Occasionally, I have a topic I wish to discuss, but it’s not long enough to make up an entire article. To remedy this, I’ve created my Hodgepodge series. In these, I will discuss, two, three, or four unrelated subjects. Today I’ll be writing about Highway 429, Disney World Aromas, and Restaurant Cards.
The following is a driving tip for those of you who travel to Walt Disney World by car and motor down Florida’s Turnpike (Highway 91). This suggestion has been shared in the AllEars newsletter in the past, but it bears repeating.
Since I’ve moved to the far west side of metropolitan Orlando, I now frequently use Highway 429. This relatively new stretch of toll road runs from Orange Blossom Trail down to Interstate 4. Also known as the Daniel Webster Western Beltway, Highway 429 is never busy. Even during rush hour, this four lane stretch of road is practically deserted. It was constructed prior to the Great Recession in anticipation of the housing boom that is only now beginning in this area in earnest.
Most people traveling to Disney World via Florida’s Turnpike stay on the turnpike until they come to Interstate 4 (heading west toward Tampa). Although traffic on Interstate 4 ebbs and flows during the day, it is always busy and often stressful to drive. However, you can avoid this hectic stretch of road by exiting the turnpike onto Highway 429 (south) about 9 miles north of Interstate 4.
Once on Highway 429, it’s about a 14 mile drive to the Western Way Disney World exit. Here you’ll encounter the quintessential Disney sign as you enter Western Way. This road travels behind Disney's Animal Kingdom and deposits you near Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
I would definitely consider this route next time you’re driving to Walt Disney World from the north. It can possibly save you time and it will definitely save you driving frustration.
Here is an interesting side note… In the months just prior to the Great Recession, Disney announced a major development for the land surrounding the Western Way off-ramp. The project was called Flamingo Crossings and was to feature a value-oriented, themed tourist district. Here guests would find lodging, restaurants, timeshares, and shopping opportunities. Most of these businesses would be non-Disney enterprises.
Land preparation and roadways were completed for Flamingo Crossings, but unfortunately, when the economy turned south, this project took a backseat to other, more pressing ventures. Today, all you can see of this development are beautifully landscaped streets, painted fences, and vacant land. Since the website for this endeavor still exists, let’s hope that someday this project will be resurrected.
Disney World Aromas
When I worked at Disneyland (1971 – 1980), the Imagineers employed a sneaky trick to entice guests into their Main Street Candy Palace. They placed bowls of vanilla (or other fragrant aromas) near air vents and had fans blow the smell out into the passing throngs. If you look at this next picture, you can see the vents below the windows.
As we know, smells can evoke memories and produce strong emotions. The Imagineers know this and use aromas in ways other than selling candy. For example, when designing Spaceship Earth, the Imagineers wanted guests to instantly know they were going to experience the “ages of time.” To do this, they created a musty odor that greets time travelers the moment they enter the loading area. It’s subtle, but if you pay attention, there is no mistaking this smell.
A not so subtle odor can also be experienced later in this same attraction. When we travel through the burning of Rome tableau, the smell of smoke is very strong.
Of course, we all remember smelling oranges as we passed by the desert farm in Horizons.
This same scent can be experienced today on Soarin’ as we fly over a California citrus grove. This attraction also produces the smells of a pine forest as we glide over a mountain river and the aroma of the raging surf as we wing over the Pacific Ocean.
It’s interesting to note, these scenes were each placed well over a minute apart so the fans and air conditioning could remove one aroma before introducing the next. In addition, the air conditioner needs to be able to entirely remove all odors before the next group of hang gliders arrive.
The same is true over at the Imagination pavilion. When Figment introduces the foul smell in the Journey into Imagination with Figment attraction, the air conditioner must suck out all of the offending aroma before the next group enters the room.
By the way, this foul smell is actually a modified coffee aroma. Disney couldn’t really use a truly obnoxious smell or guests would complain. In this case, Disney tricks us into thinking the smell is actually bad. First we see Figment as a skunk, then Dr. Nigel Channing says, “That really stinks.”
Disney uses another unpleasant aroma in an attraction at the Magic Kingdom. In Tomorrowland we find Stitch’s Great Escape. Here, Stitch burps and we’re subjected to his chilidog breath. I don’t know what this smell actually is, but most guests find it unpleasant and groan when it is released.
Over at Mickey’s Philharmagic in Fantasyland, audiences are treated to more pleasant aromas. On this attraction we experience the smell of champagne and pie. At one time, the scent of jasmine (the flower, not Aladdin’s girlfriend) was used during the magic carpet sequence. However, it was discovered that many people are allergic to this smell so Disney discontinued its use.
Disney also uses the sense of smell in It’s Tough to be a Bug at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Here, a stink bug bombards the audience with his potent defense mechanism. Later in the show, an insecticide scent is sprayed into the air.
Distinctive smells are not just limited to the theme parks. The hotels also have their individual odors. For years, I’ve noticed that the Grand Canyon Concourse of the Contemporary has a distinctive odor. I always assumed it came from the various building materials used during constructions. But of course, over 40 years later, these smells would have dissipated. So when I learned that Disney also manufactures aromas for their various hotels, I wasn’t surprised. So the next time you walk into the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, or other Disney hotel, take a deep breath. You’ll notice a pleasing smell that is unique to that establishment.
As we know, Fantasia was a ground breaking film with the use of Fantasound in some theaters, a sound system that eventually evolved into stereo. But this wasn’t the only innovative idea Walt had for the movie. He also wanted to release aromas into the theater during different segments of the film. For example, the smell of incense was suggested for the Ave Maria piece. He proposed having ushers walk up and down the aisles with spray bottles to release the appropriate scent at the appropriate time. But this method of distribution was impractical and it wasn’t feasible to install mechanisms to do this automatically.
There are also the unintentional aromas that captivate us. Who doesn’t get a craving when walking by the popcorn machine? Or the smell of burgers can be alluring over by Pecos Bill Tall Tale Cafe.
And thankfully, Disney restrooms are kept clean enough as to not offend us with obnoxious odors. LOL
Whenever I visit a Disney resort, I always pick up the free paper goodies that are available to guests. These include resort maps, theme park guide books, brochures, and anything else I can lay my hands on. While rummaging through my Disney paper goods recently, I came across a short-lived handout that was available at any of the concierge desks located around Walt Disney World – restaurant cards.
The front of each card featured the name of the restaurant, its logo, and the phone number for Priority Seating. Inside, guests could find an abbreviated menu with no prices. The back cover offered a brief description of the restaurant or its offerings. These cards were small and could easily fit into a pocket, wallet, or purse. Closed they measured 3½“ x 2”. When open, they measured 3½“ x 4”.
Below is an example of a Brown Derby card:
These cards were displayed in a special rack and were available to anyone walking by -- just like the Theme Park Guides are today. They offered guests a way to learn more about Disney World restaurants without having to wait in line to speak to a concierge.
I thought it might be fun today to take a look at some of the restaurants that no longer exist. This is a great way to learn a little about Disney World’s past and perhaps stir up a few memories.
Flagler’s – Citricos replaced Flagler’s in 1997 at the Grand Floridian. Flagler’s was named after Henry Flagler, the man who brought the railroad and resort hotels to the east coast of Florida.
Concourse Steakhouse – This moderate-to-fine dining restaurant was located on the fourth floor of the Contemporary on the Grand Canyon Concourse. It was replaced by a quick-service eatery called Contempo Café. A new restaurant, The Wave, opened on the first floor of the resort to fill the void left by Concourse Steakhouse.
Coral Isle Café – This casual dining room was located on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian. In 1998, this space was remodeled and reopened as the Kona Café.
Tangaroa Terrace – This other casual dining spot at the Polynesian was open until sometime in 1996 when it closed permanently and was not replaced. Today this space is used for special functions.
BonFamille's Café – Located at Port Orleans (now Port Orleans French Quarter), this lovely restaurant was open for breakfast and dinner. It closed permanently in 2000.
Fireworks Factory – The Fireworks Factory was located on Pleasure Island when the original backstory was in place. As the story goes, this was an industrial wharf began by a man named Merriweather Pleasure. The Fireworks Factory was one of the businesses that had taken up occupancy here. This restaurant closed in 1997 and was replaced by Wildhorse Saloon in 1998. Today this building has been completely razed in preparation for Disney Springs.
Ariel’s – When the Yacht and Beach Club Resort first opened, the Yacht had a steakhouse restaurant (Yachtsman Steakhouse) and the Beach had a seafood restaurant (Ariel’s). In 1996, the Boardwalk opened nearby with the Flying Fish Café. Soon after, it was determined that there just wasn’t a need for two seafood restaurants in the area and Ariel’s close in 1997.
Captain’s Tavern – The Caribbean Beach Resort was the first moderately priced hotel to open at Walt Disney World. The Imagineers did not think a full-service restaurant was needed and opted to create only a counter-service eatery. Unfortunately, they misjudged their audience and hastily converted a nearby lounge into the Captain’s Tavern. In 2002, this establishment was closed and completely remodel. It reopened as Shutters at Old Port Royal.
That’s it for Hodgepodge Three. Check back next week when I discuss the Shootin’ Galleries.