Main

Epcot Archives

September 3, 2017

The Galleries of Epcot – Morocco: Gallery of Arts and History

morocco-gallery-12.jpg


by J. Scott Lopes
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

What if I told you there was a great attraction to visit that did not need Fastpass and has no queue to wait in? Well, there is such a place -- it’s the Gallery of Arts and History located in World Showcase's Morocco pavilion in Epcot.

Epcot is home to many unique galleries that house rotating exhibits, like the one located in the the Morocco pavilion. These galleries are a great place to take a break and learn about the host country, and even get out of the sun or rain for a bit. I especially like the Morocco gallery because it is usually not very crowded.

The exterior of the building itself, as shown in the photo above, is elaborately decorated, from floor to ceiling.

The current exhibit in the Morocco pavilion is "Moroccan Style: The Art of Personal Adornment," and it showcases traditional clothing, jewelry and body art. This photoblog will showcase some of the items currently on display.

When entering the museum there is a large display of a man and his horse, both are modeling a fantasia costume. The fantasia is a cultural display of horsemanship that is usually performed at festivals.

morocco-gallery-5.jpg

There are also displays showing common men’s accessories...

morocco-gallery-6.jpg

As well as women’s accessories.

morocco-gallery-2.jpg

morocco-gallery-4.jpg

morocco-gallery-7.jpg

In addition, there is a display showcasing some of the jewelry and other items used in wedding ceremonies…

morocco-gallery-1.jpg

morocco-gallery-3.jpg

… as well as eye makeup which is used by both genders.

morocco-gallery-11.jpg

Henna tattoos, a temporary tattoo created by using a dye from the henna plant, also play a part in the wedding ceremony.

morocco-gallery-10.jpg

(As an aside, did you know you can get your own temporary henna right in the Morocco pavilion, as well as over at Animal Kingdom? Check out Deb Koma's blog about it HERE.)

Once you're done looking at the exhibits in this gallery, don't forget to check out the interior of the building, too. Look up to see a beautiful wooden beamed ceiling.

morocco-gallery-9.jpg

There are several other museum-type galleries around World Showcase, such as the American Heritage Gallery in the American Adventure, and the Bijutsu-kan Gallery in the Japan pavilion.
I highly recommend that you check one out on your next trip!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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





March 26, 2017

The History of EPCOT - A Timeline

Gary Cruise banner

I’m a big fan of Disney’s Imagineers! They do a terrific job.

One of the things that continually impresses me is the little details that they build into the theme parks, sometimes in the most unusual places. Some of them are right in the middle of high traffic areas yet people walk right past and never notice. As an example, remember the blog titled “Science at your Feet” I wrote few months ago? There it is, right under your feet as you walk toward Soarin’, yet very few people ever notice it!

Today we’ll look at an interesting feature that the Imagineers built in an out-of-the-way place. It’s a history of EPCOT; a pictorial timeline of the theme park.

This timeline isn’t the least bit obvious, in fact it’s just the opposite . . . you have to go looking for it. But it’s worth the time you spend tracking it down!

As you walk south from the park entrance, heading toward World Showcase, keep your eyes pointed to the right. Between the Fountain View Restaurant and Club Cool you will see the doors pictured below. They're way in the back, behind that umbrella.

EPCOT Timeline Entrance

Walk through those doors and look around. You will find this interesting timeline on one of the walls. Carol is standing at the beginning, on the extreme right.

EPCOT Timeline

The first date, beside her shoulder, is 1965, when Walt first announced “The Florida Project” As you move toward the left you move forward in time, with 2016 on the extreme left.

Here’s a closer look at the earliest years. Click on each of the next four images to see a larger version.

EPCOT Timeline 1965 to 1982

There was a lot happening in 1982. The park opened October 1st and a number of pavilions were dedicated during that first month!

EPCOT Timeline 1982

From 1988 to 2003 the park continued to change, as new attractions were added and older ones were updated. Do you remember Food Rocks, The Wonders of Life and Communicore?

EPCOT Timeline 1988 to 2003

The pictorial time line currently ends with the 2016 addition of “Soarin’ Around the World” and “Frozen Ever After”, but of course there’s plenty of wall space available in those back corridors to add more and more as the park continues to change and grow.

EPCOT Timeline 2012 to 2016

Stop by some time and check it out! It’s a great place to hide out during a Central Florida thunderstorm, and a great place to cool down on a sweltering summer day!

March 12, 2017

BeaverTails

Gary Cruise banner

About a month ago Carol and I enjoyed a Canadian delicacy at FebFest, a winter carnival that takes place in our city every year.

FebFest

Our downtown transforms into a winter wonderland as residents enjoy the outdoor skating rink behind City Hall.

FebFest Hockey

There are hockey and curling games to watch.

FebFest Ice Sculpture

FebFest Ice Sculpture

There are ice sculptures to enjoy.

But the best thing of all – there are BeaverTails!

FebFest BeaverTail Kiosk

FebFest BeaverTail

Do you remember when they sold BeaverTails at EPCOT? Weren’t they delicious?

No, no . . . I’m not talking about the big flat tail from that large toothy rodent! I’m talking about a tasty deep fried pastry which originated in Canada! A piece of dough, about the same size and shape as a beaver’s tail, is deep fried to a golden brown then either dredged in sugar and cinnamon or topped with something gooey and sweet!

BeaverTails products

They are always fresh, never pre-cooked. Your BeaverTail will be in your hand about 20 seconds after it leaves the fryer! Hot and delicious!

FebFest Menu

There are similar pastries sold in other areas, referred to by such names as fried dough or elephant ears, but somehow none of them sound as appetizing to me as a BeaverTail! It’s another uniquely Canadian food!

We unusually eat them outdoors and in the winter so I suspect that the contrast, cold weather and a hot snack, really enhances our enjoyment. I prefer the original BeaverTail, dredged in sugar and cinnamon. That's probably a good thing because I'm a very sloppy eater and Carol would never allow me to try one covered with all that runny, gooey stuff!

BeaverTails were first sold in Killaloe, a small Ontario town about 100 miles north of the city Carol and I call home.

Killaloe

It was 1978 when Grant and Pam Hooker sold their first pastries at the Killaloe Craft and Community Fair. They were an instant hit! It wasn’t long before the Hookers were busy every weekend, traveling all over eastern Ontario selling their delicious hot pastries at festivals and county fairs.

Two years later, the Hookers opened up the first BeaverTails store at the Byward Market in nearby Ottawa.

BeaverTails Byward Market Store

It was an instant success!

President Obama at the Byward Market

President Obama stopped at the Byward Market for a BeaverTail in February 2009.

Soon BeaverTails were selling like crazy along the world’s longest skating rink. Every winter Canadians enjoy skating along a 7.8 kilometre (4.8 mile) stretch of the historic Rideau Canal as it winds its way through downtown Ottawa.

Rideau Canal Skateway

Usually it is frozen by early January and ploughs and zambonis are used to keep it clean and fresh for skaters until the end of February. Food trucks and refreshment kiosks are a common sight on the ice along the sides of the canal and the BeaverTail stand always has the longest line of skaters waiting for a delicious treat!

Rideau Canal BeaverTail Kiosk

Today there are more than a hundred BeaverTail outlets across Canada; most of the permanent stores are in high traffic tourist areas.

BeaverTail Mobile Kiosk

BeaverTail Truck

There are mobile units and food trucks that travel to festivals and events, like the one Carol and I bought our pastries from a few weeks ago at FebFest!

You can find BeaverTails at most ski resorts in Canada.

BeaverTails at Mont Tremblant
Mont Tremblant in Quebec

Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain, Vancouver BC

You can buy BeaverTails at Niagara Falls.

BeaverTails Niagara Falls

You can buy BeaverTails in Dubai, Tokyo and South Korea.

BeaverTails Japan

BeaverTails Japan Menu

But you can’t buy a BeaverTail at EPCOT. What’s with that?

What do you think folks? Does Disney need to bring back the BeaverTail?

March 6, 2017

Disney Legend Marty Sklar learns that inspiration can be a two-way street

chuck-schmidt.jpg

fest4.jpg
Marty Sklar, center, poses for a photo after his presentation at the Festival of the Arts in Epcot in February. From the left are Julian Robinson, Chuck Schmidt, Marty, Janet Schmidt and Gail Robinson. [Courtesy of Gail and Julian Robinson]


"One little spark, of inspiration, is at the heart, of all creation." - Richard and Robert Sherman

Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes, all you need to be inspired is just one little spark.

Take, for example, the young woman who told an inspirational story during a question-and-answer session at a recent Festival of the Arts workshop conducted by Disney Legend Marty Sklar in the Odyssey Festival Center in Epcot.

"This is more of a comment than a question," she began. "I was trying to decide what type of career path I wanted to take when my college professor suggested that I read your book, One Little Spark! I did, and it inspired me to pursue a career as an Imagineer. I'm currently working as an intern with Walt Disney Imagineering."

Add that woman to the very long list of people Marty Sklar has inspired over the years. And, in a roundabout way, add Marty Sklar to the list of people the woman has inspired during her still-young career. More on that later.

fest1.jpg
The artwork of both Herb Ryman, above, and Mary Blair were on display at the Odyssey Festival Center at Epcot during the inaugural Festival of the Arts. [AllEars.Net]

Marty's workshop at the Festival of the Arts was part of a troika of appearances by the former creative leader of Walt Disney Imagineering at his beloved Epcot: There was the sold-out presentation at the Odyssey on Feb. 11, then a book signing on Feb. 12 in the Art of Disney at Epcot, and finally a return to the Odyssey on Feb. 13 for a talk about the artwork of Disney Legends Herb Ryman and Mary Blair.

During his Feb. 11 workshop, Marty talked about his two books, Dream It! Do It! and the aforementioned One Little Spark!

"My first book was sort of takeoff on one of my favorite songs, '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,' by Paul Simon, although that in no way reflects my real life. My wife Leah and I will be celebrating our 60th anniversary on May 12th.

gurr2.jpg
Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar have done a number of Disney events over the years, the most recent being a presentation at the Texas Transportation Forum. [AllEars.Net]

"It was more about 50 ways to get started. Nothing I had done prepared me to write Dream It! Do It! I first had to come to grips with the question: 'Do I really have something worthwhile to say?' In the end, I found out that writing a book takes a lot of patience, research and flexibility.

"And every writer needs a good editor and I was fortunate to have been able to work with Wendy Lefkon from Disney Editions. Her support and help, particularly with accessing material from the Disney Archives, was very important."

His follow-up book, One Little Spark!, took a deep dive into the world of Imagineering. It also provided a guide map for people aspiring to join the Walt Disney Company's much-heralded and respected creative wing.

Both of Marty's books have been unqualified successes and have resulted in book-signing tours over the last few years that have literally spanned the globe ... from Shanghai, China, to Toms River, N.J. "I just signed a contract with a Brazilian publisher for Portuguese editions of both books," Marty said. "Dream It! Do It! already has Japanese and Mandarin Chinese versions."

I asked Marty if there is another book in the works. That's when I learned that inspiration can be a two-way street.

"Yes, I've started working on another book, but it's hard to get motivated," he admitted. "But the Festival of the Arts audiences – including my separate book signing on Sunday – have inspired me to get moving."

During his workshop on Saturday, Marty said he was "really excited about the first-ever Festival of the Arts. It's wonderful to see the works of the Disney artists on display her at Epcot. Forgive me if I get a bit emotional. I worked on Epcot from 1973 until it opened in October of 1982 ... almost 35 years ago. Today, Epcot is the sixth-most visited park in the world. It's great to see the arts have joined in the fun here."

Inside the Odyssey, some of the works of Legendary Disney artists Herb Ryman and Mary Blair were on display, serving as a fitting backdrop to Marty's presentation, as well as the Festival in general.

msbgtalk.jpg
A poster advertising the Texas Transportation Forum had a very Disney feel to it.

Marty's appearance at Epcot capped off another whirlwind stretch for the now 83-year-old. Prior to his Epcot stint, he and fellow Disney Legend Bob Gurr, who is 85, gave presentations at the Texas Transportation Forum, which ran from Feb 5-7 in Austin.

The title of their keynote talk was "Imagineering a Legacy: How Disney's Designs Influence Today's Transportation." Who better to talk about transportation issues than two of Imagineering's guiding lights, two Disney giants who were always pushing the envelope and developing creative and forward-thinking solutions to a myriad of problems?

Both Marty and Bob gave perspective and context on how Imagineering's "great sense of innovation can be applied to the transportation problems of today," according to the event program. "The Imagineers had to think outside the box to overcome many issues, including developing new and innovative transportation systems."

"I guess we were a big hit." Marty said. After their presentation in front of 1,500 people, "another 500-600 were at our Breakout Session. They said some of the government people [doing other Breakout sessions] were not thrilled – we had by far the biggest audience!"

"Yes, we both had a blast," Gurr added. "1,500 Texas government folks, all friendly Republicans. Well organized and ready for tall tales from Disney's past more than issues of transportation. The panel presenters did all of that, while we made up stories."

Stories that no doubt inspired those in attendance to dream up new and creative ways to tackle many of today's pressing transportation issues.

March 28, 2016

In greenlighting Epcot and Tokyo Disneyland, Card Walker cemented his Disney legacy

cardtokyo.png
Walt Disney Company president Card Walker, left, and Masatomo Takahashi of the Oriental Land Co. sign an agreement in 1974 to join forces in the creation of Tokyo Disneyland. [The Walt Disney Company]

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

On Oct. 24, 1982, E. Cardon Walker stepped onto a small podium in front of a giant geodesic dome known as Spaceship Earth and read the following words:

"To all who come to this place of joy, hope and friendship, welcome. Epcot Center is inspired by Walt Disney's creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere."

With that short dedication speech, Card Walker opened the gates to Epcot, bringing to a close a decades-long odyssey that began with a sketch on a napkin by Walt Disney. Over that time span, Epcot evolved from Walt's concept of a futuristic city of tomorrow into an eclectic, two-pronged experience: Future World, where technological advances and glimpses into innovative products on the horizon would be displayed, all in an atmosphere conducive to learning; and World Showcase, where several of the world's countries would be able to show off all their nations had to offer ... kind of a permanent world's fair.

>cardep.jpg.jpg
Card Walker reads the dedication during opening day ceremonies for Epcot Center on Oct. 24, 1982. [The Walt Disney Company]

Right from the start, Epcot was different, unlike anything that had ever been created before ... or, frankly, since. While most people were blown away by the shear innovative nature of the place, as well as the richly detailed architecture in World Showcase and the product displays [such as cell phones and personal computers] in Future World, some people were puzzled. Many surmised that if the Magic Kingdom was mainly for kids, then Epcot was a place devoted strictly for adults.

For one thing, Epcot in 1982 was devoid of thrill rides and, for that matter, lacking in any sort of amusements for young children. For another, the Disney characters, so prevalent in the Magic Kingdom, were virtual no-shows at Epcot during the early days.

But Epcot, like every other Disney theme park after their openings, evolved and changed to meet public demand, and after a few years, the park hit its stride and became an overwhelming success.

What many people don't realize or appreciate is that during the design and construction of Epcot, Card Walker and the Walt Disney Company had undertaken the unprecedented task of building another theme park ... this one, thousands of miles, one vast ocean and another continent away. A Japanese firm named Oriental Land Co. Ltd. had approached Disney in 1974, inquiring about the possibility of building a Disney park in the Land of the Rising Sun. Oriental Land Co. did an extensive feasibility study, met with many of Disney's corporate leaders and even took them on a helicopter tour of the proposed site.

Building Epcot and Tokyo Disneyland almost concurrently "split our staff quite a bit," recalls former Walt Disney Imagineering leader Marty Sklar. "At the point where we were in the height of construction at the two sites, we were the largest design company in the world. We had to take some of our best people and send them to Japan."

The projects pushed Disney's creative staff to the limit. "It meant that a lot of people were doing double duty," Marty added. "We had to designate people that had to live in Japan because the Japanese had no idea how to do the things that were needed to build a park. We used a lot of outside help in both projects. In building Epcot, there were so many different pieces, so many different contractors. We needed people from just about very craft that you can imagine.

tokyo1.jpg
With Cinderella Castle as a beautiful backdrop, Disney's fabled Partners statue adorns The Hub area of Tokyo Disneyland. [Gregg Schmidt]

"In Tokyo, we were dealing with landfill for the first time. [Tokyo Disneyland] is built all on reclaimed land. What they have there is something called differential settlement. Even today, the castle there is actually on jacks, and the jacks have to be adjusted from time to time. One part will drop, because different parts of what's underneath are going to change character ... drop an inch or two. So they're dealing with differential settlement on a regular basis."

While building a Disney park in Japan offered many new challenges, then-Disney president Card Walker had to come to grips with something on a deeply personal level: Some 35 years before Disney and Oriental Land joined forces, Walker served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during the war against Japan. He was a flight deck officer aboard the USS Bunker Hill, which fought in eight battles between 1943 and 1945.

"Card had a really tough time dealing with the Japanese," Marty said. "The hardest part for him was coming to grips with the loss of so many of the people he served with on the carrier. Many of them were his friends."

Walker eventually came to terms with the dilemma and Disney and Oriental Land forged a strong partnership. Eleven years after Oriental Land had begun exploring the possibility of creating a theme park in Japan - and roughly nine years after design and construction had commenced on the Disney-Oriental project - Tokyo Disneyland opened its gates on a rainy April 15, 1983.

tokyo2.jpg
A topiary of Mickey Mouse can be seen outside the entrance of the Tokyo Disneyland Resort. [Gregg Schmidt]

Before the gates opened, Masatomo Takahashi, president of Oriental Land, and Walker cut a ceremonial tape with Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters looking on.

In front of about 3,000 opening-day guests, Mr. Takahashi addressed the attendees from a platform set up in World Bazaar: "On this day, April 15, 1983, I declare the opening of Tokyo Disneyland!"

Card Walker offered the following words of dedication, just six months after doing similar honors at Epcot:

"To all of you who come to this happy place, welcome. Here you will discover enchanted lands of Fantasy and Adventure, Yesterday and Tomorrow. May Tokyo Disneyland be an eternal source of joy, laughter, inspiration, and imagination to the people of the world. And may this magical kingdom be an enduring symbol of the spirit of cooperation and friendship between the great nations of Japan and the United States of America."

Soon after the opening of Tokyo Disneyland, Walker retired as an executive, but continued to serve as a consultant to the company until 1990. After 61 years of service - which started in the Disney Studios mailroom - Card Walker retired from the board of directors in 1999 and was designated an emeritus member of the board.

He died on Nov. 28, 2005, in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif., his legacy firmly established, his contributions to the company legendary ... and his debt to Walt Disney more than paid off.

March 14, 2016

Card Walker gets the ball rolling on Epcot

epcot1.jpg
Spaceship Earth, Epcot Center's icon, during the early stages of construction. [The Walt Disney Company]


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

"What are we going to do about Epcot?"

With those words, first spoken in 1974, then-Disney president Card Walker got the ball rolling on what is arguably the most ambitious project ever taken on by the Walt Disney Company after Walt's death in 1966.

According to former Walt Disney Imagineering leader Marty Sklar: "That was the start of eight years of figuring out what to do, and it was a pretty fantastic eight years, I must say. But that was really the start. I give Card a lot of credit, because he didn't let that dream die."

"That dream" was Walt Disney's vision for a city of the future, a Utopian complex that would tackle the problem of urban blight and would introduce new, forward-thinking ideas on how to improve the human condition.

"Some aspects, some version [of Walt's Epcot concept] would have happened and it would have changed a lot, because the evolution of these projects is so dynamic," Marty said. "I have this ad I kept in my office all the time. It was from IBM. It said 'The Future is a Moving Target.' And nobody saw that as clearly as Walt Disney did, believe me."

Once Card Walker decided to give the go-ahead for Epcot, it was up to a team of individuals -- Marty Sklar, John Hench, Carl Borgirno, Don Edgren, Jack Lindquist and Randy Bright among them -- to figure out exactly what Epcot's mission should be ... and, perhaps more importantly, how that vision would be paid for.

epcot2.jpg
An aerial view of Epcot during construction, with Spaceship Earth taking shape and many of the monorail beams in place. [The Walt Disney Company]

From the outset, the team was emphatic what Epcot shouldn't be ... namely, another theme park. "If you think about it, at that time, and even today, it had to have that contrast," Marty said. "Why should we go into competition with ourselves? So the contrast was good."

So the team embarked on a crusade of sorts, reaching out to a variety of leaders from a diverse field to get their thoughts and ideas on the ambitious, first-of-its-kind project.

"We decided we had to test the water, so we held what we called The Epcot Future Technology Forums, starting in 1976," Marty said. "Ray Bradbury [the noted science fiction writer who contributed to Epcot's communication theme] was the first speaker. And we invited people from academia, from government, from corporations and just smart people that we found through our research and it was really fascinating because we had these long discussions.

"We'd show Walt's film and we had translated that into potential directions. It was very early on. And after every one of these conferences, these people would say to us, 'The public doesn't trust government to do this, the public doesn't trust what industry tells them, but they trust Mickey Mouse. So you guys have a role in this.' Well, that was very nice to hear people say that, but what the heck do you do about that?

"I went back to Card Walker, who was a marketing man from his experiences with the studio, and we decided to go back to the whole idea that Walt had said, that no one company can do this by itself. And that's when we started going out to all the big corporations and said, 'OK, here's what we're planning to do and we want you to be part it.'"

epcot4.jpg
Walt Disney Imagineering leader Marty Sklar on-site during Epcot's construction. [The Walt Disney Company]

Getting American industry to fall in line "was a huge selling job," Marty remembers. General Motors was the first company to hear the pitch about Epcot. The automotive giant had put together a committee of its own, called The Scenario 2000 Advisory Committee, which was formed to help chart GM's course for the future.

So Marty and company "packed up two truckloads of models and artwork and we hired John McClure Sr. John had been the art director for the Hall of Presidents, but more importantly, he was one of the great art directors in Hollywood. He did Hello, Dolly and Cleopatra, among other things, so John set up our presentation.

"They gave us their whole design center in Warren, Michigan. They had an area where they introduced their cars. It was big ... huge. They gave us the whole thing. We set up these models and Card Walker put together all the people that were key to the project — Donn Tatum, Dick Nunis, Jack Lindquist and the new Disney Channel people, who were just getting started. Everybody that was gonna be part of making this thing work" was there.

"We made a big presentation to Roger Smith and his Scenario 2000 Advisory Committee, and when we were finished, Roger said 'I want to do this. There's only one problem: I've got to convince my management.' He was the vice president of finance at the time, later chairman. Jack Lindquist and I were left behind and the next day, at 7 o'clock in the morning, we made a presentation to Pete Estes, the president of GM, and they became the first ones to sign a contract at the end of 1978."

Suddenly, corporate America became intrigued with this exciting Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

General Motors' participation "broke the dam, if you will, and Exxon was right behind them," Marty said. "We made so many presentations that we figured out that we couldn't get the top people to go to Florida or California, so we went to RCA and said, 'Do you have a place that we could set up as a presentation center,' and they did.

"They had a recording studio at the Avenue of the Americas and 46th Street where Andre Costellanez used to do his recordings and they said we could have it for a year. And so we rented it and we brought all our models and artwork and we put a staff there and any time of the day or week, if we wanted to set up a meeting, with companies headquartered in the New York area, as most of them were in those days, they could call up and say, 'Yeah, I'd like to have my chairman come in and see your project.'"

At that point in time, Epcot had morphed from a city of the future into two separate sections of one park, one focused on American industry and new technologies, the other one showcasing as many countries as possible in a permanent, world's fair-type setting.

epcot7.jpg
Card Walker and other dignitaries break ground during ceremonies kicking off Epcot Center's construction. [The Walt Disney Company]

"That's how we communicated to the companies," Marty added. "We started out with trying to do two projects. One was international and the other was so-called Future World area, and we found that we couldn't get enough sponsorship for both, so we pushed the two of them together basically and that became Epcot Center."

Journalists who had seen detailed drawings of a domed city with futuristic modes of transportation had a hard time accepting this new Epcot. "Walt left a very sketchy outline," Jack Lindquist said. "It was developed at that time (1966) to influence the Florida legislature. We needed something bigger, bolder, more dramatic than another Disneyland."

Walt asked famed Disney artist Herb Ryman — who had made a name for himself in 1954 by drawing the first rendering of Disneyland which Walt used as part of his pitch to potential investors — to help conceptualize Epcot. "Draw me something to talk about, Herbie," he said. But what Ryman came up with was far more grandiose than almost anyone had imagined. It turned out to be more fantasy than fact-based.

Still, "The media wouldn't let that Epcot go away," Lindquist said. "They had that image [of a domed city] in mind, but nobody really knew what Epcot was."

"I'd say we are doing exactly what we talked about when Walt was alive," John Hench said when asked if the company was departing from Walt Disney's original vision. "Walt introduced ideas as, you might say, the title in Scene One. He knew better than to drop the big scene into people's minds at the beginning. We're engaged in Scene Two now."

Scene Two would take years to be completed and would run up over a billion dollars in construction costs. It was a huge gamble on the part of the Walt Disney Company and its president, Card Walker, especially when you consider that after ground was broken in central Florida for Epcot, plans were put in motion to build another first-of-its-kind Disney park ... thousands of miles and one vast ocean away, in Japan.

The man known as Card was rolling the dice ... and the stakes couldn't have been higher.

Next time: Card Walker comes to terms with a Disney presence in Japan.

February 29, 2016

Under Card Walker's guidance, Epcot begins to take shape

epcot6.jpg
One of the many concept drawings, done in the mid-1960s, depicting the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow -- Epcot. [The Walt Disney Company]

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

In early 1956, several months after E. Cardon Walker hired Marty Sklar to produce The Disneyland News, Card was named vice president of advertising and sales for Walt Disney Productions, getting the word out such films as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The promotion was the start of a meteoric rise up the company ladder for Card who, like Marty, was a graduate of UCLA. In what seemed like rapid succession, Card was appointed to the company's Board of Directors in 1960. In 1965, he was named vice president of marketing, then executive vice president of operations in 1967, and executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1968. In 1971, he became company president. Five years later, he was named Disney's chief executive officer.

During his tenure as a top executive in the Disney corporate ranks, Card not only oversaw the creation of Epcot, but Tokyo Disneyland and The Disney Channel as well, providing a steady hand at a time when the company was still trying to find its way after the deaths of Walt Disney and his brother Roy.

With the success of The Disneyland News on his resume, Marty Sklar returned to UCLA in the fall of 1955 to complete his studies. After graduation in 1956, Marty accepted a position in Disneyland's publicity department, working with the likes of future Disney Legends Eddie Meck, Jack Lindquist and Milt Albright. Marty and his PR cohorts dreamed up a number of noteworthy initiatives, including Vacationland Magazine, all of which made great strides in promoting the park because, as Marty put it years later, "Disneyland wasn't a slam dunk during those first few years."

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Marty's relationship with Card Walker remained strong.

"I had the good fortune to come out of a group that reported to Card at Disneyland," Marty said, "and I stayed very close to him over the years. Even after I had gone to WED [WED Enterprises was the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering] in 1961 to work on the New York World's Fair, I still did a lot of writing for publicity and marketing. I also was responsible for the annual report. Card kept me close to him all that time.

waltd.jpg.jpg
Walt Disney poses for a photo after recording The Epcot Film in 1966. Two months after filming, Walt died. [The Walt Disney Company]

"To have somebody in that position trust you so much to continue to promote me, if you will, talk me up with Walt and other executives in the company, was quite an honor. And he knew I had written all that material for Walt for Epcot, of course."

Marty was responsible for writing the script for what became known as The Epcot Film. In it, Walt presented, in meticulous detail, his vision for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow ... a city of the future that was the heart and soul of Disney's planned move to central Florida. Included with the film were concept drawings, many by artist Herb Ryman, a Disney Legend. Many of Ryman's renderings depicted a futuristic metropolis featuring monorails, PeopleMovers and a dome encasing the entire complex.

Filming of The Epcot Film took place in October of 1966; Walt Disney died just two months later, leaving the company he had founded and nurtured for decades in a lurch. With plans already in motion for the move to Florida at the time of Walt's death, Epcot was put on hold and the company concentrated on opening the world's first destination resort: A Disneyland-style theme park, on-property hotels and expansive recreational facilities.

Questions persisted about Epcot

After Walt died, "we continued to get questions about Epcot," Marty said, particularly from those people who had seen the early concept drawings. "After Roy [Walt's brother, who took over as company leader after Walt's passing] died in December of 1971, Card and Donn Tatum took up the mantel. I really think Card felt he had a debt to pay to Walt and he had to fulfill that debt as chairman of the company."

In May of 1974, Card Walker took Marty Sklar aside and asked him one of the most important questions of his career: "What are we gonna do about Epcot?"

Walt's original concept for Epcot, to create a city of the future where residents would live and work and where news ideas and systems would be introduced, was problematic, if next to impossible to bring to reality, at least without Walt Disney's guidance. "We knew we couldn't experiment with people's lives," Card said. "You couldn't have spectators peeking in people's kitchen windows."

Still, the Disney company was committed to building something on the property that reflected and fulfilled Walt's dreams of a great, big beautiful tomorrow.

"In a real sense, the concept of Epcot has been unfolding from the very beginning," Card said. "From the outset of planning and through the design, construction and installation stages of Walt Disney World, Epcot has been the ultimate goal."

According to Marty, "Card made a number of different speeches about ideas for Epcot. These speeches evolved into his vision of the project.

jimmy.jpg
As his wife Rosalynn looks on, left, President Jimmy Carter chats with Disney executive Card Walker in the Contemporary Resort. Seen over Walker's left shoulder in the background is Marty Sklar.

"I have a photo in my office of president Jimmy Carter in 1976 at the International Chamber of Commerce conference at the Contemporary. President Carter spoke to the conference. We brought all the work we had done to that point and put it in a ballroom at the Contemporary. We invited President Carter to come see, as well as leaders from all over the world."

The photo shows Card Walker talking to President Carter, with First Lady Rosalynn Carter to their right and Marty Sklar standing in the background. Donn Tatum is behind Mrs. Carter.

"Card really felt indebted to Walt for his whole career. This [Epcot] was Walt's big dream. He made a number of different speeches around the country," trying to get as many corporate leaders on board. "He was a good salesman. For example, The Living Seas pavilion. It wasn't part of the pavilions on opening day. It came about when Card was playing golf with Harry Gray, the CEO of United Technologies. [The Living Seas, now known as The Seas with Nemo and Friends, opened in 1986, four years after Epcot's opening.]

"Walt always said that no one company can do this [Epcot] by itself," Marty added. "Participation by the country's major companies was the key" to bringing Epcot to life.

One of Marty's chief responsibilities at the outset was to help bring as many of those companies on board as possible. "It was the start of eight incredible years of trying to figure out just what to do."

Next time: The long and winding road leading to Epcot's opening day.

November 9, 2015

The Music of "Impressions de France"

by Al Krombach
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

impressions de france

From the first peaceful notes of a lone flute to the concluding triumph of a full symphony orchestra reinforced by pipe organ, "Impressions de France" at Epcot's France pavilion has thrilled generations of visitors as much for its music as for its visual panorama of western Europe's largest and most varied landscape.

The 18-minute presentation is the oldest film still running in its original version at Walt Disney World. Displayed across five screens in a 200-degree arc - the normal field of vision of a (very comfortably) seated human - the presentation has played roughly 200,000 times by my calculations since Epcot's opening day on Oct. 1, 1982.

Even before that landmark day, hard-to-impress Disney Imagineers were calling the Palais du Cinema theater’s sound system the best they had ever heard in a Disney theme park, with thundering bass, brilliant highs and great detail. Electrical engineer Steve Alcorn, in his book about Epcot’s construction titled “Building a Better Mouse,” said the sound was so good that listeners at early test sessions were distracted by narrator Claude Gobet’s breathing; the narration had to be re-recorded before the show’s public debut.

Not so when it came to the music track, which was ready well in advance of Epcot’s premiere. The score features a who’s who of French classical composers, including Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saens, Francois Boieldieu, Jacques Offenbach, Maurice Ravel, Eric Satie, Paul Dukas and Buddy Baker -- but wait, who? As they sing on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the others.

Disney Legend Norman Dale “Buddy” Baker was the man behind the music of “Impressions de France.” The composer and/or arranger on more than 125 television shows and 40 feature films since joining Disney in 1955, he was the Disney Studio’s veteran composer in residence when the studio “loaned” him to WED Enterprises to oversee the musical development of Epcot.

buddy-baker.jpg

WED -- the forerunner of today’s Walt Disney Imagineering -- was up to its mouse ears with Epcot, tasked with developing two dozen attractions simultaneously when previously they’d tackled only one or two at a time. Baker, in addition to the France pavilion's presentation, also found himself responsible for the music in other shows in Future World and World Showcase. But "Impressions de France" was perhaps his greatest labor of love.

Baker sifted through 200 years of French classical music to choose the excerpts that best accompanied each scene. Each selection then had to be arranged and timed precisely to match each frame of film before he conducted the recording session with the London Symphony Orchestra. He had to arrange the music that would stitch the classical selections together seamlessly, so that one scene led smoothly to the next. He also composed his own original music to accompany many of the scenes, often using typical French instruments like accordion to capture the scenes' flavor, whether rural, religious or citified.

In fact, of the 49 separate scenes in "Impressions de France," Baker's music accompanies 22 of them.

For those who can recall the film, or who want to listen for Baker's music at their next visit, two of his lengthier excerpts stretch from Scene 8, a horse cart passing through a village, to scenes 14 and 15, the palace at Versailles; and Scene 30, a wedding in a Brittany church, to Scene 37, a couple dining outdoors in twilight above Cannes.

Unfortunately, those segments are not to be found within the "Impressions de France" selection included on the seven editions of Disney parks music CDs published since 1999. The less-than-10-minute track, while including most of the classical selections, unaccountably omits all of Buddy Baker's original music except for about 30 seconds' worth of a wistful interlude that accompanies views of the Seine River and Notre Dame cathedral near the end of the film.

"Impressions de France" in the France pavilion repeats roughly on the hour and half-hour, beginning at about 11:30 a.m. daily. While the theater seldom fills up for any showing these days, the first and last shows of the day are the least crowded. Soundwise, there's not a bad seat in the house. While the soundtrack has always been digital, the quality of the projected images was vastly improved in 2011 when the film itself was remastered and digitized, eliminating the scratches and other annoying imperfections of conventional film that sometimes plagued viewings before that date.

Buddy Baker was named a Disney Legend in 1998. He died in 2002. In a filmed 2001 interview, the host asked him what constitutes the "Buddy Baker sound."

"French," Baker said, "out of the French school of music. I have a tendency to lean that way."

Park-goers who keep coming back for repeated viewings of "Impressions de France" are very glad he did.

RELATED LINKS:

-- Full listing of "Impressions de France" scenes in order of appearance.
-- Listing of "Impressions de France" musical selections.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A professional journalist for more than 30 years, Al Krombach has served with several Florida newspapers and retired in 2015. He is an alumnus of the Florida State University College of Music and has worked with a variety of musical groups (as an instrumentalist) and choirs (as a director). He and wife Vicky have three children and five grandchildren, every one a Disney fan. They are longtime Disney aficionados and have accumulated more than 250 park visits since the World began.


November 2, 2015

Epcot DiveQuest: Under the Seas

epcot-divequest.jpg

by Randi Briggs
AllEars Guest Blogger

This activity at Disney World’s Epcot has become a favorite for my husband and me. If you scuba dive, then you must try this dive when visiting the World. There are two dives conducted on most days -- one at 4:30 and one at 5:30 (times do vary occasionally). You must be able to produce scuba certification (C-card) and children must be 10 years old or older and in the company of an adult.

Our recent dive was scheduled for 4:30. We met at Epcot's main Guest Relations office inside the park, and then were escorted to the Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion.

the-seas

We were taken on a short tour of the aquarium facilities, including the manatee habitat and the dolphin facilities. We saw where the tons of food for the animals and fish were prepared each day. They explained how animals in need of medical help were handled and treated. All in all, a very interesting tour.

We were then taken to the locker/shower rooms where we changed into "shorty dive skins." The only items of your own that are allowed are prescription dive masks and dive watches.

When everyone in the group was ready, they escorted us through the building (yes, where the guests are!) and then through another section of the aquarium to the spot where we would enter the water. They take care of everything for you. There is a dive master in charge, and several other dive masters helping in the water and out. Safety for the divers and the aquatic citizens is always first. My husband and I were helped with our tanks, fins and masks, and we slowly swam our way over to a buoy where we waited for the rest of the divers to assemble.

When the dive master called out "Dive, dive, dive!" the magic began. I can’t even begin to explain the excitement as I began to descend into a watery world filled with fish of every kind and shape. This included sharks, manta rays, and turtles (can you say Crush?). A video photographer accompanied the divers, and for a while the dive master led us through a magical world filled only with the sounds of your own breathing and bubbles through your regulator.

divequest

divequest

We passed the rather good-sized shark (obviously well fed, since he didn’t seem interested in eating the "seals" -- us -- swimming in his habitat) and the photographer made an effort to film as many of us as he could with the shark.

The animals were very unconcerned and curious about the divers. They took one look and then ignored us, as if to say, "Ho hum, more of those creatures with the funny skin that make all that breathing noise in the water."

I am fascinated each time we make this dive. Wonder comes alive again for me and my husband.

One of the more fun activities while in the tank is to go over to the aquarium windows looking into the Coral Reef Restaurant and interact with the guests. Divers can wave, trying to get the children to laugh and ask for a taste of the food. The most fun is when you can get someone to smile. Last time we did the dive, a diver spied a pretty girl with friends through the glass at the restaurant, and pantomimed that he was trying to get her number to ask her for a date. It was pretty amusing to watch her laugh and blush with her friends.

Family and friends that are unable to dive are able to watch you from the windows in the pavilion, so many divers spend a good deal of time there showing off for kids and family members.

The dive lasted about 45 minutes, but felt like 10. There was just so much to see and it was so much fun swimming with the fishes. It was disappointing to hear the dive master start banging two rocks together, which is the signal to begin to ascend and leave the magical water world behind.

As we reached the surface and began the dog paddle to the stairs out of the water, we were exhilarated, sorry the dive was over... and really, really hungry! The dive masters helped everyone with their equipment and handed out towels as they escorted us back through the pavilion (dripping wet, hair sticking out at interesting angles). It is interesting that almost no one noticed us walking through.

After showering and cleaning up, we all met in a room where we watched the video that was made of our dive. The DVD costs $35, which is a bit high, but almost everyone bought one. We also got a great T-shirt to commemorate the dive.

After we left, we had dinner reservations at the Coral Reef, and requested a table next to the aquarium so we could watch the next group of divers and relive all the fun and wonderful moments again.

For those of you who dive, this would not be considered a challenging dive at all. It is easy, relaxing and tons of magical fun. We would do this again in a heartbeat!

EDITOR'S NOTE: DiveQuest costs $179 per person. To make reservations for this tour, call 407-WDW-TOUR. Be sure to ask about any available discounts (DVC, AP, Disney VISA for example). If you've participated in DiveQuest, please share your thoughts in our Rate and Review section HERE.

October 9, 2013

Experience a World of Flavors at Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival

Andrew Rossi

Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival has returned for its 18th year. As always, the Food and Wine Festival features a variety of events and demonstration in addition to the popular marketplaces scattered around World Showcase. One of the most enjoyable things about the festival is that it allows you to sample the cuisines of many different countries that you do not normally get to experience. The festival is a dream come true for the adventurous eater, allowing one to encounter new ingredients, flavors, and dishes both exotic and unique. With so much to see and do, you could easily spend a whole day (or more) enjoying all the festival has to offer. To start off, here are just a few tips to maximize your time and get the most out of your Food and Wine experience.

Festival_Welcome_Signage.jpg

Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days of the week at the Food and Wine Festival, when many of the locals come to enjoy the event. This results in greater crowds and congestion along the World Showcase promenade and much longer lines at the food stands. It is best to avoid the weekends. If you can, try to visit Monday through Thursday when the lighter crowds make the festival much more enjoyable. In the same vein, World Showcase opens at eleven o'clock and this is definitely the best time to head over to sample the various festival marketplaces. Most guests tend to spend the morning in Future World and then make their way to the back of the park in the afternoon, resulting in larger crowds and longer lines as the day progresses.

Just as with everything at Disney World, it helps to plan ahead when attending the Food and Wine Festival. If you just walk up to every booth and order what sounds good you will end up spending way too much money. Almost every dish offered at the festival sounds, smells, and looks really good, but there will be some dishes that stand out to you more than others. It is better to see what every stand has to offer and then decide on the dishes you want to try most. Although the portion sizes of the food may seem small, they can be filling and after having just three or four different dishes you can easily find yourself starting to get full. Do not rush and get a lot of food from the first few stands you visit and, if traveling with someone else, you may want to consider sharing dishes, which also allows you to sample an even greater variety.

This year's 46-day festival features over twenty-five ethnic marketplaces and more than 220 food and beverage menu items. In addition to returning favorites such as Ireland, Australia, and Argentina (just to name a few), this year's festival marketplaces also include the return of Brazil as well as a brand-new Scotland booth marketplace. Here are some of the highlights.

Argentina is consistently one of the most popular of the festival marketplaces. Distinguished by its bright yellow color, this marketplace is also marked by the amazing aromas of the food being prepared inside.

Argentina.jpg

The Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée is one of my must-have items at the festival each year. The chimichurri sauce has a very strong and distinctive flavor (like a slightly spicy pesto) and definitely gives the dish a bit of a kick. The boniato puree, on the other hand, is milder and has the texture, consistency, and flavor of mashed potatoes. The beef itself is tender and juicy, its flavor really enhanced by the chimichurri. While its $5.00 cost makes it more expensive than many other dishes at the festival, it is a high-quality dish that is certainly worth the price.

Beef_Skewer.jpg

Australia is a marketplace whose menu has gone through some changes over the years, but this year's offerings might be some of the best it has ever featured.

Australia.jpg

A new dish to the festival this year is the Garlic Shrimp with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon Myrtle and Rapini. This dish features three generously sized shrimp and tremendous flavor. If you are a fan of garlic, you will certainly love this dish. Contrasting the garlic-flavored shrimp is the rapini. Also known as broccoli rabe, this vegetable has a distinct and slightly bitter flavor, but one that matches very well with the shrimp. For $4.50 it is definitely a good portion size and packs a serious amount of flavor.

Garlic_Shrimp.jpg

South Korea was introduced to the festival just a few year ago and since its inception has been a big success. This year's marketplace features a new offering in addition to a returning favorite.

South_Korea.jpg

The Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce is new to the festival this year. The kimchi dog itself is a little spicy, but not overwhelmingly so, and the mustard sauce provides another added kick. Countering this, however, is a light and refreshing coleslaw which provides a nice mild contrast. While the portion size may not be the largest, this is still a good value at $3.75 and is certainly something unique among the festival offerings.

Kimchi_Dog.jpg

Africa is the new name of the marketplace which in previous years has been South Africa. With the name change comes some new flavor as well.

Africa.jpg

The Berbere Style Beef with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato, Okra and Pap is certainly not a dish for the faint of heart; it is definitely one of the spicier dishes at the festival this year. This dish can be likened to a spicy stew or a gumbo, and one with a great amount of flavor. All of this spiciness, however, is in contrast to the pap which has a flavor and consistency very similar to grits and helps provide some balance to the dish with its mild flavor. With a very generous portion size, this is one dish that is good to share and its $4.25 price also makes it a great value.

Berbere_Beef.jpg

Florida Local is the marketplace that highlights the various tastes and flavors of the host state, relying on locally-grown products and featuring an assortment of in-state wines and beers.

Florida_Local.jpg

It is here that you can find the Florida Grass Fed Beef Slider with Monterey Jack and Sweet & Hot Pickles. The beef slider was surprisingly juicy and the Monterey jack cheese provided just enough of a kick. I am not usually a fan of pickles, but their sweetness adds some nice extra taste that contrasts that of the beef and cheese. While not anything fancy or exotic, this is a good dish for those who may be a little less adventurous and for $3.75 definitely worth the price.

Beef_Slider.jpg

New Zealand is a marketplace that typically has some intriguing choices and this year's festival is no different.

New_Zealand.jpg

I am not usually a fan of mussels, but the Gratinated Green Lip Mussels with Garlic and Herbs looked absolutely fantastic (not to mention that it seemed as though everybody at the marketplace was ordering them). This is another dish with a tremendous amount of flavor, with the garlic and herbs really enhancing the taste of the mussels. The mussels themselves were cooked to they were perfectly tender while the coating of bread crumbs on top added some additional flavor and texture to the dish. With three good-sized mussels, this is definitely a great value at $3.00.

Mussels.jpg

Belgium has always been the place at the festival to find waffles and this year the marketplace features three to choose from.

Belgium.jpg

When you think of waffles, one topped with beef might not be the first thing that comes to mind but that is exactly what is featured in the Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef. This is such a unique and flavorful dish. To start, the waffle itself is so soft and fluffy with the potato giving it just a slightly heavier consistency. Meanwhile, the braised beef is so tender and flavorful and it actually pairs extremely well with the waffle. Overall, this is probably my favorite dish at the festival thus far and its generous portion size is definitely worth its $4.00 price.

Potato_Leek_Waffle.jpg

Desserts & Champagne is a great marketplace to end your journey around World Showcase, providing a selection of smaller-sized dessert offerings.

Desserts.jpg

There are two choices that are standouts to me at this marketplace. The first is the Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake. Don't let the portion size fool you. Although it appears small in size, it is definitely a rich and filling dessert. Surprisingly, the flavor of the hazelnut is not as prominent as one might expect and the dessert had more of a chocolaty taste. For $1.75, this is a great conclusion to you Food and Wine adventures.

Hazelnut_Cheesecake.jpg

The second intriguing option is the Frozen S'mores. This frozen drink is a kicked-up version of a refreshing chocolate smoothie. Coming topped with marshmallows, chocolate shavings, and graham crackers, this is a drink that you might also need a spoon to enjoy. It is also very sweet and it's portion size just large enough. The prefect refreshment on a hot Florida day, this dessert is certinaly worth its $3.00 price tag.

Frozen_Smores.jpg

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival continues through November 11. If you have never experienced the festivities before, it is definitely worth a visit. Be sure to come hungry!

Festival_Decor.jpg

You can further examine all the marketplaces and menus this year's Festival has to offer here.

See how others are rating the various Festival marketplace offerings here.

If you have been to the Food & Wine Festival this year, you can take part in the survey as well by clicking here.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

October 7, 2013

Jim's Attic: Century 3

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

Horizons%2003.jpg
I miss the "Horizons" attraction at Epcot.

I miss visiting Sea Castle Resort, Mesa Verde and Brava Centauri and was always impressed with the OmniScreen images, especially the rocket launch.

If Westcot in Anaheim would have been built in the 1990s, it was planned to include a version of the Horizons attraction because guests genuinely enjoyed the attraction in Florida.

On January 9, 1999, Horizons closed permanently. However the creation of the attraction started when the idea for a "space pavilion" was pitched to be part of Epcot Center as early as 1979.

This attraction in FutureWorld was originally going to be called "Century 3" (sometimes spelled "Century III" on some documents). Just a few years after the United States Bicentennial in 1976, people were looking forward to the third century so that was the inspiration for the title of the attraction.

Century3.jpg

However, concerns were brought up that foreign guests wouldn't "get" the implication so a more universal name needed to be used.

The attraction was temporarily named "Futureprobe" which Disney quickly discovered called to mind some type of unpleasant medical procedure or instrument.

The name "Horizons" was chosen after many discussions with sponsor General Electric and Disney for the implication of always striving to reach the horizon and when you finally get there, there is another horizon in the distance, and another. The point of the pavilion was to show an achievable future based on existing technology.

Horizons opened exactly one year after Epcot Center opened. Amusingly, the phrase in the attraction "If we can dream it, we can do it" that is often falsely credited to Walt Disney was in reality the creation of Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald who modeled for the audio-animatronics young man character with the solo sub personal submarine.

Horizons%2030a.jpg

Recently, I ran across an interview that Imagineer Claude Coats gave to "Orlando-Land" magazine in 1981 where he explains what the "Century 3" attraction would have been like and here are some excerpts from that interview. Coats is one of those "forgotten" Imagineers who was deeply involved in the design of the original Fantasyland at Disneyland and was a mentor to young Tony Baxter.

"We're going to use a ride device with cars that hang from an overhead rail. It will move 1.8 feet per second. We'll make guests feel they're celebrating the nation's tri-centennial, looking back over the last 100 years.

"You will make a two-minute ascent to Future House through thoughts about the future from the past. Then you'll enter a theater for a probe of the future. The screen is more than eight stories high-the biggest screen ever.

"It will curve over above the audience to give a planetarium effect. The audience will get views of outer space and inside the molecule. We're taking people to places they've never seen before. Like inside an electron microscope. Into living cells. Out to the rings of Saturn. Along the DNA life chain. There'll be many blowups of microscopic stuff.

"It's a celebration of the good times ahead of us. We'll show future urban development. A family celebrating their 100th wedding anniversary, which will be a common thing. We'll show a complete new lifestyle. And robot mining. An undersea habitat. Underground homes. Desert farming. Hobbies, cooking, music as they will be in the future.

"We'll end up going into a space habitat. We'll show work and health activity in space. Manufacturing. Mining of minerals from planets or asteroids.

"At the end of the experience, we'll tie the whole thing into the family unit."

Guests would have then left the show and still in their ride vehicles be taken into a polling area where lights would light up on the dashboard of their vehicle where they could push buttons to indicate their feelings about what they just saw. The results would be instantly tabulated so guests could compare their reactions against those of others who experienced the attraction.

This is the attraction that we might have gotten that evolved into the Horizons attractions some of us miss today.

Here's a brief glimpse at Horizons before it closed:

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

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

Jim Korkis

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

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


August 18, 2013

Getting ready for the Annual EPCOT Trade Celebration

Carol Cruise banner

This year the annual Disney Trade Celebration is called "13 - Reflections of Evil"
It starts on Friday the 13th (spooky) this September.

Event_Logo

There are several changes to the event and to event procedures this year that I will go in detail about below. But the one change that has put me in conflict is that one of the pin collections actually started at last year's event. In 2012, while we were lined up on Saturday morning waiting to enter World ShowPlace, a cast member came along and gave everyone a wristband. We didn't know what it was for but we were told to make sure we were in the building at 1 o'clock. As it turned out, when the Event organizers announced the 2013 event each wrist band recipient was allowed to purchase the first in a series of 13 pins. Each month from September 2012 to September 2013 a different pin would be released. Each monthly pin has a Villain on it and is limited to 750.

13-Cruella-pin

This is where the conflict for me comes in! Due to my CCD (Collector Compulsive Disorder) when there is a collection involved, I can't just go with a few of the series, I have to have all - or nothing. I left the event last year with my mind made up that I didn't want this set of pins; I am not a Villain fan; I don't collect bad guy pins; the Evil Queen scares me; it would be too hard to get every month's pin . . . and so on.

Well one thing led to another and with the help of friends who have either visited WDW, a friend who lives close by WDW, and my couple of trips down since the event, I have all the pins that have been released - with the exception of 2. My conflict is - 1) Do I really want them? or 2) Have I just collected them because I could? Should I take them with me to the event and try to complete the collection (I have 2 doubles to use as traders) or do I use them to trade for pins that I actually collect. Nice pins like Pluto and Daisy and Orange Bird, not the nasty mean villains.

Another change this year is in the event packages. In previous years you signed up and paid for the pin portion of the event that was held Friday and Saturday and you signed up for the Vinylmation portion that was held on Sunday. This year when they announced the event package information, the pin portion was split into two separate packages. If you read closely, the Friday event included "limited" in the wording. Registration for these packages opened up on the 13th hour of the 13th day of May. I had my alarm set; my calendar marked and had warned family and friends to stand clear when the time came to register. I got into the online registration system at about 1:15 p.m. and signed up for everything. I was in and I had confirmation numbers for all three days as well as the two special breakfasts. I have heard that the Friday "limited" Club 13 Event Package sold out in less than an hour, and since then all of the other packages, with the exception of the Sunday Vinylmation package, have sold out.

Friday_Event

Saturday_Event

Sunday_Event

Another big change from previous years is the closing time. The events always started at 9:30 a.m. but they were over at 6:00 p.m., this year the closing time has been extended to 7:00 p.m.

The RSP (Random Selection Process) had changed this year. Instead of submitting one RSP that included all of your merchandise selections, the merchandise is divided into 3 categories. "Pin Trading", "Art & Collection" and "Vinylmation Trading" are the categories and depending on what event package you have purchased, you have different selection options.

RSP_Options

New for this year is the "Purchase with Purchase" opportunity; this can be added to the end of your RSP form.

Purchase_with_Purchase

The 2013 event is shaping up to be a really villainous good time. I am so excited to be going! Many of my pins trading friends are going to be there and we have lots of interesting plans in the works. I have my flights booked, my pin bag organized and ready. My Vinylmation traders are sorted and my RSP has been submitted. The only thing left is the big decision, do I or do I not try to complete the 13 Evil Pins collection? I'll let you know the answer when I get back from the event!

While you wait for my blog about the 2013 event why don't you read a few of my previous trading blogs. Here are a few links:

Pin Trading University - 2008

The Museum of PIN-TIQUITIES - 2009

Trade City USA - 2010

Mickey's Circus - 2012

Vinylmations blog - 2012

Pin Trading Tips blog - 2008

See you again in September!

September 23, 2012

Mickey's Circus - 2012 Disney Trade Celebration

CarolCruisebanner.jpg

Earlier this month I enjoyed the annual Disney Trade Celebration at EPCOT. I first attended this event in 2005 and I had so much fun that I have not missed a year since. This was my eighth consecutive Trade Celebration at EPCOT.

2012 Event logo

The 2012 Disney Trade Celebration was called Mickey's Circus. The theme coincided with the newly renovated and expanded Fantasyland that will hold its grand opening in December. The pin event kicked off on Thursday with a pre-registration session and continued with all-day events Friday and Saturday. Sunday was set aside for the Vinylmation portion of the event. This year, for the first time, the Sunday event lasted all day. In previous years the doors to World ShowPlace were opened at 1 p.m. and any park guests could enter to trade pins and purchase any of the remaining event merchandise.

Pin Event Invitation
Vinylmation Event Invitation

My adventure began on Tuesday, I drove to Syracuse NY to board my flight to Orlando. I landed in Florida at 7 p.m. and once I had picked up my luggage and selected my rental car I was on my way to Disney. I went directly to Downtown Disney and met my pin trading friends at Earl of Sandwich.

Earl of Sandwich

After a great dinner and plenty of catching up with friends I hadn't seen for a while we wandered through a couple of the shops.

Pin Trading friends

Before we knew it, everything was closing down for the night. I still had not checked-in to the resort so my roomie and I headed over to All Star Movies. It was close to midnight by the time Carrie and I found the room. We were only staying the one night; we would move to the Boardwalk the next day so there was no need to unpack. Carrie is a Disney Vacation Club owner and had booked us a studio for the following five nights.

I was awake early and walked down to the food court to grab some coffee, wandered the grounds a bit and then went back to the room. We were ready to check-out and head over to Hollywood Studios by 8:30 a.m. We browsed a few of the shops and I looked at a recently released cel in the Animation Gallery.

Hollywood Studios

We stopped at Starring Rolls for a Danish and then meandered back to the gates. It was almost 10:30 so decided to see if our room was ready at the Boardwalk. It was, so we parked, unloaded everything and took time to get settled.

Boardwalk

Soon we were headed to the Magic Kingdom to get our Sorcerer cards (both Carrie and I are collecting them) and meet our fellow Canadian pin traders for lunch. We ate at the Columbia Harbor House and then decided we needed a swim so back to Boardwalk we went.

Boardwalk pool

That evening we had dinner at Wolfgang Puck's in Downtown Disney's Westside. This was a chance for our group to spend some peaceful time together before the event took over our lives.

Pin Trading friends

Thursday morning was the start of the non-stop four days of Disney pins and Vinylmations. The first thing we did was drive over to Coronado Springs, where the pre-registration was being held, beginning at noon. Last year we had to park a long, long way from the convention centre and it was too far to carry our pin bags in and then later carry out all the new pins we were picking up. So this year we had a plan! Susan drove over early and parked her car there, close to the door with all our bags and trading goods in the trunk. That way if we had to park miles away at least our stuff would be close. Carrie and I picked up Susan and Allison in our car and they rode with us to EPCOT. We joined friends Ann and Mike at the gate. We were all attending a special breakfast with some of the Disney pin artists.

EPCOT breakfast group

This breakfast was held in the private lounge at the Norway pavilion and was hosted by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. It was the second annual breakfast with the Disney Design Group and the artists who joined us were Quynh Kimball, Caley Hicks and Monty Maldovan. At 8:30 we were greeted at the main gate by a Cast Member and escorted through Future World and around to Norway. When we entered there was a large table of really good food waiting for us and lots of piping hot coffee. Life was good!

Pin artists

We enjoyed our meal while chatting with our table mates for about 45 minutes, then John Rick of CJDPT introduced the featured artists. The format was very relaxed and informal. Questions from the floor to the artists flowed easily and the time flew past. It was hard to believe that 2 hours had already passed when it was announced that it was 11 o'clock and time to pack up! The breakfast was closed with a special raffle, drawing for some original sketches that the artists had brought along. At the very end Quynh Kimball announced that he had brought a very special button for everyone. It was going to be worn by the Cast Members at the event and we were all presented with one. We all left happy and full, what a great start to the weekend.

Naturally we made a short detour to the Magic Kingdom to pick up our daily allotment of Sorcerer Cards before going on to Coronado Springs.

Sorcerers

Next stop - Coronado Springs for early registration and of course pin and Vinylmation trading. The standing in lines officially started!

Registration line

This year I have to say that the registration went the fastest ever. The Veracruz A Hall was divided in half, one half set up for registration the other half full of tables and chairs for traders. Once I received my credentials and event merchandise I was allowed to cross over into the trading area. This area was set aside for use by those registered for the event until 7 p.m. and then it was opened up for the regular monthly pin trading night that is normally held at the Contemporary Resort.

I found the table where my friends were gathering and we all started to go through our bags of goodies.

Opening goodies

Opening goodies

Everyone received a welcome gift.

Welcome gift

There was an Early Registration gift for the first 750 registrants.

Early bird gift

Everyone registered for the Vinylmation event received a Vinylmation Welcome gift as well.

Vinylmation Welcome gift in the box

Vinylmation Welcome gift

The next exciting thing we all did was open our Mystery Pin Boxes! Each box held 2 of the new pins. This year the mystery pins were Villains, each participating in a sinister circus side shows. There were 13 Villain pins that were limited release, and then there were 13 different ticket pins that were chasers and limited to 100 each. I was very lucky this year, I bought 5 boxes and got 5 chasers. Lots of people didn't get any! Of course the chasers were the big trading item and everybody wanted the ticket chaser to go with the Villain pin.

Opening goodies

Villains and Tickets

I was happy to get the 3 pins and chasers that I actually wanted and then have a few sets left over for trading.

Gabes pin trading board

Carrie and I stayed until about 8:30, trading and talking, our only break from the room was when we wandered over to the Pepper Mill to get some food to go. We drove one of our friends over to the Beach Club Resort so it seemed only fitting that we make a stop at Beaches and Cream before going to our own resort. A great way to finish off the day!

Beaches and Cream

Friday morning we hit the ground running, caught the boat to EPCOT, checked through security and found our place in line, waiting for the doors to World ShowPlace to open. They do a great job at security during this event; they have a special entry gate just for pin traders and Max, a sniffer dog, checks all the bags. There are all sorts of bags that get brought in, from small over the shoulder bags to large suitcases on wheels. This year was a first for this one, I saw a person coming through with a Costco Grocery Cart, full of boxes and books of pins!

Max the security dog

Friday morning line

The doors opened at 9:30 a.m. and we all rushed to find a spot in a line for the pin trading boards. The room was decorated like The Big Top; Mickey's Circus had come to town. Disney spares no expense when decorating, they really tap into Disney history to immerse you in the theme of the event. I always look forward to seeing what they have in store for us every year.

Ringmaster Mickey

Entrance decor

This year the "mystery pins" on the pin trading boards were circus elephants which linked together with magnets. Each person was allowed to trade 2 of their pins for 2 pins off the board. Each board holds a few hundred pins and you had 60 seconds to find what you wanted. Along with the elephant pins you could find AP pins (artist proof) PP pins (pre-production) and LE pins (limited edition). When your minute was up you went back to the end of the line and started all over again.

Pin board pins

When you got tired of the lines you could relax in the back room where the trading tables were set up. I spent a great deal of my day in line. There is plenty of chatter among the folks in the line and many trades completed while you wait to get to the pin boards. Pin traders are always anxious to complete their collections and most of them willingly try to help you complete yours as well. They are a very cooperative bunch!

Trading board

Trading board

During the day there were always activities going on, special announcements, merchandise for sale and some fun games.

Entertainers

The only break we took was when Carrie and I went over to The Rose & Crown and had a really good lunch; I love the Cottage Pie there.

When they made the announcement that it was 6 p.m. and we had to leave, we all gathered up our stuff and wandered out into EPCOT. Carrie and I walked to the International Gateway where we boarded the boat to the Boardwalk. The others walked to their cars. Next on the agenda was pin trading night at Port Orleans Riverside. This is another annual activity organized by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. As if we don't get enough pin trading during the day, we have to keep it going into the night!

Carrie and I picked up our friends Sandy and Mo on the way. When we got to Riverside we joined the rest of our group, had some dinner in the food court and checked out the pin books that everyone had set out. We stayed until about 9 p.m. when exhaustion started setting in, time to call it a night.

Port Orleans Riverside

The Saturday morning line outside World ShowPlace stretched all the way back to the Rose Garden.

Saturday morning line

Saturday was a repeat of Friday during the day. Lots of lines, the silent auction, pin trading in the back room, checking out the new products being released in the up coming months and artist signings.

Artist pin signing

At 1 p.m. Jeanne Lewis and Julie Young took to the stage for the Big Top Pin Talk.

Jeanne and Julie

They told us about the up coming pin releases, introduced the representatives from the other Disneyland Parks, and then the big announcement that everyone was waiting for. What would the theme be for next year and when will the event be held? There was a roar out of the crowd when they announced that the 13th annual event would be held on the weekend of Friday the 13th next September. The event is going to be called "Reflections of Evil 13" and the Villains will be the focus.

New pins

2013 Event logo

Even though I am not a big Villains fan it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement. It was also announced that a special pin was being release right then and there . . . as part of the future events collection. Of course that meant another line; this pin was limited to 750.

13 Cruella pin

After the event closed at 6 p.m. we wandered through EPCOT and hitched a ride with Susan and Allison to Downtown Disney. We had a bite at Wolfgang Puck's at the Market Place, where we sat and talked for quite a while before wandering through some of the stores. We all decided that we shouldn't be too late - the Vinylmation event was the next day - so Susan and Allison dropped us off at the Boardwalk and we all called it a night.

Sunday morning it was the same drill, catch the boat, go through security, stand in line, the only difference was that we were not dragging our pins - we had our Vinylmations. Just as we got to the line the skies decided to open up and the rain was really coming down. Thankfully Disney took pity on us and opened the doors to World ShowPlace early. We could go in and get in our lines but none of the trade boxes were open until 9:30 a.m.

Sunday morning line

Vinylmations

The Vinylmation trading is similar to the pin trading, you stand in line until it is your turn at the trade box, you can trade 2 of your Vinylmation for 2 from the mystery box or open box. They do a refresh every 30 minutes and if you are in the right place at the right time you can get some great Vinylmations. There were lots of chasers and older rare vinyl's being pulled out of the boxes. This year the event mystery chaser was a clown, and of course everyone was trying to get these. I was lucky to get one.

Vinylmation chaser

The back room was full of traders, similar to the pin event. I wandered around a bit and made some good trades, but like Friday and Saturday I spent most of my time in the lines. Carrie and I escaped for an hour to the Rose and Crown again for lunch, but that was the only time we left the building until they closed down at 5:30 p.m. We caught the boat back to the Boardwalk to drop off our stuff before heading to the Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom

This was our last night and we wanted to walk Main Street and of course get our Sorcerer cards. We did a bit of card trading at Tortuga Tavern before heading back to the Boardwalk.

Trading Sorcerer cards

We had ice cream on the Boardwalk and savored our last evening there before we started packing.

Monday morning I checked my luggage at the resort, I was worried I might be over my weight limit but I was just under the 50 pounds so all was good. We had some time to kill before driving to the airport so we went to Downtown Disney for a breakfast sandwich at Earl of Sandwich and wandered through a couple shops. It was then time to hit the road, return the car and get checked in for our flights home. I was flying back to Syracuse and Carrie was flying into Toronto an hour later.

It was over . . another great time at another great Disney event, with a bunch of great friends. I can't wait until next year!



Read Carol's blog on Vinylmations here.

Read Carol's blog on the 2010 Pin Celebration here.

Read Carol's blog on the 2009 Pin Celebration here.

Read Carol's blogs on the 2008 Pin Celebration. Part 1 Part 2

July 22, 2012

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Disney Things

GaryCruisebanner.jpg

What is your favourite park at Walt Disney World?

What are your "must-do" rides or activities?

What are the things you only do once in a while?

Main Gate

One of the greatest things about Walt Disney World is the diversity of experience you can enjoy there. With the four theme parks, two water parks, golf courses, hotels, campground, scores of restaurants and all the surrounding attractions there is virtually no limit to the things you can enjoy.

Many of our friends who, like Carol and I, are frequent visitors have established some favourite attractions and activities, things they "must-do" every time they visit Walt Disney World.

Here's my list of favourites. Let's start with my favourite park, the Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom

Why does this park top my list? Well, it's the classic, the first Florida park. This is where I first took my children in 1977. It is chock-full of good memories and will probably always be my "special place"! I remember the huge grins on both my daughter Michelle and son Steve's faces as we rode Dumbo together all those years ago. They loved It's A Small World and Peter Pan's Flight.

Peter Pan

About two years ago my son Steve took his family and they stood in line for 90 minutes to see Peter Pan. His comment? "What a hokey ride . . . why did I stand in line an hour and a half for that?" It will never be hokey for me because I'll always remember Steve's reaction when we rode it together in 1977. Peter Pan is one that Carol and I ride every visit.

The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are two more that we never miss.

Mansion

Pirates

These rides are not "hi-tech" like some of the newer attractions but they still transport me to another world or another time. As I ride I sing along with the 999 happy haunts and the scallywag pirates. "Yo-ho, Yo-ho, a pirates life for me!" As we pass through Adventureland we are always compelled to savour a cold treat. Carol heads to Sunshine Tree Terrace to pick up a Citrus Swirl while I scoot to Aloha Isle for a Pineapple Float. We meet in the middle somewhere and try to achieve simultaneous brain-freezes.

We take a spin with Buzz Lightyear almost every trip.

Buzz

This ride brings out the worst in us. We become ultra-competitive, each trying to outscore the other as we blast Emperor Zurg into the next galaxy! It's great fun!

We enjoy many of the other rides as well but we don't feel compelled to enjoy them every time we visit. Once in a while is good for most of them. Of course, Wishes, the fireworks spectacular, is a "must-do" as well. We try to position ourselves at the back of The Hub, near Casey's Corner to get the best view of the show with Cinderella Castle in the foreground. That leads me to the one other snack we always stop for . . . a Casey's hot dog. Yum!

Many will probably be surprised at my second place ranking. Disney's Animal Kingdom ranks second for me. Why? Well, it's all about the animals.

Tiger

Meercat

Both Carol and I love seeing the animals. We walk all the back trails around the Tree of Life to see and photograph things most visitors miss. Hint: If you walk these trails at noon you will often see cast members feeding the animals and the animals will be front and center for you. There are plenty of photo-ops around noon on the Tree of Life Trails.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is an irresistible draw for us. We sometimes ride it twice, once in early morning and then again just before the park closes. Hint: You can get better pictures from the back row of the truck, but be prepared for the bouncing! It's the bumpiest seat!

Lion at Coppies

Carol is not a fan of roller coasters; she does not like the upside-down experience, but for some reason she really enjoys Expedition Everest. I don't understand why, but I'm glad she does. We ride together once and that's enough for her. I sometimes go directly to the single-rider line and take another spin.

Expedition Everest

After coaxing for a while I finally convinced Carol that coasters are smoother and less stressful if you raise your arms and stop fighting against the rocking and shaking motion. Once she tried it she agreed with me and now she often rides with her arms in the air. The only problem is that she cannot stop giggling when her arms are up. So if you see a woman on Everest, arms in the air and giggling like crazy - that's Carol!

Flights of Wonder is another great show we always enjoy. It always surprises us how many people walk by and skip this awesome performance. The need for conservation is delivered in an entertaining and inspiring fashion. Carol has co-starred in the show four times.

Flights of Wonder

When they ask for volunteers in the owl segment she is always up and waving her hands. Another regular stop is at the gibbon habitat near Kali River Rapids; we love to watch them swinging around their island. If you ever hear them calling to each other you will never forget the experience!

Gibbons

If we have lunch at Animal Kingdom it is almost always egg rolls from the quick service counter at Yak & Yeti; try them - they're great!

Third for me is EPCOT. This park is all about education . . . but the learning at EPCOT is all bundled up in a package of fun so you really don't notice. Educators need to look into this to see how it's done . . . learning can be fun!

Our first "must-do" is the very first attraction, Spaceship Earth.

Spaceship Earth

History, communication and science in one easy lesson; we seldom miss it. Another regular is Soarin'.

Soarin

I like the hang-glider ride more than Carol does, but she humours me and rides along with me. It all evens out when I stifle my yawns as I wander through Germany's Der Teddybar shop with her.

We always look for Off Kilter, the celtic rock group who play beside the Canada pavilion, we both enjoy them.

Off-Kilter.jpg

When I hear the Jamitors or The British Revolution I stop to listen while Carol dashes off to shop. Our interests aren't always the same but there are so many things to do that we can both enjoy ourselves at all times.

Dining at EPCOT is great, there are so many good restaurants, but our favourite is Canada's Le Cellier. We seldom miss having dinner at Le Cellier.

Last, but certainly not least is Disney's Hollywood Studios. This is also a wonderful park full of many terrific attractions, rides, sights and sounds. I love the "Streetmosphere", the many street entertainers who put on such entertaining shows.

Streetmosphere

I can sit and watch them again and again, which works out well because Carol can shop again and again!

Studios is home to the newest ride at Walt Disney World, Toy Story Midway Mania. Similar to Buzz Lightyear it's a giant video game that places you in the middle of the action. We try to ride Toy Story several times each trip if we can.

Toy Story Potato Head

We don our 3D glasses and turn into shooting demons, each of us once again striving to totally annihilate our beloved spouse. "I am not your mother . . . break those plates!"

We both enjoy the Tower of Terror and after riding it Carol generally heads down Sunset Boulevard to explore the Villains in Vogue shop while I head to the single-rider line for a spin on Rock 'n Roller Coaster.

Another "must-do" at Studios is a trip to the Animation Courtyard and a visit with David Rippberger, the Disney Ink and Paint artist who works in the Animation Gift Shop. David creates the hand painted animation cels which Carol collects and we like to visit with him to keep abreast of what's coming up next.

Our final irresistible lure at Studios is a relatively new discovery for us. Italian sausage in a bun at Min & Bill's Dockside Diner. We shared our first sausage in a bun about a year ago . . . as soon we bit into it we agreed we would never share one again. They are just too good to share! Don't miss this delicious lunch treat.

Of course no vacation would be complete without a trip to Downtown Disney. I always take my book along and find a spot to sit while Carol shops.

Days of Christmas Store

I read and people-watch while she scours through the Art of Disney Shop, the Disney Days of Christmas Shop and of course Disney's Pin Traders. Once she has worked up a good appetite she joins me and we head directly to the Earl of Sandwich.

Earl of Sandwich

This place has elevated the simple sandwich to an art form. Wow they're good! We often get back to "Earl's" several times during our stay!

There is so much to do outside the parks that I may make that the subject of another blog sometime. For now I will just mention two more of our favourite "non-park" things. First is dinner at 'Ohana in the Polynesian Resort . . . we never miss it. Great food, great location, great value! If you time it right and get a window table you can watch the Wishes fireworks extravaganza from your table. They pipe in the soundtrack too!

Second is a camping favourite, if we're staying in our RV at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground we head to the beach at the campground a few evenings during our stay. There is a nice little patio beside the dock and we relax at a patio table as we watch Wishes. They pipe in the soundtrack here as well and as an added treat the fireworks are reflected on the waters of Bay Lake. It's a terrific place to watch the show with no crowds! Shortly after Wishes is over the Electrical Water Pageant sails past . . . what a great way to end a day!

So those are a few of my favourite things! There are so many things to do at Walt Disney World that it just never gets stale for us and I doubt that it ever will!

What are your favourite things?

June 9, 2012

Disney helps protect ocean wildlife and you can, too

kristinford.jpg

Yesterday Walt Disney World celebrated World Oceans Day with various education stations and interactive activities for kids inside Epcot's The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Even if you missed the event, though, you still can learn about ways in which Disney is helping to protect and promote the world's oceans.

World Oceans Day was proposed in 1992 at the United Nations' Earth Summit and officially recognized by the world body in 2008. Since then, a couple of organizations charged with protecting the world's oceans, The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network, have coordinated celebrations each year in an effort to promote a better understanding of the importance of the seas.

disney-protecting-coral-reefs.jpg
A cast member explains why coral needs to be protected.

At one booth inside The Seas, a cast member explained how The Walt Disney Ço. is helping to protect coral reefs near Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line's private island in the Bahamas, by relocating sea urchins that help control the algae there. At another booth, guests could see the teeth of various sea animals and learn how they have helped the animals survive. At still another site, kids could play a game with cast members with the goal of teaching them about ocean conservation.

disney-dolphin-teeth.jpg
A dolphin's teeth.
disney-whale-vertabrae.jpg
A whale's vertabrae.

But my kids and I found the area dedicated to sea turtles the most interesting - and if you missed World Oceans Day, you still can get involved with these projects and make a difference.

disney-sea-turtle-conservation.jpg
Cast member Leslie Wells explains Disney's role in sea turtle conservation.

At three Disney sites, you can contribute to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund's sea turtle conservation efforts through the Adopt-A-Nest Program. You can do so at the gift shop at Epcot's The Seas with Nemo & Friends; the Out of the Wild shop at Animal Kingdom; and at Disney's Vero Beach Resort.

The adoption program, which launched on July 5, 2007, offers guests adoption packages for $50 that include a Disney Worldwide Conservation Hero Button, a "Finding Nemo" themed keychain, and an adoption certificate that lists the species of turtle and the date the eggs were laid in the nest. Guests can use their certificate numbers to track online their nest's success and possible hatchings at http://www.nestingturtles.com/adoptanest/

Proceeds from the program benefit turtle and beach conservation efforts throughout the state of Florida.

disney-sea-turtle-nest.jpg
A model of a sea turtle's nest illustrates the process of the eggs hatching.

At Disney's Vero Beach Resort, guests also can take guided tours of the beach during turtle nesting season, which runs approximately May through October. Turtle Troop, the tour arranged by the resort, is a popular summertime activity. And because visitors and residents to the Treasure Coast are aware of the precarious nature of baby sea turtles - only about 10 of the dozens of eggs laid in each nest will survive to adulthood - they tend to be the ones adopting the nests, a cast member said. Disney's Vero Beach guests are invited to use the same beaches where the sea turtle nests are marked and located.

In addition, trained Disney cast members monitor a stretch of coastline at Disney's Vero Beach Resort, collecting important data on sea turtle nests in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In August, The Walt Disney Co. will participate in the Tour de Turtles, which is a marathon of sorts for migrating sea turtles. Disney describes the event this way: "For at least three months, Tour de Turtles will follow multiple sea turtles, using satellite-tracking technology, as they travel from their respective nesting sites to unknown foraging grounds, with the goal of being the first to complete the 2,620 km marathon. By tracking sea turtle migrations, scientists can learn more about these mysterious mariners and the routes they take. Just as with human marathons, each turtle swims to raise awareness about a particular "cause" or threat to their survival."

You can follow the Tour de Turtles at http://www.tourdeturtles.org/

From "Finding Nemo" to "The Little Mermaid," many Disney films and theme-park attractions have offered entertainment based on ocean settings and the animals who live there. But through various ongoing conservation and awareness programs, Disney clearly is going a step farther and educating as well as entertaining its theme-park guests and fans.


June 1, 2012

HGTV's 'My Yard Goes Disney' returns tonight with 11 new shows

kristinford.jpg

EDITED%20we%20family.jpg

After a one-hour special in February, the second season of "My Yard Goes Disney" returns tonight at 8 p.m. ET on HGTV. The special and recent presentations at Walt Disney World by host Brandon Johnson offered fans a look at all the wonderfully themed and unexpected elements the show will feature this season.

During the February show, "My House Goes Disney," viewers were treated not just to the unveiling of an outdoor makeover, but also those of three bedrooms that five children share in their Lakeland, Florida, home. Even the family pet's space got a magical makeover. 

HGTV designers and Disney Imagineers took their inspiration for the interior makeovers from upcoming events at Disney Parks. For the oldest son's bedroom, Disney World's Art of Animation resort -- which opened its Nemo-themed suites yesterday -- was the model. Two younger boys will share a souped-up room based on the new Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure. And the two girls have a new room fit for a princess and a fairy, which were recently showcased at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. 

Outside, the family's backyard was modeled after their favorite Walt Disney World resort, Disney's Beach Club. The New England touches were evident in the deck surrounding the existing swimming pool, a new wading pool with a fountain, and even the Adirondack chairs.

And that was just the first house chosen for a Disney-style makeover this year! Host Johnson described others -- and even showed photos -- when he was one of the HGTV celebrity speakers at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival in April.

EDITED%20MYGD%20presentation.jpg

" 'My Yard Goes Disney' is all about dreams coming true. We are about creating spaces that celebrate your family's favorite moments," he said.

EDITED%20brandon%20johnson.jpg

Certainly the one-of-a-kind outdoor features are beyond most people's wildest dreams, as the new season of shows attest. For the Trautwein family, reminders of Epcot are now no farther than their backyard, which houses a Spaceship Earth-inspired greenhouse, a Mickey Mouse fountain and a science center for the kids. And if the family needs to get a little air time, they can take turns on a sky bike with a track 12 feet off the ground.

EDITED%20treehouses.jpg

Another family's backyard fun was elevated to a higher level, as well. The Krantz family received quite a play fort, modeled after Disney's Treehouse Villas. This is no ordinary treehouse -- it gives residents a choice of bunkbeds for an afternoon nap and a roller coaster zipline to carry them to a splash pad on the ground.

EDITED%20zipline.jpg

"The Krantz family's backyard really spoke to me. I love adrenaline and speed. Their zipline roller coaster is incredible," Johnson said. "And their Explorer's Club takes imagination to a whole other level -- literally. It's almost 30 feet up in the air. Could you imagine having sleepovers there as a kid? Unreal!"

EDITED%20lagoon.jpg

The We family loves to swim and splash and now they can do both at their own backyard lagoon with a private island, a nod to Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay. The lagoon has varying depths and includes a tropical reef, and the island in the center contains water play equipment that is reminiscent of Nemo's Reef on the Disney Dream. A new boardwalk offers space to entertain and a whole lot of palm trees add to the secluded feel.

EDITED%20pool%20ice.jpg

My favorite new "My Yard Goes Disney" backyard is one inspired by Blizzard Beach. It has the signature floating "ice" in the pool with the net hanging above it for kids to grasp as they try to stay afloat while crossing. There's a sleigh for photo opportunities, just like at the Disney water park, and plenty of skis and "snow" to complete the theme. But the best part has to be the patio-turned-concession stand that offers guests frozen drinks, snow cones, hot dogs, popcorn, and the park's popular mini donuts.

EDITED%20concession%20stand.jpg

Those who love Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will be happy to see it, too, represented this season on "My Yard Goes Disney." Several of its popular features have been replicated for the Monize family: a 1,500-foot surrey bike path, an outdoor campground, an outdoor movie theater and a geyser that shoots 30 feet in the air to help keep the family cool in the Florida sun.

When you tune in tonight, though, the first of the 11 yards you will see this season will be that of the Morales family. HGTV describes it this way: "The Morales' daughters have all of their princess dreams come true as HGTV's designers turn one little girl's drawings for a Disney-inspired backyard into a reality. Host Brandon Johnson and the build team create a Snow White-style village, a backyard model train set that Walt himself would have loved and add a Cinderella-style dollhouse all the way from England. Mom and Dad get the royal treatment, too, with an extended entertainment area and a mini golf course reminiscent of Disney's Fantasia Gardens."

Here a sneak peek from HGTV:

To get the latest news about "My Yard Goes Disney" and other projects Johnson is involved with, be sure to check out his new website at http://www.officialbrandonjohnson.com/

April 26, 2012

Disney Performing Arts workshop full of surprises, including visit from 'The Lion King' cast

kristinford.jpg

EDITED-Disney-performing-arts.jpg
Decatur Central High students learn choreography during a Disney Performing Arts workshop.

When I grew up in suburban Indianapolis, our high schools didn't have show choirs -- there was band, marching band and choir. But that was way before "Glee" capitalized on the popularity of the show choirs in schools today.

Yesterday, I watched performers from another Indianapolis high school, Decatur Central, take part in a Disney Performing Arts workshop. Tucked away in a studio behind Epcot -- "back stage" as Disney likes to call the area -- the students learned two dance routines for songs for which they had prepared the vocals in advance of their trip. There were jazz hands, jazz squares, a shake-and-bake step, original moves from the students, and even some high-fiving in the mix.

Their instructor, Thomas Murphy, is a longtime Disney performer and choreographer. In fact, he helped design the Disney Channel Rocks! street dance party at Disney's Hollywood Studios. He also performed at Tokyo Disney's "Disney World is Your World" show, which is the source of the workshop's two songs -- "D-Pop Magic" and "Disney World Is Your World."

EDITED-performing-arts-instructor.jpg
Thomas Murphy and Minnie Mouse danced with the vocalists.

Murphy's upbeat personality kept the kids moving and motivated -- even at a 9 a.m. call time, which is practically the middle of the night for teenagers. He encouraged the vocalists to keep smiling when onstage, even if they make a mistake. "Performing is not from the neck down," he told them.

Decatur Central was participating in Disney's Show Choir Magic session, a workshop the group added to their Walt Disney World experience. The goal of the course is to give students a glimpse into the life of a professional performer.

The main objective for the 29 students traveling to Orlando, however, was to perform an original piece they prepared back home in Indiana on a Disney World stage for visitors. The group had to audition to be chosen for this honor. They fulfilled that dream Wednesday night at Downtown Disney.

EDITED-disney-show-choir-group.jpg
The Indianapolis show choir poses with Minnie Mouse and 'The Lion King' performers.

Before they left the workshop, though, there were a few surprises in store for the vocalists. First, Minnie Mouse popped into the room and joined their dance routine. She knew all their moves and was not shy about leading the students with Murphy. Then, the group performed for a panel of "Disney show producers." What the students didn't know, though, was that the "producers" actually were performers from the national stage tour of "The Lion King."

"The Lion King," which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, is in Orlando at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre through May 14. Four performers from the Grammy-award and six-time Tony award-winning show answered questions from the students. The performers were Nick Cordileone (who plays Timon) and Amyia Burrell, Electra Weston and Paul Sadler (all ensemble performers).

EDITED-performing-arts-questions.jpg
Students ask questions of performers from the national stage tour of 'The Lion King.'

The Decatur Central students asked a variety of questions, including how to pursue a performing arts career and what makes professional performers nervous on stage, and they requested Cordileone voice Timon for them, which he happily did.

But what really got everyone laughing was when the performers talked about times they had flubbed their scenes and what they did to recover on stage. Sadler described his first role in "Phantom of the Opera" and completely forgetting his opening lines. He said he tried to buy himself time to think by running around the stage growling. His cast mates, of course, knew he should be speaking and had to turn away so they wouldn't laugh during the production, he said.

For Weston, it was an incident that occurred when she was playing Queen Sarabi in "The Lion King." She and Mufasa are supposed to present Simba to the other animals from atop Pride Rock. Unfortunately, they were halfway up the rock when it was discovered that she wasn't holding the lion cub. They both debated what to do, before Mufasa ran back to get Simba, and Weston had to maintain her composure and try to look regal in the process.

EDITED-Lion-King-cast.jpg
'The Lion King' cast members (from left): Paul Sadler, Electra Weston, Amyia Burrell and Nick Cordileone.

Clearly, with real-world anecdotes such as these and more, the students received valuable insight into acting, stage productions and how to create performance magic - something Disney excels at every day for its park guests.

Tomorrow, I'll share my interview with "The Lion King" cast member Amyia Burrell, who was once a Disney Parks performer.

April 21, 2012

Tips for celebrating National Princess Week at Walt Disney World

kristinford.jpg

The%20Princess%20Diaries.jpg
Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway star in "The Princess Diaries" and "The Princess Diaries: Royal Engagement."


The first National Princess Week begins tomorrow, April 22, and its founders want to invite children "to celebrate the sparkle and wonder of every princess -- real, aspiring or imagined."

Academy Award-winning actress, singer and best-selling children's book author Julie Andrews is the face of the campaign. She starred with Anne Hathaway in two "The Princess Diaries" movies, which are being re-released on their 10th anniversary, and has co-authored with her daughter the popular "The Very Fairy Princess" series.

This collaboration between Target and The Walt Disney Company aims to allow children to create their own princess activities in their home towns. But if you're lucky enough to be visiting Walt Disney World, the home of the Disney Princesses, there are many experiences to be found, both large and small.

Here are some suggestions, based on my own family's experiences and ideas adapted from Andrews' ideas at http://julieandrewscollection.com/30-ways-to-celebrate-national-princess-week/

1. Start your day by wearing a tiara and keep it on everywhere you go. Bring your own from home, or you can purchase one in just about every gift store on Disney World property.

2. Build your own castle. If you are staying at a Disney World resort or planning to visit one of the water parks, find the sandy area and get to work designing a palace for royalty. A fun way to build the foundation is with the castle mold sold in most gift shops for about $6, and it makes a great inexpensive souvenir afterward. (For tips on visiting the Disney water parks, see my newsletter article at http://allears.net/ae/issue651.htm)

3. Take a carriage ride and learn how to step into a carriage with grace and practice your royal wave. Andrews offers these suggestions:
** To enter a carriage, turn your body slightly sideways, and step in with the foot closet to the carriage. Bend forward slightly and lower yourself onto the seat. Draw your outside leg in after you. You can also keep both legs together and sit first, then draw them up and in after you. Do the reverse when exiting.
** To perform a royal wave, hold your arm out straight, bend it at the elbow, then with a relaxed, open palm, rotate your wrist side-to-side lightly, as you would if you were screwing in a light bulb.
Carriages leave from Port Orleans Riverside and Fort Wilderness resorts and cost $45 per group. (For details, see http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2012/04/disney_worlds_fort_wilderness.html)

EDITED-bbb-princess-makepver.jpg
Girls can choose from three Princess hairstyles at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

4. Make a reservation for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Downtown Disney or inside the Magic Kingdom. At these salons, Fairy Godmothers-in-training will transform each girl into the princess she's always dreamed of being. Choose your royal treatments -- from hair, makeup, nails and an outfit. Prices start at $54.95. My daughter was transformed into Ariel when she was 4 and Belle when she was 7, and she was so excited about the experiences. (You can read more, plus see photos and video, at http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2012/03/magical_makeovers_at_disney_wo.html)

5. Visit the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for the My Disney Girl's Perfectly Princess Tea. "Rose Petal," a magical rose, hosts this event with Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) for children ages 3 to 11 daily (except Tuesdays and Saturdays) from 10:30 to noon. The party includes a sing-along, stories and traditional foods served with tea or apple juice. Girls receive "My Disney Girl" 18-inch doll dressed in a Princess Aurora gown with accessories, a tiara, Princess link bracelet, princess scrapbook page, a rose, and a "Best Friend" certificate. (Boys receive a Duffy the Disney Bear instead of the doll.) The price is $250 plus tax (includes gratuity) for one adult and one child. (Read guest reviews of this experience on AllEars.net at http://allears.net/din/girlstea.htm)

EDITED-royal-couple-topiary.jpg
Topiaries featuring royal couples are showcased at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

6. At the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (through May 20), look for the princess-shaped topiaries in World Showcase. Classic Disney couples can be found between the United Kingdom and France pavilions, and characters from "Beauty and the Beast" are located in the fresh-cut flower gardens of France. In Germany, you'll find Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in topiary. (AllEars has explored every nook and cranny of the festival and you can find details at http://allears.net/tp/ep/fg12/epcot-flower-and-garden-festival-2012.htm)

7. See your favorite princesses in live performances at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Belle appears in her own 30-minute Broadway-style show daily at the Theater of the Stars, and Ariel tells her story during a 17-minute show at The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. On select nights, several of the Disney Princesses take part in Fantasmic!, a 25-minute show using water sprays as a backdrop for animation combined with live-action characters. (Get the lay of the land with this DHS page: http://allears.net/tp/mgm/mgm.htm)

8. Take a ride on Snow White's Scary Adventures at the Magic Kingdom before it closes on May 31. It is one of the original rides from when the theme park opened 1971, though it was reworked in 1994 to make it less frightening. When the Fantasyland expansion construction is finished next year, there will be a new Dwarfs' cottage and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster. (You can stay up-to-date on the new Fantasyland rides and attractions at http://allears.net/tp/mk/fant_expansion.htm)

EDITED-cinderella-royal-table.jpg
Guests can meet Cinderella before their meal in her castle at Magic Kingdom.

9. Meet your favorite Disney Princesses in person for photos and autographs. Epcot and Magic Kingdom are the places to go for these encounters. Most of the princesses can be found inside the Town Square Theater at Magic Kingdom's entrance, though a few, such as Tiana, Ariel and Jasmine, are out in the park. Rapunzel moved last week from the Fairytale Courtyard to the Town Square Courtyard to make room for Brave's Merida in mid-May. At Epcot, the Disney Princesses can be seen outside various World Showcase pavilions, including Mulan in China. Check the daily guide for specific locations and times. (Plus, here are tips for finding your favorite princess: http://allears.net/tp/fur.htm)

10. Dine with the Disney Princesses. Cinderella hosts a breakfast, lunch and dinner in her castle at the Magic Kingdom with her Fairy Godmother and other princesses. My son and daughter really enjoyed this experience, both for the characters and the location. Reservations go quickly, so be prepared to book these meals exactly 180 days out. At Epcot, share a meal with royalty at Akershus Castle Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion. At the Grand Floridian, guests can join Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremain (her stepmother), Drucilla and Anastasia (her stepsisters) at Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner. This buffet is one of the tastiest character meals, and the banter between the stepsisters and their mother is hilarious. Plus, little girls have a rare opportunity to dance with Prince Charming. (Find out how to plan your character meal at http://allears.net/din/cb.htm)

Finally, at the end of your day, let your little princess snuggle in bed with some princess pajamas and a princess storybook before she dreams of all the fun she had celebrating the Disney princesses. Andrews suggests foregoing any peas under the mattress.


April 17, 2012

Disney Kids and Nature Celebration unites Disney Channel stars, Earth-friendly ideas

kristinford.jpg

EDITED-Disney-Channel-stars.jpg
Disney Channel actors Laura Marano, Ross Lynch, Debby Ryan, Bella Thorne and Zendaya interacted with youth leaders at Disney's Friends for Change Youth Summit during the Disney Kids and Nature Celebration at Walt Disney World.

The Walt Disney Co. began celebrating Earth Day at Walt Disney World with a weekend that featured its new star chimpanzees, Disney Channel actors and kids who want to help save the planet.

The Disney Kids and Nature Celebration kicked off April 13 with the world premiere of DisneyNature's Chimpanzee movie, which will be in theaters April 20. It tells the story of Oscar, a young chimp, and his adventures in the forest with his family. Tim Allen narrates the film.

"My favorite scene is everyone's favorite -- when the chimp gets on the other one's back. To know that no matter what happens to you, someone is always going to be there for you. For me, that was beautiful and made me tear up," said Bella Thorne, who plays Cece on Disney Channel's Shake It Up.

Her co-star Zendaya, who plays Rocky, wasn't as sentimental. She said, "I just loved the funny moments. I think I am kind of a comedienne just because I'm on a comedy show, and I love that kind of stuff."

Dr. Jane Goodall attended the red-carpet premiere at Downtown Disney, and a portion of tickets sales during the first week will be donated to her Institute to protect chimpanzees. The renowned researcher spoke about her work and the importance of helping the planet.

Ernie D, the lead on-air DJ for Radio Disney, said, "When I talked to Dr. Jane Goodall on the red carpet, she basically said, 'If every country lived like the United States of America, we would need six Earths to sustain that for only 10 years.' That was mind-blowing to me."

(See Jack Spence's blog, which includes photos and videos from the premiere, at http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2012/04/chimpanzee_disneynature_world.html The McClain Sisters, including China Ann from Disney Channel's A.N.T. Farm, performed the movie's anthem, "Rise.")

EDITED-awards-with-austin-ally.jpg
Mickey Mouse, with Laura Marano and Ross Lynch from Disney Channel's "Austin & Ally," presented each Planet Challenge award.

The Disney Kids and Nature Celebration continued April 14 with a day dedicated to celebrating the winners of Disney Channel's Planet Challenge and youth leaders who are already helping the environment in their communities. An awards ceremony at Epcot's American Gardens Theatre honored Brickett Elementary's fifth-grade class from Lynn, Massachusetts for their project "Think Before You Idle" and Christa McAuliffe School - PS 28's seventh-grade class from Jersey City, New Jersey, for their "Project Reservoir."

EDITED-youth-summit-winners.jpg
Students from Brickett Elementary and Christa McAuliffe School - PS 28's pose with Laura Marano; Meg Crofton, Walt Disney World president; Jay Rasulo; and Ross Lynch.

Then, the group moved to World Showplace, an indoor venue at Epcot, to hear Craig Kielburger speak about how kids really can make a difference. He founded Free the Children, an organization dedicated to halting global child labor, when he was 12 years old. Kielburger explained how his requests for help were turned down repeatedly, but he continued his dogged pursuit of what he knew he needed to do. Today, Free the Children is one of the leading youth-driven charities that benefit children.

Kielburger emphasized that every individual has a gift that can be used to make the world a better place. I asked Debby Ryan, who plays the title role on Disney Channel's Jessie, how she thinks she can make a difference in the world.

"Craig has been a role model of mine for a while, and he is so passionate," Ryan said. "He has this phrase, which is 'shamelessly idealistic.' I am that way. I am so realistic and I know what the world is, but I also am idealistic in that I think that we can change some things. I picture the world the way I would like to see it and then I think we can backtrack and see the steps that you require to actually make those changes."

Jay Rasulo, senior executive vice president and chief financial officer of The Walt Disney Co., encouraged the 100 youth participants to be leaders and to not be afraid to fail. "I was most sure what I was doing was right when I was passionate about it and people told me it was a bad idea -- but I didn't think it was," he said.

EDITED-Disney-Channel-actors.jpg
The Disney Channel stars take the stage with Radio Disney personality Ernie D. at the Friends For Change Youth Summit.

After a break for lunch with music and games from Ernie D and the Radio Disney Road Crew, the kids got to work making some concrete plans to help their communities. They were divided into groups, each led by a Disney Channel star, to create Disney 365 spots, which are promotional messages that air on the network. These messages of planet stewardship, however, were intended to inspire the kids' local communities to get involved.

EDITED-debby-ryan-group.jpg
Debby Ryan works with a group of students at the Friends For Change Youth Summit to plan a community initiative to help the planet.

"I think that we are aware, but we are not willing to take action. Awareness is the first step, but some kids, and adults, too, feel too small and that they can't help," said Laura Marano, who plays Ally on Disney Channel's Austin & Ally. "Today, at the Disney's Friends For Change Youth Summit, you see 100 kids from around the world doing things and you realize you're never too small to help. You're never too small to pick up trash or conserve water or join different organizations. Let's not just be the generation that's aware but the generation that changed it."

Marano's co-star Ross Lynch, who plays Austin, chimed in: "We're destroying the planet, and we all need to get outside and experience it. I love to be outside, and I love to play sports. Half of the beauty of sports is the nature around you. What if that's not there? I feel like we're kind of being selfish because we're all using it for ourselves when we have to look at other generations to come."

Disney Channel is expected to soon announce a new initiative tied to its Friends For Change campaign. "I feel like the next phase of Friends For Change, which I'm so excited to get started on, is so much bigger," said Ryan. She said it's likely to replace the Friends For Change Games, which succeeded the Disney Channel Games that were taped at Walt Disney World in 2007 and 2008.

"I feel like I've been blessed to have fans and to have people that I'm able to reach out to," said Zendaya. "But everybody has a voice. If you can use that to speak up for something positive, then that's when we start making a change."


April 12, 2012

Disney's dolphin presentations showcase cognitive research at Epcot

kristinford.jpg

EDITED%20dolphin%20shapes.jpg
An Epcot cast member helps prepare the shape cards for dolphin training.

My almost-8-year-old daughter loves dolphins these days, something that's not uncommon for little girls, it seems. And, certainly, last year's Dolphin Tale movie inspired kids to to find out more about the mammals and other marine life.

Moved by my daughter's new passion, I began looking into what types of interactions and experiences with dolphins Walt Disney World offers its guests.

At Epcot, four dolphins -- Malabar, Rainier, Khyber and Calvin -- live in the aquarium at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Visitors can watch them glide by and play from both the lower-level windows and the upper-deck viewing areas. And when the dolphins need a break, they can swim through a gate to pools "back stage" that guests cannot see.

Three times a day, trainers educate interested visitors about dolphin behavior with 15-minute presentations with the animals in the Observation Deck on the second floor. (A daily schedule is posted near the second-floor walkway to the dolphin tanks.)

EDITED%20dolphins%20sees%20shape.jpg
A Disney dolphin looks at the shape card he is supposed to match.

"It's interesting to see how surprised guests are at how smart dolphins appear to be," said Kim, a long-time dolphin trainer at Disney World.

She said trainers try to show guests something different every day, but one of their current projects involves cognitive research to study how dolphins perceive surface area. For example, can a dolphin learn to recognize a triangle it has just seen because of its shape, size, or both? Kim said it can take a dolphin up to a year to learn to discriminate between shapes, something they hope translates to a useful skill in the dolphin's environment.

EDITED%20dolphin%20picking%20shape.jpg
A dolphin tries to match a shape card he's seen by pointing to a bird outline.

During the presentation, one trainer will hold a shape card to the tank's glass and a dolphin will swim over to take a look. Then, the dolphin receives a signal to move to the next window and choose between two shapes to find a match. If he succeeds, he gets whistle and hand signals from the trainer and applause from the audience before heading to the surface for a food reward from another trainer. Guests usually find it amusing when the dolphin blows bubbles, pleased with himself for choosing the correct answer.

Disney's focus on dolphins is a scientific one, Kim said, rather than an entertaining one.

Disney World does have one up-close dolphin interaction called Disney's Dolphins in Depth. During this three-hour, behind-the-scenes program, participants learn how Disney cares for the dolphins each day, how researchers study and train them backstage and what issues are affecting marine life worldwide. During the last 30 minutes, guests stand in waist-deep water and interact with the dolphins. There is no swimming involved, and the group is limited to 8 people per day.

Participants must be at least 13 years old, and those 17 and younger must be accompanied by a parent. The cost is $194 plus tax per person; theme park admission is not required or included in this experience. Disney's Dolphins in Depth takes place at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

To read more about The Seas with Nemo & Friends, see the AllEars resource page at http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_seas.htm

April 10, 2012

Easter activities at Disney World a sweet treat for kids

kristinford.jpg

EDITED%20Easter%20egg%20hunt.jpg
Toddlers are invited to pose with oversized Easter eggs on the lawns at Epcot's U.K. pavilion.

This year, my children and I visited Epcot on Easter Sunday for the first time. Of course, we couldn't wait to check out the special holiday events, most of which were held outside the United Kingdom pavilion.

The setting was beautiful with the traditional green English gardens and mazes formed by hedges that were dotted with the colors from the variety of Easter eggs and spring flowers. In this area, kids could participate in three events -- egg hunts, egg relay races and meeting Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit.

EDITED%20Easter%20basket%20lady.jpg
This cast member was immersed in the Easter spirit Sunday as she coordinated activity reservations.

The maestro for all the Easter activities was a very patient cast member stationed in a life-size ribboned basket. It was her job to hand out reservation slips for the various events, which were limited to a certain number of children per session to avoid overcrowding.

Our group started with the Easter egg hunt for children younger than 3. Our friends were welcomed into a small area with a low wrought-iron fence and invited to choose five eggs to place in the Easter-themed bags they were given. In addition, they could pose with some Easter eggs that were almost as big as the kids. Very cute photos! No reservation was needed for this area.

EDITED%20Easter%20egg%20maze.jpg
The Maze Garden behind Epcot's U.K. pavilion added a fun twist to the annual Easter egg hunt.

Next, we lined up with our time slips for the egg hunt for ages 3 to 9. This search was located in the Maze Garden every 10 minutes. Cast members were efficiently hiding eggs on one side while kids were participating on the other. Eggs were placed in bushes and on walkways, and guests were again instructed to find five for their bags, and a cast member checked each bag at the exit. Of course, as most of the kids spilled out of the mazes, they eagerly opened the plastic eggs, which contained trinkets, stickers and candy.

EDITED%20Easter%20egg%20relay.jpg
Older kids were invited to participate in an Easter egg relay.

The Easter egg relay races for ages 8 to 12 were offered once each hour. Kids were first divided into two teams of 6 or 7 by two nature-themed characters from the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. I see this couple working together each year during the festival, and though their stage names change, their shtick doesn't. It's catchy and the kids can relate to their banter. The pair emceed the race, which involved each child balancing an egg on a large metal spoon while they speed-walked -- or ran -- a lap on the brick path that borders the gardens.

At the end, all the relay participants received goody bags with treat-filled plastic eggs. This, time, however, each bag had one special egg that contained a great prize, such as a Disney trading pin or a FASTpass for one of the big rides that was good during any time Sunday -- or the rest of the week.

EDITED%20Mr.%20Rabbit.jpg
Mr. Rabbit greeted guests while the Mrs. took a break.

Finally, we stood in the long line to meet Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit. It took us about 30 minutes to approach the popular couple, who were dressed in their Easter finery. Both appeared refreshed, despite all their early-morning deliveries.

The Easter events at the U.K. pavilion began at 11 a.m., and it was somewhat busy. By the time we had finished all the activities, though, the crowds had dwindled and there still were hours left to go for guests who wanted to join the fun.

Epcot also hosted a second Easter egg hunt location for ages 3 to 9 at the Innoventions "East-er" Garden (between Innoventions and Universe of Energy). The advantage there was that it opened earlier at 10 a.m., but it did seem more crowded than the U.K. location.

For my family, the walk back to the World Showcase was certainly worth it -- beautiful photos and so many activities in one place. We certainly would recommend it to any families looking for a little seasonal fun during their visits to Epcot.

February 20, 2012

HGTV’s 'My Yard Goes Disney' host says new things are in store for show’s new season

kristinford.jpg
Brandon%20Johnson%20photo.jpg


The second season of HGTV's popular My Yard Goes Disney kicks off this week with a one-hour premiere at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, February 24. I talked with the show's host, Brandon Johnson, about what viewers can expect this season and about how he enjoys his various Disney-related TV roles.

"We're going to be doing some things that are just a little bit more outrageous. We're doing things that we've never done before," Johnson said about the second season of My Yard Goes Disney. "We're going to be a lot more interactive than we were last year. "

This will be evident in the premiere, which Johnson jokingly called "My House Goes Disney" because the design team decided to renovate not just the yard, but some of the interiors as well. Even the space for the family pet was transformed with a magical makeover.

"We really want to do something special for this [Lakeland, Florida] family, and you'll certainly see why when you tune in," Johnson said.

So how outrageous are the yards going to get this year? Of course, Johnson can't give away too many details, but he did reveal this: "I can't say we've put in a roller coaster, but we've done something recently that is pretty unbelievable. ... It's got twists and turns, and you're up in the air. We're not just transforming stuff on the ground this year, we're going up in the air."

Johnson admits he would like this particular backyard for his own because he is a bit of an adrenaline junkie. His favorite ride at Walt Disney World is Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios. (Check out the AllEars page here to see what makes this Disney's Hollywood Studios attraction so great.)

"We're always trying to outdo the last thing, given the circumstances and the size of the backyard we get to work in. As always, it's playing off of the family's love of whatever their particular Disney experience may be," he said.

In addition, Imagineers consider what is new at Disney vacation destinations when creating their designs. This year, Disney will roll out Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, the Art of Animation hotel at Disney World, and the Disney Fantasy cruise ships. Wonder if we'll get sneak peeks?

Viewers can again expect to see other parts of the Disney theme parks featured in the show in some different ways. "We always have shots of the family enjoying themselves in various parks, and I'll be in there setting up stories," Johnson said. "This time we're also going to be going more into the places where some of these installations are created."

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

If you don't happen to bump into Johnson when he's filming My Yard Goes Disney, you'll have other opportunities to meet him when he is a featured speaker at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. He will give 30-minute presentations on ways to make your own yard go Disney at noon and 3 p.m. April 13-15. Johnson will explain how to recreate some of the design elements featured on the show that blend Disney imagination with HGTV design. After each presentation, he will meet and greet the audience. (AllEars gives you the scoop on what's new at the 2012 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.)

Disney Channel roles

When he's not busy with actual hosting duties, Johnson portrays a television host on Disney Channel's hit sitcom Shake It Up. He plays Gary Wilde, an the over-the-top character on the show's second season. He began developing the idea of a self-involved host when he had a recurring role as Brian Winters on Hannah Montana. Johnson said he was asked to portray Winters as a spoof of popular television host Ryan Seacrest, while making the character his own. Johnson built on his impression of Winters to create Wilde.

"It's a pretty amazing gift to be able to go to work and say this is how I make a living. I don't take it for granted at all. I've been extremely blessed to be a working actor and host for 10 years now," Johnson said. "I'm starting to come into something -- I'm not sure if the universe wants me to be an actor or a host, but it definitely seems to want me in front of the camera. I'll say "Thanks" and gladly hit my mark."

On Valentine's Day, Johnson launched his new website, www.officialbrandonjohnson.com, where there are links to all his social-media platforms. He enjoys connecting with fans and invites them to drop in and say "hi."


December 22, 2011

San Angel Inn: From Mexico City to Epcot

Andrew Rossi

When it comes to the countries of World Showcase, Mexico is one of my favorites to spend time in. While the pavilion's Mayan pyramid exterior is certainly impressive, it is what lies inside that makes Mexico truly unique among all the countries. It is unfortunate that more than a few guests to Epcot do not even know that there is an indoor portion to the Mexican pavilion and just pass by without getting to experience one of World Showcase's most immersive atmospheres. When it comes to transporting guests to a totally different time and place, no country does it quite as well as Mexico. From the minute you step inside you will almost forget that you are in Disney World and become completely immersed in the sights and sounds of a bustling Mexican nighttime marketplace.

Of course, no journey to Mexico would be complete without sampling the country's cuisine. Fortunately for guests, the pavilion offers a variety of dining options, from La Hacienda de San Angel and La Cantina de San Angel along the shores of the World Showcase Lagoon to the pavilion's tequila bar La Cava del Tequila. Each dining location has a something a little different to offer, but my personal favorite is the San Angel Inn. Not only does this restaurant deliver authentic Mexican cuisine, but it features an atmosphere unlike any other at Disney World.

San Angel Signage

Overview:
The San Angel Inn has its roots in Mexico itself and has a very fascinating history. The origins of the San Angel Inn in Mexico City actually go all the way back to 1692 when a beautiful hacienda was built near the town. Originally intended to be a monastery, the hacienda served as a tranquil retreat for the Mexican aristocracy. Among some of the more notable figures to visit the hacienda were General Santa Ana and Pancho Villa. The hacienda actually became a pulque (an alcoholic cactus beverage) factory before being purchased by the San Angel Land Company in 1906. The hacienda was then converted into a hotel and restaurant and named the San Angel Inn.

The San Angel Inn at Epcot's Mexico pavilion looks to continue the legacy of the original in Mexico City and deliver a dining experience which is truly authentic. As is stated on the restaurant's menu the San Angel Inn strives to "present the subtle flavors and surprising tastes which are genuinely Mexican." However, this is a restaurant that delivers an experience which is about so much more than just the food and this is what so successfully helps to create a complete sense of immersion into Mexican culture. The San Angel Inn is a restaurant that combines the "style and spirit of old Mexico, the warmth of hacienda hospitality, and the assurance of exceptionally fine food." Together, this is what makes the San Angel Inn a truly memorable dining experience.

Atmosphere:
The mood is set as soon as you step into the pyramid and make your way to the Plaza de los Amigos (Plaza of the Friends). The nighttime setting of the marketplace was specifically chosen by Disney Imagineers because it would be more authentic to the operating hours of a typical Mexican market. The marketplace is crammed with various carts and stands selling traditional Mexican items ranging from sombreros and piñatas to blankets, ceramic pottery, jewelry, and other hand-made goods.

Marketplace

As you meander your way through the marketplace toward the rear of the pavilion you will eventually come to the San Angel Inn. The restaurant's out of the way location may sometimes cause it to go overlooked by those not specifically seeking it out.

Dining Area1

One of the most notable features of the San Angel Inn is its position along the banks of the Grand Fiesta Tour boat ride. Guests sitting at tables on the water's edge dine as they watch other guests in their boats passing by. The Mayan pyramid and lush tropical jungle on the opposite side of the river serve as an impressive backdrop for the restaurant. There is even a smoldering, smoking volcano that erupts occasionally as well. It is certainly a beautiful setting to enjoy your meal.

Boat Ride

This is a concept the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else in Disney World, but most likely has its roots in Disneyland with the Blue Bayou Restaurant which sits inside of Pirates of the Caribbean.

The nighttime setting of the restaurant gives the San Angel Inn an intimate, slightly romantic feel. The atmosphere is so effective in creating an open-air, outdoor feel that you may actually forget that you are dining inside. Despite being right next to the Grand Fiesta Tour and adjacent to the busy marketplace, the restaurant is surprisingly quiet. This is a great restaurant if you are looking for a romantic meal, whether celebrating an anniversary or just wanting to spend some time alone away from the kids. At the same time, it is still a restaurant that is perfect for the entire family. Children will be greatly entertained watching the boats sail by on the river and the restaurant, although more upscale and refined, still has a warm and inviting feel.

Dining Area2

San Angel Inn not too long ago underwent a minor change in its décor, one that might go unnoticed by most but still had an impact on the overall feel of the restaurant. Prior to this, the San Angel Inn featured tables and chairs that were very bright and vibrant in color.

Old San Angel

These yellow tables with their green, pink, red, and yellow chairs were replaced by tables draped with white tablecloths and natural-colored wooden chairs. Even the layout of the tables in the restaurant was changed, with tables now positioned in straight rows.

New San Angel

On the tables themselves, the place settings now feature new flatware and china that is inspired by those found at the original San Angel Inn in Mexico City.

Table Settings

These changes not only help give the restaurant more of an upscale feel, but also increase the sense of authenticity. You really feel as though you are dining in the middle of Mexico.

The Menu:
Just as the San Angel Inn's décor was recently changed, the menu also underwent some transformations to deliver more authentic Mexican dishes similar to those found at the restaurant's Mexico City counterpart. The lunch and dinner menus are relatively similar with the major difference between the two being the price. The prices that I include here reflect those found on the dinner menu.

The menu features many intriguing appetizer offerings including Coctel de Camaron ($12.00), an Acopolco-style shrimp cocktail with a spicy marinated tomato sauce. Other items are the Tostadas de Tinga ($10.00), pulled chicken seasoned with roasted tomato and chipotle served on tostadas with refried beans, green tomatillo sauce, queso fresco, and sour cream, Tlacoyos de Chilorio ($11.00), corncakes topped with refried beans, pork, queso fresco, green tomatillo sauce, and sour cream, Tacos de Filete ($13.00) featuring beef tenderloin served on soft flour tortillas topped with a chipotle pepper sauce, Sopa Azteca ($7.00) served with fried tortilla strips, avocado, cheese, and pasilla pepper, and Ensalada Cesar ($10.00). It might seem unusual to see a Cesear salad at a Mexican restaurant, but it was actually created in Mexico in the 1920's by a restaurateur named Caesar Cardini and has been served at the San Angel Inn in Mexico City since 1963.

The entrée selections offer a little something for everyone with a variety of meat and seafood dishes. One common thread throughout all the dishes is their tremendous flavor, using a variety of herbs and seasonings you may not be familiar with. While there are many spicy selections on the menu that are certainly not for the faint of heart, there are others that are a little more mild in flavor. If you are an adventurous eater who likes to try new and different dishes this is a great restaurant for you, if not, my best advice would be to ask your server to provide recommendations as to which of the menu items are on the milder side.

Entrée selections include Mole Poblano ($23.00), a grilled chicken breast served over poblano rice with a mole sauce made of nuts, spcies, chiles, and a hint of cocao, Pollo a las Rajas ($23.00) featuring a grilled chicken breast served with a red pepper and onion cream sauce over poblano rice, Mahi Mahi a la Veracruzana ($23.00) prepared with capers, olives, bell peppers, Spanish onions, and tomatoes, seasoned with white wine and spices, and served over poblano rice, Tilapia al Huitlacoche ($25.00) served over poblano rice and finished with a corn mushroom sauce, Carne Asada a la Tampique ($28.00), featuring a grilled beef tenderloin topped with red bell pepper and onions served with a cheese enchilada, refried beans, Mexican rice, and guacamole, Chile Relleno ($24.00), a poblano pepper stuffed with pork, pine nuts, and almonds topped with a roasted tomato sauce, Lomo de Puerco en Pipian ($26.00), a pork tenderloin served over roasted vegetables and a "pipian" of pumpkin, chilies, and almond sauce, and Camarones a la Diabla ($26.00) featuring roasted shrimp and poblano rice served over a yucca puree and topped with a chile sauce.

You might want to save room for dessert because there are several delectable options available including Crema Bavaria ($8.00), a creamy Bavarian mousse served with mixed berries, cinnamon, and orange liqueur, Isla Flotante ($8.00), a caramelized lime meringue served over vanilla sauce with mixed berries, Helado de Dolce de Leche ($7.00), which is caramel ice cream, and Crepas de Cajeta ($8.00) featuring warm crepes topped with caramel sauce and toasted almonds.

For my entrée I decided on the Carne Asada a la Tampique. What drew my attention to this entrée was not only the steak itself, but also the variety of accompaniments that it comes served with. The steak itself was extremely tender and juicy, grilled just the way I ordered it (medium-well so that it was just slightly pink in color on the inside). The steak had a great taste on its own, but it also came topped with grilled red peppers and onions the provided even extra flavor. The steak had the noticeable taste of crushed black pepper and was probably seasoned with the pepper before being grilled. While this flavor was certainly not overpowering by any means, it did provide a nice little kick to the steak without taking away from it.

Carne Asada

Alongside the steak was a generous portion of Mexican rice and refried beans. I found the rice to be a little on the dry side, but it still had good flavor and a slight spiciness. I was very impressed with the refried beans. I am not the biggest fan of refried beans, but these were extremely good, providing a nice contrast in flavor and texture to that of the steak. Also served with the steak was a cheese enchilada. While this is a less conventional item to have with a steak, I actually found the two went along well with each other. The softness and cheesiness of the enchilada provided a contrast to the flavor of the steak and gave the dish a distinctly Mexican feel. Overall, I found the serving size to be very generous, the steak and its accompaniments making for a very filling meal.

For dessert I ordered the Crepas de Cajeta and it was one of the sweeter desserts I have had. The crepes come completely smothered in caramel sauce. While the crepes themselves were nice and light, the sauce was extremely rich and filling and I was not even able to finish the entire dessert. The crunchiness of the almonds provided a nice contrast in texture to the softer crepes and they helped add a little extra flavor to the dish.

Crepes

I do not usually say this, but this was a dessert that was almost too sweet. I love caramel, but the sauce really overpowered the crepes. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the dessert, I think a little less caramel sauce would have actually been better . Also, a scoop of vanilla ice cream would have gone a long way in providing a much needed light and refreshing contrast in flavor.

Service:
As with all the restaurants around World Showcase, the servers at San Angel Inn are actually from Mexico. This is something that helps to add an extra degree of authenticity to your dining experience. The severs here do much more than take your order and deliver your food, but they actually help transport you to Mexico; they are cultural representatives that can give insight into what life in Mexico is actually like. I have had several experiences here and other restaurants across World Showcase where severs will openly talk about life in their native countries and how things in the United States are different from their homes. This really helps add a whole other element to your dining experience and enables guests to gain greater appreciation of these foreign cultures; it is something that makes dining in World Showcase unique.

As with any restaurant, you will have some severs that are more talkative and personable than others. One downside to having severs with English as their second language is that there is sometimes a language barrier. Your server might not fully understand some questions you may be asking and guests can sometimes have difficultly understanding what the servers are trying to say. That being said, I found all the servers at San Angel Inn to be very courteous and respectful, seeking to deliver the best dining experience possible.

Dining on a Budget:
My best advice if you are looking to save some money would be to dine at San Angel Inn for lunch rather than dinner. While the menus are very similar, the lunch items are generally cheaper. Even those items that are found on both the lunch and dinner menus are cheaper at lunch. For example, the Pollo a las Rajas costs $17 for lunch, but for dinner the price jumps to $23.

One of the best values on the menu is the Traditional Mexican Lunch/Dinner. This is a prix fixe selection that includes an appetizer, entrée, and dessert and, even though there are no substitutions allowed, it is very reasonable price. The lunch offering includes Sopa Azteca (a traditional tortilla soup), Falda, which is a grilled skirt served with corn, spring onions, and black refried beans, and Flan for dessert all for just $25. The dinner is comprised of Tostadas de Tinga, which is pulled chicken seasoned with roasted tomato and chipotle served on tostadas with refried beans, green tomatillo sauce, queso fresco, and sour cream, Tacos de Pescado (fish tacos with cabbage, lime, and a green tomatillo sauce), and the Crema Bavaria dessert all for $34.

If you were to order just the Tostadas de Tinga and Crema Bavaria off the dinner menu individually the cost would be $18 alone, so it is like you are getting the entrée for $16. Making the deal even better is that both lunch and dinner offerings come with a soft drink included in the price. These three course meals are a great way to sample a greater variety of Mexican flavors for a very reasonable price.

The San Angel Inn is a slightly less expensive option, for dinner and especially for lunch, than La Hacienda de San Angel located outside on the shores of the World Showcase lagoon. However, it should be noted that the menus and dishes offered at the two restaurants are totally different from each other. If you are in the mood for Mexican food but just want a quick and relatively inexpensive meal, I would highly recommend La Cantina de San Angel (also located outside along the lagoon) which has a variety of offering ranging from tacos and nachos to empanadas. This is one of the better-quality quick service dining locations you will find at Epcot with prices ranging from $10 to $12.

The San Angel Inn does participate on the Disney Dining Plan and is worth one table service credit for both lunch and dinner. The restaurant also offers a 10% discount for Annual Passholders, but only for lunch on Mondays through Fridays. There is no discount for Disney Vacation Club members, however. The San Angel Inn does participate in Tables in Wonderland and thus offers the 20% for members.

The Overall Experience:
The San Angel Inn delivers a truly memorable dining experience on multiple levels. The restaurant features a menu of flavorful, authentic Mexican cuisine, a group of dedicated and passionate servers from Mexico itself, and a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind atmosphere that is unmatched by any other dining location in Disney World. All these things combine help make the San Angel Inn one of the most immersive restaurants in World Showcase. You are so completely wrapped up in the sounds, sights, and tastes of Mexico that you will easily forget that you are actually sitting in the middle of a theme park.

While both the food and service are extremely good, it is the restaurant's atmosphere that keeps making me want to go back again and again. It is a restaurant that enables you to feel as though you are dining outside under the stars, but without having to put up with insects or the elements. Calm and quiet, with a slightly refined and romantic feel, the San Angel Inn is certainly one of the most beautiful restaurants you will find in all of Disney World. Dining here is about so much more than just the food, it is about the complete dining experience; it is a little bit of Mexico in the middle of Florida.

See past reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of San Angel Inn and post your own too!

December 21, 2011

Tables in Wonderland Holiday Party

by John Bowers
Guest Blogger

This event was held Saturday December 17, 2011 in the Norway Lounge in Epcot.
Price: $115 per person, plus tax. Gratuity is included.

Let's pop the champagne, we have good reason!
The holidays are here and we're celebrating the season!

The cookies have been made, the wrapping is done.
It's time to sit back and have a little fun!

The decorations are up, the lights are aglow.
Let's celebrate with folks we know!

Five to ten o'clock on Saturday, the seventeenth of December
You are invited to the Tables in Wonderland Holiday Party for a night to remember.

Norway Lounge at Epcot is where we'll be,
So bring your Holiday Spirit and be ready to party!

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Please join us for a little bubbly and good cheer
to toast the Holidays and the coming New Year!

5:00pm - 5:30pm Reception
5:30pm - 7:45pm Dinner
8:15pm - 9:00pm Candlelight Processional with celebrity narrator Chita Rivera (entertainment subject to change without notice)
9:00pm - 10:00pm IllumiNations Viewing

Holidays Around the World Menu

Reception

Passed Selection of Chilled French Influenced Items
Tuna Nicoise Spoon
Wild Mushrooms with Fennel and Leeks
Grilled Poulet Rouge with Grape Pearls
Moët Impérial - France

Plated Dinner

New Zealand Influenced Salad Course
Baby Romaine Leaves with Roasted Kumara, Apple Radish Slaw and Lemon Vinaigrette
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc - New Zealand

California Influenced Appetizer Course
Grilled Artichoke, Shaved Zucchini, Heirloom Tomato and Curry Coriander Smear with Pea Tendrils and Oven Dried Prosciutto
Chandon Pinot Meunier - California


Argentinean Influenced Entrée
Green Chile Barbeque Braised Beef Shortrib
Chimi Churi Roasted Yuca with Onions and Garlic served with Fresh Roasted Corn
Terrazas Afincado Single Vineyard Malbec - Argentina

French Influenced Dessert
Grapefruit Custard Brulee with Raspberries, Mint Chifonade and Grape Tuile
Moët Ice Impérial - France

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tables in Wonderland hosted a Holiday Party on Saturday, December 17, 2011 at the Norway Lounge at Epcot. The Norway Lounge is a space mostly above the Maelstrom attraction.

We had a nice (short) reception, with the three delicious passed tidbits (tuna nicoise,
wild mushrooms, and the poulet rouge) and an open bar featuring a chardonnay, a merlot and a champagne.

About 5:30, we were seated, eight people to a table, for dinner. I believe there were about
8 tables.

Since the theme was 'Holidays Around the World,' the food was themed around different countries. The reception treats had been French-influenced, and our salad course was New Zealand-influenced. An unusual component of the salad was roasted kumara. Kumara, it turns out, is what the Kiwis call a sweet potato. What else to pair with a light New Zealand-influenced salad, but a crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc, of course. Cloudy Bay, which burst onto the scene with outstanding sauvignon blanc in about the mid-1990s, was the winery.


Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Our next course was a California-influenced appetizer. Grilled artichoke, with some zucchini, tomato, and a nicely spicy curry coriander smear. Exotic and tasty. And a Chandon Pinot Meunier, a red wine that compares to pinot noir, to sip with it. Pinot meunier, if you haven't had it, is a real surprise.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Down to Argentina for the main course. Green Chile Barbeque Braised Beef Shortrib, along with roasted yuca. Yuca is also called cassava, it's similar to a potato. Unique, and very good. The shortrib, wow, they must have slow braised it for days. Rich and (as they say) so tender you could cut it with a fork. And with Argentinian-influenced beef, what else? An Argentinian malbec, specifically a Terrazas Afincado malbec. Similar to a cabernet or maybe a bordeaux-blend, malbec has really taken off in Argentina, and is an excellent value in red wine that pairs well with beef.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

For dessert, we headed back to France for creme brulee and raspberries. Interesting base for the creme brulee: grapefruit. It was more like a flan than a brulee, but I didn't hear any complaints about the rich taste. The dessert wine was the most interesting part of the dinner: Moet Ice Imperial Champagne. A champagne you drink over ice. Seriously! Google it, you'll see. Serve it for your holiday party, you'll be the talk of the town, I promise.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

As we departed the Norway Lounge to go to the Candlelight Processional, we were each given a beautiful potted white poinsettia. A very thoughtful gift from Disney, and quite a surprise. Imagine what about 65 people looked like, all walking from Norway over to the America Gardens theater, each one carrying a potted poinsettia.

TiW2011Norway9.JPG

We had reserved seating for the Candlelight Processional, and our celebrity narrator
was the Broadway theater legend Chita Rivera. If you've seen the Processional, I don't need to tell you how beautiful and truly moving it is. If you haven't seen it, see it. There are very few dry eyes in the house at the end of that show.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Finally, we gathered our poinsettias and were led over to the terraced area in front of the Italy pavilion, for our own little private spot to watch Illuminations. After the regular Illuminations show ended, Disney nailed a big exclamation point on the holiday evening with a spectacular display of fireworks and lasers that left us all wide-eyed. No matter how many times you've seen fireworks displays out there, you always walk away impressed.

A very special evening, with all the usual Disney hospitality touches. Happy Holidays!

November 27, 2011

Have a Jolly Good Time at the Rose and Crown

Andrew Rossi

When it comes to truly immersive dining experiences, Epcot's World Showcase offers a tremendous variety of restaurants to try. While each country's restaurants offer something a little different for guests, they share a common thread in that they all strive to achieve a level of authenticity that helps immerse guests into that country's cuisine and culture. The restaurants in World Showcase are among the most unique in all of Disney World. These are restaurants that are about so much more than just the food they serve; it is truly about the complete dining experience.

These are all restaurants help to transport guests, introducing them to cultures that can sometimes be very different from our own. They are able to do this not only through their unique cuisine, but also through tremendously detailed decors and servers who are actually from that country. My next few reviews will highlight several of these restaurants beginning here with the Rose and Crown, a restaurant that will truly immerse you in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the United Kingdom.

Rose and Crown Entrance

Overview:
When it comes to all the various cuisines found around World Showcase, the United Kingdom is probably not on the top of many lists. Overshadowed by the more well-known foods of other countries such as Italy, Mexico, and France people might tend to overlook the Rose and Crown or dismiss it for one of these other options instead. It is true that the United Kingdom is probably known more for its beer than its food, but a meal at the Rose and Crown will certainly help to open your eyes to the different dishes and flavors of English cuisine.

Here in lies one of the great values of World Showcase, and specifically its restaurants: the ability to allow guests to experience cultures and cuisines that they may have never experienced before. It is restaurants, like the Rose and Crown, that allow guests to step out of their comfort zone and be adventurous, trying new foods and experiencing new flavors that they may never have tasted before. If you have never really sampled English cuisine, the Rose and Crown is certainly worth a visit, delivering a truly authentic and immersive dining experience unlike any other in Epcot.

Atmosphere:
The Rose and Crown's high degree of immersion and attention to detail start before you even set foot inside the restaurant. Even though there is just one restaurant inside, the building's exterior has the appearance a several different structures. The varying architectural details and designs found on the building's facade are meant to reflect four distinct pub styles found in different areas of the United Kingdom (and each is also reflected with a corresponding room inside the restaurant as well). The first style is the "city" or "street" pub that dates from the Victorian era of the 1890s and is distinguished by a facade of brick and wood paneling.

City Pub Exterior

Next comes the Dickensian pub, its Elizabethan-styled exterior includes the restaurant's large brick-walled, flagstone terrace, a slate roof, and a timbered facade. Also featured is the "waterfront" or "river" pub. Located on the rear of the restaurant, facing the water, it is a modest stone building with a clay tiled roof and decorative doorways.

Waterfront View

The final section of the building's exterior is the "country" or "provincial" pub found in the suburbs of the 17th and 18th centuries, featuring a slate roof and plaster facade with stone-quoined corners.

Provincial Exterior

The Rose and Crown is unique among World Showcase dining locations because it functions as both a sit-down restaurant and a walk-in pub. If you enter Rose and Crown through its front entrance you will find yourself in the pub, featuring a large bar as well as some additional seating that is available at a first-come-first-serve basis. Guests can order drinks at the bar to either to have inside the pub or take with them to go. This pub section of Rose and Crown can become very crowded, especially at night and on weekends, and its boisterous, lively atmosphere is carried throughout the rest of the restaurant. This really helps to give Rose and Crown a lively and energetic atmosphere that really makes it feel like an authentic English pub.

As with the pub section of the restaurant, the main dining room (which is actually entered into through a side entrance) features a decidedly laid-back, relaxing feel. In fact the motto of the Rose and Crown, as seen on the restaurant's entrance and on the menu, is "Otium cum Dignitate," Latin for "Leisure with Dignity," which perfectly describes the overall feel of the restaurant.

Rose and Crown Signage

The dining room, just as with the restaurant's exterior, is divided into a series of smaller rooms and as you pass from one to another you are transported to a different styles of pubs found in various part of the country. Each room has its own distinct feel and character along with a wide array of tiny details and theming that help to truly immerse you into different aspects of British culture from different time periods.

The first section is reflective of the Victorian era "city" or "street" pub, the likes of which would have been found in London. This is the grandest and most elaborate of the restaurant's rooms, featuring a large mahogany bar, etched glass, and a molded plaster ceiling.

City Pub1

City Pub2

The next room is far smaller and is reminiscent of the "country", "provincial" pubs of the English suburbs. This section has a far more intimate and modest feel. Here you can find many more outdoor, rustic touches such as antlers, a hunting horn, as well as pewter cups and teapots. This part of the restaurant actually feels more like an English country home than a pub.

Provincial Room1

Provincial Room2

Moving through the restaurant you next come to the room representing the Dickensian pub of the Elizabethan era. This room is not only larger in size, but also features more elaborate and intricate decorative elements. One of the main features of the room is its wood-paneled walls that really help to give the room more of an upscale feel.

Elizabethan Room

Adding to this is the room's large fireplace (although this is just decorative in purpose).

Elizabethan Room Fireplace

Along the tops of the wall are numerous porcelain dishes of various colors and styles, their intricate details adding a sense of refinement to the room.

Porcelain Dishes1

Porcelain Dishes2

The final room is reflective of the "waterfront" pub and has a distinctive inn-styled feel. Here the walls are completely covered with various knick knacks that reflect the pub's river locale, such as black and white photographs of sailboats, knots, compasses, and other seafaring items. Also adorning the walls are framed newspapers that lend an even greater sense of authenticity to this section of the dining room.

Waterfront Dining Room1

Waterfront Dining Room2

No matter what section of the dining room you are seated in there are large windows that let in ample amounts of sunlight during the day and offer tremendous views of the World Showcase lagoon.

Outside View1

Outside View2

One of the main allures of Rose and Crown is its tremendous location and the ample outdoor seating found on its patio. The restaurant's patio is fully covered and wraps around the entire side and rear of the building; it is a great place to enjoy your meal with a great view.

Patio Seating

The covered seating along with the breeze coming off the lagoon means that, even during the hottest months of the summer, the patio is a relatively cool location to enjoy your meal. The patio seating is in high demand during the day, but even more so at night when it is a prime viewing location for Illuminations. While outdoor seating cannot be guaranteed when making reservations at the restaurant, you are able to request a table outside.

Of course, no English pub would be complete without some live entertainment and at the Rose and Crown this is provided by the Hat Lady. With her numerous, crazy, colorful hats, the Hat Lady performs at select times throughout the day in the pub entertaining guests with jokes and encouraging everyone to sing along to well-known songs. One of the loudest moments I ever heard inside the Rose and Crown was when the Hat Lady started playing "Don't Stop Believing" and nearly everyone joined in the chorus.

Hat Lady

This entertainment helps provide an added degree of energy and excitement and helps to establish the restaurant's authentic English pub feel. This is not necessarily the type of restaurant to go to if you are looking for a quiet, romantic meal, but if you are looking to have a good time with friends or family the Rose and Crown is definitely a dining location that you want to try and is great for the entire family.

The Menu:
The Rose and Crown features three distinct menus: one for lunch, another for dinner, and a third just for the pub section. The lunch and dinner menus are similar, but have some items that are exclusive to one or the other.

When it comes to appetizers the menus for both lunch and dinner are the same and feature several intriguing choices, some familiar and others unfamiliar. There is a Trio of United Kingdom Pasties ($16.99) featuring a sausage roll, mushroom wellington, and beef pasty, Pan-Roasted Mussels ($10.99) with tomatoes, herbs, and a bass ale reduction, a Trio of United Kingdom Cheese ($9.99), Winter Squash Bisque ($4.99), and Potato and Leek Soup ($3.99), Mary and the Lads ($9.99), shrimp cocktail served with a spicy Bloody Mary mix, and Scotch Eggs ($8.99) which are fried hard boiled eggs wrapped in sausage meat and served with a mustard sauce.

For entrees, the lunch menu includes a Grilled Pork Brisket ($15.99) served with marble mashed potatoes, green beans, and a mushroom ragout, there is also the Sunday Roast ($16.99) accompanied by Yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes, and seasonal vegetables with a shallot gravy, Bangers and Mash ($14.99), the United Kingdom Pub Burger ($13.99) topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, and crispy shallots, Fish and Chips ($16.99), a Romaine Salad ($13.99) with chicken, bacon, and a mustard vinaigrette served with cheddar cheese scones, Shepherd's Pie ($17.99) with lamb, onions, carrots, and mushrooms topped with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese, and a Corned Beef Sandwich ($11.99) served on toasted sunflower bread with cabbage, Swiss cheese, and spicy mustard.

The dinner menu features several of the same dishes, but also includes some additions as well. There is a Grilled Salmon ($20.99) with caramelized marble potatoes, baby carrots, and a malt vinegar reduction, Grilled Sirloin and Fried Fish ($26.99) served with Yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and a red wine sauce, Pan-Roasted Cornish Hen ($18.99), and a Pork Duo ($15.99) featuring grilled brisket with a mushroom ragout and braised pork with mashed potatoes and a red wine sauce.

The dessert menu is the same for both lunch and dinner and includes Cheesecake ($5.49) with a Drambuie ganache, Irish Whiskey Caramel Custard ($5.99) a Bakewell Tart ($5.49) with a cherry compote, Sticky Toffee Pudding ($4.99) served with a warm vanilla custard and hot butter-rum sauce, and a No Sugar Added Fruit Tart ($5.49) with layers of yellow sponge cake, fresh fruit, and custard topped with whipped cream.

If you do not have dining reservations and are not able to get a table in the restaurant's main dining room, or if you are just looking for a quick bite to eat, there is the option of eating in the pub section. The pub menu is simple and features items on the regular lunch and dinner menu that pair particularly well with a beer from the bar. There is Fish and Chips ($7.99), Scotch Eggs ($8.99), the Trio of United Kingdom Cheese ($9.99), and the Corned Beef Sandwich ($11.99). One item that is unique to the pub menu is the English Bulldog ($6.99), a split banger stuffed with mashed potatoes, chopped bacon, Irish cheddar, and a spicy mustard sauce.

For my entrée I decided on the Sunday Roast. When I placed my order my waitress commented that it was her favorite item on the menu, something she recommends to everyone, and I am happy to say that it lived up to her high praise. When the dish was set in front of me I was first impressed with the large portion size, with a generous helping of roast beef and equally large amounts of potatoes and vegetables. The roast beef was very tender, the meat nice and moist. The flavor of the beef was greatly enhanced by the shallot gravy that complimented it extremely well. I did not find the flavor of shallots to be too overwhelming, but it did add a nice bit of extra flavor to the dish.

Sunday Roast

I was surprised to find that the dish came with not only roasted potatoes but also mashed potatoes as well. I was initially a little disappointed that there were only two roasted potatoes, but I actually liked the mashed potatoes more. The mashed potatoes were smooth and creamy and had a decidedly buttery taste. I really enjoyed the string beans especially because they were cooked perfectly so as not to be too mushy nor too crunchy.
What interested me most about the dish was the Yorkshire pudding, something which I had never tried before. I found the Yorkshire pudding to be very similar in flavor, texture, and consistency to a popover. It was a light, fluffy pastry that provided a nice contrast to the heartier roast beef.

For dessert I was very intrigued by the Sticky Toffee Pudding and I will not hesitate to say that it was one of the better desserts that I have had in all of Disney World. This dessert is not the type of pudding that you may be familiar with, but more like a soft, moist cake. This is a dessert with tremendous flavor and I really enjoyed the way that the contrasting flavors of the warm vanilla custard and hot butter-rum sauce combined with one another. I found that there was just the slightest flavor of rum, not overwhelming but just enough to give the dessert a little bit of a kick.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Service:
One of the great things about the restaurants of World Showcase is that you get to interact with people actually from these countries. The Cast Members working at each of the restaurants are more than just servers, but rather are "cultural representatives" who help give us some insight into the lives and customs of the countries they are from. I found the servers at Rose Crown to be extremely pleasant, peppy, and friendly. My server in particular was very talkative. We had a long conversation about how she was making the transition from England and getting used to the different environment and culture of Disney World and the United States.

I also found the servers here to all be very polite and courteous. When I asked my server about the Yorkshire pudding she went out of her way to explain how it was prepared. She also offered explanations of other items on the menu and gave recommendations of her own personal favorites. I found it a little funny at first that my waitress kept referring to me as "hun," "sweetie," or "my love," but then I realized that the servers at other tables were referring to their guests the same way. I found this to be a reflection of English culture and how the servers at Rose and Crown were genuinely concerned with making their guests feel welcome; it showed that they really cared about ensuring their guests had the best dining experience possible.

Dining on a Budget:
When it comes to the sit-down restaurants around World Showcase, Rose and Crown is actually one of the more affordable for both lunch and dinner. The lunch menu, however, does feature some cheaper options. Less expensive items on the lunch menu such as the United Kingdom Pub Burger ($13.99), Romaine Salad ($13.99), and Corned Beef Sandwich ($11.99) are replaced with pricier items at dinner such as the Grilled Sirloin and Fried Fish ($26.99) and the Grilled Salmon ($20.99).

One item I would not suggest ordering at Rose and Crown is the Fish and Chips largely because of its $16.99 price tag. Located just outside of the Rose and Crown is the Yorkshire County Fish Shop which offers Fish and Chips for $8.19. If you are in the mood for Fish and Chips I would go here instead. While the size may not be as large as the one served inside the Rose and Crown dining room, it is still a good-sized portion and filling enough to be a meal unto itself.

In addition, Fish and Chips can also be found on the Rose and Crown's pub menu for $7.99. The pub menu, while not as extensive as the dining room's lunch and dinner menus, is a great alternative if you are looking for an authentic English meal at a more affordable price while still enjoying the immersive atmosphere that Rose and Crown has to offer. In addition to the Fish and Chips the pub menu also features a cheaper version of the Scotch Eggs appetizer for $8.99, the Corned Beef Sandwich for $11.99, and the very intriguing English Bulldog for $6.99.

The Rose and Crown is on the Disney Dining Plan and is worth one credit for both lunch and dinner. While there are no discounts for Disney Vacation Club or Annual Passholders, the restaurant is a part of Tables in Wonderland and offers its 20% discount.

The Overall Experience:
English food might not be my favorite type of cuisine, but dining at the Rose and Crown has showed me that it can deliver a wide range of great-tasting and flavorful dishes. This is the type of restaurant that is great for trying something new, to break away from foods you are used to eating in your everyday life. The Rose and Crown is a nice change of pace from the other restaurants around World Showcase, not only in terms of the food on its menu but also because of its very distinct atmosphere.

With its pub-like feel, the Rose and Crown is one of the more lively and energetic dining locations in all of Epcot. Combined with its immersive theming and attention to detail, you really feel as though you have been transported to England. Only adding to the restaurant's allure is its tremendous location right on the World Showcase lagoon, offering tremendous views by day and an ideal location for watching Illuminations at night. Dining at Rose and Crown is a fun, laid-back, relaxing dining experience that is great for everyone in the family, kids and adults alike. Not being too familiar with English cuisine, Rose and Crown certainly exceeded my expectations in every facet of my dining experience and I look forward to returning there again in the future.

See past restaurant reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of Rose and Crown and post your own too!

November 4, 2011

A Little Taste of Food & Wine

Andrew Rossi

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival is one of my favorite times of year at Disney World; there is so much to do, so much to see, and so much good food to taste. One of the things I enjoy most about the Festival is that it allows you to sample the cuisines of so many different countries that you do not normally get to experience. The Festival is a dream come true for the adventurous eater, allowing one to encounter new ingredients, flavors, and dishes both exotic and unique. Epcot is always my go-to park when it comes to great food and this is all the more heightened during the Food & Wine Festival.

Festival Signage

This year's Festival features twenty-nine international marketplaces ranging from Singapore to Portugal to the Caribbean Islands and with so much good food to be found it can sometimes be very difficult to decide which dishes to try. As you walk around World Showcase and look at various menus you quickly find yourself wanting to try everything, the pleasant aromas filling the air only adding to the temptation. Of course, it would cost far too much money to try every single item that the Festival has to offer and so here I present a few of my favorites in the hope it will help you decide which dishes might interest you most.

We will start with Morocco. Although the Moroccan pavilion features both a full service restaurant and quick service eatery, the country's Food & Wine marketplace presents some different offerings.

Morocco Marketplace

Here I decided to try the Kefta Pocket which was described on the menu as ground seasoned beef in a pita pocket. I likened the beef to a spicy hamburger. While the beef did have a very distinct spiciness to it I did not find its flavor to be overwhelming and, even though the beef was a little on the dry side, this did not take away from the flavor. Accompanying the beef in the pita was a type of cole slaw that provided a light and refreshing accompaniment that paired very well with the stronger flavored beef. For $5.00 this is one of the more expensive items throughout the marketplaces, but the size of the dish makes it a good value.

Kefta Pocket

The Hops and Barley marketplace features foods and beers from the United States. Although I like to use the Food & Wine Festival as a way of sampling the cuisines of distant countries that I may not be as familiar with, I could not resist trying a new item on the menu here this year.

Hops and Barley Marketplace

The Pumpkin Mousse with Ocean Spray Craisins and Orange Sauce immediately jumped out at me because I am a huge fan of all things pumpkin and I am happy to say that it certainly lived up to my expectations. The pumpkin mousse was very smooth and creamy and had a flavor similar to that of a pumpkin pie only a little more on the sweet side. To be honest, the only flavor that I really noticed was that of the pumpkin and could not really pick out the orange sauce (which I was glad because the combination of pumpkin and orange seemed a little odd to me). The mousse came topped with chopped nuts and craisins that added a nice contrast in texture to that of the mousse. For $1.50 this is one of the best valued items in the entire Festival.

Pumpkin Mousse

Scandinavia makes its return this year after a brief hiatus and may have one of the best themed exteriors of any of the marketplaces.

Scandanavia Marketplace

Here I chose the Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries. While this may not be the most visually appealing dish at the Festival, it certainly has great taste and flavor. The meatballs themselves were very moist and tender and were somewhat different in consistency than the meatballs you would get if dining out at an Italian restaurant. Accompanying the meatballs was a lingonberry sauce, which to me tasted very similar to cranberry sauce. I found the lingonberries to be very strong in flavor, and while they did provide some sweetness to the dish and a nice contrast to the flavor of the meatballs, they were a little too overpowering. The meatballs were just as good without the sauce as they were with it on them (and without the sauce you could actually appreciate the flavor of the meatballs more). For $3.50 I found this to be a good sized portion and a good value.

Swedish Meatballs

Argentina is a marketplace that always stands out, not only because of its bright yellow color, but also because of the tremendous aromas wafting from the food being cooked inside.

Argentina Marketplace

I had heard great things about the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée last year and this year decided to give it a try. The chimichurri sauce gave the dish a very strong and distinctive flavor, but it really made the dish what it is. I can best describe the chimichurri sauce as being a slightly spicy pesto and its taste was the dominant flavor in the dish. This is definitely a dish with a kick to it and not for the faint of heart. The boniato puree had the texture and flavor of mashed potatoes that was really enhanced by the chimichurri sauce. The beef itself was tender and juicy and while its $5.00 cost makes it one of the more expensive items it is most definitely worth the price. This is a very high quality and great tasting dish and I would not hesitate to say it is my favorite among the dishes I have sampled so far.

Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce

Hawaii is a new addition to the Festival this year, helping to draw attention to Disney's new Aulani resort which just recently opened.

Hawaii Marketplace

Here I ordered the Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise. I did not expect the slider to be as spicy as it actually was. The mayonnaise provided a definite kick to the dish and even the pineapple chutney was more on the spicy side than the sweet side. That being said, the pineapples did provide a sweeter, refreshing accompaniment to the flavor of the pork. Overall, I thought that all the varying flavors of the dish blended together very nicely. The pork came served on a soft roll, although I wish the roll had been more crusty because it would have made an already good dish even better. For $3.00 this was a very good value in terms of both portion size and quality and one of the better new items at the Festival this year.

Pork Slider

No trip to the Food & Wine Festival for me can be complete without a stop at the Ireland marketplace because it features my favorite dessert.

Ireland Marketplace

The Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Bailey's Irish Cream Ganache is something that I order every year and keep wishing that there was someplace at Disney that served it all year round. This is definitely a sweet, rich, decadent dessert and, even though it is small, it is still very filling. The chocolate cake comes served warm and is extremely moist, but what truly makes the dessert is the Bailey's ganache that is served on top. While the sauce does have a distinct Bailey's flavor, I did not find this to be too overpowering. Rather, there was just enough taste of Bailey's to give the dessert a little bit of a kick. I was disappointed to find that the price had increased from $2.75 last year to $3.00 this year, but it is still a good value even though the portion size is exactly the same as it was last year.

Lava Cake

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival continues through November 13.

You can further examine all the marketplaces and menus this year's Festival has to offer here.

See how others are rating the various Festival marketplace offerings here.

If you have been to the Food & Wine Festival this year, you can take part in the survey as well by clicking here.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

April 15, 2011

Nature Inspired Design Tour

Ashleybanner.jpg

On April 2, I went on the Nature Inspired Design tour. For a description of this tour, click here.

The tour began at 8:15 so they directed me to the Character Breakfast turnstile toward the far left. For this tour, I checked in a Guest Relations inside the park. I signed a waiver for use of the Segway.

At 8:15 on the dot, my guide came to get me. He told me that I was the only one who had booked the tour that day! I was stunned. He said it was the first time ever the tour had been for only one person. He took me to the Segway training room and I watched a video about the Segway and began my training. The Segways are surprisingly easy to use. I was a little intimidated at first but quickly got the hang of it thanks to my guide. He was right- it becomes more about feeling than thinking once you're used to it.

Segway training area

Once I had gotten used to the Segway, the tour began. He radioed ahead to let Soarin' know we were on our way. We went through Future World toward the Imagination area. We went through a backstage area and made our way to the backstage entrance to Soarin'. The Cast Members seated us in the center, top row. It had been a while since I'd been seated there so that was a treat for me.

After Soarin', we made our way backstage to The Land. A Cast Member was waiting on us and took us into the greenhouse. They told me that the areas we would visit could also be seen on the Behinds the Seeds tour. I was allowed to take pictures in this area.

The Land

She told me that small, at home herb gardens like this one could be done at one with just one square foot of space. This particular one had chives in it.

Herb garden

Disney has begun using a lot of Hydroponics in their gardening. What it does, on a much larger scale than this fish tank, is hydrate the roots while giving them space to breathe and circulate air around them. This is easy to do at home and you can create a little herb garden this way as well.

Hyrdroponic

She discussed the three different kinds of materials they use around the plants:

Materials

We were shown the cucumber plants. She had pieces of a cucumber for me to sample. I don't love cucumbers (but I don't dislike them either) but these were GOOD. They were crisp and had a wonderful, fresh flavor.

Cucumber

The Land is home to a record holding tomato plant.

Record holding tomato plant

We could see this Mickey from where we were standing:

Mickey

He radioed ahead to The Seas with Nemo & Friends to let them know we were coming. Again, a Cast Member was waiting on us and took us right into the pavilion. He discussed how Disney wanted The Seas to be like looking right into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They selected fish that lived near the top of the water, in the middle of the water and the bottom to help maintain this. Lighting also helps maintain this effect.

The Seas

The coral at The Seas is not real coral. The fish, however, behave as though the coral is real. They lay their eggs, take naps and swim through just like they would if it was real.

Then, they took me to the 'water' area. This is the command area where they control and monitor the water for The Seas and several other areas of Disney World. He explained how they make sure the water is clean, how they monitor everything and how they add the salt to it if they need to.

The tour wrapped up after this stop. We put our Segways up and talked a little bit more.

I LOVED this tour. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was worth every penny to me. The guide was so enthusiastic and personable. He answered all of my questions and pointed things out to me that I might have missed. He was wonderful about letting me know when I could and couldn't be taking pictures. The Cast Members at Soarin', The Land and The Seas were very enthusastic and extremely knowledgeable. I had never ridden a Segway before so that was a very fun experience for me. If you have the chance to do this tour, I highly recommend it.

Nature Inspired Design is offered Tuesdays and Saturdays during the month of April. For other months, the tour is offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It begins at 8:15 AM and lasts three hours. Guests must be 16 or older. It costs $124 person ($132.06 with tax). Annual Passholder, DVC and Disney Visa discounts are available.

To read reviews of Nature Inspired Design, or to post yours, please click here.

April 5, 2011

Gardens of the World Tour

Ashleybanner.jpg

During the Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot, the Gardens of the World tour is offered. I went on this tour on April 1, 2011.

We met in front of Guest Relations at Epcot- this is to the far right of the turnstiles before you enter the park, not the Guest Relations inside the park. Around 8:50 AM, several Cast Members broke us into our tour groups - there was another tour that was meeting at Epcot as well.

We were given name badges to wear for the tour:

Name badge

We were also given a pin that is exclusive to the tour:

Pin

Headsets were distributed for everyone to wear. We were glad to have them because the music and noise of the park made it difficult to hear at times.

We got a late start because we had a couple of people who were running late. When everyone got there, we gathered in a group - there were about 20 of us - and he asked us our names, where we were from and why we were interested in the tour. We had several avid gardeners in our group.

Group

We went into Epcot around 9:30. The first stop we made was near one of the flower towers. Rickie told us that there were 40 of these in Epcot and they were easy to create. The tower holds the flower pots inside it so it makes assembling and disassembling the towers easy.

Flower Tower

Then, we went over to the area near the stroller rental. This plant (the name of this plant is escaping me) was around when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The leaves are thicker than you would have expected.

Plant

The theme for Future Wold is the future. Therefore, the design team keeps flowers to a minimum except during Flower & Garden. Several different types of palm trees are used in this area.

Palm trees

When we walked through Pixie Hollow, he pointed out the eco-friendly mulch underneath the play area. This material is actually recycled tires and it won't hurt the kids if they fall. The 'grass' is actually artificial turf with padding under it.

Turf

The Pooh topiary area has bloomed nicely. He pointed out the various types of plants that made up Rabbit's garden.

Rabbit

He said that the flower blanket took about a night to plant. They had an entire team that evening. There is a staging area behind the Germany pavilion where it was all set up and then brought in.

Flower Blanket

At Bambi's Butterfly Garden, he talked about how the monarch butterfly tastes bitter to predators because of the nectars they consume.

Monarch butterfly

At the Mexico pavilion, he discussed how the jungle theme was created by using various tree and flower and types.

Mexico

He said there are some plants/trees that are look-alikes at the pavilions because they won't survive in the Florida climate.

At China, he discussed the Zodiac figures. They are all made out of seeds. But my favorite part was when he discussed the gardens. He said that Chinese gardens are all about tranquility, very little movement and letting the garden be. The grass is longer at this garden because of this.

China garden

In contrast, Japanese gardens are all about movement. The koi pond and waterfall help to create constant movement in this garden.

Japan garden

I never knew that this lantern at the Japan pavilion was a gift to Roy E. Disney from the emperor of Japan.

Lantern

He said that the Aladdin topiary is one of his favorites because it incorporates so many different plants and textures. Some of the plants are secured to the topiary using hair pins. Aladdin's hair is coconut fiber.

Aladdin

We spent some time at the Victoria Gardens area at the Canada pavilion.

Victoria Gardens

The tour ended with a backstage look at the Canada pavilion. No pictures are allowed backstage. We were given the Flower & Garden poster as a keepsake, which was unexpected and a nice surprise.

Overall, I enjoyed the tour and I'm glad I did it but I didn't love it. The focus was more on how to do similar things at home in your garden and plant types and that wasn't of as much interest to me as hearing about the hows and whys Disney creates things the way they do. We spent a decent amount of time in Future World but made it through World Showcase very quickly because we got going late. Our guide was wonderful about answering questions and making sure our curiosity was satisfied before moving on. He was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I would do this tour again if someone really wanted to go but it would not be on my 'must-do' list.

The Gardens of the World tour is $60 per person ($63.90 with tax) for guests ages 16 and older. This tour is during Flower & Garden Festival only. Be sure to ask about Annual Passholder, Disney Visa or DVC discounts as well. The tour is offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 9 AM. Call 407-WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687) to book.

To read reviews of the Gardens of the World tour, or to post your own, click here.

March 21, 2011

Walk Around Walt Disney World - What's New, What's Next: March 19-20

Ashleybanner.jpg

We were able to spend the weekend at Disney. We stayed on-property and since it was Extra Magic Hours at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Saturday morning, we took advantage of the extra time in the park.

'Let the Memories Begin' banners were up near the main gates:

Banners

Work on the Tower of Terror exterior is still be done:

Tower of Terror

One of the things I love most about Extra Magic Hours is that's it's not overly crowded yet and you can wander a bit. It had been a while since we had been nto the Tower of Terror courtyard and store so it was nice to wander around and see some details that I'd never seen before.

We went over to the Animation Courtyard to look around. I had never seen the sketches of the princesses above the costumes- I love this kind of detail!

Jasmine sketch

I heard a lot of families talking about seeing the new Disney Junior show once the park opened for the day.

Disney Junior

It had been at least five years since my brother had seen the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show so we decided to catch the first show (pun intended). I had seen it a couple of years ago but missed the detail of the trident lighting up!

Unlit trident

Lit trident

One Man's Dream is one of my favorite attractions. I was hoping the back section might be finished but the walls still say 'coming soon.'

One Man's Dream

I'm a Star Wars fan so I knew I had to see what was going on around Star Tours. The area where the speederbike photo-op was/is is currently behind a very large wall:

Speederbike wall

Speederbike wall

Behind the Jedi Training Academy is a character meet-and-greet location:

Meet and greet location

[Star Wars side note: In the lobby of Mama Melrose's, there is a picture of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker). It's near the bathrooms. Also, in the dining room, there is an Italian version of The Empire Strikes Back movie poster.]

My brother and I rode Rock 'n Roller Coaster and noticed that they have put up these gates at the exit area of the ride:

Gates

I wandered through the watch shop and noticed an animator drawing Jedi Stitch:

Jedi Stitch

Friends from Chicago were in town and we met them at Epcot after lunch. On our way to meet up with them, we noticed this flamingo. It made us smile:

Flamingo

Our friends' son was absolutely enchanted with the train village at the Germany pavilion. I'm so glad he was- the village was hosting its own Flower & Garden Festival and I hadn't noticed it when I was there previously:

Train Village

The Lightning McQueen topiary was out at the World Showcase entrance:

Cars 2

Cars 2

Cars 2

For dinner, we decided to go to the Animal Kingdom Rainforest Cafe. On the way in, we noticed they had two lines:

Rainforest Cafe

The 'extreme supermoon' was visible Saturday night. My mom got a kick out of me leaving the room every 15 minutes to see if it was visible yet.

Supermoon

I went out to the parking lot around 7 AM to see if I could still see the supermoon. I definitely could! It was a great view:

Supermoon morning

Supermoon morning

Magic Kingdom opened at 8 AM Sunday morning so I wandered around to see what was new or had changed.

City Hall is still being worked on:

City Hall

The walls were down around Exposition Hall- the new sign says Town Square Theater. The doors are very ornate. The far right side of the building is open for PhotoPass viewing and camera accessories. Otherwise, the windows are still covered.

Town Square Theater

Town Square Theater

The exterior of Tony's is being worked on:

Tony's exterior

The Confectionery is also being worked on:

Confectionery

There is a wall up on the right side of the castle (if you're facing the back of the castle):

Castle wall

The exterior of Cinderella's Royal Table is still being worked on:

Cinderella's Royal Table

The tops of some of the buildings behind the Fantasyland walls are now visible over the walls:

Fantasyland

Fantasyland

The walls around the construction area had been moved back so there was a lot more room to walk around.

Fantasyland walls

A solid wall has gone up between the Tomorrowland Speedway and ToonTown:

ToonTown wall

The Tomorrowland Speedway was back to four lanes:

Tomorrowland Speedway

Only Minnie remains on the ToonTown sign:

ToonTown sign

I went to the Haunted Mansion to see if the new queue line was being tested. I knew it was a long shot since it was around 9 AM when I got there. It was not being tested but I could see a good bit of it.

Entrance to the new queue:

Queue entrance

This is clearly visible above the shrubs:

Queue line

The walls around the queue line are down and have been replaced with thick green screens:

Queue line

The walls around the Adventureland bridge were down. The new bridge is flat- there is not a hill anymore. The bridge they had set up for guests to use is also still there:

Adventureland bridge

Adventureland bridge

Adventureland bridge

After I had finished my Magic Kingdom 'walk', Mom and I went over to Downtown Disney. The AMC Theater now has automated ticket machines outside the theater.

Automated ticket machines

Walls were up where one of the Pleasure Island clubs used to be. A sign showed the concept art for the store going in its place.

Pleasure Island construction

Concept art

The Lego Store is being worked on. Temporarily, they have a tent set up near Once Upon a Toy.

Lego Store construction

At World of Disney, they have a new section of D-Tech merchandise. It's got mouse pads, laptop bags, iPad and iPhone cases and other assorted 'tech' goodies.

D-Tech

The Winnie the Pooh and friends photo-op has been moved to the Guest Relations area since Pooh Corner has closed.

Pooh photo-op

The temporary Lego Store is in a big yellow tent between Once Upon a Toy and Earl of Sandwich. It was very busy inside... and very yellow because of the tent!

Temporary Lego Store

Tempoary Lego Store

Outside of the tent, they had a little display set up for Flower & Garden at Epcot.

Flower & Garden display

Pooh Corner, unfortunately, has closed.

Pooh Corner

Goofy's Candy Company has started letting guests their own treat.

Create your own treat

That's all for this update. Have a MAGICAL day!! :)

Please remember, when posting a comment, you MUST enter the word "blog" in the space provided. If you don't, your comment will end up in the junk folder and not be posted. We require this extra step to help filter out spam.

February 11, 2011

Tutto Italia in Epcot - Dining with Allergies

Ashleybanner.jpg

I have multiple food allergies (nuts, shellfish and smoked cheese) but Disney does a fabulous job of making sure the food I eat is safe for me to eat. I'm not the most adventurous diner because of my allergies but I've learned that I can trust Disney. We have our favorite places to eat but we are slowly but surely trying new restaurants. One of the restaurants we have tried recently is Tutto Italia.

We ate at Tutto Italia for the first time in December for the Candlelight Processional package. We enjoyed it so much, we wanted to go back and had the perfect excuse to do so on January 24- the AllEars meet at Epcot! I was able to get an 11:30 reservation that day.

We checked in at about 11:25. The lobby is gorgeous and spacious. It was not crowded at all, even when we left the restaurant.

Lobby

Lobby

The main dining room is lovely.

Main Dining Room

We were seated next to a window overlooking St. Mark's Square.

St. Mark's Square

We really enjoyed the view. It was very quiet inside the restaurant. Our server was very knowledgeable about the menu. The menu offers a variety of choices. I did not have it noted on this particular reservation but I did let my server know that I am allergic to nuts, shellfish and smoked cheeses (odd, I know) and he made a note of my allergies. He asked me what I what entree(s) I was interested in and I told him I was most interested in the Tagliatelle alla Primavera. He told me he would check with the chef and let me know.

At Disney World, I always have food options. I have yet to eat somewhere that I can't find something to eat or have something modified (take off a sauce, crust, topping, etc.). Dessert, though, can be another story but I'll get to that in a bit.

When our server brought the bread to the table, he let me know that the chef had said the Tagliatelle alla Primavera was okay for me to eat. I was very happy to hear this.

The bread came with the standard warning: They cannot guarantee that the bread has not come into contact with nuts at some point in time. Knock on wood, I have never had a problem in all the years/times I've eaten at Disney restaurants. The bread selection is excellent and the olive oil had a wonderful taste.

Bread

Our server was very engaging and while we were waiting on our entrees to arrive, he came over and talked to us about Italy, where we were from and Epcot in general.

Our food arrived piping hot.

Mom had the Farfalle:

Farfalle

I had the Tagliatelle alla Primavera:

Tagliatelle alla Primavera

The portion sizes were very generous for both dishes. The main difference between Mom's and mine is that mine had vegetables in it while hers had prosciutto. Both dishes had cream sauce and it was surprisingly light but very flavorful. The vegetables in mine were nice and crisp. Mom loved her dish as well.

The dessert menu at Tutto Italia looked very good. However, I knew based on our December dinner there that my options would be limited. I already knew I couldn't have the Copette Sotto Bosco because it has nuts in the "cookie" that is served with the berries and gelato. I *really* wanted to try the lemon ricotta cheesecake so I asked our server about it. He asked the chef and it does have nuts in the crust of the cheesecake. I was a little disappointed because I had wanted to try something new. I knew I could have had the tiramisu (it's excellent) and Mom and I did discuss having it. In the end, we decided to forego dessert. I did not ask about other desserts but plan to when I dine at Tutto Italia again.

We really enjoyed our lunch. We're very happy to add this to our Epcot "list" of dining options. Our water glasses were never empty and anything we wanted or needed was promptly taken care of.

If you have food allergies, you can have it noted on the reservation(s) but be sure to let your server know when you get to the restaurant. You can also contact Special Diets ahead of time. I contacted them in December about another reservation and they sent me a form to fill out with a list of where I would be dining and all of my allergies. They also sent me several sheets with information about the counter service restaurants' food items. When in doubt, contact Disney! They have worked some magic for me in the past, both ahead of time and at the restaurant.


April 10, 2010

Flower & Garden 2010

by Emily Owens-Pickle

There is no time like springtime, especially at Epcot in Walt Disney World. For several weeks each year this park is transformed into landscapes of color and Disney characters come to life through Gerber daisies, hydrangeas, monkey grass, veggies, moss - you name it!

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

This is my fourth consecutive year attending the Flower & Garden Festival. Each show features old favorites and some new additions, while the flagship features of the show, the beautiful topiaries, move locations almost annually. Preparations begin more than a year in advance for this immense festival.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

My favorite part of the festival each year is the inspiration I take home with me. Disney has a strong focus on green gardening and living. Many of the landscapes and exhibits use systems and ideas that can be created with minimal expertise and with equipment easily found at your local home improvement center or with items you already have stored in your garage. This year I took at least five great new concepts home to use in my own yard -- all of these projects will require very little money and only a few hours of time. For that small investment I will have a beautiful outdoor area that is unique, easy to maintain and sustainable!

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

New Additions & Old Favorites

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

A new addition this year was Princess Tiana's Wedding Bayou. This quiet little nook is tucked right behind Tinker Bell's Fairy Garden (near the Butterfly House). A small archway leads you along a path that features four different plaques where children can do crayon or pencil 'rubbings' of nature images from this animated feature. Special paper can be picked up from a Disney Cast Member at the bayou's entrance. At the focus of this exhibit is a scene featuring the cast of Disney's newest animated release, The Princess and the Frog. The backdrop includes images of Princess Tiana, Prince Naveen and all of their friends. Like most of the festival, beauty is found in the details. Spanish moss is draped to create a banner over the newlyweds and multi-colored bottles are suspended from the tree branches creating a magical bayou with minimal expense and fuss. A quick trip to the craft store and many of these ideas could be incorporated into a springtime meal in the backyard or neighborhood block party.


Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival


The butterfly house has undergone a major expansion this year. Renamed 'Fawn's Butterfly House' (formerly Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden) it seemed to still be a little cool for many butterflies to be out and about-we only saw a few guys fluttering around the edges of the exhibit. The butterfly house has small houses which hold the chrysalis which will eventually hatch into these gorgeous creatures. Look closely at the potted plants lining the perimeter of the walkway-tiny caterpillars can be found munching the leaves and it is a great time to show little ones the entire life cycle of butterflies emerging before their eyes from bush, to chrysalis, to beautiful butterfly!


Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Tinker Bell's Fairy Garden returns again in 2010 -- featuring topiaries of Tinker Bell and her friends, this lovely garden has fairy houses tucked throughout. Can you find them all? The back of the Fairy Garden is a great place for those traveling with little ones to grab a bench while youngsters run wild on state-of-the-art playground equipment only used during the festival.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival


This year the festival center, Garden Town, is only open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. During these days you can browse festival merchandise (also available at other locations throughout Epcot and online at the Disney Store), and attend seminars from various outdoor living and gardening experts. We were too late for the two o'clock seminar - make sure you plan to be at these events at least 30-45 minutes early-it was packed! Guests are given a talk by a horticulture expert and during the hands-on events are given FREE goodies!

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Guests at the 2 p.m. seminar were planting in beautiful ceramic pots and also given a reusable grocery bag with the Epcot 2010 Flower & Garden Logo to carry their new garden additions in. The bags are very cute this year-full color logos on a cream bag. You also get the chance to hear some really simple and easily applicable tips on improving your outdoor spaces in a sustainable way; these events are included in your Epcot admission.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

So, what is my bottom line on the 2010 Flower & Garden Festival? I think this year's team did an outstanding job. The placement of exhibits and topiaries fit very well with the theme of each area; last year, there didn't seem to be a natural flow. It was like they had decided to place things wherever they hadn't put them before. This year there seemed to be a very organic feel to the placement of exhibits, topiaries, and flowers. For instance, the placement of the Peter Pan, Captain Hook and 'Croc' exhibit is right across the UK Tea Garden-it looks gorgeous in this shady spot and makes sense in a storytelling context.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

I was disappointed that there was simply a multifold brochure for this year's event instead of the usual multipage booklet. I was also surprised at the small number of lectures and limited hours of the Festival Center. I hope this is not a trend towards scaling back. I realize there is no way the Flower & Garden Festival generates as much traffic or sales as the very popular Food & Wine Festival and I understand that annual offerings must be productive in order to justify the time and expense given to events of such a large undertaking. Still, this is a wonderful event and I hope it is sustainable enough to continue for many (many) years to come.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Emily's F&G Must-See's:

-- The Disney Oceans display in the center of the Future World walkway is gorgeous! Pause and pay close attention to the wake made by the dolphins in this ocean-scape.

-- The Fairy Garden is just about as cheerful and whimsical as it gets. My personal highlight was the beautiful landscape in front of the Iridessa topiary -- it was a little sparse this weekend but should fill in quickly with our rising temperatures and afternoon showers!

-- The China pavilion has brought back their large and impressive Bromeliad dragon -- this beautiful piece sits in the center of the lily pond.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

-- I love the outdoor living display each year (near the Morocco pavilion). This year doesn't disappoint -- the display features a summer kitchen complete with dining room and edible garden-wall display.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

-- The small train village beside the Germany pavilion is an absolute must-see this year. The entire village is celebrating the 2010 F&G Festival with us! Look closely at the buildings, town square, and tiny details-what a treat!

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

-- Last but not least, try to do at least one seminar while visiting -- they are entertaining and give even the novice gardener great tips to take home.


Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

I could go on and on -- everything is really a must-see for this event -- plan to spend at least a day strolling this show.

The Flower & Garden Festival offers so many things to see and do, but there is also something magical and unquantifiable about waking up spring in the most magical place on Earth. There are many unplanned magical moments at the Flower & Garden Festival that even Disney can't create! Duck parents waddle through the park with fuzzy newborns in tow, bunnies hop and munch their way through the flower beds, and that beautiful Florida sunshine pours down reminding us of warmer days ahead. Enjoy!

More Flower and Garden Festival Information HERE!

Tell us what YOU think about this year's Festival - Share your tips and thoughts!

February 24, 2009

Epcot Updates - DizneyMike's World

While I was in Epcot this week I looked for any signs that the Flower and Garden Festival preparations were underway but didn't see any. However, the Innoventions Fountain is still being worked on.

Epcot

Epcot

Epcot

Also, the Goju-no-to pagoda in the Japan pavilion is being worked on. It never ceases to amaze me as to the steps that Disney takes to hide ugly construction from guests and to keep the parks looking beautiful. The five-story cloth hiding the construction is a great example of what I'm talking about.

Epcot

Epcot

A small area in front of Canada is blocked off. It's not a big area and no construction can be seen so it may just be repairs to the ground or just getting started building a kiosk of some sort.

Epcot

Epcot

Finally, as I was walking around the countries I noticed that a new Kim Possible station has been added. This one is located near the Moroccan pavilion on the side closets to France.

Kim Possible Epcot

Kim Possible Epcot

Well, that's all for now. As my good friend says "see ya real soon" - DizneyMike

Mike Bachand (aka DizneyMike) is a long time Disney Enthusiasts. Over the years Mike and family made numerous trips down to WDW from their home in Massachusetts. Now Mike and his wife live year round in the Orlando area. He is a Florida Annual Passholder who visits WDW on an average of once a week. Besides his love for WDW, Mike has a large collection of Disney books, figurines and ornaments and is a former Disney Cast Member working as a Concierge at the Contemporary Resort.

January 30, 2009

DizneyMike’s World: Innoventions

So, how many of you who have been to Epcot before have taken the time to stop into either Innoventions East or West? Well, if you haven't you're missing some pretty neat stuff. Mind you, Innoventions is meant to educate both adults and children, but in a very entertaining way. In my opinion it's definitely something worth doing; especially on a hot, humid afternoon or a rainy day.

innov1_bach.jpg

The first attraction inside Innoventions West (I'm right-handed so I started on the right side of the park first) is Kim Possible. Since I wrote about that in my last blog I'll skip over that. Beyond that is "Where's The Fire?" Guests are separated into teams and each person is given a device that looks like a large flashlight. Each team competes by moving from one room to another inside the house detecting unsafe and potentially dangerous fire hazards. (For example: in the kitchen there may be a small appliance near water.) You move from one room to another identifying hazards until time runs out. Once that's completed there are other activities like teaching small children what to do in case of a fire and you can have your picture taken in front of a fire engine and emailed to yourself or whomever you want.

innov2_bach.jpg

innov3_bach.jpg

The next exhibit is "Think Place" by IBM. Here you become part of computer game. Pictures are taken of you running in place, jumping and doing a victory dance. After that, you control your image as you play a video game. When the game is completed you can send the video of that game to your email address.

innov4_bach.jpg

"Slap Stick Studios" exhibit is sponsored by Velcro. A very entertaining master of ceremonies selects guests to come up on stage and play a couple of games that revolve around the use of Velcro. I found the Cast Member playing the part of the master of ceremonies to be quite funny and very quick-witted. The kids really loved this show!

innov5_bach.jpg

"Rockin' Robots" is where you control large robotic arms that play various musical instruments. Personally I didn't spend much time there as it's not something that will hold your interest for long.

Next to "Rockin' Robots" is "Video Games of Tomorrow". There are about 20 stations where you can play some of Disney's latest video games.

"Segway Central" is where adults (not children) can take a short ride on a Segway. You're first brought into a room where you watch a brief video about the history of the Segway. You sign a standard release and then queue up for your turn to ride. A Cast Member gives you personal instructions then walks in front of you and you ride the Segway up and back a 15 to 20 yard course. This is a must for anyone who's ever said that riding a Segway looks like fun.

innov7_bach.jpg

The first exhibit in Innoventions East (beyond another Kim Possible station) is "Storm Struck." Here you experience the force of a hurricane in 3D. Then you get to choose measures in building your house (like type of roof, etc.) that will best withstand a hurricane. Those measures are put to a test to see how effective they are. If you want to get an idea as to the fury and strength of a hurricane then don't miss this exhibit.

Waste Management sponsors the "Don't Waste It" exhibit. Team up with family or friends and push a mini Waste Management truck to three interactive stations. At each station you play video-like games dealing with recycling and the environment. At the end you get a certificate that can be sent to your email address.

innov8_bach.jpg

Presently, "The House of Innoventions" is being updated and no date as to when it will reopen has been given. However, I've been through this house before so I can tell you a little about it. A Cast Member gives you a tour of a house filled with the latest technology. You're guided through a kitchen, bedroom and living room with all kinds of high-tech gadgets like keyless door locks that are programmed by finger prints.

innov9_bach.jpg

"Test Labs" is much like "Rockin' Robots," only here you get to perform "tests" like UL would to certify certain products. As with the robots, the kids seemed to enjoy this more than I did.

innov10_bach.jpg

Finally at the end is a wonderful Walt Disney timeline displayed on three large walls. If you have any interest in Walt and all his accomplishments then take the time to view the wall.

innov11_bach.jpg

innov12_bach.jpg

If you have some time before your next FastPass or dinner reservation I encourage you to stop by Innoventions East or West and try out some of these exhibits. You won't be disappointed!

I hope this blog helped you as you plan your next trip to Epcot.
And, as my good friend says, "see ya real soon".


Mike Bachand (aka DizneyMike) is a long time Disney Enthusiasts. Over the years Mike and family made numerous trips down to WDW from their home in Massachusetts. Now Mike and his wife live year round in the Orlando area. He is a Florida Annual Passholder who visits WDW on an average of once a week. Besides his love for WDW, Mike has a large collection of Disney books, figurines and ornaments and is a former Disney Cast Member working as a Concierge at the Contemporary Resort.

July 8, 2008

The Beauty of China - Epcot

One of my favorite places in the World Show Case at Epcot is China.

I love the details, the art of the entire country. The colors are so rich in the buildings and the landscaping. Not to mention the food is also great, it is going to be wonderful when Nine Dragons opens again. And there is always something that I want to purchase at the shops in China.

Anyway to celebrate the beauty of China I wanted to share with you this week some of my favorite China shots.


First up the main building in China:

Epcot's China


I love to take pictures of this building each time we go to Epcot. Every time I take a new photo of it, I notice some detail I did not notice the last time I took a picture. It is so ornate, here is a close up of one of my favorite details of the building.

Epcot's China


Besides the main building that houses the Reflections of China show and some Chinese art work I also love the Kodak Picture spot there. I could spend all day photographing the water, trees and flowers. Here are some of my favorite shots at the spot.

Epcot's China


Epcot's China


Epcot's China



Have a Disney Day!

Amanda

July 6, 2008

Bjorn Again A Tribute to ABBA

Once again America Gardens is rocking out. This week the sounds of ABBA are filling the night air for Epcot park goers. Bjorn Again is a group that was formed in 1988 as a tribute to ABBA. Completely in character this group of Australian and British musicians sing ABBA greatest hits. Everyone in the audience was having a great time. Here are some of my favorite photos from Tuesday's first show.

Bjorn Again A Tribute to ABBA Epcot's American Gardens Theatre

Bjorn Again A Tribute to ABBA Epcot's American Gardens Theatre

Bjorn Again A Tribute to ABBA Epcot's American Gardens Theatre


Have a Disney Day Everyone!
Amanda

June 17, 2008

Epcot's Sounds Like Summer Series - Stayin Alive!

Hello All! My name is Amanda.

First, a little about myself. Currently, I am working on my Masters of Science in Software Engineering. My family and I just moved to Florida from Colorado last month.

One of the first things we did upon our arrival was purchase our annual passes to Disney World. We both are long time fans of Disney and with our annual passes we use Disney as our daily hang out. Our two favorite parks (although we love all four) are Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Excited about all there is to do at DisneyI I started an online journal I like to call Mouse Beat . Disney fans be sure to stop by!

Thank you to Deb for asking me to share my Disney Adventures with you all! And to get the ball rolling here is a little bit about what we did last night at Disney.

It turns out that Disco is not dead!


stayin alive sign at American Gardens Theatre Epcot


Now in its second week the "Sounds Like Summer Concert Series" at Epcot was host to "Stayin Alive" A Tribute to the Bee Gees.

If you like the music of the Bee Gees, definitely head on over to the America Gardens this week. They will be there all week and the show times are 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45.

The band has about 20 songs on their play list and from the excitement of the crowd they are some of the Bee Gees greatest hits.

Unfamilar with the music personally I did not recognize many of the songs, and was a little disappointed that they did not play "Staying Alive" in their last show of the night.


The group "Stayin Alive" did a great job paying attention to detail from the stage setup to their costumes. Here are the brothers all dressed up...


Barry Gibb

Keyboards


They were crowd friendly. Although they never left the stage like 2U A Tribute to U2 (last week's Sounds Like Summer group) , they do make an effort to include the crowd.

They tell jokes to each other, talk about Mickey, remark on the America Gardens and encourage the audience to dance. And oh boy did the audience dance! In the bleachers, in the aisles, disco got their feet moving!

The adults in the crowd were having a fantastic time but I did notice that some of the youngsters were not as entertained. Unlike the 2U concerts last week the kids in the "Stayin Alive" audience spent most of their time on the bench eating their goodies.

Oh and one note, "Stayin Alive" does not permit the audience to video record their performance. You are allowed to take as many pictures as you want but not video recordings. Just a note.

Overall it was a good time and I recommend it to all those Bee Gee fans out there!

stayinalive4.jpg


Have a Disney Day!

Amanda

December 13, 2007

MouseFest 2007

by AllEars Guest Blogger: Michelle Scribner-MacLean

MouseFest 2007 is over and I am left with one question: How can it be possible to pack so much into a few days?

As I waited at the airport, ready to leave the cold New Hampshire weather, I ran into my AllEars® buddy, Mike Scopa, who, of course, was also off to MouseFest.

We spent the day visiting EPCOT and listening to storytellers from around the world. One of the things I really enjoyed about this was watching the way many of the performers really tried to make special connections with the children in the audience by asking them questions, involving them in the skits, and by displaying artifacts from their lands.

Illuminations at EPCOT is one of my "can't miss" experiences when I visit, but I'd never seen the "holiday tag" before. At the end of the regular Illuminations during the holiday season there about seven minutes of additional show featuring narration by Walter Cronkite and music by the Harlem Boys' Choir. The ending is a blend of spectacular fireworks, lasers, and holiday music".The only thing I can say is that I was speechless. So I had to see it again two nights later".

Being a MouseFest veteran, Mike was able to make suggestions about how to get the most of out my experience. The next day Mike and his co-presenter, Mark Goldhaber, later shared many of his suggestions with a crowd of nearly 300 at the highly-successful MouseFest 101.

During the meet, I also got to meet Masayo and her husband, Marumu, from Japan. We were surprised with Scopa Towers sweatshirts - Masayo for coming the furthest to MouseFest, and me for helping out a teeny bit with the development of MouseFest 101.

Masayo, Mike and Michelle


The view from my balcony at the Boardwalk on Saturday morning provided a terrific view of the site of the Mega Mouse Meet on Saturday - The Dolphin.

Walt Disney Worldl Dolphin


What a thrilling experience to be surrounded by so many webmasters, podcasters, writers, photographers, and fans who all love the mouse! In addition to meeting many of the other AllEars team members, I had the opportunity to meet dozens and dozens of AllEars readers from all over the country.

On Saturday night I attended the Fantasmic Dessert meet hosted by Matt Hotchberg of StudiosCentral.com. As we waited in the courtyard to go backstage to join the party, I got a nighttime glimpse of my favorite ride at MGM - but with a 70 minute wait, I opted to forgo a ride until my next trip. During this meet with had the opportunity to chat and visit with friends as we ate dessert and watched Fantasmic. Very fun!

mf07a.jpg


Although this isn't really MouseFest news, I just have to mention that I was lucky enough to get a chance to ride SpaceShip Earth during one of the infrequent soft-openings. I didn't get to hear the entire audio program because it broke down toward the end (which, of course, is probably the point of a soft-opening - to fix those things). However, with Dame Judi Dench narrating a new script, several difference scenes, and personalized touch-screens (which very much reminded me of the ending of the extinct Horizons), it is significantly different than the last version.

mf07c.jpg

So ...now I've participated in two MouseFests.

I met so many interesting people from all over the country and around the world. There were families with children, people traveling on their own, senior citizens, and grade school kids. I'm not sure I would call myself a MouseFest veteran (I made "rookie" mistakes like forgetting to eat"and sleep), but I do know that I'm thrilled to be part of the Disney committee and can't wait until next year.

************

Michelle Scribner-MacLean is a college professor by day and a Disney fanatic in every other bit of free time. She first visited WDW when she was a teenager and now is a DVC owner who visits Walt Disney World two or three times per year. Michelle lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two boys and loves roller coasters, the fantastic food at Disney, and always cries when she sees IllumiNations. She is also a Disney podcast addict and adores WDW Today.

Michelle is a guest columnist for the AllEars® newsletter. Here are links to other articles by MIchelle:

MouseFest Primer: http://allearsnet.com/btp/issue421.htm

Tune In to a Disney Podcast (or Podcasts 101): http://allearsnet.com/ae/issue417.htm

Vero Beach with Kids: http://allearsnet.com/ae/issue403.htm

Navigating WDW with a Picky Eater: http://allearsnet.com/ae/issue395.htm

Science in the Parks: http://allearsnet.com/ae/issue390.htm


August 23, 2007

New Stamps Unveiled at Epcot

Trooper Bill sends us a report from the Disney stamp unveiling ceremony that was held at Epcot on 8/16/07:

The stamp unveiling ceremony was held at 1 p.m. in the America Gardens Theatre. It began with the Fife & Drum Corps, and a female singer named Jackie Stressman, who performed the National Anthem.

stamp3.jpg

Following that, the MC, Holland Hayes, who bore a remarkable resemblance to Scoop Sanderson of the Magic Kingdom, welcomed the guests, and introduced Senior VP of WDW Erin Wallace. She gave a brief speech about the collaboration between Disney and the Post Office in the series of stamps, culminating in today's new release. Erin was followed by Linda Kingsley, Senior VP of the USPS who also spoke about the partnership between Disney and the USPS over the years. At the end of her remarks, the Fairy Godmother came down the center aisle, and took over, singing Bibbidi Bobiddi Boo, and introducing Peter Pan, Dumbo, Genie, and finally Mickey, the four subjects of the new series of stamps.

stamp5.jpg

After that, the official unveiling took place, with a typical Disney flourish. The finale was the introduction of the three artists who developed the series: David Pacheco, Peter Emmerich, and Terry McCaffrey.

stamp4.jpg

Following the ceremony, which lasted about 20 minutes, the three artists sat and signed the merchandise in front of the American Adventure shop for a couple of hours. They were very gracious and I was able to get my framed set signed by all three, with a nice Mickey ears flourish added to the 2007.

stamp1.jpg

There was a merchandise display area set up outside of the American pavilion, under the covered area to the right. The merchandise consisted of stamps with first-day cancellations, postcards, and other items related to the release of the next four stamps in the USPS series of Disney stamps. The four stamps include Sorcerer Mickey, Dumbo with Timothy Mouse, Aladdin & Genie, and Peter Pan & Tink. The theme of the new series is "Magic".

The merchandise area ran smoothly, and there were no real lines to purchase items. There was also limited merchandise available inside the American Adventure store. The outdoor merchandise was under the auspices of the USPS, while the merchandise inside was sold by Disney. Inside the main item was a Limited Edition (LE) 50 framed pin set, with all four pins from the release, with a first-day cancellation envelope with all four stamps, and a Sorcerer Mickey envelope. This was in a matted background, with a small plaque that read, "The Art of Disney Magic," and "Limited Edition of 50." It retailed for $150, and as of 3 p.m. they only had one left. (They would have had two, but yours truly decided to spring for one.)

Also, while at Epcot, I happened to notice they are selling several retro design Epcot Center t-shirts in MouseGear. I have not seen these before, and took a few pictures of them.

retro-t-2.JPG

I also got a pic of the wand removal progress.

spe_816.jpg

August 3, 2007

Epcot Updates

Welcome TrooperBill as our guest blogger. He visited Epcot (8/1/07) and sends these photos and updates:

The wand that once adorned Spaceship Earth continues to be dismantled. You can see progress daily.

Spaceship Earth

Larger Image

Spaceship Earth

Larger Image

blue line

House of Tomorrow at InnoventionsThe House of Tomorrow in Innoventions recently reopened -- the entrance way is still the same, with the fingerprint doorlock access, and the outside camera. The kitchen room seems to have magically transformed to all Siemens appliances. Included is a microwave that is wall mounted, and the lower part drops down to have the food placed in it, sort of like an elevator. The fridge has a TV built in, which was displaying recipes during the presentation. The family room had a large hi-def TV, that can also be run from the home computer, and linked to the kitchen appliances. I seem to recall something similar in the previous edition of HOT.

The game room has a programmable shelf mounted robot, that can be used as a security feature They also had an advanced electric guitar and drum set, each of which can basically play themselves. The girls bedroom has what they called a "floating bed" which is a round circular mattress hung from the ceiling. There is also a Magic Planet, which is basicaly an interactive computer globe.

House of Tomorrow at Innoventions The dining room had a table and chairs made of cardboard, which can be seen in the pictures, and looked much sturdier in person than one would think. The bathroom had a tankless commode which looks more like a ceramic hamper than a toilet. They also had a DTV (digital thermal valve) controlled shower stall, which was as large as a spa and had eight separate spray vales, all controlled via the DTV.

The garage boasted pretty much the same set of shelves, and now has an electric scooter plugged in to wall. Supposedly it can do 150 miles and 55mph on a charge. They also had some sort of hot water drian recycle thingy setup, that uses heat from hot drain water to heat the intake pipe of the hot water heater, thus lowering the cost of heating fresh water. There was also an electric car in the final area.

blue line

Also at Innoventions East, the two areas housing the Internet Zone and City of Opportunity have been walled off and are being dismantled. I found out that Waste Management ( a large garbage/recycling company) has purchased ( or leased) the space space, and will be putting an exhibit there. Supposedly it will be centered around recycling, and hopefully will not consist of a large Waste Management dumpster in the room!!

blue line

Voices of LibertyThe Voices of Liberty recently completed a 2 week hiatus, during which they broke in several new singers. I caught 2 shows today, and each one featured four of the new performers, with a separate group for each show. I didn't get to confirm if they are still auditioning or have actually joined the regular cast, next time I'm there I'll ask and find out.

The Heritage Gallery at the American Adventure has closed, and the Africa artifacts have been removed. The new exhibit will be called National Treasures, and will feature items on loan from various American Musuems, in particular the Smithsonian, with items dealing with American history. This exhibit should be open in a few months.

blue line

The kids splash fountain between Future World and World Showcase is walled off. I'm don't know if it is just refurbishment or something else.

Fountain

July 18, 2007

Spaceship Earth More Wand Photos

Readers Ken DiPietro and Jen Schaefer sent in photos of the Wand on Spaceship Earth being removed.

Spaceship Earth

Larger Image

blue line


Spaceship Earth

Larger Image

blue line


Spaceship Earth

Larger Image

blue line

If you have a current photograph or 2 of changes happening at Walt Disney World, send them to allearsnet at yahoo dot com


Return to Blog Central

About Epcot

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

Disney's Hollywood Studios is the previous category.

Magic Kingdom is the next category.

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