’t give her much opportunity to feed her addiction; she couldn’t bring home anything large or fragile!

There were no Disney Stores in the our area at the time; our Canadian department stores had little or no Disney merchandise and online shopping was still decades away. How could she possibly appease that monster within that drove her to collect?

Then one fateful day a mailer from The Knowles China Company arrived. Yes, Disney Collector Plates, the “Disney Treasured Moments” series.

Knowles Plate

There were eight in the series, from different animated features, and she faithfully bought one each month. She didn’t want to collect plates, but what alternative did she have? As each of them arrived it was lovingly added to her display!

The plates were limited in number; no more than 150 firing days. Each plate was individually numbered and came with a Certificate of Authenticity. Naturally Carol still has the original boxes and those ever-so-important certificates!

That series sold very well for the Knowles Company so naturally they followed it with another series, then another . . .

Carol was actually quite selective, after getting the complete set for that first series she only picked out “special” ones from the many offerings that followed.

In less than a decade Carol’s collection of Disneyana had grown to the point that we decided to move it all into one area of our Burlington Ontario home. Our “Disney Room” was born! Those original Knowles plates found a place of honour, hanging beside Carol’s crafting table in a corner of the Disney Room.

Eight Original Plates

By 2006 we had both retired and moved to our new retirement home in Kingston. It wasn’t long before I was busy finishing the basement, creating a new Disney Room. The eight Knowles plates were once again able to hang near the crafting table.

Eight Original Plates

Of course, since we were retired we started taking more frequent trips to our “Happy Place” and most times we were travelling in the motor home. There was no limit to what she could bring home! Big or small, we could fit it all in!

So it was inevitable that she would fill up the available space! It’s actually surprising that it took eight years to happen!

I started with two plate rails, one 11 feet long, the other 17 feet. She moved the plates from the walls and had plenty of room left over for new additions. The 11 foot rail was only half full! “That’s great,” she said, “That’s all the space I’ll ever need.”

Those two plate rails are shown in the picture below.

Plate Rails

She began looking for a few plates to fill up the empty space. Flea markets, garage sales and thrift stores filled the need!

Dayton Disneyana 2014 Plates

She found plates to match the Christmas tree ornaments she picked up years ago!

Plate Collage

Plates commemorating events she had attended . . .

Plate Collage

Plenty of new plates . . . plates for all occasions . . .

Plate Collage

Then came the dreaded words, “I need another plate rail.”

“Yes my Princess!” Sigh!

As I was listing the materials I needed to buy at the lumber store she added, “Could you make two rails and make one of them wide enough to hold glasses and mugs?”

“Anything for you my Princess!” Sigh!

The finished product looks great though, even the mugs and glasses display quite well.

Mug Collage

Mug Collage

The buying continued; several plates came home from Dayton each time we went to the annual Disneyana sale there. Now she has 11 feet of mug rail – FULL - and 39 feet of plate rail – FULL.

Just a few weeks ago we came back from our third trip to Dayton Disneyana and three more plates came home with us! There's no room on the rail for them!

Dayton Disneyana 2015 Plates

I think I know what’s coming in the near future!

Yes, there is room for another 17 foot rail!

I think it’ll be going up soon!

June 7, 2015

Trip Planning – More Important Than Ever

Gary Cruise banner

Carol and I have been to Walt Disney World so many times that we no longer feel compelled to rush around and try to do it all! We take our time, we savour the experience! Over the years we've picked up some "insider knowledge" from other Disney addicts and we've learned a bit through our own mistakes. Our friends often ask us for advice before they visit our happy place.

What do we tell them? Plan ahead!

Experts in real estate will tell you that the three most important factors in assessing a property are Location, Location, Location. The three most important steps to ensure an enjoyable Disney vacation are Planning, Planning, Planning!

We often sit and chuckle after we check in for dinner at some of the nicer Walt Disney World restaurants. As we wait to be seated there is an endless stream of exasperated guests who hope to find a table service restaurant with available seating at the last minute. Many guests don't understand that the most popular Disney restaurants are fully booked months in advance!

A long time friend of Carol's asked her, "I want to take my niece to Disney and I think we'll go at Christmas. Any suggestions?" Carol was quick to reply, "Don't even think about going at Christmas, it will be too crowded."

Crowded Christmas

"How crowded?" the friend asked? "Imagine the entire population of Toronto trying to fit into your local Legion Hall." They didn't go at Christmas!

There was a wonderful article on planning in the Disney Magazine about a decade ago, in Spring 2004. It was written by Kim Wright Wiley who was a Contributing Editor at Disney Magazine and continues to author many books about Disney vacation planning. The article looks at planning primarily for those who've never been to Walt Disney World, then adds a second section for Disney veterans and a final chapter for Disneyland.

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 30

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 31

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 32

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 33

I've included scans of the 2004 article above and below. Click on the images to see a larger version which is easier to read. There's some very good information there!

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 34

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 35

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 36

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 85

So what has changed in the intervening decade? It has only been 11 years, but technology has changed the booking and reservation process in a very big way. You no longer have to use a telephone; it can all be done on your computer, tablet or smart phone using the My Disney Experience system. You had better study up on a few new concepts such as Disney's Magical Express, MagicBands and FastPass+ which did not exist in 2004 when the article was written!

New Technology

Is planning still important? Yes, it's still important to plan, in fact, it's more vital than ever before.

The parks are busier now than they were just a decade ago. Since that article appeared Disney has opened Saratoga Springs Resort (2004), Animal Kingdom Villas (2007), Bay Lake Tower (2009), Art of Animation Resort (2012), The Villas at Grand Floridian (2013) and the Polynesian Villas (2015). These resorts add up to almost 5,000 new guest rooms and suites. While the hotel capacity grew there were no significant expansions to the theme parks; the result is longer lines and busier parks.

The low seasons are nowhere near as low as they used to be! There could be 10,000 to 20,000 people in those new guest rooms and some of them might be standing in front of you as you wait to ride Peter Pan's Flight or buy a hot dog at Casey's!

Many of the booking "windows" have changed as well. For example, you can now book your Disney hotel room up to 499 days from your departure. Our friend (and AllEars.net Photo Blogger) Scott Thomas has developed a handy tool to help you calculate those oh-so-important dates. You can find Scott's online Planning Strategy Calculator HERE.

Planning Strategy Calculator

Magical Gatherings have changed too. They're now called Disney Group Getaways. If your group will occupy 10 or more rooms in a Disney resort you might qualify for some special treatment! Look for details HERE.

If you're looking for a place to get up-to-date information to help you formulate your plans, look no further than the AllEars.net planning page HERE. It's updated regularly with the latest information available . . . and it's free!

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If you haven't already subscribed to the AllEars.net Weekly Newsletter, you should subscribe now. It is delivered FREE each week to more than 140,000 subscribers who share an interest in all things Disney. The newsletter is a great information source. There's always a feature article and there are often valuable tips from other AllEars.net readers. Subscribe HERE.

There are a number of other resources available to help in your planning. Check your local book store or search on Amazon for planning guides by Disney Vacation experts such as Birnbaum, PassPorter, The Unofficial Guide and many others. Find the Amazon link HERE.

Do I have any planning tips for you?
Nope, I don't . . . Carol does all of the planning for us. BUT I do have a few suggestions for you:
• Don’t plan every minute of every day. Leave some “down-time”, time to kick back and relax or time to do something spontaneous.
• At the end of your vacation think back to the thing you enjoyed most, then go do it again. Savour the experience a second time!
Act silly! Wear a funny hat, dance in the rain, sing as though no one can hear you. That’s what Walt Disney wanted you to do!
• If you’re a frequent Walt Disney World visitor, try to do something new and different each trip. Take an archery lesson, a backstage tour, go fishing or take a romantic moonlit ride in a horse-drawn carriage. There’s an almost endless list of things to do there!

The time you spend planning will ensure that you and your family fully enjoy your Disney vacation; it's an investment that really does pay huge dividends!

May 24, 2015

Disney Craft Projects

Gary Cruise banner

I don't really consider myself to be "crafty" but over the years I have created a few interesting Disney items for our home. I've built several Mickey Lamp Posts; they're about 6' tall. One lights up our patio at home and the others travel in our motor home to add a Disney touch to our campsites wherever we go!

Mickey Lamp Post

The lamps get decorated for special occasions!
Halloween Mickey Lamp Post

Rope lights shaped like Mickey decorate our home for Christmas and Halloween.
Mickey Rope Light

Carol's collection of Antenna Toppers is displayed on wooden racks I have whipped up in my little workshop.
Antenna Topper Racks

Many campers at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground have "Musket Mickey" signs like this one. They are all hand crafted by Warren T. from South Carolina.
Fort Wilderness Sign

Not long ago I was browsing a Facebook page created especially for Canadian Disney fans. The official motto is: A place where everything Disney meets the Great White North.

As I scrolled down through the posts a unique picture caught my eye.
Framed Key To The World Cards

Valerie W. from Belleville Ontario wrote, "So I couldn't figure out what to do with some of the cards I have and decided to make this. When we go again in January I will take the white piece with me and have Characters sign it."

She took the family's Key To The World Cards, attached them to a coloured background, added a white matte and framed them. What a great idea! Character autographs on the matte will be the finishing touch; this piece of home-made art will remind Valerie and her family of their wonderful Disney trip for many years to come.

Valerie's creativity sparked my interest and I began to wonder what other craft ideas were out there. A simple internet search turned up plenty!

Here are samples of just a few.
Halloween Decorations
Disney themed Halloween decorations.

Halloween Stencils
Disney stencils for your Jack-O'Lanterns.

Halloween Treats
Disney Halloween treats.

Instructions for the items in the three images above can be found on the Disney.com site HERE.

Here's a cute Disney Savings Jar from mommity.com. You or your children can use it to save for your next Disney adventure.
Savings Jar
Instructions are HERE.

Have you collected Pressed Pennies from all the Disney Parks? Why not make them into a charm bracelet?
Pressed Penny Bracelet
Find out how at whatido.com HERE.

We all enjoy counting down the days until our next Disney vacation. Here's a project from myfavefinds.com which lets the entire family follow the countdown.
Disney Trip Countdown
See how it's made HERE.

If none of these spark your interest, why not try your own Internet search. Just enter "Disney craft project" in your search engine then scan through the images until you see a project that appeals to you. There are thousands of great ideas out there!

How "Crafty" are you? Have you created any Disney crafts you'd like to share with AllEars.net readers?

March 29, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Postcards

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Look what I found in the Tickle Trunk! Some Disney postcards!

Postcard Scans

Postcard Scans

Gather round children while I tell you a story from olden times!

Back in the mists of ancient history, before the internet, before camera phones, before Twitter and Facebook, people sent postcards! Quaint but true!

Life was hard back in days of yore; vacationers at Walt Disney World who wanted to send home a picture that said, "I'm here and I'm having fun!" had a much more difficult time doing it! They couldn't just snap the picture and upload it!

They had to buy a postcard, buy a stamp, lick and stick the stamp (there were no peel & stick stamps back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), write a message then address the card (with a pen) and drop it in a mailbox. Often times the vacationers were already back home before the postcard arrived.

WDW Post Card Back

Instant messaging with attached pictures was pure science fiction a mere 15 years ago!

Postcard Scans

Photography was a very expensive hobby and good cameras were complicated to operate. Most people who wanted a quality picture of Cinderella Castle found it easier and cheaper to buy a postcard to put in their photo album!

Cinderella Castle

Postcards were big business, they were sold everywhere! Naturally Disney had plenty for sale and over the years some found their way home with Carol and I!

Liberty Belle

1983 Golf Resort
The Golf Resort - 1983

20000 Leagues Submarine

Country Bears

There were cards for every occasion. Each resort, each theme park and even many of the attractions in the parks were depicted in cards.

Contemporary Resort

Big Thunder

1988 Big Bertha

Naturally the Disney characters were included!

Goofy Mickey and Pluto

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Postcards are also a way to add a different perspective to your photo album or scrapbook. If you want an aerial picture, a "bird's-eye view" of the Magic Kingdom or a Disney resort, it's much more economical to buy a postcard than to charter a plane!

Polynesian Resort from the air

There were packets containing a number of themed postcards. When you detached the perforated postcard the stub which remained in the booklet showed a smaller version of the postcard image.

Frontierland Postcard Booklet

Main Street Postcard Booklet

Pirates Postcard Booklet


There is a wonderful series of "Art of Disney" postcards. These are copies of famous Disney works of art, printed on embossed paper.

Mickey and Minnie Fishing

Tinker Bell

They're so pretty you just want to frame them . . . in fact, Carol has framed some!

Framed Postcards

So many of the cards are bright, colorful and frivolous that I'm surprised Carol hasn't collected more of them . . . but she never really caught the deltiology bug! Yes, that's the word coined to describe postcard collecting, if you have more than a few dozen of them you are a deltiologist!

According to Wikipedia, "Worldwide, deltiology is the third largest collecting hobby after stamp collecting and coin/banknote collecting."

That explains a lot . . . these days it is extremely easy to shoot a picture and upload it, so hardly anyone sends postcards any more.

Yet the stores still have racks and racks of them! They must be for the scrapbookers and the deltiologists!

One of those postcard collectors is our very own Deb Wills, AllEars Founder & Webmaster. You can see a few cards from Deb's collection in a 2011 blog. Click HERE.

Celebrating 40

Another avid collector is Brian Martsolf. Brian wrote a very detailed article about Disney postcards for the AllEars.net newsletter about a decade ago. You can read it HERE.

Brian recently told me, "The role of postcards, as Disney World vacation souvenirs, has changed over the years. Digital photography has made quality imagery easy for everyone and as a result the simple, but very professionally taken photo postcards of things around WDW are becoming harder to find. Disney is now focusing more of their postcard production on "specialty" cards of various types. Today postcards come in many forms; there are die cut postcards, cut into the shape of the artwork on the cards, some shaped like Disney characters. There are lenticular postcards with images that change depending on which angle you hold them at, some of these give the illusion of movement, in other examples the effect is used more to give extra depth to the image. There are sticker postcards, and magnet postcards and accordion-style packages of cards."

"The internet is great for collectors of WDW postcards; if you visit EBay, you will probably find any postcard you are looking for, and you can even get some good deals there on occasion. But if you want to get a better price per card check out other postcard sale sites on the web, such as Playle.com, CardCow.com, or one of any number of sites out there. Also don't forget to check out any listings for postcard shows and sales that might come to your area of the country. This is really where you can get the best bargains. A substantial part of the secondary market portion of my collection has come from just a few visits to postcard shows."

I asked Brian to tell me about a few of his favorite postcards from the extensive collection he owns. Brian said, "Getting down to three favorites is hard so instead I'll give my three favorites from just the pre-opening series of WDW postcards." The three cards are pictured below, captioned with Brian's comments about them.

South Pacific Resort
"The un-built version of the Polynesian Village Resort"

Osceola
"The pre-opening art of the side-wheeler "Osceola". It was the inspiration for the Southern Seas, and Ports-O-Call side-wheeler steam ships which sailed Disney waters. I never got the chance to ride them before their retirement"

Preview Center

Preview Center
"The Preview Center promotional postcard (front and back shown above) is one of the rarest of WDW postcards, and is definitely the rarest of the pre-opening cards. A nice tribute was paid to this card during the "Florida Project" pin event in 2011. I bought one of those very cool (and very large) tribute pins!"

Brian has an extensive web site with pictures of his collection and a detailed history of WDW postcards, be sure to take a look at it HERE.

Do you have a collection of Disney postcards?

If you are like most avid Disney fans you are sure to have a few postcards tucked away somewhere!

March 15, 2015

Disney Fun Around the Country

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Several times each year Carol and I attend Disney-related events which do not take place in the theme parks. For us it's an easy way to keep the magic alive without making that long trek south! It's always fun sharing good times with people who also suffer from our Disney affliction!

Over the last few years I have written several blogs describing some of the Disney collectible or trading events we have enjoyed. In almost every case there has been a recurring theme in the comments people make after reading the blogs.

- "I wish I had known about this, I live very close by."

- "I would love to know when this is next year!"

- "That sounds like so much fun; I'd love to go some time."

So if you're looking to spend some happy times with fellow Disney fans, here is a list of a few of those "non-theme park events" coming up in 2015. These can help you put the maximum "Disney magic" in your life!

1. Trade 'til You Fade - May 15-17, 2015 - Somerset New Jersey
This weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders, is a fun-filled experience for those who collect and trade Disney pins and Vinylmations.

CJDPT Logo

CJDPT Meeting Room

CJDPT Name That Toon

There are games, raffles and even an optional gift exchange which can be hilarious! Full details are available on the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders web site here: CJDPT

Read an AllEars.net blog about the 2012 event here: Trade 'til You Fade 2012

2. Dayton Disneyana - June 13 - 14, 2015 - Dayton Ohio
Another weekend long event, however this one caters to Disneyana collectors. The Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club do a wonderful job organizing this annual bonanza for Disneyana collectors.

Plane Crazy Logo

A hotel ballroom is chock-full of vendor's tables overflowing with high quality collectibles. This is not a flea market, these are real Disneyana collectors selling quality product.

Dayton Collectibles

Dayton Collectibles

There are always a few interesting speakers who pass on some interesting tidbits of Disney history and gossip.

Dayton Speakers

Tables line the halls outside the ballroom for pin and Vinylmation traders.

Dayton Pin Trading

Full details are available on the chapter's web site: Dayton Disneyana

Read about previous events in these AllEars.net blogs:
Dayton Disneyana 2013
Dayton Disneyana 2014

3. Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet - July 11, 2015 - Lynnwood Washington
Carol and I have not attended this annual event held near Seattle; it's a long way from where we live! But we have heard very good reviews from friends who have been there.

Pacific Northwest Logo

There are always some top-notch speakers and interesting activities.

PNW Speaker Tony Baxter

PNW Photo Spot

PNW Dole Whip

You can read an AllEars.net blog about the 2014 event here: Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet 2014

The 2015 meet will be held at the Lynnwood Convention center in Lynnwood, Washington on Saturday, July 11, 2015. Speakers have not yet been finalized; keep an eye on their web site to confirm further details: Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet

4. Swap 'til You Drop - October 9-11, 2015 - Somerset New Jersey
Another weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders.

CJDPT Logo

The format for this event is very similar to the Trade 'til You Fade event held each spring.
Refer to their web site here: CJDPT

So . . . if you're feeling blue because you can't get to one of the Disney parks . . . why don't you plan to attend one of these locally organized fan events!

Disney fans always make a fun-loving group; imagine how easy it is to make new friends when you are surrounded by kindred spirits.

Maybe Carol and I will see you there!

March 1, 2015

Hockey "Disney-Style" . . . The Mighty Ducks

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Like most boys growing up in Canada in the 1950's and 60's my world revolved around hockey. There wasn't much else to do in the tiny Ontario fishing village I called home. I played peewee hockey and my entire family followed the exploits of our local men's Intermediate B team, the Port Dover Sailors. The Sailors were a powerhouse in their league and won the provincial championship several times during my youth.

1962 Port Dover Sailors

Of course, the pinnacle of the hockey world was the National Hockey League. There were six teams, the Montréal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. There were only about 130 professional players and every Canadian boy knew each players name, their positions and their stats! The highlight of the hockey year was always the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup is the most prestigious award in hockey. Its rich history goes back to March 17, 1893 when Canada's Governor-General, Lord Stanley of Preston, first awarded it to an amateur team, The Montréal Hockey Club. Another Montréal team, the NHL's Montréal Canadiens has won the cup 24 times, my childhood favourite the Detroit Red Wings have won 11 times and the Toronto Maple Leafs have won 13 times.

If someone had told me years ago that a hockey team from Southern California would someday win the Stanley Cup I wouldn't have believed it. I would probably have said, "A baseball team from Canada will win back to back World Series Championships before a California team wins Lord Stanley's Mug!"

Strange as it may sound, that's exactly how it happened! The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and then won again in 1993. The Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.

Let's take a closer look at the Anaheim Ducks and their Disney connection!

Yes, baseball fans know that the Walt Disney Company owned the Anaheim Angels MLB team from 1996 to 2003, but to a Canadian hockey fan that fact isn't nearly as interesting as the story of the Mighty Ducks!

Before it was a real hockey team, The Mighty Ducks was a peewee team in a Disney movie, set in Minnesota and filmed in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area between January 22 and April 11, 1992.

The Mighty Ducks movie

Emilio Estevez played Gordon Bombay, a lawyer and former hockey player who was convicted of drunk driving and sentenced to community service. That's how Bombay wound up coaching the District 5 peewee hockey team.

The Mighty Ducks poster

The kids never scored and never won . . . the new coach's task looked hopeless!

The Mighty Ducks poster

Of course it was a Disney movie so naturally the kids slowly improved. They renamed themselves "The Mighty Ducks" and the movie ended with a penalty shot goal which clinched their championship win.

The Mighty Ducks bench

It premiered September 20, 1992 in Westwood, California and was panned by critics. Roger Ebert gave it 2 stars and said: "It must be said that this movie is sweet and innocent, and that at a certain level it might appeal to younger kids. I doubt if its ambitions reach much beyond that."

Despite the poor reception from the critics, the movie did very well at the box office. Production costs were $10 million and the movie grossed over $50 million.

There were two sequels.

The Mighty Ducks 2


The Mighty Ducks 3

There was even a televised cartoon series!

The Mighty Ducks cartoon

The biggest thing spawned by the movie was a new National Hockey League team. In December 1992 The Walt Disney Company paid $50 million to acquire one of two new expansion franchises. The Mighty Ducks went to Anaheim and the Florida Panthers went to Miami.

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Logo

Disney quickly pulled together a management and coaching team to guide the fledgling Ducks. They drafted well in the expansion draft held in Quebec City June 4, 1993.

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Logo

The Winter 1993 issue of The Magic Years Magazine gives a bit background for the new team. Click on the magazine pages below to see larger versions of the scanned images.

Magic Years Page 40

Magic Years Page 41

1993 Game Schedule

The Duck's first season opened October 8, 1993 at home, in the newly built arena, aptly named "The Pond". After a 20 minute pre-game show, reported to cost $450,000, the puck was dropped for the first time at The Pond! The Mighty Ducks lost 7 - 2 to the Detroit Red Wings. Just a few days later on October 13th they recorded their first victory, a 4 - 3 win over the Edmonton Oilers. That first year they went on to set a league record - they recorded 33 wins, 46 losses and 5 ties. No expansion team had ever notched 33 wins in their first season, but in 1993/94 both The Mighty Ducks and the Florida Panthers did.

1994 Mighty Ducks Team Photo


The Ducks sold out 27 of 41 home games that year, including each of the last 25 games. They sold 98.9% of The Pond's seats that first season and they could not keep up with the demand for Ducks merchandise. All the Disney Parks and all Disney Stores were displaying Mighty Ducks hats, shirts, toy hockey sticks, pucks and jerseys. Mighty Ducks merchandise outsold any other NHL team in 1993/94.

Ducks jerseys

The Ducks finished 4th in the Pacific Division and did not make the playoffs that first season, but by 1996/97 they had improved. Their 36 - 33 - 13 record put them in the playoffs. They beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4 games to 3 in the first round and then in the second round fell in 4 straight games to the Detroit Red Wings.

Management traded and drafted wisely over the years. The list of Mighty Ducks players and alumni contains some very well known hockey names, Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf along with Hall of Famers Jari Kurri, Adam Oates and Scott Niedermayer are a few that come to mind!

The Ducks made the playoffs again in 1998/99 and 2002/03 before the Disney era ended. In 2005 Disney sold the team to Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli for a reported $75 million.

The word Mighty was dropped from the team name and they became The Anaheim Ducks. They had a 43 - 27 - 12 season in 2005/06 and went all the way to the Stanley Cup semi-final series which they lost to the Edmonton Oilers.

Then in 2006/07 they won it all.

2007 Stanley Cup

2007 Stanley Cup

On June 6, 2007 a 6 - 2 win over the Ottawa Senators sealed the Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup victory.

2007 Stanley Cup winners

2007 Stanley Cup Ring

They won the final series very convincingly, 4 games to 1, and proved that big-league hockey really does belong in Southern California!

When this blog was published The Ducks were in third place in the 30-team National Hockey League. Only four points separated them from the Montréal Canadiens and the first place Nashville Predators. Could another Stanley Cup be in sight?



February 15, 2015

It All Started With . . . Storyboards

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Recently, while I was reading The Revised Vault of Walt written by noted Disney historian (and AllEars.net Feature Writer) Jim Korkis, I ran across an interesting quote. Walt Disney was writing of memories from his school days and commented, "It was always my inclination to think in pictures rather than words." My mind started to play with the concept of thinking in pictures; it was intriguing.

I soon concluded that it was quite natural that Walt began by thinking in pictures when he was working on a project. You see, Walt started out as an animator, an artist. That's probably how he always thought of himself, not as an innovator, not as a businessman, but as a cartoonist.

Walt was involved, in a very hands-on way, in every project undertaken during his lifetime and he always followed the same process; he started with storyboards.

Here's how Disney Archive Director Dave Smith replied to a question about storyboards in the Summer 2001 edition of Disney Magazine.

Disney Magazine Summer 2001

There you have it, confirmed by Disney Historian and Archivist Dave Smith, the storyboard process was first developed at Walt Disney Studios in the early 1930's.

An early Storyboard

When Walt and his animators were working on a project, the first step was to outline the story, the plot. They made sketches of the various scenes in the story and hung them, in order, around the walls. A storyboard began to take shape! Those sketches became the storyboard!

Walt and a Storyboard

Soon each scene would be "fleshed out" - every scene would have a storyboard of its own. Only after the storyboard was complete in every way and the animators all understood the project very clearly, did they begin drawing the artwork which would be used in the animation.

Walt and a Storyboard

Lady and the Tramp Storyboard

Even today, in the age of Computer Generated Animation, the story is fully developed using storyboards before anything goes into production.

Disney Magazine Fall 2002 pg 49

Disney Magazine Fall 2002 pg 51

In the early 1950's Walt Disney began a daring project which changed the entertainment and vacation world forever. He designed and built Disneyland - and he thought in pictures while he did it!

Disneyland Concept Art

Walt and Disneyland Map

Here's how the Imagineers describe it in The Imagineering Guide to the Magic Kingdom:
"Walt was our first Imagineer, but as soon as he began developing the early ideas for Disneyland, he started recruiting others to help him realize his dream. He snapped up several of his most trusted and versatile animators and art directors to apply the skills of filmmaking to the three-dimensional world. They approached this task much the same as they would a film project. They wrote stories, drew storyboards, created inspirational art, assigned the production tasks to the various film-based disciplines, and built the whole thing from scratch. Disneyland is essentially a movie that allows you to walk right in and join in the fun. As Imagineer par excellence John Hench was fond of saying in response to recent trends, "Virtual reality is nothing new... we've been doing that for more than fifty years!"

Walt and Disneyland Model

1953 Disneyland Map

Disneyland Sketch


Disneyland was the first of its kind! It was an overnight success - and now, 60 years later it still sets the standard other theme park operators aspire to achieve.

Of course there are now many more Disney theme parks around the world, and there are even some pretty good imitators! But we all know that Disney parks are special. They are in a class by themselves!

EPCOT Storyboard 1964

If you ask what makes Disney parks different you will get scores of responses like, cleanliness, quality, themeing, attention to detail, consistency, family focus, etc., etc.

I think that the process Disney Imagineers use to design the parks plays a huge role in making their theme parks both unique and superior. I think that the quality, consistency, attention to detail and all those other unique attributes can be tied back to the use of storyboards.

WED Enterprises 1964

First the Imagineers designed the story; then they designed the park!

Let's all close our eyes and imagine we are standing in the background at that first meeting in the early 1950's. Walt called his most imaginative people, his Imagineers, together and outlined his ideas for a place where parents and children could have fun together. Walt had plenty of ideas but the Imagineers soon added their own creative touches and before you could say "Rivers of America" there were sketches on the walls, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland and Adventureland. The storyboard was taking shape!

Another Storyboard

One of the Imagineers, maybe it was Walt, suggested a train station, "Let's have the entry, the main gate, pass through the train station. Guests will not see Main Street until they come out of the station and have left the real world behind."

Disneyland Train Station

Disneyland Entry Sign

Wouldn't it have been fun to be a spectator at that first meeting, over 60 years ago?

Soon the storyboards for each of the original "lands" were created, followed by a sketch for each individual building.

Let's pause and look at how these storyboards helped create the themeing, consistency and quality Disney is famous for. Let's jump ahead in time and look at Liberty Square in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Liberty Square was designed to reflect Colonial America at the time of the Revolutionary War. The construction style displayed in the building façades is exactly what you would have seen in that era - for example, look closely at the shutters on the windows, they have sagged. Iron was hard to find and very expensive in Colonial times so window shutters were supported by leather hinges which stretched over time. A very realistic touch!

Crooked shutters

The subtle music which you hear in the background at Liberty Square is appropriate to the late 1700's and is played using instruments which would have been common at the time. No synthesizers and no electrical amplification were used in the production of that sound track!

The Liberty Bell on display was cast from the same mold used to create the original bell in Philadelphia, and the circle of thirteen flags surrounding the bell represents the original thirteen colonies.

All of these touches were defined in the storyboard.

Part of the Disney storyboard process requires that each building or attraction must also have a "back-story" or history. Every aspect of the interior and exterior of the attraction has to be consistent with this fabricated history. Naturally, in Liberty Square this means it must be true to the Colonial era. A prime example of this is Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe.

Christmas Shop

If you look closely at the exterior of the Christmas Store you can see aspects of the "back-story". It appears to have originally been three separate colonial style buildings or storefronts, a perfume shop, a silversmith and an antique shop. Over the years the original shops changed hands and later housed a music teacher's shop, a wood carver's shop and the third became the home of a German family, the Kepples (named for Walt's grandfather Kepple Disney). Next time you visit Liberty Square take a few minutes to wander through Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. Look for the musical instruments, tools and wooden toys left by those former occupants! All of this richly detailed themeing sprang from the Imagineers and those original storyboards.

Christmas Shop Tools

The same level of detail applies to Main Street USA. The Emporium is one huge store comprising almost the entire two blocks on the west side of the street, yet from the exterior it looks like a number of different storefronts. Have you noticed that the inside of the building changes the same way the outside does?

Here's an experiment you can try. Next time you visit the Magic Kingdom walk along the sidewalk on the west side of Main Street. When you come to a door into The Emporium pause for a moment and look at the exterior façade of the building. Now step inside and examine the décor. See how it matches the storefront? Walk a bit further down the sidewalk and that exterior façade will change. Look in the next door; the décor inside has changed to match the new storefront outside.

Do you realize what just happened as you walked down Main Street? That's right; you just walked through a storyboard.

Let's hop over to another park, Disney's Hollywood Studios, for another example. This one is a little more obvious because the storyboards are still on the walls at this one. I'm talking about "One Man's Dream" which follows the story of Walt's remarkable life.

One Man's Dream

Take your time as you read all the fascinating information the exhibit contains. Those thrill rides will still be there when you finish; there's no need to rush through this gripping story of Walt Disney and his dream!

When you get to the end of the exhibits, before you enter the theatre, pause for a few seconds and look back down the hall . . . yes, it's true - you just walked through another storyboard.

Next time you visit a Disney park, do yourself a favor. Slow down! Take time to look at your surroundings from a different perspective.

When my inner-child looks around at a Disney park he sees mystery, excitement, magic and adventure. When I pause to let my inner-adult have a look, he notices something totally different. My adult eyes take in the many little details which create that immersive experience Disney is famous for.

Let your inner-adult look around now and then, you will see storyboards, and their influence, everywhere you look!

December 25, 2014

Our Disney Christmas Tree

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Carol and I look forward to the Christmas season every year. She likes to decorate for the holidays and I really enjoy the results of her efforts. As you might expect, our love of all things Disney reflects in our Christmas décor!

In our living room we have a very traditional Christmas tree; decorated with lights, coloured balls and festive garland. It stands in front of the window and is visible to all who walk or drive past.

Living Room Tree

But downstairs in our family room, our sanctuary, where Carol and I spend a lot of our time, is our favourite symbol of the Christmas season, our Disney Christmas tree.

The Disney Tree

It is 100% Disney from top to bottom.

Tinker Bell Angel

Every ornament reflects our passion for Disney. Carol has been collecting Disney ornaments for years and years. Some are brand new and others are old and irreplaceable!

Oswald

Thumper and Miss Bunny

It takes Carol a long time to decorate the Disney tree. Most of the ornaments are in their original packaging to protect them from damage, and as she carefully unwraps them the memories from past trips to Walt Disney World come flooding back.

There's a lot of reminiscing as Carol carefully arranges them all. Each memento from those old Disney adventures has to be in just the right spot! Sometimes the result can be startling!

Dopey and Tinker Bell
Is Tinker Bell really longing for one of those free kisses? Would Snow White approve?

There are many different Disney characters on our tree, some of them have been around for decades, others are very recent additions to the Disney family!

Steamboat Willie

Olaf and Elsa

Dozens of classic animated feature films, cartoons and TV Specials are represented.

Jaq and Gus

Bambi and Thumper

101 Dalmatians family

Pinocchio

White Rabbit

Bob Crachett Mickey

Scrooge McDuck

Some ornaments depict Disney's most popular couples enjoying the Christmas season.

Mickey and Minnie

Donald and Daisy

Lady and the Tramp

Mickey and Minnie

Other ornaments are much more whimsical.

Mickey and Pluto

Mickey and Goofy

Gone Fishin' Goofy

Beaker

How cute can the ornaments be?

Santa Mickey

Snowman

Not a Creature was stirring
Yes, the book reads "Not a creature was stirring . . ."

Pluto reindeer

Rocking Horse Mickey

Tour Guide Minnie

Some of the ornaments are animated, some are musical and some are illuminated. It's quite dazzling when it's all done!

Mickeys House
Push a button and the lights on Mickey's house flash in time with the music it plays!

Mickey Mouse Club
The drum flashes with light and keeps time to the music as this ornament plays "M-I-C . . . K-E-Y . . . M-O-U-S-E"

Sorcerer Mickey
Mickey's sorcerer hat lights up on this little beauty!

Mickey and Goofy as astronauts
It must be a Space Walk! Astronaut Mickey is holding Goofy who is dangerously close to the rocket's exhaust nozzle. The exhauts pulses with light as Mickey struggles to save Goofy.

All the shiny balls adorning the tree are shaped like classic Mickey heads!

Disney ball and garland
And if you look closely at that garland you will spot plenty of Hidden Mickeys!

Our Disney Christmas Tree gives us a lot of pleasure every year and we hope that you have enjoyed this little glimpse of it.

Mickey and Pluto at Fireplace

At this jolly time of year Carol and I would like to pass along our Christmas wish for you. No matter what you celebrate during this festive season, we sincerely hope that each and every one of you are able to share joyful times with family, friends and those you love most.

Merry Christmas!

October 26, 2014

Disney Vanity Plates

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About ten years ago I thought it might be a good idea to buy my favorite Disney fan, my wife Carol, a customized license plate for her car. Now, what should the plate say? Yes, of course it had to be Disney . . . but what exactly should it say?

If you are a married man you will understand that this is not the type of decision I am authorized to make. There had to be some consultation! We talked about it and she thought it was a great idea. We tossed around a number of possibilities . . . and finally settled on the one pictured below.

LVDISNEY

It is simple, and conveys our love of all things Disney! Most people are quick to interpret "Love Disney" which is exactly what we intended. A few have guessed "Live Disney" and that's good too, we do a lot of living Disney!

One friend saw the plate and said, "Oh look Carol, two of your favorite places - Las Vegas and Disney!" Yes Lidia, that's a good answer too . . . Las Vegas is our second favorite spot; we were married there!

Since picking up Carol's special plate we have noticed plenty of similar Disney themed tags. Disney characters are well represented with a heavy concentration of "Grumpy" and "Goofy". Often when we attend a Disney fan event I will take my camera and snap a few shots in the parking lot. Some of the ones I've found have been very inventive.

10KRBEL

Terry told us that her family, when they first saw this plate, thought she may have taken up long distance running and was a "10K Rebel" but she assured them it meant "Tinker Bell" Of course, any Disney fan would have known that!

Others use their license tags to describe their favorite ride or attraction.

999HPHNT

There are many ways to say Disney Magic!

DSNEMGC

DZNEMAGK

Here's a proud Disney Vacation Club owner!

DVC MBR

Is this Steve Barrett's plate? I thought he lived in Florida, not Ohio!

HIDN MKY

His and hers plates from Pennsylvania!

MICKEY 9

MINNIE 9

Here's a wistful comment from someone who is longing to be elsewhere!

O2BN WDW

Tinker Bell has bestowed good fortune on this family from the Granite State!

PXIDSTD

How else can you tell people that you "Love Disney"? Here are a few options!

WDW LVR

WDW4ME

WDWFANS

DIZNYFRK

Here's a collage of all those wonderful plates shown above!

Vanity Plate Collage

Aren't they great?

I'll end this blog with a few questions:

1. If you have a Disney vanity plate or have seen a good one, what does it say?

2. If you were going to get a Disney vanity plate, what would it say?

3. Here in Ontario we can use any combination up to eight letters and numbers. If Carol were going to surprise me with a vanity plate for the motor home (hint, hint) what should it say?

October 12, 2014

From The Tickle Trunk - WDW News November 1982

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Let's dip into the Tickle Trunk and have a look at the Walt Disney World News from November 1982. That was an exciting time in Disney history; EPCOT had just opened a month prior.

A few months ago, when we looked at the October 1982 copy, my blog focused primarily on EPCOT; I purposely ignored almost everything else in the news since most was repeated in the November edition.

So let's see what else was going on in Disney history 32 years ago!

November 1982 Front Page
(Click on the picture for a larger view of the image)

The lead article on page 1 still spotlighted all those new sights, attractions and experiences at EPCOT but let's take a closer look at that "Special Entertainment at Magic Kingdom"

November 1982 Magic Kingdom Entertainment

When you click on the image to zoom in for a close-up you only see the text from page 1, so I'll quote the entire article . . . here's what it said!

"MAGIC KINGDOM - Fanciful parades, rollicking revues, and the "oom-pa-pa" of merry bands fill every nook and cranny of the Magic Kingdom. No matter where you are, chances are there's one of a dozen different groups who perform every day just a step away.

On Main Street, U.S.A., where shops, attractions, and restaurants reflect turn-of-the-century, Victorian America, you can hear a barbershop quartet harmonizing "Dai-sy, Dai-sy, give me your answer true!" While further down the avenue a rinky-tink piano player tickles the ivories of a snow-white upright at the Refreshment Corner.

Just beyond the whispering palms, the exotic, mysterious world of Adventure-land beckons. The rousing sound of an authentic steel drum band fills the open-air bazaars and follows explorers as they penetrate the wilderness on the "Jungle Cruise," climb high into the sky on the "Swiss Family Treehouse," and wander Caribbean Plaza.

As guests stroll the pioneer streets of Frontierland toward Liberty Square, they just might catch the banjo-pickin' and fiddlin' of a country group playing up a storm along the Rivers of America.

From Frontierland and the tunes of yesteryear to Tomorrowland's hits of the future, stop by the Tomorrowland Terrace where the rock band Tabasco spices up the menu with the space-age sounds of the Eighties. For something more down to Earth, be sure not to miss the very talented Kids of the Kingdom at the Tomorrowland Stage. In a 30-minute musical salute, they bring each land of the Magic Kingdom to life while letting you know that "Walt Disney World Is Your World." The show also features some of your favorite Disney characters - in some rather "out of character" roles.

Of course, you'll find Disney characters throughout the Magic Kingdom. In front of Cinderella Castle, they'll be singing and dancing their way into your hearts with medleys from the "Best of Disney." At the Fantasy Faire Stage in Fantasyland, Mickey, Goofy, Alice in Wonderland, and more appear several times each day in the music and comedy revues of the "Fantasy Follies."

And the whole gang comes out for the exciting new Character Parade down Main Street, U.S.A. Each afternoon, along with marching bands and merrily whirling floats, Mickey Mouse and a host of Disney characters turn Main Street into the Fourth of July.

Plus, on November 26 and 27, the Magic Kingdom features extended hours along with the return of the sparkling Main Street Electrical Parade (9 and 11 p.m. nightly) and spectacular "Fantasy In The Sky" fireworks (10 p.m. nightly).
The Magic Kingdom is filled to the brim with fun, fantasy, and music. For an up-to-the-minute schedule of what's happening where, check at City Hall in Town Square as you begin your journey through "the happiest place on Earth."

Special Entertainment
November 26 and 27, the Magic Kingdom features extended hours that let you enjoy more of your favorite attractions longer - along with the sparkling Main Street Electrical Parade, 9 and 11 p.m. nightly and spectacular "Fantasy In The Sky" fireworks, 10 p.m. nightly

Special Event
Armed Forces Days
From November 1 through 30, members of the armed forces and their families receive special-value admission to the dazzling new Epcot Center and the warmth and wonder of the Magic Kingdom. With each Epcot Center ticket pur¬chased, a voucher will be issued entitling each person to one day's admission to the Magic Kingdom anytime up to three months after their Epcot Center visit for just $8 per person. And a special Armed Forces Days ticket for just $12 per person entitles you to one day's admission to the Magic Kingdom."

My favourite parade was there - The Main Street Electrical Parade! I don't recall that "spicy" rock band Tabasco, but I do remember the Kids of the Kingdom and their exciting musical revue. I wonder what those talented kids are doing today?

November 1982 Page 2

Page 2 describes a dazzling show at the Top of the World.

November 1982 Top of the World

The picture is captioned "Five exciting entertainers will take you on a musical tour through the show stoppers of "The American Musical Theatre".

I remember this show from a visit in 1983; it was high-energy and very entertaining. This was my very first dinner show at Walt Disney World and I distinctly recall how impressed I was!

November 1982 Page 3
Page 3

Fort Wilderness had a lot to offer in 1982! River Country and Discovery Island were exciting destinations, but this article looked at the many other things to do at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Great Outdoors

Fort Wilderness is still one of Disney's hidden gems; most visitors to Walt Disney World have no idea the campground exists. Many of those who do know of the resort are not aware of all the activities available. There is even more to do now than there was 32 years ago. It really is a wonderful place; come on over and see for yourselves!

November 1982 The Village

The area we know as Downtown Disney (currently transforming into Disney Springs) was still known as "The Village" in 1982. It was a busy spot . . . click on the image to read what was going on!

Gosh . . . a $5.00 beverage minimum, what a quaint concept!

The Village was a very busy area in 1982. Many of the shops and restaurants have changed over the years, but the popular Festival Of The Masters is still presented each year in November. The festival draws hundreds of talented artists from around the world. It's a cornucopia of sights, sounds and flavors!

From the very beginning EPCOT staffed the international pavilions around World Showcase with young people from the various countries represented there. Here's an article describing the benefits of having these young people represent their home countries.

November 1982 International Representatives


Disney talked about "a true family of man" and "a spirit of international fellowship" and their description is as accurate today as it was all those years ago. The young people working in every country around the lagoon are wonderful ambassadors for their nations!

November 1982 Page 4
Page 4

November 1982 Character Breakfasts

There were three different character breakfasts to choose from . . . Wow - only $5.50 for adults.

I really enjoy looking back at these old newsletters; they bring back some very fond memories of happy times. They also give me cause to reflect on how things have changed; look at those prices! A $5.00 beverage minimum and a character breakfast for $5.50. Today a single adult beverage costs more than $5.00 and the character breakfasts at most locations now cost about $30.00 for adults!

Of course, I also reflect on the many things that have not changed. Prices are higher, but the value is unchanged! The wholesome family atmosphere, the quality, the attention to detail, the "magic" which Walt Disney built into everything he did - it's all still there!

September 28, 2014

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

Gary Cruise banner

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and how you can be a Conservation Hero. While I was browsing the Internet, doing research for the blog, I came across an intriguing web page. The headline read "Butterflies by Swamp Buggy at Disney Wilderness Preserve"

Butterfly_Swamp_Buggy_Web_Page

My first thought was, "What better way to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of nature than by chasing butterflies through a wilderness preserve with a swamp buggy?"

My mind drifted back about 15 years to the vacation Carol and I enjoyed at Pelee Island, Canada's southernmost point.

Pelee_Island_map

Every summer Pelee Island is teeming with Giant Swallowtail butterflies and we spent a glorious, sunny summer afternoon snapping pictures of swallowtails. I still have vivid memories of Carol, camera in hand, bounding through farm fields following flitting butterflies. Butterflies can flit faster than Carol can bound so her antics kept me entertained all afternoon!

My second thought was, "Disney Wilderness Preserve? What's that?"

Did you know that there is a big Disney conservation project just minutes from Walt Disney World?

You are not alone . . . neither did I. Not many people are aware of the Disney Wilderness Preserve, just 15 miles from Walt Disney World. It's at 2700 Scrub Jay Trail in Kissimmee.

It's a huge preserve, about 12,000 acres - almost 19 square miles!

The project began in 1992, before the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund was established. The Walt Disney Company heard that an 8,500 acre cattle ranch located at the head of the Greater Everglades Watershed was going to be re-zoned for extensive residential and commercial development. This would have destroyed a huge tract of natural wetlands, as well as habitat for many endangered plants and wildlife.

Disney acted quickly and quietly to preserve this sensitive property. Working with The Nature Conservancy, the State of Florida, and a number of other groups, The Walt Disney Company purchased the property to mitigate its expansion and transferred it to the Conservancy. They were instrumental in the creation of a nature preserve dedicated to wetlands conservation on an unprecedented scale. After the initial purchase The Walt Disney Company provided funds for restoration and wildlife monitoring on the property and they continue to endow a number of on-site projects.

Lake_Russell

How successful has the project been? On their web site, The Nature Conservancy refers to it as "A Model Preserve" and goes on to say, "Land that was heavily logged and ranched for decades has been restored to very near to its original state and once again resembles the descriptions left by the area's first Spanish missionaries."

Sounds good to me - sensitive wetlands preserved as natural animal habitat rather than littered with factories, roads, houses and strip malls. Just another heroic initiative that makes me proud to be a Disney fan!

Palmetto

But let's get back to the swamp buggy and the butterflies. I mentioned the web site to Carol; she immediately said, "We're there in October, let's sign up!" So we did!

This is one of many events which makes up Central Florida NatureFest, an Outdoor and Photography Festival organized each year by the Central Florida Visitor's and Convention Bureau. The cost is a mere $5.00 per person!

Here's how they described it. "Fall is the best time for butterflies in our area when wildflowers are abundant. Disney Wilderness Preserve is a mosaic of habitats such as marshes, lake edges, open meadows, flat woods and roadsides. All of these areas are attractive to butterflies. To be expected here are swallowtails, sulphurs, hairstreaks, crescents, fritillaries, skippers and more.

The Disney Wilderness Preserve is a vast and beautiful natural site and the best way to travel in these parts is by Swamp Buggy. So all aboard the Swamp Buggy and be ready to hang-on while your guides point out butterflies and nature's beauty. This is a spectacular excursion that everyone can enjoy."

Our friend and fellow Fort Wilderness camper Al, from Missouri is joining us. Carol is keen on the butterflies but Al and I are really looking forward to that swamp buggy ride!

I hope to do a blog about the Butterfly/Swamp Buggy adventure so stay tuned! If I can get any good action shots of Carol bounding after butterflies I'll be sure to include them!

In the meantime, here are a few pictures provided by VisitCentralFlorida.org and The Nature Conservancy.

Disney_Wilderness_Preserve

Butterfly_Swamp_Buggy_Tour

Giant_Swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail

Zebra_Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

Can you enjoy the Disney Wilderness Preserve? Yes, you can. The preserve is open daily Sunday-Friday (closed Saturdays and most major holidays) 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. There is no entry fee, but donations are always welcome.

Cypress_at_Lake_Russell

Boardwalk

The 2 1/2 mile hiking loop takes you past the shore of Lake Russell and then offers a closer look at the preserve's natural communities. What will you see? The landscape and foliage includes: cypress swamp, freshwater marsh, scrub, flatwoods and oak hammocks.

Lake_Russell_at_Reedy_Creek
Lake Russell at Reedy Creek

There is a rejuvenated longleaf pine forest with a lush understory of native grasses, saw palmetto and other shrubs. The rejuvenation is the result of "prescribed fire" on the land. They have used "controlled burns" to remove invasive plants that are not native to the area. These fires have resulted in an amazing return to the type of pine forests those first Spanish missionaries saw.

Long_Leaf_Pine_Forest

Pine_flatwoods

Key flowers include the fall-flowering ixia, Catesby's lily and terrestrial orchids.

Rose_rush
Rose Rush

Pickerel_weed
Pickerel Weed

Animal life includes bald eagle, red-cockaded woodpecker, wood stork, sandhill crane, northern harrier and crested caracara. The preserve is also home to the southeastern big-eared bat, Sherman's fox squirrel, eastern indigo snake and gopher tortoise. The Florida panther has even been documented crossing the site!

Sandhill_cranes

Read about the Disney Wilderness Preserve HERE.

Sunset

Next time you visit Walt Disney World, set aside a day for a hike at the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

It looks awesome, I cannot wait to experience it first-hand!



Sincere thanks to VisitCentralFlorida.org and The Nature Conservancy for agreeing to share their photos!

September 14, 2014

Dayton Disneyana 2014

Gary Cruise banner

Last year Carol and I, along with son Rob, made our first trek to Dayton Ohio for the annual Disneyana Show & Sale hosted by the Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club. Everyone enjoyed it so much that we just had to return this year.

There was one issue . . . Rob decided to test the strength of our garage floor a few weeks ago. He dove from the top of a step ladder to the concrete slab 8 feet below. The final score was Concrete Floor 1 - Rob's Shoulder 0.

Friday June 13th
By 5:55 a.m. Rob had found a comfy position in the back seat; his shattered left shoulder, held together by a few steel pins and plates, was supported in a sling and resting on the center armrest. We were a bit apprehensive - would he be comfortable throughout a 10 - 11 hour drive?

We hit the road about 5 minutes ahead of plan and drove through a few heavy showers for the first few hours. Once we passed Toronto skies cleared and we made great time.

Ambassador_Bridge

We crossed the US border at Detroit and pulled off at Monroe Michigan for lunch.

Two_big_boys

Sign_to_Toledo

Entering_Ohio

By 2:00 p.m. we had pulled off in Toledo Ohio where Carol and Rob visited the Disney Store. Traffic was light for the last leg of the trip and we pulled into the Windham Garden Hotel at 5:15. Rob had endured the trip quite well.

We relaxed for a few minutes, then struck out once again; Carol needed some Retail Therapy. The Christmas Tree Shop, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and WalMart followed in short order as I waited in the car with my book!

We had a quick bite for dinner and headed back to the hotel for the night. By 9:00 I had settled in the room to watch the Stanley Cup final game (Los Angeles Kings won the championship in the second overtime period) while Carol and Rob headed to the foyer outside the ballroom to trade Disney pins and Vinylmations.

Carol was back to the room and trying to sleep by 11:00 - the game carried on until 12:30 when I fell into bed exhausted after a long day.

Saturday June 14th
We were up before 7:00 a.m. and enjoyed the hotel's complimentary hot breakfast; we finished just in time for "early entry". Carol and Rob had paid $15 for the privilege of shopping for 90 minutes before the "official opening".

Welcome_sign

Entry_Fees

I was allowed into the vendor area before the doors opened and I enjoyed a few quiet minutes, wandering the aisles and snapping a few pictures. The entire ballroom was filled with tables, racks and shelves! Everywhere I looked it was overflowing with an amazing variety of Disney collectibles. The vendors had merchandise well organized and nicely displayed.

I was excited . . . I could only imagine how Carol would react!

Movie_posters

Mickey_and_a_friend

Framed_art

Mr._Toad

At 8:30 Carol, Rob and the rest of the 50 "Early-birds" charged through the door.

The_shopping_begins

Vendors had donated quite a few draw prizes for the early-birds, some were included in the swag-bag each of them received and some were set aside for a random draw. Early-birds all received a long strip of draw tickets which they could drop in the red Solo Cup in front of each vendor's "special" prize. If you really wanted the prize you could drop multiple tickets to improve your odds. Once all the cups had been located and the tickets were dropped, the early-birds all got busy shopping! Carol and Rob were lucky, Carol won one draw prize and Rob won two in the draw which took place later in the day!

Carol_is_in_her_glory!

See the red Solo cup, in the picture above, beside that collector plate? Rob won the plate!

There was an incredible variety of merchandise! To paraphrase Ariel, "There were gadgets and gizmos a-plenty, there were whozits and whatzits galore. You want thingamabobs? There were twenty!"

Plenty_of_Disney_goodies

Even_more_goodies

There were movie posters, VHS and DVD videos, LP's, CD's and video games.

There were plates and spoons, cups and glasses, clocks and watches.

There were comic books, magazines, coloring books, toys, framed pictures, animation cels, figurines, games and collectibles in varieties too many to mention.

Tabels_and_tables_full_of_collectibles

Disney_watches

As you might expect, there were pins and Vinylmations! Very important to Carol!

A_jumbo_pin

A_pin_board

Racks_of_Disneyana

Tom Tumbusch from Tomart Publications showcased their Disneyana and Pin Trading catalogues and the pin traders were delighted to pore through the surplus pins Tomart have used in the production of their books.

Tom_Tumbusch

Tomart_books

Brian from Theme Park Connections brought a truckload of interesting Disney merchandise from their Orlando store, near the Florida Mall, a 937 mile trip.

Theme_Park_Connection

They were selling some very interesting items, like this piece which holds the chains on the railing for the queue inside the Haunted Mansion. WOW!

From_the_Haunted_Mansion

How about those signs from the Polynesian Resort? They were very popular!

Brian_with_a_Polynesian_sign

Master_Gracey

Carol_with_a_giant_Mickey

I spent some time watching Carol and Rob "work" the banquet hall. They each have different collections and different tastes, but each one understands very clearly what appeals to the other. They work as a team, each one searching for themselves and scouting for the other as they circle the hall again and again!

Working_the_room

Just after noon I dashed out to pick up lunch for the collectors, they were too busy combing through all the treasures to even consider leaving the hotel!

They settled at tables in the hall outside the banquet room and ate lunch, then stayed there for some pin and Vinylmation trading. About once an hour Carol or Rob would take a lap around the vendor's tables . . . as more items were sold the wares were spread out and they could spot treasures they had overlooked earlier!

By the time I returned with lunch the speakers had begun their presentations. The first speaker was Mark Henn, an acclaimed Disney animator. Mark was born in Dayton and in 1980 his dreams came true, be became a Disney animator.

Mark_Henn_biography

I underestimated the popularity of this hometown hero . . . when I returned with lunch the meeting room where he was speaking was jammed to capacity and the door was closed. I missed his presentation - Dang! I did catch up with him later and spent a few minutes chatting. He is a gifted animator, painter and sculptor. Here Mark is pictured with art from some of the Disney projects he has worked on over his 30 year career.

Mark_Henn_with_his_art

Next to speak was Jim Hill, a noted Disney historian.

Jim_Hill

Jim talked about the history of Disney Parks and delighted us with a few little-known facts and with several humorous stories about some unusual attractions that were never produced. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable session.

Maleficent_popcorn_buckets

Carrie_and_Susan_like_what_they_see!

Ghouls

More_treasures

The trading and browsing continued until 5:00 when the vendors closed up shop for the day. We enjoyed a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant and I retired to the room to play on the computer and watch TV while Carol and Rob resumed trading pins and Vinylmations in the foyer.

Pin_trading_bags

Cases_of_Vinylmations_to_trade

Carol was back to the room by 11:00 p.m.

Sunday June 15th
The ballroom didn't open until 10:00 a.m. so we had a leisurely morning, coffee in the room followed by a late breakfast in the restaurant. Carol and Rob made a few more rounds of the ballroom. They like Sunday shopping since the vendors seem to be a bit more flexible with prices. It's so much easier to sell something than it is to pack it up and take it home.

Working_the_room_on_Sunday

Carol_and_Susan_are_happy_Disney_collectors!

A_shelf_full_of_Disneyana

Collector_plates

An_endless_variety_of_collectibles

Another_pin_board

Soon they had set up outside, in the foyer, and did some more pin and Vinylmation trading . . . with occasional laps around the vendors tables. The vendors are all very friendly and easy to deal with - kindred spirits who love Disney just as much as we do!

Gary_Smith_and_Rob

Here Rob chats with Gary Smith from Missouri. He is a partner in Gary & Gary Collectibles.

Pin_traders

A_Lego_Yoda

Figurines

A_Mickey_telephone

Avid_shoppers

Christmas_decor

More_figurines

Although the event carried on until 4:00 p.m. we had to face the long drive home before then. We said our goodbyes and thanked the organizers at noon. The Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club, who host the event annually, deserve a lot of credit for a job well done! They describe this event as "Dayton Disneyana Collectible Expo & Disney Pin and Vinylmation Trading" but it is actually much more than that. It's more like a convention for Disney fans. Everyone who attended seemed to thoroughly enjoy the chance to mix and mingle with so many other people who share our passion for anything related to Disney! Special thanks to Anita Schaengold and Pam Phillippe who co-chaired this year's event committee.

By 12:05 we were northbound on I-75. The trip was uneventful, light traffic and sunny skies. We made very quick stops for lunch and gas and arrived at the Canadian border at 4:15 where Rob met this distinguished gentleman at the Duty Free Store.

Rob_and_the_Ambassador

Traffic was even lighter once we crossed the Ambassador Bridge and hit the Canadian freeway. We stopped at Carol's parents, picked up the dogs and were home at about 10:30 p.m. after a great weekend.

You are probably wondering, "What did they bring home?" Well here's a picture of some of it.

Carol_and_Rob's_purchases

Carol's favourite items? Those three collector plates belong to a set she began collecting in the 1980's. Back in those days she could only afford to buy one a year and they have been long out of production. Now she is only missing two! That coffee mug is a classic - It's Musket Mickey. He's dressed in a coonskin hat and carrying a musket. In these days of political correctness Mickey carries a walking stick, so when you find him with a musket it's definitely a keeper. Rob bought the Christmas Carollers as a birthday gift for Carol. They are standing on top of the red box. Mickey plays the piano and Goofy sings while Donald covers his ears!

Rob's favourite? The bobble-head Goofy in the blue box which he picked up at Gary & Gary Collectibles.

If you are a collector of Disney art or memorabilia, you really should plan a visit to Dayton Disneyana. Next year's event will be held at the Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn I-675, 2800 Presidential Drive, Fairborn, OH June 13 - 14, 2015.

Plane_Crazy_Chapter_logo

Check the Dayton Disneyana web site for more details HERE

Like them on Facebook HERE.

August 3, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News 1990

Gary Cruise banner

The last WDW newsletter we looked at was from October 1982. Now Mr. Peabody has dialed his WABAC Machine forward eight years so we can take a look at the Summer 1990 edition.

1990_Front_Page

There's a new theme park, Disney-MGM Studios . . . and look at all that color on the front page! They are really pushing that 5-Day Plus Super Pass. Of course, with three theme parks you now need 5 days!

Hey, look - the Muppets have arrived! "Here Come the Muppets" was a live show that premiered on May 25, 1990 at Disney-MGM Studios. The pre-show area featured a video of Rowlf playing the piano and singing, with interruptions from Sam Eagle. The show, which featured walking Muppet characters, ran until September 2, 1991, and was replaced in that location by The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Two weeks after the show closed, a second live Muppet show, "Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses", opened in a different area of the park.

1990_Page_2

There was plenty of color on page two as well. And who are these strange characters? Dick Tracy? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? What's with that?

I had never seen or heard tell of these characters at any Disney park . . . so some research was called for!

Wow . . . here's what I found: Dick Tracy, Flattop, Mumbles and Tess Trueheart appeared live on stage at the Theatre of the Stars! The production, Diamond Double-Cross, didn't last too long - it opened May 21, 1990 and ran until February 16, 1991. There were even Dick Tracy characters in the troupe of roving "Streetmosphere" performers; they disappeared in February 1991 as well.

And those turtles? Carol remembers seeing them. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appeared in the "New York Street" section of Disney-MGM Studios. Emerging from their Turtle Party Wagon, they would "ninja dance" across the stage while April performed the theme song to their show. After the main show was done they would pose for pictures and sign autographs. The Turtles also appeared in Disney's "Very Merry Christmas Parade" and sang their own rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". In the Easter parade they danced to their single "Pizza Power!" The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live shows and appearances came to an end in 1996.

1990_Page_3

There was plenty of new information on Page 3.

1990_Body_Wars

At EPCOT the Wonders of Life Pavilion had just opened in October 1989 and Body Wars was an exciting new attraction. Guests boarded Bravo 229, a "LGS 2050" probe vehicle and were miniaturized, ship and all, before being injected into a human body to observe a splinter and rescue Dr. Cynthia Lair. The LGS 2050 weighed approximately 26 tons but once miniaturized it weighed less than a drop of water, so it was easily able to navigate its way to the splinter and find the doctor. At the injury site she was taking a blood cell count when she was accidentally pulled into a capillary. Captain Braddock boldly followed her through the capillary and into a vein, even though it meant entering an unauthorized area. The captain steered Bravo 229 past the heart and into the right ventricle, then on into the lung where the doctor was being attacked by a white blood cell. Captain Braddock fired his lasers to free the doctor but by then the ship was very low on power. Dr. Lair suggested that they use the brain's energy to recharge the ship. Passing through the heart, the ship followed an artery all the way to the brain where a neuron touched the ship and re-powered the batteries. The Bravo 229 and all the guests were safely de-miniaturized outside of the body. Everyone returned home, safe and sound; funny how that always turns out! Body Wars ran for 18 years and closed on January 1, 2007.

1990_Illuminations

IllumiNations was still quite new in 1990; it premiered at World Showcase Lagoon on January 30, 1988. It had to go through several version changes before it became the "IlluniNations, Reflections of Earth" that we see today.

1990_Mickeys_Starland

Mickey's Starland originated as Mickey's Birthdayland which opened on June 18, 1988. It transformed into Mickey's Starland on May 26, 1990. The area was briefly renamed Mickey's Toyland in late 1995. The land closed in early 1996 for an extensive refurbishment, and on October 1, 1996, it reopened as Mickey's Toontown Fair for the park's 25th anniversary. The back-story portrayed the land as the holiday home for the characters who normally lived at Mickey's Toontown in California. Mickey's Toontown Fair was closed on February 11, 2011 in order to build the New Fantasyland. Some elements of Mickey's Toontown Fair have been demolished and others have been re-themed to the new Storybook Circus area.

1990_Page_4

Page 4 had a detailed listing of park hours for the months of June, July and August. The two news articles took us outside the theme parks where there was also plenty of brand new excitement!

1990_Typhon_Lagoon

Typhoon Lagoon opened less than a year prior, on June 1, 1989 and it was a very popular destination. It's my favourite Disney water park; I just love that wave pool!

1990_Pleasure_Island

Pleasure Island was a new phenomenon as well. It had opened May 1, 1989 and drew huge crowds every night. There was a wide variety of venues; something to please everyone, and every night was New Year's Eve! Do you remember the Neon Armadillo? The Adventurer's Club? All those great old clubs are now closed and bulldozed as Pleasure Island, along with the rest of Downtown Disney, is being transformed into Disney Springs!

Isn't it funny . . . so many of the things which were so exciting, so revolutionary and daring in 1990 are merely distant memories as we look back 24 years from 2014.

The Muppets have relocated to a 3D Theatre, Dick Tracy is gone, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are gone, The Wonders of Life Pavilion is closed and Body Wars is shuttered. Mickey's Starland and Pleasure Island have both been levelled and redeveloped. There is always something new coming along to captivate us.

I suppose that's what Walt Disney meant when he spoke about Disneyland many years ago. He said, "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." I'm sure that Walt, if he had lived to see his Florida Project open, would have said the same thing about Walt Disney World; it will continuously evolve and grow.

That's just one of the things that makes our happy place so magical!

July 20, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Seminars

Gary Cruise banner

Great memories come out of the Tickle Trunk . . . but it also has a few surprises in it. Surprises for me that is! You see, Carol and I were not a couple during the years when she took her first fourteen trips to Walt Disney World and some of the things she pulls out of that magical pine box, from those early trips, are things I have never even imagined before.

This blog is about one of those things I never imagined - The Wonders of Walt Disney World seminar series.

In November 1985 Carol and her son Rob booked a 14-night stay at Disney's Polynesian Resort. Sharing the trip with them were Carol's very good friend Judy, and Judy's daughter Jenn.

Several months before they left a package arrived in the mail; it was confirmation of their resort reservation and the envelope included a very handy 16-page 8 ½" X 11" brochure filled with all sorts of handy information about Walt Disney World. Look at the picture of that brochure below, and check out the index in the lower right corner.

1985_Brochure_Cover

Do you see that reference to Disney Learning Programs on page 9? Carol saw it too. Here's what it said.

1985_Brochure_Seminar_page

Sounds great doesn't it. What? You can't read it? Oh yeah, the print is pretty small in that picture . . . so here's what it says:

Wonders of Walt Disney World

"Wonders of Walt Disney World" is a nationally recognized educational program, now available to guests ages 10-15. State and local superintendents and commissioners of education from across the country have given approval to the program concepts and many school systems award education credits to program participants, enabling families to take an off-season vacation without disrupting learning.

Each program is accompanied by two Disney-illustrated books of interesting ideas and creative learning activities. Guests submitting a paid registration 45 days in advance receive the first book by mail and begin their Disney experiences at home. This "pre-trip" book encourages young people to explore the resources of their own world in preparation for their Walt Disney World visit.

Once they arrive, a 6 1/2-hour field trip through onstage and backstage areas allows them to see ideas from their books as practical solutions to the challenges of operating Walt Disney World Co. The second book, presented at the end of the day's activities, contains suggestions on putting new ideas and interests into practice. Students may choose any one of the following subjects.

Exploring Nature: A True-Life Adventure
From an 11-acre island refuge for near extinct wildlife to our 7,500 acre wilderness preserve, students experience first-hand lessons about man's responsibility to his environment. Ecology truly comes alive in a setting of natural beauty and wonder. Tuesdays or Thursdays.

The Energy That Runs Our World
The innovative, state-of-the-art technical systems that power Walt Disney World Resort are the focus here as students visit our power plant, investigate alternate energy sources and examine the Disney philosophy of energy management. Mondays or Wednesdays.

Disney Creative Arts
At Disney, "art" is more than just paintings on museum walls. In this special program, an instructor and a Disney character artist illustrate that art is, indeed, all around us. Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays.

The Walt Disney World of Entertainment
"Let's put on a show!" What really goes into entertaining millions of people every year? Students not only get to meet the performers who take center stage but also learn about the people behind the scenes who contribute to a "good show." Tuesday, Thursdays or Fridays.

Enrolling
Programs are conducted daily, except Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Cost for each program per person is $45 and includes both books, the 6 1/2-hour field trip (including lunch), all program materials and the use of a Kodamatic instant camera and film.

To enroll, just complete the attached registration form at the back of this section and enclose a check for $45 per participant or call (305) 828-2405. For additional registration materials and more information, write: "Wonders of Walt Disney World," P.O. Box 40, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830. If you must cancel, call (305) 828-2405 for information on re-scheduling and refunds.

It sounded good to Carol; she discussed it with Judy and then they asked Jenn and Rob, thirteen and fourteen years old at the time, if they'd like to participate. Naturally they were both die-hard Disney fans and they both said yes. Rob couldn't decide between Exploring Nature: A True-Life Adventure and The Walt Disney World of Entertainment, so he took them both. Carol thinks that Jenn signed up for the Disney Creative Arts session.

It wasn't long before Rob's pre-course material arrived in the mail - two 10" X 10" booklets and a covering letter.

Welcome_Letter

Work_Book_Cover

Work_Book_Cover_2

Rob got busy with his pre-course reading and completed a couple of exercises in the booklets before they headed south. A sample exercise from the pre-course book is pictured below.

Work_Book_Assignment

On the appointed days he struck off to meet the instructors and the other children who were participating. Each student was given a Polaroid camera to use for the day and record some of the things they learned. Soon they were off on their backstage adventure.

Rob is a little fuzzy on the details of each day (after all, it was 29 years ago) but he remembers that the seminars were very interactive. The instructors were fun to be with, and the kids had plenty of input. They shared lots of opinions and ideas over the course of each day.

The image below show's Rob's name badge and a few of the Polaroid pictures he took during the Walt Disney World of Entertainment seminar.

Card_and_pictures

I asked Rob what he liked best about the experience. He said, "We spent a lot of time in the swamp; Florida has a lot of wetlands and we talked a lot about the ecology of the swamp. Discovery Island was great fun. We watched as they fed many of the birds and the cast members explained their diet. I was pretty impressed that they tried so carefully to match what the birds would eat in the wild."

"Later in the day we were taken backstage to watch the horticulturalists make new topiaries. We watched as they built a new wire frame and then saw several partially grown plants, as the cast members explained how they trained the plants to coil around the frame, different textures and colors of plants for different parts of the body. It was painstaking work, but the finished topiaries sure looked good!"

"One of my favorite memories though, was seeing the boats used in the Electric Water Pageant. They took our group to the canal where the fourteen boats docked during the day and we got to see them up close. They looked huge . . . and there were so many light bulbs. What a job changing those bulbs! It was 1985, long before LED lights, and they told us how many bulbs they changed on an average day. I forget the number, but I remember thinking that it was a big job!"

Somewhere during the course of their roving seminar the group stopped to eat a box lunch . . . Rob remembers enjoying his PBJ sandwich. (I'll bet they don't serve PBJ any more)

At the end of the day each student was given a very nice hard covered text book created and produced by The Disney University. It covered all the principles and concepts they had "discovered" during the day. The image below shows a page from Rob's Exploring Nature: A True-Life Adventure text book.

Textbook_Discovery_Island

Carol remembers clearly how excited Rob was when he came back to the resort each evening to tell her all about his day. His school teachers probably wouldn't describe him as a model student, but Rob sure enjoyed his schooling at Walt Disney World!

Over the next few years Carol continued to get information about the education programs when she booked a vacation. The program changed a bit over the years. Here are some pages from a flyer she received in 1989.

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By that time they had dropped The Energy That Runs Our World seminar but the other three were still offered. There were even programs for adults. Of course, Rob was outside the target age group for the youth seminars by 1989 and that was the last flyer Carol received.

Gosh, wouldn't it be nice if Disney still offered educational programs like that?

But wait . . . they do! Yes! They do!

There are sessions at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World. You can select from a number of programs offered at each park.

To see what's available in the Youth Education Series click here.

There's even a Kingdom Keepers Quest, for details click here.

Browse around those links and take a look at the full menu of educational offerings. It looks like there's something there for everyone, even adults!

Want to add a new dimension to your Disney vacation? Try one of the seminars!

July 16, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News October 1982

Gary Cruise banner

Let's pull another old newsletter out of the Tickle Trunk and look at a very exciting time in the history of Walt Disney World! The October 1982 issue describes the newest theme park, EPCOT Center which opened that month.

Oct_1982_Front_Page

Look, there's even color on the front page . . . and it's just buzzing with good words about all the new attractions. What sort of spin did the Disney marketing experts put on the newest park? The image above is small and hard to read so I'm going to quote all three of those front page articles for you. I know you won't want to miss a single word!

Oct_1982_Epcot_Center

Epcot Center: The Newest Wonder of the World
Twice the size of the Magic Kingdom and just under one billion dollars in the making, Epcot Center at last opens its wonders to the world this month.

After 15 years of planning, dreaming, and doing, the World's greatest adventure is ready: Walt Disney World Epcot Center.

Within this showplace of imagination, just 2 1/2 miles from the Magic Kingdom, adventures never before possible have been brought to life through the marvelous wizardry of Disney Imagineering. Epcot Center is as far advanced from the Magic Kingdom as the Magic Kingdom is from the old-fashioned amusement park.

Imagine time-traveling from the era of the dinosaurs to the age of the stars. Discovering the secrets of a Mayan pyramid. Dining beneath the Eiffel Tower. Spiraling through the universe inside an 18-story sphere. And discovering the wonders of 15 fantastic pavilions, each more incredible than the one before.

Epcot Center encompasses two distinct dimensions: Future World and World Showcase, each unique in theme and style. Future World celebrates the limitless potential of science, industry, and technology in helping to create a positive and viable world of tomorrow. World Showcase salutes the global community of nations joined in international fellowship. Together they invite people of all ages to become "Epcot travelers" bound on journeys as fantastic as Gulliver's and as futuristic as our dreams for better tomorrows.

Wow " that does sound exciting, doesn't it!

Oct_1982_Around_the_World

Around the World in One Day
It would take a lifetime of vacations to explore the diverse countries of the world, discovering within each its own special ambience, charm and mystique. For most people, such adventure lives only in a dream. For travelers to Epcot Center's World Showcase, it is a dream come true.

Here, amidst nations standing in friendship beside a broad lagoon, you'll live in one day what only weeks of world travel could surpass. You'll follow the roads leading to Rome. Lunch in a Bavarian Biergarten during Oktoberfest. Explore the interior of a Mayan pyramid. Cross the vast expanse of Canada and the Great Wall of China. Dine in gourmet splendor under a moonlit Eiffel Tower. Join Ben Franklin and Mark Twain for a soaring historical overview of America and her promising future. And more.

In World Showcase, Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany are brought to life through the creative magic that is the hallmark of Disney showmanship. Central among these nations stands the American Adventure, its position reinforcing America's uniqueness as a "nation of many nations." In a theatrical production unparalleled in Disney annals, the American Adventure combines large-screen projection, inspiring music and special effects with performances by the most lifelike Audio-Animatronics figures ever developed.

East and west of the American Adventure, along the promenade, you'll discover other exciting shows and attractions, plus restaurants and shops unique to each nation. Dine at Les Chefs de France and savor the gastronomic masterpieces of superstar chefs Paul Bocuse, Roger Verge, and Gaston Lenotre. Or dine as the Romans do " at L'Originale Alfredo Di Roma, where singing waiters serve such epicurean delights as the Maestro's own Fettuccine All'Alfredo. In Mexico, you'll enjoy the famed cuisine of Mexico City's incomparable San Angel Inn. In Japan's Mitsukoshi Restaurant, watch Japanese master chefs create culinary magic in spellbinding tableside presentations.

Wherever you go, World Showcase is alive with entertainment. Hundreds of performers - from Tyrolean yodelers to strolling troubadours - will keep you amused and enchanted. From France come white-faced mimes and street musicians ... from Italy, the farcical players of the Comedia Dell'Arte.

At the United Kingdom, you'll meet the Pearly Kings and Queens. From Japan, a Candy Man magically creates herons and unicorns from his treasure-trove of rice toffee. And Mariachi players serenade you at the cantina in Mexico.

In Canada and China, Circle-Vision cameras take you on a magic carpet ride through some of the most spectacular scenery ever filmed. At the Palais du Cinema, you'll journey to France's most famous locales accompanied by the music of its finest composers. In Mexico, you'll embark on a boat ride through Mexico's colorful past, discovering along the way the festival and dance of the great Mayan, Toltec, and Aztec civilizations.

Even shopping becomes its own form of entertainment. You'll find an extraordinary number of boutiques, like the biscuit, toy, and china shops of the United Kingdom and the Neapolitan leather and pottery shops of Italy. Japan's Grand Shishinden Hall houses a department store by the internationally-celebrated Mitsukoshi - a name synonymous with the finest in Japanese art and industry since 1672. Numerous artisans present their wares as well: The Hummel craftsmen of Germany, the Northwest Indians of Canada, calligraphers from China and Japan - and a World Showcase of other surprises.

Whether out for a stroll in the meditative Japanese garden or caught up in the merriment of Germany's Biergarten, you'll meet people whose native countries form the World Showcase community. Working together in a true family of man, these young adults are the binding spirit of Epcot Center - a spirit that calls for international fellowship for the present world and the future world ahead.

From my very first trip to EPCOT to my most recent, I have always enjoyed strolling around World Showcase. The architecture, the cast members, the music, the entertainers, they all impart just a bit of their foreign culture. It really does feel as though you have stepped into each of those countries. Today there are special events such as the Food & Wine Festival and the Flower & Garden Festival which add to the fun!

Oct_1982_Imagineering

Imagineering the future
In Future World, the first of two colossal showplaces that make up Epcot Center, Disney Imagineers have taken some potentially dry subjects, such as energy, communications, transportation, invention, and agriculture, and turned them into shows so thoroughly entertaining that visitors will be inspired to learn more. Walt Disney's maxim "I would rather entertain and hope that it teaches than teach and hope that it entertains" has never been more skillfully executed.

Each Future World show, of which there are presently five with more to come, combines a multitude of theatrical and motion picture techniques - some so far advanced of their field that they defy description. Yet the end result is overwhelmingly enchanting.

Spaceship Earth, presented by the Bell System. Epcot Center's glistening geosphere, Spaceship Earth, is the gateway to Future World. Towering 18 stories, it is the only structure of its kind anywhere. Inside, guests embark on a spiraling time Journey tracing the 40,000-year evolution of communication. The message - that man's ability to communicate, to metaphorically write the charts for navigating Spaceship Earth, has insured his survival. From the past, guests are suddenly propelled into the future, where they find themselves in an incredibly beautiful simulation of outer space, gazing back at Earth among a thousand stars.

Universe of Energy, presented by Exxon. The 300-foot-long mirrored pavilion, whose solar panels help power the show's ride, presents an energy story as dazzling and as captivating as the building itself. Guests journey through an exquisitely detailed re-creation of a prehistoric jungle. And they witness such startling motion pictures as one projected on a mosaic screen with hundreds of constantly rotating surfaces.

World of Motion, presented by General Motors. The wheel-shaped World of Motion employs Future World's largest and most colorful cast of Audio-Animatronics characters to chronicle man's age-old quest for ever-accelerating mobility. It's zany entertainment at its best. After the show, guests may visit the GM Transcenter for an intriguing look at concepts of the present and future of transportation.

Journey Into Imagination, presented by Kodak. The fantasyland of Future World, Journey Into Imagination takes visitors beyond the products of creativity for a fantastic Journey through the creative process itself. Then in a fun-packed electronic factory called Image Works, guests get to unlock their own creativity. The grand finale, in the Magic Eye Theatre, presents the largest " and perhaps most captivating " three-dimensional motion picture ever produced.

The Land, presented by Kraft. Covering six acres, The Land houses a boat ride through various climates of the world; greenhouses where plants grow in midair; a lively "Kitchen Kabaret" musical review; a provocative cinematic presentation; a "Farmers Market" for sandwiches and snacks; and the "Good Turn," a unique revolving restaurant specializing in regional dishes from across America.

Epcot Computer Central, presented by Sperry. Located among an inviting cluster of buildings known as CommuniCore, this exhibit brings people and technology together with an up-close and entertaining look at the computers that help run Walt Disney World and put more than a thousand Audio-Animatronics performers through their paces.

How does Disney do it? They entertain us so well, but they educate us at the same time. They make learning a fun experience! Nowhere is this more evident than it is in Future World. The trip through Spaceship earth shows us the history of communication and hints at the future. The World of Energy (now with Ellen) hammers home the need for responsible energy management in an amusing and engaging way. In the greenhouses of The Land we learn the importance of conservation and resource management. I always marvel at those hydroponic gardens!

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Page 2

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Page 4

I'm going to skip right past pages 2, 3 & 4 of the October 1982 newsletter. They are pictured above, but the content of those pages is almost identical to the November 1982 issue. I'll discuss it in a future blog.

Now, I'd like to leave the newsletter behind and turn to a few other things related to the opening of EPCOT. Some other little gems hidden away in the Tickle Trunk!

Carol spent ten days at Walt Disney World in November 1982. After she reserved her accommodations she received a nice surprise when her confirmation package arrived in the mail. This application for a commemorative EPCOT ticket was included.

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Naturally she had to have a couple!

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It wasn't long before the two tickets, measuring 8 ¾" X 3 ¾", arrived, nicely presented in the shiny, embossed silver envelope pictured below. The reverse side had instructions for redeeming tickets at the park. There was a perforated stub on the left side of each ticket which was torn off as you entered EPCOT. Alas, I have no image of the stub.

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The envelope containing those tickets held a surprise, a brand new brochure produced especially for the park opening.

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The brochure opened first to a birds-eye view map of the property.

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Two pages focused on Future World.

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The final two pages introduced World Showcase.

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Here's an added bonus, the worst park map Disney ever designed! The map guests received when they entered the park was sponsored by Kodak. It was big, rigid and bulky. It measured 6" X 6" when fully folded; it would not fit in your pocket! It was made with heavy cardstock and unfolded to display three pages. Do you see that little paper dial on the top? When you turned it it gave you specifications for Kodak cameras and films. The map was 6" X 18" when unfolded; it was huge and awkward . . . what were they thinking?

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Inside was information on park services and a wheel you turned to view information through cut-out holes (see the pink areas?). On this side you could dial to the countries of World Showcase. Dial Japan and one cut-out showed a small sketch of the pavilion while the other one suggested that you sample some taste treats and take a fresh, new look at an ancient culture.

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Thankfully this map design didn't last too long.

Autumn of 1982 was an exciting time for Disney fans and Carol was thrilled to be among the first to experience that brand new park. As I've told you before, every time we open the Tickle Trunk those great old memories come rolling out. For the last few days, as I put together this blog, Carol has had a great time reminiscing about that first trip to EPCOT.

I hope you have enjoyed the memories too!

July 6, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News 1981

Gary Cruise banner

According to The Walt Disney Archives, the Magic Kingdom's first map wasn't a guide map as we know it today, but a multi-page newspaper called The Walt Disney World News. The first edition, with a huge headline "Vacation Kingdom Opens," celebrated the opening of the park with photos of company founder Walt Disney, Walt Disney World Ambassador Debby Dane, and the Windsor family, the first visitors to enter the park on Oct. 1, 1971. It also told the story of how, in order to be the first guests admitted, the entire Windsor family, mom, dad and sons slept overnight in their Volkswagen in a nearby parking lot.

Alas, we do not have a copy of that newspaper in the Tickle Trunk, but I was able to find a few pages from it on the Disney Parks Blog site. The park's first map appears on page 4 of the newspaper and is followed, on pages 4 and 5, with a listing of attractions, shops and restaurants in each themed land.

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It must have seemed comical when guests opened these 8-page tabloid-sized newspapers to find their way around the parks. It would have been quite a handful!

The Magic Kingdom Park Map, as we know it today, appeared in late 1972 but the production of the tabloid-style newspaper continued into the 1990's. Once the park map was introduced in 1972 the purpose of the newspaper seems to have changed. The content became more focused on things outside the Magic Kingdom. In my opinion, the entire purpose of the publication may have been to demonstrate to guests that Walt Disney World was more than just a theme park, a whole lot more! It promoted the many activities guests could enjoy in the resorts and in the shopping area at Lake Buena Vista.

The newspaper was printed monthly and included in the check-in package guests received when they arrived at Disney resorts. Copies were available to all other guests at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom. Carol and I have copies of ten different editions of the newspaper in the Tickle Trunk, spanning the years 1981 to 1992 and I'll share them with you over the next few months.

Let's start with the two issues from 1981, January and February. Carol received them both that year, while she was staying at Polynesian Village Resort.

Before we get started, let's look at the time frame . . . what was happening at our happy place?

There was still only one theme park, The Magic Kingdom, but EPCOT was nearing completion and would open in less than two years.

Disney resorts consisted of The Contemporary Resort, The Polynesian Village Resort, The Golf Resort (renamed The Disney Inn in 1986 and Shades of Green in 1994) and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

The shopping area, opened in 1975, was known as The Village at Lake Buena Vista; in 1989 it was renamed Disney Village Marketplace and then in 1995 it became Downtown Disney.

Here is what the January 1981 issue looked like:

January_1981_Front_Page

Page 1 had an interesting article about music at the Magic Kingdom, in all it's venues. The Dapper Dans are jumping and clicking their heels in the lead photograph!

The second article on page 1 invites guests to shop at Walt Disney World Village. The photo shows the Empress Lily in the background. We now know her as Fulton's Crab House.

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Pages 2 through 4 focus on dining, entertainment, golf, tennis and fishing. Here are a few noteworthy articles:

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The first Character Meal - Dinner á la Disney at the Golf Resort.

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Fine dining at the Contemporary Resort's Gulf Coast Room!

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Even fishing - there was something for everyone her!

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Guests could enjoy some smooth jazz at the Village Lounge.

Let's take a look at the February 1981 issue which Carol picked up on the same trip.

The front page as well as page 4 were almost identical to the January edition, only the park hours section on page 1 had changed.

There were a few differences inside though.

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On page 2, The Fifth Dimension and Mickey Finn had finished their gigs at The Top of the World (today known as California Grill), Mel Tormé and Billy Eckstine now rounded out the list of entertainers.

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On Page three there was a terrific description of Discovery Island.

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A world of shopping awaited at The Village.

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Naturally there were some cute advertisments.

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You could arrange tennis lessons for the whole family at the Contemporary Resort.

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There was even a "wee links" course at the Golf Resort.

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Adventurous guests could taste exotic south seas treats at the Polynesian Village.

Even with only one theme park there was so much to see and enjoy at Walt Disney World in 1981. It was, and still is, a pretty amazing playground for kids of all ages!

And there's still plenty of good reading left in that old Tickle Trunk, this is just a small sampling. I hope you enjoyed it!

June 29, 2014

The Fort Wilderness Book

Gary Cruise banner

If you were to ask me, "Which Disney resort is your favorite?" I would immediately answer, "Fort Wilderness Campground."

We have stayed at many of the other resorts, including Port Orleans French Quarter, All Star Music, POP Century, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, The Polynesian Resort and the Disneyland Hotel. Carol has made a few trips without me, and stayed at All Star Movies, All Star Sports, Port Orleans Riverside, The Contemporary Resort, The Grand Floridian Hotel, The Golf Resort, The Boardwalk, Old Key West and The Caribbean Beach Resort. While lots of other Disney fans may disagree, for me Fort Wilderness stands head and shoulders above any of those other resorts.

Carol says that her "dream trip" would involve either The Disneyland Hotel or The Polynesian Resort but Fort Wilderness is not far behind!

It will probably come as no surprise to you that Carol, a compulsive collector, has saved some keepsakes, mementos and souvenirs from a resort which ranks high on her list of favorites. They were scattered throughout our home, some in her pin collection, some in the Tickle Trunk, some in scrapbooks and others in book cases or file folders.

About two years ago she decided to put them all together in her new Fort Wilderness Book. Once she had it all assembled in a large 3-ring binder, we were both pleasantly surprised by some of the treasures she had picked up over the years.

Here is a look at a few of the highlights from the Fort Wilderness Book.

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This 1981 Fort Wilderness brochure, sponsored by RV manufacturer, Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc., gives us a nostalgic look at the campground in its earliest days. Notice the advertisement for Fleetwood, who billed themselves as "The Official Recreational Vehicles of Fort Wilderness". Those are some classic old motor homes and travel trailers!

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On the pages of the brochure are a few sights you won't see around Walt Disney World today. You will not find Musket Mickey! In today's politically correct world the coonskin-capped Mickey carries a walking stick rather than a firearm.

Do you see that sailboat in front of Cinderella Castle? There used to be sailboats, pedal boats and even those tricycle boats with the giant flotation tires available for rent at Fort Wilderness. They have been gone for years, but you can still rent SeaRaycers and pontoon boats.

The other sight from yesteryear that you no longer see is people swimming in Bay Lake or the Seven Seas Lagoon. In the early years the beaches at each of the Magic Kingdom area resorts were busy, but since swimming was banned many years ago the beaches have become lonely tracts of clean white sand. Why was swimming banned? There were some safety concerns centered around alligators, copperhead snakes and a rather nasty little amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri, more commonly called the "brain-eating amoeba". Take my advice . . . stay out of the water!

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Trail rides, fishing and cycling are still very popular at "The Fort" and if you are there on the right day you might still see that blacksmith at work on his forge, beside the horse barns, at Tri-Circle D Ranch.

Two neighbouring destinations, Discovery Island and River Country are included in the brochure. Alas, they're both long gone now! Carol has some great mementos from each of them; I may write about both closed attractions in a future blog.

The 1981 Fort Wilderness brochure ends with "Food 'N Fun". The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue has been running continuously since 1974 and is often referred to as "one of the longest continuously running musicals in American theatre history". It may even be the longest!

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This handbill from the grand old Hoop-Dee-Doo show at Pioneer Hall dates back to about 1982. Today's version is almost exactly the same . . . the menu has changed slightly; seasonal vegetables have now replaced that "corn-right-on-the-cob". But you'll be pleased to hear that the corny old jokes have not changed a bit! It's still a toe-tappin', foot-stompin' good time!

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A postcard from 1982

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Those two images above are the front and back of a brochure guests received at check-in in 1982. All the rules and regulations, together with some suggestions are there, if you can read the fine print!

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In March 1986 Carol received this letter announcing an exciting new meal at Pioneer Hall, the "Rise and Shine, Get Up and Go Breakfast Show" featuring Melvin the Moose, Chip and Dale and other characters. The breakfast show ran for about five years, until 1991 . . . don't worry about Melvin the Moose, he returned to his regular gig in Frontierland, at Country Bear Jamboree!

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A 1988 brochure, pictured in the two images above, referred to "trailer homes" from Fleetwood. They were sometimes called "Wilderness Homes" and in 1997 they were all replaced by the cabins we know today!

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Let's look at a few more recent items, starting with this resort map from 2010. From the Outpost (the check-in area at the bottom right of the map) to Pioneer Hall (near the marina and dock at the top left) is a distance of just over a mile. The roads marked with yellow, orange and purple lines denote the three routes run by the campground's internal bus system. When Fort Wilderness opened in November 1971 trams, similar to the parking lot trams used at the theme parks, transported guests around the campground. In the early 1990's the trams were replaced by buses.

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For many years a four page Gazette newsletter was included in check-in packages. The copy above, from 2010, provides a wealth of information about the campground and the many services and recreation facilities available. The Gazette has now been replaced by a smaller booklet which contains the same information in a more modern format.

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Campers take great delight in decorating their sites for the holidays and Management at "The Fort" take an active role in organizing many fun-filled holiday activities. Here is a sample, a flyer from Halloween 2010.

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When you get to the campground, be sure to visit the horses at Tri-Circle-D Ranch. This 2010 brochure says it all about "The Happiest Horses on Earth". All of those horses you see working in the Magic Kingdom live at the ranch in Fort Wilderness. Stop by the barns and meet them sometime!

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Here are a few other little odds and ends, a Fort Wilderness decal, an embroidered shoulder patch, a bumper sticker and bar of Fort Wilderness soap.

What's that? You were wondering about pins? Yes, of course Carol has pins; Fort Wilderness pins and River Country pins.

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Did you know that the campground once had a railroad? There was a 3.5 mile track which looped through the campground from the Outpost to the Settlement. The cars were built to 4/5 scale and ran on a 30" track. There were four steam-powered engines and each pulled five passenger cars. Each of the four trains had could transport 90 passengers and they operated on a regular schedule from 1973 to 1977. They ran sporadically for a few years after that and in early 1980's the trains stopped altogether and the tracks were removed. Carol bought this pin commemorating the Fort Wilderness Railroad at the 2011 EPCOT Trade Celebration.

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When Carol began pulling all of her collection together, were both surprised at the volume of stuff she had assembled . . . there are lots of good memories there! That magical binder keeps Fort Wilderness alive for us even when we're at home!

And it's still a work in progress; she's always on the lookout for new items to add to one of her prized possessions, her Fort Wilderness Book.

June 22, 2014

Disney Buttons

Gary Cruise banner

A long, long time ago a young mother named Carol took her six-year-old son Rob to Walt Disney World. She bought a three day park pass . . . then the problem became apparent! How do you ensure that a very active youngster doesn't lose a valuable ticket? Hmmm . . . what to do?

It was then that she spotted some Disney buttons on a nearby counter and the problem was solved. She grabbed a Mickey Mouse button, pinned the ticket to the little scamp's shirt and pointed him at the rides. Zoom - he was gone in a cloud of dust and the ticket was secure! After three days it was still secure; what a great idea!

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The "pin-the-ticket" trick continued for a few years and she had acquired a small bag full of buttons by the time Rob was old enough to be trusted to take care of his own ticket. Pictured below are the buttons that secured his tickets in 1977. That red Mickey Mouse button was holding his ticket in the picture above.

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Here is eight year old "Rebel" Rob. He had a Goofy button holding his ticket in 1979!

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Have I mentioned that Carol is a compulsive collector? Could she stop picking up buttons just because there was no longer a need for them! No, of course not!

Rob collected buttons for several years as well; Carol inherited his collection when he moved on to new interests!

Naturally Disney is very helpful when it comes to Carol's affliction. They are always issuing new buttons. Every time they release a new movie, open a new ride or attraction, celebrate the birthday of a theme park, there is a new button to commemorate the occasion.

Carol now has a collection of 340 Disney buttons, all different shapes, sizes and colors. Beyond her 340 "keeper" buttons she has a big bag of "traders".

The buttons are all sorted and categorized into groups:

- Carsland
- D23
- Disney Cruise Line
- Disney Movies
- Disney Vacation Club
- Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Disneyana
- Disneyland
- EPCOT
- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
- Theme Park Birthdays
- Walt Disney Classic Collection
- Walt Disney World
- Everything else - oddities which don't fit the categories above.

Let's take a look at a few of the EPCOT buttons.

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There were some very unique buttons when EPCOT first opened.

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It seems that every time we travel Carol finds a bin or basket full of buttons and she always stops to search through them for hidden Disney treasure. More often than not she finds some!

There are always new buttons when a Disney video is released!

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She tries to collect all of the Earth Day buttons and all of the Disney Conservation Fund buttons and there are only a few of each she is missing. Special occasion buttons are fun too!

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There are plenty of birthday and anniversary buttons.

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Every time a theme park, character or movie hits a milestone year it's an opportunity for a new button . . . and Carol has plenty of them.

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Every button tells a story and many of the buttons in Carol's collection bring back fond memories of happy times. Can you see the happy memories in the buttons pictured below?

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Here's one final picture for you, the button on the left is the first one Rob ever wore at Walt Disney World. It held his ticket on his t-shirt in 1977 when he was six years old. The button on the right is one he wore on his latest trip, just a few months ago.

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Do you have any Disney buttons? What sort of memories do they evoke for you?

June 15, 2014

Money Saving Tips

Gary Cruise banner

There are plenty of people who bemoan, "Walt Disney World is an expensive place to vacation." While those people are correct in some ways, in my opinion they are way off-base in other ways.

Yes, there are many places where you can vacation for less money than a Disney park or resort . . . but, in my opinion, there are very few places where you will find the value for your dollar that you will find at my happy place.

Of course that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to economize whenever you can, and there are some very simple and reliable ways to do that. I am not an expert on saving money; I'm actually far more experienced at frivolously wasting money than saving it. That's why Carol does almost all of our vacation planning. Here are a few very simple things I've picked up over the years by listening to Carol!

Money Saving Tip #1 - Do your homework!
Plan your trip well in advance and do plenty of research. That AllEars.net Weekly Newsletter you receive by e-mail every Tuesday has some terrific ideas in the "Tip of the Week" section - some of them will help you save your hard-earned cash. There are some very well written guide books available online and in almost all book stores and they all contain some helpful pointers! Don't overlook the online resources such as the AllEars.net Tip Archive, Mousesavers.com and Mouseplanet.com. For a more complete look at online resources available check out the full AllEars.net list of Disney related links here.

Money Saving Tip #2 - Take advantage of the Disney Dining Program (when it's free)
During some slower times of the year Disney will offer the dining package, free of charge, to guests at select Disney resorts. This is a good deal! Carol and I have used the Disney Dining Program several times; we even paid for it once. Our most consistent complaint has always been, "It's too much to eat!" Of course, that's just another way of saying, "It's great value for the money." When it's free, why would you not take it?

There was only one version of the dining plan the last time we used it; now there are several options to choose from. Here are a couple of our suggestions to help you make the best of the dining package, regardless of what option you choose.
1) Share meals: Carol doesn't eat breakfast but I do so I use a counter service meal for breakfast and then later in the day we share another counter service meal for lunch. There is always enough to satisfy us both!
2) Use snack credits to buy take-home treats. Carol and I always had trouble using up all the snack credits. We would often use one to pick up a cold bottle of water or a Mickey Ice Cream Bar in the heat of the day, but when the trip was winding down we always had some left over. Solution? Why not use them to buy candy and treats to take home for children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews?

Money Saving Tip #3 - Look for the Bounce-back Program
From time to time Disney resorts will advertise a "Bounce-Back offer". If you book your next stay at a resort before the end of your current vacation you can sometimes get free dining during your next visit, other times they may offer substantial discounts on the room rate. These are always good deals! Look for a brochure or flyer in your room, or in your check-in package!

Money Saving Tip #4 - Buy an Annual Pass
Yes, I know, you're thinking, "But Gary, an Annual Pass is too expensive. I only go once a year and a seven day park-hopper is all I need." I understand your thought process, I thought the same thing . . . but I was wrong! Even before Carol and I retired, back when we only visited once a year, we always bought Annual Passes. We would buy an AP one year, then the following year we would plan our vacation one or two weeks earlier, while our AP was still in force! We squeezed two annual vacations out of one Annual Pass. Here's how the math worked out for us. Instead of each of us buying two 7-day Park Hoppers (2 X $408.96 incl. taxes = $817.92) we bought one base level annual pass ($675.21 incl. taxes) and we saved $142.71 each. That's $10.00 a day per person!

I'm going to impersonate one of those slick TV salesmen when I say, "But wait . . . there's more."

An annual pass does more than just get you into the theme parks. It gives you free parking at the theme parks. It gives you 10% off merchandise at all Disney owned and operated stores. That's almost every store on Disney property folks!

Isn't that amazing? "But wait . . . there's more."

How would you like 15% off a fishing tour? Or 50% off miniature golf? Or 30% off the rental of a boat, bicycle or surrey bike? Or 20% off the cost of bowling at Splitsville? You get all of that and more with an Annual Pass.

"Tables In Wonderland" Cards are only available for purchase by Florida Residents, Disney Vacation Club Members and Annual/Seasonal Passholders. This card can save you a bundle if you like to dine at Disney restaurants. You will save 20% at most "table service" restaurants.

And another very important perk for AP holders? Magic Bands! Resort guests and Annual Passholders are the only groups who receive Magic Bands in advance and can use the My Disney Experience system to make those oh-so-important FastPass+ bookings in advance, before their vacations!

I'll say it one final time - if you visit once a year you really should consider buying an annual pass. Use it for two vacations then let it lapse. Buy another AP at the beginning of vacation #3 and it will also cover vacation #4.

Money Saving Tip #5 - Use a Travel Agent
This is the most important tip I can give you. Find a travel agent who really knows Disney and rely on them to make all of your resort bookings. There is no charge for their services and a good agent will save you a pile of cash.

Friends kept telling Carol and I to use an agent . . . but we didn't listen! Carol always took care of our bookings. She enjoyed it; she was sure that she was getting the best deals; she was sure that she was always on top of things. She followed all the Internet sites and was quick to call Disney whenever there was a discount available.

We decided to let an agent from Mouse Fan Travel book a trip for us and see how it worked out. Carol talked to the agent, outlined the details and soon the confirmation arrived by e-mail. Carol looked at it and said, "That's about the same as I would have done". What was nice was that, just a few weeks later, another e-mail arrived. It said, "AAA rates have come out and I was able to apply them to your February reservation." A revised invoice was attached to the e-mail. When we compared the prices on the old and new invoices we were very pleased; we were going to save $185.75 on a 12 night stay. WOW! We were impressed . . . Carol didn't have to prowl those Internet sites and phone to amend the booking every time a new "deal" came up. She had more time for other things, such as dining reservations! And that e-mail was not a "one-off" thing. We get a message like that quite regularly. We enjoy that kind of savings on the majority of our bookings. Why would we not use an agent?

But . . . you have to find the right one. The travel agents who really know Disney are the ones who graduated from Disney's own agent training programs; they have mortarboards with Mickey ears attached! Not only will these experts know what discounts are currently available, they will have a pretty clear idea of what will be coming next. These specialized agents will proactively apply new discounts for their existing client bookings whenever they can.

The best money-saving tip I can give you is to find one of these travel agents and let them take care of your resort bookings. If you know an agent who specializes in Disney, give them a try. If you don't know anyone, ask a friend to recommend someone, or ask me. I'd be happy to give you a suggestion!

So there you have it, my two cents worth on saving money at Walt Disney World.

Do you have any money saving tips? Why not share them with us? Send your best tip to AllEars by clicking here and completing the Feedback form.

May 7, 2014

Jim's Attic - Snow Queen Ride

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The Snow Queen Ride
By Jim Korkis

The most recent Walt Disney Feature Animation film, Frozen (2013), is the highest grossing animated feature film ever produced, winning Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song.

The Meet and Greet with Anna and Elsa at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot was so overwhelmingly successfully that the new Disney princesses now take up residence at the Princess Fairytale Hall in the Magic Kingdom to better accommodate their huge number of fans.

Anna and Elsa in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot:

Walt Disney himself had been interested in the Hans Christian Andersen tale of the Snow Queen as early as 1943.

Walt was in discussions with MGM film producer Samuel Goldwyn to collaborate on a film biography of the famous writer.

MGM would handle the live action sequences and Disney would create short animated sequences of some of Anderson's most famous tales including The Little Mermaid, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and, of course, The Snow Queen.

The project never developed any further but periodically over the years just like with the story of the Little Mermaid, the Disney artists would review the material to see if they could develop a story about The Snow Queen.

The big challenge was that the Snow Queen was basically a villain and all of the Disney animated feature films were about heroes who defeated the villain.

In 2002, Disney came close, even having songwriter Alan Menken compose several terrific tunes including "Love Can't Be Denied". Animator Glen Keane was deeply involved in the film but left when CEO Michael Eisner considered giving the film to Pixar to do. Fortunately, the project was revived again with a new team in 2008.

A few years before his official retirement in 1978, Imagineer Marc Davis designed an attraction for Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Fantasyland that was based on the story of The Snow Queen and was entitled "The Enchanted Snow Palace".

The massive white and blue show building would have looked like a glacier but slowly as guests got closer and looked more carefully, they would have realized that it seemed almost like carvings of towers, windows, doors and more.

Guests would have boarded a boat (just like on it's a small world) to drift pass dancing audio-animatronics polar bears, walruses, penguins and more to the background music from "The Nutcracker's Suite".

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Soon, the guests would drift into a snow cave with frost fairies (like the ones in the film Fantasia) and snow giants carrying icicle clubs. Eventually, the boats would come to the throne room of the Snow Queen herself who was about to leave on her sled for her journey through her kingdom.

To speed her passage, she conjures up a blizzard and the guests are caught in a brief snow storm just before they exit into the hot summer reality of Fantasyland.

Davis felt that a leisurely beautiful, literally cool attraction that could be enjoyed by guests of all ages would have been embraced by guests eager to get out of the heat and spend a restful moment on a boat ride.

However, at an estimated cost of fifteen million dollars, the Disney company decided to pass on the attraction and look to more thrilling rather than artistic experiences.

Now, with the continuing popularity of Frozen, the latest rumor is that the Maelstrom attraction in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot might be re-designed into a Frozen attraction, perhaps adapting some of the work done by Davis. Others feel that it might be more appropriate to have such an attraction in the New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom.

Whatever the final decision, it is important to remember that decades before the film, the story of Andersen's Snow Queen was very much a part of the Disney heritage.

====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


April 27, 2014

The Tickle Trunk – Memories of Disney

Gary Cruise banner

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

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

Mr_Dressup

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

Tickle_Trunk

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

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

Carols_Tickle_Trunk

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

Carols_Tickle_Trunk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WDW_News_Jan_1981
1981

WDW_News_1990
1990

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

Club_Memberships

Magic_Years_Magazine_Winter_1993
1993

Disney_Club_News_January_2003
2003

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

Dinner_a_la_Disney

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

River_Country_Tickets

River_Country_Postcard

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

Discovery_Island_Tickets

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

Match_Tin.jpg

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

Wonders_Brochure

Wonders_Text_Book


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

Postcards_1

Postcards_2

Postcards_3

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

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

April 13, 2014

The Evolution of Disney Tickets

Gary Cruise banner

Walt Disney World tickets have certainly changed over the years!

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

1971_Ticket_Card

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

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

1971_A_Ticket

1971_B_to_E_Tickets

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

1971_Ticket_Table

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

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1972_8_Attraction_Magic_Key_Adult

1972_8_Attraction_Magic_Key_Child

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

1973_Magic_Key_Books

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

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

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1977_2_Day_Resort_Guest

1978_2_Day_Magic_Kingdom_Club

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

1982_4_Day

1982_6_Day_Child

1986_6_Day_Resort_Guest

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

1987_Annual_Passport

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

1990_Annual_Passport

1991_Annual_Passport_Information

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

1990_1_Day

1991_1_Day

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

1990_4_Day_Package

1993_All_3_Parks

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

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

1993_5_Day_Super_Duper

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

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

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

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

1996_Value

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

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

2009_Goofy

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

2013_Premier_Passport

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

Magic_Bands

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

Magic_Band_on_Wrist

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

Magic_Band-Scanner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 9, 2014

Jim’s Attic: The Story of Beacon Joe

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The Story of Beacon Joe
By Jim Korkis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

beacon-joe-1.jpg

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

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

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

beacon-joe-3.jpg

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

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

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

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

RELATED INFORMATION AND LINKS
Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":

March 23, 2014

The Imagineers - Doing It Right!

Gary Cruise banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me give you a few examples.

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

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The French Quarter in New Orleans

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

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Disneyland's New Orleans Square

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

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Hotel Del Coronado

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Grand Floridian Hotel

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

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Atlantic City Boardwalk

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Disney's Boardwalk

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

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EPCOT's Canada Pavilion

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Chateau Laurier Hotel

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

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Gardens at the Canada Pavilion

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Butchart Gardens

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

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

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

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

December 16, 2013

Forgotten Disney Resort History

Jim's Attic: Forgotten Disney Resort History
By Jim Korkis

I was recently interviewed on a podcast about my new books and one of the hosts peppered me with the typical rapid fire questions like who was my favorite character, favorite park, etc.

The only time I stalled was when I was asked my favorite resort. I like most of the WDW resorts for different reasons but being pressured I answered The Boardwalk because I love the attention to the time period and the atmosphere of old world elegance. If I had been asked minutes later, I might have said Wilderness Lodge because it takes my breath away.

It just got me to thinking about hotels that were Disney related before Disney built resorts.

Ardent Disney fans may know that Walt's parents, Elias and Flora Disney, actually lived in the Central Florida area. They were married here in Kismet (a town that no longer exists) in January 1888. That year, they managed the Hallifax Hotel in Daytona Beach.

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No, that hotel no longer exists either although there is still a Hallifax Avenue where the Hallifax Hotel once stood.

While things were great during the Summer months with the tourists driving down (even in 1971 when Walt Disney World opened, roughly ninety percent of the tourists came to Florida in cars), when the Fall came, things dropped off so significantly that the Disneys decided to move to Chicago, Illinois where Elias found work as a carpenter for the upcoming Chicago World's Fair.

So while there was a little hotel management in the Disney DNA, when the Disney Company first came to Central Florida, they depended upon The Cherry Plaza Hotel, Robert Meyer Motor Inn, and Hilton Inn South.

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On November 15, 1965, Walt Disney and his brother Roy lunched with Governor Haydon Burns in his suite at the Cherry Plaza Hotel at 431 E. Central Boulevard in Downtown Orlando right before making the fateful public announcement that Disney was coming to Florida. (No, that hotel is long gone as well.)
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Walt Disney walking into the Cherry Plaza to make an announcement that would forever change Orlando. Source OrlandoRetro.com

Afterwards, Walt and his team left because they had accommodations at another hotel that was supposedly their favorite, the Robert Meyer Motor Inn that had opened in 1963 and was considered very upscale in its day.

General William "Joe" Potter was staying at the Robert Meyer when he first read the story by reporter Emily Bavar in the Sentinel-Star newspaper that Disney was the mystery industry going to build in Orange County that prompted the need for the press conference.

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Image: D23.com


The Robert Meyer Motor Inn became the Kahler Plaza and then, in the late 1970s, the Harley. It became the Four Points by Sheraton in the late 1990s but closed in 2004 to evolve into The Metropolitan at Lake Eola condominiums.

Orlando attorney Finley Hamilton dabbled in real estate. He had opened a Hilton Inn on Colonial Drive and then acquired ten acres on Sand Lake Road near an I-4 ramp to build the Hilton Inn South. The two story, horseshoe shaped hotel had 140 guest rooms and a covered pool as well as several meeting rooms.

Because it was so near Disney property, the Disney Company offered to manage it for Hamilton for sixteen months until Walt Disney World opened so they could train their staff for the Contemporary and the Polynesian. Hamilton and his partner paved the nearby dirt road. Hamilton wanted to call it "Hamilton Drive" but there was another street by that name in Orlando so he had to settle for "International Drive".

Although it had been open since 1968, The Hilton Inn South opened May 1970 under Disney management and was the location where Disney executives stayed, as well as Disney transfers who had not found a permanent home yet. It was also open to the general public but the standards were extremely high because Roy O. Disney himself visited frequently and commented on flaws.

The Hilton Inn South no longer exists but it was originally in the same general area as the big McDonald's and entrance to Quality Inn on Sand Lake Road.

Did any All Ears readers ever stay at these hotels in their prime and if so, what were they like?

December 8, 2013

Our Disney Christmas Village

Gary Cruise banner

Many years ago my sister began creating a monster. She took a liking to Department 56 "Dickens Village" pieces and each year she gave us a new one as a Christmas gift.

The collection grew year by year and soon we had a complete intersection . . . then two . . . so they became part of our Christmas tradition. Each year we put up our Dickens Village for the holidays.

Of course, this sort of thing is right up Carol's alley . . . so she added accessories and her personal artistic touches! When there were so many pieces that they began to disappear, one behind the other, she called on me for help. I built a styrofoam base and styrofoam cutouts which elevate the houses in the back, making them more visible.

Dickens_Village

The Dickens Village comes out each autumn and throughout the holiday season it adorns the top of my roll-top desk.

You can only imagine Carol's glee when she discovered Department 56's North Pole Series. It has some Disney themed houses! She just had to have a few pieces to add to the Dickens Village . . . NO . . . WAIT . . . that doesn't work. Those North Pole pieces just don't work in a Dickens Village.

What to do? How about a second village?

So I started cutting more styrofoam while Carol collected houses and accessories.

Disney_Village

Now we have a Disney Village which takes over our kitchen hutch every fall. Some of the pieces are Department 56 and some she spotted on Disney shelves and couldn't resist!

Look very closely at all the accessories and you'll see plenty of Disney characters enjoying a holiday wonderland.

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As you wander through the village from left to right you will pass the M & M's Candy Factory, the Disneyland Fire Station, Mickey's House and Piglet's Treehouse.

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Further down the street you will find Geppetto's House, Goofy's House, Cratchit's Cottage and Scrooge McDuck & Marley's Counting House.

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The Reindeer Flying School is conveniently located in front of the Reindeer Feed Store and beside Mickey's Ear Factory.

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At the end of the block you will find the Mickey Mouse Watch Factory and Mickey's Playhouse which features a miniature version of the "Ear-full Tower".

Carol spends hours every year, arranging each building just so! Then the accessories are added with thoughtful care . . . there are bridges, fences, trees, garland, lights . . . and of course plenty of Disney figures. She even found a spot for the Grinch and some pink flamingos!

It's quite impressive once it's all finished.

After the holidays, Carol agonizes when it's time to take it down. One year it stayed up until the end of January!

I wonder how long it will stay up this year?

December 2, 2013

Whatever Happened to the LiMOUSEine?

Jim's Attic: Whatever Happened to the LiMOUSEine?


I grew up in Southern California so I have a particular fondness for Disneyland and greatly appreciated that I could enjoy some of its unique but limited promotional activities like "Blast to the Past" where the fun, music and fads of the 1950s and 1960s (like surfing) were mixed with Disney parades and other entertainment in the Spring of 1989.

However, Walt Disney World has had one of its own unique but limited promotional events in the Spring of 1989 as well that some folks have seem to have forgotten today.

Are any of the readers of this blog old enough to remember Mickey Mouse's LiMOUSEine? It was a car especially built for the costumed Mickey Mouse.

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To promote the May opening of the Disney-MGM Studios, the LiMOUSEine with a costumed Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney World Ambassador Kathleen Sullivan, departed Orlando on March 5, 1989, for a multi-city East Coast tour, beginning in Indianapolis.

The driver was Bill Marable, a former Disney bus driver, who often had to skillfully maneuver the 9,000 pound, six-wheeled vehicle that was 40-feet long through narrow and awkward turns during the trip.

The Rolls-Royce front end with gold-plated radiator shell and trim had a 24-karat Mickey three-circled head shape. There were custom-built Mickey ears over the front wheel wells, flashing Mickey shaped turn signals and "ear view" mirrors.

After all, this was publicized as Mickey's home-away-from-home so all those Mickey touches were appropriate. The interior was filled with many high-tech gizmos of the day but also included a special cheese tray stand to hold some of the many cheeses that were in the cabinets.

Designed by Disney artist Tom Tripodi, at a cost of more than $100,000, the LiMOUSEine was built by Ultra Limousine Corp., of Brea, California, from a potpourri of car parts. Ultra would later build the famous Mickey "Mouseorail" vehicle made from the shell of a red Mark III monorail front cab for a West Coast promotion the following year.

The base vehicle for the LiMOUSEine was a Lincoln Town Car cut in half, and stretched more than 20 feet on a beefed-up frame.

After its tour, it was repainted and had the "mouseified" elements removed. It was refurbished for the "Magical World of Barbie" show at the American Garden Theater at Epcot's World Showcase in 1994 when Mattel became a corporate sponsor at the Disney parks.

Do any readers remember that controversial show? The Disney Company claimed that Barbie was perfect for Epcot because she impacted so many world cultures over the years.

Barbie was the "Ambassador of Friendship" and a video tape with excerpts from her 20-minute stage show at the American Gardens Theater in front of the American Adventure could be bought from Mattel for a penny with the purchase of specially marked Barbie dolls.

Let's all sing along with Barbie in Paris:

"When you're not happy with what you wear,
And you know you've gotta do something with your hair.
It's time to take drastic action,
Pull out all the stops.
It's a fashion reaction,
You take it to the very top.
You've got the touch, the Barbie touch,
All you've got to do is accessorize!"

Barbie arrived at her show in the LiMOUSEine that was painted pink with metallic sparkles and included Barbie memorabilia inside. Devoted fans could meet both Ken and Barbie and have their pictures taken with them outside the car. The show ended May 11, 1995.

That Barbie Touch experience was another uniquely Walt Disney World experience that Disneylanders missed.

The LiMouseine finally ended up in the "boneyard" of Disney-MGM Studios Backlot Tour for awhile and was eventually placed in storage.

I have no idea if it still exists or where it is today but maybe some readers can supply some memories or additional information.

Deb's Note: Several years ago I searched for photos of the LiMouseine and reader Ted sent me a few he took at the Orlando Auto Show in 1989. Here they are:

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November 18, 2013

Jim's Attic: Where in the World is the Rocketeer?

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

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"The Rocketeer" (1991) is one of my all-time favorite movies and I am grateful that elements from the actual film can still be enjoyed at Disney Hollywood Studios.

As part of the Summer 1991 promotion for the film, a live Rocketeer lifted off by jet pack and flew out and above the Chinese Theater courtyard during each evening's presentation of the "Sorcery in the Sky" fireworks show.

Even today, on the left side of the forecourt with the cement handprints and autographs of other actual celebrities, visitors can find the imprints of the boots and "blast marks" of The Rocketeer in cement, reminiscent of a scene planned for the final film.

A location for original props from The Rocketeer that might be missed by guests visiting Disney Hollywood Studios is the Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant. If these items are still present and if you ask politely, the servers might let you wander briefly down the aisles that look like the back of theatrical flats that lead into the main dining area.

On the left side, down to the right and near the bottom is the black and gold front cover of the South Seas Club menu-secured under plexiglass. The South Seas Club was the scene of a showdown between the Rocketeer and villain Neville Sinclair and his thugs.

Wandering a little farther down, just before the entrance to the main dining area, high on the left wall is a rocket pack that was used in the actual film. Directly to the right and about waist level and protected by plexiglass is a prop copy of the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper with the headline "Who is the Rocketeer?"

It is amazing to examine these artifacts up close-to see the care and effort that was put into something that might have been glimpsed just briefly in the actual film.

When Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989, in the Echo Lake park area had the Lakeside News, a newsstand selling comic books and publications like old issues of "Life" magazine and other souvenirs. By 1991, to theme in with The Rocketeer, it became Peevy's Polar Pipeline, featuring "Frozen Coca-Cola Concoctions" as well as regular soft drinks, water, and snacks.

The interior of the location is filled with welding tanks, gauges and other mechanical items that might have been found in Ambrose "Peevy" Peabody's workshop in 1938. Peevy was the best friend of Cliff Secord, the Rocketeer. Very prominently displayed on the left side wall is a Rocketeer helmet and below it is a rocket jet pack.

Many versions of the Rocketeer helmet were made for the film because, in those days, before CGI became common, the stunts were performed by live stunt men or through the use of miniature models. The helmet showcased at Peevy's is obviously a stunt helmet because it is wider and has larger eye lenses.

This helmet was meant to form around a sky-diving helmet and designed to be easy to "break away" in case an emergency arose during the stunt. The helmet is wider than the "hero helmet" (the prop used by the main actor and in close-ups) for that reason and there is a slight splitting along the side seams common among the stunt helmets for the film. The eye lens area is larger to give the stunt person greater visibility.

Moving closer to the posted menus on either side of the location will also reveal the blueprints for the rocket jet pack behind the items listed for sale.

A Rocketeer jetpack was on display area in the "One Man's Dream" attraction, but has now been removed.

I am sure that several readers may also recall when items like Cliff Secord's GeeBee flying racer and the Bulldog Diner were once prominent items on the Backlot Tour. I think I'll go watch the film again and then visit DHS.

RELATED LINKS
====================

Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South AND

"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


November 15, 2013

The Billies – I’m Sure Going To Miss Them

Gary Cruise banner

I was shocked and very disappointed when I read recently on the Disney Parks Blog that Disneyland was "retiring" Billy Hill & the Hillbillies after a very successful 21 year run. The show - and the players in the show - are all being retired after their last performance on Monday, January 6, 2014.

Carol and I stumbled onto "The Billies" quite by accident during our first visit to Disneyland in 2005. We wandered into the Golden Horseshoe Tavern for a snack and had no idea what was in store for us when the four Billies appeared on stage as we ate. Within seconds we were laughing so hard it was impossible to eat. Our chicken tenders and fries were soggy from all those tears of laughter.

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They perform a short, but high-energy show featuring rousing country, rock and bluegrass music combined with corny jokes and hilarious sight gags. It appeals to Disney fans of all ages. WOW - what a treat.

I immediately wondered why there wasn't a similar show at the Diamond Horseshoe Tavern in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

In the years since 2005 we have taken the 2,500 mile flight west to Disneyland another eight times and in our nine Disneyland trips we have never missed The Billies! We try to get there early to get the best seats in the house!

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The cast seems to be comprised of a couple of teams of players who rotate through their schedule of shows, but no matter who is performing, their show always leaves us rolling on the floor - convulsing with laughter.

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I suspect that I enjoy The Billies a tiny bit more than Carol . . . but she humors me and sits through the show several times during each of our trips to the west coast. We have seen the boys perform as many as four times in a week-long trip. Yes, I do enjoy them that much!

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From the moment in the show where the lead Billy, Kirk Wall, puts in the false set of buck teeth he calls his "pros-TEETH-is" I begin to giggle and I don't stop until long after the show is over. Those teeth transform Billy (Kirk) from a classical violin virtuoso into a redneck lunatic.

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Billy (Kirk) interacts with the audience in a way which captivates adults and children alike. Everyone in the building is singing, tapping, clapping and laughing.

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Over the years we've howled through a Beatles tribute . . .

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An Elvis tribute . . .

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Billy (Dennis Fetchet) doing his "train thang" and an almost impossibly fast version of Orange Blossom Special . . .

And a Riverdance spoof they call "Puddle Prance" . . .

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Who can forget the awesome performance Kirk Wall and Dennis Fetchet always deliver with their version of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia". Awesome!

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In December 2012 we saw their show at Big Thunder Ranch but the last time we saw them, May 17, 2013, the troupe was back in the Golden Horseshoe. It was good that we saw them "back home" that final time!

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Big_Thunder_Ranch

I understand that the parks need to change things up from time to time - things have to stay current and fresh - but I sure wasn't ready to say goodbye to The Billies. I'm going to miss them a lot! They were one of my major sources of joy at Disneyland and when they are gone they will leave a very large hole in my Disneyland experience.

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I cannot make a trip west before the boys "retire", but if you can make it to Disneyland before January 6th do not miss Billy Hill & the Hillbillies. The guys put on a fantastic show and you will be glad you took the time to see it. If you make it in time, please pass on my personal thanks for all those years of quality entertainment and wish them all the best, wherever they land in the future!

Ladies and gentlemen, The Billies have left the building!

November 10, 2013

Disneyland’s Christmas Overlays

Gary Cruise banner

I was pleased when I recently read on the Disney Parks Blog that there will be a special "Christmas Overlay" at The Jungle Cruise.

They explained it as follows: Beginning in early November, Jungle Cruise at both Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom Park will temporarily transform into "Jingle Cruise" for the holiday season! In this new seasonal storyline of the attraction, the Skippers have grown homesick for the holidays, so they've added holiday cheer to the Jungle Cruise queue and boathouse with decorations that have been mailed to them from home (plus a few they've created themselves). The Skippers have also added a slew of new jokes to their tours that are the perfect way to get guests in the holiday spirit. Additionally, Jungle Cruise boats have been renamed with the holidays in mind, and if guests listen carefully, they may hear a holiday-themed radio broadcast playing in the background.

Great news! Carol and I will be visiting the Magic Kingdom for a few weeks in November/December and we will be sure to visit this classic old attraction to see the new holiday spin they put on it.

Do you suppose that overlays like those they do in California might follow at Florida attractions in years to come? I sure hope so! We used to really enjoy the Christmas Overlay at Country Bear Jamboree and we were very disappoinited when it was discontinued in 2005.

Carol and I have visited the Disney Parks in California several times during the holiday season and the overlays at It's A Small World and The Haunted Mansion have absolutely blown us away!

These are not just little cosmetic makeovers; each of the attractions is closed for a few weeks while the special holiday treats are added. The results are simply wonderful!

Let me show you what I mean . . . pictures tell the story much better than I can. First, a word about the pictures - some are not the best of quality since they were taken in a dark ride and we didn't use a flash. I never use a flash in a dark ride and I'm always annoyed when others do. 'Nuff said!

Both Carol and I prefer the Disneyland version of the It's A Small World attraction. You board your boat outside, in front of a three-dimensional façade with stylized cutout turrets, towers and minarets; look closely and you'll see some world landmarks. The 30 foot clock with that big smiling face rocks back and forth and every fifteen minutes colourful wooden dolls parade as the clock announces the time. It is quite captivating every time you approach.

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But at Christmas that façade is festooned with thousands of lights and it becomes a holiday wonderland of color. WOW!

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The lights put a magical glow on the topiaries you sail past before you enter the interior, but the holiday magic doesn't end there. In each of the rooms there are special holiday displays. Watch very carefully and you will see that some of the dolls are now dressed in holiday costumes. Cutaway snowmen with carrot noses welcome you to the Ho-Ho-Holidays"

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There is a mailbox for letters to Santa!

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Banners wish you Joyeuses Fetes, Feliz Navidad, Happy Holidays, Mele Kelikimaka, Happy Hanukah, Peace on Earth and many other holiday greetings.

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And wait . . . what is that I hear? Are those dolls singing Jingle Bells and Hark the Herald Angels Sing?

Yes they are . . . NICE!

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This year It's A Small World was scheduled to close from October 21st through November 7th while the overlay was installed. It will run until early January. If you're there, be sure to visit during the evening, but allow plenty of time. That area of the park is very busy over the holidays!

The Haunted Mansion is one of our absolute favourite attractions and once again, we prefer the California version. We especially enjoy it during October, November and December during the seasonal transformation! The seasonal magic begins as you approach; Jack Skellington is perched on the gate as you enter and hundreds of pumpkins adorn the mansion.

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Once you are in the "Stretching Room" you begin to see some differences . . . in fact nothing is the same. Jack Skellington and his Halloweentown cronies have taken over! Oogie Boogie and a huge cast of creepy spooks wait as you board your Doom Buggy.

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The entire sound track has been modified and everything you have always enjoyed in the mansion is different. It has always been spooky, but during the holidays it's creepy-spooky!

As you leave the library and your Doom Buggy turns to travel backwards your eyes drift upward to find a giant man-eating wreath singing a chilling song!

The attic where Constance Hatchaway, the bride with the hatchet, and her five husbands normally appear has been piled full of frightful gifts. Some are ticking, some are growling, wait . . . did that one just move?

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Jack Skellington and Zero have replaced the gravedigger and his dog to welcome you to the graveyard!

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(Confession - I used a flash for this picture - the ride was shut down, the lights were on and we were being walked out)

Those singing busts in the cemetery have a new, even more sinister look!

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Are those angels blowing their trumpets? I think not!

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There are no hitchhiking ghosts as you exit, instead Oogie Boogie spins a wheel which assigns you a trick or a treat . . . but don't be expecting any treats as you round that last corner.

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What a joy! Carol and I are both fans of Nightmare Before Christmas and it is a real pleasure to see two of our favourites combined this way! We ride it again and again!

It's A Small World and The Haunted Mansion in California have been overlaid for the holidays for the last 16 years and 12 years respectively. I sure hope that the recent announcement about The Jungle Cruise means we might be getting more seasonal overlays in Florida sometime in the near future!

October 27, 2013

People You Meet In Line

Gary Cruise banner

One thing you can count on at Walt Disney World or at Disneyland . . . you will spend plenty of time in lines.

The Imagineers do a terrific job designing the queues; they build in plenty of things to grab your attention and keep you occupied while you wait. Think of your time in line at Toy Story Midway Mania. Have you heard someone say, "I had the Candyland game when I was a kid." or, "I had a ViewMaster."

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Toy_Story_Decor

Have you read all the barrels and signs in the queue at The Jungle Cruise?

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Have you examined all the crates, steamer trunks and suitcases in the pre-show room at MuppetVision 3D?

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MuppetVision_Decor

But after twenty or thirty times through the line you have probably seen it all . . . what do you do now? I tend to fill my wait time talking with my neighbours. I'm a chatterbox and I find it easy to talk with fellow Disney fans. That's another good thing about those lines - they are full of people who share my Disney mania. They're usually very easy to chat with.

While yakking with folks in line we've been able to give a number of people some helpful hints - and we've received some great suggestions too. I remember a couple waiting in line at Toy Story Midway Mania. Their son, four or five years old, didn't want to be there. He didn't want to ride . . . and he was making quite a fuss about it. I leaned down and asked him, "Do you like video games?" Naturally he did, so I told him that he was lined up to go through a giant video game. The car he was going to ride in had a gun and he could shoot all kinds of stuff. Wow, did that change his attitude - he was suddenly eager to ride!

We have given some surplus FastPasses to the folks next to us and we've received some FastPasses too. Sometimes we just keep bumping into the same people again and again. The folks I chatted with yesterday at the Magic Kingdom just might turn up across the aisle from us at lunch in EPCOT today. Occasionally we encounter people so often that we begin making jokes about it!

Carol was in line at the annual EPCOT Trading Event last September when the fellow behind her struck up a conversation. He asked, "Do you write the Pin Trading blogs for AllEars.net?" When she nodded and said yes he replied, "You're the reason I'm here!" He was from England, had read her blogs about previous events and felt he just had to cross the Atlantic to check it out.

Often it really is a small world!

We have even struck up some lasting friendships in line. A few years ago, it was my birthday May 1st 2010, we were at EPCOT waiting in line for Soarin'. When we reached the load area I told the cast member, "We'd like to ride in row B1." (You end up in the middle, on top, with no feet dangling in front of you.) The cast member said, "Wait with that couple over there and I'll get you all on the next ride." So we joined another couple along the back wall. I nodded to the man and said, "You obviously know the best row to ride." He grinned and said, "Yes, we love Soarin' and B1 is the best seat in the house." One thing led to another and before long he asked, "Where are you staying?" When he heard we were at Fort Wilderness in our RV his reaction was immediate, "We have to talk! I'm planning to retire within the next year and we've been talking about travelling in a motor home."

After the ride we all went to Sunshine Seasons and spent 45 minutes chatting over coffee. Al and Jane, from a suburb of Kansas City Missouri, had all sorts of questions and we answered all that we could. We exchanged names and e-mail addresses and urged them to come and tour the campground.

A few days later they pulled up to our campsite in a golf cart. They were touring Fort Wilderness and they really liked what they were seeing!

Once we got home the e-mails started coming - fast and furious. Al and Jane were serious about this RV purchase and they were full of questions. How do the utility hook-ups work? What kind of GPS do we use? Does your motor home have a washer/dryer? How do you like this floorplan? Etc., etc., etc. We e-mailed back and forth for almost a year. It was really a lot of fun helping them spend a bundle of money!

After what seemed like a hundred e-mails they had decided on their "dream machine", a brand new 37 foot 2011 Winnebago Itasca Suncruiser. They call him Alf and he's a beauty!

Alf's maiden voyage was in April 2011; Al and Jane loaded up their two cocker spaniels, Nico and Smudge and struck out for Fort Wilderness! The dogs pronounced the experience a howling success and they have now enjoyed six leisurely vacations at "The Fort".

Alf_and_the_dogs

Carol and I have been camped within a few campsites of Al and Jane on three of those six occasions and we are looking forward to seeing them again in December 2013.

Nico_and_Smudge

We enjoy hanging out with them. We've spent time walking dogs with them; we've shared a few meals and lots of laughs with them. The ladies even shop for each other . . . Jane has scored some great pins and Sorcerer cards for Carol!

When we aren't there at the same time as Al and Jane, we always follow along on their blog site. A nice friendship has developed. You can find their blog here.

You often meet some of the nicest people in line, if you take the time to say hello. So the next time you find yourself standing in line, just a trifle bored, say "Hi" to someone.

You might be pleasantly surprised at what develops.


October 13, 2013

The Cabins at Fort Wilderness

Gary Cruise banner

If you have read some of my previous blogs, you will know that Carol and I are huge fans of Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. We just love spending time there in our RV . . . but I've often wondered what it would be like staying in one of the cabins. Carol stayed there many years ago, but I've never had the pleasure.

I follow a couple of online communities which are focused on camping at "The Fort" and I was delighted to read a trip report posted by Shelly E. from Minnesota. She and her family took their first trip to Walt Disney World last year and stayed in the cabins. I strongly suspect that there will be many more trips to Fort Wilderness in Shelly's future.

Here's how Shelly described the experience in her trip report:

This was our family's first trip to Walt Disney World. Actually it was our family's first and only trip ANYWHERE for more than two nights in all our time together as a family! It was February of 2012- we chose to stay in the cabins because with six of us it seemed the cheapest way to go. At that time we had NO idea how much we would fall in love with the Fort. This first picture is arriving at the Fort . . .

Arrival

Here is another . . .

Check-in

The kids totally fell in love with the pool (of course!) . . .

The_Pool

The_water_slide

We did the penny machines in front of Pioneer Hall and the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue!

Penny_Machine

Hoop-Dee-Doo_3.jpg

Hoop-Dee-Doo_2.jpg

We had no idea what to expect when we made our reservations. We made them there simply because we wanted to qualify for free dining, and it was one of the few ways we could all stay in one room. After staying there for 10 days, we completely fell in love with the Fort.

There is just something special about it there. I think for every family, it's probably different things that make it special. For us, I'll tell you what some of the things were.

Getting up in the morning and being surrounded by nature. Beautiful trees all around us, chipmunks, little lizards, birds, sunshine, flowers and most of all peacefulness. There is so much peacefulness at the Fort. Driving a golf cart to the laundry facility, passing people who are out walking dogs or biking - everyone is friendly and happy to be there. It's just such a "welcome home" kind of feeling.

Fort_Wilderness_flowers
The gardens at "The Outpost" (check-in) are designed to attract butterflies.

The boat ride to the Magic Kingdom is simply amazing. We never got tired of it! Compared to riding a bus, the boat is magic in itself.

Being able to sit on the beach at night, with not too many people around, and watch the Wishes fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant. I know so many people say there's nothing like watching it from Main Street, but I feel there is nothing like watching it from a beautiful sandy beach, laying in a lounge chair, holding your husband's hand in the quiet of the moonlit night, watching and listening to the magic all around us.

Being able to walk in the barns, and actually see the working horses at Disney in their home environment - it was so cool! Of course, we own a horse boarding and training facility in Minnesota, so this was right up our alley! But even for others, this seemed like a beautiful and interesting place to visit.

At_the_horse_barns

Those are just a few of the things.

The cabins themselves were wonderful - we loved them! The kids all slept in the back bedroom, and we had the pull down bed, which we both thought was REALLY comfortable. It's not super big, but it was soft and nice! The dishes were clean, the housekeeping was wonderful, and it was just nice to be able to come back each day to a place that felt like a "home" and not just a "room".

Cabin_exterior

Cabin_interior

Towel_Art_from_Mousekeeping
The kids couldn't wait to get back each day to see what Arnold (our Mousekeeper) had created.

A reader from the United Kingdom who is planning to stay in the cabins posted a few questions. She asking if Shelly's family had rented a golf cart and whether there were good places to eat at Fort Wilderness. Here is Shelly's reply:

We are a family of six. My husband, myself and two sets of twins ages eight and eleven. For us, having a golf cart was wonderful. We used it each time we went to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom or Downtown Disney. We took the golf cart up to the area where all the buses come for the other parks, and then later on it was waiting for us when we came back.

At_the_Bus_Stop

It saved a lot of time waiting for the internal buses, which is nice when you have younger kids. We also used the golf cart when we went to the pools or the campfire sing-a-long and movie. It was especially handy when it was time to do laundry. And this year when we go at Christmas, we are actually renting TWO golf carts, just because our kids are a little bigger, and instead of a 6-seater, we reserved two 4-seaters. It will allow us a little more freedom; we won't all have to be ready at the same time to go anywhere. And we're really excited about just exploring the whole Fort - we didn't have enough time to do that our first trip.

As for eating - we were VERY lucky in having free dining and we tried so many wonderful restaurants all over the parks. But there were a few times we did eat at the Fort - we got pizza once and ate it down by the lake - there were tables set up down there. I think they were actually on part of the dock, but I could be wrong. We got chicken there once too, and they had some other choices there, but we didn't get a chance to try a lot of them. There seemed to be enough things that everyone should be able to have a nice meal there. And we actually had a few things at the Meadows Pool snack bar - they had a chicken sandwich there that was really good! There were a few other sandwiches that I thought sounded good too! Another thing I remember about eating at either place was the people working there; they were always so NICE!! Sometimes, to me, that's more important than how big or how many choices a place has.

Since returning home the family's love of Fort Wilderness has not diminished a bit. In fact, they bought a motor home and will be driving "The Beast" over 1,700 miles, arriving at The Fort December 22, 2013 to spend a magical family Christmas in their new favourite place. Then they drive another 1,700 miles home! WOW!

The_New_Motor_Home

How about you? If you're looking for an economical vacation option and a very laid back, rustic, homey environment - the cabins at Fort Wilderness might be for you.

You can find more details about Fort Wilderness cabins and plenty of pictures from the campground here.

October 7, 2013

Jim's Attic: Century 3

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

Horizons%2003.jpg
I miss the "Horizons" attraction at Epcot.

I miss visiting Sea Castle Resort, Mesa Verde and Brava Centauri and was always impressed with the OmniScreen images, especially the rocket launch.

If Westcot in Anaheim would have been built in the 1990s, it was planned to include a version of the Horizons attraction because guests genuinely enjoyed the attraction in Florida.

On January 9, 1999, Horizons closed permanently. However the creation of the attraction started when the idea for a "space pavilion" was pitched to be part of Epcot Center as early as 1979.

This attraction in FutureWorld was originally going to be called "Century 3" (sometimes spelled "Century III" on some documents). Just a few years after the United States Bicentennial in 1976, people were looking forward to the third century so that was the inspiration for the title of the attraction.

Century3.jpg

However, concerns were brought up that foreign guests wouldn't "get" the implication so a more universal name needed to be used.

The attraction was temporarily named "Futureprobe" which Disney quickly discovered called to mind some type of unpleasant medical procedure or instrument.

The name "Horizons" was chosen after many discussions with sponsor General Electric and Disney for the implication of always striving to reach the horizon and when you finally get there, there is another horizon in the distance, and another. The point of the pavilion was to show an achievable future based on existing technology.

Horizons opened exactly one year after Epcot Center opened. Amusingly, the phrase in the attraction "If we can dream it, we can do it" that is often falsely credited to Walt Disney was in reality the creation of Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald who modeled for the audio-animatronics young man character with the solo sub personal submarine.

Horizons%2030a.jpg

Recently, I ran across an interview that Imagineer Claude Coats gave to "Orlando-Land" magazine in 1981 where he explains what the "Century 3" attraction would have been like and here are some excerpts from that interview. Coats is one of those "forgotten" Imagineers who was deeply involved in the design of the original Fantasyland at Disneyland and was a mentor to young Tony Baxter.

"We're going to use a ride device with cars that hang from an overhead rail. It will move 1.8 feet per second. We'll make guests feel they're celebrating the nation's tri-centennial, looking back over the last 100 years.

"You will make a two-minute ascent to Future House through thoughts about the future from the past. Then you'll enter a theater for a probe of the future. The screen is more than eight stories high-the biggest screen ever.

"It will curve over above the audience to give a planetarium effect. The audience will get views of outer space and inside the molecule. We're taking people to places they've never seen before. Like inside an electron microscope. Into living cells. Out to the rings of Saturn. Along the DNA life chain. There'll be many blowups of microscopic stuff.

"It's a celebration of the good times ahead of us. We'll show future urban development. A family celebrating their 100th wedding anniversary, which will be a common thing. We'll show a complete new lifestyle. And robot mining. An undersea habitat. Underground homes. Desert farming. Hobbies, cooking, music as they will be in the future.

"We'll end up going into a space habitat. We'll show work and health activity in space. Manufacturing. Mining of minerals from planets or asteroids.

"At the end of the experience, we'll tie the whole thing into the family unit."

Guests would have then left the show and still in their ride vehicles be taken into a polling area where lights would light up on the dashboard of their vehicle where they could push buttons to indicate their feelings about what they just saw. The results would be instantly tabulated so guests could compare their reactions against those of others who experienced the attraction.

This is the attraction that we might have gotten that evolved into the Horizons attractions some of us miss today.

Here's a brief glimpse at Horizons before it closed:

RELATED LINKS
====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


September 15, 2013

Fondest Disney Memories

Gary Cruise banner

Whenever I hear the word "Disney" I get a comfy, warm feeling. I have so many memories of wonderful times at the parks that the mere mention of "the D word" evokes a smile.

What is the best memory? My fondest memory? Wow - that's a tough question. It took me quite a while to filter through all those wonderful trips I have enjoyed over the last 36 years. Each and every trip has unique memories . . . but I finally settled on my favourite. The one I'll always cherish - it was my first trip - October 1977. My children, Michelle and Stephen, were 6 and 5 years old and we were all in awe as we enjoyed the magic of Disney that very first time. The kids really liked The Astro Orbiter - we rode it again and again; probably a half dozen times. How could I ever forget smiles like the one Steve had in the picture below?

Steve_on_Astro_Orbiter

My second best? November 1999 - my first trip to Walt Disney World with Carol. I hadn't been there in about 13 years but Carol was a seasoned veteran. She whisked me around and introduced me to three Disney parks I had never seen before. That was when she converted me from a Disney Fan to a Disney Fanatic!

Carol's favourite memory? After 48 trips to Walt Disney World she cannot narrow it down to just one . . . there are just so many special memories.

Carol's father John's fondest memory? I didn't actually ask him, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess. I am reasonably sure it was in November 2000, when he saw the MuppetVision 3D movie for the first time. John giggled through the entire show. Thirteen years and about eight trips later . . . he still chuckles the whole time!

MuppetVision_3D.jpg

Jeff from Florida, New York shared his fondest memory: On our September 2006 trip, we experienced some Disney Magic. It started when I couldn't find our reservations for our two character meals. When I called Disney Dining to confirm and get the numbers for the ADR's the Cast Member asked, "So how are things in Paramus?" I was dumfounded, I hadn't even given him my name! I grew up and worked in Paramus, NJ and when we moved to NY State, I had my old home phone number transferred to my cell phone, which I was calling from. He explained that he also grew up in Bergen County NJ, a few towns from Paramus and recognized the phone exchange. We chatted a bit about "home" and I got the needed info. Later that day we headed to 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian for our dinner at Cinderella's Gala character dinner. We arrived before the doors to the dining room opened and checked in. While we were waiting in the foyer, a cast member approached our daughter Isabel and asked her if she would like to help Cinderella and Prince Charming open the restaurant and start the Gala. When she said yes (and we approved) the Cast Member asked her name and where she was from. We were so surprised. Five to ten minutes later, Cinderella and the Prince entered the waiting area and approached Isabel. As the crowd gathered around they each took one of Isabel's arms. At this point a Cast Member took out a scroll and announced to the crowd that "Princess Isabel of the Kingdom of New York" would be assisting Cinderella & Prince Charming in opening the restaurant. Their highnesses escorted her to the door which had a Red Ribbon beautifully tied around it's handles and asked Isabel to pull the ribbon to untie the doors. Then they escorted her, still arm in arm, to our table and posed for pictures and autographs. Now that's Disney Magic! To this day I am convinced that Isabel being chosen for the "Royal Treatment" was arranged by the Dining Cast Member I had spoken to earlier in the day, which makes it even more magical.

Kameo from El Mirage Arizona says: There are so many wonderful memories. I think my fondest dates back to my first trip. It was a year or so after my husband and I got married. We stayed at the All Star Sports and had a blast! When we first arrived, we were welcomed by the cast members at the hotel like family. We had a towel shaped Mickey waiting in our room to welcome us. I had no idea how big Disney World was; we had only been to Disneyland. The first time we stepped through the gates at Magic Kingdom, it was overwhelming and I was in sensory overload. Wow! That castle is huge! We grabbed a park map, which we never do at Disneyland. I have to say it was somewhat difficult to orient myself with Magic Kingdom, I kept mentally going to Disneyland. There's no New Orleans Square, there's no Critter Country, and what is this Liberty Square? It was so much fun though, I'll never forget it.

As always, different things make a big impression on different people. Fortunately there is a never-ending supply of great Disney memories and there's always a new one waiting around the corner.

What is your fondest Disney memory?

September 8, 2013

The Disney Room

Gary Cruise banner

Do you have a Disney Room?

I think every Disney fan should have one. If you are an obsessive Disney collector, like Carol, a Disney Room is imperative!

When Carol and I first started dating she proudly showed me a small cabinet containing her collection of Disney music boxes. They were displayed in a bookcase, about three shelves, with glass doors. Nice! She also showed me her Disney themed Collector Plates and some very nice porcelain Mickey Mouse Figurines.

Little did I realize that I was just seeing the tip of the iceberg that the "Disney collection" would become!

Over the years we took quite a few trips to our Happy Place . . . and the collection grew. There were Disney Classic Collection figurines, Jim Shore pieces, plush toys, snow globes, boxed sets of Disney Pins, and so much more.

Carol combed the nearby thrift shops and garage sales, always on the look-out for new Disney treasures. And, of course, each year we made at least one trip to Walt Disney World, home to all those wonderful stores!

By 2004 things began to look a bit cluttered! What could we do? We (she) decided that my nifty little office and den in the basement, my "man cave", would make a terrific Disney Room. We could concentrate the collection in one area and organize it. I began to put up more shelving and she began arranging her treasures.

I must admit that I enjoyed the end result!

Gary's_workstation
Gary's workstation - 2004

Carol's_craft_table
Carol's craft table - 2004

Figurines

Snow_globes

By 2006 both Carol and I had retired. The good news - we could head south several times a year! The bad news - more shopping! With all those trips to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, plus a few Disney cruises, her Disney collection kept growing at an astonishing rate! Our Disney Room was becoming a bit cluttered.

Fortunately, shortly after retiring, we moved to Carol's home town where we had a new home built. It wasn't long before I was at work in the basement. Our elevated bungalow has big, bright windows in the basement and within a few months our brand new Disney Room was done! We had 650 square feet - that should be enough to showcase our collection beautifully! Soon it was furnished and all those cartons full of Disney treasures were unpacked. Carol was a happy collector!

The_Disney_Room

Disney_collectibles

The_Disney_Room

Wow . . . in 2007 we were thrilled to have all that space . . . it should last us forever! But of course seven years have gone by since the Disney Room was finished . . . and we have taken 24 Disney vacations in those seven years! The room is full!

Vinylmations
A shadowbox full of Vinylmations

More_Vinylmations
More Vinylmations

I've added plate rails so the plates could be relocated - this freed up some wall space for new prints by Larry Dotson and Ducky Williams.

The_Disney_Room

Halloweentown
Halloweentown

Pooh_Corner.jpg
Pooh Corner

A_bookcase_full_of_Disneyana
A bookcase full of Disneyana

A_bookcase_crowned_with_antenna_toppers
Two bookcases crowned with antenna toppers

More_Disneyana

More_Disneyana

Try as we might though, we just can't make it all fit . . . the Animation cels have spilled out to the walls of the Family Room. The Disney Classic Collection pieces and the Jim Shore figures are in curio cabinets in the Living Room.

Animation_cels

Disney_Classics_and_Jim_Shore

We are running out of space . . . and there's no room to expand! Looks like we'll just have to get more creative in the way we display things!

How about you? Do you have a Disney Room? How do you display your Disney treasures?



August 26, 2013

Jim’s Attic: The Cameraman Statue

Jim's Attic: The Cameraman Statue
By Jim Korkis

Every two weeks, Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World.

Oddly, the dedication plaque for Disney Hollywood Studios is not near the front of the park but at the end of Hollywood Boulevard just over to the left in a fenced-in grassy circle.

Before the Name Change:
Disney's Hollywood Studios

After the Name Change:
Studios-cameraman-12.jpg

Directly to the right of the plaque is the Cameraman statue. This statue was originally scrupled by father and son, Aldo and Andrea Favilli, in 1991.

Studios-cameraman-10.jpg

Andrea Favilli received his formal education at Art Center College of Design where he graduated with honors in 1986. He has stated that he felt his art education truly began when he was a child growing up in Rome as he began drawing, painting, and sculpting under the tutelage of his father Aldo Favilli, who was working as a motion picture art director at Cinecittà Studios.

Upon his graduation from school, Andrea worked as a product designer for a variety of different clients including Mattel, Dakin and Applause. In particular, it was his creative involvement with the characters of the Dancing Raisins and Dominoe Pizza's The Noid that caught the attention of the Disney Company.

He joined Walt Disney Imagineering in 1987 as a lead concept designer working on a range of projects worldwide including ones for Disneyland, The Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, Typhoon Lagoon, Disney/MGM Studios, Pleasure Island, Disney Animal Kingdom Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris.

In 1992, Andrea opened Favilli Studio and of course, the Disney Company was one of his clients, as was Roy E. Disney and Shamrock Holdings.

In fact, the DHS Cameraman statue is based on the original statue that Andrea made with his father Aldo that is located at 4411 West Olive Avenue across from Gate 2 of the Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank, California.

It was commissioned by Roy E. Disney and Shamrock Holdings, and was placed there in 1991 to celebrate the art of film making in the heart of the film making capital of the world. The plaque reads "He envisioned dreams that others might share".

The man in the statue is a generic 1920s/1930s film maker, not based on anyone in particular, especially not a young Walt Disney as some have claimed. It reflects the transition period when silents disappeared and talkies took over.

Studios-cameraman-11.jpg

Andrea was also responsible for sculpting the Disney Legends Award, the American Teacher Award and the Frank G. Wells Award for the Disney Company as well as the Transpacific Yacht Race New Course Record trophy for Roy E. Disney.

A replica of the Burbank statue was later placed in Disney Hollywood Studios in 1995 with a plaque that states "Movies are a medium of expression like a symphony orchestra.. or a painter's brush or canvas -Walt Disney".

The placement of the statue at DHS is not just to honor film making but is placed to suggest that the guests are being filmed as they enter the park and are part of the motion picture they are about to experience.

At the feet of the camerman are a director's megaphone and an open script that includes the names of people who inspired Andrea including Herbert Dickens Ryman and Lucille Ryman Carroll (Andrea is a retired board member of the Ryman-Carroll Foundation), Roy E. Disney and Patricia Disney, Marty Sklar and Andrea's father, Aldo.

Studios-cameraman-13.jpg

So, be ready for your close-up because the cameraman is getting ready to help transport you to the Hollywood that never was but always will be.

RELATED LINKS
====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":

August 25, 2013

It’s All In How You See It

Gary Cruise banner

It's an odd quirk of human nature that we can all look at exactly the same thing yet we might actually see something totally different. Our experiences and our memories shape our perceptions in some very different ways!

Here's an example - that park bench with the Goofy statue in Magic Kingdom's Town Square. I used to sit in the rocking chairs behind that bench. Families would come along and sit to pose for pictures with Goofy while I sat unnoticed in the background making funny faces. So when you look at that bench you might visualize a loved one sitting there. When I see it I imagine people getting home, looking at their photographs and saying, "Who is that goofy guy in the back?"

Another example . . . our son Steve came back from Walt Disney World a few years ago after a vacation there with his young family. He lamented their wait for Peter Pan's Flight . . . "I can't believe we had to stand in line 90 minutes for such a lame ride." So when he looks at the Peter Pan sign he sees a "tired old ride". And in some ways he's right - Peter Pan's Flight pales in comparison to today's newer and often interactive rides like Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and Toy Story Midway Mania - but to me it's a classic. It's a ride Carol and I seldom miss (but we always get a FastPass).

Peter_Pan_sign

When I look at that Peter Pan's Flight sign I see something totally different; I see my son Steve as a five year old, sitting beside me in 1977, eyes filled with wonder and a smile a mile wide, as we both rode Peter Pan's Flight for the very first time. I hope they never change it!

Lou, a Walt Disney World Cast Member read my recent AllEars.net blog about the Electrical Water Pageant and started a thread on a popular Disney Camping forum which I visit regularly. He titled it "Oh no, a EWP Blog" and said: "I'm just tired of it, and here's why. When I was a front office Cast Member at a couple of Magic Kingdom resorts, I would see it or hear it every night. After a few hundred times, it gets a little old. After having experienced it so many times, you start noticing its weakness, and there are many. The main one being that it's unchanged for as long as I've seen it, which to me, comes across as it being hokey and amateurish."

Stars_and_Flags

Dave from Tennessee, a frequent camper at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, responded to that same Electrical Water Pageant thread: "The EWP is simply magical to me. Especially hearing the music on our first night at the Fort, when I'm usually tired from the drive and relaxing or even in bed by the time it starts. Hearing that music fire up makes me smile. Although, I remember vividly our first trip to the Fort with our girls in March 2007, which was the first time I had camped there in 30 years. We were in the 500 loop and had had a very tiring trip, so all of us were in bed by 9:30. It was chilly and no need for A/C, so the windows in the motor home were open. INC and I were laying in bed and it was very quiet, and then all of a sudden the EWP music started. As you know it can be quite loud in the loops closest to the marina. We both said "What the heck is that?" Had no idea at that point. We still laugh about that."

Hmmmm . . . strange how different our perspectives can be!

Some other AllEars readers shared a few of their favorite Disney sights with me. Do you see the same thing or feel the same thing when you look at these familiar scenes?

From Kameo C of El Mirage, AZ: My favorite sight at Walt Disney World is when you are at the Ticket and Transportation Centre walking down the ramp to take a ferry to Magic Kingdom. Seeing the train station and Cinderella Castle across the water, it's amazing. Walt Disney World is an escape, a magic place where all of your normal worries are left behind and you can focus on being a family or a couple. It is like walking in a dream. Wishes come true there.

From Allison J. of Deland FL: I think my favourite sight at Disney is the front entrance of the Magic Kingdom when it is decorated for autumn. I'm pretty sure Disney is the only place in Florida that can make it feel like it's fall. Even in 90 degree weather, the Disney autumn decorations just put you in the mood for sweaters and hot chocolate, football games and bonfires . . . all those quintessential autumn activities that we don't really get to experience here.

From Hilary S. of St. Louis, MO: My favourite sight at WDW has to be the Magic Kingdom at night from the California Grill. It is just gorgeous and I feel so relaxed and carefree admiring it with a glass of wine and good company. It was almost a tie -- another favourite is Spaceship Earth. My first glimpse of that always make me smile, take a deep breath and think "I'm here"!

From Cheryl J. of Mechanicsville, VA: The Partners statue is my favourite sight at Disney. It reminds me of holding my children's hands and looking bravely into the unknown. It makes me want to cry every time I see it.

Walt Disney World is packed full of many different and unique lands and attractions; there is a never ending variety of sights and scenes for each of us to enjoy. Both the old and the new . . . they are all "magical" to me and they are among the many reasons why I keep coming back "home".

I am sure that you and I could stand side by side looking at any Disney scene and see something quite different from each other . . . after the scene is filtered through our unique memories and experiences. I find it fascinating when I hear how differently people feel after looking at exactly the same thing.

What's your favourite sight or scene at Walt Disney World? What memories and emotions does it stir in you? Why is it so special for you?

August 12, 2013

Jim’s Attic: The Only Magic Kingdom Comic Book

Jim's Attic: The Only Magic Kingdom Comic Book
By Jim Korkis

Every two weeks, Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World.
I was an avid comic book collector. I still have boxes and boxes filled with Disney comic books that I enjoy reading on rainy days.

Western Printing and Lithographing was the parent company of Whitman Publishing and Simon & Schuster, Inc. and had the exclusive book rights to all the Walt Disney characters beginning in 1933. Over the decades they used these characters in coloring books, sticker books, storybooks, Little Golden Books, games, puzzles and more including comic books released through Dell Publishing from 1940 to 1962 when Western took over producing their own comic book line and called it "Gold Key".

korkis-comic-2.jpg

Western Publishing invested $200,000 to the building of Disneyland for a total ownership of 13.8% in the new theme park. Western produced the guide maps, brochures, menus, premiums and more for Disneyland. They even had their own shop (the Arcade Bookstore) inside the Crystal Arcade behind the Upjohn Pharmacy that was stocked with Disney related books including comics on Disneyland's opening day.

Between 1955 and 1960, Dell produced ten special Disneyland Giant comic books containing nearly a thousand pages of new, original content of Mickey Mouse and the gang visiting the Happiest Place on Earth.

However, just like re-purchasing ABC's investment, the Disney Company bought back Western's investment at a premium price by 1960 as well.

Western continued to produce the regular profitable Disney comic books but there seemed to be no urgency to create any more comic book stories about Disneyland to help support Western's investment in the park.

In the late Sixties, comic books (because of their small profit to retailers compared with magazines) were having difficulties finding distribution outlets. Gold Key tried several different formats including oversized comics, three comics bundled in a plastic bag, squarebound paperback comic book collections, and the digest format.

The digest format had proven a gold mine for Archie Publications since the smaller size could be displayed near the checkout cash register at supermarkets like issues of TV Guide for an impulse purchase and primarily, the contents relied on reprinted material saving on production costs.

Walt Disney Comics Digest was published for 57 issues from 1968 to 1976. The contents consisted (with few exceptions) mainly of reprints from the various previously published licensed Disney comics. In the beginning, the issues were about 192 pages in length.

Walt Disney World fans should be on the lookout for issue number 32 dated December 1971 although it was available in October. It is the only comic book that has the Disney characters exploring the newly opened Magic Kingdom in Florida.

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For the reprinted stories (re-using a Fantasyland story from a previous comic for instance) a new opening splash page was drawn by well known Disney comics artist Tony Strobl (with the realistic backgrounds most likely done by artist Dan Spiegle who drew some of the more realistic live action Disney comic book adaptations).

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The book is filled with new and reprinted game pages and puzzles as well. There were two original stories. One featured Scrooge McDuck going back to the Main Street of his youth drawn by Disney comics artist Pete Alvarado. Alvarado also drew a nineteen page Frontierland story where Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck go to enjoy the Country Bear Jamboree except three of the bears (Ernest, Big Al and Teddi Barra) have disappeared and must be found for the show to go on. This is the only comic book appearance of these beloved audio-animatronics characters.

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So, for the WDW collector who thinks he has just about everything in his book collection, here is a little "hidden treasure" waiting to be re-discovered.


RELATED LINKS
====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


August 4, 2013

Disney Rituals

Gary Cruise banner

When Carol and I visit Walt Disney World there are plenty of little rituals during the trip, quirky things which add to the fantasy and add to our enjoyment!

If we are travelling south in our motor home we are always vigilant, looking to spot our first palm tree - a sign that we are truly in the south. We always stop at the Florida Welcome Centre for a complimentary orange juice, a taste of Florida sunshine. One day we arrived very early and we were so disappointed to discover that they don't open until 8:00 a.m.

We try to arrive at Fort Wilderness before noon. This allows us to register before the 1:00 p.m. check-in time and then head to Downtown Disney for lunch at Earl of Sandwich. Yum! Usually our camp site is ready by the time lunch is over. Little things like this are all part of the magic we experience every trip.

The most meaningful ritual for us, the time the magic truly begins, is when we take that first walk down Main Street USA. Carol normally likes to shop her way along one side of the street as we enter the park, and then shop the other side as we leave. But on our first visit to the Magic Kingdom it's always different. There's no shopping. We take a slow walk right down the middle of the street, just soaking up the sights and sounds. The flags in Town Square, the vendors with all those balloons, the clang clang of the trolley, the turn of the century architecture, the store windows, the aroma from the Bakery, the smell of Casey's hot dogs and so much more. It's sensory overload for us. By the time we get to the Partners statue, with Cinderella Castle in the background, we have left reality behind. We are in our happy place!

Our_Happy_Place

Those are just a few of our rituals . . .

A few weeks ago I sent an e-mail, posing several questions, to a number of people who have commented on my previous AllEars blogs and to people who have added comments to the guest book on our personal blog site. One of the questions was, "Do you have a Disney ritual or tradition?"

There were some very interesting responses. Here are a few:

From Penny W. of Vermont: When I first arrive, I always go to the Magic Kingdom first. Just that walk down Main Street gets me in the magical mood. I must do Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Tiki Room (I love the rainstorm) and have a Dole Whip. There . . . now I can enjoy the rest of my trip.

From Pam T. of Lansdale, PA: When we get into Magic Kingdom, on the first day we arrive, we head straight back to It's a Small World as our first ride, every time we go. Of course, Mommy has to stop crying for us to get on the ride! I cry every time we see Cinderella Castle when we first get there, I start bawling like those old videos of when people would see Elvis for the first time!

From Kelley G. of Staunton VA: Our first ritual really begins before we even cross onto WDW property! When we can see the archway that goes over the highway that welcomes us to Disney, we start a countdown. It gets louder and louder . . . 10, 9, 8 . . . until we are under the sign and then the screaming begins!

Begin_the_countdown

My husband just closes his ears as we scream and laugh!

We camp at Fort Wilderness with an occasional stay at a hotel on-property. When we camp it is our tradition to get pizza that first night and then head to the beach and watch the water parade. Just a good way to wind down after a travel day and setting up camp.

From Allison J. of Deland FL: I think the closest thing we have that is a tradition is getting a "Mickey Ice Cream" a.k.a. a Mickey Premium Bar. The funny thing is, my happy memory tied to this ice cream really doesn't have anything to do with the theme parks. I grew up in Virginia and I remember one summer when my Mom bought a box of ice cream bars shaped like Mickey. They were vanilla ice cream with chocolate ice cream making up the ears, eyes, and mouth, so they were not even the traditional Mickey Bars that they sell in the parks now. Even so, getting a Mickey Ice Cream in the parks always takes me back to that summer - running around in the backyard with my friends, catching fireflies when the sun went down . . . all those small little childhood memories that, looking back, mean even more than they did in the moment. I guess it makes sense - Disney makes you feel like a kid again, it seems fitting to have a snack that makes me feel the same way.

From Kameo C. of El Mirage AZ: When we go to Walt Disney World, our tradition is ALWAYS to go see fireworks at Magic Kingdom the first night. They always put us in the Disney spirit and we never miss them. There is something so magical about hearing those amazing songs we grew up with and seeing Tinker Bell soar high across the sky. There is nothing in this world like it! We have teenagers so magic can sometimes be limited in their eyes but Walt Disney World helps bring out the joy and spirit they had as children and now mask.

From Jeff B. of Florida NY: We have a little ritual that we've done the past four trips to Walt Disney World in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012. It's something that started out just as a nice picture in 2006 when my daughter, Isabel, 7 years old at the time, and I posed for a picture in front of the sign at the Carousel of Progress.

Jeff_and_Isabel_2006

When we returned in 2009, I had my wife take a picture of Isabel and I in the same place.

Jeff_and_Isabel_2009

In 2010, as we neared the end of our vacation it dawned on us we hadn't taken this visit's picture. We made a special trip to the Magic Kingdom just to take the shot so in 2012 we made sure we took the picture the first time we were in Tomorrowland.

Jeff_and_Isabel_2010

Jeff_and_Isabel_2012

Having my wife take this picture of our daughter and me is special to us since I'm usually the one taking the pictures, so . . . it's great to watch her grow up through the trips/years (though seeing less of my hair is no fun!). It's a shame that Disney stopped putting the year on the Carousel sign - it definitely added to the pictures.

Jeff's story reminded me of our good friend Dave C. from Green Island, NY (some of you know him as Tagrel) who has a similar ritual: Here's the story in Dave's words: We started taking a special series of pictures completely by accident with our daughter Brinn. After returning from our first two trips (1998 & 2000) I found I had taken two pictures of Brinn in the same place and pose. Now a SMART Disney fan would have chosen a Disney icon for this, but luckily that little green Rainforest Café frog has been there every year waiting for us! In 2001 our second daughter Maddy became part of the ritual. Every year we would pose in front of that Rainforest Café frog - it's been a great tradition. It just so happens that when Gary asked me about the pictures, the girls were at Disney for a couple weeks and took this year's picture - sadly - without me. But I was definitely there in spirit and very glad the tradition lives on.

Dave_and_Brinn_1998
Dave and Brinn - 1998

Dave_and_Maddy_2001
Dave and Maddy - 2001

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Dave and Brinn 2005

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Dave and Maddy 2006

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Dave and Maddy 2010

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Dave and Brinn 2011

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Brinn 2013

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Maddy 2013

From Hilary S. of St. Louis, MO: I have a few Walt Disney World traditions, most of which I do every single time I am there. The most near and dear to my heart is to stop for just a moment outside the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, preferably after dark, and take it all in. When I graduated high school in 1991, my parents asked where I wanted to go that summer. I immediately said Walt Disney World, we'd been twice before but had never stayed onsite and had never tried to do it all. Well, this trip we did -- and more! We stayed at the Disney Inn and loved it. I'm so glad we got to experience it before it became Shades of Green. Especially my Dad and I, we were just in awe and loved every minute of our time at Walt Disney World. I specifically remember standing next to him outside the MK one night and just being totally and completely happy. I have never forgotten that moment. Dad passed away unexpectedly in 2005 and every single time I'm there I recreate the moment and think of him. It makes me appreciate the magic that is Walt Disney World, makes me feel connected to Dad and makes me so thankful for our wonderful relationship.

Those are just a few highlights from the e-mails I received. It seems to me that we all have unique little rituals that play out when we arrive at our happy place . . . traditions that have a very special meaning to us and our families. But in spite of the wide diversity in our individual rituals, they all have one thing in common. Each and every one of these rituals makes our vacations memorable and magical. Just as Walt would have wanted it!

What is your Disney ritual?

July 29, 2013

Jim’s Attic: Bits of Disneyland

By Jim Korkis

Every two weeks, Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World.

Having grown up in the Southern California area and visiting Disneyland many, many times a year, it was quite a "Twilight Zone"-like experience to enter the Magic Kingdom for the first time. While there were areas that seemed similar to what was at Disneyland, the differences were more pronounced than the similarities.

Where was New Orleans Square and why was there no fort for me to enter Frontierland? Where was Pinocchio's Daring Adventure and America Sings?

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What was this Liberty Square place and who were those talking birds in the queue for the Enchanted Tiki Room?

Interestingly, some actual objects from Disneyland over the years did make the journey to its East Coast cousin.

In fact, some rather large objects made their way thanks to some problems with getting Disney Animal Kingdom ready to open in 1996.

As many Disney fans know, Disney Animal Kingdom was meant to include areas devoted to animals real, imaginary and extinct. Early guest surveys showed people so eager to see a dragon or a unicorn up close in the Beastly Kingdom, that the Disney Company was greatly encouraged that building the park was a great idea.

However, as the "real" section went over budget since the care and feeding of animals had been under-estimated among other reasons, the Beastly Kingdom disappeared and the Imagineers at the direction of CEO Michael Eisner rushed to put in a temporary place-holder area, like Mickey's Birthdayland, called Camp Minnie-Mickey.

One of the fastest and least expensive things to add to an area is live entertainment and it is also the easiest to remove. Two temporary shows were created, "Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends" and "Festival of the Lion King", that were expected to last about a year or two until the Beastly Kingdom could be revived for the second phase of the park. Both shows opened April 1998.

However, there was a severely limited budget so it was necessary to purchase some already built items from Disneyland that were going into storage or about to be destroyed.

For the "Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends" show a large impressive Grandmother Willow figure from Disneyland's live action show, "The Spirit of Pocahontas" that closed in the Fall of 1997 was incorporated. While many fans think it was an expensive audio-animatronics prop, it was actually designed to be manipulated by a puppeteer just like the little Sprig character. The process was dubbed "Puppetronics".

poca4.jpgpoca2.jpg

In "The Festival of the Lion King", the impressive floats that serve as intriguing set pieces are actually recycled from The Lion King Celebration parade that ran at Disneyland from 1994-1997. The parade featured six floats but only four were utilized for "The Festival of the Lion King".

However, the floats did undergo some slight modifications. For instance, the last float in the parade, Pride Rock, has Simba standing atop the rock while Nala is down below to his right at the foot of the float beating out a rhythm with her paws on the drums. Mufasa's face is represented on the spinning sun design up above.

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Both Nala and Mufasa were removed from the float before it was used in the stage show.

None of these items were free. The Disney Company has different business units and so these things had to be purchased so that a business unit could balance its books. Also shipping the items from the West Coast to the East Coast incurred expenses as well.

However, for Disneyland fans who long for a little reminder of that park, there are actual bits and pieces scattered throughout the WDW parks.

RELATED LINKS
====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":

July 22, 2013

Disney’s Oldest Parade - Electrical Water Pageant

Gary Cruise banner

Walt Disney World has plenty of parades. The Magic Kingdom currently has the "Celebrate A Dream Come True" parade every afternoon at 3:00 and the "Main Street Electrical Parade" at 9:00 and 11:00. Disney's Animal Kingdom features the "Jammin' Jungle Parade" at 3:45

Over the years there have been many themed parades at each of the Disney parks but the undisputed grand-daddy of all parades is the Electrical Water Pageant which sails the waters of Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. It has been running every night (weather permitting) since October 26, 1971. There have been a few subtle changes over the past 42 years, but it is still as captivating as it was the first time I watched it in 1977.

One of our favourite ways to end our day at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is to head to the beach and watch the nightly performance of the Electrical Water Pageant.

We try to arrive a bit early, find a comfy seat on the patio beside the marina and wait until those tell-tale green lights begin to appear. The 14 barges which provide the show run very quietly. They are nearly invisible, with only their running lights to reveal their approach. Then once they are in position the show begins with a fanfare of techno music and all those wonderful lights reflecting off Bay Lake.

The first four barges all light up their 40 foot long and 25 foot high displays at once and portray the image of a sea serpent accompanied by "Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You Too)" from Pete's Dragon.

Sea_Serpent

Soon the next float comes alive with the image of a spouting whale as you listen to "Whale of a Tale" from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Whale_and_Turtle

Floats six and seven feature a turtle bobbing its head under water and an octopus, also accompanied by lively music generated by the 800 watt sound system.

Soon the first three floats in the second string light up to reveal three jumping dolphins, followed in turn by a Brachiosaurus, a crocodile, four seahorses and finally King Triton. By the time all 14 floats are illuminated there are over 50,000 lights involved in the animated panorama. WOW!

Dolphins

King_Triton

Then, just when you think it's all over, the grand finale begins. It's an inspirational salute to America, with Flags and Stars set to a patriotic musical medley of God Bless America, Yankee Doodle, and You're a Grand Old Flag.

Stars_and_Flags

You don't even have to spend money on park admission to enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant.

It sails past the beach at every Disney resort on Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. The normal schedule is:
• 9:00 p.m. - Polynesian Resort
• 9:15 p.m. - Grand Floridian
• 9:35 p.m. - Wilderness Lodge
• 9:45 p.m. - Fort Wilderness
• 10:05 p.m. - Contemporary Resort
• 10:20 p.m. - Magic Kingdom (only when MK is open past 10:00 p.m.)

The Electrical Water Pageant is an often overlooked feature at Walt Disney World and it truly is a hidden gem. Plan to watch it from the beach at one of the resorts soon. With a little planning you might even see the Wishes fireworks spectacular reflecting off the water before or after the pageant. Check with Guest Services at your resort to confirm exact show times.

If you watch it from the Polynesian Resort I recommend a stop at Captain Cook's on the way. Pick up a cool Dole Whip to enjoy as you sit on the beach enjoying the show. If you watch from Fort Wilderness, take a look around, you may just see Carol and I on the patio beside the marina!

July 15, 2013

Jim’s Attic: Where in the World is Abraham Lincoln?

By Jim Korkis

Every two weeks, Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World.
In 1909, there was a huge celebration for President Abraham Lincoln's one-hundredth birthday from parades to hundreds of bronze plaques with The Gettysburg Address installed in schools to much oratory in local auditoriums to a special edition of the newspaper The Chicago Tribune that weighed over three pounds. That year the Lincoln penny was issued for the first time.

Caught up in all the hoopla was a young Missouri boy who roughly a year later transferred to Benton Elementary School in Kansas City. In the fifth grade, he dressed up as the 16th president by borrowing his father's old frock coat, making a stovepipe hat out of cardboard and black shoe polish, wearing a crepe hair beard and not forgetting Lincoln's mole, astounded his classmates and the school principal with his dramatic recitation of The Gettysburg Address.

Principal Cottingham took young Walt Disney to every classroom to repeat his performance and every subsequent Lincoln's birthday in February until Walt's graduation.

Walt had planned for his boyhood hero to be a part of Disneyland.

Imagineer Wathel Rogers stated in 1963, "Lincoln is part of a Disneyland project called 'One Nation Under God'. (A curtain) will open to reveal the Hall of Presidents. The visitor will see all the Chief Executives modeled life-size. He'll think it's a waxworks-until Lincoln stands up and begins to talk."

However, technology and finances only permitted Lincoln to be built for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair and only after Walt appeared at a press conference in Springfield, Illinois on November 19, 1963 to assure the concerned citizens that he was not going to "cartoonize" Lincoln.

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"Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" was installed at Disneyland on July 18, 1965 and the expanded "Hall of Presidents" opened at the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971.

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Amazingly, many WDW guests show up at Epcot's American Adventure Pavilion assuming that the Lincoln audio-animatronics figure will be there. However, Imagineers figured he was already well represented at the Magic Kingdom.

However, from September of 2007 through early this year, the American Heritage Gallery in the lobby of the "American Adventure" featured a special National Treasures exhibit.

Jim Clark, one of the team members who designed the exhibit stated in 2007, "You'll see one of Abraham Lincoln's actual stovepipe hats, which has never been publicly exhibited outside of the Lincoln Family Home in Manchester, Vermont.

lincoln1.JPG

"We're also presenting many of Lincoln's personal items, like the book of Lord Byron poetry that inspired his second inaugural address, and his dressing room mirror-where he probably took his last glimpse of himself before he went off to Ford's Theater."


lincoln2.JPG

A new exhibit is now in the location: "Re-Discovering America: Family Treasures from the Kinsey Collection". Another reminder that things change constantly and suddenly at Disney theme parks so don't take things for granted.

At Disney Hollywood Studios, in the "One Man's Dream" attraction, you can find a brief mention on a placard about young Walt dressing up as Lincoln (but don't be fooled by the blown up photo on the wall - that's Walt and his best friend Walter Pfeiffer dressed up for one of their vaudeville comedy routines, not Walt as Lincoln).

Further into the exhibit is one of the audio-animatronics shells for the Lincoln figure. If the face looks amazing, it is because that sculptor Blaine Gibson used an 1860 life mask of Lincoln for reference but had to enlarge it slightly in order to accommodate the mechanics inside the skull.

lincoln3.jpg

So, the late U.S. President who inspired Walt Disney for his entire life pops up quite prominently at Walt Disney World.

RELATED LINKS
====================
Read about Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland

Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":

July 6, 2013

Dayton Disneyana - 2013

Gary Cruise banner

A few of our Canadian pin-trader friends have attended Dayton Disneyana several times and they always describe it in glowing detail. It has always sounded like something Carol would really enjoy; so for several years we have hoped to head to Dayton for this annual event. Alas, too many other things always seemed to intervene. This year we decided early that nothing else should stand in our way.

The Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club, who host the event annually, describe it as "a Show & Sale of Disneyana Collectibles and Disney Pin Trading Event" but it is actually much more than that. It's more like a convention for Disney fans!

This year's event included two well known speakers; 1) Jim Hill, an award-winning entertainment writer from Boston who written extensively about The Walt Disney Company. 2) Jim Korkis, an internationally respected Disney historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for over three decades.

Carol and our son Rob both delight in scouring Thrift Shops, Flea Markets, Second Hand Stores and Garage Sales for Disney treasures and they had been looking forward to this trip for months.

I don't share their mania for collectibles, but I'd been hoping for a somewhat different outcome. You see, my sweet, wonderful and loving wife would be celebrating her birthday just a few days after the event. I had been hoping that she could point to an item sometime over the weekend and say, "That's it - that's exactly what I want for my birthday." Actually, there was no doubt in my mind that that particular scene would play out . . . I only wondered how many times it would happen.

We live about two hours east of Toronto, almost exactly mid-way between Toronto and Montreal. The trip to the Wyndham Garden Hotel at Miamisburg Ohio, just south of Dayton, is 606 miles. We would be on the road for at least 9 ½ hours, plus any time we needed for fuel and rest breaks so an early start was mandatory!

Friday June 28, 2013
We were up at zero-dark-thirty and pulled away from home at 5:52 a.m., eight minutes ahead of schedule!

We crossed the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor Ontario into Detroit Michigan at 12:10 p.m. and headed south on Interstate 75.

Ohio_State_Line

At about 12:50 we crossed the Ohio State line and Carol shouted out, "Holy Toledo, I haven't been shopping yet!" We stopped in Toledo and had a quick bite of lunch before Carol and Rob invaded the Disney Store. I waited in the car and read for about a half hour before they returned. We resumed our southward trek on I-75.

We pulled off at Exit 44 in Miamisburg Ohio at 5:30. Aside from a few heavy rain showers the trip was uneventful. We had no traffic troubles.

After stretching our legs for a bit, we unpacked and settled in to our home for the next two nights. Rob's room is just across the courtyard from ours. Soon we hopped back in the car to head out for dinner. We were back "home" by 8:45 and Carol spent some time visiting with friends Susan and Carrie while the chauffeur took a soothing dip in the "not-hot but merely tepid" tub. Aaahh! Even though it was only moderately warm it still felt good. There were no pin traders trading in the lobby so before long Carol joined me for a soak. At about 10:00 we headed back to the room where we read and played on the computer for a while before bed.

Saturday June 29, 2013
The downside to that whole "Early to bed, early to rise" thing is the early rising part. Carol and I were both wide awake before 7:00 a.m. We sat around and wasted an hour before calling friends Susan and Carrie. They met us for breakfast in the hotel at about 8:15.

On the way back to our rooms we picked up tickets for the event which opened at 10:00 a.m. Some people had prepaid an "Early Bird Fee" of $15.00 and were allowed to enter the ballroom at 8:30 and enjoy 90 minutes of shopping before the rest of us were admitted.

Cutting_the_Ribbon

At 10:00 the president of the Dayton Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club cut the ribbon to officially open the show and we rushed through the door and into the ballroom. As we filed in our friend Gabe, who took advantage of early entry, marched out with a huge smile and several large bags! He was obviously a happy collector!

Carol and Rob just didn't know where to start! They were in some sort of Disney heaven and they had difficulty figuring out how to attack the huge mound of treasure facing them.

I wandered up and down the aisles taking pictures of the wide array of Disney merchandise and collectibles. There really was everything from soup to nuts. Wow!

Carol_is_overwhelmed

There were plates and spoons, cups and glasses, clocks and watches. There were comic books, magazines, coloring books, toys, framed pictures, cels, figurines, games and collectibles in varieties too many to mention.

Merchandise

More_Merchandise

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Books_and_magazines

Naturally there were pins and vinylmations!

There were movies and movie posters, VHS and DVD videos, LP's, CD's and video games.

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There were brand new items and there were some dating back to the 1930's. It's really hard to comprehend the variety and diversity of goods on sale. The pictures tell the story though!

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Disneyana Fan Club originated as The National Fantasy Fan Club (NFFC) in 1984 and now has over 25 chapters across the country & around the world.

The Plane Crazy Chapter in Dayton, who host this show, began about 10 years ago as "Pin Trading By The Pond" when a few friends gathered to trade pins beside one of the trader's backyard koi ponds. The next year it grew so much that they had to book a room to house the event. Since then it has grown into a wonderful two day extravaganza for Disney collectors and traders. Last year they hosted over 400 guests.

By the time I had made my first circuit of the room snapping pictures Carol had filled a couple of bags. She and Rob, who also had a bag full, were sporting big smiles. I took the bags to our room and dropped them off, freeing up their hands for more shopping!

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I continued to wander, this time taking fewer pictures and allowing plenty of time to admire the merchandise. It was even more amazing when I took time to actually consider what my eyes were seeing. I was nowhere near as excited as Carol and Rob, but I could understand why they were so enthusiastic.

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The next time I crossed paths with Carol she took my arm and dragged me to a nearby table. Those words I had been expecting rolled off her lips, "That's it - that's exactly what I want for my birthday." I bought the three Disney Classic Collection figurines she pointed out, packed them in the big bag she had partly filled while I was gone, wished her Happy Birthday, and took another big load to the room.

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When I returned at about 12:30 the pin traders were starting to take their positions at tables in the hallway outside the ballroom. Carrie and I hopped in the car and made a mad dash to a nearby Wendy's restaurant. We were back with lunch for all in our group and I wolfed mine down then ran down the hall (OK . . . it was more of a quick limping shuffle) to listen to the speakers who were beginning their presentations in the atrium at 1:15 p.m.

I arrived just as Jim Korkis was beginning. Jim is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. He is a former Walt Disney World cast member and is now a regular guest blogger on AllEars.

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Jim focussed on the classic old Disney movie The Song Of The South which has been removed from the US and Canadian markets for many years. He told a number of interesting and amusing stories about the movie and about his interaction with many of the actors who appeared in it. Jim is passionate about Disney and his zeal is infectious. When he speaks, he grabs your attention and he doesn't let go. If you get a chance to hear Jim speak, do not pass it up!

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Next up to the podium was Jim Hill, an award-winning entertainment writer from Boston who written extensively about The Walt Disney Company. He is a very captivating speaker as well.

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Jim Hill's focus was more "future oriented"; he began by telling us how Disney "dropped the ball" during negotiations with J.K. Rowling. As a result of a fumble by Disney Imagineers The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was built at Universal rather than at Walt Disney World. What a shame!

In Jim's opinion that faux pas led to the big changes and improvements we have seen in Fantasyland. He spoke at length describing the changes will we see at Walt Disney World in years to come.

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Will Star Wars Land be coming to Florida? Yes! Jim gave us some interesting glimpses of what current plans include.

Will Avatar Land be coming to Florida? Yes! It may take some time to get done, but it is included in current plans.

Will Cars Land be coming to Florida? Yes! It will not include Luigi's Flying Tires - they cannot dig deep enough to install the underground fans needed for the attraction. The water table in Florida is simply too high to allow the necessary excavation.

The two Jims spent over a half hour answering questions from the audience; it was a lively and humorous Q & A session.

Carol and all her pin trading buddies were firmly settled in the hallway outside the ballroom when I returned. I said a quick hello as I passed by, on my way to talk some more with the pair of Jims. They had set up in the ballroom where Jim Korkis was selling copies of his two books. I bought a copy of each and Jim signed (and illustrated) them for me.

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Throughout the day there were silent auctions, door prize draws, children's games and a charity draw for beautiful Disney themed quilt. There was always something interesting going on!

Carol, Rob and the gang continued to trade until almost 6:00 p.m. then took a break for dinner. We had a nice meal at the little restaurant in the hotel; then they went back to the trade tables. They had a good day trading, there were plenty of pins, vinylmations, buttons and even a few Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards changing hands. Everyone seemed happy with their trades when they finally called it quits at 9:45 p.m. These traders sure have a lot of stamina!

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Before bed Carol confided that there are still a few more collectibles she has her eye on. I anticipate a few more purchases tomorrow. The doors open at 10:00 a.m. and we plan to get away by about noon to begin our trip home. It's a holiday weekend in Canada and we want to be home for Canada Day celebrations on Monday.

Sunday June 30, 2013
The Sunday schedule was almost an exact duplicate of the Saturday programme. The ballroom full of vendors opened at 10:00 a.m. and the two Jims each made another presentation, with fresh topics, beginning at 1:15 p.m. I thoroughly enjoyed both their presentations on Saturday and I was disappointed that I could not stay to enjoy the second session.

We met Susan and Carrie for breakfast and all of us were waiting outside the ballroom when the doors opened. We had all walked around the tables at least a dozen times on Saturday . . . there shouldn't have been anything new to see . . . but there was! There was just so much merchandise on display that you could not take it all in.

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While Carol and Rob shopped, I spent some time chatting with Disneyana Fan Club Dayton Chapter President Gary DesCombes, Disney Fan Club National President Gary Schaengold and his wife Anita who is part of the team of about 18 volunteers who make this great, family friendly event happen year after year.

They passed on some interesting facts. I thought our 606 mile trip from Kingston (500 miles as the crow flies) was a long journey, but it is nothing compared to some others. This year there were guests from as far away as Chicago and North Carolina, as the crow flies they are 225 miles and 500 miles distant respectively. We are about tied with the North Carolina folks for this year's distance record! But we pale in comparison with the group of 12 who attended from California last year and the lady who has flown in from Japan to attend, not once but twice!

Some of the vendors travel long distances to the show as well. Theme Park Connection of Winter Garden Florida hauled a truckload of goods about 775 miles from their store just north of Walt Disney World.

Carol had planned to take a quick lap of the ballroom to pick up those last few items she mentioned the previous night, then settle in for some trading in the hallway. Two hours later she and Rob were still in the ballroom. Some of the merchandise had been marked down . . . I suppose it's easier to sell it than it is to pack it up and take it back home.

There was plenty of haggling going on; prices seemed to be more flexible as the end of the weekend drew nearer!

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Vinylmations

Two representatives from PinPics.com, Anthony and Samantha Medina, arrived about noon and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with the many avid pin traders in the crowd. I spent a few minutes yakking with Samantha and then began the difficult task of dragging Carol and Rob away from the vendor's tables.

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Carol made a few very quick pin trades before we hopped in the car to begin our trek home. We pulled onto northbound Interstate 75 at 12:40 p.m. Traffic was moving very well, there was hardly a slowdown, even in Detroit. We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and returned to "Our Home And Native Land" at 5:00 p.m.

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Traffic in Canada was also lighter than we anticipated and we made great time. There were a few very quick stops for fuel and coffee and we arrived home at 10:30, about 90 minutes earlier than we had expected. We were tired after a long day on the road but Carol and Rob were still all pumped up about the event and the treasures they found!

They agreed that it's an event we will definitely return to. Because of the distance it may not be an annual event, but we will definitely attend periodically.

Here are the treasures Carol brought home.

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Her most cherished "find" is this Olszewski figurine which Rob picked up in the silent auction.

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Rob had a pretty nice pile of loot too!

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His favourite is this Fantasia themed Mickey Mouse clock. We added a fresh battery and it's ticking away!

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If you are an avid Disney fan and a collector of Disneyana then Dayton Disneyana should be on your to-do list. Next year's event is tentatively planned for Father's Day weekend, June 14 - 15, 2014. These dates are not yet firm, check the Disneyana Fan Club web site before finalizing your plans.

The National web site is HERE.

The Plane Crazy Chapter site is HERE.

Like them on Facebook HERE.

What will you find if you attend? We were pleasantly surprised by the attractive hotel rates, $81.00 a night in 2013. The event registration was a mere $5.00 for a 2 day adult pass, or $3.00 for a 1 day pass. The merchandise was varied, plentiful and good quality. This is not a flea market and the vendors are not selling junk and trinkets.

The vendors are friendly, approachable and most are die-hard Disney fans just like you and I. Of course all of the other attendees are kindred Disney spirits too. It's a totally immersive experience and you will feel right at home, we sure did!

Maybe Carol and I will see you there some day?


July 1, 2013

Jim's Attic: The Park Princess Problem

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

Disney Princesses

My nieces have grown too old for the Disney Princess merchandise and my nephew is still too young to appreciate the charms of a Disney Princess.

Their Uncle Jim, however, spends way too much time thinking about Disney Princesses, especially with the recent induction of Merida from Pixar's animated feature "Brave".

Merida's Royal Celebration

While there has been some controversy surrounding her joining the ranks of this prestigious and profitable group, what concerns me is "Who will dance with Merida?"

Unlike every other Disney Princess that takes to the stage at the Magic Kingdom or rides on a parade float, Merida has no romantic companion. In fact, one of the points of the film is that a princess (or any woman) doesn't need to be married to a prince (or a hero like Mulan's general) to live happily ever after. All of the suitors for the hand of Merida are shown to be ineptly unsuitable in the extreme despite the rules of tradition.

So while all the other princesses are paired up to dance on stage, who will dance with Merida? Her horse? Some nameless hunk in a kilt?

Merida and Angus

The Disney Princess brand was created in 2000 by then Chairman of Disney Consumer Products Andy Mooney. That first year the brand brought in three hundred million dollars in global retail sales but three years later, it was generating close to two billion dollars in yearly sales and that was ten years ago.

Interestingly, Disney Consumer Products has stated "The characters were not chosen specifically for their royal titles, but rather for how well they fit into what Disney executives deemed 'the Princess mythology'."

That may explain why Tinker Bell once had Disney Princess merchandise before becoming the cornerstone of the Disney Fairies brand meant to appeal to little girls who outgrew the princesses.

Merida and Angus

Pocahontas is not a princess, because her tribe never had that designation like some of the Western Plains tribes. At best, her status might be comparable to being the daughter of the President of the United States. (However, Princess Tiger Lily from "Peter Pan" is a true Indian princess but was never included with the other princesses ever.)

Pocahontas

Pocahontas doesn't marry a prince, either, but an Englishman named John Rolfe, both in real life and in the Disney animated sequel. However, on stage, she is paired romantically with John Smith (perhaps because not even the most devoted Disney fan would recognize John Rolfe or remember that in both real and animated life Smith abandoned Pocahontas).

When I asked why Giselle from the film "Enchanted" was not made a Disney Princess, a Disney marketing executive patiently explained that "since she didn't marry the prince in the end of the film, she did not become a princess". I guess it was because she was not considered of royal birth.

Belle is actually not officially a princess either but a "princess consort", a term that refers to when a commoner or someone of a lower status marries into royalty. (Remember it is Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip not King Phillip. He is a prince consort.)

Belle

I guess I just don't understand Disney Princesses but I better figure it out soon since the character of Anna in the new Disney animated feature "Frozen" due to be released in November is a royal princess.

RELATED LINKS
====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":

May 6, 2012

Disney Pin Trading in New Jersey

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One of the highlights of Carol's pin-trading year is the trip to New Jersey each April for the "Trade 'Til You Fade" pin trading weekend hosted by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. She just loves getting together with other traders and CJDPT always puts on a first class event!

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The group was founded by John Rick in January 2002 and since then they have held regular pin trading meets. The schedule of events is accessible on their web site at: http://www.cjdpt.com All of their meets are held at the Hampton Inn 255 Davidson Avenue, Somerset, NJ. There are Friday evening events, Saturday afternoon events and two week-end-long events in April and October. John's wife Sheila and their good friends Janis Lavender of Travel Dreams and her husband David are actively involved in all aspects of the group's activities.

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We normally travel to New Jersey with a group of Canadian pin traders, most of them from the Toronto area. Even though I am not a pin trader, I have joined in a few times. The trip is an adventure for us. Our travel day is Thursday and we always stop at the Syracuse NY Disney Store on the way; many of the Disney Stores in Canada have closed and we sure miss them! The store is conveniently located about two hours into our trek so we can stop and stretch our legs. It's a 364 mile trip from our home to the Hampton Inn but we have a bit of a head-start on our companions from the Toronto area who have to drive an extra 160 miles, making it a 524 mile trip for them.

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You might expect that we Canadians, since we are foreigners, travelled furthest to get to New Jersey but that's actually not the case. Folks drive from as far away as Miami FL - 1,270 miles but I think this year the distance award has to go to the dedicated trader from Seattle WA who flew 2,800 miles to trade pins!

Even though trading activities don't officially start until Friday evening there are already some pin traders set up at the tables in the breakfast area adjacent to the lobby by the time we arrive Thursday evening. We always stop and renew acquaintances but it's normally a short night for us. It has been a long drive and Carol needs a good night's rest to get herself ready for a gruelling week end!

We try to plan some other "Disney" activities for Friday morning. This often involves a train ride to The Big Apple and a trip to the Disney Store at Times Square. This time the ladies kept it simple; they took a short 30 minute drive to Staten Island. There are three Disney Stores along that 23 mile route and they covered them all in a shopping frenzy! I hung out at the hotel and my buddy John who lives about 45 minutes away came to join me for lunch.

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The event kicks off Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. when the registration desk opens and folks line up to check-in, pick up their name-tags, goody bags and tickets for several random draws. There are three trading areas, two hotel meeting rooms fill with traders first and once breakfast is over the trading activity spills over into the room where the complimentary breakfast is served each morning. The Hampton Inn and their staff are extremely accommodating. The hotel staff all join in the fun by wearing Disney themed clothing and they allow the group to post Disney posters and signs throughout the common areas of the hotel. It is a very festive and fun filled place! They even allow the group to bring in coolers filled with their own drinks on ice. Most traders bring bottled water, sodas or juices to add to the communal drink coolers and there are also plenty of traders who contribute "snack-food" items which soon fill the counters in the breakfast area. It quickly transforms from a complimentary breakfast into a veritable junk-food buffet!

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Carol always does her best trading on Friday nights. This year she traded from 7:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. and was delighted with the 39 pins and 2 vinylmations she was able to pick up. Yes, pin traders are an oddly nocturnal group! I have no idea what time things actually wound down but a friend reported that the crowd was thin when he left at 3:00 a.m.

Saturday morning we headed down for breakfast at 8:15. Many of the night-owls had returned, looking remarkably fresh and eager. The two meeting rooms were open and trading was in full swing again but, of course, the breakfast room was set aside for breakfast. Traders who want to set up in the breakfast room once the meal is done simply park their pin cases and pin bags along the wall in the corridor and establish their order in the line. Then at 10:20 or 10:30, when the area has been cleaned up after breakfast, they are given the "all-clear" to file in. Once they settle and get set up they are established for the day and trading resumes in earnest.

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The traders who come to these events are not at all like some of the ones you used to meet at those tables outside Pin Central at Downtown Disney. Many of them made their living trading pins and they could be very aggressive, sometimes ruthless. Not so at CJDPT events. The traders here are nice people who are anxious to help you complete your collection. Trading is easy, fun and free of stress. Carol really enjoys this week end; she looks forward to it every year.

This is the 19th "overnight event" CJDPT has hosted and there were 105 overnight guests in the hotel, occupying 51 rooms. The organizers always negotiate a flat rate with the hotel; all rooms were available at a cost of $68.00 per night which includes taxes and breakfast. We had a two-room suite with a king bed for a mere $68.00 per night! Wow! Registration fees for the pin trading event are quite reasonable as well. Guests registered at the hotel pay a fee of $3.00 to register for all three days. If you are not a hotel guest your fees for all three days will not be more than $13.00. The local people who "drop in" for a few hours swelled the total registration number to 122 people.

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There are special games, activities, quizzes and raffles throughout each day and night with prizes for all the winners. It's non-stop trading and there is always a fun-filled diversion of some kind. It's not always about pins; people are also trading vinylmations and other Disney collectibles!

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One of the highlights is the Saturday night gift exchange. It's purely voluntary and not everyone participates but it's always fun for those who do get involved. It's one of those exchanges where gifts can be "stolen" and folks can get quite aggressive and quite entertaining as they seek out their favourite gift!

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Sunday morning is generally very quiet; those who have travelled a distance are packing up and checking out to start the trip home. We always have breakfast and yak a bit before saying our goodbyes. We strive to be on the road by 10:30 so that we arrive home by about 6:00 p.m. Many folks stay and continue trading until the event officially closes at noon. Every year we see the plenty of familiar faces and several new ones. Carol has always found the group to be easy to trade with and she always completes a few sets and comes home with some new treasures!

If you are a pin trader and you want experience a fun filled week end with your peers, New Jersey is the place for you. Check out their web site at: http://www.cjdpt.com and make plans to join in a pin week end soon.

March 26, 2012

To Walt Disney World in a Motor Home - Part 2

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Yesterday I shared with you the first 2 days of our travels to Walt Disney World in a motor home. Today I'll finish the report!

The third day we follow our well established routine, up just before 7:00 a.m., unhooked and back on the highway by 8:00. Our destination is Walterboro South Carolina about 322 miles away.

This is the day we leave the mountains behind, but not before we drive off the edge of the world! Within minutes of pulling out of the campground we leave I-81 behind and turn south on I-77. The road rolls up and down as we steadily climb for about 30 miles to the peak of the Blue Ridge chain. Once you hit the top you start down the other side and begin a six mile plunge out of Virginia and into North Carolina. Carol does not like this hill! She bites her lip as we hurtle down and down . . . past several runaway truck ramps. The engine roars as the cruise control tries in vain to check our speed. I pump the brakes regularly, but not often enough for Carol! It takes several days for the white-knuckle marks to fade from the dash after our descent. But on a clear day it is very pretty! It can be an awesome view, but more often than not it's raining or foggy as we pass so the scenery takes a back seat to the terror!

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When we hit the bottom in North Carolina and I have once again saved my precious bride from certain death she starts breathing again and leans back to enjoy the rolling hills and the pretty rivers and lakes of the area. We will be in the "lowlands" for the rest of our journey.

No matter what time of year we travel we enjoy watching the season change as we head south. Whether its spring, autumn or winter things always get greener and greener as we head further south and the change becomes much more pronounced once we make the drop down that huge hill at Fancy Gap and Mount Airy.

On this morning we travel through the heart of NASCAR as we pass Mooresville, Lake Norman and Statesville North Carolina. We zip through Charlotte and cross the state line into South Carolina. We skirt around Columbia on I-77 and then turn south-east on I-26 for only 53 miles before we reach I-95 and head south again. Green rolling hills, lush forests and prosperous looking farms everywhere!

This is palm tree day! Carol has her eyes open all afternoon, darting left and right, and is always thrilled when she spots that first palm tree. It has to be posted on Facebook! Hooray, it's official - we're in the south! The dogs don't get too excited about palm trees; after three days they just want to get off that couch! Grrr!

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When we reach I-95 we are only about 35 miles from our stop for the day at Walterboro South Carolina. The campground there, New Green Acres, is just off the highway and is canopied with tall pine trees. The campsites are huge pull-thrus; there is no need to disconnect the tow-car. It's a very pretty spot and there is always plenty of space to let the dogs run and romp for a while.

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Of course, we do disconnect the car and head off for dinner before we settle in for the evening.

This is normally the first stop along the route where we hook up the sewer hose and drain the holding tanks before we pull out. The grey water tank and the black water tank each hold about 50 gallons so we can travel several days and both shower each day without dumping the tanks. We carry 60 gallons of fresh water and 96 pounds (23 gallons) of propane. The propane fuels the 35,000 BTU furnace and when we are not plugged in to 120V power it also operates the refrigerator and the 10 gallon water heater. The onboard generator provides up to 5,500 watts of 120V power when we cannot plug in to "shore-power" so we can operate the two roof-top air conditioners, the microwave and the central vacuum no matter where we stop along the way! It sure is a great way to travel!

Our fourth day it's a shorter drive, only 244 miles to St. Augustine Florida. Interstate 81 runs parallel to the Atlantic coastline and we are seldom more than 10 miles from the ocean. In this gently rolling lowland area we cross many tidal rivers and endless salt marshes as we enjoy the warm salty breeze from the Atlantic. Within an hour we cross the state line into Georgia.

Carol continually scans the banks of the rivers and marshes we cross looking for any sign of alligators along the shore or manatees in the rivers. She has had a few gator sightings but no manatees so far!

Soon we skirt past Savannah and make another fuel stop at Brunswick Georgia before crossing into Florida at about 11:30. We always stop at the Florida Welcome Centre on I-95. It just wouldn't be right if we didn't pull in for that free sample of fresh Florida orange juice!

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We pass through downtown Jacksonville at noon and in all of our trips through this city (Touch wood!) traffic on the interstate has not been too congested in the middle of the city.

Shortly after 1:00 p.m. we pull into North Beach Camp Resort at Vilano Beach, just a few miles north of St. Augustine. It's nice to have a short day on the road and we're usually all set up by 2:00 p.m.

We really enjoy St. Augustine and we stop there almost every trip. The dogs always enjoy a romp on the beach in the afternoon and we just love to poke around the historic old town area of St. Augustine. There are a couple of stores we almost always visit too, Carol has to drop into the Disney Character Outlet Store and I have to snoop around the nearby Camping World store.

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Just a few trips back we discovered a wonderful local restaurant, O'Steens, where we usually have a feast of fried shrimp! Yum! Then on our way back to the camp we drive around the historic area which is magnificently lit at night. It's truly beautiful!

From St. Augustine it's only 129 Miles to Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. We don't usually get away at our normal time, we relax a bit the last morning. We want to arrive well before the 1:00 p.m. check-in time so we're on the road by 9:00. After another hour on I-95 we turn west on I-4 for an hour then Orlando looms into sight. Hallelujah . . . soon the Disney signs appear.

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We pull off I-4 onto Disney Property and arrive at the best campground we have ever seen.

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The guard at the security gate says, "Welcome home!" and directs us to the drive-thru check in gate.

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We like to check in early in the day, we think it gives us a better chance of getting one of our favourite campsites. All of the sites are great of course, but we do have a handful of favourites.

Typically the sites are not cleaned and ready for us when we arrive so we drive a few hundred yards to the "overflow parking lot" where Carol walks the dogs while I unhook the tow car. Then we load the dogs back in the RV, start up the onboard generator and turn on the air conditioners to keep the dogs comfortable while we drive to Downtown Disney for lunch at the Earl of Sandwich - it's a tradition!

Soon the cell phone buzzes with a text message - our site is ready. Carol drops me at the RV and she heads for the campsite as I follow behind her. She directs me as I back it into position.

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This time our set-up routine is a little more involved; in addition to the normal utility connections we have palm trees, Mickey lamps, rope lights and several big totes full of seasonal decorations to put up. First we unpack all the hatches under the RV.

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Set up takes a few hours this time, but of course it's a labor of love and we enjoy it!

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By 3:00 p.m. or so we are finished. Aaah! Home again, it sure feels good to be back in out Happy Place!

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So that's a summary of a typical trip in our motor home. I hope you enjoyed riding with us. If you would like to see more details and pictures from a specific trip or two, take a look at our blog site at www.carol-anne.ca Follow the link to "The Disney Room" and browse through our trip reports. Don't forget to sign the guest book!

March 25, 2012

To Walt Disney World in a Motor Home - Part 1

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In two previous blogs I've told you about Halloween at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and I've described all the reasons why our dogs enjoy vacationing there. We just love "The Fort"; it's the best campground we've ever found and we always look forward to taking the RV there!

Have you wondered what it would be like to travel to your favourite vacation destination in a small house that rolls down the highway? There are no suitcases to carry, no weight restrictions, no limits to what we can bring and every night we sleep in our own bed! It's a great way to travel and we really enjoy it! Let me describe the experience for you.

On our first day we're always up bright and early, full of excitement. The RV is mostly packed so while Carol moves the last few perishable items from the fridge in the house to the fridge in the motor home I take the car to Tim Horton's and hurry back with coffee and a bite of breakfast. Then we check the lights on the car we tow behind the rig - yup, they work fine! The last chore is to hook the dog's harnesses to the seat belts on the couch and off we go. Zak and Blue are seasoned travellers and are quite cozy there. We usually pull away at about 7:00 a.m. We will travel 382 miles to Harrisburg Pennsylvania before we stop for the night.

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This is when Carol can finally relax! She has been busy for days getting ready. We can't park the RV at home very long; it's too big to fit in our driveway. So Carol begins assembling everything we're taking along and she stacks most of it in a spare bedroom. The day before departure we pick up the motor home from the storage barn about 20 miles away, pull it up in front of the house and fill it with everything we'll need. Do I need warm weather clothes or cool weather clothes? Doesn't matter - bring them all and hang them in the closet. Clothing, food, cameras, computers, lawn chairs, totes full of decorations to fit the season and so much more, we stow it all away, hang the bikes on the bike rack and hook up the tow-car. Aaah! Now we're ready to leave in the morning!

Within five minutes of departure we are eastbound on the freeway, Highway 401, for about 25 miles then we turn south and cross the Ivy Lea Bridge to Hill Island. This is the same bridge you see in the CircleVision Theatre at EPCOT's Canada Pavilion. When you fly down that beautiful section of the St. Lawrence River, dotted with islands and see that huge bridge you are less than 25 miles from or home.

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Riding in the RV is much different than riding in your car. One of the big advantages is that you sit up high, well above the guard rails and barriers. The sight lines are great and we can see so many things that you miss riding in a car. Even when we are stuck behind a long line of traffic we can see over top of the cars ahead and determine what's going on well ahead of us.

The Canada/US border runs between Hill Island, Ontario and Wellesley Island, New York. There is seldom a long line when we arrive at about 7:30 a.m. so we are quickly through Immigration and southbound on Interstate 81. The process is much the same as if you were driving your car, you pull up, hand your passports out the window, answer a few quick questions and they hand back the passports and wave you on. Soon we cross the next bridge over the St. Lawrence as we leave Wellesley Island behind and continue south on the mainland.

The first few hours, through the most northern part of New York State, we see almost no traffic as we drive through rolling hills. I just set the cruise control at about 63 miles per hour and we watch the miles roll by! We move a bit slower than most traffic so I keep an eye on the mirrors and the back-up camera. That's the only way I can see the tow-car, it doesn't show in my mirrors.

Once we pass Syracuse the hills become a little larger and begin to think that they are mountains and of course they are! We're in the Appalachians. I-81 climbs and descends again and again as it winds its way through the mountains, following the course of the Susquehanna River. Soon we pass Binghamton and by the time we cross into Pennsylvania, at about 11:00 a.m., we are faced with some serious mountains. The transmission gears down and the engine roars a bit as we climb the steepest of slopes but we seldom lose any speed. Once we break over the top and begin to descend the cruise control acts as an engine brake to control our speed as we go down. This too causes the engine to roar and I occasionally have to use the brake pedal to slow us down. The dogs don't like the mountains; the engine roar disturbs their sleep. Carol occasionally roars too, "Do you know how fast you're going?" This also disturbs the puppies!

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We make our first fuel stop in northern Pennsylvania. Gasoline is about 30% cheaper in the USA; we pay very high gas taxes in Canada so we do not fill up at home if we can avoid it.

This section of I-81, in northern PA, is just terrible! It's full of bumps, patches and potholes. In many areas it's like driving on a washboard. The state is working on it, but they sure need to hurry up the repairs. Ouch! There is some amazing scenery through the north part of Pennsylvania but we would enjoy it a whole lot more on better roads.

Every few hours we stop at a rest area or pull into the parking lot at a shopping mall so I can stretch my legs and the dogs can have a walk. We look for somewhere which has plenty of room to turn the RV around. When the car is hooked on the back it's about 65 feet long and you cannot back up unless you disconnect the car. We try to avoid pulling into a place if we cannot see the way out! We've goofed a couple of times and believe me, it's no fun!

A few hours after crossing the state line we start to see fewer steep grades as we follow more valleys through the Appalachians and by mid afternoon we reach our destination, Harrisburg East Campground in the state capital. We like to cover about 350 miles each day and get set up in a campground before dark.

One of the difficulties during our first few days of travel in the winter months is finding campgrounds which are open. By the time we hit the Carolinas there is no problem finding campgrounds, but in the north most of them close in October and reopen in April. We have found a few which stay open year round. Harrisburg is one of these year-round locations and it's often an important stop for us. In the winter we winterize the rig here on our way home and we flush out the winter anti-freeze from the water lines on our way south.

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We have a well rehearsed routine once we stop for the day. Carol directs me as I drive the RV into the campsite, watching to make sure there are no low hanging branches or obstacles I cannot see from behind the wheel. She makes sure that I'm close enough to hook up all the utility connections but far enough away from trees and posts that they won't interfere with our three slide-out rooms. Once the rig is situated she takes the dogs out for a walk while I unhook the tow-car and begin to hook up the electrical connection, fresh water line and cable TV. Before I'm finished Carol and the dogs are back. She runs out the slide-outs, drops the hydraulic levelling jacks, sets several flashing digital clocks and sets up the coffee pot to brew our java for the next morning. Voila! We're settled for the night. We have it down to a science . . . it usually takes less than 20 minutes.

We normally do some shopping our first day. We don't take much food across the border. There are some restrictions on what you can take and groceries are normally much cheaper south of the border so we stock up once we're there. So after the driver has had a rest and the dogs have had a good romp we head off shopping and then find a restaurant for a bite of dinner. Yes, I know, you were expecting that Carol would cook a nice nutritious dinner for the driver, but that doesn't often happen. She seems to think that she's on vacation when we're travelling in the RV . . .

We're normally back by 8:00, reconnect the tow-car and settle in for an evening of television. There's another long day coming tomorrow.

On our second day we will cover 362 miles and stop at Wytheville Virginia. The coffee-maker is usually set to come on at about 6:45 and once it starts to gurgle Blue hops on the bed to announce the arrival of morning. After a few cups of coffee, a bowl of cereal and a shower I unhook the utility connections while Carol pulls in the slides, retracts the jacks, battens down everything inside and hooks up the dog's seat belts. We're normally back on the highway just after 8:00 a.m.

This is one of my favourite days of driving. There are still mountains, but the southern part of Pennsylvania is relatively flat and the highway is good. Soon we are in the Shenandoah Valley with the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Appalachians to the west. It's beautiful rolling countryside with some amazing vistas.

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After about an hour we reach the Pennsylvania/Maryland state line. Within 40 minutes we will have been in 4 states, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and then Virginia. Wow! During this time we have crossed two historic rivers, the Potomac and the James, and passed by many famous Civil War battlegrounds. Since we're Canadian we didn't learn much in school about the Civil War but we're learning! Carol keeps the laptop on the dash in front of her and we use it as our GPS. It's name is Sadie! We use a USB stick and have a 3G internet connection so she can "Google" any questions we have along the route. Hmmm . . . the Mason-Dixon Line - who were they? The Cyrus McCormick Homestead - who was he? Molly Pitcher Highway - who was she?

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I use questions like those to keep Carol busy as we roll along. She reads a bit and spends some time on Facebook, keeping up with friends and family as well as updating them on our progress as we make our way south. Me? I just love driving the RV and I seldom get bored. Sometimes I get a bit like James Thurber's character, Walter Mitty. I'm Snowman, a long distance trucker hauling 400 cases of Coors beer to Georgia for Big Enos Burdette. Other times I'm captaining a submarine or flying a jumbo jet. I can always keep my mind busy as the miles roll on!

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We travel for two complete days on I-81 and this route avoids the congestion of major cities like Baltimore MD and Washington DC. There are very few large cites so we don't encounter too many traffic delays, we just sit back and enjoy the scenery! We often look at the signs for such attractions as the Natural Bridge, the Sky Line Drive through Blue Ridge National Park and many others. We add these to our bucket list.

When the afternoon sun shines on the Blue Ridge Mountains it is easy to understand how they got their name! It can be breathtaking at times as you look out at row upon row of peaks shrouded in a faint blue haze.

By mid-afternoon we reach our destination, Wytheville Virginia at the junction of I-81 and I-77. We fuel up again before we head to the campground. The RV is on a Ford chassis, powered by a 6.8 liter V10 engine and burns regular gasoline. It has a 75 gallon gas tank and we get about 8 miles per gallon. Depending on gas prices, fuel for our 2,810 mile round trip will cost between $1,200 and $1,600. The Wytheville KOA campground is close to the freeway and we are normally settled and all set up before 4:00. Then we relax a bit and give the dogs a romp before heading out to dinner. After a long day on the road we're happy to spend a quiet night reading and watching TV.

Stay tuned for Part 2!!!

March 9, 2012

Disney Vinylmations – I tried not to get hooked!

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The first time I set eyes on a Vinylmation was December 2008; I was in the Art of Disney Store at Downtown Disney. There was a little white vinyl figure of Mickey standing on the shelf; there were actually quite a few of them. A young couple was admiring them and she announced that she just had to have one. Without trying to sound too "out of it" I asked the cast member what they were. The cast member shrugged, rolled her eyes and explained that it was a "Vinylmation". The 3 inch white Mickey was released November 7th at the Festival of the Masters and the objective was to paint or decorate your own Mickey. Hmmm - I didn't think I wanted to do that.

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During December 2008 Disney released the first series of Vinylmations; it was called Park Series 1 and consisted of 12 different designs. The 3 inch figures were each in a blind box, you didn't know what you were getting, and they were sold from a case that contained 24 blind boxes. Each case had 2 times 10 of the designs, 3 times one of the designs and 1 of one design that was called a chaser. Of course the chaser was not only the rare item to find but also a mystery as the picture of the chaser was not on the outside of the box or case. The first series was a limited release and when they were gone of course another series would be available.

I didn't have any interest in these little guys at that time; I just didn't get it. Then in April of 2009 I was at the World of Disney store in NYC and they had cases of the Urban Series 1 Vinylmations. This series was also a blind box series and you know what they say about curiosity, well my curiosity got the better of me and I bought two boxes. That was the start of a new collecting obsession for me, I had taken a bite of the apple and I was hooked.

The first box I opened was a solid gold Mickey - how boring! The second box I opened was some weird design. Well I would just trade them for something I liked, not a problem. I almost traded that gold Mickey but for some reason decided to hang on to it. I later found out it was the chaser and was a grand prize to have.

With each series of 3 inch Vinylmations released there are also a couple of 9 inch characters released. The 9 inch Vinylmations are in window boxes so you can see what you are getting. Sometimes the 9 inch Vinylmation will also have a 3 inch companion Vinylmation in the box. I try not to look at these guys; I only own one 9 inch and I want to keep it that way.

I like the 3 inch Vinylmations for a few reasons. One, they are small and easy to display; second, they are not expensive. They started out at $9.95 and are now selling for $12.95. The third reason is that you can get designs that mean something to you. For example one of my favourite Vinylmations is the Annual Passholder Orange Bird; it brings memories of the earlier days at the Magic Kingdom when the Orange Bird used to hang out at the Sunshine Terrace. Fourth, I like that there are Vinylmations to commemorate different events at Disney, like the Totem from the Alaska cruise on Disney Cruise Line and the Toy Soldier from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Last but not least they are tradable and I love meeting and trading with people; it's a fun way to get to know people who share the Disney spirit.

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By the time Park Series 2 was released in 2009 Vinylmations were catching on big! It didn't take long for Disney to realize they had a good thing going and they started releasing more and more series. The Park and Urban series are up to number 8 now and there have been several other fun series such as Alice In Wonderland, Cutesters, Toy Story, The Muppets, Star Wars, Villains, Animations, Holiday, and Have a Laugh to name a few. These have all been blind box series and each with a coveted chaser.

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There have also been several window or open box series, which means you know what you are getting when you buy it. These include Animal Kingdom, Nightmare Before Christmas, Flags, Occupations, Big Eyes, Nerds Rock and more. The open box is also used for special event Vinylmations such as the 40th WDW Anniversary series and Marathon Vinylmations and Flower and Garden, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and so on.

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Vinylmations can be purchased in just about any shop at Disney but the place that has the widest variety and the newest releases is DStreet at Downtown Disney West Side. Here you can also buy other merchandise with Vinylmations designs such as shirts, purses, bags and hats.

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You can also trade in the store. In most of the stores that sell Vinylmations you will find a mystery trade box and a clear trade box. The mystery trade box is black and has either 15 or 24 compartments, each holding a Vinylmation. You don't know what is behind the number so you blind trade by picking a number and exchanging your Vinylmation for the one that is in the box behind your number. The clear boxes hold 3 Vinylmations and you can see them. If there is something in the box you want you can simply swap it with one of your own.

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I like to display my collection. I found that the Shot Glass Collection Case sold at Michaels Stores is the perfect size for Vinylmations. Some of the event Vinylmations come is special boxes that I don't open and some come in tins. I have shelves that I can display those on. But because Vinylmations are small you can tuck them away in lots of interesting spots.

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I try to keep up with the different releases by following the Disney Blog http://eventservices.disney.go.com/static/vinylmation/vault.html

There is always something fun and new happening in the world of Vinylmations.

February 9, 2012

Introducing Kristin Ford

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I'm new to AllEars, but I'm not new to the Disney experience. My love of The Mouse began, like so many others', with childhood family vacations to Walt Disney World. In 1979, I stayed at the Contemporary; rode the monorail to the only Disney World theme park, the Magic Kingdom; swam at River Country; and visited Discovery Island. I still miss The Skyway cable cars and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. At the same time, I'm excited to see the Fantasyland Expansion begin its rollout this year.

Some of you may recognize me as the former A Mom and The Mouse, my name when I blogged about all aspects of The Walt Disney Co. for the Orlando Sentinel. I also was a member of the newspaper's Theme Park Rangers blog team and the Visitor Guide editor for years before TheDailyDisney.com launched. I have been a journalist for almost 20 years.

As an Orlando local, I visit the Disney parks often with my husband and two elementary-school-age children. We have been fortunate to experience two Disney cruises onboard the Wonder and the Dream in the last couple years. After those experiences, my nine-year-old son announced he plans to be a Disney Cruise Line captain one day. My seven-year-old daughter alternates between wanting to be a mermaid like Ariel, her favorite Disney princess, and a dolphin trainer.

During my time covering Disney, one of the most amazing things I have discovered is how welcoming, passionate and knowledgeable members of the fan community are. I have had a wonderful time getting to know so many people and hope to meet even more in my new role at AllEars. I will be blogging on a regular basis at AllEars, writing feature articles for the weekly newsletter and also working behind the scenes.

Please come and say hello on Twitter @Kristin_B_Ford and at @AllEarsNet!

January 22, 2012

Cure The Winter Blahs With Antenna Toppers

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Got the winter blahs?

Cold weather got you down?

Are you looking for a project to keep you busy and put a bit of Disney into your life?

Here's a suggestion for you . . . build some racks to display your Disney antenna toppers!

Are you like me; married to a Disney fan who is also a compulsive collector? Or perhaps you are the collector . . .

Whichever is the case, you probably have boxes or bags full of Disney antenna toppers. My dear wife Carol swears she will never buy another, but then she spots that new one, Mickey in his yellow rain poncho, and she just has to have it! Naturally it goes home with us and is soon tossed in the box with all the rest.

Last year she said to me, "I need something that will display my toppers. What can you build for me?" We talked about how and where she wanted to put them and then I went to work.

Here's what I came up with:

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So here's how you can display yours too. It's easy, it's inexpensive and it's very flexible. Everything you need is at your local lumber store. You do it all with 1" X 2" spruce or pine strapping and 3/16" dowels. The only tools required are a saw and an electric drill with a 3/16" drill bit.

There are only two dimensions to worry about, cut the dowel into 2" lengths and drill the holes for the dowels so that the centers are 2 3/4' apart. That's all there is to it!

You can sand, stain, paint and finish the wood in any color you like, to match your furniture or décor.

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So the first step is to cut the 1" X 2" boards to the length you need. I have various lengths to fit different locations

If you want a rack for two toppers cut the board 5 3/4" long and leave 1 1/2" clear at each end.

To display three toppers cut the board 8 1/2" long and leave 1 1/2" clear at each end.

To display four toppers cut the board 11 1/4" long and leave 1 1/2" clear at each end.

You can do the math; just add another 2 3/4" in length for every post you want to add.

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The next step is to measure and mark the boards and then drill the holes. Be careful to keep the drill perpendicular to be sure that your posts are straight up and down. If you have access to a drill press this makes it easy to do a good job, but it can also be done easily by hand, just be sure to keep the drill straight and square to the board.

Do not drill all the way through the board, drill your holes about 1/2" deep.

Now cut enough dowels, 2" long, to fill the holes you just drilled. Do not put them in the holes just yet. That part comes after you have sanded, painted or stained and finished all the wooden parts.

Once everything is sanded and painted or stained you can use a hammer to gently tap the dowels into the holes. That's it; you are done!

Aren't you proud of yourself? Give yourself a pat on the back!

OK, now it's time to fill-up those new topper racks. Here's how Carol has used a few of hers.

In the Jack Skellington Shrine!
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On a tabletop.
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Along the top of a bookcase.
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On top of the stereo components.
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So why don't you get creative and see how you can display your antenna toppers?

You're sure to shake those winter blahs!

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About Disney Dis and Dat

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Disney Dis and Dat category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Disney Cruise Line is the previous category.

Disney Dooney & Bourke is the next category.

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