Page 1 of 5

September 2, 2014

Landscaping the World - Epcot - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Yesterday I discussed the landscaping found in Epcot’s Future World. Today I’ll finish this park with a look at World Showcase.

The main entrance into World Showcase always contains manicured hedges and brightly colored ground cover or flowers. In November and December, this area is used to display the yearly Christmas tree.


World Showcase Entrance

Christmas Tree


This spot is also used for the annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. The first picture below was taken during one of the earlier events. The following picture was taken of this same location, but in 2014. Notice how much more detail the horticulturists are adding to these topiary figures today.


Old Topiary

New Topiary


The pyramid of the Mexico Pavilion is supposed to be located somewhere in the tropical regions of this vibrant country. To help us believe the story, the structure is bordered by a lush forest.


Mexico Pavilion

Mexico Pavilion

Mexico Pavilion


On the other side of the promenade, La Hacienda and La Cantina are presumed to be located along an arid coastline. Once again, landscaping helps us believe this. Here, the plants are succulents and cactus with a rocky ground cover. The occasional potted plant also helps us believe that water is at a premium.


Mexico Pavilion

Mexico Pavilion

Mexico Pavilion


Trees play an important part of the Norway Pavilion design. After all, this Scandinavian country has a number of thick forests. To introduce guests to the pavilion the Imagineers placed two stands of trees near the entrance.


Norway Pavilion


Within the pavilion, trees can be found in abundance.


Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion


At the back of the pavilion is a lovely garden. For years, a deciduous and two pine trees occupied this space and provided welcome shade. When I visited recently to take pictures for this article, I found that these trees were gone. I don’t know if this is a temporary or permanent change.


Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion


The meadows of Norway are represented by a garden of wild flowers found outside Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.


Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion


The exterior of the Kringla Bakeri og Kafe was modeled after structures found in the Setesdahl Valley of Norway. Sod roofs were once common in this part of the country. Before the sod is placed on the structure, birch bark is laid across the roof as the watertight element. The main purpose for the sod is to hold the birch bark in place. In addition, sod is an excellent insulator and its heavy weight helps stabilize the structure.

Notice how the flowers are missing in the second roof photo.


Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion


China is known for its gardens. So perhaps that is why one of the most beautiful gardens in all of Walt Disney World can be found in the China Pavilion at Epcot. Once passed the Gate of the Golden Sun, you cross a bridge which traverses a lovely lotus pool surrounded by a typical Chinese garden. These gardens were inspired by those in Suzhou, a large city located adjacent to Shanghai.


China Pavilion

China Pavilion


Care was given when the Imagineers selected the plants for this garden. As always, they wanted to tell a story. For example, this Contorted Mulberry tree tells two stories. First, it was selected for its beauty. In China, this tree provides florists with a number of possibilities. Its foliage is large and turns golden in the autumn before the leaves fall. In the winter, its twisted branches add beauty to any garden or flower arrangement.


China Pavilion

China Pavilion


But this mulberry tree was also selected to represent China’s silk industry. Silk moths lay their eggs on mulberry leaves and their offspring feed on the greens until entering the larvae stage. At that time, the caterpillar encloses itself in a cocoon made from one single strand of silk. This strand can range in length from 1,000 to 3,000 feet, which can be unraveled and turned into thread. The famous Silk Road came into being sometime between 206 BCE – 220 CE. Although many goods were traded along this route between Asia and the Mediterranean, its name came from the magnificent silk textiles produced in China.

Another plant found in the China garden is the camellia. This beautiful bush with dark green leaves and an array of different colored blossoms is a native of eastern Asia. It was cultivated in China and Japan for centuries before being exported to Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In China, camellias are known as cháhuā (flowering tea) as many specimens are suitable for brewing.


China Pavilion

China Pavilion


How can we speak of Asia and not think of bamboo? This member of the grass family is widely used in China as a building material and as a food source. In Hong Kong, contractors use bamboo scaffolding (rather than metal piping) when building skyscrapers reaching 30 to 40 stories high.


China Pavilion

China Pavilion


The water lily can also be found in this lovely Chinese garden. These plants are native to the tropical climes of the world and are a common sight in Southern Chinese ponds. Much of this plant is edible.


China Pavilion

China Pavilion


The Germany Pavilion does not have a formal garden as found in the China Pavilion, but landscaping still helps shape the mood here.

To the left side of the pavilion is Snow White’s wishing well. This is a great spot to have your picture taken with Walt’s first princess. But if you check out this spot when Ms. White is busy cleaning the dwarves’ cottage, you can see some interesting living details. The landscapers have allowed vines and other plants to grow up the side and beneath the roof of this structures. This helps us believe that the well has been here for years and not just a prop.


Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion


The Germany Pavilion features a lovely park with a number of tree-shaded benches that look out onto World Showcase Lagoon. This is a wonderful spot to sit and relax for a few minutes when your tired feet can take no more. This area is also a great spot to watch Illuminations.


Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion


Within the platz you’ll find a smattering of landscaping. The first instance is the flowerbed that surrounds the statue of Saint George. Once again, notice how the plants change over the months and years.


Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion


Hanging baskets are also represented in the Germany Pavilion.


Germany Pavilion


And on the upper floors we find window boxes filled with geraniums. Non-living geraniums, that is.


Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion


The first annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival was held in the spring of 1993. Each year since the festival’s inception, the always beautiful Epcot is transformed into an even more magnificent park with the addition of topiary, displays, and thousands of additional plants and flowers. If you’ve never attended this event, it is worth considering when planning your next trip to Walt Disney World.

One of the early exhibits for this festival was a garden railway built next to the Germany Pavilion. Each year, a miniature town and train was erected for the delight of guests, then at the completion of the event, the layout was dismantled. However, the layout became so popular that it was eventually decided to make it a year-round exhibit. The display features LGB trains and structures.


Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion


LGB stands for Lehmann Gross Bahn (Lehmann Big Railway) after the company’s founder, Ernst Paul Lehmann. All locomotives, track, and accessories are built to run in rain and snow, which is why the Epcot train continues operating even during summer downpours. LGB trains are “G” gauge (scale), meaning the track’s rails are 45 mm (1.772 in) apart. During the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, LGB often has a booth in this area selling their wares, along with some specially designed Disney engines and cars.

The Italy Pavilion owes its inspiration to opulent 16th century villas of the Italian Renaissance. It’s interesting to note, most of the landscaping seen here can be found growing in terracotta pots. Terracotta is Italian for “baked earth.”


Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion


However, the Italy Pavilion does have a few plants that have put down more permanent roots. The first of these is an olive tree which pays homage to the olive industry so associated with this country. In fact, Italy is second only to Spain in world production of this fruit.


Italy Pavilion


Next to the Neptune Fountain is a long, stone wall. Planted here are grape vines. This, of course, represents Italy’s wine industry. Italy produces approximately one-fifth of the world’s wine, making it the largest producer in the world. Italy cultivates grapes in virtually every region of the country and has thousands of vineyards. Italians also lead the world in wine consumption. Per capita, they drink 18½ gallons a year as compared to 6½ gallons in the U.S.


Italy Pavilion


The horticulturists of Walt Disney World often use substitute plants for the actual variety when selecting species for the countries of World Showcase. After all, the weather in Central Florida is vastly different from that found in many of the regions represented. The only wine-producing grape that will grow in the hot and humid climes of Orlando is the Muscatine grape. This grape is native to the Southern United States and creates a sweet wine. This is not a varietal you would commonly see in Italy.

Two Southern Live Oaks anchor The American Adventure. Currently, the flowers beneath these trees create a five-pointed star. At Christmas time these will be replaced with poinsettias, as will hundreds of other flower beds around Walt Disney World.


The American Adventure

The American Adventure

The American Adventure


The fountain in front of the theater’s main entrance is also transformed into a garden at Christmas time which will provide space for a Christmas tree.


The American Adventure

The American Adventure


Since opening, the America Gardens Theatre has used trees to help shade the audience. These were recently swapped out for a new variety.


The American Adventure

The American Adventure


Gardens play an important part in Japanese culture. The Imagineers kept this in mind when designing the Japan Pavilion and devoted much of the available space here to landscaping.

Originally transported to Japan from China, the Japanese garden has evolved over time and taken on a distinctive look of its own. While Buddhist gardens were designed for meditation and contemplation, gardens of the nobility were intended for recreation and aesthetic pleasure. As gardens grow and mature, they are constantly sculpted to maintain and enhance the overall experience. In Japan, gardening is considered a high art form.


Japan Pavilion

Japan Pavilion


A typical Japanese garden contains a number of elements in its design. These include water, rocks & sand, bridges, architecture, lanterns, fences, trees & flowers, and fish. All of these can be found in the Japan Pavilion garden.

Water – Japanese consider water to be a life source and thus is abundant at the Japan Pavilion.


Japan Pavilion


Rocks & Sand – Rocks in Japan represent the enduring nature of the Earth. Most of the larger stones found at the Japan Pavilion were imported from North Carolina and Georgia since boulders are scarce in Florida.


Japan Pavilion


Bridges -- Bridges symbolize transition, the passing from one segment of your life to another. In other words, "We have made it this far. Do we want to turn back? Do we wish to continue on the same path? Or change direction?"


Japan Pavilion


Architecture -- Traditional Japanese architecture has been characterized by wooden structures, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Inside, sliding wooden doors were used in place of walls, allowing for the customization of space depending on the need.


Japan Pavilion


Lanterns -- Stone lanterns were introduced by tea masters to guide guests through their gardens to the tea ceremonies held in the evening.


Japan Pavilion


Fences – Fences are often used in Japanese Gardens to compartmentalize. It’s not uncommon for several types of landscaping to be displayed in one area. A fence can add beauty and helps divide one section of the garden from another.


Japan Pavilion


Trees & Flowers – Evergreen trees are symbols of eternal life and are plentiful at the Japan Pavilion. Because of the climatic difference between Japan and Florida, only a few trees native to Japan can be found at the Japan Pavilion. Some of these include the Sago Palm, the Japanese Maple, and the Monkey-puzzle tree. Azaleas, native to several continents, including Asia, can also be found here.


Japan Pavilion


Fish -- Koi are simply domesticated carp that are used to decorate ponds and water gardens. They were first bread by the Japanese in the 1820’s for their distinctive color. They were virtually unknown to the outside world until 1914 when they were exhibited at an exhibition in Tokyo. Interest was immediate and the hobby of keeping koi spread worldwide.


Japan Pavilion


Rock gardens (Karesansui) are associated closely with Zen Buddhism. Unlike traditional gardens, rock gardens have no water feature. Instead, gravel or sand represents the sea, ocean, rivers, or lakes and sometimes the sky. Raking the stones provides two benefits. First, the patterns are esthetically pleasing and represent waves or ripples. However, achieving this “perfection” is not easy and raking allowed Zen priests to concentrate and meditate while performing this task. When viewing the rock garden at the Japan Pavilion, ask yourself, “Are the large rocks islands in the water, or are they the tops of mountains protruding above the clouds?”


Japan Pavilion


Until the recent addition of Spice Road Table, the Morocco Pavilion had one of the more unusual gardens found in World Showcase. Here, a large waterwheel directed water into a Chahar Bagh (Persian for four gardens). The classic design of a Chahar Bagh has a fountain or holding trough at the center of the garden which flows into four channels at right angles to each other. The four channels are often associated with the four rivers of Paradise as described in the Koran. These waters flow to the four quarters of Heaven.


Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion


As Morocco is an arid country, lush gardens are not the norm here. In the Morocco Pavilion we see evidence of this as all of the growth is contained in small gardens or in pottery.


Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion


In the France Pavilion we find a kiosk surrounded by a ring of trees. Sights like this were once a common scene along Parisian streets. The kiosks served as information boards and displayed advertisements and newspaper articles. The ones seen in the France Pavilion are plastered with the works of French artists, many promoting upcoming exhibits.


France Pavilion


There is a lovely park-like setting bordering the “Seine.” Although not accessible to the public, this area of the France Pavilion was inspired by the famous painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by pointillist artist Georges Seurat. In reality, this was better illustrated before International Gateway was build and the embankment installed.


France Pavilion

France Pavilion


It was the Imagineers’ desire to create an urban ambiance in the France Pavilion that reflects perpetual springtime in Paris. To achieve this, landscaping plays a vital role. Flowers, blossoming trees, and colorful plants can be seen everywhere. With this foliage, it was hoped that an atmosphere, capable of inspiring an impressionist artist, would be achieved.


France Pavilion

France Pavilion

France Pavilion

France Pavilion

France Pavilion

France Pavilion


Jardin à la française (French formal garden) is a style of landscaping based on balance and symmetry. The idea is to impose “order” into nature. This style of gardening reached its apex in the 17th century when landscape architect André Le Nôtre used his talents at Versailles. In the decades that followed, this style was widely copied by other courts of Europe. A recreation of this gardening technique can be seen in the France Pavilion.


France Pavilion


Between the France Pavilion and International Gateway is an elaborate fleur de lis.


fleur de lis


Behind The Tea Caddy and The Queens Table shops in the United Kingdom Pavilion is a wonderful example of an English cottage garden. In days of old, homeowners would work small patches of their land and grow food items to help supplement their diet. A variety of fruits and vegetables were often planted. Herbs were also found in these gardens, but they were usually planted for medicinal purposes rather than as a seasoning. As the country became more prosperous and fruits and vegetables easier to obtain, flowers began to find their way into these plots. Today, cottage gardens overflow with greenery and color.


United Kingdom Pavilion

United Kingdom Pavilion

United Kingdom Pavilion

United Kingdom Pavilion


The row houses at the back of the pavilion face out onto Disney’s version of Hyde Park. Anyone familiar with the real Hyde Park knows that this replica has been scaled down considerably. This area is one of the most peaceful in World Showcase. There are a number of park benches throughout the square and this is a wonderful spot to just sit, relax, and soak in the ambiance.


United Kingdom Pavilion

United Kingdom Pavilion


In the early years, a topiary of Mary Poppins could be found here. With the advent of the annual Flower and Garden show, we began to see less and less topiary in Epcot during the rest of the year. By reducing their numbers during the non-festival months, it became more special during the event.


United Kingdom Pavilion


Across from Hyde Park is a hedge-maze fashioned after the Somerleyton Hall Maze created in 1846. Note, the bushes are about 2½ feet tall so only the youngest of children would find this puzzle challenging. However, it’s very common to see adults maneuvering through this classic English maze.


United Kingdom Pavilion


Near the UK Pavilion restrooms is a typical English Renaissance garden and a fountain.


United Kingdom Pavilion

United Kingdom Pavilion


Even though vast portions of the China and Japan Pavilions have been given over to landscaping, when most people think of gardens and World Showcase, they think of the Canada Pavilion and Victoria Gardens. This lovely area was inspired by Butchart Gardens found in British Columbia.

In 1888, Robert Butchart began manufacturing Portland cement in Ontario. He was successful and eventually moved to British Columbia, attracted by the rich limestone deposits found in this area. In 1904, he put down roots here and opened a new factory.
As the years passed, the pit near his home grew deeper and deeper and eventually the deposits of limestone were depleted, leaving an ugly eyesore. However, his wife Jennie, conceived a plan for resurrecting this bleak pit. From farmlands nearby, she requisitioned tons of top soil and had it hauled by horse and cart to the pit. Once the wasteland was covered with nutritious earth, she began to plant an array of trees, shrubberies, and flowers and bit by bit transformed this hole-in-the-ground into the lush garden it is today.

Although Disney’s Victoria Gardens can’t compete in size with the original Butchart Gardens, they are stunningly beautiful. Flowers are always in bloom and the grass is always verdant green. The Imagineers even included Canada’s national symbol, the maple tree. A stand has been planted adjacent to the gardens. And here’s an interesting fact for you. The snowy winters of British Columbia haven’t been forgotten. During the colder months of the year (by Florida standards), the Disney horticulturist plant white flowers and white-leaved shrubberies to suggest snow. As spring approaches, these white patches are scaled back to the shaded areas beneath the trees to suggest lingering snow. You can see an example of this in the fifth and sixth picture.


Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion


Well this finishes up the landscaping of Epcot. I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip around the world looking at the lush growth that graces these pavilions. Check back next week when I’ll be discussing the landscaping of Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom.


September 1, 2014

Landscaping the World - Epcot - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


Epcot encompasses about 300 acres. I realize that once you subtract the buildings, walkways, and World Showcase Lagoon this number is diminished greatly, but this is still an enormous amount of property to landscape and maintain.

In case after case, Disney uses trees to create a visual barrier. Take a look at these Epcot examples.


Row of Trees

Row of Trees

Row of Trees

Row of Trees


Many people, including myself, often compare Future World with Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. When Epcot was new, this was a fair comparison as both areas promoted science and technology. Today, that association becomes weaker as Tomorrowland has become a far more fanciful land than it was in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the architecture found in Future World and Tomorrowland still has some similarities. In both cases, the Imagineers were trying to envision a future with grand structures and massive expanses. Nevertheless, there is one major difference between the two. That difference is landscaping.

The Imagineers learned their lesson with Tomorrowland. As wonderful as this futuristic land was, they found out that people wanted some trace of nature. Concrete is cold. Plants are soothing. To that end, the Imagineers corrected this shortcoming and filled every nook and cranny of Future World with greenery and flowers.

Take a look at the Epcot ticket booths. The massive columns that support the overhang are surrounded by plants. A short walk away, the main entrance is augmented with more planters.


Ticket Booths

Main Entrance


For a long time, the entrance plaza of Epcot was filled with squat planters containing low growth and small trees. This area was open and provided guests with a vast expanse.


Epcot Forecourt

Epcot Forecourt

Epcot Forecourt


For the Millennium Celebration, the Imagineers removed most of these planters and replaced them with 35 granite monoliths ranging in height from 3 to 19 feet. On their surfaces was room for approximately 700,000 one-inch-square photo etchings. Many people loved this addition while others felt it blocked off the panoramic view of this area.


Epcot Forecourt


The grounds of Epcot are magnificent year round, but each spring, the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival transforms this park from fantastic to spectacular with the addition of even more plant life and topiary. Although this article will not be focusing on that event, it must be mention when discussing the first flower bed guests encounter when entering the park.


Epcot Flowerbed


Each year, this simple planter is transformed for this annual event and greets guests with a fantastic array of color and fancy.


Flower and Garden

Flower and Garden


Guests encounter a well-tended symmetrical garden when approaching Spaceship Earth.


Spaceship Earth


A number of years ago, a large awning was built behind Spaceship Earth. It was a desperately needed addition as shade was difficult to find in this area. To secure this covering, massive cables were attached to anchors on the ground. To help “hide” these anchors, potted plants have been positioned nearby.


Awning

Awning Anchor


When Epcot first opened, a very unusual palm tree grew directly behind the Spaceship Earth lounge. Today, two such trees grow in this flower bed.


Palm Tree

Palm Tree


From the very beginning, the Imagineers have used foliage to soften and hide the massive walls and windows of Communicore/Innoventions. Here are a few examples.


Bushes Hiding Buildings

Bushes Hiding Buildings

Bushes Hiding Buildings


For many years, a garden and flagpole sat in the middle of Communicore/Innoventions Plaza. It was removed when the stage was added behind the fountain to make up for the lost pedestrian space and provide more viewing area for performances.


Flagpole

Missing Flagpole


In Future World West we see a number of planters gracing the entrances of The Seas with Nemo and Friends, The Land, and the Imagination Pavilions. Once again, this was the Imagineers attempt to distance this area from Tomorrowland. Besides flowers, massive trees fill this space.


Future World West

Future World West

Future World West

Future World West


Before Nemo came to Epcot, the foliage in front of the Living Seas Pavilion played a much smaller role in creating an atmosphere. This can be seen in the first two pictures. Today, this area is thick with lush growth as can be seen in the third and fourth pictures.


Nemo and Friends

Nemo and Friends

Nemo and Friends

Nemo and Friends


Flanking the Land Pavilion to the north and south are two vast expanses of lawn. Technically, these spaces are place holders for future pavilions. Of course, I wouldn’t hold my breath of anything happening soon. So to make this area more attractive, the Imagineers have planted a number of shrubs and sculpted them into fanciful hedges.


Future World Lawn

Future World Lawn


When Epcot opened, a group of palm trees graced the entrance to the Land Pavilion. These were replaced a few years ago with shade-producing deciduous trees.


Land Pavilion

Land Pavilion


Beneath these trees is a simple water garden and a patchwork of ground cover and river rocks. The various colors and textures create a beautiful work of art.


Land Pavilion

Land Pavilion


Perhaps the most celebrated garden in all of Walt Disney World can be found inside the Land Pavilion. The “Living with the Land” attraction takes riders on a 14 minute journey through tropical and temperate greenhouses, highlights aquacell farming, and discusses a multitude of innovative growing techniques.


Living with the Land

Living with the Land

Living with the Land

Living with the Land


The primary draw factor for the Imagination Pavilion is an “up” waterfall and playful fountains. Still, plants play a part in the overall design. Take a look at the sign out front. It is overflowing with growth. In addition, the base of the pyramid features a number of planters. This can be seen in both the old and new color schemes.


Imagination Pavilion

Imagination Pavilion

Imagination Pavilion


For a number of years, a topiary of Figment graced the upper terrace of this pavilion. But alas, he has been retired.


Figment


Here’s a little known fact about Epcot. When the park first opened, Future World West was supposed to represent the right brain, the artistic side. This was represented by curving walkways, rounded planters, and water features. Future World East was supposed to represent the left brain, the logical side. This was represented by the straight walkways and angular planters. Some of this has been removed over the years, but it is still evident if you look for it.

The landscaping of the Energy Pavilion is rather modest. A simple flowerbed follows the straight lines of the reflecting pool. However the sides of the building are flanked by thick growth. This lush landscaping was selected to help tell the story of the prehistoric world we’re about to enter.


Energy Pavilion

Energy Pavilion

Energy Pavilion


Inside the Energy Pavilion, the Imagineers needed to create an entire world of ancient growth. For the foreground scenes they replicated a forest of realistic looking plants. For the background scenes, nearly 500 running feet of murals were created.


Energy Pavilion

Energy Pavilion


Mission: Space is flanked on each side by a large stand of trees. Besides framing this futuristic structure, these trees help hide backstage buildings from guests’ view.


Mission Space

Mission Space


The pavement in front of Mission Space contains a number of curved lines embedded in the concrete. These are supposed to represent the orbits of planets and other space objects. Notice how the floral design surrounding the attraction’s marquee follows this same pattern.


Mission Space

Mission Space


Near the Mission: Space shop is a sloping wall. Take note of how the hedge is cut to match the incline.


Mission Space


When Epcot opened, there was an attraction in Communicore called Electronic Forum. Here, guests would enter an “electronic” theater where each seat was equipped with four buttons labeled A through D. On stage was a cast member who would asked topical questions and guests could voice their opinion by pressing one of these buttons. The answers were immediately tabulated and projected on an overhead screen. The results were also shared with recognized research-based organizations. Outside this theater were dozens of television monitors broadcasting news programs from all over the world. One channel even broadcast live from the House of Representatives. To make all of this communication possible, two huge satellite disks were positioned nearby.


Satellite Disks


The Electronic Forum only lasted a few years before it was discontinued and this area was converted into additional shopping space. However, the outdated satellite disks remained until the early 2000s. Today, these disks have been replaced by trees.


Replacement Trees


That’s it for today. Check back tomorrow when I’ll be discussing the gardens of World Showcase.


August 26, 2014

Landscaping the World - Magic Kingdom - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Yesterday, I provided you with some staggering statistics relating to the landscaping of Walt Disney World. Then I continued with a closer look at the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street and Adventureland. Today I’ll finish examining the growth at the Most Magical Place on Earth.

As we move from Adventureland to Frontierland, the foliage changes from tropical to arid. In Adventureland, bare earth is difficult to find as every square inch of soil has profuse growth. But in Frontierland, dry sandy dirt is abundant.


Frontierland Landscaping

Frontierland Landscaping


I doubt that Dodge City and Tombstone of yesteryear had barrels overflowing with flowers lining their boardwalks, but this incongruity seems to work here in Frontierland. These rustic containers filled with greenery help make this western town more inviting and friendly.


Barrel Landscaping

Barrel Landscaping


The town of Frontierland was built along the banks of the Rivers of America. In the early years of this community, trees almost completely obscured the view of the water. But as the town grew and more lumber was needed for construction, this grove was thinned by the local settlers.


River of America

As you venture deep into the frontier backwoods aboard the Liberty Belle, the growth is thick with many varieties of tree, bush, and grass. Although this forest may look unmanaged, the Imagineers gave careful consideration to every planting. In some cases, the vegetation extends out over the water to give an overgrown look. At other times, the plants appear to have been cleared by animals and man.


River of America

River of America

River of America

River of America

River of America


Thematically, Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain should switch positions. Thunder Mountain was inspired by Monument Valley located in the arid climes of Arizona and Utah. It should sit adjacent to the dry Southwestern adobe construction of Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café.


Thunder Mountain

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café


On the other hand, Splash Mountain was based on the movie “Song of the South” where the story unfolds in Reconstruction-Era Georgia. This attraction would be better situated next to the lush pine forest that sits just beyond the train trestle.


Splash Mountain

Rivers of America.jpg


But of course, it didn’t turn out that way. Thunder Mountain was built long before Splash Mountain was ever even conceived. So how did the Imagineers ease this “error” in geography? With landscaping.

Being located in the “Deep South,” Splash Mountain cannot have too many trees surrounding the attraction. This can especially be seen at the outside queue. Not only does this mini-forest add atmosphere to the area, it provides shade for the waiting guests. In addition to these nearby trees, the actual attraction contains more greenery as it is peppered with bushes and patches of grass.


Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain


If you look closely at Thunder Mountain, you will notice that it is surrounded by cactus, succulents, prairie grass, and other scraggily growth. There are also a handful of trees in the area. However if you pay attention to the actual attraction, you’ll discover that it is practically devoid of any plants.


Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain


To bring these two areas together seamlessly, the Imagineers used landscaping. As you walk by Splash Mountain, you pass beneath a small stand of trees. As you near Thunder Mountain, the forest thins and the trees become more lithe.


Transition Area

Transition Area


Gardens also help make the transition. Near the Briar Patch, azaleas grow in abundance. But just a few yards away, a similar wooden fence contains cactus. This fence connects the two areas.


Transition Fence

Transition Fence


Over in Liberty Square, many of the flower beds have red, white, and almost-blue flowers. (The blue flowers are actually purple, but it is as close as the horticulturists can find.) These are wild flowers as you didn't find too many formal gardens in Colonial America.


Red, White, and Blue Flowers


In front of Liberty Tree Tavern, old kettles are used as flower pots.


Flowers in Kettles


Across from Hall of Presidents is Disney’s version of a Liberty Tree. This species is a Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) and was found growing on the southern edge of their Florida property. Determining that it would be perfect for the Magic Kingdom, the Imagineers decided to dig it up and move it. However, this would be no small undertaking. It’s estimated that the tree weighed more than 35 tons and its root-ball measured 18’x16’x4’ around.

The tree could not be lifted by placing cables around its trunk. Its weight would cause the cables to slice through the bark and into the soft cambium layer. This would seriously damage or possibly kill the tree. Instead, two holes were drilled horizontally through the trunk. Metal rods were then inserted into these bores and cables attached to the ends. Lifted by a large crane, the tree was transferred to a flatbed truck for transportation to the park. Once at the Magic Kingdom, the cables were reattached and the crane lowered the tree into place. The rods were then removed and replaced with the original plugs.

Unfortunately, these plugs had become contaminated during the move and caused an infection to grow within the trunk and eat away a portion of its interior. To remedy the problem, the plugs were removed and the diseased sections of the tree were cleaned out. This time, the holes were filled with cement. In addition, a young Southern Live Oak was grafted to the base of the tree. At one time, you could see these scars, but the bushes have grown up around the tree and they are now hidden. Take a look at the Liberty Tree as seen in 1972 and then again today.


Liberty Tree

Liberty Tree


The facade of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion was completed in 1963, three years before Walt’s death. The Imagineers wanted the exterior of this building to be rundown and dilapidated, but Walt had other ideas. He told them “We'll let the ghosts take care of the inside. We'll take care of the outside." Thus, the Haunted Mansion was meticulously maintained and its surrounding grounds manicured to perfection.


Disneyland Haunted Mansion


From opening day, the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom was also fastidiously maintained, but a few years ago, things began to change. Although the mansion itself shows no signs of neglect, the Imagineers have begun to let the grounds run down just a bit. The first signs of this can be seen near the entrance to the attraction. A toppled fountain and wild roses has been here for years, but recently, weeds have begun to grow and the once carefully pruned hedge has been left to grow naturally. Even more recently, the hedge has been removed completely.


Haunted Mansion Flowerbed

Haunted Mansion Flowerbed

Haunted Mansion Flowerbed


The next sign of disregard can be seen on the lawn. At one time, this grassy slope was mown on a regular basis and a weed growing here would be unthinkable. Today, the grass is uneven and weeds have found a cozy home.


Haunted Mansion Lawn

Haunted Mansion Lawn


When you look at Cinderella Castle from The Hub, it is flanked by shrubs and trees. This might make you believe that Fantasyland will be lush and verdant once you enter this magical land. But you’d be wrong.


Cinderella Castle

Cinderella Castle


The “old” Fantasyland has vast expanses of concrete with no shade trees. What growth there is can be found in the flowerbeds that hug the shops and attractions.


Old Fantasyland

Old Fantasyland

Old Fantasyland

Old Fantasyland

Old Fantasyland


Fortunately, the Imagineers are beginning to correct this lack of foliage in old Fantasyland. Let’s take a look a Pinocchio Village Haus. The first picture below was taken a few years ago. The second and third pictures were taken just recently. You can see that planters have been added near the outdoor seating area that are large enough to hold trees. In no time at all, these will grow and someday provide much needed shade.


Pinocchio Village Haus

Pinocchio Village Haus

Pinocchio Village Haus


While we’re visiting Pinocchio’s, let’s take a look at some Disney trickery found here. On the upper windows are small flower boxes filled with colorful blooms. They’re beautiful… And they’re also all fake. Just like the plastic topiary that the Imagineers once used when Walt Disney World first opened, they figure that no one will ever get close enough or pay enough attention to notice these flowers are not real. You can see fake flowers on almost every upper story in the Magic Kingdom. Take a look.


Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers


The Imagineers have also corrected this lack of Fantasyland foliage in the new sections of this land. Near the “Tangled” restrooms, a wonderful park was created, complete with a waterfall, babbling brook, and small stand of trees. Although Disney tries to use somewhat mature trees when creating a new area, there are limitations as to what they can practically plant. So if you think this area is nice now, come back in ten years and it will be a knockout.


Tangles Area

Tangles Area

Tangles Area

Tangles Area


On the other side of Fantasyland, Belle’s cottage is nestled in the woods, not far from that “poor provincial town.” The growth here is a hodgepodge of untended deciduous trees and shrubbery. This is exactly what you’d expect to see surrounding the home of an absent minded inventor and his independent-thinking daughter.


Belle's Cottage

Belle's Cottage

Belle's Cottage


Next to Belle’s cottage is the entrance to the Be Our Guest Restaurant and the Beast’s castle beyond. As his home is set deep in the forest, the trees in this mountainous region are a combination of both evergreen and deciduous trees.


Be Our Guest Restaurant

Be Our Guest Restaurant

Be Our Guest Restaurant


The Imagineers took some liberties when building Prince Eric’s castle. Although they recreated his palace flawlessly, the topography in which they placed his home is somewhat different than depicted in the “Little Mermaid” movie.


Eric's Castle

Eric's Castle


In the movie, Eric’s home appears to be in a temperate zone of the world as there are deciduous trees on the hills beyond and the beach is devoid of any plant life. However, in the Magic Kingdom, Eric’s castle is most definitely located in a tropical region of the world. This is evident by the many palm trees and other warm-weather plants seen here.


Eric's Castle

Eric's Castle

Eric's Castle


The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is an interesting attraction in that guests can walk completely around it. Because of this, the landscaping needed to change from one area of this attraction to the next.

Across from the Be Our Guest Restaurant we find the Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train. In this section of the attraction, evergreen trees are abundant. This is appropriate as the Beast Castle area is also thick with conifers.


Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train


As you move around the Mine Train, the pines start to mix with other varieties of leaf-dropping trees. Among these are birch trees.


Birch Trees


The addition of birch trees to the mix is important as we approach The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction. These trees were depicted in the E. H. Shepard illustrations found in the A.A. Milne books and line the entrance to this cute little bear’s home in the Magic Kingdom. Also notice the wildflowers that help set the tone for the 100 Acre Woods.


The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh


Storybook Circus really doesn’t have any outstanding landscaping features that you’d single out as being special. However, the Imagineers did learn from their mistakes made in the old Fantasyland. Instead of broad expanses of concrete, they added a number of planters that separate one section of this area from another. Once again, when the numerous trees that were planted here grow to maturity, this area will be even more magical than it is today.


Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus


Oddly shaped rock formations grace the entrance to Tomorrowland and give this area and otherworldly look and feel. To compliment this alien landscape, the Imagineers used plants that looked unearthly. And even though these are quite common species, they take on an eerie feel when seen in this environment.


Tomorrowland Entrance

Tomorrowland Entrance


As I mentioned in my recent Tomorrowland articles, the Imagineers original concept for this land of the future was vast expanses of concrete. Because of this, even the remodeling of this area in 1995 left very few opportunities for flora. Most of the landscaping here is contained in small beds lining the buildings or surrounding pylons.


Tomorrowland Planters

Tomorrowland Planters

Tomorrowland Planters

Tomorrowland Planters


In my opinion, the only really imaginative landscaping found in Tomorrowland is located along the concourse that runs from Merchant of Venus to the Tea Cups. The first is the “topiary trees.” I think these really encapsulate a futuristic look.


Topiary Trees


The other artistic bit of landscaping can be found in the planters that run up the middle of this wide thoroughfare. Here, the Imagineers have used colorful foliage to create orderly designs.


Tomorrowland Flowers

Tomorrowland Flowers


Well that’s my look at the landscaping found in the Magic Kingdom. Check back next week when I’ll be discussing Epcot.


August 25, 2014

Landscaping the World - Magic Kingdom - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


Over the past several years, I have taken a singular topic and discussed its theming from park to park and land to land. Some of these subjects have been lampposts, benches, water, and restrooms. Today I’m going to tackle the subject of landscaping and how plants helps set a mood and tell a story.

Vegetation is something we take for granted. It exist everywhere, yet we rarely pay any attention to it unless we’re visiting an arboretum or park. The same is true at Disney World. Foliage is everywhere, but we give it little notice. But I can assure you, if the Imagineers didn’t pay a lot of attention to plants, Disney parks would not be the inviting and beautiful places they are. Instead, they would be more akin to the old seaside amusement parks that once dotted the eastern and western seaboards. If it weren’t for landscaping, rides, food stands, and shops would be crammed in next to each other with no greenery buffering their harsh lines.


Old Amusement Park


To give you an idea of how important the Imagineers think landscaping is to the “story,” here are a few staggering statistics pertaining to Walt Disney World.

The total property of Walt Disney World contains seven million trees, shrubs, and flowers.

Nearly 12 percent of the Walt Disney World Resort property, an area equivalent to nearly 3,000 football fields, is devoted to gardens and maintained landscapes. That’s 4,000 acres worth of beauty.

Three million bedding plants and annuals are planted each year at Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts.

More than 4,000 hanging baskets are planned and produced each year. These are created in advance so they may be themed with seasonal flowering trees, bedding plants, and surrounding architecture. Most baskets take three months to produce. Hangings can grow to three feet in diameter and may weigh more than 65 pounds. Some 800 baskets are displayed at one time.

Nearly 13,000 roses (100 varieties) are shown throughout the Disney property. Removing spent blooms in the rose gardens of Epcot requires a good day’s work each week. That equates to more than 400 hours per year.

More than 3,000 plant species are displayed at Walt Disney World. They represent flora from all over the United States and 50 other nations on every continent except Antarctica.

Topiaries number more than 200. These are composed of shrub or sphagnum moss planted with "creeping fig" and English ivy vine material. As many as 20 different plants and flowers are used to create various topiaries.

To maintain the vast greenbelts of Walt Disney World, gardeners mow the equivalent of 18 trips around the Earth at the equator each year.

All this landscaping requires 65,000 sprinkler heads on 2,000 miles of water pipes.

The waterways of Walt Disney World are monitored routinely by the Reedy Creek Improvement District for insecticide and fertilizer contaminants. At the first sign of any imbalance in the system, steps are taken to locate and eliminate the cause.

To cut down on man-made chemicals, an army of 10.5 million beneficial insects are released each year to control plant pests. A single adult predatory beetle can eat up to 500 white fly eggs a day.

A diverse group of over 600 horticulture professionals (gardeners, arborists, irrigation specialists, and pest management specialists) join the bugs in keeping the flora beautiful.

So now that you know the facts, let’s take a look at the landscaping found in the parks.

Perhaps the most famous garden at Walt Disney World is the Mickey floral found at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. This always impeccably manicured piece of land is a major photo op for guests. In fact, so many people want their picture taken here that Disney has stationed a fulltime photographer nearby to snap your photo.


Mickey Floral


Mickey has changed over the years. Take a look at this next picture which was taken in 1986. Notice how Mickey’s features are outlined in concrete. Today these borders are gone and flowering plants make up the total design.


Old Mickey Floral


Before I go any further, I must explain that Disney has had to make one concession in their efforts to authentically landscape their parks. They have had to include waist-high fences around many lawns and gardens, even when they don’t logically belong. The Imagineers learned early on at Disneyland that guests did not respect obvious boundaries and would trample flowerbeds without a second thought.

Take a look at this early picture of Disneyland. Notice there are no fences around the lawns of Town Square.


Disneyland's Town Square


When guests do venture where they don’t belong and damage plants, the landscaping crews come to the rescue. Each night, all flowerbeds are inspected and the trampled growth is replaced with new. In the morning, everything looks fresh and perfect.

When cities began to grow in America, landscaping took a backseat to commerce and greenery was all but neglected. But it didn’t take long before city planners discovered that people longed for plant life. To that end, the designers started to line boulevards with trees and include parks and squares in their city plans.

Main Street is an idealized representation of a medium-size town somewhere in the Eastern United States. No town ever really looked this good, but it’s how we like to imagine people lived during the turn of 19th to 20th century. And to help this fantasy along, the Imagineers did their part by including a lovely square at the beginning of Main Street. Here you will find an ever-changing array of flowers and the seasonal decorations of Halloween and Christmas.


Plaza on Main Street

Plaza on Main Street

Plaza on Main Street

Plaza on Main Street


In an effort to “soften” the look of Main Street even more, the Imagineers recently added new permanent flowerbeds to the steps of City Hall.


City Hall

City Hall


The main thoroughfare of Main Street is dotted with a number of trees. These are continually pruned so they don’t grow too large for their surroundings. At Disneyland, the trees along Main Street are sprayed with a growth retardant so they don’t dwarf the scaled-down buildings of this roadway.


Trees on Main Street

Trees on Main Street


Down Center Street, a graceful bottlebrush tree can be found. In addition, a number of potted plants line the buildings. These containers would never do on Main Street proper as this is a high trafficked area and guest would continually trip over them.


Bottle Brush Tree


The lampposts of Main Street also offer guests a splash of color. Some of the 4,000 hanging baskets of Disney World can be found hanging from these light fixtures.


Lamppost

Lamppost


The left side of the Crystal Palace borders Main Street. Here we find a formal Victorian garden. However, the right side of this building sits adjacent to Adventureland. To help create a seamless transition, the foliage here is tropical and scruffy.


Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace


The Hub is currently undergoing a major refurbishment. The pedestrian areas are being enlarged for better firework viewing and traffic control. Because of this, I will not be discussing the gardens in this area today. But judging by the concept art I’ve found, it looks like this space will continue to be filled with beautiful patches of ever changing colors.


The Hub

The Hub


For those of you who love the dragon topiary found along the banks of the Swan Boat Waterway, it appears that Disney is leaving it intact. I took this construction picture a few weeks ago and it is obvious that the Imagineers are saving this opening day piece of living art for future generations.


Dragon Topiary

Dragon Topiary


When looking through my January 1972 Disney World pictures, I found this old photo of the dragon. If you notice, he used to face the opposite direction.


Dragon Topiary


The dragon is what I refer to as “traditional” topiary. It consists of one or two plants that have a rudimentary metal structure beneath to give it a basic form. It is grown over years and is cut and pruned into a shape. By contrast, the many character topiaries created today for the Flower and Garden Show at Epcot use and elaborate wire mesh body that already resembles the character being created. On top of this mesh are multiple “creeping” plants, flowers, and spray-painted dead moss. These can be fashioned in months, rather than years.


Old Topiary

New Topiary


Because of time constraints, the Imagineers used fake, plastic topiary along their roadways when Walt Disney World first opened. It was reasoned that guests would never get close enough to these “plants” to be able to tell the difference.


Fake Topiary


The mood for Adventureland is set before you ever step foot into this land. This is accomplished by the positioning of a large volcanic rock planter near the entrance of this area. Here, towering palms suggest the tropical climes of the world. Behind these palms is a lush jungle not yet explored by man.


Adventureland Entrance


Just inside Adventureland are three more planters. If you look closely, you will discover the volcanic rock is peppered with flotsam and jetsam from the Robinson’s ill-fated ship, the Swallow.


Adventureland Planters

Adventureland Planters


To the south of these planters is more jungle. At certain times of the year you can discover some beautiful and unusual flowers in this area.


Adventureland Flowers

Adventureland Flowers


Although the Swiss Family Robinson banyan tree is not real, the growth around it most certainly is. Take a look at these next two pictures. The first was taken in January, 1972, three months after the Magic Kingdom opened. The second picture was taken in July, 2014. The first picture was taken from approximately where Aladdin’s Flying Carpets sits today. The second picture was taken from roughly the same angle, but a little closer to the tree. You can see the same bridge in the lower left hand side of each picture. I think you’ll agree, the plants of Adventureland have grown significantly over the years.


Swiss Family Treehouse

Swiss Family Treehouse


Take a look at this fountain/planter found in Caribbean Plaza. These next three pictures will give you a good idea of how the gardeners at Walt Disney World are constantly tending to and rearranging their plantings.


Adventureland Fountain

Adventureland Fountain

Adventureland Fountain


That’s it for today. Check back tomorrow when I’ll cover the rest of the Magic Kingdom’s landscaping.


August 19, 2014

Turf Club at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

Jack Spence Masthead


My friend Donald and I recently ate dinner at the Turf Club located at Disney’s Saratoga Springs. But before I describe our evening, I’d like to give you a quick history of this restaurant.

The Disney Institute was the brainchild of Michael Eisner. He had visited a similar facility in Southwestern New York where guests had the opportunity to attend lectures, see theatrical performances, enjoy recreational activities, and attend classes designed to entertain and educate. Eisner was taken with this concept and knew something similar would be a perfect addition to WDW. To that end, construction began on the Disney Institute in 1995 near Downtown Disney.

For guest lodging, the Disney Institute would use the existing townhomes and treehouse villas that had been constructed during the property’s early years. For the classes, lectures, and performances, architect Tom Beedy designed a “community” that resembled a small New England Town. Initial construction began with the expansion of the existing Buena Vista Golf Club. This building grew to three times its original size and featured the Welcome and Check-in Center, a shop named “Dabbler,” a relaxation area called “The Gathering Place Lounge,” and a full-service restaurant to be known as “Seasons.”


Disney Institute

Disney Institute

Disney Institute

Disney Institute

Disney Institute

Disney Institute

Disney Institute


Sitting approximately where the Artist’s Palette kitchen, ordering station, and registers are located today, Seasons Restaurant offered Institute guests a fine meal. Here’s what the official Disney literature had to say in 1999:

“Fresh, seasonal Florida produce is the centerpiece of every meal at Seasons Restaurant, served in four dining rooms decorated to reflect summer, winter, spring, and fall. Lunch offers light salads, sandwiches, and seafood and the dinner menu allows Chef Marianne Hunnel to show off her creativity with the freshest Atlantic seafood, meats, and pasta dishes.”


Seasons Restaurant


By the way, Chef Marianne Hunnel is still working her culinary magic at Walt Disney World restaurants today.

I only ate at Seasons Restaurant once during its existence. And I only have a few memories of my evening. But I do remember I came away pleased with the meal, service, and decor and I had every intention of returning. Unfortunately, the majority of this establishment’s patrons came from the struggling Disney Institute and it could not compete with nearby Downtown Disney eateries and other, more themed restaurants found around property. It closed in 2000.

The concept of four dining rooms themed around the seasons of the year was resurrected at the Sunshine Seasons Foot Court in the Land Pavilion at Epcot. Although subtle, the carpet color and table tops reflect summer, winter, spring, and fall in four, walled-off areas.


Sunshine Seasons Food Court

Sunshine Seasons Food Court

Sunshine Seasons Food Court


As the Disney Institute continued to search for participants, the massive Disney marketing department continued to promote the facility. But it was a lost cause. As fewer and fewer guests signed up for classes, less and less programs were offered. The final straw came with the slowdown in tourism after the 9/11 attacks. The Disney Institute closed its doors in 2002.

Interestingly, the Disney Institute still exists today, not as a guest enrichment package, but rather a corporate development program. Disney uses their own success in the business world as a model for other companies to emulate. Their goal is to use time-tested practices, sound methodologies, and real life business lessons that can facilitate corporate culture change in other organizations.

To make a long story short, Saratoga Springs grew from the ashes of the Disney Institute. Knowing that this new, sprawling resort would need both a counter-service and table-service restaurant, Seasons Restaurant was gutted, the kitchen rearranged, and walls repositioned. Thus was born the Artist’s Palette and the Turf Club Bar & Grill.

For a more thorough description of the Disney Institute and Saratoga Springs’ early history, read my more detailed article by clicking here.

Many people don’t realize that the lovely sitting room outside the Turf Club is actually the restaurant’s lounge. A pool table is on hand as is a TV that is usually tuned to ESPN. A walk-up bar serves soft and hard drinks beginning at 4 each evening. This is a great place to sit and unwind, even if you’re not planning a meal here.


Turf Club Lounge

Turf Club Lounge

Turf Club Lounge

Turf Club Lounge


The Turf Club Bar & Grill is located just off of this lounge and offers understated sophistication. Although I’ve never been to a private racetrack club/restaurant, I somehow imagine this is what it would be like.


Turf Club Entrance


The walls of this establishment are made up of dark woods with tan accents. The carpet is a rich green with gold highlights. The tables and chairs have a clean look and also feature dark woods. The lighting is simple and keeps the atmosphere subdued, which is perfect. A wall of windows runs along one side of the restaurant and allows filtered sunlight to bathe the dining room. Several shadow boxes hang on the walls displaying racing gear.


Turf Club Dining Room

Turf Club Dining Room

Turf Club Dining Room

Turf Club Dining Room


Adjacent to the indoor dining room is a covered porch with additional tables for outside dining. While eating here you can see the Sassagoula River in the distance and the water taxis ferrying guests to Downtown Disney, Old Key West, and Port Orleans. When the weather is pleasant, this is a wonderful spot to enjoy a meal.


Turf Club Outdoor Dining

Turf Club Outdoor Dining


For many years, the Turf Club was open for lunch as well as dinner. However, due to a sparse afternoon attendance, the midday meal was discontinued here a few years ago. Sigh. Dinner is served from 5pm to 10pm and reservations are recommended.

I have eaten at the Turf Club many times, mostly for lunch until this meal was discontinued, but also for dinner on a number of occasions. The food is consistently prepared well and presented attractively. When it comes to service, the wait staff has always taken good care of me. On that note, I would like to single out one server in particular.

I first met Max when I was eating lunch here on a regular basis. Besides being a genuinely nice guy, Max seems to know how to time a meal correctly. I have never felt rushed or hurried when he is waiting on me. He also keeps my drinks refilled without asking. This is something I really appreciate. Max seems to be able to sense my mood and only engages me in extra conversation if I signal a desire to be talkative. Sometimes well-meaning cast members can overdue the “where are you from” routine. If you’re planning a meal at the Turf Club, ask for Max. You won’t be disappointed with his service.

The tables at the Turf Club are simply set. A knife and fork sit atop a cloth napkin with a bread-and-butter plate to the side. Salt and pepper shakers hold up the drink menu. There are no tablecloths.


Turf Club Table


As with most dinners served at Disney restaurants, ours started off with a basket of bread. To give their establishment a distinction from the rest, the Turf Club accompanies this with maple butter. Overall, the rolls were unremarkable, but the maple butter made up for this.


Bread and Butter


I know its tradition, but I have always wondered why restaurants serve three rolls for two people. Why can’t they just serve four to begin with? I know they’ll bring more if requested, but…

Since I was writing a review for AllEars, we ordered a three-course meal. I started with the Steamed Mussels for my appetizer. These are prepared with fennel, shallots, white wine, tomato pesto, and fresh herbs


Steamed Mussels

The mussels were excellent and plentiful. I loved the flavor. And when I was finished with the mussels, I used the bread to soak up the cooking liquid that remained at the bottom of my bowl. My only complaint was that I encountered a few pieces of grit in two of the mussels. But this is nothing more than I find at any restaurant when I order this meal.

Donald ordered the Tomato Bisque for his appetizer. This offering has been a staple of the Turf Club for a long time. It is wonderful, rich, and creamy. It is topped with a dab of goat cheese which turns a good soup into an outstanding delight. I have had the tomato bisque here many times and I’m never disappointed.


Tomato Bisque


I know for a review I should order something more unusual than prime rib, but I’m a meat lover and this is one of my favorite dishes. It has also been on the Turf Club menu for a long time so I believe it is considered one of their signature meals.


Prime Rib


I like my meat rare as you can see in the above picture. Yum. The prime rib was tender, nicely marbled, and flavorful and was served with a cherry-peppercorn sauce which was a nice addition. I was quite pleased with my selection and it satisfied my craving for beef.

The prime rib was accompanied with mashed Potatoes and broccolini. I’m not a fan of chefs stacking food. I prefer my selections to each have their own space on the plate. I don’t want to have to “unpack” my meal before I start eating. But stacking food is the trend at the moment so I have to go with the flow.

Normally, if mashed potatoes are offered with a meal, I’ll ask for a substitute. It’s not that I don’t like mashed potatoes, it’s just that I think they are bland and there are usually more flavorful options. But since I was doing a review, I opted to take what was offered, and I’m glad I did. I couldn’t believe how much flavor the chef packed into this mundane tuber. I could have made a meal on the potatoes alone.

As for the broccolini, it was fine. Nothing worthy of praise or criticism.

Overall, I was very happy with my dinner.

Donald ordered the Root Beer Brined Pork Chop.


Root Beer Brined Pork Chop


Donald made his selection because he was intrigued by the idea of meat being marinated in root beer. Although presented beautifully, his expectations were greater than the actual product. Although the meat tasted more than fine, it really didn’t have that “wow” factor he was looking for. There was no hint of the root beer flavor at all. Next time he’ll opt for something different.

For dessert I had the Warm Seasonal Fruit Crisp with streusel topping and vanilla bean ice cream.


Warm Seasonal Fruit Crisp


The seasonal fruit being offered during my visit was apple. Not very exotic. In essence, I was served warm apple pie a la mode. However, I LOVE warm apple pie a la mode and I was not disappointed with this offering. It was everything it was supposed to be and I was glad I ordered it.

Donald ordered the Lemon Curd & Berries.


Lemon Curd & Berries


This dish layers lemon curd, whipped cream, and seasonal berries in a tumbler. The seasonal berries in this case were blueberries.

For Donald, lemon flavor runs a close second behind chocolate. He was most pleased with his selection and would not hesitate to order it again.

Although I don’t have any pictures, I would like to make a few more suggestions. These are based on past experiences.

For an appetizer, try the Turf Club Signature Grilled Romaine Salad. It features grilled hearts of romaine with Caesar dressing, balsamic vinegar reduction, and roasted cherry tomatoes. It is outstanding. I use to order this for lunch on almost every visit.

For dinner, try the Grilled Salmon with Teriyaki Glaze, with Cilantro Jasmine Rice and Green Peas. The salmon is exceptional. The best I’ve had anywhere on property.

For dessert I like the Cheesecake with Seasonal Topping. As you would expect, the seasonal topping is usually berries, but that’s okay. This cheesecake is not pretentious. It’s just your basic cheesecake. However, it’s GOOD basic cheesecake and always satisfies my craving for this extremely fattening dessert.

I recently reviewed Shutters at Old Port Royale located at the Caribbean Beach Resort. In that review I said that the restaurant was worth trying if you’re staying at that particular resort. But it certainly isn’t worth a trip out of your way to get there.

The Turf Club almost falls into this same category. It’s a great place to have supper if you’re staying at Saratoga Springs, but I’m not sure it’s worth the drive if you’re staying someplace else. Well, I’m ALMOST sure it’s not worth a drive. The thing is, I like the Turf Club a lot more than Shutters. I think the food is comparable between the two, but the atmosphere at the Turf Club is far more refined. This is something I’m looking for when I’m dining out. While Shutters sits adjacent to a food court and is decorated in festive colors, the Turf Club is tucked away from everything and offers a subdued atmosphere. I like this and it might compel me to drive out of my way to enjoy a meal here. Note, my recommendation is dependent on you having a car and driving yourself. It is not worth a bus ride from your hotel to a theme park, transfer, and then another bus ride to Saratoga Springs.

Bottom line, I think you’ll enjoy dinner at the Turf Club whether you’re staying at Saratoga Springs or if you make the drive over. It’s a nice spot.

To watch a clip that highlights Saratoga Springs dining, check out the video below. If you watched the full Saratoga Springs video yesterday, you have already seen this material.



August 18, 2014

Saratoga Springs - A Relook

Jack Spence Masthead


Over the past several years I have stayed at every Disney resort. I did this so I could take pictures, create videos, and write reviews. Now that I’ve completed this mission, I’m starting the cycle all over again. But since not much changes from year to year, I am not writing completely new reviews. Instead, I’m just reporting on what has changed since my last visit. However, I am taking new pictures and creating all new videos. So far I have revisited Coronado Springs, the All Stars, and Caribbean Beach. Today I’ll be discussing Saratoga Springs.

Actually, it was only a year and a half ago that I stayed at Saratoga Springs and wrote a review so this resort was low on my list for a relook. However, a good friend of mine had some Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points that were expiring and offered them to me at the last minute. (Thank you, David.) With such short notice, Saratoga Springs was the only resort I was able to book for four nights.

After an extensive look around Saratoga Springs, I could see no changes in and about the resort. When I returned home, I went through my pictures from 2013, looking for differences I may have missed during my visit. I’m sure some small things have been altered, but they certainly were not obvious to me. Because I have nothing earth-shattering to report, this article will be about some of the things I experienced during my stay. To see the complete resort review I wrote last year, click here.

Meaning no offense to any of you who have purchased a DVC membership at Saratoga Springs, but this spot is the least popular membership resort located at Walt Disney World. I’m not saying Saratoga Springs is a bad resort. In fact, it’s very nice and worth your consideration when looking for a place to stay. I’m simply saying it is the last DVC to fill its rooms. This is why I was able to get a four day reservation during July with less than a week’s notice.

So what is it that makes Saratoga Springs less popular than the other Disney World DVC’s? Location is a major factor. With the exception of Old Key West and Kidani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, all of the other DVC’s are located convenient to a theme park. This gives them a definite edge over Saratoga Springs. Kidani Village is popular because of the animals outside the rooms and Old Key West is in high demand because it was the first Disney membership resort and the rooms here are significantly larger than at any of the other resorts. After Old Key West was built, Disney decided they could save money by making the rooms smaller in the subsequent DVC resorts. Pity.

Another thing people don’t like about Saratoga Springs is its size. It is huge. And unlike the Caribbean Beach Resort that has a dedicated bus that continually circles that resort, Saratoga Springs does not. Instead, you must catch a theme park bus to travel in one direction around the resort and a Downtown Disney bus to travel in the other direction.

Location and size are the two major failings of Saratoga Springs. But it does have a lot going for it as well. Here are some of the things I like.

First, I enjoy the atmosphere. I think the resort is beautiful. The lakes are lovely and the grounds are lush and well-tended. If you take the time to walk around Saratoga Springs, you’ll discover many lovely spots.


The Grounds of Saratoga Springs

The Grounds of Saratoga Springs

The Grounds of Saratoga Springs

The Grounds of Saratoga Springs

The Grounds of Saratoga Springs

The Grounds of Saratoga Springs

The Grounds of Saratoga Springs

The Grounds of Saratoga Springs


I like the Artist’s Palette Food Court over those at any of the Value or Moderate resorts.


Artist’s Palette


First, I like the menu here. At Artist’s Palette, the chefs try (and succeed) to be a little more upscale with their offerings with dishes like Bistro Buffalo Chicken Panini, Greek Salad with Chicken, Lobster Club Sandwich, and Chicken Spinach Artichoke Flatbread just to name a few.


Artist's Palette Food

Artist's Palette Food

Artist's Palette Food


The food is made fresh with each order. You can easily see the chefs hard at work behind the counter.


Chef's Cooking


And finally, I like the ordering and serving process.

Once you decide on a selection from the overhead menus, you get in line. Here, a friendly cast member will take your order and give you a receipt and a numbered table-tent.


Ordering Area


From the ordering station you proceed to a nearby register and pay. It’s also at this station that you order your fountain drinks. Bottled and canned drinks can be obtained at the neighboring refrigerators.


Registers

Refrigerators


Once you pay, you take your beverages and table tent and find a seat in the adjacent seating area.


Dining Room

Dining Room


Now here is the best part. Once your food is ready, a cast member brings it to your table, piping hot or appropriately chilled. I love this. No longer do I have to wait in line to pay as my food’s temperature tries to approach room ambiance.

Three cheers for Artist’s Palette.

Something I noticed on this most recent trip was an “Allergy Friendly” case. Here guests hungering for a snack can choose from Chocolate Chip Cookies, Bean & Rice Chips, Fudge Brownies, Caramel Corn, and Granola Bars. I’m sure this addition will make a lot of people with special dietary needs very happy.


Allergy Friendly

Allergy Friendly


I like the swimming pools at Saratoga Springs. High Rock Spring Pool is the largest and usually the busiest. It also has a pleasant bar for when you’re in need of an adult beverage or your child needs to refresh their refillable mug.


High Rock Spring Pool

High Rock Spring Pool

High Rock Spring Pool


Paddock Pool has the best children’s water-play area. In addition, breakfast and lunch are served here. I’ve enjoyed several alfresco meals at this spot and have appreciated the atmosphere, even though I wasn’t going for a swim. The Paddock Grill is also the only spot at Saratoga Springs where you can get a hamburger.


Paddock Pool

Paddock Pool

Paddock Pool

Paddock Pool

I like the design of the Backstretch Pool. It has a great children’s splash-n-play area that truly embraces the horserace theme of Saratoga Springs. However, the red and white color scheme can be a little intense for some. This pool also has a refreshment/food bar that is open seasonally.


Backstretch Pool

Backstretch Pool

Backstretch Pool


The Congress Park Pool has by far the quietest atmosphere of the four. This can be attributed to the lack of a splash-n-play area for the kids. This pool also has the most sophisticated atmosphere. Congress Park Pool is the perfect spot for adults who want some peace and quiet.


Congress Park Pool

To see a short movie that highlights these pools, check out the video below.

Under construction is a new footbridge that will connect Saratoga Springs to Downtown Disney. This is part of the Downtown Disney/Disney Springs expansion. When complete, this will add a new element to this resort that will hopefully boost its popularity.


Footbridge to Downtown Disney


During my visit I stayed in a one-bedroom villa. Overall I like these units and believe a family could be quite happy here. The only change in decor I could find since my last visit was the elimination of the bedspread in favor of the “spa look.” This appears to be standard practice now at all Disney World resorts.


One Bedroom Unit

One Bedroom Unit

One Bedroom Unit

One Bedroom Unit

One Bedroom Unit

To see a short movie that highlights a one bedroom villa, check out the video below.

I have two stories about my room to share with you. One good and one not so good. Let’s start with the not so good.

The living room couch is a convertible sofa. Because of this, the foundation beneath the cushions is not as good as a foundation found beneath a standard sofa. It has been my experience that hotel convertible sofas are tolerable for seating but not really comfortable. The foundations give out quickly with all the wear and tear they endure.

Well, that was certainly the case in my room. I don’t believe I have ever sat on a more uncomfortable couch. All support beneath the front of the cushions was gone. When I sat down, I sank so low that the wood strip across the front of the sofa cut into my legs. To help alleviate the problem I took two bed pillows and placed them beneath the cushions. This helped some, but the couch was still painful on my legs. Ouch. Disney needs to address this issue.


Convertible Sofa


On the other hand, the bed in the bedroom was more than comfortable for sleeping. No complaints about the mattress.

Now for the good story, however my tale starts out on shaky ground.

Whenever I do a resort review, I open every drawer and cabinet to check for cleanliness and other unexpected surprises. You never know what you might find. The house cleaning staff is supposed to inspect every nook and cranny while cleaning a room, however sometimes things get missed. This is just a fact of life and nothing to get worked up about. If when I enter a room I find a minor issue, I shrug it off and let it go. However, if I find something beyond insignificant, I contact the front desk.

The first thing I do when I arrive at my room is to stash my luggage so I can take “clean” pictures. I want the room to look exactly like it would if you, my readers, were arriving. You don’t want to see my personal belongings. Then I start opening doors, drawers, and cabinets and begin taking pictures.

The rooms at Saratoga Springs have a coffee table positioned in front of the sofa. In order to provide guests with maximum storage, these are also chests that open up.


Coffee Table/Chest

Coffee Table/Chest

When I opened this chest, I noticed that the hydraulic hinges were broken. Without these safety devices, the lid could slam shut on someone’s fingers or worse, a child’s head.

This is one of those items that housekeeping could easily miss and I wasn’t concerned about it for the duration of my stay. I had nothing to store and no children to worry about. However, I felt that this issue was important and called the front desk. I wanted to make sure the chest would be attended to before the next guests arrived, who may have children.

In less than 15 minutes, a maintenance man was knocking on my door. He took one look at the problem and told me that he could not fix it in the room and that he’d have to take the chest back to his shop. He went on to tell me that he wouldn’t have a replacement until the following day. I assured him that there were no children present so I didn’t care if it was fixed immediately or not. He agreed to leave the chest for the time being, but informed me that if there had been children in the room, he would have had no choice but to remove it immediately. The chest was swapped out the next day.

I applaud Disney for their proactive safety policy.

As I said at the beginning of this article, not much has changed since my last visit. This makes it difficult for me to come up with original information that I haven’t said before. However, I did re-film the entire resort.

To take a look at all that Saratoga Springs has to offer, check out the following video. Note, the video does contain the swimming pools segment mentioned earlier.

During my stay, I enjoyed dinner one evening at the Turf Club. Check back tomorrow and I’ll give you the rundown of my experience.

That’s it for today.


August 11, 2014

If I Could Start From Scratch

Jack Spence Masthead


Hi Everyone,

Before we get started with today’s blog, you must endure an advertisement for a new feature AllEars has started. Each week, Deb Wills hosts a video show that brings our readers a “bit of Disney.” The topics will be as varied as our blogs. Sometimes we’ll discuss new offerings like “Epcot After Hours” and “Harambe Nights.” Other times we’ll bring you park and resort details like “Fort Wilderness Little Known Facts.” You never know what’s in store so you’ll just have to tune in to find out.

This week, Deb came to my home and allowed me to show off my "Pirate" guest bedroom We had a lot of fun and I hope you find it interesting and entertaining.

I have already recorded another session with Deb about the PeopleMover at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. And I plan on doing more videos in the future. To make sure you don’t miss anything, you might want to subscribe to our new show.



Each day, thousands of people drive north on World Drive and pass through the Magic Kingdom toll booths. Once on the other side, most guests veer left toward the Magic Kingdom parking lot. However, there is a second group of people that continue driving straight ahead or veer right. They are aiming for either the golf courses, the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, or the Fort Wilderness Campground. There are also a number of cast members in this second group who take this route aiming for backstage facilities or the property’s north exit onto Reams Road.


Magic Kingdom Toll Booths

Which Way To Go


Although the right side of the toll booths are unofficially designated for the resorts and the left side for the Magic Kingdom, this is a clumsy arrangement. Many people don’t know this and hotel guests and cast members are forever getting stuck behind a day visitor paying to park and asking a dozen questions.

None of the other toll booths at WDW give motorists a choice of direction. Once you pass through the other parking lot entrances, the only place to go is that theme park’s parking lot. So why is the Magic Kingdom different? To answer this question, we must look back into Disney history.

Walt was far more interested in building the “city” of EPCOT than the Magic Kingdom. But he knew that the amusement park needed to be built first to help generate the funds necessary to construct his futuristic community. To that end, he wanted the Magic Kingdom placed at the north end of property. He also wanted all of the “vacation” hotels to be clustered around the Magic Kingdom. By doing this, these facilities would act as the “weenie” and draw guest through a large portion of the property, and eventually, past Epcot to get to their vacation destination.


WDW Concept Map


After Walt’s death, the bean counters wanted to construct the Magic Kingdom closer to the interchange of Interstate 4 and Highway 192. This would have saved the company untold dollars as not as much infrastructure would be needed. It would also make the Magic Kingdom more accessible to motorists. But Roy wanted to honor Walt’s wishes. He also knew that the property’s needs would eventually have to be attended to and it would be better to do it now rather than later.

Although concepts for the “city” of EPCOT were bantered about for a number of years after the opening of the Magic Kingdom, for the most part, this dream died with Walt. Eventually, the company built EPCOT Center (a theme park) and placed it somewhat in the same vicinity as where the city would have been developed. They also connected this new park to the TTC with a monorail.

When Michael Eisner took the reins of the company in 1984, he was directed by the Bass brothers (who were major stockholders) to develop the property far beyond what his predecessors had done. And Michael did just that. He built two more theme parks, more golf courses, two water parks, many hotels, a learning center, a sports center, a motor racetrack, and expanded Downtown Disney. However, he did not build more monorails due to their excessive costs. Instead, the company opted to use buses to transport guests around property.

Because the property was so vast, these new facilities could be placed almost anywhere. But I’m sure serious thought was given to each new facility’s location. Still, I have a few problems with the decisions that were made and feel the Imagineers could have done a better job. Let me give you a few examples.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like the toll booth arrangement at the Magic Kingdom. This should be simplified. Hotel guests should have a way around the booths. Only those parking at the Magic Kingdom should have to pass through these pay stations.

Disney's Hollywood Studios was positioned in a location that makes it difficult for the park to expand. It’s bordered by major roadways on two sides, the main entrance on another, and its own parking lot on the fourth. In addition, an office building was built in it's backstage areas, limiting even more growth.

The parking lot has two entrances, one of these being off of the signal-laden Buena Vista Drive. This second entrance is woefully inadequate to handle the traffic it does.

To exit the Studio, you are dumped back onto signal-laden Buena Vista Drive. You should exit the Studio onto a “highway” as the other three parks do. Signals just slow things down.

As Disney World had untold acres of undeveloped land, I was always amazed that the Imagineers chose this location for the Studio. Why didn’t they position the park where it could grow and provide a decent exit and only one, all-purpose entrance?

The company built the Walt Disney World Speedway right in the middle of the Magic Kingdom parking lot in 1995. The track was designed to fit within the boundaries of the existing infrastructure, requiring minimal rerouting of existing roads. For several years, the track was home to the annual Disney 200. During the rest of the year, it was used for lesser events and test driving. However, its location turned out to be a nightmare. First, the constant engine roaring infuriated Polynesian guests. Then the issue of parking became a problem as the Speedway was sharing the Magic Kingdom lot. All in all, it was a disastrous decision to place this facility here and the Disney 200 only lasted five years before it was discontinued.

Downtown Disney was placed too close to State Road 535 (S. Apopka-Vineland Blvd.). Entering Hotel Plaza Blvd (on route to Downtown Disney) from this roadway during the off-season is bad enough, but come the busy times of the year, Apopka-Vineland is almost impossible to navigate.

Downtown Disney also sits along signal-laden Lake Buena Vista Drive. Driving along this roadway can test the patience of any sane person. Disney is currently in the process of expanding this six-lane road to a ten-lane road. I hope this helps, but I’m not holding my breath.

I like the Swan and Dolphin Resorts. I think they are a lot of fun. But I hate where they are located. They should NOT be visible from Epcot’s World Showcase. This “mistake” bugs me a lot.

I love the addition of the moderate and value resorts to Walt Disney World. This allows a wider audience to enjoy the many perks available to on-property guests. However, none of these properties are adjacent to a theme park. This makes them less desirable than a deluxe resort. Even the DVC properties Old Key West and Saratoga Springs are removed from the theme parks and require auto or bus transportation to reach WDW entertainment.

I’m not blaming anyone for the layout of Walt Disney World. It happened over time and the Imagineers tried to make the best decisions they could as new ideas were born and old ones dismissed. But it did get me to thinking, how would the Imagineers design the entire property if they knew in the mid 60’s that no EPCOT “city” would be built, but instead, four theme parks, 20-something hotels, water parks, and everything else that happened over the last 43 years. So, I took out pen and paper and started my own design from scratch.

The Walt Disney World property is basically a rectangle with a lot of irregular borders. For simplification, I’m just going to use a basic rectangle with straight edges. Please bear with me as I lay out my plans. This is an elementary concept that would have to be tweaked depending on the land and water that naturally exists. But remember, when Walt Disney World was first being planned, the Imagineers turned a swamp into Seven Seas Lagoon. They also constructed 47 miles of canals, 22 miles of levees, and 24 water-control structures and floodgates across the land. These facts let me be free with my design as I know Disney would be willing to move mountains (if Florida had any) to create the perfect vacation destination.

So here goes. My idea for the “perfect” layout of Walt Disney World if I could build the entire compound from scratch today.

Okay, my first decision might sound blasphemous to many of you, but I would not put the Magic Kingdom in its current position. Walt wanted it at the north end of property so it could be the weenie to draw guests past EPCOT, but we have no need for this in my design. And when you think about it, the ferryboats and monorails easily add 20 minutes each way to a day visitor’s schedule on a good day. On a busy day, even more time. And if the idea of a lake in front of a theme park was so good, why hasn’t it been recreated at any other Disney park? However, I would still create Seven Seas Lagoon. More on this in a minute.


Jack's Concept Map


I would have World Drive travel up the middle of the property, much as it does today. I would locate the Sports Center at the north end of property, near Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. This facility would circle much of the lagoon and lake and contain the three golf courses, water recreation, the Richard Petty Driving Experience, and all of the sports facilities found at Disney’s Wild World of Sports complex today. The water parks and miniature golf courses would also be found in this area. Remember, my maps are not to scale. They’re just here to give you an idea of general placement.


Jack's Concept Map


I would put Downtown Disney smack-dab in the middle of the property. World Drive would run beneath this shopping district. Walt originally proposed having automobile traffic run beneath EPCOT.

Even though my drawings don’t show it, there would be adjacent parking lots for all facilities.


Jack's Concept Map


Now for the theme parks… I would create four “villages,” each one anchored by a park. In a way, my design mimics the layout of the Magic Kingdom, only on a much larger scale. I have a central hub (Downtown Disney) and the sports center and the four villages radiate from this central location like Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland.


Jack's Concept Map


If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a Left Brain sort of person. I’m a logical, orderly, linear thinker. We would need a group of Right Brain people to come in and humanize my design. For example, in my drawing I have the four villages laid out very neatly. In reality, some villages would be closer to Downtown Disney and others further away. And their size would also vary greatly. After all, Epcot is twice the size of the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom is five times the size of the Magic Kingdom. In addition, the suitability of the land and property boundaries would also play a part in the design.

Walt’s original plans for the city of EPCOT called for a monorail system to connect the major locations around property. I would do the same. NO MORE BUSES.


Jack's Concept Map


Like the Magic Kingdom monorail, my system would be a double highway-in-the-sky with each side running in the opposite direction. But unlike the Magic Kingdom’s version, these monorails would stop at every station. By doing this, no area would be more than three stops away.


Double Monorail


Each village would contain one theme park, two deluxe hotel/DVC resorts and one each moderate and value resort. One of the villages would get the extra bonus of the campground. This way, no park would be superior in its lodging options. So if Disney's Hollywood Studios is your favorite park, you could stay right next door in whatever type of accommodation you like. In other words, no resort would be “stand alone” as some are today. Space could be left for additional growth within each village or new resorts could be added near the Sports Center, creating another village.

The current Epcot hotel complex (Yacht, Beach, Boardwalk, Swan, and Dolphin) is a good example of what each village might look like in my new design. There would be a small lake in which the various accommodations would be clustered. However my lakes would be larger than Crescent Lake. I don’t like the crowded feel that currently exists with the Epcot Resorts. There would also be a promenade that connects all of the hotels. And there would be “backdoor” entrances into every park for hotel guests.

NO HOTEL WOULD BE VISIBLE FROM WITHIN A THEME PARK!


Jack's Concept Map


When approaching a village by car, the roadway would split. Day guests going directly to a theme park would pass through a toll booth. Those going to the hotel complex would be directed to each resort’s own parking lot.

As I mentioned earlier, Walt wanted monorails to connect the major locations around property. In addition, he wanted PeopleMover stations adjacent to the monorail platforms. He would use this slower moving transportation system to transport guests to the smaller attractions. So to get around within any of my villages, guests would ride on PeopleMovers.


Jack's Concept Map


Running in the opposite direction of the People Mover would be a watercraft system. Although not nearly as efficient, boats add a lot of ambiance to an area.


Jack's Concept Map


Remember, each village would look entirely different from the other three. The lakes’ shapes would be varied and the hotel theming would be as diverse as it is today. In fact, I like many of the current hotel designs. There is no reason we couldn’t reuse some of the present-day motifs. So of you like the way the monorail runs through the middle of the Contemporary, let’s recreate it. If you like the laidback atmosphere of Port Orleans, let’s recreate it. But if we’re starting from scratch, new designs would also be welcome.

So there you have it. My idea for Walt Disney World if I had created the master plan back in 1965 with 2014 knowledge. If you like my ideas, great. If you have your own ideas, share them. If you hate my plan, no problem. None of it really matters as this was an exercise in futility. But I enjoy playing the “what if” game and I hope you enjoyed my vision of Walt Disney World.



August 9, 2014

AllEarsNet TV - Jack's Pirate Room

Jack Spence Masthead


Hi Everyone,

In case you didn’t know, AllEars has started a new video series. Each week, Deb Wills hosts a show that brings our readers a “bit of Disney.” The topics will be as varied as our blogs. Sometimes we’ll discuss new offerings like “Epcot After Hours” and “Harambe Nights.” Other times we’ll bring you park and resort details like “Fort Wilderness Little Known Facts.” You never know what’s in store so you’ll just have to tune in to find out.

This week, Deb came to my home and allowed me to show off my "Pirate" guest bedroom We had a lot of fun filming this segment and I hope you find it interesting and entertaining.

I have already recorded another session with Deb about the PeopleMover at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. And I plan on doing more videos in the future. To make sure you don’t miss anything, you might want to subscribe to our new show.

August 4, 2014

Disney Hodgepodge 5

Jack Spence Masthead


Today’s article contains another collection of unrelated odds and ends. Enjoy.



Los Angeles Airways

This next bit of Disney history is probably better known to those of you living on the west coast of the US rather than those of you living in the east. This is because it really didn’t directly involve Disneyland and was more of a local story. However, any true telling of Disneyland history can’t ignore the incident I’m about to discuss.

In the late 1940’s, Los Angeles Airways began offering the first ever regularly-scheduled helicopter mail service. As business grew, they started offering passenger service and by 1954 were whisking travelers between eleven heliports in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties.


Los Angeles Airways


Soon after the opening of Disneyland, Los Angeles Airways began offering daily helicopter trips between the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the Disneyland Hotel. At that time, the Disneyland Hotel was owned and operated by Walt’s longtime friend, Jack Wrather.


Walt Disney & Jack Wrather


Even though the helicopter service was part of a Wrather concern and not one of Walt’s, Walt was still proud that Disneyland was successful enough to warrant this type of attention. Although difficult to make out, the next two pictures show Walt using Los Angeles Airways.


Walt & Los Angeles Airways

Walt & Los Angeles Airways


The helicopter service was a big enough deal to be showcased on the second Disneyland giant souvenir map to be published.


Disneyland Souvenir Map


If you look closely at this next picture, you can see the Matterhorn in the background. (Right side of the picture, next to the lamp pole.)


Helicopter and Matterhorn


In this next picture, you can see the Moonliner and the old Rocket to the Moon buildings in the background. However, I don’t know why the helicopter had landed in this spot. The heliport was located just north of the Disneyland Hotel, nowhere near Tomorrowland.


Helicopter Near Tomorrowland


Due to the sprawling nature of Los Angeles, getting to and from LAX can be a nightmare. Even in the 50’s and 60’s, Angelinos complained that it took longer to get to the airport than to your final destination. To help alleviate this problem, Los Angeles Airways joined with other companies to examine a possible solution.

The idea was to create a central meeting point somewhere within the LA area, possibly Union Station downtown. Passengers would be transported to this location in a “Skylounge,” a bus-type vehicle that would be pulled by a large truck. Once at the central meeting point, the Skylounge would be detached from the tractor and reconnected to the belly of a Los Angeles Airways’ helicopter. From there, the passengers would be carried above traffic to LAX.


Skylounge

Skylounge


The plan also called for the creation of a V/STOL runway (vertical/short takeoff and landing). This would serve shuttle flights scheduled to fly between LAX and this central meeting point.

A V/STOL was part of the initial construction of Walt Disney World and was positioned adjacent to the Magic Kingdom parking lot. It was hoped that air-shuttle service between Orlando International Airport and Disney World would become a regular event. Although this never happened, the runway was used on several occasions. The Disney World V/STOL still exists today and is used as a staging area for construction projects.


V/STOL


A “Skyrail” was also considered to transport guests between the airport and this satellite station. Does this sketch look somewhat familiar?


Skyrail


Nothing ever came of these ideas, and even if the plans had gained acceptance, Los Angeles Airways would not have been a part of it.

On May 22, 1968, a Los Angeles Airways helicopter leaving Disneyland for LAX crashed near the community of Paramount. All 20 passengers and 3 crew members were killed. Three months later on August 14, 1968, a second Los Angeles Airways helicopter crashed while on route from LAX to Disneyland. All 18 passengers and 3 crew were killed.


Helicopter Crash


All service to Disneyland was eliminated after the second crash. Los Angeles Airways struggled to remain in operation, but closed their doors in 1971 after it failed to reach a contract in which it would have been purchased by Golden West Airlines.



Comments

I have been writing for AllEars for almost eight years. During that time, I have received almost 11,000 comments from you, my readers. I would like to tell you how much I appreciate the kind words and praise you have showered on me. It is greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

Just so you know, I personally read every comment before it is posted. First and foremost, I am interested in what you have to say. I learn a lot from you. And occasionally you point out an error in my information (or my spelling). But I also have to make sure that no one says anything inappropriate before the comment goes “live.” I probably post 99.9% of what I received.

Overall, I never edit a comment. So if you send me an observation with misspelled words and bad grammar, so be it. That’s the way it’s going to be posted for all the world to see. I don’t have time to correct these. However, on occasion, I will pull out a slightly naughty word before I upload the comment, but this is extremely rare.

That point-one-percent of comments that I don’t publish is because it contains views of a controversial or political nature. I’m never going to publish these, no matter how well they are written. AllEars is supposed to be a fun place to escape, not a place to get bogged down in non-topic opinions.

Occasionally I receive a comment that has one or two offending passages. In these cases I will edit the comment before I post it. But if I do, I respond to the sender and inform them of what I have done. Then I give them the choice of leaving the edited comment published, or I will remove it entirely if they wish.

I know that some of my readers make it a point to read the comments on a regular basis. But most of you probably skip them entirely. After all, it can get pretty boring reading posting after posting of “Jack is wonderful.” LOL

However, I would like to suggest that each week when you read my new blog, to at least scan the comments from the previous week. Many times, the comments I receive contain great information that I forgot to mention. Or they offer an opposing opinion from mine, which is great. My opinions should never be taken as the “last word.”

If you don’t want to read all of the comments, just skim the paragraphs for a single line that says: “Jack’s Answer” or “Jack’s Comment.” Quite often a reader will ask me a question and I will answer it here. And lots of times these are fantastic questions with fantastic answers containing information you might not find elsewhere in my columns.

Now that I’ve told you this, please don’t inundate me with questions. Although I’m more than happy to answer the ones I receive, it’s all I can do to keep up with my blogs.  But seriously, I am willing to answer the occasional question and the answers can be interesting. But please, try the AllEars “Search” feature for those basic questions like, “How does the Disney Dining Plan work?” I don’t know and I don’t care. The questions I like best are the ones that relate to park history and details.

So there you have it in a nutshell of how I handle comments.



Shula Burger

I recently received a coupon in the mail for new hamburger joint located on Highway 192. Since I’m always interested in saving a buck, I decided to give the place a try. And I’m very glad I did. It was outstanding!

I usually don’t promote non-Disney establishments in my blogs, but in this case the eatery does have a quasi-Disney connection. You see, the hamburger joint is called Shula Burger and it is owned by football coach Don Shula, the same gentleman who runs Shula’s Steak House found in the Dolphin Resort.


Shula's Steak House


Shula Burger is located in a relatively new strip mall at 8124 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34747 (Highway 192).


Shula Burger


The burger features a 1/3 lb. patty made from a blend of premium Black Angus beef, short rib, and brisket. Although the restaurant does offer several “gourmet” burgers such as the Wine Country, Southwest, French Onion, and The House of Blue, a basic burger is also available. The basic burger comes with standard toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickles, and such) but these can be upgraded with premium toppings like roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, gruyere cheese, blue cheese, roasted red peppers, red onion jam, double cut peppered bacon, and avocados. Beer and wine are also available.


Shula Burger Ordering Station


After you place your order, you’re given a table-tent number and asked to find a seat. Your meal is then cooked to order in a show kitchen and brought to your table when complete. And unlike other burger joints, your food is served on pewter plates. This is a nice change from paper.


Shula Burger Show Kitchen


The dining room is basic with some football references on the wall. It’s nothing to write home about but the restaurant isn’t about the décor, it’s about the food. Also found in the dining room are two sinks for washing up before (and after) your meal. Now you don’t have to visit the restroom for this basic task. Outdoor seating is also available.


Shula Burger Dining Room

Shula Burger Outdoor Seating


Here is a picture of the standard burger.


Shula Burger Basic Hamburger


Here is a picture of an order of fries and onion rings. Either of these is large enough to be shared by two.


Shula Burger Fries and Onion Rings


Shula Burger is not cheap, but it’s worth the extra cost to eat here rather than a big chain fast-food establishment. The burgers were outstanding as were the onion rings and fries. I couldn’t be more pleased and I certainly plan on returning soon. I highly recommend this establishment.

Having said that, would I recommend Shula Burger if you’re staying at Walt Disney World? No. Disney World has too many great dining opportunities. There is no need to leave property to find someplace else to eat. But if you’re staying somewhere along West Highway 192, then I would recommend finding this spot for a satisfying meal. To visit their webpage and check out their menu, click here.

By the way, I have eaten at Shula’s Steak House at the Dolphin Resort on one occasion and it was an outstanding experience. Expensive, but outstanding.



Mr. Guder

This next piece was originally published on August 23, 2009. Since many of you had not yet discovered my blogs at that time, I’m hoping this will be new reading for many of you. For those of you who have been with me for this long, well, maybe you’ve forgotten this bit of Disney history and you need a refresher course.

A handful of famous people have worked at Disneyland. John Lasseter (founder of Pixar) was a Jungle Cruise skipper. Steve Martin worked as a magician in the Main Street Magic Shop. Michelle Pfeiffer portrayed Alice in Wonderland. Teri Garr was a parade dancer. And Bob Cummings, Art Linkletter, and Ronald Reagan were members of Club 55 since they worked at Disneyland on opening day (July 17, 1955) as guest personalities. But there is one other famous celebrity who had a more notorious stint as a cast member.

During the summer of 1967, Richard Carpenter performed at Disneyland with John Bettis as a banjo and piano duo. They played at Coke Corner on Main Street.


Disneyland Coke Corner


Being a time-specific land, they were instructed to play certain pieces from the early 1900’s. However, they were frequently asked by guests to perform more contemporary songs like “Somewhere My Love,” “Yesterday,” and “Light My Fire.” Being young and cocky, they ignored their directive and honored the guest’s requests. Talent supervisor Vic Guder spoke to them numerous times about straying from the approved song list, but his words had little effect on the duo. Eventually, they were fired.

Being young and not completely understanding how the supervisor-subordinate relationship works, they thought they had received a raw deal. To vent their frustration and outrage they collaborated on an “anti-establishment” song titled, Mr. Guder in honor of their Disneyland boss. The song was later recorded by Richard and his sister Karen and was released on the “Close to You” album in 1970.


Close to You Record Album


In later years, Richard admits that perhaps he should have been satisfied with having a job and not behaving as he did.

Here are the words to the song. Something to keep in mind when reading them, the 1960’s represented a time of change. Non-conformity was rampant, except at Disneyland where cast members were expected to maintain the Disney look and attitude. Grooming standards were extremely strict then, more so than they are today.

Mr. Guder.
Say! Mr. Guder.
May I have a moment with you?
Because there is something I've got to say.
And please don't let it scare you away.

Mr. Guder.
Say! Mr. Guder.
I have seen you go through a day.
You're everything a robot lives for,
Walk in at nine and roll out the door at five.

(*) You reflect the company image.
You maintain their rules to live by,
Shine your shoes let's keep a neat haircut,
Now that you're wearing a coat and tie.

Mr. Guder.
Say! Mr. Guder.
Someday soon may realize,
You spend your life just playing a game,
Where no one wins but everyone stays the same.

Repeat (*)

Mr. Guder.
Say! Mr. Guder.
Someday soon may realize,
You spend your life just playing a game,
Where no one wins but everyone stays the same.
The sa-a-a-me.

Please!
Play your game!
Stay the same.



July 29, 2014

Before & After Quiz - Answers

Jack Spence Masthead


Here are the answers to the Before and After quiz. Some of these were easy. Some were difficult and required that you reach back in your memory to come up with the correct answer. I hope you did well.

As I said yesterday, all of my quizzes are just for fun. No winners will be announced or prizes awarded.


1. African resort and a soulful restaurant.

Jambo House of Blues


Jambo Houseg

House of Blues


2. The Sherman Brothers’ most famous song sung on a Walt Disney World roadway.

it’s a small World Drive


It's a small world

World Driveg



3. The first American ship to circumnavigate the globe from a Liberty Square eatery.

Sailing Ship Columbia Harbour House


Sailing Ship Columbia

Columbia Harbour House



4. Christmas extravaganza with red and black Opels.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show


Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show



5. An extraterrestrial feline lands at Spaceport 75.

The Cat from Outer Space Mountain


The Cat from Outer Space

Space Mountain



6. Ice Gator’s home at a DVC

Blizzard Beach Club Villas


Blizzard Beach

Beach Club Villas



7. What if Jane’s boyfriend moved from his current home in Adventureland to a home in Tomorrowland’s past?

Tarzan’s Tree House of the Future


Tarzan's Tree House

House of the Future



8. An Epcot annual event meets Walt Disney World’s most popular show.

International Flower & Garden Festival of the Lion King


International Flower & Garden Festival

Festival of the Lion King



9. Your favorite AllEars blog meets a boney fellow.

The World According to Jack Skellington


The World According to Jack

Jack Skellington



10. Princess Aurora dines at a World Showcase restaurant.

Brier Rose & Crown


Brier Rose

Rose and Crown



11 Shipwrecked survivors move from the current home to a timeshare at Walt Disney World.

Swiss Family Treehouse Villas


Swiss Family Treehouse

Treehouse Villas



12. A flying galleon travels to the lunar surface.

Peter Pan’s Flight to the Moon


Peter Pan's Flight

Flight to the Moon



13. Annette, Cubby, Karen, Roy, and the gang join a private restaurant at Disneyland.

The Mickey Mouse Club 33


The Mickey Mouse Club

Club 33



14. 1959 Disneyland attraction discovers Flotsam and Jetsam at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Submarine Voyage of the Little Mermaid


Submarine Voyage

Voyage of the Little Mermaid



15. An a cappella singing group performs on a Rivers of America vessel.

Voices of Liberty Belle Riverboat


Voices of Liberty

Liberty Belle Riverboat



16. Liberty Square shop will swap you two of their heads for one of yours.

The Yankee Trader Sam


The Yankee Trader

Trader Sam



17. The home of J. Thaddeus meets the leaders of the free world.

Toad Hall of Presidents


Toad Hall

Hall of Presidents



18. Ben and Mark are miniaturized to the size of a water molecule.

The American Adventure Thru Inner Space


The American Adventure

Adventures Thru Inner Space



19. A DVC has a broken elevator.

Bay Lake Tower of Terror.


Bay Lake Tower

Tower of Terror



20. Experiment 626’s flees and meets aliens Tony and Tia.

Stitch’s Great Escape to Witch Mountain


Stitch's Great Escape

Escape to Witch Mountain



21. One who slumbers, one who is beautiful, and one who is plagued by a curse.

Sleeping Beauty and the Beast


Sleeping Beauty

Beauty and the Beast



22. Simians return to their dwelling on the prairie.

Monkeys Go Home on the Range


Monkeys Go Home

Home on the Range



23. Golden State flyover of the Contemporary’s 15th floor.

Soarin’ over California Grill


Soarin' Over California

California Grill



24. Charley’s golden eggs are found by Huey, Dewey, and Louie in 100 television episodes.

Million Dollar DuckTales


Million Dollar Duck

DuckTales



25. An Irishman battles with leprechauns while riding in Tomorrowland.

Darby O'Gill and the Little PeopleMover


Darby O'Gill and the Little People

PeopleMover



26. An ape-man travels the great rivers of the world.

George of the Jungle Cruise


George of the Jungle

Jungle Cruise



27. A forgetful instructor meets an accomplished mallard.

The Absent Minded Professor Ludwig Von Drake


The Absent Minded Professor

Professor Ludwig Von Drake



28. Mark Twain inspired area at the North Pole.

Tom Sawyer Island at the Top of the World


Tom Sawyer Island

Island at the Top of the World



29. A specific elevated train travels where not even light can escape.

Monorail Black Hole


Monorail Black

Black Hole



30. Market Place child’s shop meets 3D arcade game.

Once Upon a Toy Story Midway Mania


Once Upon a Toy

Toy Story Midway Mania


Page 1 of 5

Return to Blog Central

Categories