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September 27, 2015

Disney Artist - Alex Maher

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One of the things I most enjoy about Disney fan meets is the new and interesting people I meet there. One of those people is Disney Design Artist Alex Maher who I had a chance to meet and speak with a few months ago at Dayton Disneyana.

Alex Maher

Carol had met him several times at events for pin collectors, but this was my first opportunity to make his acquaintance. I’m sure glad I didn’t pass up the chance!

Footloose and Collar Free Print
When Alex signed this print, Footloose and Collar Free, for Carol he told her it was one of his favourite pieces!

This certificate was included with the print.

Footloose and Collar Free Certificate


I wrote a bit about the Saturday afternoon seminar Alex participated in at Dayton, and the many drawings he did that week end, in a previous blog about Dayton Disneyana; you can find it HERE.

Alex Maher and Jim Hill

In this blog I’ll focus on Alex’s Friday afternoon presentation. He began his remarks by telling us he was the world’s biggest fan of Walt Disney; then he spent an hour proving beyond a doubt that his claim was true!

Before I describe the seminar, let me tell you a bit about Alex’s background and how he landed his dream job with Disney.

Alex is a “Florida Cracker”; that’s a term people born and raised in Florida use to describe themselves! As the short Disney biography pictured above says, Alex spent his early years in Miami where his father was a writer and artist. His first memory of Disney dates back to his days in kindergarten; during a visit to the school library he picked up a Disney book . . . he couldn’t read, but in his words, “I was mesmerized by the pictures. Since that day I’ve been a fanatic about Walt Disney.”

In those days, before the Internet, writers spent countless hours in libraries doing research. Alex would often accompany his father on those library trips and while Dad researched his latest project, young Alex would read everything he could find on Walt Disney. He began to sketch Disney characters and his father, also an artist, would provide constructive criticism. “That’s really good Alex, but do you think it might be better if you . . . ?”

One truly amazing fact he shared with us – Alex has had no formal art training. In addition to being the world’s greatest fan of Walt Disney he is also a gifted artist! His talents include drawing, painting, sculpting and the ability to conceive and design original works. And it’s all self-taught!

A print by Alex Maher

After finishing high school Alex joined the US Navy; as you might expect, sketches of Disney characters adorned many area of his ship! He left the military in 1983 and returned to Miami where he worked in several “Mom and Pop” graphic design shops. He became a member of the National Fantasy Fan Club (also known as The Disneyana Fan Club) in the early 1980’s. Naturally he followed the help wanted ads and applied for every Disney job he saw. No job resulted, but he just kept on applying.

By 1987 he was Art Department Head at a small college near Miami. Most days, during his lunch hour, you could find Alex in the college library. He searched every issue of the New York Times from 1901, the year Walt Disney was born, until 1966 when Walt passed away. He photocopied every article that mentioned Walt in any way and painstakingly organized the news clippings in a series of binders. Of course, while Alex was assembling this life history of his idol, he continued to apply for any job he could get at Disney.

In 1991 he made a daring decision. He felt that if he was ever going to land a job at Disney he would have to be closer to the action. So, with no guarantee of a job, Alex decided to press a little harder to follow his dream. He and his wife sold their home and moved, with their two children, to Orlando.

He finally managed to get a job interview; they were looking for bus drivers . . . it wasn’t the creative job he was looking for, but it would be a foot in the door. He made it to the second interview and was hopeful, until the department manager asked, “Your background is all related to art. Why do you want to be a bus driver?” Alex replied honestly, “I’ve heard that Disney promotes from within, so I’m hoping that if I start here it can lead to an art-related job in the future.” It turned out that the manager wasn’t interested in spending the money to train a driver, only to have him move to the art department . . . Alex didn’t get that job!

He did find work at another theme park, just down the road, but in Alex’s words, “It was fun, but it just wasn’t Disney.”

Bambi

Through his membership in the National Fantasy Fan Club he knew the names of a few accomplished Disney artists. One of them was Don “Ducky” Williams. Alex explained it this way, “I didn’t know him personally, but read many articles about him in our club newsletters. When I moved to Orlando, I tried to meet him but he was on vacation at the time. But I did meet his boss who said ‘Come back tomorrow and show me some of your work.’ I got busy that night and did three drawings, Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit and Mickey Mouse. I met the manager the next day; he liked my work, but said there was nothing available in his department. He suggested I try the merchandising division. The next day I visited the creative department of the merchandise division and luckily they liked my work. I was hired on as a freelance artist.”

Finally Alex had a job at Disney and it wasn’t long before they saw his potential. On December 6, 1993 he became a full employee rather than a freelance artist. It was a long struggle, but Alex was finally a very proud Disney cast member!

Tinker Bell

So what does a Disney Design Artist do?

The short answer is, pretty much everything, other than animation. Their work revolves around merchandise, any kind of merchandise, and you can see it on shelves all over the parks. If you buy a coffee mug, a print, a figurine, a t-shirt, a cloisonné pin or a Vinylmation the concept for the piece sprang from the imagination of a design artist. Figurines and other complex pieces require a “four position drawing” showing the piece from four different viewpoints.

Alex was one of the original members of the “Pin Team” established in 1999 to design trading pins and those cloisonné pins still make up a large proportion of the designs he creates.

Here are a few pins from Carol's collection that Alex Maher designed.

Boxed Pin Set
This boxed set is a Limited Edition of 1400 from the 2006 Pin Celebration at EPCOT

Signed Pins
These two pins are also from the 2006 Pin Celebration at EPCOT. Alex Maher has signed the back of each pin as well as the backer card it is mounted on.


What are the challenges for a Disney Design Artist?

According to Alex, new characters are a challenge. It’s tough to design a t-shirt or a coffee mug if you don’t understand the character. Everyone is familiar with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald. How they will react in a situation or what expression you will see on their faces can be easily imagined. But new characters, like Joy or Anger from the recently released Inside Out aren’t so easy; the creative people don’t yet fully understand the personality of the character. The artists often see a “rough cut” of the movie long before its release, but they sometimes have to submit their concept art to the manufacturers as much as 18 months before the merchandise is available for sale. Sometimes the movie can change appreciably and the personalities of the animated characters can transform in that time.

Characters in costumes are challenging. When designing a figurine featuring a character in an African costume the artist has to be very careful with the choice of colours. Colours have very strong meanings in African culture. Posture, position and gestures are important too. In North America the “thumbs up” gesture means ‘All right’ or ‘A-OK’ but in many foreign cultures it’s a definite no-no.

Scuba Diving Mickey

I’m pretty sure that the job of a Disney Design Artist isn’t always fun and games, but Alex sure makes it seem that way. The pride he feels for his work and for his association with the Disney Corporation shines through in everything he says and does. He is a great ambassador for Disney!

Now, let’s get back to that Friday afternoon seminar I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. If you’re not convinced yet that Alex Maher is the worlds biggest fan of Walt Disney these next few paragraphs should drive the point home!

Alex presented a slide show he prepared quite a few years ago, titled The History of Walt Disney. All the information he gathered from all those New York Times articles was combined with knowledge he gathered from other reading and from conversations with Disney family members, Disney executives and Disney Legends. He sifted and organized the data into an hour-long presentation.

As Alex spoke he used the computer slides to illustrate key points and places in Walt’s life. Alex began his story with Elias and Flora, Walt’s parents, and their 1888 marriage in Kismet Florida, about 50 miles north of Walt Disney World. He followed the family to Chicago where Walt was born in 1901 and showed us pictures of that house as it looked then and contrasted that with a picture of the house as it looks today.

You see, Alex Maher has made a pilgrimage . . . actually a series of pilgrimages. He has visited every significant location in the life of his hero and he took photographs everywhere he traveled. His research took him to Chicago IL, Marceline MO, Kansas City MO, Los Angeles CA and many other places. Most of those places he has visited several times, always eager to find out more and more about Walt.

Uncle Robert's garage
This is the garage behind Walt's Uncle Robert's house where Walt and Roy first operated their animation studio.


The same garage at Griffith Park
That garage is now located at Griffith Park


The stirring story Alex wove for everyone followed Walt’s life from cradle to grave; we heard of his school years, his years on the farm near Marceline, delivering newspapers in Kansas City, driving an ambulance in World War I, through to his early days of animation, partnering with brother Roy Disney and long time friend Ub Iwerks. The Alice Stories, Oswald, Mickey Mouse, animated movies, live action movies, Disneyland and Walt Disney World were mingled with stories of Walt’s family life, his triumphs and his tragedies.

Alice from the slide show

It was all illustrated with pictures from the Disney Archives and pictures Alex has taken during his frequent research trips. There were pictures of Walt’s many homes, the schools he attended, churches, animation studios, the garage where the first animation cels of Mickey Mouse were created, Main Street in Marceline, the Marceline train station which is now a museum dedicated to Walt Disney, and even the carousel at Griffith Park where Walt conceived the idea of Disneyland while sitting on a park bench watching his daughters.

Garage where the first cels of Mickey were created
Walt and Roy built identical pre-fab homes in 1927. Walt's house is shown in the upper right and the bottom picture is Walt's house as it looks today. The first animation cels featuring Mickey Mouse were created in Walt's garage in 1928, a year after the house was built.


Alex’s eyes got a bit misty a few times during the hour and his voice almost failed him a time or two; I was feeling the same way and I suspect that almost everyone else in the room was too! The depth of Alex’s reverence for Walt Disney came through loud and clear!

Alex has delivered the presentation we saw at Dayton Disneyana to people from all levels in the Disney organization; senior executives, the legal department and the Imagineers have seen the presentation in their boardrooms. Cast members from many other departments have enjoyed the show in their lunchrooms and members of the National Fantasy Fan Club have seen it at their local meetings. I’m sure glad I had the chance to experience it at Dayton Disneyana!

Let me wrap up by showing you a few more of Alex’s creations and then giving you a glimpse of what will be hitting the store shelves soon.

Prints of Alex Maher's painting of Elsa are flying off the shelves!

Elsa by Alex Maher

This one is selling well too!

Mickey by Alex Maher

After the Friday seminar someone asked Alex what his favourite creations were; he mentioned two. The first was a jumbo pin, a limited edition of 750. It shows Mickey riding on Walt’s backyard steam engine, the Lilly Belle, with Walt’s red barn in the background. The train slides back and forth on the track. Alex is proud of this one because every member of the Disney family was given one when it was released in 2007.

Walt's Train Pin

The second was his painting for the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland. Artists were asked to create a series of six paintings, one to commemorate each decade in the park’s history. Alex designed and painted the 1955 – 1964 canvas. Below is a print of that painting that he signed for Carol in Dayton.

Alex Maher signed print

He described what we can look for in the future. Most of these items will début at the D23 Expo in August and some may make it to store shelves by the time this blog is published!

Look for a large figurine of Goofy, dressed as Bert from the Mary Poppins movie in his one-man band outfit. Based on the gestures Alex made, it will be about 18” tall.

Alex designed the logo pin for the 2015 D23 Expo

D23 EXPO Logo Pin

He created these 8 pins which are part of a 16 pin Mystery Box Puzzle Series. Pin collectors buy boxes containing 2 wrapped pins and then trade pins in an attempt to get one of each of the sixteen pins.

Mystery Pin Set

Once traders have all 16, the pins combine like a jig saw puzzle to form Sleeping Beauty Castle.

D23 EXPO Mystery Pin Frame

Look for this 14” tall figure of Jingles, the carousel horse from Mary Poppins. This version will be sold at Disneyland. In Florida Jingles will have a rider, Mickey Mouse dressed as a Dapper Dan.

Jingles

This Three Caballeros figurine is 14” tall.

Three Caballeros figurine

Alex and his family took a huge risk in 1991; they packed up and left everything behind to follow his Disney dream. Today both Alex and his wife are happily employed by Disney, their 30 year-old son is a film producer in Hollywood and their 25 year-old daughter is a sketch artist at Disneyland.

Just like Walt said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

September 13, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Audio-Animatronics

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On a recent trip into Carol’s Tickle Trunk I came across an article on Audio-Animatronics from the Summer 2003 issue of Disney Magazine. The article described how the Enchanted Tiki Room, with it’s exciting new technology, created a sensation over fifty years ago!

It all started with a dream Walt Disney had; he wanted to create a little mechanical man which could move and talk. Here’s a short excerpt from the Walt Disney Family Museum’s article by Keith Gluck on the early days of Audio-Animatronics that gives a hint how Walt’s dream may have started.

In the summer of 1949, Walt Disney took his wife Lillian and daughters Diane and Sharon on a holiday to Europe. The family visited England (and stopped by the set of Treasure Island - Disney’s first all-live-action feature), Ireland, Switzerland, and France. One afternoon in Paris, Walt ventured out on his own and did some shopping. He returned to the hotel room with two large bags filled with a variety of wind-up toys. With his family looking on, he unpackaged every one of them, wound them up, and studied them. Diane remembers that moment. “Sharon and I were very entertained by them,” she recalls, “and his manner.” But her father saw something in those toys. “It’s amazing that you can get such interesting movement from a very simple mechanism,” Walt observed. A few of those very toys can be viewed in Gallery 7 of The Walt Disney Family Museum, accompanied by a description from Diane: “Not terribly unique, but possibly the forerunners of Audio-Animatronics.”

Those simple wind-up toys must have stimulated Walt’s imagination and his determination as well because it wasn’t long before he challenged his Imagineers, Roger Broggie and Wathel Rogers, to build a nine-inch-tall figure that could move and talk. They called it “Project Little Man”. If you’ve visited the One Man’s Dream exhibit at Disney’s Hollywood Studios you probably recall the picture of a young Buddy Ebsen doing vaudeville dance routines.

Buddy Ebsen

Imagineers studied Ebsen’s motions and tried to reproduce them in that nine-inch mechanical man.

Alas, Project Little Man was shelved when a much larger project came along; Disneyland had moved from the “dream it” stage to the “do it” stage and all other projects, including that little guy moved by cams and gears, were instantly moved to the back burner!

The giant squid in the 1954 movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was robotic and there were a few rudimentary automated characters in the 1955 Jungle Cruise attraction, but the real introduction of Audio-Animatronics didn’t take place until 1963.

That’s where Tim O’Day’s 2003 article in Disney Magazine picks up the story. O’Day describes how Walt called the Sherman brothers to a soundstage filled with birds, flowers and tiki poles. As they looked around everything came to life, birds singing, drums pounding and tikis chanting. Walt said it needed a story, so the Sherman’s wrote the music, still in use today, about the birds that sing and the flowers that croon.

The Enchanted Tiki Room opened to rave reviews on June 23, 1963.

The four-page Disney Magazine article is pictured below. Click on each image to see a larger version which is easier to read.

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 page 42

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 page 43

The New York World’s Fair of 1964 was not far in the future when the Tiki Room opened and plenty of corporations were clamoring for Disney to design pavilions for them and incorporate their wonderful new Audio-Animatronic technology.

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 page 44

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 page 45

Disney's team of Imagineers got busy designing and building It’s A Small World sponsored by Pepsi Cola, Ford’s Magic Skyway sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln sponsored by the State of Illinois and The Carousel of Progress sponsored by General Electric.

Below are two short video clips, excerpts from a May 17, 1964 episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World Of Color television show titled “Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair”. Click on the red arrow to watch each video.

Once the World’s Fair was over, plunk, plunk, plunk, partial-plunk . . . the exhibits found a home at Disneyland! (The partial-plunk refers to Ford's Magic Skyway - only the dinosaurs found a home at Disneyland; they're in the Primeval World diorama you see from the railroad. The propulsion system used for the Skyway was replicated in the People Mover which opened in July 1967.)

I can only imagine the impact these phenomenal new attractions had on attendance levels when they all arrived between July 1965 and July 1967!

Of course, the Imagineers had plenty more projects in the works and Audio-Animatronics were featured in almost all of them; Pirates of the Caribbean opened in 1967, The Haunted Mansion in 1969, Country Bear Jamboree in 1972, America Sings in 1974, the Jungle Cruise got some enhanced Audio-Animatronics in 1976 . . . the list goes on and on.

Over the years the technology has changed quite a bit as well. Look back up to that magazine article. The image at the top of the fourth page shows the stack of discs which controlled movements of the figures in Pirates of the Caribbean in 1967.

Okay, keep that image in your mind and let’s “fast-forward” to 2011. Below is another short video clip, this time it’s Ursula as she was being installed in the new “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure” attraction. Pay close attention when you see the control panel, it’s almost like the operator is playing a video game.

The latest advances in the evolution of Audio-Animatronics were displayed at the 2009 D23 Expo – Lucky the Dinosaur and Autonomatronics.

Lucky is an 8 foot tall Segnosaurus, but he’s also a very advanced Audio-Animatronics figure.

Lucky

He is not attached to an attraction. Lucky pulls a cart filled with flowers (as well as lots of electronics and a big battery pack) and follows "Chandler the Dinosaur Handler" wherever he goes! Lucky not only moves, but he talks and interacts with park guests. He has appeared in several of the Disney parks, but hasn't been seen for a number of years. I haven’t bumped into him yet, so I hope he makes a comeback!

Lucky

Autonomatronics is truly the next generation of Audio-Animatronics and naturally, the prototype is named Otto.

Otto

Members who attended that 2009 D23 Expo were astounded by Otto’s abilities. Unlike other figures who repeat the same actions over and over again, Otto can see and hear. He is full of sensors and can tell if someone is nearby; he can even tell if you’re smiling. Based on the input he gets from his sensors Otto can make choices about what to say and do.

Otto

Wow! The future is here!

Walt Disney was fond of saying, “If you can dream it, you can do it”. The Disney Imagineers just keep on dreaming and they keep on doing.

I’m sure the Imagineers who created those engineering marvels back in the 1960’s would be amazed at today’s sophisticated Audio-Animatronics figures; it makes me wonder what the future holds.

I have no idea what’s coming next but I’m pretty sure it will be amazing!

August 30, 2015

The Orange Bird

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Every time I see Carol’s collection of Orange Bird figures and memorabilia a song runs through my mind!

Carols collection

♫♪ Come to the Florida sunshine tree ♪♫
♪♫ For fresh tasting orange juice, naturally ♫♪

Does that sound familiar to you? It was sung by an Oklahoma beauty queen named Anita Bryant!

Back in the mid 1960’s Walt Disney was busy building his latest daring venture which he called the Florida Project. The Disney Company had acquired 57 square miles of land in central Florida where Walt envisioned a huge family entertainment complex. Today we know it as Walt Disney World, the most popular tourist destination in the world!

A project of that magnitude required money . . . lots and lots of money! To keep ahead of the constant demand for cash the Disney Company entered into partnerships with a number of companies and groups who “sponsored” different aspects of the project. One of those partnerships was with the Florida Citrus Commission. The Commission and the Disney Company had been partners since 1941 . . . they were licensed by Disney to use Donald Duck's name for their Orange Juice almost 75 years ago! Who doesn't remember Donald Duck orange juice . . . we probably all drank it as kids and some us may still be enjoying it!

They began sponsorship negotiations in 1967 and in October 1969 a deal was finalized! The Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) would sponsor a 3 million dollar pavilion in Adventureland that included The Tropical Serenade (now The Enchanted Tiki Room), The Sunshine Tree Terrace snack bar and the rest of The Sunshine Pavilion. The Florida Orange Bird was quickly designed by Imagineers at WED Enterprises, and a massive marketing campaign began! The little bird was simple in design and he didn’t speak. He communicated through small thought balloons!

Orange Bird Nice

Orange Bird thoughts of beach

The public face of the FCC was Anita Bryant who had been crowned Miss Oklahoma in 1958 and was second runner-up in the Miss America pageant of 1959. She enjoyed a successful singing career, with 11 of her songs reaching the top 100 in the charts, before she signed on as FCC spokeswoman in 1968.

Soon Miss Bryant and the Orange Bird were appearing everywhere!

Florida_Citrus_Pavillion.jpg

They were on billboards all over Florida, in print ads and in TV commercials. Do you remember the slogan “Breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine”? That was Anita Bryant and the Orange Bird.

There was even a full length 45rpm LP written by the Sherman Brothers and narrated by Bryant. The record included an illustrated 10 page storybook that told the back story of The Orange Bird.

Record Album

From 1971 to 1975 the Florida Welcome Centers gave out orange juice samples in the Orange Bird paper cups pictured below and gave one of the tin-tab buttons to all visitors.

Welcome Center Relics

There were Orange Bird coin banks, comic books, drinking glasses, t-shirts, plates and mugs. Carol has managed to add a few of these vintage items to her collection!

Carol has two of the 1970's coin banks, pictured below with an Orange Bird whistle.

Orange Bird Banks and Whistle

Orange Bird Nutrition Adventures Comic 1980

She is quite proud of these Orange Bird china pieces from the 1970's.

Vintage Orange Bird china

The Orange Bird appeared regularly near the Sunshine Tree Terrace and posed for pictures with guests. The picture below features our son Rob with the famous bird in about 1978.

Rob_and_Orange_Bird.jpg

Alas, the partnership between Miss Bryant and the FCC began to break down in 1977. She lived in Miami at the time and took a very strong stance against gay rights. Her home city had recently adopted strong anti-discrimination legislation and she worked long, hard and successfully to overturn it. She became a very vocal and public opponent of same-sex relationships. This caused plenty of friction with the FCC and before long Miss Bryant was leading a boycott of Florida citrus products. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

As you might expect, the FCC elected to let their contract with Bryant lapse, leaving the little Orange Bird with no partner. His prominence soon began to fade and by 1987 the cheerful little critter was no longer visible in the park, on billboards or in ads.

Carol was sad to see her little friend, and all his merchandise, leave her happy place; but there is a happy ending to this tale.

Lou Mongello, author of "Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic" and the host of The WDW Radio Show explained it this way in his November 2007 article for the AllEars.net weekly newsletter: “The Orange Bird made a mysterious comeback in 2004 - but not in the United States. Tokyo Disneyland began to produce its own, unique Orange Bird merchandise line around that time. Today's Orange Bird looks somewhat similar in proportion to the popular Japanese animated characters with heads disproportionately larger than their bodies. Recently, April 14 has been designated as "Orange Day," in Japan, a new holiday (promoted by Japanese and U.S. citrus growers like Sunkist). The concept is that on "Orange Day" people confirm their love with the objects of their affection by exchanging oranges or orange-colored gifts.”

Japan Orange Bird Poster

And now, at long last, he’s back at Walt Disney World too! The first signs of his triumphant return were at the EPCOT Trade Celebration in September 2011. The theme of the event was “The Florida Project”. The décor and all the pins and other merchandise created for the event revolved around classic rides and attractions that were part of those early years. The Orange Bird was very prominent at the event, he was featured on the "Early Bird" pin given to the first group of registrants.

2011 Early Bird Pin

He appeared in many of the displays!

Orange Bird Decor 2011

And on some of the other pins too!

2011 Pins

It was during the 2011 EPCOT Trade Celebration that Disney Design Artist Alex Maher drew this beautiful sketch of the Florida Orange Bird for Carol. She couldn't wait to have it matted and framed when she got home! It's one of her favourite treasures!

Alex Maher sketch

Alex designed many of the Orange Bird pins Carol now has in her collection!

Pin Collage

Pin Collage

Then in 2012 D23 announced Orange Bird's “official” return to the park. The six minute video clip below, produced by D23, gives a good summary of his history and his return to glory.

The D23 "Destination D" Attractions Rewind event held in 2014 again shone a spotlight on the Sunshine Tree Terrace and Orange Bird!

D23 Attraction Rewind

D23 Attraction Rewind

Carol is a happy Disney fan; the Orange Bird is back and his merchandise is everywhere! She’s selectively acquiring more Orange Bird treasures to display in her Disney Room!

Orange Bird Bell

A few weeks ago we attended the D23 Expo in Anaheim. She spotted this 1970's Orange Bird bell that Gary's Collectibles from Ozark Missouri were displaying; naturally it had to come home with her!

Orange Bird Hat

Now, if she could only find one of these hats . . .

August 16, 2015

Disneyland Chronicles – An Updated Timeline

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By the time this blog is published on AllEars.net Carol and I will be enjoying our 10th visit to Disneyland and attending the D23 Expo in Anaheim.

Although it seems like yesterday, it was a decade ago when we made our first trek west to visit Disneyland for the park’s Golden Anniversary. We had a ball as we joined in the fun at “The Happiest Homecoming On Earth”, the official name of the 50th Birthday celebration! Just before flying west we received the Summer 2005 issue of Disney Magazine and had a chance to read a very timely article by Jennifer Eastwood titled “The Disneyland Chronicles”.

The wonderful five-page article gives a short history of the park, a timeline of significant and unusual events in the history of the resort. It certainly whet our appetites as we read that article just before our big adventure began!

In addition to the timeline, there were recollections from some famous names you are sure to remember, Hayley Mills, Michael Reagan and Bobby Benson.

The article is included below, click on each page to see a larger copy you can read at your leisure.

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 36

Here are a few of my favourite points from the article:
- The park officially opened on July 17, 1955 and only seven weeks later they welcomed their One Millionth guest – Elsa Marquez.
- In 1961 the first Disneyland Grad Nite Party was held. Teens in formal garb spent ALL NIGHT in the park.
- In 1963 the first Audio-Animatronics appeared, ♫♪ in the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room ♪♫
- In 1967 The Pirates Of The Caribbean opened.
- In 1969 hundreds of VW Beetles paraded down main Street on Love Bug Day and later in the year The Haunted Mansion opened.
- In 1979 the first baby was born at Disneyland – Teresa Salsedo was delivered on a bench behind the Plaza Inn – she later received the first birth certificate issued by Disney!

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 37

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 38

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 40

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 41

There’s plenty more good reading there; take some time to read all of Jennifer Eastwood’s article!

Now Disneyland is celebrating 60 years, it’s the Diamond Anniversary. Let’s look at what’s happened in the decade since Carol and I made that first Disneyland trip in 2005! Let's update the timeline!

Walt Disney said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

That has proven to be very true! Let’s look at the big changes in the past ten years!

In 2008 - Toy Story Midway Mania opened - A huge resort expansion began with the 2008 opening of Toy Story Midway Mania! at Disney California Adventure park. This ride-through, interactive adventure, located on Paradise Pier, takes riders into a high-energy 4-D carnival midway hosted by “Toy Story” characters. Riders don 3-D glasses and rapid-fire their cannons as they whirl and twirl through the midway firing balls, darts, paintballs and rings at everything in sight! Toy Story has become one of our “must-do” rides, Carol and I become very competitive as we spin through the targets!

Toy Story Midway Mania

Toy Story Midway Mania

2009 - Mickey’s Fun Wheel - The next big attraction on Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure park, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, was actually a “re-Imagineering” of the old Sun Wheel. The 160-foot-diameter eccentric wheel lost its old marquee of sun rays and added a new Mickey Mouse marquee. The gondolas, some fixed and some sliding, all bear images of Minnie, Donald, Pluto or Goofy. The attraction is surrounded by the Games of the Boardwalk, carnival-style games in a Victorian boardwalk setting.

The Sun Wheel

Mickeys Fun Wheel

2010 – “World of Color” - a night-time spectacular featuring nearly 1,200 colourful dancing fountains and animated projections on a water screen the size of a football field, began nightly performances at Disney California Adventure park.

World of Color

World of Color

2011 - Star Tours – The Adventures Continue / The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure - At Disneyland park, the original Star Tours attraction that opened in 1987 was “re-Imagineered” as Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, featuring more than 50 3-D adventures that send voyagers for the first time to Coruscant, Tatooine and other destinations in the Stars Wars galaxy. Across the esplanade at Disney California Adventure park, The Little Mermaid - Ariel’s Undersea Adventure debuted, taking guests “under the sea” to experience a classic dark ride featuring scenes and songs from The Little Mermaid film.

Star Tours

Ariel's Undersea Adventure

Ariel's Undersea Adventure

2012 - Cars Land / Buena Vista Street - One of the biggest projects in Disneyland history saw the former Timon parking lot transform into Cars Land. This 12 acre themed land at Disney California Adventure park invited guests to enter a breathtaking new world inspired by the hit Disney•Pixar film “Cars” and featured three new attractions – Radiator Springs Racers, Luigi’s Flying Tires and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. The addition of Buena Vista Street transformed the gateway of Disney California Adventure park into the 1920s and 1930s Los Angeles that greeted a young Walt Disney.

Cars Land

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

Radiator Springs

2013 - Fantasy Faire / “Mickey and the Magical Map” - At Disneyland park, the royal red carpet rolled out at Fantasy Faire, a picturesque village square that welcomed guests to meet Disney’s fairy tale heroes and heroines. “Mickey and the Magical Map” a new, live stage show in the Fantasyland Theatre featuring Mickey Mouse in his timeless role as the sorcerer’s apprentice made it’s debut.

Fantasy Faire

Mickey and the Magical Map

Mickey and the Magical Map

2014 – Billy Hill & the Hillbillies / Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome - I’m a “glass half full” sort of guy, but I must admit that a couple of recent changes at Disneyland have left me disappointed, feeling like my glass is suddenly half empty. After 21 years entertaining Disneyland guests Billy Hill & the Hillbillies were informed in 2014 that their contract would not be renewed. Ouch! My absolute favourite Disneyland performers are now thrilling their many fans in a new location, Knott’s Berry Farm. Then the amazing Zoetrope disappeared from the Animation Academy at Disney California Adventure park. A friend who visited Disneyland earlier this year told us that the area where Carol and I would stand in absolute wonder as we watched the Toy Story Zoetrope spin has been transformed to Arendelle. Anna and Elsa, who continue to take over the entire Disney world, now meet and greet their little friends in the Animation Academy.

Gary with the Billies

The Zoetrope

While the last two changes have taken some of the magic out of Disneyland from my perspective, most of the developments of the past decade have been very positive. It seems that Walt was right; Disneyland just hasn’t stopped changing. In fact, change has been so prolific that some of the most recent changes have already undergone another change! Luigi’s Flying Tires has closed to make way for Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters which is scheduled to open in 2016.

I wonder what’s coming next?

There are rumoured to be some big announcements scheduled during the D23 Expo, so by the time you read this we may have all heard about some new Disney magic coming in the future!

April 26, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Comic Books

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Let's dip into the Tickle Trunk again and take a look at some old Disney comic books.

1979 January Mickey Mouse Comic

All of them date from the late 1970's and early 1980's when Rob was at exactly the right age for comic books. I think Rob probably outgrew them, but his mother didn't! I wonder if he knows that she hid them all away in the bottom of that old Tickle Trunk?

Comic Collage

Comic Collage

Many of the Disney characters are represented, Mickey, Goofy, Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Chip and Dale. There are even a few lesser known stars like Gyro Gearloose.

Comic Collage

Comic Collage

There was a terrific article about Disney comic books in the Summer 2003 issue of Disney Magazine and it's full of some very interesting facts. I've included scans of that article below, click on the images to see a larger, more readable version of each page.

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 50

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 51

One of the most astounding facts, in my opinion, is how popular Mickey Mouse became in a very short period of time. I'm sure we're all familiar with the story of Walt Disney and his early character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt didn't own the rights to Oswald, Charles Mintz did. When the two men had a falling out in the spring of 1928 Walt was left with no character.

It sounds like an injustice, but if it hadn't happened that way Walt may have never dreamed up his most significant creation! Enter Mickey Mouse, who made his first public appearance in Steamboat Willie which debuted in New York City on November 18, 1928.

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 52

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 53

The first Mickey Mouse comic appeared January 13, 1931 in daily newspapers as a syndicated comic strip. Only two years later, in 1933, Mickey Mouse Magazine was born. It was initially given away free at movie theatres and department stores but it must have been a huge hit, because by 1935 it had been reborn as a monthly "paid" magazine and by the end of that year it had a circulation of over 130,000. Think of that . . . Mickey was only seven years old!

The magazine was translated and foreign editions were published in many countries around the world. Mickey really was an overnight success!

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 54

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 55

The first Disney comic book, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, was launched in 1940 and within two years boasted a circulation of over 1,000,000 copies per month. The world's favourite mouse was barely a teenager at the time!

Volume 1 Issue 1

Most of the comics in those early years began with a 10-page story, drawn by Carl Barks, starring Donald Duck and ended with a story starring Mickey.

By the mid 1950's Mickey had a very popular daily television show, a theme park and the best selling comic book in America. Walt Disney's Comics and Stories was selling over three million copies each month.

Walt Disney Comics and Stories No 516

Like all comics of that age, the back page featured advertisements urging young readers to sell greeting cards and select fabulous rewards from a catalogue! Another ad urged kids to buy plenty of Kellogg's cereal and enter a "stick-up for breakfast" contest to win a stone-age video game. How about those sea-monkeys? Did you ever own a bowl full of happiness?

Comic Collage Ads

Unfortunately, Disney comic book sales went into decline in the late 1970's and on into the 1980's. Many of the titles disappeared from the shelf altogether. On a recent visit to a huge bookstore and a specialty store catering to comic book collectors I could find no trace of a new Disney comic book.

In the mid 1950's they were selling over three million copies a month and just 60 years later they have gone the way of the dinosaurs!

But there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel; Time Magazine published an announcement January 22, 2015 that IDW Publishing will begin reprinting translated versions of classic Disney comics that were originally published in foreign languages overseas. The first to be reprinted will be Uncle Scrooge No. 1, expected to be in stores in April 2015, followed by reprints of titles Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Walt Disney Comics and Stories which should arrive in stores before July.

Uncle Scrooge No 1

Guess who has registered at our local comic book store to reserve a copy of the new Uncle Scrooge No. 1 . . . Carol just has to have one to add to the Tickle Trunk!

April 12, 2015

Mousecars and Ducksters

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Until about six months ago I had no idea that the most coveted awards handed out by Walt Disney were small statues of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. "Mousecars" and "Ducksters"

Last October Carol and I had the good fortunate to be at Walt Disney World in October when the final D23 Fanniversary session was held there, at the Atlantic Dance Hall. Although she has been a D23 member for several years, this was our first event. Our hosts, Billy from Burbank CA and Kevin from Syracuse NY, shared plenty of pictures and "insider" information during their two-hour presentation.

D23 Fanniversary

They talked about the many Disney anniversaries happening during the year, starting with four attractions from the 1964 New York World's Fair (Carousel of Progress, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, It's A Small World and The Magic Skyway) and worked their way through to the most recent events, such as the previous day's announcement that the big Sorcerer's Hat would be leaving Disney's Hollywood Studios.

D23 Fanniversary

They used slide shows, music and video to illustrate the "insider" stories they told us, and we were shown some video clips that have never before been publicly aired. There were some funny bloopers by Walt Disney as he recorded segments for the Disneyland Show in the late 1950's and a very touching interview with Julie Andrews when she described working with Walt on the Mary Poppins movie.

For me, the highlight of the day was the Duckster they brought with them. Billy donned white cotton gloves and carefully cradled the rare artefact while we took pictures of it.

A Duckster

This small statuette of Donald Duck was presented by Walt and the Disney Corporation to those who gave exemplary service. It must have been a true honor to be awarded a Duckster!

The other award, the original, is the Mousecar. The name, as you have probably figured out, is a play-on-words, a combination of the words Mouse and Oscar. The first Mousecar was presented in 1947 by Walt Disney to his brother Roy.

Bernie Cobb's Mousecar

Here's how Disney Historian and Archivist Dave Smith explained it in the Summer 2004 Issue of Disney Magazine.

Disney Magazine Summer 2004

As Dave said, there are no accurate records of how many Mousecars have been awarded and who received them, but here is a list I was able to compile with a quick internet search. I cannot guarantee its accuracy!

Mousecar recipients: Louis Armstrong, Bernie Cobb, Marc Davis, Roy P. Disney, Amanda Fogelberg, Kathie Lee Gifford, Manuel Gonzales, Floyd Gottfredson, Dick Huemer, Lucille Ogle, Dean Palacios, Zack Schaja, The Sherman Brothers, Riley Thomson and Elmo Williams.

Here is a picture of Dick Huemer as he proudly received his Mousecar.

Dick Huemer Mousecar

Very few Disney "outsiders" have ever received a Mousecar, but here's an example that dates back to the mid 1960's when Walt awarded one of the prestigious statuettes to Louis Armstrong. As you read the details in the article from the Summer 2001 Issue of Disney Magazine below, pay close attention to the picture of Walt and "Satchmo". Is Mickey holding a trumpet?

Click on the image of the article to see a larger version that's easier to read.

Disney News Summer 2001

Sadly, a few of these historic relics have found their way to auction houses; in 2005 Riley Thomson's Mousecar was auctioned for $5,358.

The Duckster was designed a few years after the Mousecar and, as near as anyone can tell, Walt Disney first awarded it in 1952, to Martha Torge.

Mouscar and Duckster

Once again, records are sketchy but it seems that recipients of the Duckster included: Carl Barks, Marvin Goldfarb, Susan Henning, Bob Karp, Clarence Nash, Jennifer Sleeper, Al Taliaferro, Martha Torge and Max Westebbe.

How appropriate that Carl Barks and Clarence Nash were awarded Ducksters! Carl Barks wrote and drew nearly five hundred "Duck Stories" for Disney Comic Books and Clarence Nash was the voice of Donald Duck for over 50 years! Do you suppose Walt had them in mind when he designed the second statuette?

Susan Henning's Duckster was engraved "Best Unseen Performance by an Actress". Susan acted in The Parent Trap where she performed as a body double for Hayley Mills. Susan's face never appeared on screen, hence the reference to "unseen".

1963 Disney Awards

There is no indication that Walt Disney ever received a Mousecar or Duckster but in the photo below, from about 1965, he has one of each proudly displayed on his desk.

Walts Desk Items

Do you suppose a dedicated Disney fan and occasional blogger like me could ever earn one of these wonderful awards?

You're right, it's highly unlikely . . . but in September 2009 a Duckster was awarded at the D23 Expo to contest winner Jennifer Sleeper, a Financial Analyst, who created the official portrait of Donald Duck for his 75th birthday.

I won't give up hope!

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!

January 18, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Clubs

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Are you a member of D23? To the best of my knowledge, it is the only "official" fan club, organized by Disney, in operation today.

But D23 has had several ancestors over the years . . . and those old clubs are what I'll describe briefly in this blog. I'll be using plenty of scanned images from some of the old brochures, newsletters and magazines Carol has safely stashed away in her Tickle Trunk!

Naturally when someone mentions Disney clubs the first thing which comes to mind is the Mickey Mouse Club.

I was one of those kids, way-way-way back in the mid-1950's, who rushed home from school every afternoon to watch Jimmie Dodd and the Mousketeers sing and dance their way through challenges and adventures. But that was not really a club; you could not become a member!

But you could subscribe to the magazine!

Mickey Mouse Club Magazine

There was a real "membership club" in that era, the Magic Kingdom Club, founded in 1957 as a marketing tool for Disneyland.

Magic_Kingdom_Club_Membership_Card

It was almost like a loyalty program, offered to employee groups from large companies in southern California. Unfortunately, it wasn't too beneficial for young children like Carol and I, living an entire nation away, about 2,400 miles north-east of Disneyland!

Magic Kingdom Club Membership Voucher

It was a very novel approach to marketing in the 1950's - employers could offer a no-cost benefit to employees and those lucky employees received membership cards which gave some attractive discounts at Disneyland!

What sort of discounts? There were discounts on Disney park tickets and Disney annual passports, discounted rooms at Disney resorts, discounts on parking, members even received a bag full of goodies like bumper stickers, key chains, decals and sometimes even a few Disney Dollars! Sorry Ralphie . . . no secret decoder!

Magic Kingdom Club Buttons

There were quarterly newsletters (Disney News) which kept members up-to-date on new Disney movies, changes in the park and changes to the club's benefits!

Disney News Fall 1989

Disney News Fall 1992

Disney News Fall 1993

Disney News Summer 1990

As the Disney parks grew, so did the club! It expanded nationally in 1971 when Walt Disney World opened and then went "international" as other parks were established around the world.

Soon there were exciting new benefits, including discounts with "non-Disney" partners such as airlines, cruise lines and car rental companies. There were even special vacation packages for individuals, families and groups.

There was a Gold Card membership which was fee-based. Those who were not employees of one of the member companies could buy a Magic Kingdom Club Gold Card.

Magic Kingdom Club Ad Fall 1989
(click on the picture above to see a clearer image you can read)

It has been reported that the club, at its peak, had over 30,000 member companies and more than six million card-carrying members. Wow!

In early 1986 Disney established the Magic Years Club just for seniors, 50 years of age and over. Click on the picture below to read how the Lakeland Ledger described this new club in their February 24, 1986 edition.

Magic Years News Article

Carol's mother, Sybil, joined Disney's Magic Years Club in 1989 and the newsletters shown below are from her collection (now safely stored in Carol's Tickle Trunk).

Magic Years Membership Form

Magic Years Membership Guide

Magic Years Magazine Spring 1990

Magic Years Magazine Winter 1993

Magic Years Coupon Book

Magic Years Bumper Sticker

Some time before 1993 the minimum age for membership was increased from 50 to 60, but the benefits remained the same.

Magic Years Ad Fall 1993

On October 14, 2000 the Magic Kingdom Club and the Magic Years Club morphed into The Disney Club. Each of the former clubs had been offered free of charge to most members, but the new Disney Club required all members to pay dues.

Disney Magazine Summer 2001

Carol was a card-carrying member of the Magic Kingdom Club in 2000 when the transition took place and she decided that all was not lost; the discounts were still more than enough to offset the annual dues of $39.95!

Membership Card

Here is listing of some Disney Club discounts from 2002. Click the image to see a larger version.

2002 Disney Club brochure pg 14-15

The Disney Club also sent out quarterly magazines!

Disney Club News Issue 11

Disney Club News Issue 14

Disney Club News Issue 15

The magazines and newsletters were packed full of interesting announcements and articles. I will probably write a few future blogs based on some of those old articles!

Click on the image below to read the cover of the November 2001 newsletter. If you like Disney trivia, pay close attention to those Monsters Inc. Fun Facts.

Disney Club News Issue 9

Click on the image below to read a Spring 2003 article about the Pirates of the Caribbean display at the Gallery in Disneyland!

Disney Club News Spring 2003 Article

It came as quite a shock to members when Disney scrapped the relatively new Disney Club in late 2003. For the first time in 46 years there was no club - no way to feel that warm sense of affiliation with Disney.

Everyone kept waiting for a revamped club to rise from the ashes, but alas, there was no Phoenix! The magazines no longer came, the club was gone, and all those swell benefits were gone as well.

At about the same time the always popular "Official Disneyana Convention", held at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World was cancelled. No one really understood this abrupt change in company policy.

Perhaps the corporation decided to focus their attention on the newly launched Disney Rewards Visa Card which offered similar discounts, but that was little consolation to Carol and I. We didn't qualify for the new cards; they are not offered to Canadians.

So we waited years until a new club appeared . . . D23 was announced in 2009. The name D23 refers to D for Disney and 23 for 1923, the year when Walt Disney arrived in Hollywood and his company was founded.

You are probably wondering, "Is Carol a member of D23?"

Silly question - of course she is! There are so many benefits and discounts, how could she resist?

And unlike the Visa Rewards Card, they let Canadians join!

July 20, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Seminars

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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.

1989_Brochure_Cover

1989_Brochure_pg_2_3

1989_Brochure_pg_4_5

1989_Brochure_pg_6_7

1989_Brochure_pg_8_9

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 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.

1971_Newspaper_Page_4

1971_Newspaper_Page_5

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.

January_1981_Page_2

January_1981_Page_3

January_1981_Page_4

Pages 2 through 4 focus on dining, entertainment, golf, tennis and fishing. Here are a few noteworthy articles:

January_1981_Dinner_a_la_Disney
The first Character Meal - Dinner á la Disney at the Golf Resort.

January_1981_Contemporary_Dining
Fine dining at the Contemporary Resort's Gulf Coast Room!

January_1981_Fishing
Even fishing - there was something for everyone her!

January_1981_Jazz
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.

February_1981_Pg_2_Entertainment
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.

February_1981_Discovery_Island
On Page three there was a terrific description of Discovery Island.

February_1981_WDW_Village
A world of shopping awaited at The Village.

February_1981_Advertisments
Naturally there were some cute advertisments.

February_1981_Family_Tennis
You could arrange tennis lessons for the whole family at the Contemporary Resort.

February_1981_Junior_Golf
There was even a "wee links" course at the Golf Resort.

Feb_1981_Polynesian_Village.jpg
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.

1981_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_1

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!

1981_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_2

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!

1981_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_3

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!

1982_Hoop_Dee_Doo_Showbill

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!

1982_Fort_Wilderness_Postcard
A postcard from 1982

1982_Fort_Wilderness_Check-In_Brochure_front

1982_Fort_Wilderness_Check-in_Brochure_reverse

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!

1986_Pioneer_Hall_Breakfast_Show

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!

1988_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_1

1988_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_2

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!

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Resort_Map

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.

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Gazette_pg_1_2

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Gazette_pg_3_4

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.

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Halloween_Schedule

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.

2010_Tri_Circle_D_Brochure_front

2010_Tri_Circle_D_Brochure_inside

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!

Bumper_Sticker_Soap_Decal_Shoulder_Patch

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.

Pin_Frame_1

Pin_Frame_2

Pin_Frame_3

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.

2011_Fort_Wilderness_Railroad

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.

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.

1971_7_Adventure_Pack

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!

1977_2_Day_Magic_Kingdom

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

December 30, 2013

Historical Fun Facts

Jim's Attic: Historical Fun Facts
By Jim Korkis

Over the years, I have gathered little oddball fun facts about Walt Disney World but sometimes, they can not be expanded into a full article. In addition, sometimes an area changes, so the information is no longer valid.

Here is a handful of that strange stuff in one of my archive files that I thought you mind enjoy knowing:


LET FREEDOM RING.
During the Bicentennial Celebration of the U.S. Constitution at Walt Disney World, one of the temporary displays in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom was a reproduction of the original Liberty Bell loaned from the Mount Vernon Memorial Park of Fair Oaks, California through June of 1989.

However, Disney guests loved the reproduction so to provide a permanent display, Disney Show Properties and Interiors purchased a new replica. It was cast by Paccard Fonderie of Annecy, France using the original Liberty Bell mold. The new bell took its place of honor just before July 4, 1989 where it remains to this day.

liberty-bell-2013-a.JPG

The bell was made primarily of copper but also contains tin, lead, zinc, arsenic, gold and silver. It stands eight feet high, including stock and weighs two and a half tons.

liberty-bell-2013-b.JPG

DISNEY'S BIG BANG. Here's a Disney culinary treat I never remember enjoying but maybe some readers have tasted it. I have had a lot of Disney menu favorites over the years that have disappeared completely.

When the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant opened at Disney MGM Studios on April 20, 1991 (were any of you surprised it was not open with the park in 1989?), it had some very unique food offerings including "The Big Bang".

scifi.jpg

Yes, that is what the creamed popcorn soup concocted by Disney MGM Studios Executive Chef Reimund Pitz was labeled on the menu.

"Popcorn was the number one best seller at the drive-in movie, so we played around with a lot of different ideas and came up with a velvety popcorn soup," said Pitz when the restaurant opened. "All of our ideas are themed to the drive-in era. We took the old classics and added a new flair."

HORSING AROUND Here's something interesting from a WDW attraction that no longer exists. I hope a handful of you might remember the SuperStar Television show at Disney MGM Studios where Disney guests were chosen, costumed and through the miracle of blue screen added into scenes in some popular television programs.

superstar-tv.jpg


One of those experiences was riding on a horse in a scene from the popular television Western series "Bonanza". Audiences were probably enjoying the discomfort of the performer so much that they never wondered about the horse.

I was able to confirm many years ago that the sculpted horse had been recycled from the motion picture The Godfather (1972), famous for a scene with a realistic looking horse head. The Disney Company even sent the information out to the media in 1996 as a fun fact for Walt Disney World's 25th Anniversary celebration.

Is it still in storage in a WDW prop warehouse or does it appear somewhere else on property? Unfortunately, I don't know.


WATER EVERYWHERE.
If you emptied all the water from the Living Seas with Nemo at Epcot into one-gallon milk jugs and laid them side by side, they would stretch from New Orleans to Raleigh, North Carolina, approximately 540 miles.

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SIX MILLION MILE MAN.
The DNA Tower that stood in front of the entrance to Wonders of Life at Epcot was 5.5 billion times larger than the DNA molecule it represented. It would have been just right for a human six million miles tall.

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MOST PHOTOGRAPHED AT EPCOT. In 1995, it was determined that the most photographed thing at Epcot was not SpaceShip Earth. Believe it or not, it was General Motors' model automobiles and prototypes in Future World exhibited at the World of Motion attraction (which closed January 1996) according to the Disney publicists connected with the WDW News & Information department.

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About Historical Fun Facts

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Historical Fun Facts category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

C. V. Wood is the previous category.

Mickey Mouse Balloons is the next category.

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