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February 26, 2017

The Big Red Boat

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Way back in the mists of time, in the long lost days of yore, before there was a Disney Cruise Line, avid Disney fans sailed with a cast of Disney characters on The Big Red Boat!

The Big Red Boat

Premier Cruise Lines, which operated the Big Red Boat, was formed in 1983 by two veterans in the cruise industry. These two men were mavericks who had a vision; they wanted to create a new niche market – Family Cruising. Until that time cruise ships had been opulent floating palaces catering to well-heeled older patrons who wanted a luxurious vacation experience. The two entrepreneurs behind Premier Cruise Lines thought that some of these patrons might like to bring children or grandchildren along with them and that was the niche market they were hoping to capture.

They raised more than a few eyebrows in the rather stodgy cruise industry when they bought the Oceanic and refurbished it in a “not-so-luxurious” fashion to accommodate the needs of cruising families.

At the same time the Walt Disney Corporation was looking for ways to add some variety to their theme park vacations. It wasn’t long before Premier and Disney signed an agreement and began jointly marketing Disney vacations with a “land and sea” option. When it was re-launched after refurbishment the Oceanic was christened by none other than Minnie Mouse!

Big Red Boat Ad 1990
Click on the image above to see a larger version

In 1985 Disney characters began appearing on the Big Red Boat; special Disney themed ship-board activities were offered for children and on-board entertainment was family oriented. The ship had a staff of more than 30 youth counselors on-board and programs for the children were divided by age group. They even had a special menu for children and provided free onboard babysitting. This approach to family cruising was an instant success!

Big Red Boat Ad 1992
Click to see a larger image

Disney fans just loved the idea of three or four days at sea followed by three or four days at the theme parks! By 1988 family cruising was so popular that two more ships, the Majestic and the Atlantic, joined the Premier Cruise Lines fleet. The hulls were painted bright red and all three were marketed as “The Big Red Boat”

Magic Kingdom Club Membership Guide 1993
Click to see a larger image

The three and four day cruises sailed from Port Canaveral and offered several different itineraries. Ports of call included Freeport, Nassau and Salt Cay, a small island just a few miles from Nassau.

Carol and I didn’t sail with Disney until 2007, but a few people have shared their experiences on the Big Red Boat with us.

Karen O. from Illinois told me, “We took a cruise in March 1992. My husband Rudy, son Greg and I boarded the Majestic in Port Canaveral. We really enjoyed the package that included a three day cruise followed by four days at Walt Disney World. One of the highlights was anchoring off of Abaco Island in the Bahamas. It's almost hard to say what was our favourite thing because everything was great. Of course we loved the food, the service, and the activities; but we especially loved the snorkeling. Our son Greg even got to swim with the dolphins. He was a year-round swim competitor, and at the time was eight years old. It was a very special trip and vacation for us.”

Greg and the Server

Greg at Abacos

Rob R. from Virginia described his experience for me; “My wife Kathy and I honeymooned on the Big Red Boat in September 1993. We boarded about 2:00 p.m. and sailed away from Port Canaveral at about 5:30. There was a Bon Voyage party on the main pool deck; we were all given streamers and confetti to throw, there was a live band playing and Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto were interacting with guests as we left port. That was the last time I remember seeing the characters on board but I'm sure they were around for later functions. The movie theater was showing Disney movies.”

“Our ports of call were Nassau and Freeport. At Nassau we could go to the straw market, take an excursion to Atlantis to go to the casino, take an excursion to Salt Cay, a nearby private island to snorkel or rest on net hammocks. Salt Cay was used in the opening credit shots for Gilligan's Island . . . that was neat. Kathy and I enjoyed the snorkeling and then walked around the straw market”

“In Freeport Kathy and I went parasailing. It was fantastic! Flying high above the crystal clear water was wonderful. From up that high, you could see the coral reef, some of the colourful fish and the ocean bottom. I wish I had taken a camera up with me to take pictures of how clear things were.”

Rob and Kathy must have sailed on one of the last of the Disney themed cruises since the deal between Premier and Disney ended in late 1993 and was not renewed. Disney reportedly had discussions with both Carnival and Royal Caribbean lines, hoping they could replace Premier, but neither seemed to be interested. On May 3, 1994 Disney announced that they would be starting their own cruise line.

Premier soon negotiated a deal with Warner Brothers and before long Bugs Bunny and many of the other Looney Tunes characters were interacting with vacationers on the Big Red Boats.

Looney Tunes Party Animals

It was during the Looney Tunes era that AllEars.net Photo Blogger Scott Thomas and his family sailed. “We sailed just after Disney had announced they were building their own ships and pulled out of the Big Red Boat. All the Looney Tunes characters were on the ship. The weather during our cruise was terrible, so bad that we didn’t go on a single excursion. The kid’s programs were very strange; they allowed our daughters, aged 6 and 9 at the time, to leave unescorted and roam the ship looking for us. We didn't like that at all; the girls found us each time but it certainly did not give us a good feeling!”

“The boat was old and small, everything seemed very cramped. The food and the service were okay. They only had one dining hall which I believe was the norm on ships back then, but nothing about the cruise was as well done as we have since experienced on Disney Cruise Line.”

Most of you know the rest of the story. In 1996 Disney purchased Gorda Cay and spent 25 million dollars transforming it into Castaway Cay. The Disney Magic began sailing July 30, 1998 and was joined by the Disney Wonder about a year later. The Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy followed in 2011 and 2012. Two new ships are now under construction and both should join the Disney fleet within 6 years.

As for Premier, they struggled after Disney pulled out. Their fleet was old and the smaller ships had a hard time meeting the needs of more demanding consumers. The company was bankrupt by September 2000 and almost all of their ships have since been sold for scrap.

StarShip_Royale_and_Oceanic.jpg

It’s a sad ending for Premier Cruise Lines, a company that helped incubate the Disney Cruise Line. There is no doubt in my mind that those 8 years when Disney fans sailed on the Big Red Boat gave the Imagineers a wonderful model to use when they began to design the ships, the children’s programs, the ship-board entertainment and the shore excursions that we all enjoy today.

How about you? Do you have any fond memories of the Big Red Boat?

March 6, 2016

Trip Planning 1971 - 1992

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A few weeks ago, while writing a blog about FastPass+ and the new My Disney Experience system my thoughts turned back to the early days at Walt Disney World. In the first decade it wasn’t absolutely necessary to plan any aspect of your trip in advance. Most people there were just “winging it”.

But then they added EPCOT in 1982 and things got a bit more complex. Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom followed to make it four theme parks by 1998. Over the years Disney responded by making different types of planning aids available to guests. It will probably require a series of articles to look at all of the planning tools Disney has distributed over the years; this blog will look at the first two decades, when everything was paper-based.

Carol and I made our first trips to the Magic Kingdom in October 1977. We were friends in those days but we weren’t a couple; we lived several hundred miles apart. I went with my two children and Carol took her son. Strangely enough, when we compared notes about 20 years later we discovered that when I deplaned in Toronto after my first Disney trip Carol boarded the same aircraft to fly south for her first taste of the magic. It really is a small world!

We both stayed off-property that first time and drove rental cars to the park each day. It was only the Magic Kingdom then; there were lines for the most popular attractions, but none were too long and we were wide-eyed with wonder as we saw it all for the first time. Our time at Disney just seemed to fly by!

I visited again in 1979 and 1981, staying off-property each time. Carol’s next trip was in 1979, off-property as well, and she picked up a Disney brochure which had a tear-out leaflet that you could mail to Disney Central Reservations to pre-arrange your accommodations and dining. She put it in the mail several months before her February 1981 trip and Disney quickly sent back a glossy "World Magazine" as well as a Vacation Planning Worksheet.

Here’s what the magazine looked like!
Click on each image to see a larger version you can read more easily!

World Magazine 1981 Cover
Cover

World Magazine 1981 pg 2-3
Page 2 and 3



World Magazine 1981 pg 4-5
Page 4 and 5

World Magazine 1981 pg 6-7
Page 6 and 7

World Magazine 1981 pg 8-9
Page 8 and 9

World Magazine 1981 pg 10-11
Page 10 and 11

World Magazine 1981 pg 12-13
Page 12 and 13

World Magazine 1981 pg 14-15
Page 14 and 15

World Magazine 1981 pg 16-17
Page 16 and 17

World Magazine 1981 pg 18-19
Page 18 and 19

World Magazine 1981 pg 20-21
Page 20 and 21

World Magazine 1981 pg 22-23
Page 22 and 23

World Magazine 1981 pg 24-25
Page 24 and 25

World Magazine 1981 pg 26-27
Page 26 and 27

World_Magazine 1981 pg 28-29
Page 28 and 29

World Magazine 1981 pg 30-31
Page 30 and 31

Stapled in the middle of the magazine was a pull-out Vacation Information guide, everything a visitor needed to know about Walt Disney World.

Once again, be sure to click on the images.

Brochure pg 1
Page 1

Brochure pg 2-3
Page 2 and 3

Brochure pg 4-5
Page 4 and 5

Brochure pg 6-7
Page 6 and 7

Brochure pg 8-9
Page 8 and 9

Brochure pg 10
Page 10

The covering letter from the Disney Vacation Planning Center and the three page set of instructions were a big help as Carol filled out her Vacation Planning Activity Sheet.

1981 Letter

Activity Sheet Instructions

I sure wish she had kept a copy of that form she filled out, but who could have predicted way back then how much nostalgic value that document would have today!

We did find a similar worksheet from 1985, here’s a copy of that one!

1985 Dining and Resort Worksheet

I can only imagine how excited she must have been when her confirmation arrived in the mail a few weeks later. Here’s what it looked like!

1981 Itinerary

They stayed at the Polynesian Resort Hotel, enjoyed dinner at Tangaroa Terrace, a character breakfast aboard the Empress Lily, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Pioneer Hall, Dinner à la Disney in the Trophy Room, two rounds of golf, a Polynesian Revue at Luau Cove, dinner at Papeete Bay and a final dinner show at The Top of The World. Wow! That was a busy week . . . I wonder if they had any time to visit the Magic Kingdom?

After that first experience in a Disney resort Carol knew that she would never stay off-property again . . . and she’s been true to her word! She has made 57 trips to Walt Disney World since then and has enjoyed a Disney resort each time.

Carol mailed in similar worksheets to book accommodations and meals for her next few vacations; then she reverted to the telephone. The parks weren’t nearly as crowded as they are today and there was no need to book your resort a year in advance! She would phone a few months before the trip and reserve her room. Restaurants didn’t take reservations; there was no need. The only reservations to be made were for dinner shows or character meals and those could easily be done at the front desk when you checked in.

It wasn’t until 1989 they began taking reservations at most of the table service restaurants; and even then they could only be made by guests staying in a Disney resort, and not more than one or two days in advance. There was still plenty of room for walk-in diners.

The process of planning a vacation was just so much more civilized in those days! There was no need to sit at your phone until midnight ready to dial . . . and redial . . . and redial until you got through to a Disney agent. No need to be at your computer at 7:00 a.m. waiting for My Disney Experience to begin accepting log-ins!

Oh wouldn’t it be nice to return to those days!

Those colourful planning magazines were displayed in the room every time Carol arrived at her Disney resort, and she always took one home with her. Planning for the next trip started as soon as she finished unpacking! Her Disneyana collection includes planning books from 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991-92 and 1993. They are all full of wonderful pictures showing the growth and evolution of her happy place.

Of course Disney always tries to stay abreast of new technology and in 1993 they introduced VHS tapes to help with vacation plans. By 1994 there were no more glossy magazines!

Does Carol have any tapes in her collection? Oh yes! A big bag full! I’ll talk about some of those in a future blog, so stay tuned!

January 3, 2016

Disney Soaps and Lotions

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Do you have a shelf that looks like this?

Medicine Cabinet Soaps and Lotions

Is your travel bag filled with these?

Generic soaps and lotions

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

Disney Pens

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Floridian soaps and lotions

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

Contemporary and Fort Wilderness soaps

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

Disneyland Hotel soaps and lotions

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

Disney Cruise Line soaps and lotions

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

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

Generic soaps and lotions

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

Generic soaps and lotions

Here’s another old group of generic soaps.

Generic soaps and lotions

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

Generic soaps and lotions

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

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

How about you?

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

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!

March 1, 2015

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

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

1962 Port Dover Sailors

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

The Stanley Cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mighty Ducks movie

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

The Mighty Ducks poster

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

The Mighty Ducks poster

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

The Mighty Ducks bench

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

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

There were two sequels.

The Mighty Ducks 2


The Mighty Ducks 3

There was even a televised cartoon series!

The Mighty Ducks cartoon

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

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Logo

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

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Logo

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

Magic Years Page 40

Magic Years Page 41

1993 Game Schedule

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

1994 Mighty Ducks Team Photo


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

Ducks jerseys

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

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

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

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

Then in 2006/07 they won it all.

2007 Stanley Cup

2007 Stanley Cup

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

2007 Stanley Cup winners

2007 Stanley Cup Ring

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

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



February 15, 2015

It All Started With . . . Storyboards

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

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

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

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

Disney Magazine Summer 2001

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

An early Storyboard

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

Walt and a Storyboard

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

Walt and a Storyboard

Lady and the Tramp Storyboard

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

Disney Magazine Fall 2002 pg 49

Disney Magazine Fall 2002 pg 51

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

Disneyland Concept Art

Walt and Disneyland Map

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

Walt and Disneyland Model

1953 Disneyland Map

Disneyland Sketch


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

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

EPCOT Storyboard 1964

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

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

WED Enterprises 1964

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

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

Another Storyboard

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

Disneyland Train Station

Disneyland Entry Sign

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

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

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

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

Crooked shutters

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

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

All of these touches were defined in the storyboard.

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

Christmas Shop

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

Christmas Shop Tools

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

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

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

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

One Man's Dream

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

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

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

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

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

January 18, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Clubs

Gary Cruise banner

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!

December 21, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk - WDW News - Autumn 1989

Gary Cruise banner
Let's pull another old newsletter out of the Tickle Trunk.

This is a colorful one; it was issued in the autumn of 1989 and the masthead calls it the "Wonders of Life Edition".

1989 Front_Page

That new pavilion at EPCOT opened October 19, 1989 and this edition heralded all the brand-new attractions on the front page!

Most of the front page was devoted to a picture of Body Wars, with insets of other attractions. Read how they described the new exhibits in the text below the picture:

Take the ride of your life - "Body Wars" at this five-acre pavilion teeming with activities, hands-on exhibits, and entertainment.

EPCOT CENTER - An incredibly imaginative celebration of life is now underway at the new Wonders of Life, presented by Metropolitan Life at Epcot Center Future World.

Its centerpiece, "Body Wars" uses Disney's newest simulator technology that miniaturizes and propels you on an intensely thrilling, high speed roller-coaster-like ride through the human body as it fights a bacterial invasion.

At "Cranium Command," another major attraction, you can climb inside the head of a 12-year-old boy for a lighthearted look at how mind and body interact.

The gold-domed Wonders of Life is full of surprises! See "The Making of Me," a sensitive film starring Martin Short which explores the mysterious, tender and sometimes humorous events surrounding pregnancy and birth.

"Fitness Fairgrounds," another hot spot, is a collection of hands-on exhibits. Here you can have your tennis, golf, or baseball swing analyzed by the pros. You can select a video tour while riding a "Wondercycle," explore the "Sensory - Funhouse," and pick up some health tips from Goofy. You'll celebrate wellness and fitness with incredible live and Audio-Animatronics shows. There's a whole world of amazing entertainment at Wonders of Life, just waiting for you!

The Wonders of Life Pavilion had a successful 18-year run before closing January 1, 2007. It now serves as a "Special Events" building for events like the annual EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival.

How many of those original attractions do you remember?

1989 Page 2

Page 2 is devoted entirely to Disney-MGM Studios, which was also brand-new! The third theme park at Walt Disney World had opened about six months prior. The second page is dominated by two large pictures of the "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" and descriptions of the many new attractions. Let's take a closer look at what they had to say about the new park:

DISNEY-MGM STUDIOS THEME PARK - The breathtaking thrills are immense, and they get even bigger if you are chosen as an "extra" at the "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" now in full production at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park.

Amid rapid-fire shots, exploding trucks, out-of-control airplanes and an immense rolling rock, you'll be on the edge of your seat if not in the center of the action, as stunt professionals reenact famous Indiana Jones adventure scenes. Performances throughout the day are just one more way the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park puts you in the picture.

Make Your Day
Another way to be a star is to stop by SuperStar Television, presented by SONY®. Just prior to the show, audience members are chosen to star in live productions of popular TV shows. Ifs funny, exciting, and another way to make your day!

More excitement comes inside the Chinese Theatre where you'll see movies as never before on "The Great Movie Ride" Theatre-size cars take you into the action of classic films, re-created through an incredible mixture of live action and the latest in Disney Audio-Animatronics wizardry!

Add sound to movies at the Monster Sound Show, presented by SONY®. At the heart of the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park is "The Magic of Disney Animation," actual studios where Disney characters come to life right before your eyes!

On the Set
Next comes some of life's most thrilling moments! On the Backstage Studio Tour you can visit sound stages and see movies actually being made! At Catastrophe Canyon, you'll experience firsthand how earthquakes, floods, and fireballs are created. And before your tour is over, you'll unravel more mysteries of special effects.

At mealtime, choose from eleven smashing restaurants including Hollywood & Vine, the 50's Prime Time Cafe/Tune In Lounge and the Sound Stage Restaurant where you can eat on a real movie set. From start to finish, it's a full day of Hollywood adventure!

Wow, some of those attractions, like the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, are pretty much unchanged after more than 25 years while others, like SuperStar Television, have disappeared entirely. A few others have opened and closed since this newsletter was published . . . remember "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and "The American Idol Experience?"

What's that piece in the bottom right corner of page 2? A star every day? Here's a closer look:

See a Star

I expect that there are now several generations of readers wondering, "Who are those people? Pat Boone? Rose Marie? Mariette Hartley? Isabel Sanford?" Suddenly I'm feeling very old!

There were only two articles on page 3 and I'll show them individually.

Pleasure Island

How many of those Pleasure Island haunts do you remember - Mannequins Dance Palace, XZFR Rockin' Rollerdome (with a daily Zappy Hour), the Adventurers Club, Videopolis East, the Neon Armadillo Music Saloon, the Comedy Warehouse?

In those early days the food venues included Merriweather's Market, the Portobello Yacht Club, the Fireworks Factory and three dining areas aboard the Empress Lilly riverboat.

Typhoon Lagoon

Typhoon Lagoon had only been open for three months and was already a very popular destination. Do you remember your excitement when you first saw that huge wave? When you first slid down Humunga Kowabunga? When you took that first lazy drift around Castaway Creek? I sure remember!

1989 Page 4

The back page, page 4, spoke of two items I was not familiar with, along with one I know well, the long-standing pyrotechnic and laser spectacular staged nightly at EPCOT. "Illuminations" originally debuted at EPCOT January 30, 1988, as a replacement for "Laserphonic Fantasy." Over the past 27 years there have been several versions of the ever-popular Illuminations show. The second generation show, "IllumiNations 25" debuted for the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort and ran 1996 - 1999. Generation three, "IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth" launched in 1999 to ring-in the upcoming millennium celebration. The show has remained much the same since 1999, but the reference to the year 2000 has been dropped from the name. Today it's known as "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth"

Sing Along Parade

Here's a closer look at the "Disney Character Hit Parade". The Dapper Dans and some Disney characters are pictured singing from the bow of a steamboat, the S. S. Mickey Mouse! I didn't see this version of the afternoon parade, but if I had I would have called it a hum-along. I'm nowhere near the singer those Dapper Dans are, believe me you would prefer my humming!

Dreamflight

Dreamflight was an attraction I had never even heard of before reading this newsletter. It was sponsored by Delta Airlines from 1989 until 1995 and replaced "If You had Wings" which had been sponsored by Eastern Airlines. Now that's a name I remember! The building which housed If You had Wings and Dreamflight is now the home of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, one of my favorites!

Looking back at the contents of this simple little newsletter, you can almost feel the excitement that was in the air in late 1989. You can really sense what an exhilarating time it was, plenty of change and so many thrilling new activities and attractions!

Let's just pause and reflect for a minute - when Walt Disney World opened in 1971 there was one park, the Magic Kingdom. When this newsletter was published, just 18 years later, there were three theme parks, two water parks, a wildlife sanctuary, a campground, more than a dozen hotels and resorts, a shopping and entertainment district and so much more.

In a mere 18 years Walt Disney World had risen from swampland to become the most popular vacation destination in the world.

WOW!

December 7, 2014

Memories of Discovery Island

Gary Cruise banner

Before I begin, I have a confession to make - I have never been to Discovery Island. Sad, but true! Fortunately, Carol and Rob enjoyed several short boat rides from Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground to Discovery Island, so once again they have acted as my consultants!

1979 Postcard Book - Discovery Island
1979 Postcard

Bay Lake, which surrounds Discovery Island, is a natural lake - unlike most of the waterways on Disney property. Even the Seven Seas Lagoon, which you cross by ferry from the Ticket and Transportation Centre to the Magic Kingdom, is man-made!

1984 Discovery Island Flyer
1984 Flyer (click on the image above for a clearer view)

It is quite likely that Walt Disney sailed on Bay Lake and walked on Discovery Island before buying the property. Of course in those days Discovery Island was called Riles Island and was used as a hunting retreat!

A few years after The Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, work began on a nature park on the 10-acre island. It opened as Treasure Island on April 8, 1974. The original theme for the island centred around pirates from the book by Robert Louis Stevenson. The "back-story" included a secret hideaway, buried treasure and the wreck of Captain Flint's ship, The Walrus.

1977 Treasure Island Brochure outside
1977 Brochure

The island was a showplace for exotic birds and plants but they were all wrapped up in pirate decor. What sort of birds were there? The 1977 brochure, pictured above, refers to Blue Peafowl, Vulturine Guineafowl, Caribbean Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo, Southern Bald Eagle, Macaw, Cockatoo, African Crowned Crane, Demoiselle Crane and Sandhill Crane. Many of these were housed in one of the largest walk-through aviaries in the world.

Plant life, imported from around the world, included banana, palm and bamboo from East India, gardenias from China, orchid trees from India and passion flowers from South America.

Boats ran across Bay Lake between Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and the island every 20 minutes throughout the day.

Discovery Island Tickets

The place-names on the map below help tell the story of the pirate theme . . . Cap'n Flint's Perch, Buccaneer's Cove, Doubloon Lagoon, Mutineer Falls, Gang Plank Walk and Rum Point are a few!

1977 Treasure Island Brochure inside
1977 Brochure

The quotation in the upper right corner is from Ben Gunn, a character from the R. L. Stevenson book. Gunn was one of Captain Flint's crewmen who was marooned on Treasure Island for three years.

Gunn's quote appears in the image below.

Look closely

In the upper right hand corner of the map you see a ship which has run aground on the beach; that's Captain Flint's ship, The Walrus, shown below in a Disney postcard from 1975.

The Walrus postcard

Treasure Island never reached the anticipated attendance levels so after only two years it was closed and extensive renovations began! The pirate theme disappeared and when it re-opened in early 1976 it was named Discovery Island, focused specifically on conservation.

February 1981 Discovery Island

1979 Discovery Island Brochure outside
1979 Brochure

As you might expect, the map of Discovery Island is very similar to the map of Treasure Island. The trails and walkways were renamed and included Bird's Eye View, Trumpeter Springs, Swan's Neck, Vulture's Haunt, Toucan Corner, Pelican Bay and Turtle Beach.

1979 Discovery Island Brochure inside
1979 Brochure

Discovery Island became renowned for its bird, plant and tortoise populations and was accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association in 1978. The aviaries were expanded and the facility functioned as a breeding facility for rare birds. The 40 foot tall, 32,000 square-foot, walk-through aviary remained; there were bird shows, a flamingo pool, and the Turtle Beach was still there.

The Walrus was still aground on the beach.

Rob along the trail

Rob at Parrots Perch

Brochures from the 1980's and 1990's show an increasing focus on conservation and environmental responsibility!

Animals and plants of Discovery Island

Wildlife on Discovery Island

1986 Discovery Island Brochure pg 1
1986 Brochure

1986 Discovery Island Brochure pg 2
1986 Brochure

1990s Discovery Island Brochure pg 1
1990 Brochure

1990s Discovery Island Brochure pg 2
1990 Brochure

As you left the Discovery Island dock, you encountered the Thirsty Perch Snack Bar and the restrooms on your left. The map directed you to the right, toward the Discovery Island Bird Show near the North Inlet. In some areas the walkway was elevated, crossing ponds, wetlands and marshy areas where birds and animals roamed freely. There were plenty of animal encounters as you passed Trumpeter Springs, North Falls, Swan's Neck and Bamboo Hollow. Next in the journey was Monkey Point, home of the colony of Lemurs from Madagascar and their distant relatives, the Marmoset. Cranes Roost and Toucan Corner were the final viewing opportunities before you entered the enormous walk-through aviary, home of the striking Scarlett Ibis and so many other exotic birds which were visible over, under and beside the elevated boardwalks of Avian Way!

Great Hornbill postcard
Great Hornbill Postcard

Sarus Cranes postcard
Sarus Crane Postcard

Soon after exiting the aviary, you arrived at Pelican Bay populated by injured pelicans which had been treated in the Animal Hospital housed on the island. These injured birds spent their remaining years living in the lap of luxury as Disney guests!

Several varieties of pelicans lived around the ponds at Pelican Lagoon near the beach. Just past the pelicans were the giant turtles of Tortoise Beach, then Alligator Pool and the Birds of Prey Theatre were the final stops along the walk before you returned to your starting point at the dock.

Rob with a parrot

1990s Discovery Island Map
Mid 1990's Map

There were cast members all along the route; they described the animals you were seeing, their native countries, their natural habitats and their diets. In some areas there were opportunities to interact with the birds and animals, and there were some wonderful shows to see in the small theatres located along the trail. What a wonderful place! A peaceful and serene nature park so close to the clamorous activity in the Disney theme parks.

Vulture postcard
Vulture Postcard

Rob recollects, "My favourite thing along the trail was searching for the cavy! These South American rodents seemed to have the run of the place; when my Mom wanted to find me, she'd always look in the area where the cavies were and there I'd be. They were very shy animals and when I found them I'd stand very quietly and watch . . . it was never too long before some noisy kids came along and scared them away." (Remember, Rob had reached the ripe old age of eight at the time!)

"I always enjoyed the turtles." Rob added, "They were huge and roamed the beach not far from the dock. There was just a short concrete wall to keep them in place and you could easily step onto the beach and get close to them. Sometimes you would see a small kid riding a tortoise. The whole island was a very interactive place!

A Peacock

Discovery Island postcard
Discovery Island Postcard

Alas, it all came to an end. Many of the birds and animals moved to the new Disney's Animal Kingdom when it opened in 1998 and Discovery Island closed permanently in April 1999. Today you can still see the vestiges of the aviary netting as you sail past the island heading to or from Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

The wreckage of Cap'n Flint's ship, the Walrus, is still there, almost covered in vines and foliage, as you can see in the picture below which I took in October 2014.

The Walrus October 2014

The island is now a registered bird sanctuary and each evening as the sun begins to set you will see thousands of birds come in to roost for the night.

It seems a fitting end for Discovery Island.

November 23, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Matchbooks

Gary Cruise banner

Here's another piece of Disney history plumbed from the depths of the Tickle Trunk - Disney matchbooks!

Carol's old pine box of memories contains a shiny metal box full of matchbooks she collected decades ago!

Match Book Tin

Times were much different in the 1970's and 1980's and our acceptance of tobacco smoke and those who used tobacco products was much more open.

These days there are a few designated smoking areas scattered around Disney parks. Sometimes they are hard to find and at other times my nose can pick them out very easily. But in the early days smoking was permitted almost everywhere in the parks; even in restaurants!

There was a Tobacconist Shop on Main Street in Disneyland and in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. These stores displayed and sold hand-crafted pipes and tobaccos from around the world. Cigars and cigarettes were also available, but they were kept discretely under the counter.

Almost every Disney resort and restaurant had matchbooks which were given away free to customers. Yes, it was a vastly different time!

By the mid '80's the health risks associated with tobacco smoke were becoming clearer and public perception brought about slow but persistent change. Disney matchbooks are no longer available, smoking is now taboo in restaurants and designated smoking areas are few and far between.

The Tobacconist Shop in Florida closed in 1985 and the California shop followed suit in 1991. I suspect that we have seen the last of Disney matchbooks!

If you have any old Disney matchbooks be sure to hold onto them, they are real collector's items.

Here are a few examples from Carol's matchbook collection!

Match Books

More Match Books_2

There are even a few match boxes!

Match Boxes and books

And here are a few added bonuses at no extra cost!

1) Two Disney ash trays!

Disneyland Ash Tray
Do you see the faint gold printing inside the ash tray? It reads "Disneyland"

Orange Bird Ash Tray

2) A few Disney sewing kits!

Sewing Kit - Grand Floridian
From the Grand Floridian

Sewing Kits

Yes, that old Tickle Trunk has a bit of everything in it, great memories from years gone by!

November 9, 2014

Memories of River Country

Gary Cruise banner

I have many wonderful Disney memories, picked up over the years during all those magical trips to the sunny south. But I've also racked up a few Disney regrets. This blog is about one of those regrets!

I never made it to Disney's first water-park, River Country . . .

1979 Postcard Book River Country

Everything I've read and everything I've heard about River Country has convinced me that it was exactly my kind of place! A modern six acre water park with dramatic and exciting water slides, all cleverly disguised as an old fashioned swimmin' hole from the days of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer! Yup! My kind of place!

1984 River Country Flyer
1984 Brochure

1987 River Country Brochure outside
1987 Brochure

1987 River Country Brochure inside
1987 Brochure

Fortunately, Carol and Rob were there several times and she brought home some great memories as well as plenty of brochures, postcards, tickets and photographs to add some color to my descriptions of their memories. There was plenty of descriptive information in the Tickle Trunk!

1989 River Country Brochure Front
1989 Brochure

Some of these images are thumbnails, click on the image to see a larger version you can read more easily.

1989 River Country Brochure Inside
1989 Brochure

Here's how that 1987 brochure described River Country: "Dive into the bygone days of the ol' swimmin' hole with River Country's twisting water slides. Hop on your inner tube for a white-knuckle white water rapids ride. Relax in a sparkling 330,000-gallon swimming pool. Or let your guppies go off on their own at Kiddie Cove, a specially designed area for youngsters. A sandy beach and winding nature trail complete the idyllic scene.

Towel rentals and lockers are available as well as a snack bar with food, soft drinks, beer and wine. Or you can pack a picnic basket and enjoy a full day of fun in this unique corner of the world."

River Country opened with fanfare June 20, 1976 when Susan Ford, President Gerald Ford's daughter, took the first trip down Whoop 'n Holler Hollow and splashed into Bay Cove, the larger of the park's two main bodies of water.

Birds-eye View Postcard

The park was located beside Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, along the south shore of Bay Lake. There was very little parking available for River Country; most visitors used Disney transportation to get there. Guests who arrived at the campground by boat simply walked a short distance to the River Country entrance. Those arriving by bus transferred to a campground tram or bus and rode to The Settlement area before walking a few hundred yards to River Country.

River Country Water Wagon

River Country cannon

River Country Map

Bay Cove was the main "swimmin' hole at River Country. It had a sand bottom and was filled with filtered water drawn from Bay Lake. This very natural looking man-made lagoon was separated from the lake by a large inflated dam which kept the water level in the lagoon about six inches higher than the adjacent lake. The filtration system drew water from the lake, filtered it and sent it to the various slides throughout the attraction at a rate of 8,500 gallons per minute. Surplus water spilled out over the top of the dam and returned to Bay Lake.

Bay Cove

At one side of Bay Cove were the two large water slides, Whoop 'n Holler Hollow and White Water Rapids, and opposite was the main beach covered with white sand, beach chairs and umbrellas. The lagoon tapered in depth, from the sandy shore at the beach it grew deeper as you approached the slides. The slides dropped adventurous guests into six feet of water and there was a bit of a distance to swim before they were able to touch bottom. This area was for experienced swimmers only!

River Country postcard

Whoop 'n Holler Hollow was the most exciting of the slides! There were two fibreglass body slides, one 160 feet and the other 260 feet. Riders careened and sloshed through plenty of twists, bends and tight hairpin turns before plunging into the lagoon.

Carol rides the slide
Carol

Rob
Rob

Rob.jpg
Rob

At White Water Rapids riders rode an inner tube as they bobbed past man-made rocks and through Raft Rider Ridge, next to Whoop 'n Holler Hollow, before entering the high-speed chute and splashing down into the lagoon. The water slides featured a lot of man-made rock, similar to that seen at Big Thunder Mountain and other places throughout Walt Disney World. Most riders floated around on the tubes for a few minutes before trekking up the queue to ride again!

White Water Rapids

Rob at White Water Rapids
Rob

In the middle of the lagoon was a small platform which had two water activities. At the Boom Swing guests could dangle from a wooden ship's boom, swing out over the bay and drop into the water. There was also a Cable Ride, similar to a "zip line", where the daring could grab a handle, slide down the cable and let go to enjoy a cooling plunge into the water! Nearby, in the water, was a Tire Swing. Swimmers could climb up onto a raft-like dock and board a tire-swing. It took practised skill to swing back and forth and then time your release to achieve a graceful dive!

Tire Swing postcard

Bay Cove was bounded by two bridges which gave easy access to the slides. Bay Bridge was located near the inflated dam on the Bay Lake side. A "tipsy" floating Barrel Bridge, similar to the one at Tom Sawyer Island, separated Bay Cove from Kiddie Cove where children could enjoy a shallow beach and four small slides.

Kiddie Cove postcard

The oversized heated pool was known as Upstream Plunge. Half of the pool was cordoned off for swimmers while the other was set aside for those who risked life and limb riding down Slippery Slide Falls. The side-by-side slides, along a sculpted concrete rock face, ended with a seven foot drop into the pool! No other Disney water slides have ever featured this sort of drop! Yeehaw!

River Country Press Photo

Slippery Slide Falls

Slippery Slide Falls
Rob - ready to plunge!

Indian Springs was the first Disney splash pad for the kiddies, an area where they could run, splash and squirt each other. What could be more fun?

Splash Pad postcard

There was even an elevated boardwalk across the cypress swamp; sunken trees and wildlife were abundant all along the Cypress Point Nature Trail.

Goofy was the official mascot at the park and made frequent appearances. He sometimes arrived by boat, other times on horseback and always enjoyed a soothing and cooling plunge down one of the slides. In the late 90's every day was the 4th of July as Goofy and a number of other characters including Chip, Dale, Minnie and Pluto took part in River Country's daily All-American Water Party.

Rob has fond memories of several visits to River Country about three decades ago, "It was a great spot for a kid," he told me, "there was just so much to do! It was the first place I experienced water slides and I really enjoyed each one of them, but even better were the other water activities. The boom swing and the cable ride were terrific. I liked to ride the cable all the way to the end. When it jarred to a stop I could do a full back flip and land in a perfect dive. I used to float around the tire swing and watch as folks let go at the wrong time and did some nasty belly flops!"

Rob is a nature lover, so I asked if he liked the Cypress Point Nature Trail. "Oh yeah," he said, "I never missed it. There were plenty of birds along the shore, small deer roaming freely and a big alligator in a fenced in area."

Tickets

Rob went on, "As a kid I saw River Country as a great place to have fun, but I didn't really appreciate the way it was built. Now, when I look back after more than thirty years I can see the nostalgia they built into the place. All of that new and modern stuff was made to look old and rustic . . . and the things I enjoyed most were so simple, dropping off an old wooden spar into the water or sliding down a wire and flipping into the pond. It reinforces the notion that newer isn't always better!"

Carol enjoyed it there too. Yes, she rode the slides, but she liked the heated pool much better than that chilly lagoon! Carol and her friend Judy scurried to commandeer their favourite table and umbrella so they could relax and enjoy some "down time" basking in the sun while the kids, Rob and Jenn, romped and played.

Their favourite table

Carol was always near the water when she grew up; boating and swimming were a regular part of her family life so River Country was a natural for her. The rustic charm the Imagineers created on the shore of Bay Lake reminded her of her Canadian home on the shore of Buck Lake. She also had one unusual memory from River Country. It was the first place any of them ever encountered Chicken Tenders; they were served with a tasty red sauce and were a huge hit!

Sometimes there were three generations represented, when Carol's mother Sybil joined in the fun. There was something there for everyone!

Beach postcard

The beach

Here's a funny little incident that happened while I was writing this blog. Rob was visiting Carol and I and he had just read a draft of this article. We were discussing it over dinner when I mentioned that during my online research I saw pictures of a River Country licence plate and a River Country beach towel. Carol quietly stood, went down the hall to the linen closet and in seconds came back with this towel.

River Country towel

That woman has everything!

So what happened to River Country? Why did it close?

There were a number of factors. First, both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon had opened, in 1989 and 1995, and drew some guests away from the old swimmin' hole! Attendance was down, but there was another serious issue as well. It affected all bodies of water in Florida. A nasty little amoeba prevalent in Florida water was found to attack the nervous system and brain. It had already caused Disney to ban swimming at all of the other beaches around Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon.

River Country closed September 1, 2001, at the end of the warm-weather season, as it did every year. Everyone expected that it would reopen in spring of 2002 . . . then came the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Attendance at Walt Disney World plummeted and management took drastic actions to control costs as their revenue plunged. River Country didn't re-open in the spring of 2002 and on April 11, 2002, the Orlando Sentinel reported "Disney World spokesman Bill Warren said that River Country could be reopened if 'there's enough guest demand.'"

Finally on January 20th 2005 came the expected announcement, River Country would not be reopening. The closure was permanent!

The only other Disney park ever to close was Discovery Island in April 1999; River Country joined it in 2001 but it didn't become "officially closed" until 2005.

The park now lies in ruin; you can still peek through the fence in some spots and see the crumbling slides that used to drop riders into Upstream Plunge. The walkway at Cypress Point Nature Trail is still visible if you ride the boat from Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom, but it's rotting away and slowly falling into Bay Lake!

Dang! If time machines are invented and I get the chance for a "do-over", a visit to River Country will be very high on my list!

October 12, 2014

From The Tickle Trunk - WDW News November 1982

Gary Cruise banner

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

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

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

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

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

November 1982 Magic Kingdom Entertainment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 1982 Page 2

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

November 1982 Top of the World

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

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

November 1982 Page 3
Page 3

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

Great Outdoors

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

November 1982 The Village

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

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

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

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

November 1982 International Representatives


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

November 1982 Page 4
Page 4

November 1982 Character Breakfasts

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

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

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

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.

June 22, 2014

Disney Buttons

Gary Cruise banner

A long, long time ago a young mother named Carol took her six-year-old son Rob to Walt Disney World. She bought a three day park pass . . . then the problem became apparent! How do you ensure that a very active youngster doesn't lose a valuable ticket? Hmmm . . . what to do?

It was then that she spotted some Disney buttons on a nearby counter and the problem was solved. She grabbed a Mickey Mouse button, pinned the ticket to the little scamp's shirt and pointed him at the rides. Zoom - he was gone in a cloud of dust and the ticket was secure! After three days it was still secure; what a great idea!

Rob_with_button

The "pin-the-ticket" trick continued for a few years and she had acquired a small bag full of buttons by the time Rob was old enough to be trusted to take care of his own ticket. Pictured below are the buttons that secured his tickets in 1977. That red Mickey Mouse button was holding his ticket in the picture above.

Pin_The_Ticket_Buttons

Here is eight year old "Rebel" Rob. He had a Goofy button holding his ticket in 1979!

Rob_and_Orange_Bird

Have I mentioned that Carol is a compulsive collector? Could she stop picking up buttons just because there was no longer a need for them! No, of course not!

Rob collected buttons for several years as well; Carol inherited his collection when he moved on to new interests!

Naturally Disney is very helpful when it comes to Carol's affliction. They are always issuing new buttons. Every time they release a new movie, open a new ride or attraction, celebrate the birthday of a theme park, there is a new button to commemorate the occasion.

Carol now has a collection of 340 Disney buttons, all different shapes, sizes and colors. Beyond her 340 "keeper" buttons she has a big bag of "traders".

The buttons are all sorted and categorized into groups:

- Carsland
- D23
- Disney Cruise Line
- Disney Movies
- Disney Vacation Club
- Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Disneyana
- Disneyland
- EPCOT
- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
- Theme Park Birthdays
- Walt Disney Classic Collection
- Walt Disney World
- Everything else - oddities which don't fit the categories above.

Let's take a look at a few of the EPCOT buttons.

EPCOT_Buttons

There were some very unique buttons when EPCOT first opened.

EPCOT_Countries_Buttons

It seems that every time we travel Carol finds a bin or basket full of buttons and she always stops to search through them for hidden Disney treasure. More often than not she finds some!

There are always new buttons when a Disney video is released!

Video_Buttons

She tries to collect all of the Earth Day buttons and all of the Disney Conservation Fund buttons and there are only a few of each she is missing. Special occasion buttons are fun too!

Special_Occasion_Buttons

There are plenty of birthday and anniversary buttons.

Happy_Birthday_Buttons

Every time a theme park, character or movie hits a milestone year it's an opportunity for a new button . . . and Carol has plenty of them.

Walt_Disney_World_Birthday_Buttons

Every button tells a story and many of the buttons in Carol's collection bring back fond memories of happy times. Can you see the happy memories in the buttons pictured below?

Assorted_Buttons

Interesting_Old_Buttons

Here's one final picture for you, the button on the left is the first one Rob ever wore at Walt Disney World. It held his ticket on his t-shirt in 1977 when he was six years old. The button on the right is one he wore on his latest trip, just a few months ago.

Robs_First_and_Last_Button

Do you have any Disney buttons? What sort of memories do they evoke for you?

May 7, 2014

Jim's Attic - Snow Queen Ride

davis-snow-queen-2.jpg
The Snow Queen Ride
By Jim Korkis

The most recent Walt Disney Feature Animation film, Frozen (2013), is the highest grossing animated feature film ever produced, winning Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song.

The Meet and Greet with Anna and Elsa at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot was so overwhelmingly successfully that the new Disney princesses now take up residence at the Princess Fairytale Hall in the Magic Kingdom to better accommodate their huge number of fans.

Anna and Elsa in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot:

Walt Disney himself had been interested in the Hans Christian Andersen tale of the Snow Queen as early as 1943.

Walt was in discussions with MGM film producer Samuel Goldwyn to collaborate on a film biography of the famous writer.

MGM would handle the live action sequences and Disney would create short animated sequences of some of Anderson's most famous tales including The Little Mermaid, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and, of course, The Snow Queen.

The project never developed any further but periodically over the years just like with the story of the Little Mermaid, the Disney artists would review the material to see if they could develop a story about The Snow Queen.

The big challenge was that the Snow Queen was basically a villain and all of the Disney animated feature films were about heroes who defeated the villain.

In 2002, Disney came close, even having songwriter Alan Menken compose several terrific tunes including "Love Can't Be Denied". Animator Glen Keane was deeply involved in the film but left when CEO Michael Eisner considered giving the film to Pixar to do. Fortunately, the project was revived again with a new team in 2008.

A few years before his official retirement in 1978, Imagineer Marc Davis designed an attraction for Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Fantasyland that was based on the story of The Snow Queen and was entitled "The Enchanted Snow Palace".

The massive white and blue show building would have looked like a glacier but slowly as guests got closer and looked more carefully, they would have realized that it seemed almost like carvings of towers, windows, doors and more.

Guests would have boarded a boat (just like on it's a small world) to drift pass dancing audio-animatronics polar bears, walruses, penguins and more to the background music from "The Nutcracker's Suite".

davis-snow-queen-1.jpg

Soon, the guests would drift into a snow cave with frost fairies (like the ones in the film Fantasia) and snow giants carrying icicle clubs. Eventually, the boats would come to the throne room of the Snow Queen herself who was about to leave on her sled for her journey through her kingdom.

To speed her passage, she conjures up a blizzard and the guests are caught in a brief snow storm just before they exit into the hot summer reality of Fantasyland.

Davis felt that a leisurely beautiful, literally cool attraction that could be enjoyed by guests of all ages would have been embraced by guests eager to get out of the heat and spend a restful moment on a boat ride.

However, at an estimated cost of fifteen million dollars, the Disney company decided to pass on the attraction and look to more thrilling rather than artistic experiences.

Now, with the continuing popularity of Frozen, the latest rumor is that the Maelstrom attraction in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot might be re-designed into a Frozen attraction, perhaps adapting some of the work done by Davis. Others feel that it might be more appropriate to have such an attraction in the New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom.

Whatever the final decision, it is important to remember that decades before the film, the story of Andersen's Snow Queen was very much a part of the Disney heritage.

====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


April 27, 2014

The Tickle Trunk – Memories of Disney

Gary Cruise banner

Carol has a Tickle Trunk. It's filled with wonderful Disney memories!

Most Canadian readers will remember Mr. Dressup, Casey, Finnigan and the Tickle Trunk . . . but for others, I will explain. Mr. Dressup was the star of a children's show which ran on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network from 1967 to 1996. His sidekicks were two hand puppets, Casey and Finnegan, a child and a dog who lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup's back yard.

Mr_Dressup

In most episodes Mr. Dressup would get a costume from a big, brightly painted steamer trunk which he called his Tickle Trunk. The costume might be for an animal, policeman or fireman. Donning the costume (after all, he was Mr. Dressup), he would play the role suggested by the outfit. The Tickle Trunk appeared to be charmed - it always had the right costumes, in the right sizes, neatly folded at the top. That simple steamer trunk really was magical; it transported Canadian children to some very imaginative places for three decades!

Tickle_Trunk

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood aired in Canada too, but if you ask any Canadian kid of that era they will assure you, "Mr. Dressup was waay more fun!"

I've mentioned before that Carol saves every piece of paper from each Disney trip, tickets, park maps, resort check-in packages, brochures, flyers, napkins . . . you name it, she probably has it! When she gets home all of that material finds a permanent spot in a big wooden trunk - for years now we've called it Carol's Tickle Trunk!

Carols_Tickle_Trunk

Of course, Carol's Tickle Trunk is magical too. Whenever she opens the lid we are instantly transported to our happy place! The best of memories come floating out!

Carols_Tickle_Trunk

As you might expect, the trunk has been full for years. It takes some management! When we get home from a trip some new treasures go in and some older treasures get culled and placed in new homes.

When Carol started collecting pins in earnest in 2001 she scoured the Tickle Trunk and pulled out some classic old pins. They now have a special place of honor in her pin collection.

Her collection of Disney buttons, acquired over the decades, now live in a button bucket!

The resort registration packages from each Disney trip, along with park maps, timetables, and plenty of other paper now fill a filing cabinet drawer. Each trip is in its own folder.

But there's still plenty of treasure in that magical wooden trunk!

Just a week or two ago I was writing a blog about Disney park tickets, so naturally we had to go to the Tickle Trunk to find a few old ones. On the way to the bottom of that trunk, where those tickets from 1977 live, we uncovered some buried treasure!

What did we find? Here's a small sampling:

Ten old copies of the "Walt Disney World News"
This four-page newsletter was produced by Disney, a fresh copy each month in the early years, and included in check-in packages at all Disney resorts. The tabloid sized papers are full of fascinating information!

WDW_News_Jan_1981
1981

WDW_News_1990
1990

Magic Kingdom Club/Disney Club Membership packages
Who knew Disney had so many clubs . . . The Magic Kingdom Club, the Magic Years Club and the Disney Club. Carol has old membership cards, brochures and magazines for all of them!

Club_Memberships

Magic_Years_Magazine_Winter_1993
1993

Disney_Club_News_January_2003
2003

Dinner á la Disney & Breakfast á la Disney Tickets
Before there were character meals there was Dinner á la Disney! Dinner was served in the Trophy Room at the Golf Resort, now known as Shades of Green. Breakfast á la Disney was served aboard the Empress Lily, now known as Fulton's Crab House. There were no character meals in the Magic Kingdom in the early years!

Dinner_a_la_Disney

River Country / Discovery Island Tickets
River Country was the original Disney water park, located beside Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Two slides dropped guests into a man-made pool. The rest of the slides and water adventures took place in the natural waters of Bay Lake.

River_Country_Tickets

River_Country_Postcard

Just across the water from River Country was Discovery Island, a tropical paradise filled with exotic birds and blossoms.

Discovery_Island_Tickets

Disney Matchbook covers
In days of yore cigarette smoking was allowed in most areas at Walt Disney World and most resorts and restaurants had matches available for guests. Carol's collection lives in a pretty metal box in the Tickle Trunk.

Match_Tin.jpg

Children's "Wonders of Walt Disney World" Books
This program of day-long seminars was offered by Disney for children from 10 to 15 years of age. Son Rob went on two of the four seminars they offered in the mid 80's and Carol has the proof!

Wonders_Brochure

Wonders_Text_Book


Disney Post Cards
Yes, there are postcards. Lots and lots of postcards.

Postcards_1

Postcards_2

Postcards_3

But there's something all those things have in common. All of that stuff, all those oddities and curios which remain in that trunk; they are all filled with fond memories of happy days. Sweet recollections from magical Disney trips!

Stay tuned, once in a while I'll pull something out of the Tickle Trunk and tell you a little bit more about it in a new blog.

April 13, 2014

The Evolution of Disney Tickets

Gary Cruise banner

Walt Disney World tickets have certainly changed over the years!

No, I'm not going to rant about the price of tickets; other folks have that very well covered! I think that Disney tickets have always represented great value, so I'm going to talk about the tickets themselves. Let's look at the form of the tickets; are they paper or plastic? What they will buy for you? How have they changed through the years?

1971_Ticket_Card

In the beginning there were E-Tickets. Yes, I know . . . there are at least two generations of folks out there who don't know what old geezers like me are talking about when we refer to an E-Ticket. So, let me explain!

In 1971 when Walt Disney World opened they used the same ticketing system that had worked successfully at Disneyland since 1959. Guests paid a small General Admission fee ($3.50 for an adult) and then paid an additional fee for each attraction they visited. The attraction fees were paid using pre-packaged booklets of tickets which guests could purchase at the Ticket and Transportation Centre or at several booths in the park.

1971_A_Ticket

1971_B_to_E_Tickets

The most popular attractions were referred to as "E-Ticket Rides" since they required an E-Ticket from your book. The mildest or least popular attractions required an A-Ticket. All rides and attractions were marked with the type of ticket required!

1971_Ticket_Table

In those early years there were several "Adventure Magic Key Ticket Books" with tickets for 7, 9 or 11 adventures. The 11 Adventure Magic Key Ticket Book cost $5.75 in 1971 and contained one A-Ticket, one B-Ticket, two C-Tickets, three D-Tickets and four E-Tickets. Additional tickets could be purchased individually if you needed them.

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.

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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

November 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Walt Disney!

by Keith Gluck
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

Ever wonder what Walt Disney World was like way back when? Each month, we rummage around in the archives for this featurette, which indulges in a bit of nostalgia, taking you back in history for a glimpse of Walt Disney World and The Walt Disney Company through the ages. This month, we take a look back at... Walt Disney himself!

Thursday, December 5, 2013, marks the 112th anniversary of the date of Walt Disney's birth. Even though his story has been told time and again, we wanted to take this occasion to share some of his amazing life with you.

When Walt Disney was young, a fortune-teller told him he would pass away in December, but specified he wouldn't make it to the age of 35. Walt was not a superstitious man, however the prediction still affected him deeply, and he lived his entire life racing against the clock in order to accomplish everything he wanted to do. The reality is, Walt could have lived to be 100 and still wouldn't have had enough time to see all of his visions realized. When the clock did eventually catch up with him, 10 days after his 65th birthday, he was working on one heck of a vision.

After the success of Disneyland, Walt was initially opposed to the idea of building a second one. His position on the matter began to change, however, once he realized he had a chance to do more than just build another theme park. In the late '30s, he loved the ability to plan every little detail during the creation of the Burbank studio. Disneyland was also meticulously planned, however Walt was always bothered by the fact that less quality-focused businessmen had surrounded his Magic Kingdom with a "second-rate Las Vegas." Additionally, he was concerned by what he considered to be a decline in the quality of American life. Friend and author Ray Bradbury once remarked, "Walt was troubled by the diminution of the neighborhood." Walt saw cars, shopping malls, and crime on their way in, and the cordial confines of the community on its way out.

The evolution of Walt's ever-curious mind, combined with his propensity for "plussing" and his decades of experience in planning and creating functioning environments, led to what many folks consider to be his greatest dream: the creation of a model city.

Research for Walt's new project began as early as 1958, when he commissioned the firm Economics Research Associates to determine the best location for "Disneyland East". The answer, Florida, was serendipitous, as Walt was already leaning towards the Sunshine State. Among the many advantages was Florida's warm weather, allowing the park to enjoy year-round operation. The lone disadvantage in the report cited the state's modest population of 6.5 million, which was only 1.5 million more than Disneyland's annual Californian visitors. An unfazed Walt stated, "We just gotta get the folks up north to want to come down."

The following year two more surveys were performed: one to locate the ideal location within the state of Florida, and the other to evaluate the possibility of a "City of Tomorrow" accompanying the theme park. The results indicated Palm Beach would be the most favorable location, however Walt was against the notion of not only competing with the beach venue, but also the exposure to the humidity and hurricanes. "I want to be inland, Walt said. "We'll create our own water."

A 1961 survey revealed the best location to be Ocala, and the runner-up, Orlando. Even as Florida was declared the prime location for Walt's latest endeavor, several more sites were considered before anything was made official. By 1963, St. Louis, Niagara Falls, and a site between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. were all considered. It was on the flight home from surveying these cities that Walt made up his mind. Shortly before landing in Burbank, he stated, "Well, that's the place-central Florida."

Walt's futuristic city needed a name, so he took it upon himself to come up with one. While eating lunch with some staff from WED, he commented, "What we're talking about is an experimental prototype community of tomorrow. What does that spell? E-p-c-o-t. EPCOT. That's what we'll call it: EPCOT."

So consumed with EPCOT was Walt that he prepared to entrust a large amount of the studio's endeavors with others. Walt's son-in-law Ron Miller remembered, "He was so excited about EPCOT. Walt always looked for new challenges, and EPCOT was his fresh and new challenge." Walt later told Miller that he planned to hand over complete control of the films to him, along with Bill Anderson, Jim Algar, Bill Walsh, and Winston Hibler. Walt wanted to concentrate solely on EPCOT, and predicted he would need roughly 15 years to see this latest dream through to completion. Even during the planning meetings of Disneyland's East Coast counterpart, he grew tired of discussing the theme park aspect. "You guys know that by now," he said. "I don't want to discuss what we learned in the past; I want to talk about the future."

Looking to the future was a trait Walt possessed his entire life, perhaps never more so than during his final days. While the planning of EPCOT and Disneyland East (which became known as "the Florida project") was in full swing, Walt was rarely without a book about city planning. Two such titles were The Heart of Our Cities by Victor Gruen, and Garden Cities of To-Morrow, by British urban planner Ebenezer Howard. He was obsessed with every detail, both big and small. "I vividly remember sitting next to Walt on a plane, when he pointed to the center of EPCOT, an oval-shaped area," mused Disney Legend Bob Gurr. "Walt said, 'When this EPCOT gets up and running, and we have all the participants there, this spot with a little bench is where Lilly and I are going to sit and watch.' "

Sadly, Walt wouldn't live long enough to see his greatest dream physically take shape, passing away before ground was broken. It consumed him until the end, however. Disney Legend John Hench recalled, "Roy Disney told me about his last visit to Walt in the hospital, when Walt was talking very excitedly about the Florida project, which Walt was envisioning on the ceiling of the hospital room." Had Walt lived just a little bit longer, he would have changed the world (even more than he already had).

Walt Disney was born in the upper bedroom of 1249 Tripp Avenue, Chicago, on December 5, 1901. He was a visionary like few others, and his legacy will continue to bring joy to people's lives for centuries to come. On behalf of everyone here at AllEars.Net, I'd like to say, "Happy birthday, Walt. Thanks for everything."

SOURCES

Inside the Dream: The Personal Story of Walt Disney
by Katherine & Richard Greene

Walt Disney: An American Original
by Bob Thomas
http://astore.amazon.com/debsunoffiwaltdi/detail/0786860278

September 24, 2013

An Alien Tale

by Keith Gluck
Guest Blogger

Alien Encounter Exterior

October 11, 2013, marks 10 years since the closure of the Magic Kingdom's ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. While we all know the story told during the ride, which featured a diverse cast of big-screen veterans, I wanted to delve into the story behind the infamous attraction. So I sat down recently with Jerry Rees -- creative genius, storyteller in all media, and the man who was involved in almost every aspect of the project's creation.

In August 1993, work began on a $100 million makeover of the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland. The land's appearance had become somewhat dated, thanks in part to "one designer back in the '70s predicting the future of architecture," according to Imagineer Eric Jacobson. In charge of design for the entire park, Jacobson set out to give the land a fresh look (the new theme was "yesterday's future"), as well as update or replace many attractions. Mission to Mars was on the chopping block, and Disney decided to replace it with an attraction called ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.


Mission to Mars Exterior


Alien Encounter would be like no attraction Disney had ever done. There was a time when the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland was thought of as legitimately scary, but it was toned down and infused with more gags. The Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris opened in 1992, and scored slightly higher on the scare scale than its American cousins. However, none of Disney's mansions could ever produce the same reactions as the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom's 1995 "New Tomorrowland" did.

The official line on Alien Encounter tagged it as, "A sensory thriller from Disney and George Lucas." It featured performances from Tyra Banks, Jeffrey Jones, Kathy Najimy, Kevin Pollak and, initially, Phil Hartman.

The show was designed to utilize a variety of mediums in which to tell guests its story, including audio-animatronics, video screens, and advanced audio effects. Enter Jerry Rees, the man who orchestrated the multi-faceted show "Cranium Command" for Disney just a few years earlier.

"Since Imagineering had gotten used to me as a 'film plus' director, meaning that I was comfortable merging film aspects with in-theater animatronics, effects, lighting, etc.," Jerry remarked, "they cast me with the 'everything plus the kitchen sink' Alien Encounter attraction."

At first, Jerry was only asked to direct the attraction's main media aspects, such as the pre-show promo for XS-Tech, the voice performance of the XS-Tech spokesbot S.I.R. (Simulated Intelligence Robotics), and the main theater "live" broadcast footage.

"I was not initially asked to direct all of the non-media in-theater storytelling aspects," Jerry said. "So after finishing the assigned aspects, I wished the project well and felt rather sad to see it go off for installation in the park without me."

That would change, however, after Michael Eisner reviewed the installed attraction. Eisner, along with a few others (including Marty Sklar), felt that the overall story wasn't being communicated dynamically enough. Jerry was called back in.

"Michael gave the 'bring Jerry in' instruction, and for the first time I was invited to direct the full experience soup-to-nuts," Jerry recalled. "I was delighted, since I'd been drooling to be involved with all aspects all the way to the finish line!"

Rick Rothschild was assigned to be Jerry's producer. The two met up in Florida and went through the entire attraction together, so they could assess what it needed and where. According to Jerry, they were "bubbling with ideas" upon exiting the ride. They put their ideas to paper almost immediately, and ultimately those notes became the foundation for all of the improvements they would make over the following six months.

"During that time Rick and I lived and breathed, ate and slept Alien Encounter!" Jerry declared. "It was all-consuming and very exciting."

One noticeable change completely altered the mood of the attraction's pre-show. S.I.R., voiced by Phil Hartman, would no longer be a friendly spokesbot who sang to himself while the audience filed into the pre-show area. English actor Tim Curry was brought on as the new voice of S.I.R., and he managed to add an underscore of menace to the narration.

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"I loved working with Phil on the first pass of the S.I.R. voice," Jerry remarked. "But ultimately, after listening back to the tracks, I felt that a more edgy 'tech evangelist' would be more effective. Tim nailed it!"

Jerry came up with some clever motivation for Tim, asking him to picture himself as a southern evangelical preacher who was delivering the message of X-S to his congregation. Jerry also worked with S.I.R.'s audio-animatronic animator, helping to ensure that the appropriately grandiose body language would be implemented.

Like Cranium Command, Jerry had to juggle several different elements that would all ultimately have to come together in order to tell one cohesive story. Never an easy task, I asked him which aspect of this production he found the most challenging. He responded, "The most challenging aspect -- and also the most fun aspect -- was coordinating all the elements so that it was completely believable that a giant alien creature had escaped and was on the loose in the broken theater. This involved film, normal and binaural audio in bizarre speaker arrays, animatronics, live actors, hidden actuators, vapor, wind fans, and much, much, much more. Each audience member was even splattered by 'bug bits' (water) at the end when the creature was exploded. The myriad of cooperative storytelling elements was staggering. And super fun!" Jerry's unique ability to visualize multiple yet separate show components made him the perfect choice for an attraction of this nature.

Extraterrorestrial Alien Encounter enjoyed an 8-year run terrorizing guests in the Magic Kingdom. The level of terror, however, might also have been the reason for its eventual demise.

"So far as I know, there was never an official reason given for its closure," Jerry remarked. "It was very popular. My best guess -- and the guess from other insiders I've chatted with -- is that it was closed because it was located in the Magic Kingdom, where parents have an expectation that they can let their kids run free and all rides will be appropriate. There is no such expectation at Disney's Hollywood Studios, where Tower of Terror scares the heck out of people all day long. My firm belief is this -- if the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter had been built at Disney's Hollywood Studios rather than the Magic Kingdom, it would still be playing today."


Keith Gluck has been a Disney fan his entire life. While Disneyland is his 'home park,' he has been to and adores Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. He runs thedisneyproject.com, and also volunteers at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. If you were to ask him his favorite thing about Disney, his answer would always be, "Walt."


August 27, 2013

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Mr.Toad-6.jpg
Fifteen years ago September, the beloved Magic Kingdom attraction
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride permanently closed its doors.

by Keith Gluck
Guest Blogger

During early planning for Walt Disney World, Chief Operations Officer of WED Enterprises Richard Irvine tapped Imagineer (and future Disney Legend) Rolly Crump to spearhead all of the Fantasyland attractions.

Thrilled with the assignment, Rolly immediately began formulating ways to improve upon the existing dark rides from Disneyland. One of the rides Disney decided to carry over was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which was extremely popular in Anaheim. In fact it was so popular, Vice President of Operations Dick Nunis advised Rolly that they should build two identical Toad rides, one right next to the other. Rolly did not share his vision. "I thought that was a dumb idea," Rolly said. "I told him to let me think about it for a while, and I'd come up with something better." And come up with something better, he did.

Rolly designed a two-track ride system that was housed in the same show building, giving riders two noticeably different ride experiences. On track one, passengers traveled through Toad Hall's library, over a farm, through Town Square, in and out of jail, past a shootout between cops and weasels, down the wrong way of a railroad tunnel, and ultimately, to Hell.

Track two also started riders out in Toad Hall, but through the Trophy Room instead of the library. The journey continued through a gypsy camp, Town Square, Winky's Tavern, the countryside at night, and their own Hell, also by way of the wrong way of a railroad tunnel.

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The design was brilliant. Rolly even had the two tracks nearly intersect at points, giving the illusion of an impending head-on collision. Not only did having a second track double ride capacity, but in the 90s they started using motorcars that carried four passengers compared to Disneyland's two.

The ride was a huge hit, and a perennial guest-favorite from Opening Day.

In fall of 1997, however, rumors of its closure began to circulate. On October 22, the Orlando Sentinel addressed the rumor, reporting that Disney was considering replacing Toad with a ride based on Winnie the Pooh. Toad fans came out in earnest, devising ways to keep their beloved attraction open.

On October 23, Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst (stars of the soon-to-be-aired television movie Tower of Terror) were asked their thoughts on the report while at Walt Disney World. 'That's one of my favorite rides,' cried Dunst. 'Save Mr. Toad!' That same day, a Save Toad website debuted.

Petitions were signed, Save Toad t-shirts and buttons were worn, and letters to Disney executives were written, all in a concerted effort to rescue the rambunctious amphibian known to some as J. Thaddeus.

On December 7, 1997, a peaceful protest labeled a "Toad In" was held outside of the attraction. Many more Toad Ins would follow, and Rolly later recalled, "They would walk around in front of the ride and chant and cheer. I was really touched by that." As the months went on, support for the Toadies' plight grew as various news outlets across the country picked up the story. Aside from surprising a few executives at Disney, the valiant efforts to save Mr. Toad went unrewarded. After nearly a year filled with rumors, petitions, and uncertainty, Disney finally made the official announcement on September 2, 1998.

Five days later, Mr. Toad took guests on one last wild ride, to nowhere in particular.

toadin4.jpg
Photo Credit: http://www.math.miami.edu/~jam/toad/

Keith Gluck has been a Disney fan his entire life. While Disneyland is his 'home park,' he has been to and adores Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. He runs thedisneyproject.com, and also volunteers at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. If you were to ask him his favorite thing about Disney, his answer would always be, "Walt."

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About Step Back in Time

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

Special Disney Events is the previous category.

Tokyo Disney Resort is the next category.

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