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July 28, 2014

Before & After Quiz - Questions

Jack Spence Masthead


Today’s quiz is for you fans of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. If you watch either of these shows you know that one of their categories is called “Before & After.” Here the answer or puzzle has two phrases and/or titles that contain a common middle word that connects the two together. For example, if I were to give you the clue: North Epcot meets South Epcot, the answer would be Future World Showcase. “World” would be the common word that joins the two titles.

In today’s quiz, I will give you clues for both the beginning and ending subject. The answers can be anything from an attraction, restaurant, shop, character name, or movie title. I will be using locations at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but not any of the foreign parks. In addition, I may drop the leading “The” from a title. For example, “The Shaggy Dog” would become simply “Shaggy Dog.” You must come up with the two correct answers and combine them successfully to create a “Before & After.”

As with all of my quizzes, this is just for fun. No winners will be announced or prizes awarded. The answers will appear in tomorrow’s column.

Good luck.

1. African resort and a soulful restaurant.

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

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

4. Christmas extravaganza with red and black Opels.

5. An extraterrestrial feline lands at Spaceport 75.

6. Ice Gator’s home at a DVC

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

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

9. Your favorite AllEars blog meets a boney fellow.

10. Princess Aurora dines at a World Showcase restaurant.

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

12. A flying galleon travels to the lunar surface.

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

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

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

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

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

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

19. A DVC has a broken elevator.

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

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

22. Simians return to their dwelling on the prairie.

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

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

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

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

27. A forgetful instructor meets an accomplished mallard.

28. Mark Twain inspired area at the North Pole.

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

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


July 22, 2014

Shutters at Old Port Royale

Jack Spence Masthead

Welcome back!

Yesterday, I discussed the changes that have been made to the Caribbean Beach Resort over the last three and a half years. I also presented you with a review of the food court found here. Today, I’ll be discussing Shutters at Old Port Royale. But before I do, I need to give you the history of this restaurant.

The Caribbean Beach was Disney’s first moderately priced resort. When planning this property, the Imagineers did not think budget minded guests would be interested in a table-service restaurant, so they only included a food court in their plans. However, they were wrong. When the resort opened on October 1, 1988, guests immediately started complaining and requesting more dining options. However, it would be almost six years before the first solution came to life.

When the resort initially opened, a large lounge called Captain’s Hideaway was located in what is now the food court seating area near the Calypso Trading Post. This spot offered a full bar with an emphasis on tropical drinks. In 1994, this spot was renamed Captain’s Tavern and dinner service began in a partially converted lounge. Prime rib, chicken, and crab legs were some of their specialties. However, Captain’s Tavern had its drawbacks. First, the atmosphere was still that of a lounge. It was nice, but hardly an intimate getaway.

The next, and more daunting problem came with its location. Because of the initial design of the building, Captain’s Tavern had no adjacent kitchen and no place to add one. In order to serve this new restaurant, a portion of the food court kitchen needed to be converted so it could prepare upscale meals. Besides depriving the food court kitchen of much needed preparation space, this distant location also created a problem for the wait staff as they were forced to cross a busy walkway and pass through a small door to get to and from the backstage kitchen.

In 2002, things changed dramatically. Captain’s Tavern was closed and this space was converted into more food court seating. At the other end of the food court, a section of the dining room was walled off for a new table service restaurant that would be opening soon.

When finished, the new restaurant would have three intimate dining rooms that could seat up to 130 guests. In addition, a new kitchen was built specifically for this eatery. However, because of space limitations, the kitchen still needed to be located across a guest walkway. To address this distant site, the Imagineers would make this a “show” kitchen open for all to see. No longer would the servers be forced to walk backstage to place orders and pick up food. Secondly, the foot traffic at this end of the food court is relatively light and dodging guests would no longer be a significant problem.


Show Kitchen


The official name of the table service restaurant at the Caribbean Beach Resort is “Shutters at Old Port Royale.” The reason for this long name is to differentiate this establishment from a restaurant at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort which is simply called “Shutters.” However, everyone drops the “at Old Port Royale” and just calls the Caribbean Beach version “Shutters” as well.


Shutters at Old Port Royale

Shutters at Vero Beach


Although you can get to Shutters via the food court, the official entrance is off of the esplanade. Inside the restaurant’s lobby, guests check in at an unassuming podium. Although this restaurant can usually accommodate walk-ups, reservations are always a good idea. You especially need reservations here on holidays like Mother’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.


Shutters Main Entrance

Shutters Lobby


The atmosphere at Shutters continues the rich and varied color pallet found in the food court, however the hues in the three dining areas have been muted and are relaxing rather than jarring. I find these rooms comfortable and welcoming.

Do note, the dining room located immediately to the right of the main entrance is often used as a passageway between the kitchen and another dining room located just beyond this first room. If you’re seated here, you will be subjected to servers coming and going throughout your entire meal. If a host tries to seat you in this room, I would suggest that you request another spot.

Here are two pictures each of the entrance and all three dining rooms. The last two pictures are of the dining room I mentioned above.


Shutters Entrance

Shutters Entrance

Shutters Dining Room 1

Shutters Dining Room 1

Shutters Dining Room 2

Shutters Dining Room 2

Shutters Dining Room 3

Shutters Dining Room 3


Here is a picture of a table ready for guests. Although you probably can’t see it in this photo, the napkins are paper. I have a problem with this.


Shutters Table Setting


Come on Disney. I ate lunch at Bahama Breeze the other day, a similarly themed chain restaurant, and even this eatery offers cloth napkins. At the prices you’re charging at Shutters, surely you could afford to provide guests with cloth napkins. And don’t tell me it’s part of the “island theming.” I’ve been to many nice restaurants in the Caribbean and been provided with cloth napkins. I don’t mind that you don’t have tablecloths, but paper napkins are for coffee shops. If you want to promote Shutters as a fine dining establishment, then take the necessary steps to do so.

Shutters is currently open from 5pm to 10pm each evening. Donald and I had 5:30 reservations and arrived a little early. We were given a pager but were called to our table before we could even find a seat in the lobby. We were escorted to the dining room I warned you about and given a table. (This is how I learned firsthand that this is the least appealing dining room of the three.)

Before I go any further with this review, I need to share with you one of my pet peeves I experience when dining out and how I’ve finally decided to handle the situation in the future. And this trip to Shutters would be my first execution of my solution.

Little annoys me more than going to a nice restaurant and being rushed. More times than I can count, I’ve had my entrée arrive while I’m still enjoying my appetizer. Grrr. In the early years, I would let the server place the food on the table as I hurried through my soup. But eventually I started insisting that they take the food back to the kitchen until I was ready for it.

At some point, I started explaining to my servers when I was first approached that I was in no hurry. I politely, but firmly, told them that I didn’t want to be rushed and I wanted to relax between courses. I was always assured that this would not be a problem. Sometimes my plea for leisurely pacing worked, but more often than not, it didn’t. Although I would be finished with my appetizer, my dirty plate would often still be in front of me when my entrée arrived.

Last month I ate at California Grill, one of Disney’s signature restaurants. As has been my policy for a long time now, I told my server I was in no hurry and to please time my meal accordingly. I was told that he was an expert at such things and this wouldn’t be a problem. He went on to say that I should feel free to order my entire meal and he would take care of everything.

Not true.

I was still enjoying my before-dinner cocktail when my appetizer arrived. And there were a whopping three minutes “breathing time” between my appetizer and my main meal. Grrr. I’m sorry, but when I eat at a fine Disney restaurant, I don’t want to be served like I’m at a corner coffee shop.

Anyway…

After that night, I swore that I would never let this happen to me again when I’m planning on an enjoyable dinner in a nice restaurant. And Shutters would be my first experience with my new tactic.

Our server Kyra greeted us shortly after we were seated and offered us drinks. While I was ordering my Mai Tai and Donald his iced tea, I told Kyra that I was having difficulty making choices tonight and I thought that I would hold off ordering appetizers until after I enjoyed my drink. She smiled and said, “Not a problem.” Our drinks arrived about five minutes later and Kyra left us alone.


Mai Tai


My Mai Tai was good and I’m glad I ordered it. Donald’s iced tea was ice tea. What can I say? LOL

For you lovers of rum, Shutters offers two different Rum Flights where you are served three shots of rum and can enjoy side-by-side tastings. I seriously considered trying one of these but decided I wanted a fruity concoction instead.

While enjoying our drinks, Kyra brought us a bread basket and butter topped with sea salt. I thought the bread was a little bland but the butter and sea salt made up for any lack in taste. In addition, I want to compliment Shutters on providing me with more than enough butter. There was plenty. Later in the evening, we were brought a second bread basket and more butter.


Bread Basket


After we finished our drinks, Kyra returned to our table and asked if we were ready to order. I told her we would select our appetizers now, but we still didn’t know what we wanted for our entrées. Once again, she smiled and said “No problem.”

I ordered the Braised Beef and Pepper Jack Cheese Empanada with Chayote Slaw and Piquillo Pepper Dipping Sauce.


Braised Beef and Pepper Jack Cheese Empanada


The empanadas were good, but not outstanding. I wish they had been a little more flavorful. If I were to return to Shutters in the near future, I would definitely try something else before reordering this dish.

Donald ordered the Caesar Salad with House-made Dressing and Cornbread Croutons.


Caesar Salad with House-made Dressing


This was the one true disappointment of the evening. After taking one bite, Donald said the dressing was so bland he could hardly taste it. He offered me a bite and I had to agree. If I hadn’t seen the dressing on the leaves, I would have guessed it was missing altogether. I suggested that Donald add salt. He did and it helped a little.

I know that Disney has a tendency to “dumb-down” some of their spicier meals so to appeal to the masses. If this is what they did here, they over did it.

After we were finished with our appetizers and our dishes cleared, Kyra returned to take our entrée order. I selected the Black Jack Barbecue Pork Brisket with Crab, Shrimp, and Corn Imperial. This was served with Green Beans and Piquillo Peppers.


Black Jack Barbecue Pork Brisket with Crab, Shrimp, and Corn Imperial


This meal was outstanding!

First, take a look at the presentation. There is wonderful color and texture balance. The plate was artistically arranged. This meal just looks delicious.

My first bite was of the Crab, Shrimp, and Corn Imperial (right side of the plate). It was wonderful. I could easily make an entire meal of this side dish alone. Besides being extremely flavorful, it was chockfull of large shrimp.

The green beans were cooked al dente, which I like. The piquillo peppers added a sweet taste with no “heat.”

The serving of pork was large. There was plenty of meat here for a hungry eater. And the barbecue sauce was the perfect topping. It definitely had a barbecue flavor, but it was subdued. This is not the strong taste you’d get when ordering ribs at your local BBQ joint. This sauce was more refined.

Donald loves short ribs, but was afraid to order them as restaurants often skimp on the serving size. Kyra assured him that Shutters offers 10oz of meat with this offering. So Donald ordered the Caribbean-Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs in a light Curry Sauce with Mashed Yucca and Yukon gold Potatoes.


Caribbean-Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs in a light Curry Sauce with Mashed Yucca and Yukon gold Potatoes


Donald was more than pleased with his selection. The dish is served in a large bowl and is reminiscent of pot roast. Besides the beef and potatoes, the meal had plenty of carrots and onions. He said it was all delicious and it was so tender that no knife was needed.

By this time, Kyra had picked up that I was ordering my meal slowly and gave us an appropriate pause after our main meal before offering us dessert. In fact, she didn’t even bring the menus to the table until after she had asked us if we were interested.

For my last course I ordered the Vanilla Cheesecake with Banana Caramel Sauce and Brulee Bananas.


Vanilla Cheesecake with Banana Caramel Sauce and Brulee Bananas


Once again, I hit the jackpot. This was an outstanding dessert. The cheesecake had an original flavor. Meaning, it didn’t taste like “Cheesecake Anywhere USA.” It was obvious that it was made on premises with someone’s personal recipe. The brulee bananas were good as was the multi-nut brittle that garnished the plate.

Donald order the Tres-Coconut Tres Leches �" Sweet Cream, Caramel, and Passion Fruit.


Tres-Coconut Tres Leches


Donald also felt like he was a winner with his selection. All three offerings were flavorful and had subtle but distinct differences from one another. He especially liked the Passion Fruit.

In conclusion, we had an enjoyable meal at Shutters and I’m glad we ate here. And even though paper napkins, bland empanadas, and a tasteless Caesar salad started the evening off with less than a bang, the friendly service, outstanding entrées, and wonderful desserts made us forgive the rocky start. Not to mention, we spent more time at Shutters than we did at the California Grill a month earlier thanks to my new ordering tactic.

Would I return to Shutters in the future? Sure. Especially if I was staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort and wanted a nice meal.

Would I go out of my way to eat at Shutters? The answer to this question is a little more difficult. Shutters is good, but it’s hardly unique. On the other hand, Disney offers an outstanding array of restaurants with more interesting atmospheres and experiences. This makes it difficult for Shutters to compete.

Would I consider Shutters a Disney signature restaurant? Definitely not. And neither does Disney as Shutters only requires one dining credit, not two, when using the Disney Dining Plan. But Shutters is a good choice for a somewhat upscale, casual meal.

Well, there you have it, my experience at Shutters. If you’ve eaten here, feel free to add your thoughts to the AllEars “Rate/Review” page by clicking here. To see the current menu, click here.



July 21, 2014

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – A Relook

Jack Spence Masthead


The last time I reviewed the Caribbean Beach Resort was during an overnight stay in November 2010. (To read that review, click here.)

Last month (June 2014) I returned for a two-night stay to see what had changed since my last visit. After a look around I discovered that very little has been altered during the past three and a half years. So with just a few exceptions, the resort is pretty much the way you remember it. Here are the changes I discovered during my stay.

In case you didn’t already know, Disney no longer uses plastic key-cards as room keys. They now give each guest a wristband that “magically” unlocks the door when you tap the band to a Mickey head positioned near the doorknob. You can also use these wristbands to pay for food and drink by simply “tapping” and entering a Personal Identification Number that you created at check-in. (You must leave a credit card on file during check-in to have charging privileges.)


Wristband


I have stayed at three Disney World resorts since the implementation of these wrist bands. And I have to tell you, I like them. I really appreciate wearing my room key on my wrist. It beats pulling out my wallet and searching for the keycard. The same holds true when paying for something. It’s much easier to “tap” than search for a credit card or cash. Also, the wristbands are waterproof which makes trips to the pool all the more convenient. Now you don’t have to leave your wallet or purse unattended while swimming. You can leave your money and credit cards back in the room. You have everything you need right at “hand.” I think the wristbands are great!

NOTE: I am NOT talking about using the wristbands for FastPasses. This is a whole other topic that I will NOT be discussing here. And please don’t send me comments on the subject of FastPasses. They will NOT get posted. All I’m saying is that I like the wristbands for room access and charging.

All six laundry rooms are now locked 24/7 and require a wristband for access. I can personally assure you that no matter what section of the resort you’re staying in, you can use any of these facilities. I know, because while I was filming the resort, I checked each and every laundry room and my “Barbados” wristband granted me access to all of them.


Laundry Room

Laundry Room


The offerings at the Marina have been scaled back dramatically. No longer available are the Sea Raycers, pontoon boats, canoes, pedal boats, and sail boats. If you want to pilot your own craft, you must now travel to the Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, or the Yacht Club. Still available at the Caribbean Beach Resort Marina are surreys, bicycles, fishing excursions, and the Pirate Cruise. This was a cost-cutting measure made by Disney that has impacted all of their moderate resorts.

In this next picture, you can see the empty channel where the Sea Racers once waited for eager captains.


CBR Marina


As I mentioned in my recent blog about the All Star Resorts, the paper drinking cups purchased at the food court now have a microchip attached to them that monitors your consumption. After your initial serving, you are allowed three refills over the next two hours.


Fountain Drinks


I booked a standard room for my stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort. When I entered, I saw that nothing had really changed since my last visit in November 2010. The only noticeable difference was the lack of a bedspread in favor of the “spa” look. A “Finding Nemo” throw now offers the only splash of color in the room. Additionally, my room did not have a “Finding Nemo” wallpaper boarder circling the ceiling as my room did in 2010.


Guest Room

Guest Room

Guest Room


As I mentioned in my blog about the All Stars, the TVs at the Caribbean Beach now turn on to an informational channel about the resort. In addition, the volume is initially set very low as to not disturb others. I really like this change and I’m glad to see it being implemented at all of the resorts.

I was disappointed with the electrical outlet near the table as the refrigerator was plugged into one of the receptacles. I was visiting by myself and wanted to plug in both a cell phone and a laptop. I can’t imagine how a modern family of four would make out with just one outlet.


Electric Outlet


Overall, I found the room to be tired and uninspired. Very clean, but tired and uninspired. I can’t say that there was anything wrong with my accommodations, but I can’t say that there was anything particularly compelling about them either. If you were to pin me down for details as to why I felt this way, I would be hard pressed to come up with any. Overall, I’d just have to say that the room lacked Disney magic. With just a few small Disney details (the throw, a picture of a Disney Cruise Line ship, and one hidden Mickey), a similar room could be found at any motel along Hwy 192.

This depressed me. I know that the Caribbean Beach is a favorite of many, but I was going to have a hard time promoting this room. I began wondering how I was going to write a review and gently let down the ardent fans of this resort. But fortunately, this story does, or will, have a happy ending.

The next day, I set out on a three hour trek around the entire resort to film and photograph each of the six villages. I started at the Barbados village then moved on to the Aruba section. When I got to the Jamaica village I discovered that a number of the buildings were closed and construction workers were scurrying everywhere. It didn’t take me long to realize that Disney was in the process of refurbishing the rooms at the Caribbean Beach and work had only recently begun.

I try to respect rules and I try not to venture where I don’t belong. But I wanted to see what was happening so I carefully passed by a construction warning sign so I could peek into one of the almost completed rooms. And I have to tell you, it looked great. A far cry from the room I was currently staying in. However, I did not take any pictures because I didn’t want to push my trespassing any further than I already had. Instead, I headed over to Custom House so I could speak with a hotel manager.

After introductions were made, I explained to him that I write for AllEars and was currently staying at the resort. I asked if there was any way I could change rooms for my second night. But I was told that very few remodeled rooms are on line and nothing was available at the moment. I went on to explain that I live nearby and could stop by any day if they would grant me access to a remodeled room for just 10-15 minutes so I could photograph and film the new accommodations. Once again, my request was politely declined.

So, for the time being, all I can tell you is that new and more compelling rooms are on their way to the Caribbean Beach Resort. I know that AllEars will make every effort to bring you pictures and videos as soon as we can, but it will probably be a few months away. Since Disney will not guarantee an updated room when making a reservation, we need to wait until more refurbished rooms come online so we can be somewhat certain we’re booked into a newer unit.

As I mentioned earlier, I spent three hours circling the resort so I could videotape all of the villages. I also spent several more hours filming Old Port Royale Centertown. Below is the culmination of my efforts. I hope you enjoy this overview of the resort.



Since I’ve already told you about all of the changes I discovered at the Caribbean Beach Resort, and this blog is only half the normal length I strive for, I thought I would use the rest of the space to give you an in-depth review of the food court and Shutters, the resort’s table-service restaurant. Let’s start with the food court.

First, you need to know that I like Disney resort food courts. In fact, since I live so close to Disney World, I will occasionally stop in at a resort simply to have lunch at one of these counter-service eateries. Of course, when eating at a food court, one must keep in mind that this is not a fine dining establishment. For the most part, the food offered at these locations is pre-prepared or is a dish that can be cooked quickly. This is perfectly fine with me as I don’t always want “fine dining.” As long as you have the right frame of mind and don’t compare these establishments with a table-service restaurant, you should be fine.

The food court at the Caribbean Beach Resort is located in the Old Port Royale Centertown building. Disney tried to place this building in the center of the resort, convenient to everyone. But the truth is, it can be a long walk from some of the villages. Because of this, Disney offers bus service that continually circles the resort and stops at all villages and Old Port Royale Centertown.


Old Port Royale Centertown

Old Port Royale Centertown


As I’ve mentioned many times before, when making a room reservation, you can request a specific location. Disney will not guarantee they will honor the request, but they will try their best. So if you want to be close to Old Port Royale Centertown, request either the Martinique or Trinidad North village. Second choices would be Aruba and Jamaica.

The food court at the Caribbean Beach Resort is themed to resemble an open-air marketplace found somewhere in the islands. Brightly colored buildings line a stone street, each selling their wares. On the second story, you can see the homes of the shop owners. Overhead, lanterns light the way beneath a perpetual evening sky.


Food Court Alley

Second Story Shop Owner's House

Second Story Shop Owner's House

Second Story Shop Owner's House

Second Story Shop Owner's House


The first shop we come to is Grab N Go. This is the largest of the five shops found along this street and as the name implies, it’s the spot where you can “grab” your goodies quickly, pay, and be on your way.


Grab N Go

Grab N Go


The selection here is large. In the bakery section, rolls, muffins, and bagels dominate the offerings in the morning. As the day progresses, these give way to cookies, cupcakes, and other cake-like goodies.


Bakery


On an adjoining shelve, chips, salty snacks, more cookies, and wine are available. Whole fruit can also be found nearby.


Shelf of Goodies


The rest of the offerings can be found in open refrigerators. Here you’ll find sliced fruit, salads, yogurts, premade sandwiches, soft drinks, adult beverages, power drinks, milk, juices, desserts, and much more.


Grab N Go Refrigerator

Grab N Go Refrigerator


I’m not a big breakfast eater, so for me, Grab N Go works perfectly. I can get a bagel, cream cheese, and an orange juice and be more than happy.

Note, at Grab N Go you pay for your purchases within the store. At all other locations in the food court you pay at central registers.

When the Caribbean Beach Resort first opened, the Grab N Go station did not exist. This space was divided into two shops, Cinnamon Bay Bakery and Oriental Express. The latter served a variety of Chinese items like egg rolls, spareribs, and soups. Later, this shop was renamed the Wok Shop.

The next stop along the road is Royale Pizza and Pasta Shop.


Royale Pizza and Pasta Shop

Royale Pizza and Pasta Shop

Royale Pizza and Pasta Shop


The pizzas served here are the same as the ones served in the parks. Personally, I think they’re fine. Is it gourmet pizza? Nope. But they don’t taste like the store-bought cardboard variety either. However, your toppings are limited to cheese and pepperoni.

Other options here are Fettuccini Pasta and Meatballs, Vegetable Lasagna, Chicken and Mushroom Marsala, and Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage. Since I was at the resort to write a review, I decided to give this spot a try and selected the Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage for lunch one day. The meal is accompanied with your choice of either a breadstick or a simple iceberg lettuce salad.


Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage


I discovered while photographing this meal that the red and green table tops were not particularly complementary to the food. So please believe me when I say, the pasta tasted much better than it looks here. LOL

Overall, I was happy with my selection. It was quite tasty. My only complaint was with the salad. I wish it contained a little something more than just lettuce. A cherry tomato would have been nice. Prepackaged Ken’s dressing is available at the ordering station.

Next on our journey is the Old Port Royale Hamburger Shop. The offerings here include a 1/3 Lb. Angus Bacon Cheeseburger, Caribbean Catch Sandwich, Chicken Breast Nuggets, Hot Dog, Jerk Chicken Sandwich, Vegetable Burger, Chili-Cheese Hot Dog, and Portobello Mushroom Sandwich.


Old Port Royale Hamburger Shop

Old Port Royale Hamburger Shop


Here I selected the Bacon Cheeseburger and my friend Donald tried the Chicken Nuggets. For the burger, a topping bar is available near the beverage station that includes tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and onions. For the nuggets, several dipping sauces are offered.


Bacon Cheeseburger

Chicken Nuggets


We were both pleased with our selections. Everything was hot and the fries were fresh, not soggy.

Bridgetown Broiler is only open for breakfast (7am to 11:30am) and dinner (5pm to 11pm). I did not sample any of their wares so I can’t offer any opinion for this spot. In the evening they offer Baked Chicken, Roast Turkey, Mojo Pork, Ropa Vieja (Braised Beef), a Vegetable Plate, and Seared Salmon.


Bridgetown Broiler

Bridgetown Broiler

Bridgetown Broiler


The last stop along this quaint street is Montego’s Deli. The selections at this shop include Turkey BLT Sandwich, Royale Sandwich, Vegetable Wrap, Cheesesteak, Roast Beef & Blue on Ciabatta, Cuban Sandwich, Caribbean Salad with Chicken, Shrimp or Tofu, Caesar Salad with Chicken or Shrimp, and Lime Chicken Wrap.


Montego’s Deli

Montego’s Deli


On the afternoon I opted to eat at this shop I selected the Royale Sandwich. It is loaded with turkey, ham, salami, roast beef, provolone, and red pepper ranch spread. It is served with either house-made jerk chips or pasta salad. I chose the latter.


Royale Sandwich


This sandwich was extremely tasty. In fact, it was probably the best meal I had at the food court. The pasta salad was also quite good. Sometimes pasta salads can be rather bland, but this one was not. It tasted of the many other ingredients present in the mix.

The food court begins serving hot breakfasts at 6:30 each morning with just one store being open. At 7am, two more stores begin serving and at 8am, the last of them comes on line. With each opening, more offerings are available. Note, the Grab N Go is open all day from 6:30am to 11pm.

Breakfast dishes include, Bounty Platter, French Toast, Spinach & Feta Omelet, Ham & Cheese Omelet, Western Omelet, Cheese Omelet, Mickey-Shaped Waffle, Steak & Egg & Cheese Quesadilla, Pancakes, Chocolate-Chip Pancakes, and Breakfast Cuban Sandwich.

Besides tasting as many meals as I could during this trip, I had another goal for this review. I wanted to take flattering photographs of the food to share with you. This prompted me to select the Bounty Platter as I thought it would make a good picture. The Bounty Platter comes with a scoop of scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, two strips of bacon, one sausage patty, one biscuit, and one slice of French toast.


Bounty Platter


It is my experience that breakfast foods do not hold heat well. This can be a problem when eating the morning meal in a food court. Even though I encountered no line when paying, the process still took a couple of minutes. After which I had to proceed to the condiment station and find jelly, salt, butter, syrup, cutlery, and napkins. By the time I got seated, my food was only lukewarm. By the time I had my last bite, it was cold.

The scrambled eggs tasted fine. After all, it is pretty hard to mess up scrambled eggs. However, they did need salt (and pepper, but I forgot to pick some up and I wasn’t going back to the condiment station).

I also like the potatoes. They were lightly spiced and actually quite good.

On the down side, the bacon slices were small and limp. If you like your bacon crispy, forget it.

The sausage was absolutely tasteless. In fact, if you had blindfolded me and given me a bite of this sausage, I would not have been able to tell you what had been placed in my mouth.

The biscuit was so cold it was incapable of melting a pat of butter. And the slightly warm French toast quickly lost what heat it had once I poured the cold syrup on top.

In the future, I’ll stick with my traditional bagel and cream cheese.

To enter the dining room, you must pass by one of several registers and pay for your meal. This is also the time to order your fountain drink if you didn’t pick up a bottle or can at one of the food stalls. On the backside of the register stands are napkins and plastic cutlery.


Food Court Register


Just past the registers is the beverage station. As I mentioned earlier, you must have a microchip embedded drinking cup or an all-you-can-drink mug to activate the machines. Water is the one exception.


Beverage Station


Behind the beverage station guests can find a multitude of offerings. Toasters, a microwave oven, condiments, the topping bar, and everything else you need to complete your meal is located here. If you don’t see something you need, just ask one of the nearby cast members and they should be able to help you out.


Microwave Oven

Toasters


The eating area consists of one large dining room and two smaller adjacent rooms. They all continue the same festive color scheme found at the food stalls.


Food Court Dining Room

Food Court Dining Room

Food Court Dining Room

Food Court Dining Room


With the exception of one of the smaller rooms, this space is not carpeted. Nor are the seats padded. Thus, there are no soft surfaces to soak up the noise. So when things get busy here, it can also get loud.

There a handful of tables located just outside of the food court. On nice days, this is a wonderful place to enjoy lunch or dinner.


Outdoor Seating


Near the beverage area is a “To Go” station. Here you’ll find everything you need to package up your meal for a trip back to your room. Plates, lids, napkins, cutlery, beverage holders, and paper bags are all available.


To Go Station

To Go Station


Overall, I like the Old Port Royale food court. I’m obviously not too keen on my recent breakfast, but other than that, I liked everything I sampled and I would have no problem returning here for lunch, even if I wasn’t staying at the resort.

Below is a short video of the Caribbean Beach food court. If you’ve already seen my resort overview video, there is no need to view this one as you’ve already seen the food court earlier.



My regular readers know that I am a believer in trying everything that Disney has to offer. That being said, I would hope that if you’re staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort, you only enjoy one, maybe two meals at the food court during your stay. Even if you don’t have the budget to eat in some of Disney’s finer dining establishments, stop in at the other resorts and give their food courts a try. Who knows, you just might be captivated by the offerings someplace else and want to give another resort a try on your next trip.

Well it seems that I’ve rambled on so long that I’ve run out of space from my review of Shutters. So I guess you’ll have to check back tomorrow to see what I think of the Caribbean Beach Resort’s only table-service restaurant. Until then, Bon Appetit.



July 14, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Eight

Jack Spence Masthead


Welcome back. Today will be my eighth and final article about Tomorrowland.

In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 - Tomorrowland An Overview - Flight to the Moon - Mission to Mars
Part 2 - Circle-Vision movies - If You Had Wings - Dream Flight
Part 3 - Skyway - Star Jets - WEDWay PeopleMover
Part 4 - Carousel of Progress.
Part 5 - Space Mountain and the Grand Prix Raceway
Part 6 - Tomorrowland History Around the World
Part 7 - The Timekeeper, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

Today I’ll finish things with a look at how the Tomorrowland makeover of 1995 affected the Carousel of Progress, Space Mountain, the PeopleMover, Astro Orbiter, and the Tomorrowland Speedway. Let’s start with Carousel of Progress (CoP).

I mentioned in Part Five of my series that a major makeover of Tomorrowland had been planned, but the ailing Euro Disney Resort was draining Disney’s resources and a scaled back conversion of Tomorrowland was implemented instead. This can be seen when looking at how the reduced budget was allocated. The front half of Tomorrowland received the lion’s share of the money and was beautifully transformed. On the other hand, the back half of Tomorrowland was short changed and only minor alterations were made.

Take a look at these CoP before and after pictures. Only the building’s paint job was changed for the remodel. In the first picture, the rotating building was painted in blue and white stripes. In the second photo, the Imagineers replaced these bands of color with gears, cogs, and sprockets to tie this building in with the new Tomorrowland look as seen through the eyes of visionaries of the 1920’s and 30’s.


Carousel of Progress

Carousel of Progress


The next change came with the attraction being renamed “Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress” with the lettering being placed on more gears.


Carousel of Progress


Inside, the song “The Best Time of Your Life” was retired and the original “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” took its place. Those who grew up with “The Best Time of Your Life” were horrified. But those who remembered the attraction from the New York World’s Fair and Disneyland were delighted. Even the Sherman Brothers admit their preference for the original song.

Another big change came to the show in this year. A new cast was hired to voice the characters headed by Jean Shepherd as Father. Shepherd is best remembered as the adult voice of Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” which was partially based on his story, “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.” Grandma is now voiced by Janet Waldo who voiced Judy Jetson on the popular 1960s television cartoon show "The Jetsons." And Rex Allen returned as the voice of Grandpa.

The fourth act of the show was also updated. This time it would reflect the typical home in the year 2000. In the earlier iterations of this show, CoP jump 20 years with each rotation. But now it jumped 60 years from the 1940’s in Act 3 to 2000 in Act 4.


Act 4


Attendance dropped dramatically at Walt Disney World after the 9/11 attacks. So much so that it was decided to close CoP the following month. But due to guest complaints, the attraction was soon reopened on a seasonal basis. Today the attraction is open every day.

CoP is showing its age, this cannot be denied. The theaters are never full and the wait to ride is never more than one revolution away. Like the old Tomorrowland, Act 4 is especially out-of-date. Not only is an archaic video game prominently displayed, the term “car phone” and “laser disk” are used. Also, Mother’s laptop is a bit bulky.

Rumors have circulated for years of its impending closure. But Disney steadfastly denies that this is in the works. Only time will tell. In the meantime, the show is still entertaining and if you view it as a part of Disney history, it has endearing qualities.

The PeopleMover received a limited makeover with the new Tomorrowland. The track found in the front half of this land was beautifully augmented with retro-future metal girders and fittings. However, the track located in the back half of Tomorrowland only received a new paint job. More recently, a new LED lighting system was installed and the track’s ceiling changes colors every several seconds during the evening.


PeopleMover Track

PeopleMover Track

PeopleMover Track

PeopleMover Track


The ride was also given a new name with the makeover, the “Tomorrowland Transit Authority” or TTA. The backstory being that this is a future mode of transportation in the metropolis of Tomorrowland and the “Blue Line” services this area. However, people never stopped calling this attraction “PeopleMover” and Disney would eventually rename the attraction again to “Tomorrowland Transit Authority PEOPLEMOVER.”


TTA Sign

TTA Sign

PeopleMover Sign

PeopleMover Sign


Along the route, a few new scenes were inserted within the “tunnels” of the attraction. The first being the addition of a galactic spaceport for the robotic inhabitants of Tomorrowland.


Robot Spaceport


Near the end of the ride, guests could once view “If You Had Wings” and “Dreamflight” through three windows. When “Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin” replaced these early attractions, one of these windows was eliminated and a scene of a futuristic hair salon was added in its place.


Beauty Salon


The most recent change to the PeopleMover came last year. The tongue-in-cheek audio that was broadcast during the ride was replaced with a simple narrative describing the sights along the route. Judging by the mail I have received on this topic, many people are not happy with this change.

Flying high above Rockettower Plaza were the Star Jets. This attraction would receive a significant makeover with the new Tomorrowland, beginning with a new name, Astro Orbiter on April 30, 1994. Interestingly, at Disneyland, this attraction also has the same name, but is spelled differently, Astro Orbitor.

The ride vehicles of Astro Orbiter would be given a completely new look. Gone was the futuristic rocket/hovercraft design to be replaced by a retro-rocket fitting of Tomorrowland’s new backstory. And the center pylon was converted from a Saturn Rocket to a transmission tower.


Rocket Jets

Astro Orbiter

Rocket Jets

Astro Orbiter


But the biggest change to come to this attraction would be the addition of colorful planets that surrounded the rocket path. Now, space travelers could view celestial bodies as they circled high above the Earth-bound pedestrians below. Astro Orbiter would become an energetic “weenie” to draw guests into this refurbished land.


Orbiting Planets

Orbiting Planets

Orbiting Planets

Astro Orbiter Weenie


Currently, Astro Orbiter is undergoing another major refurbishment. In fact, the entire attraction has been removed for maintenance and updates. It is scheduled to reopen in late September of this year.


Astro Orbiter Refurbishment

Astro Orbiter Refurbishment


Beneath Astro Orbiter and the PeopleMover is The Lunching Pad at Rockettower Plaza. This is a great spot to grab a hot dog, chips, and a drink and enjoy some shade at one of the many tables nearby.


Lunching Pad

Lunching Pad


FedEx took over sponsorship of Space Mountain in 1994 which coincided with the Tomorrowland refurbishment. Minor changes were made to the entrance doors, color schemes were tweaked, and new warning signs were posted. But to the average guest, the only noticeable change would be the addition of FedEx logos. The mountain’s structure was left completely unchanged.

The real modification to Space Mountain in 1994 didn’t involve the ride, but rather the construction of a building next door. As with so many other attractions, now guests would exit Space Mountain directly into a shop.


Tomorrowland Arcade


The backstory for this structure is that it provides power for the metropolis of Tomorrowland. This can be seen on a sign near the exit of Space Mountain. Besides selling Disney merchandise, a large array of video games are also available for those with a few coins burning a hole in their pockets.


Tomorrowland Arcade

Tomorrowland Arcade

Tomorrowland Arcade


FedEx ended their sponsorship of Space Mountain in 2004 and most of their insignias were removed at that time.

In 1997, Disneyland’s Space Mountain was painted in shades of gold, bronze, green, and copper to match the surrounding buildings. However, this change was not well received by the public and it was repainted white several years later. The Imagineers learned their lesson and did not try a similar paint job in the Magic Kingdom’s version of this ride with the upcoming renovation.


Disneyland Space Mountain


In early 2009, Space Mountain closed for a lengthy refurbishment. It reopened seven months later on November 22. Much had changed.

The first noticeable improvement occurred to the right of Space Mountain. Disney had finally gotten around to removing the old second-story Tomorrowland Skyway Station. In the process, they created a lovely plaza. They also turned the old merchandise facility into a face painting area. In addition, the remaining restrooms were gutted and more modern lavatories took their place.


Razing Skyway Terminal

Space Mountain Plaza

Face Painting

New Restrooms


Inside Space Mountain, the queue was augmented with new space-aged back-lit murals. The first of these is an advertisement for space travel. The sign reads, "Welcome Space Travelers - STARPORT SEVEN-FIVE - Your Gateway to the Galaxy." The "SEVEN-FIVE" is in reference to the year Space Mountain opened, 1975. On a side panel you'll find references to all the Active Earth Stations, each with a nod to the five mountains around the world.

Tomorrowland MK-1 (Magic Kingdom)
TL Space Station 77 (Disneyland)
Discovery Landing Station (Disneyland Paris)
Ashita Base (Tokyo Disneyland)
HK Spaceport (Hong Kong Disneyland)


STARPORT SEVEN-FIVE


As you venture deeper into the mountain, a number of space-maps line the wall referencing the various routes available for travel from the Starport.


Space Maps


The biggest change to the queue was the addition of 87 video game stations along the path. These were added to help occupy guests’ time as they waited in line. There are four games to play and they help further the story of interstellar vacation travel. This could include clearing a runway of asteroids or moving cargo from one location to another.


Space Games

Space Games


The final waiting areas were covered with a dome. Blue neon lights shine down from above.


Dome Ceiling


This new dome created a good and not-so-good effect. The up side was that it cut down on ambient light shining into the actual ride. This made it more difficult for guests to see the track ahead. The downside was that it created a dead zone when journeying through this area on the PeopleMover. Now you traveled in total darkness for an extended period of time

Although portions of the Space Mountain track were replaced, the basic layout was identical to the original design. Many claimed that the ride was smoother after this rehab, but others say it was just as jerky as always.

Another improvement was the addition of an on-ride photo op. Placed near the beginning of the ride, guests’ pictures were snapped as they whizzed by. Besides providing another souvenir opportunity, the flash in peoples’ eyes made it more difficult to see in the darkened environment. Photo viewing was placed at the end of the journey and pictures could be obtained in the Tomorrowland Arcade.


Photo Viewing


The long exit through the mountain saw a few minor changes. The first was a baggage claim area and a revamped control center. Once again, the backstory of space vacation travel was being told.


Baggage Claim

Control Center


The ride along the moving sidewalk was also updated to help tell the story of tourism space travel. Television monitors were added to the various space-aged scenes broadcasting advertisements for the many far off and exotic places Tomorrowland citizens could visit leaving from the Starport.


Vacation Options

Vacation Options


Many thought that this refurbishment of Space Mountain would include new ride vehicles that contained speakers mounted in the headrests. They were hoping that the ride would offer the same audio experience as could be had on Disneyland’s Space Mountain and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios. However, this did not come to pass.

Then on August 30, 2010, Disney unexpectedly announced that they had added a new sound system to Space Mountain. In a general announcement they said it wasn’t added during the previous rehab in order to bring the ride back on line as quickly as possible. They also said they did not retrofit the ride vehicles because they wanted the experience to be different than that of Disneyland’s Space Mountain. Instead, they strategically placed 60 speakers throughout the mountain.

The reaction to this new sound system was mixed. Some found it additive while others thought Disney had cheaped-out.

Leaving Space Mountain we head down the long corridor that runs toward the Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland. This area only received minor upgrades with the 1994/95 refurbishment of Tomorrowland. And many of these look tacked on.


Tomorrowland Corridor

Tomorrowland Props


Still, this area of Tomorrowland does have some interesting space-aged looking trees.


Trees


The Grand Prix Raceway is also located along this corridor. As I said in Part Five of this series, the Interstate System had become passé by the late 1960’s so the Imagineers opted for a racetrack theme at the Magic Kingdom rather than the freeway design of Disneyland’s Autopia. However, a speedway really didn’t fit with the Tomorrowland theme. But having no better place to put it, that’s where it ended up.

The new backstory for Tomorrowland was no better than the old when trying to come up with a logical reason for this attraction to exist where it does, so the Imagineers didn’t even try. It’s simply a racetrack, no more, no less. However, the attraction did receive some enhancements as part of the Tomorrowland makeover and reopened after a short refurbishment on September 27, 1996. It was now called the Tomorrowland Speedway.

Three years later, Disney and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway joined forces to change the theme of the track. Enhancements such as the Yard of Bricks, the Scoring Pylon, Gasoline Alley, and the Wheel & Wing logo were added. The attraction also received another name change to incorporate the new sponsor and on December 19, 1999 became known as the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.


Tomorrowland Indy Speedway


In 2008, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway dropped its affiliation and the name changed back to Tomorrowland Speedway. To my knowledge, only the Scoring Pylon remains today from the previous refurbishment.


Tomorrowland Speedway

Scoring Pylon


Today the track is 2,260 feet long. The original design of the Mark VII cars is still used (minus the spoiler). However, the cars have undergone several different paint jobs over the years. Here's the current style.


Speedway Cars

Speedway Cars

Speedway Cars


The car's nine-horsepower engines are fueled by gasoline and can attain speeds of an astounding 7.5 miles per hour. The vehicles hold two adults and there are approximately 140 cars in the fleet.

The Tomorrowland Speedway is a popular ride. For an adult, it is far from being the most exciting attraction at the Magic Kingdom, but for a kid, it can be the highlight of their visit. Many guests race to this attraction when the Magic Kingdom opens each day, making it the first ride on their “must do” list. Long lines develop quickly and last throughout the day.

Across the corridor from the Tomorrowland Speedway is Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café.


Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café


When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, this eatery was known as the Tomorrowland Terrace and was/is the largest restaurant in the park. Although I don’t have a picture of the interior from back then, I do have a picture of its counterpart at Tokyo Disneyland. The two were strikingly similar.


Tomorrowland Terrace at Tokyo Disneyland


When Disneyland’s Tomorrowland received a makeover in 1966/67, the Imagineers added a futuristic stage, one that raised from the depths of the earth to appear “out of nowhere.” Logistically, this was a performer’s dream come true. This allowed the band to do all of their advance preparations unseen, then rise to the occasion playing their latest hit.


Disneyland Stage


This concept worked so well at Disneyland that it was duplicated at the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland Terrace, albeit inside rather than out. Now performers could enter this stage via the Utilidors and make grand entrances.


Tomorrowland Terrace Stage


When it came time to create a new backstory for the Tomorrowland Terrace in 1994, the establishment was given a new name, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. This would be the first Earth restaurant franchise from outer space and the local hangout for both the citizens of Tomorrowland and its interplanetary guests.

The exterior of the restaurant saw only minor changes.


Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café Exterior

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café Exterior

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café Exterior


However the interior was given a whole new look and feel. Three “Bays” each offer a different menu so there is something for everyone here.

Bay 1: Chicken
Bay 2: Hamburgers
Bay 3: Sandwiches


Bay 1

Bay 2

Bay 3


Nearby is an excellent topping bar.


Topping Bar


Abundant seating options are available both inside and out.


Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café Seating

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café Seating

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café Seating


But the real draw of Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café is Sonny Eclipse and his Astro Organ.


Sonny Eclipse

Sonny Eclipse


Sonny took up residence on the old “elevating” stage. But unlike his human predecessors, Sonny doesn’t need a break and performs continually whenever the restaurant is open.

Sonny is a lounge lizard, literally. His singing style is Bossa Supernova and Eclipso. He is backed up by the Space Angels and his routine lasts 25 minutes. As with most lounge acts, most people just talk through the entertainment, but I would caution against this. Sonny is funny. Corny, but funny. (Sonny is voiced by Kal David, a professional jazz/blues artist.)

The elevating stage is still used today for special events. Sonny actually sits on what was the roof of the old stage. When a live performance entertains here, Sonny rises into the fly area. This next picture was taken at a recent holiday event.


Elevating Stage


Today, the name “Tomorrowland Terrace” refers to the restaurant located between Main Street and Monsters Inc.


Tomorrowland Terrace


Well that’s it for my look at Tomorrowland old and new. As we’ve seen, this land has changed a lot over the years and will probably continue to do so in the years to come. Although nothing official has been announced for upcoming attractions in this land, we know that the Imagineers are always on the lookout for new ideas.

This has been a long series and I hope it held your interest. I know I learned a few things researching this piece. I hope you acquired some new Disney knowledge as well.



July 7, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Seven

Jack Spence Masthead


Welcome back to Part Seven of my Tomorrowland series.

In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 - Tomorrowland An Overview - Flight to the Moon - Mission to Mars
Part 2 - Circle-Vision movies - If You Had Wings - Dream Flight
Part 3 - Skyway - Star Jets - WEDWay PeopleMover
Part 4 - Carousel of Progress.
Part 5 - Space Mountain and the Grand Prix Raceway
Part 6 - Tomorrowland History Around the World

Last week I discussed how Tomorrowland had been transformed from a dated 1970’s look into a retro Space Port that might have been imagined by the visionaries of the 1920’s and 30’s. I also discussed Alien Encounter and Stitch’s Great Escape. Today I’ll be taking a look at The Timekeeper, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

On the right side of Tomorrowland’s entrance corridor we found the Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center. Here we could travel to the past and future with “The Timekeeper.”


The Timekeeper

The Timekeeper


This attraction originally debuted at Euro Disneyland on April 12, 1992, then at Tokyo Disneyland on April 15, 1993, and finally in Florida on November 21, 1994. When the attraction first opened in the Magic Kingdom, it was called “From Time to Time” and was presented in the Transportarium. Six months later, the attraction was renamed “The Timekeeper” and the theater renamed the “Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center.”

The lobby for The Timekeeper continued the mechanical-age theme found outside. Carved stone created bases on which iron girders rested. The walls were accented with acrylic cylinders filled with some sort of bubbling liquid. And glowing orbs radiated light. It was reminiscent of what a museum or science center might have looked like if designed by visionaries of the past.


The Timekeeper Lobby

The Timekeeper Lobby

The Timekeeper Lobby


The preshow introduced guests to 9-Eye. This name referred to the nine cameras this Circumvisual Photo Droid used to transmit pictures back to the Timekeeper. While waiting for the time-travel presentation to begin, we witnessed a film of 9-Eye at work filming: plunging over Niagara Falls, riding the Space Shuttle, and entering a barn full of explosives. 9-Eye was voiced by Rhea Pearlman.


9-Eye

9-Eye


The Timekeeper attraction would reuse the CircleVision movie concept, but for the first time, add a linear story to the show. To help tell this story, an AudioAnimatronics character was used. His name was Timekeeper and voiced by Robin Williams. Timekeeper would also be a state-of-the-art AA figure as audiences would be watching him for a significant amount of time and it was necessary that he portray believability.


Timekeeper


When entering the presentation area, guests saw Timekeeper behind a panel of controls, busily checking his instrumentation. As he tinkered, he made occasional comments to the incoming audience, hurrying them along. Once everyone was in place and his instruments calibrated, the show began. A readout on Timekeeper’s panel displayed the current year and would change as we jumped from era to era.


Timekeeper


Our adventure began with a quick trip to the Jurassic period where 9-Eye was attacked by an angry allosaurus. From there we visited the Ice Age and then a medieval battle scene. We briefly met Leonardo da Vinci (played by Franco Nero) before dropping in on a recital being given by a young Mozart. Eventually we ended up at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris where we met Jules Verne (Michel Piccoli) and HG Wells (Jeremy Irons). The two authors had a brief squabble about time travel before Verne discovered 9-Eye. While examining 9-Eye, Vern got enveloped in Timekeeper’s time vortex and was accidentally transported to present day. After some discussion, it was decided to show Verne around and we were treated to some beautiful and zany CircleVision scenery. Ultimately, Verne was brought back to the Paris Exposition where he once again ran into HG Wells.

Leaving the authors in the past, Timekeeper decided to send 9-Eye into the future, along with a family from the audience. He chose the date 2189, 300 years after the Exposition Universelle. We were then treated to an aerial view of future Paris. While hovering over the City of Lights, another flying vehicle pulled up beside us with Verne and Wells sitting side by side. 9-Eye asked them, “How did you get here?” and Verne responded, “In the future, anything is possible.”

As this show was originally created for Euro Disneyland, it featured all European locales. In an effort to cater to American audiences, a scene of Red Square in Moscow and another in Roissy Airport in Paris were omitted and a flyover a New York City was added.

Due to reduced attendance, the show was only open seasonally beginning in January, 2001. However, during the construction of Stitch’s Great Escape, The Timekeeper was open most days to help boost ride capacity in Tomorrowland.

A dwindling guest count wouldn’t be this attraction’s only problem. When each presentation began and ended, Timekeeper’s clock displayed the current year. After 9/11, this became problematic as the World Trade Center was prominently seen in the flyover of New York City. After some discussion, it was decided to begin and end each show with the year 2000 being displayed, a year before the attacks. However, this created some confusion with audiences that didn’t understand why this date was being displayed when it was actually 2003, 2004, etc.

The terrorist attacks also slowed tourism significantly and some attractions suffered more than others. The Timekeeper was one of these. Eventually, it was decided that The Timekeeper had seen its day and it closed for good on February 26, 2006.

The American Adventure also encountered a similar problem after the 9/11 attacks as the World Trade Center could be seen in the final scene of the film montage. This was rectified by a fireworks display superimposed over the buildings.

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor replaced The Timekeeper and opened on April 2, 2007.


<br />
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

<br />
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

<br />
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor


If you remember the plotline of the movie “Monster’s Inc.,” you know that the city of Monstropolis was powered by the screams of frightened children. It is later discovered that laughter provides ten times more power than screams and their scare factory has been converted from one source of power to another.

This story is continued in Tomorrowland. Here we learn that instead of the monsters coming to the human world to gather laughter, humans have been invited to enter the monster world and visit their power factory.

The first waiting area for Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor is essentially unchanged from The Timekeeper attraction. The only difference is the addition of overhead banners that contain jokes and give instructions on how to submit your own anecdotes to be performed by the monsters once everyone is seated in the comedy club.


Monster's Inc Lobby

Monster's Inc Lobby


At the far end of this room is a set of doors. These doors act as a portal in which humans can leave Tomorrowland and enter the monster world. Once they open, approximately 450 are admitted.


Doors into the Monster World


In this next room we find another set of doors. Above them it says “Scare Factory 17.” However the word “SCARE” has been partially overlaid with a banner that says “LAUGH.” Beyond these doors is the laugh factory, but it will be a few more minutes before we are allowed to enter. Take this time to look around.


Scare Factory 17


This area was once the break room for monsters before they began their shift in the next room scaring children. It has since been converted into a lobby for humans waiting for the upcoming comedy show.


Break Room


You can see evidence that this was once a break room by checking out the various items found in this area. The first of these is a snack machine. I especially like the option, “Salt, Sugar, and Fat.”


Snack Machine


Another tell-tale clue is a bulletin board on the wall. Besides displaying the mandatory work safety rules, monsters have posted a number of personal ads for their co-workers. These postings are funny and definitely worth your time.


Bulletin Board


More evidence that this once was a break area can be found on another wall. At one time, this bulletin board proudly displayed the photographs of the “Scarer of the Month.” Now it displays “Monsters of Comedy.”


Monsters of Comedy


The monsters realized that they had to keep the humans entertained before the next show so a number of TV monitors were installed in this old break room. Here we see Roz showing outtakes of Mike Wazowski from past shows. These outtakes are heavy into slapstick and help warm up the audience before the real show begins. We are also given instructions on how to text jokes to the monsters. It’s just possible that your joke will be included in one of the upcoming routines.


Roz

Mike Pratfalls


This preshow video was recently updated to include information about Monster’s University. We learn that the comedians we will be seeing are still in school and not the cream of the crop.

Eventually it’s time for the antics to begin and we enter the showroom. If you pay attention, you can see that the room is round, a reminder of the CircleVision movies that were once shown here. But the Imagineers have done a good job of converting this space and it doesn’t reek of a remodel. Rows of seats face the stage and the occasional cocktail lamp accents the small tables. As with any Disney theater presentation, you will be asked to move to the end of your row. Please do so. All of the seats are good.


Laugh Floor

Laugh Floor

Laugh Floor


Mike Wazowski is the Monsters of Ceremony while Roz keeps the show moving along. During the presentation, a number of animated monsters entertain us with silly and very wholesome jokes. As they do, a large canister located near the stage is seen filling with energy as the laughs continue.

The main presentation of Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor is not a movie in which the same film is shown at each performance. This is a live show that uses computerized animated puppetry to create characters that can move and speak on cue. The monsters can also see into the audience and with the help of microphone-carrying ushers, communicate with several of the humans. And one “lucky” person will be selected to be “That Guy.”

The show runs about 10 minutes and is a lot of fun. Most jokes are corny and understandable by children, but a few take a little more adult sophistication to get. Generally people leave the monster world with a smile on their face.

There is a faction out there that feels that Tomorrowland’s backstory has been lost with the addition of Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. They feel this land has been “over animated” in an effort to cater to young children and their parents. They also question what monsters have to do with Tomorrowland and believe this attraction is poorly themed for its current location. Many long for Tomorrowland to return to more science fiction/fact based rides.

The first Tomorrowland attraction to be based on animated characters was “Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.” Replacing “Take Flight,” this ride officially opened on November 3, 1998 and was based on the Pixar “Toy Story” movie series.


Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin


As with all attractions, our adventure begins in the queue. Since Buzz Lightyear is a toy, all of the props in this waiting area are oversized to make us believe we share the dimensions of the Toy Story gang.


Buzz Lightyear Queue

Buzz Lightyear Queue

Buzz Lightyear Queue

Buzz Lightyear Queue


As we approach the loading area we find Buzz Lightyear talking to his new recruits, the Junior Space Rangers. He is motivating them with powerful words as he outlines the mission objectives. It seems the Evil Emperor Zurg is attempting to steal crystallic fusion cells (batteries) used by the Little Green Men to power their spacecraft. It is the job of the Junior Space Rangers to stop Zurg.


Buzz Lightyear


Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is a combination dark ride and video arcade game. Using the latest in Omnimover design, the ride vehicles are under the control of the passengers and can be rotated 360 degrees with the use of a joystick. The track layout is the same as the one used when “If You Had Wings” opened in this building on June 5, 1972.

Two passengers can fit comfortably into one of the colorfully painted XP-37 Space Cruisers. Each rider has a pivoting laser gun which is attached to the console. Beside each gun is an electronic scoreboard. The joystick is positioned between the guns.


XP-38 Space Cruisers

XP-38 Space Cruisers


When this ride opened at the other four Disney resorts around the world, the laser guns were not attached to the console, but rather tethered to the ride vehicles via cables. This allows guest to pick guns up giving them more maneuverability and better aim.

The ride begins in a dark room. This is a good time to check the gun’s accuracy. Aim at the black wall and fire. Note if the laser beam is pointing slightly up, down, left, or right of center. This is valuable information that you can use to rack up more points once the space battle begins.

The adventure takes Junior Space Rangers through the galactic world of Evil Emperor Zurg and Buzz Lightyear. Florescent monsters, robots, and other creatures line each side of the track. On these otherworldly objects are Emperor Zurg insignias. It’s your job to hit as many of these emblems as possible while traveling through the Gamma Quadrant.


Gamma Quadrant Targets

Gamma Quadrant Targets

Gamma Quadrant Targets

Gamma Quadrant Targets

Gamma Quadrant Targets

Gamma Quadrant Targets


The targets have different point values, but there is no way of knowing this in advance. When you hit a target, the amount is tabulated on your personal scoreboard. Usually the more difficult or hidden the target, the higher its value. However, the location of these high-scoring targets is changed periodically as hardcore lovers of this attraction learn quickly were the best insignias are located. The top score is 999,999. I achieved this once while riding with one of these hardcore aficionados. I also learned on my ride with this guy that there are hidden targets on the dark walls of the Speed Tunnel. If you look closely, you can make them out.

At the end of the ride, a large sign informs you of your new rank depending on how well you succeeded at combating Evil Emperor Zurg.

Level 1 Star Cadet: 0 " 1,000
Level 2 Space Ace: 1,001 " 10,000
Level 3 Planetary Pilot: 10,001 " 100,000
Level 4 Space Scout: 100,001 " 300,000
Level 5 Ranger 1st Class: 300,001 " 600,000
Level 6 Cosmic Commando: 600,001 " 999,998
Level 7 Galactic Hero: 999,999


Ranking Board


Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is an extremely popular ride. FastPasses are highly recommended.

Across from Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is an outdoor gift stand. It is designed to look like the claw machine/spacecraft of the Little Green Men.


Little Green Men

Little Green Men


Near the exit of Space Ranger Spin is a Buzz Lightyear meet-and-greet area. Like all character meeting areas, this one forms a line early in the day.


Buzz Lightyear


Buzz is standing in front of what once was the entrance to the Galaxy Palace Theater at Rockettower Plaza. This theater offered a proscenium arch type stage where full theatrical productions could be presented. In addition, the large bench-style seating area was protected from the hot sun with overhead canopies. The Galaxy Palace Theater was used for special events like Disney Magic Music Days and full-blown productions like “Mickey's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas” show. However, for no reason ever given to the public, this stage was closed and demolished in January 2009. Rumors circulated that the area was needed for a new show building that would house an upcoming attraction, but nothing has ever been announced. Today this area is used as a cast member parking lot for those working in the offices located above Main Street.


Galaxy Palace Theater

Galaxy Palace Theater


To fill the void left by Galaxy Palace Theater, a replacement of sorts was built in the middle of Tomorrowland. This new venue is called Rockettower Plaza Stage.


Rockettower Plaza Stage


A new show debuted here on May 8, 2009 called “Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration.” I was there on opening day and gave the presentation a favorable review. However, the show was not well received and closed seven weeks later on June 27th. I’ve always felt that a lack of seating and no protection from the sun has hindered this theater from being a true replacement for the Galaxy Palace Theater.


Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration


Today, the Rockettower Plaza Stage is used for special events, holiday shows, and dance parties where guests can boogie with the Incredibles, Stitch, and other galactic-clad characters.


Rockettower Plaza Stage

Rockettower Plaza Stage

Rockettower Plaza Stage


Stitch also can be found in this area posing for pictures.


Stitch


Now let’s take a look at some of the smaller fun stuff that was added to Tomorrowland as part of the 1995 makeover.

Near the PeopleMover entrance we find Robo-Newz. This servant-of-the-future advertises that he will print the news while you wait. An old-style typewriter keyboard can be seen embedded in his chest. The newspaper for sale is the Galactic Gazette and today’s headline proclaims that Stitch has escaped.


Robo-Newz

Robo-Newz

Robo-Newz


Nearby we find a phone booth of the future. Here, GCN (Galactic Communications Network) allows guests to call Toll Free from anywhere in the galaxy.


Galactic Phone Booth

Galactic Phone Booth


I just love the space-aged palm trees that mechanically grew in Tomorrowland.


Palm Tree


There is one item in Tomorrowland that intrigues both adults and children, the hovering granite ball. This polished stone floats on a thin layer of water and can be freely rotated with a slight push of the hand.


Floating Sphere


Contrary to what many believe, it is not high water pressure being pumped beneath this massive sphere holding it up. Actually, it is just the opposite. All it takes is a socket and sphere cut so precisely that not even a playing card could be inserted between them and a small pump that delivers low water pressure near the base of the sphere. The high density of water does the rest and the granite ball floats.

Thirsty? Head over to Cool Ship. This beverage station is designed to look like a futuristic shipping and receiving station. Nearby you can find several packages with galactic shipping labels attached.


Cool Ship

Cool Ship Package

Cool Ship Package


The rocket ship docked next to Cool Ship is actually one of two prop spacecraft used in the film “Flight of the Navigator.” In the movie, the vehicle was sleek and silver. When it was brought to Tomorrowland, it was painted red, turned around backwards, and adorned with extra space aged paraphernalia.


Thirst Ranger


Nearby, the Disney Vacation Club Information Booth acts as a landing port for visiting flying saucers.


Space Port

Flying Saucer


Even the Tomorrowland drinking fountains and outdoor food carts were given a makeover in 1995 to match the new theming.


Drinking Fountain

Food Cart


That’s it for Part Seven of my Tomorrowland series. Check back next week when I’ll finish things up with a look at the remaining attractions.



June 30, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Six

Jack Spence Masthead

Over the last five weeks, I’ve provided you with a history of the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland up until 1994.

In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 - Tomorrowland An Overview - Flight to the Moon - Mission to Mars
Part 2 - Circle-Vision movies - If You Had Wings - Dream Flight
Part 3 - Skyway - Star Jets - WEDWay PeopleMover
Part 4 - Carousel of Progress.
Part 5 - Space Mountain and the Grand Prix Raceway


Today I’m going to take a look at this futuristic land from that date forward. But before I do this, let’s take a look back at Disneyland in its infancy.

The original Tomorrowland at Disneyland was supposed to represent the date 1986, the year Halley’s Comet would return. Long before 1986 arrived, this land received a major makeover and reopened in 1967 with an all-new vision of the future.

Shortly before Disneyland’s remodeled Tomorrowland debuted, planning had begun on the Magic Kingdom’s version of this land. In many ways, the ideas, concepts, and architecture mirrored its West Coast cousin. Yet both Tomorrowlands would soon be experiencing the same problem. They would become “Todayland” and soon “Yesterdayland.” Technology was greatly outpacing Disney’s ability to keep up with the times, not to mention their budget.

When planning began for Disneyland Paris, the Imagineers knew they needed to address this problem. Although Michael Eisner was originally against their plans, they eventually convinced him to create Discoveryland rather than another Tomorrowland. This new concept would feature many of the same attractions found at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, but with a new theme. Instead of a futuristic look at tomorrow, they would look back in time and create worlds envisioned by HG Wells and Jules Verne. In other words, they would create timeless architecture that didn’t need to be remodeled or replaced every ten years.


Discoveryland

Discoveryland

Discoveryland

Discoveryland


By the late 1980’s, the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland had become Yesterdayland. Peoplemovers could be found in airports, rendering the one found here commonplace. Space travel had become routine making Mission to Mars a ho-hum attraction. Jet travel was an everyday happening rendering Dreamflight a bore. And the CircleVision 360 movie did not excite the younger generation. Not to mention, the architecture was in many ways similar to Future World over at Epcot. Something needed to be done.

The Imagineers’ first thoughts were to create another Discoveryland. However, Euro Disney was hemorrhaging the company’s pocketbooks at that time and a less expensive alternative needed to be found. To that end, they came up with an idea for a futuristic city. One that might have existed in the novels, movies, and comic books of the 1920’s and 30’s. And the name for this futuristic city would be “Tomorrowland.” Tomorrowland would be the interplanetary hub for space travelers and the home of the League of Planets.

(Have you ever wondered why only half of Tomorrowland received an extensive makeover? You can blame Disneyland Paris.)

One of the first things to be removed from the old Tomorrowland were the tall spires that flanked the entrance. These would be replaced with an elaborate sign announcing the arrival to this space port.


Old Tomorrowland Entrance

Old Tomorrowland Entrance

Old Tomorrowland Entrance

Old Tomorrowland Entrance


The next change to the entrance would be the addition of rock formations that look somewhat otherworldly. Nestled into this landscape are a couple of nondescript structures. We’re not quite sure if they are spacecraft, futuristic dwellings, or some type of machinery.


Tomorrowland Rocks

Tomorrowland Rocks

Space Stuff

Space Stuff


Embedded in the pavement are images of gears and sprockets. These help tell the story of a futuristic city as seen by visionaries of the past. This was a time when great thinkers could not imagine transistors, circuit boards, or wifi. They couldn’t bring their minds out of the machine age.


Tomorrowland Pavement.jpg

Tomorrowland Pavement

Tomorrowland Pavement


As with all good cities, Tomorrowland has a signpost announcing the many service organizations found in their community. At the top of the signpost are the following words, “The future that never was, is finally here.”

Some of the service signs read:

THE LOYAL ORDER OF LITTLE GREEN BEINGS

THE LEAGUE OF PLANETS

SLEEPLESS KNIGHTS OF THE MILKY WAY

GALACTIC ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED ALIENS

THE TOMORROWLAND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE WELCOMES YOU


Tomorrowland Sign Post


Also near the entrance to this fine city are several posters advertising the convention facilities and some of the special events currently taking place in nearby venues. This first poster advertises the Tomorrowland Towers Hover-Hotel. The fine print tells us that they offer gravity and antigravity suites, helpful robot valets, easy access landing pads, and more.


Tomorrowland Towers Hover-Hotel


This next poster is promoting the Space Home & Garden Show. Attending this event will educate you in the areas of interplanetary timeshare options, instant flower and vegetable gardens, and undersea townhouse communities.


Space Home & Garden Show


Currently appearing in town is Leonard Burnedstar. He is conducting the Martian Pops Orchestra. Tonight’s performance includes “The Opus Outer Space Concerto in Ursa Minor.” Special guest stars include Sirius, Centauri, and Procyon.


Leonard Burnedstar


Over at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café we see that Sonny Eclipse is headlining. We also learn that the Starlight Café is the first Earth restaurant franchise from outer space.


Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café


There are a few other posters in this area. Be sure to check them out and read the small print. They really help tell the backstory of Tomorrowland.

The most significant changes to Tomorrowland can be seen along the entrance corridor. The first picture below is an artist rendering of Tomorrowland’s main thoroughfare. The second is a picture I took recently. I’d say the architects and construction engineers did a pretty good job of capturing the Imagineers’ ideas.


Tomorrowland Concept Drawing

Tomorrowland Today


Here are a few more pictures of this area. Keep in mind when viewing them, this area is supposed to represent a futuristic city as seen through the eyes of visionaries of the 1920’s and 30’s. Also try to remember how symmetrical the old Tomorrowland was. The buildings along this corridor were almost mirror images of each other. Today, they are anything but.


Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland

Current Tomorrowland


As I mentioned in Part One of this series, the Mission to Mars attraction was showing its age by the late 1980’s and sophisticated audiences were abandoning it for more high tech fare over at EPCOT Center’s Future World. Mr. Johnson welcomed his last passengers at the Magic Kingdom on October 4, 1993.

When Michael Eisner joined Disney as CEO in 1984, the company was creating bland movies and bland theme park attractions. The younger generation was keenly aware of this and was abandoning Disney for more edgy fare. Michael recalls a story where he overheard a teenage boy lament that he couldn’t wait until he was an adult so he could come to the Disney parks with his kids. In other words, Disney wasn’t cool unless it was being enjoyed by small children and their parents. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter would be one of the ways Eisner would try and combat this problem.


ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter


As I mentioned earlier, Tomorrowland was being transformed into a hub for interplanetary space travelers and the home to the League of Planets. The space left vacant by Mission to Mars would become the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center and play host to various exhibits and shows. Mention of this venue and an upcoming event can be seen on a nearby sign advertising a Space Collectibles Convention.


Space Collectibles Convention


When guests arrived in the refurbished Tomorrowland, they found that an off-planet consumer company, X-S Tech (Excess Tech), was currently using the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center and giving demonstrations.


X-S Tech


ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, or simply Alien Encounter, first opened on December 16, 1994. Soon after, Guest Relations received many complaints about the attraction. People felt that the lighthearted preshow did not adequately prepare the audience for the frightening nature of the main presentation. In addition, the storyline was difficult to follow because unrelenting screams drowned out the show. This prompted Eisner to close Alien Encounter for a reworking. After minor and major changes, it reopened on June 20, 1995.

The experience began in a holding area outside the Convention Center. Two metal doors would soon grant us access to the center’s lobby. Above the doors was a plaque with the following words:

X-S TECH

The galaxy’s #1 authority in technological innovation invites you to experience its latest achievement

SEIZE THE FUTURE WITH X-S

This exhibition is made possible by the TOMORROWLAND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE


Alien Encounter Entrance

Alien Encounter Entrance


In the lobby, several futuristic television monitors were mounted overhead. While waiting to be welcomed by our host, these displayed other events taking place at the Convention Center. Some of these included:

CANIS MAJOR KENNEL CLUB
CHAMPIONSHIP PET SHOW
SPONSORED BY
DOGGY d’LITE
ZERO GRAVITY DOG FOOD
BECAUSE WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR SPACE PET
WHAT GOES DOWN MUST NOT COME UP

LEAGUE OF PLANETS
INTERSTELLAR DEBATE ON SPACE SCIENCE
MISSION TO MARS: HISTORY OR HOAX?
WITH PROFESSOR TOM MORROW

THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY
PAN-GALACTIC STOCKHOLDERS MEETING
FEATURING
HOLOGRAPHIC TRANSMISSIONS FROM LUNAR DISNEYLAND
THE HAPPIEST PLACE OFF EARTH

Soon these advertisements were replaced with the face of an alien woman (played by Tyra Banks). She welcomed us to today’s demonstration and gave us a brief history of X-S Tech.

“We began many galactic years ago on a world quite distant from your own. From one small manufacturing plant, we’ve grown into the largest consumer-oriented research and development company in the universe. X-S Tech is number one in Electro Robotics, Cryo Cybernetics, Techno Surveillance, Planetary Restructuring, Genetic Engineering, and Hyperspatial Transport.”


X-S Tech


We were then introduced to L.C. Clench (played by Jeffrey Jones), the current chairman of X-S Tech. He told us that his market research had discovered earth and its many eager customers. He went on to assure us that his company only wanted to help less fortunate planets and profits were a byproduct that they have had to learn to live with. He ended his speech with these chilling words: “If something can’t be done with X-S then it shouldn’t be done at all.”

As the light levels rose, another set of automatic doors opened and guests proceeded to the first observation area. Here we met Skippy, a cuddly six-legged creature with a protruding nose. We also met S.I.R. which we soon learned stood for Simulated Intelligence Robotics.


S.I.R. and Skippy


With an arrogantly evil tone, S.I.R. (voiced by Tim Curry) explained to us how he would painlessly transport Skippy from a chamber on the left side of the room to another on the right. S.I.R. then began pushing buttons and Skippy vanished into a cloud of smoke while in the background we heard his painful screams. When Skippy rematerialized in the second chamber, we saw that his fur was singed, his eyes were rolling, and sparks were arcing from his antenna. S.I.R. then said, “Oh, shut up, scruffy! You’re not burned; you’ve just got a healthy glow.”

S.I.R. next told us that the process could be reversed and pressed another button. Skippy again disappeared, but this time did not reappear in the first chamber. S.I.R. informed us that Skippy could be suspended… indefinitely.

With the demonstration complete, we moved to the main convention area for a larger example of the teleportation process. This time, L.C. Clench would be teleported from his home planet to Earth where he would be able to meet with all of us in person. Of course, things went horribly wrong and instead of transporting Clench, a carnivorous monster was thrust upon us. For the next several minutes our sense of sight was greatly reduced or non-existent as the creature flew around the room, walked on the backs of our chairs, breathed on our necks, and actually touched us with his tongue. We heard blood-curdling screams and bones crunching. We were even splattered with monster guts during the terrifying finale. The experience was truly frightening.


Alien Encounter

Alien Encounter


Each theatre held 162 guests and the entire presentation from the outer lobby to the finale was 18 minutes in length.

Many of these effects could be generated by the use of a new chair. Once seated, an “analysis module” lowered and surrounded our upper body. Within this analysis module was a state-of-the-art sound system that created crystal clear sound effects. Sub-woofers were positioned within the seat base. And more speakers were located around the room. Also found in the analysis module were the effects that allowed us to feel the creature’s breath and suffer the touch of his tongue.


Alien Encounter Chair


Most teenagers and adults enjoyed Alien Encounter. It even had a cult following among some guests. They felt it was a refreshing change from the lighter fare offered in the rest of the Magic Kingdom. However, many parents had a different take on the attraction.

Disney posted numerous warning signs outside Alien Encounter telling parents that this attraction was not suitable for children under the age of twelve. Eventually, they forbid children under the age of seven or shorter than 48 inches tall from the show entirely. Cast members also did their best to dissuade those with little ones from entering. Yet parents continually ignored the warnings and took their kids where they had no business being. Numerous parents could not believe the Disney would create an attraction that wasn’t suitable for the entire family. Many a child left Alien Encounter in tears and too terrified to ride any other attraction. Vacations were ruined.

After eight years of complaints, Disney had had enough and closed Alien Encounter on October 12, 2003. I, for one, was sad to see it go.

When Disney spends a truckload of money on an attraction, they hope to get more than eight years use out of it. So when the Imagineers started brainstorming for a replacement idea, they wanted to come up with something that could reuse as much of the existing structure and hardware as possible. They were also looking for an attraction that would appeal to younger children. Thus, “Stitch’s Great Escape” was born and opened on November 16, 2004.


Stitch’s Great Escape

Stitch’s Great Escape


To accommodate this attraction, the backstory of Tomorrowland had to be altered somewhat. This building is no longer the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center but rather the Galactic Federation Prisoner Teleport Center. This can be seen on a plaque above the main entrance doors of this attraction.


Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center


Once inside the building, guests see the same bank of television monitors that were used in Alien Encounter (tweaked minimally). When they are activated, we are informed by the Grand Councilwoman and Captain Gantu that we have been recruited to be guards in the Galactic Federation.

The characters here are animated in the “flat” 2D style as was the movie “Lilo & Stitch.” I understand the logic of this. It creates continuity. But in today’s environment where characters are given a fuller, three-dimensional look (and are actually projected in 3D), these individuals look cartoonish.


Overhead TV Monitors

Grand Councilwoman and Captain Ganto


When the initial orientation ends, we move to another briefing room where Sergeant C4703BK2704-90210 (“Sarge” voiced by Richard Kind) furthers our galactic prisoner education. Skippy is also present in chamber one.

Somehow Sarge looks suspiciously like S.I.R., only with a new mouth, chin and eyes hidden behind large glasses. He is also dressed in some sort of galactic law enforcement uniform to hide his former body.


Sarge


Where S.I.R. was sinister, Sarge is an imbecile. The Imagineers created this character to lighten the mood and promote a comical situation. And Richard Kind’s voice is a perfect match for Sarge’s personality.

During this second briefing, a Level 1 criminal is captured. Referred to as “The Donut Guy,” he was apprehended for sucking all of the jelly out of jelly donuts. He is then beamed into the empty chamber onstage. Sarge scolds him and tells him he will be sent to his cell, this time with no milk. Once again, the similarity between the singed Skippy from Alien Encounter and The Donut Guy is remarkable.

Captain Gantu interrupts this encounter to tell us that a Level 3 prisoner has been captured and we must move to the High Security Level 3 Teleportation Chamber. Upon hearing this, Sarge “oils” himself.

As with the previous two rooms, the Level 3 Teleportation Chamber reused the Alien Encounter sets. The only noticeable differences are the addition of two laser canons and galactic lettering.


Level 3 Teleportation Chamber


After everyone is seated and the DNA Scanners lowered around our bodies, the teleportation process begins and Stitch is beamed into a chamber located in the middle of the room. Of course, he escapes soon after and havoc ensues. As with Alien Encounter, much of the action takes place in the dark. Stitch bounces on our shoulders, touches us, and inflicts his chilidog breath on us. When the lights are on, the two laser cannons frantically try to hit and subdue Stitch as he spits on the audience. In the end, he escapes from the Teleportation Chamber and travels to Walt Disney World. Cameras capture him climbing Cinderella Castle before licking the camera lens. Having lost the Level 3 prisoner, Captain Gantu releases us and we exit into either Mickey's Star Traders or Merchant of Venus.

The reaction to Stitch’s Great Escape is mixed. Those who like or love the character Stitch are generally pleased with this attraction. Those that are ambivalent or don’t “get” Stitch, generally don’t like this replacement for Alien Encounter. I fall into this second camp.

I believe Disney has “dumbed” down Stitch’s Great Escape to an unacceptable level. I understand that the mature nature of Alien Encounter was causing management headaches, but Stitch’s Great Escape is too juvenile. And unfortunately, it did not really accomplish its goal of becoming a kid-friendly attraction. Many children are still terrified when thrust into extended darkness accompanied by loud noises. While experiencing this attraction the other day, I could hear several small children crying and some screaming in terror.

It was also after the opening of Stitch’s Great Escape that some people began grumbling about Tomorrowland becoming “Fantasyland 2.” Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin had opened nearby six years earlier and now this second attraction based on animated characters was invading what once had been a mecca for science fact and science fiction. Little did they know that in three more years, more cartoon characters would be taking up residence here.

Mickey’s Star Traders can be seen from the People Mover as it passes by this shop on its way to Space Mountain. Be sure to look at the art deco graphics that line the walls in this gift shop.


Mickey’s Star Traders

Mickey’s Star Traders

Mickey’s Star Traders


Merchant of Venus has continued the Stitch theme with several murals displaying animated aliens roaming about Tomorrowland. Stitch can also be seen sticking his head out of the ceiling. Both shops sell typical Disney souvenirs.


Merchant of Venus

Merchant of Venus

Merchant of Venus


Well, that’s it for Part Six. Check back next week when I’ll be discussing The Timekeeper, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.



June 23, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Five

Jack Spence Masthead


Thanks for joining me for Part Five of my Tomorrowland series.
In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 - Tomorrowland An Overview - Flight to the Moon - Mission to Mars
Part 2 - Circle-Vision movies - If You Had Wings - Dream Flight
Part 3 - Skyway - Star Jets - WEDWay PeopleMover
Part 4 - Carousel of Progress.

Today I’ll be discussing Space Mountain and the Grand Prix Raceway. As a reminder, so far I’ve only discussed the “old” Tomorrowland. So if I don’t answer all of your questions about these two attractions today, chances are I will in parts six through eight when I describe the “new” Tomorrowland.

Enjoy.

After the success of the Matterhorn, Walt realized that his team of Imagineers could create themed coasters that would be appropriate for his park. So when planning began for Disneyland’s new Tomorrowland in the early 1960’s, he approached John Hench with an idea for a “Space Port” anchored by a futuristic coaster. Hench came back with an idea similar in concept to the Matterhorn, another indoor/outdoor coaster. By 1966, the name had evolved from Space Port to “Space Mountain.”


Space Mountain Concept Drawing

Space Mountain Concept Drawing

Space Mountain Concept Drawing


Original ideas for Space Mountain called for the attraction to have four separate tracks. However, the technology of the day did not allow for this nor was there enough land in Tomorrowland for a structure large enough to house this many trajectories. Further setbacks came to the mountain when the Disney Company decided to move forward with Disney World and vast amounts of money were now being funneled into this new project. Ultimately, Space Mountain was scrapped from Disneyland’s expansion plans and was put on hold for a later date. Disneyland’s new Tomorrowland opened in 1967 without a major thrill ride. Space Mountain would not premiere here for another ten years and finally opened May 27, 1977, two years after the one at the Magic Kingdom. If you study the next piece of concept art closely, you can see that Space Mountain is missing (upper-right side of the picture). By the way, I was chosen to be one of the two official hosts for the Disneyland Space Mountain press event to open this attraction.


Tomorrowland Concept Drawing


Although people loved the new Magic Kingdom in Florida, it became obvious early on that the park needed some thrill rides to appeal to teens and young adults. A second Matterhorn was considered for Fantasyland, but there wasn’t enough room for it. The Imagineers then focused their attention to the unfinished Tomorrowland and old Space Mountain plans were dusted off. Here is an early concept drawing for the Florida version of this attraction.


Space Mountain Concept Drawing


Literally hundreds of outside companies were contracted to help build Walt Disney World and one of these was RCA. RCA was charged with providing the communications hardware for the resort. As is tradition, Disney is always looking for other companies to help fund their attractions. To that end, the contract between Disney and RCA also called for Disney to present any appropriate rides to RCA for future sponsorship consideration. When planning resumed on Space Mountain, it seemed like a perfect fit and Disney CEO Card Walker persuaded RCA Chairman Robert Sarnoff to fund Space Mountain for a mere $10 million.

As with any attraction, Space Mountain went through a number of changes during the design process. One early plan called for the attraction to be placed near Carousel of Progress, in approximately the same spot as Disneyland’s copy. But by the time the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, plans had been finalized and called for Space Mountain to be placed due west of Cinderella Castle, outside the park-encompassing WDW Railroad. This placement necessitated the building of a tunnel that would take guests under the train tracks to reach the loading area. The help make an otherwise boring walk more interesting, the Star Corridor was created. This consisted of star fields and spacecraft displayed behind convex windows which warped their shapes as you passed by. This tunnel also allowed guests’ eyes to acclimate to the darkness before boarding.


Overhead View of Space Mountain

Star Corridor

Star Corridor


Other plans called for a Tomorrowland Station for the WDW Railroad. However, it was decided that the close proximity to Space Mountain would cause too much congestion in the area and the idea was scuttled. Today, the Storybook Circus railroad station acts as the jumping off point for both Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. This station did not exists when the Magic Kingdom initially opened. It was added in 1989 as part of the Mickey’s Birthdayland celebration.


Storybook Circus Station


Another idea that was dismissed was the indoor/outdoor track system that was used on the Matterhorn. It was decided that an all-indoor attraction gave the Imagineers better control over the inky-dark environment they wanted to create. Thus, Space Mountain would become the world’s first all-indoor roller coaster.


Space Mountain Track


Space Mountain stands 183 feet above ground, has a diameter of 300 feet, and a volume of 4,508,500 cubic feet. The basic structure of the mountain is composed of 72 massive pre-stressed concrete beams resting on inner and outer circular platforms. Each of the 74-ton concrete beams was cast near the Space Mountain site and then hoisted into place by mammoth cranes. Each beam is 117 feet long, 13 feet wide at the bottom, and 4 feet wide at the top.


Space Mountain Under Construction

Space Mountain Under Construction

Space Mountain Under Construction


Construction took approximately two years and the ride officially opened to guests on January 15, 1975. Although the hoped for four track system was not realized in the Magic Kingdom’s version of Space Mountain, two tracks (Alpha and Omega) were constructed. The space voyages presented are almost mirror images of each other with one side offering 3,186 feet of thrills and the other 3,196 feet. The ride takes approximately two and a half minutes.


Grand Opening Event

Acceleration Tube

RCY Pylon

Space Mountain Poster


In the early years, the seating configuration for Space Mountain was modeled after the Matterhorn’s. Each rocket only had two seats and passengers 3 and 4 were expected to sit “in the lap” of passengers 1 and 2. This can be seen in the first two pictures below. This seating arrangement lasted until 1989 when a third seat was added to each rocket and lap sitting eliminated. Although this technically reduced capacity, it made loading and unloading quicker. It also made guests much happier. Picture three below shows the new 3-seat configuration. You can also see the older “square” lap bars in this photo. These lap bars were later replaced with a “T” configuration that allows for more legroom (forth picture).


Two-Seat Configuration

Two-Seat Configuration

Three-Seat Configuration

New Lap Bar


To exit Space Mountain, guests once again had to travel the length of the structure to arrive back in Tomorrowland. However, the return trip was facilitated by a moving ramp. Along the way people were treated to RCA’s “Home of Future Living.” This journey took them passed a futuristic home complete with patio, nursery, family room, a recreation room, front door, kitchen, young girl’s bedroom, and finally an entertainment center. Each room had sharply angled walls and was connected to the next by a stairway. And every room had a rudimentary AA figure using some sort of audio-visual device. For example, a female member of the household was taking a pottery class via a 2-way TV. The baby’s activities in the nursery were monitored by a closed-circuit television. And a young girl and boy watched a football game on a wall-sized screen. In the background, the forgettable song "Here's to the Future” played. In a way, this collection of tableaux was a less sophisticated version of Horizons.

After passing these scenes, guests discovered another AA character pointing a video camera at them. Ahead, nine suspended TV monitors broadcast images of those passing by on the Speedramp.

Of course, RCA manufactured consumer electronics and they wanted to showcase what their products could do for you. After all, they had paid $10M to sponsor this attraction.

Over the next ten years, scenes were modified slightly, but the overall presentation stayed pretty much intact. It wasn’t until the completion of a major rehab in late 1985 that things change significantly in this area. For the most part, the Home of Future Living had been removed and replaced by surreal depictions of a faraway planet. The exhibit was called RYCA-1. It was the Imagineers’ intention that guests witness what life would be like living on a distant space colony. These scenes remain somewhat intact to this day.


Space Colony

Space Colony

Space Colony

Space Colony


RCA decided to end their sponsorship in 1993 and FedEx took over the next year. With this change in funding, cosmetic changes were made throughout the attraction and FexEx’s logo was prominently added wherever possible. The post show scenes were also given a new storyline. Now guests could witness FedEx “beaming” packages to remote regions of the galaxy.


FedEx Pylon

FedEx Beaming Shipping


This completes my look at Space Mountain for the time being. Now let’s take a visit to the Grand Prix Raceway.

To fully understand the Gran Prix Raceway (now Tomorrowland Speedway), you need to understand history. And not just Disney history, you need to be aware of what was happening in the world during the Magic Kingdom’s planning stage. But in order to do that, we must first go back to Disneyland’s humble beginnings.

Los Angeles was a pioneer in building superhighways. In 1940, the first freeway in the United States opened between Los Angeles and Pasadena. From that point on, more and more freeways were added to the area. Soon, Southern California and automobiles became synonymous.

The Santa Ana Freeway, the main route from Los Angeles to Anaheim and Orange County, was not completed until 1956. This meant that Walt was forced to take many surface streets to reach Disneyland from Burbank during the park’s construction. Walt was a firm believer that technology could solve the problems of the world and the Interstate System was a step in the right direction. In addition, this new system of roads would improve his own commute and that of the future tourist who would visit Disneyland. It’s interesting to note, many of the trees and shrubs of Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise came from the land being cleared for the Santa Ana Freeway.

Walt wanted his Tomorrowland to showcase a bright and beautiful tomorrow. And the burgeoning Interstate System was a shining beacon to that end. Kiddie-cars and bumper cars had been a staple of carnivals and fairs for years, but Walt wanted to do something more inspiring. Thus, the Autopia was born. Autopia is the combination of the words Automobile and Utopia.

The Autopia was to be a miniature version of the Interstate System. It would highlight just how efficient this new transportation system would be. It would have overpasses and underpasses, straightaways and gradual curves. Its appearance would mirror that of the Los Angeles system. It would even have a cloverleaf design.


Autopia Poster


The Autopia was also intended to be a training ground for young drivers. With high speed travel now available to everyone, Walt wanted to provide a safe environment for kids to learn how to navigate this new roadway responsibly.

During the Autopia testing period, 36 miniature cars were turned over to the children of Studio personnel. Within 10 days, the fleet was reduced to 6. The kids had no desire to learn how to drive responsibly. They wanted to crash into one another. To remedy the problem, a whole-vehicle, spring-loaded bumper was installed around the entire car.

In the early years, there were no guiderails down the middle of the Autopia highway. Kids actually steered the cars and could easily hit the curbs on either side of the road. There were even wide spots in the road where the young motorists could drive side-by-side and even pass one another. Of course this did not add to the longevity of the cars (or the curbs) and in 1965 the infamous guiderail was added. Kids could still steer their vehicle, but their maneuverability was greatly reduced.


No Guide Rails


By the time planning had begun for the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the Interstate System was old hat and less than exciting. Yet the Imagineers knew they wanted to offer young drivers a place to feel the freedom of the road. Thus, the Grand Prix Raceway was born. Rather than have a two-lane highway, this “international” course would feature racecars that “competed” side-by-side along a multi-lane speedway. Although this racecar theme really didn’t fit with the grand scope of Tomorrowland, it was logically the only place this attraction would fit in the park.

Beginning in 1967, Goodyear sponsored the PeopleMover at Disneyland. When asked if they would be willing to sponsor an attraction at the Magic Kingdom, they were interested. But since the Florida version of the PeopleMover would not be opening until 1975 and the ride would be using linear induction motors to transport the cars (not rubber tires), this attraction was not a good match. However, the Grand Prix Raceway would be the perfect vehicle to showcase Goodyear tires.


Grand Prix Raceway


In this early publicity photo, you can see “Goodyear” emblazoned on the side of the race car.


Goofy In The Drivers Seat


Below is the opening day attraction poster. Notice is says Gran (not Grand) Prix Raceway. Also notice the poster is almost identical to the Disneyland Autopia poster of 1956 (see above). We even see the same father and son passengers racing along the highway. Only the vehicle has changed. The Magic Kingdom poster displays a souped-up sports car.


Gran Prix Poster


In 1978 a new poster was unveiled. Inspired by the 1966 movie poster “Grand Prix” (a film partially sponsored by Goodyear), the new artwork had a more hip and updated look. Later, when Goodyear dropped its sponsorship of the Grand Prix Raceway, the poster was changed ever so slightly. Only the name “Goodyear” was omitted and the Tomorrowland lettering changed colors.


Grand Prix Poster

Grand Prix Movie Poster


Goodyear also provided young drivers with affiliation to the “Grand Prix Racing Team.” The membership card which was presented to guests after finishing the course was signed by Russell de Young, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.


Grand Prix Racing Team


When riding the Tomorrowland Speedway, you may have noticed an enclosed viewing area perched above the loading area. This was the Goodyear lounge where company executives could entertain clients and show off their attraction.


Grand Stand Viewing Area


These next two pictures were taken in January, 1972. Notice how barren the attraction looks.


Old Speedway Track

Old Speedway Track


In 1973, the ride was expanded slightly. Then in 1987, the roadway was shortened to make room for Mickey’s Birthdayland which would open the following year. This area would later be remodeled and renamed Mickey’s Starland. More refurbishments brought about Mickey’s ToonTown Fair. And now Storybook Circus.

Below is an approximation of how much track was eliminated to accommodate Mickey’s Birthdayland.


Old Speedway Track


In 1994, Tomorrowland began a major makeover. The sterile concrete look of the future was giving way to a retro design. Check back next week when I’ll begin discussing how this renovation changed the Grand Prix Raceway and the other attractions found in the land of the future.



June 16, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Four

Jack Spence Masthead


Welcome back to my Tomorrowland series. Today I’ll cover Carousel of Progress.

In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 - Tomorrowland An Overview - Flight to the Moon - Mission to Mars
Part 2 - Circle-Vision movies - If You Had Wings - Dream Flight
Part 3 - Skyway - Star Jets - WEDWay PeopleMover


Many people believe that the Carousel of Progress had its beginnings at the New York World’s Fair. But that’s not the case. Years before the fair, the General Electric Company’s Lamp-Division approached Walt about building an attraction at Disneyland that showcased electricity. Imagineers proposed Edison Square, an offshoot of Main Street. Here, guests would be treated to several tableaus highlighting the advantages of electricity and electric appliances, much like the show today. However, guests would walk from theater to theater. In addition, an "electro-mechanical" man to be named Wilbur K. Watt would host each segment. Unfortunately, technology had not yet caught up with Walt’s dreams and the early AudioAnimatronics man did not live up to expectations.

In this next picture you can see an artist’s rendering of Edison Square as it was displayed on souvenir maps of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Although you can’t make out the text, it reads:

Diorama of Inventions
American Home Pre-Electricity
American Home Advent of Electricity
Contemporary Living
The Electric Age


Edison Square


In the end, Edison Square was never realized. However, Imagineers are fond of saying “No good idea ever goes unused.”

The 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair was envisioned by several businessmen who fondly remembered their experiences years earlier at the first New York World’s Fair which ran from 1939 to 1940. They wanted to recreate this exhibition on a much grander scale for their children and grandchildren. However, an undertaking of this magnitude required someone experienced at raising large amounts of money and getting things done on schedule, so they turned to Robert Moses. Moses was an influential player in the growth of New York City from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. He was responsible for the construction of much of the city's highway infrastructure and, as Parks Commissioner, the creation of many of the city's parks.

It’s interesting to note, the 1964 New York World’s Fair was never sanctioned by the Bureau of International Expositions. Because of this, major governments such as France, Germany, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada chose not to be represented. Most of the nations that did participate did so under tourism and industrial sponsorship.

Since the fair would not benefit from governmental financing, Moses needed to find other sources to fill his pavilions. Having heard glowing reports about Disneyland, he flew to California to meet with Walt. Upon his arrival, Walt asked Moses if he’d like to be introduced to Mr. Lincoln. After shaking hands with an early AudioAnimatronics figure of the sixteenth president, Moses insisted that Walt and Abe be a part of the fair.

The idea for Edison Square resurfaced with the impending fair. The concept was reexamined and possibilities explored. Eventually, the attraction was renamed “Progressland” to coincide with GE’s current marketing slogan, “Progress is our most important product.” In addition, Walt insisted that his Imagineers figure out a way to incorporate his new AudioAnimatronics into the attraction.


Progressland


At the fair, Progressland was housed in a large, three-story domed structure. The dome was made up of crisscrossing tubular steel girders. Not only did this design facilitate relatively quick construction, it would also be easy to dismantle after the fair for salvage.


New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair


Guests entered Progressland on the first floor and rode an escalator to the second. Here they arrived at one of six theaters that revolved around a central core of six stages. After getting settled and the overture played, the theater rotated 60 degrees to view the first of four vignettes. This stop brought us to a typical American household of the late 1890’s (if you were rich). A gentleman (Father) is sitting comfortably in the kitchen, pipe and newspaper in hand. It’s springtime and life is good. For the next four and a half minutes, Father introduces us to his family (wife Sara, daughter Jane, his son, grandma and grandpa, and cousin Orville) and tells us all about the marvels of the age. At the conclusion, the theater once again rotates and brings us to the 1920’s. Once again, Father is sitting in the kitchen and explains to the audience how wonderful life is, much of it due to electricity. “General Electric” is mentioned in each vignette and the name is prominently displayed on the appliances. After the 20’s we visit the 40’s, then the 60’s where Father continues to educate us about life in each era. Every rotation advanced us 20 years. This unique theater could accommodate 3,600 guests per hour.

To help the transition between sets, a song was needed. Walt turned to Richard and Robert Sherman and presented them with the task. He told them that he needed a tune that was essentially a commercial jingle. It needed to be short, catchy, and upbeat. And it also needed to lend itself to various styles such as ragtime and swing to blend with the various eras depicted in the show. It took the brothers a couple of weeks and when they thought they had what Walt was looking for, they invited him to their office to hear their new song. When they were done, Walt said, “That will work fine.” From Walt, this was high praise.


Richard and Roger Sherman


After viewing the last vignette of the show, the theater rotated once again. Guests left their seats and took an escalator to the third floor and the Sky-Dome Spectacular. This show, projected on a 200-foot-wide overhead screen, chronicled man’s struggle to harness nature and discover new forms of energy. At the films conclusion, guests moved to a new location where they were treated to a demonstration all about the creation of nuclear fusion " “The greatest science display at the fare.”


New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair


From the Sky-Dome, guests returned to the first floor and were free to tour the all-electric wonders of Medallion City. Here, they continued to witness the advancements electricity had brought to their lives and communities.

New York World's Fair


At the fair’s conclusion on October 17th, 1965, 51 million people had visited. This figure is considered respectable for an exhibition of this nature, but attendance was actually 20% lower than projected. During the fair’s two year run, Progressland was one of the most visited pavilions (up to 45,000 per day). In the end, the fair lost large amounts of money and allegations of gross mismanagement were levied. Today, because of its “unofficial” nature, the fair is often overlooked by historians when the subject of World Fairs is bantered about. However, the fair greatly benefitted Walt Disney.

From the very beginning, Walt planned on bringing Progressland and his other World’s Fair exhibits back to Disneyland. In essence, he was able to get outside organizations to fund the research, development, and construction of his attractions. But the fair helped Walt in other ways. In the early years, Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was lacking. But with the addition of Progressland, now to be called Carousel of Progress (CoP), Walt could persuade other companies to sponsor attractions in his Anaheim park. Goodyear signed on to sponsor the PeopleMover and both McDonnell-Douglas and Monsanto agreed to greatly upgrade their existing attractions.

In 1967, an all-new Tomorrowland debuted at Disneyland. For the first time, this land truly demonstrated Walt’s vision of the future and attendance soared. Unfortunately, Walt never saw this wonderful expansion completed as he died on December 15, 1966.


New Tomorrowland


Although a new building was needed at Disneyland to house CoP, the props and AA figures arrived from New York virtually intact. However, the show would be tweaked slightly. First, all references to GE’s now defunct “Medallion Home” advertising campaign were discarded. Mother’s voice was rerecorded. Father moved from a bench to a barstool in the 1940’s kitchen. The final, Christmas scene was updated slightly. And the Sky-Dome Spectacular became history. The attraction opened at Disneyland on July 2, 1967.


Carousel of Progress Poster

Carousel of Progress Building


Father, the star of the show, was voiced by Rex Allen at the World’s Fair and Disneyland. Allen was a western film actor, singer, and songwriter. In his later years, he narrated a number of Disney nature films and television shows.

Since CoP was a blatant advertisement for General Electric, it was decided that guests shouldn’t be required to relinquish a ticket (what would have been an “E” ticket) to see the show. This added greatly to its popularity. Other free attractions at the time were Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (presented by Lincoln Savings and Loan), Adventures thru Inner Space (presented by Monsanto), and America the Beautiful (in Circle-Vision) presented by AT&T.

After getting settled in the first theater of CoP, an on-stage curtain rose to reveal a wall of textured plastic called “Kaleidophonic Screens.” As Father voice welcomed us aboard, colored lights, behind the plastic, blinked and changed with his narrative. In the 1960’s, this was an impressive sight.

The story began in the late 1890’s. Father opens Act 1 by saying “Well, the robins are back. That’s a sure sign of spring.” In this version of CoP, each act represented a different season, spring, summer, autumn, and winter.


CoP Act 1


In Act 1, Father tells us of the modern conveniences they enjoy such as gas lamps, telephones, and the latest design in cast iron stoves. Their ice box holds 50 pounds of ice and Rover keeps the drip pan from overflowing. It’s interesting to note, the dog had a different name in each scene, Rover, Buster, and Sport.

In a segment of Act 1, mother Sara can be seen ironing. Next to her is a young girl operating the “wash day marvel.” This character is not part of the family nor is she ever introduced or mentioned. Over the years, many have speculated as to her identity, but a positive answer eludes us.

“Hottest summer we’ve had in years,” was how Father opened Act 2. This line was keeping in the theme of “seasons.”


CoP Act 2


Cousin Orville is also introduced in Act 2. Orville’s only line, “No privacy at all around this place,” was voiced by Mel Blanc. Blanc is most remembered for voicing many of the Warner Brothers’ characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam.

Walt was extremely involved with the design of CoP. Originally, the Imagineers had Orville’s back facing the audience. When Walt saw this, he knew better. He turned the tub around, took off his shoes and socks, and jumped into the tub. Then he said to the Imagineers, “He’d wiggle his toes, don’t you think?”


Cousin Orville


Father opens Act 3 by saying, “Well, it’s autumn again and the kids are back in school.”


CoP Act 3


Act 4 begins with Jingle Bells playing in the background and Mother and Father wishing us merry Christmas.

In Acts 1, 2, and 3, Mother was portrayed as the typical American, hardworking housewife. Her sole lot in life was to take care of the home which required copious amounts of effort. In Act 4, the Imagineers wanted to show how electricity and modern appliances had liberated the “little woman.” To demonstrate her new found freedom, she talks incessantly, barely allowing Father a word in edgewise. However, it’s very clear that she’s still the “typical American housewife.” The appliances are hers, not Fathers. And it’s Mother, not Father, who is cooking Christmas dinner. And with her new-found liberation from drudgery she has time for activities like the gardening club, the literary society, and the ladies bowling league. The idea of Mother getting a job in the 1960’s was unheard of.

If you looked out the window in Act 4, you could see a familiar sight, Progress City. This would be given greater attention in Act 5.


CoP Act 4


As Act 4 concluded, the theater rotated once again. When it came to a stop, a speed-ramp, not a stage, lay before us. Guests were asked to get out of their seats and proceed to the second floor to be reunited with Mother and Father and view Progress City.


Progress City


Progress City was a grand model. It was built to 1/8 scale and was 160 feet wide. It had 22,000 scale shrubs and trees, 4,500 structures (lit from within), and 1,400 working streetlights. Many of the trains, PeopleMovers, and automobiles actually moved. This was an impressive sight. Progress City was Walt’s model for EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).

While viewing Progress City, Father and Mother highlighted some of its virtues, including the new GE nuclear power plant located nearby. Father also mentions their local amusement park to which mother says, “It’s not exactly Disneyland, but it is clean and bright and lots of fun.”

Guests exited CoP on the second floor and traveled down a long ramp to ground level.


Disneyland CoP


Carousel of Progress attendance began to wane at Disneyland in the early 70’s. General Electric believed that 80% of the people who saw the show were from California and felt their advertising dollars could be better spent elsewhere. They asked Disney if they’d be willing to move the show to Florida and the company agreed. CoP closed at Disneyland on September 9, 1973. Today, the Disneyland Carousel Theater is home to Innoventions and uses a stylized rendition of “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” as its theme song.

When CoP moved from New York to California, only minor changes were made to the attraction. That would not be the case for the move to Florida. For the most part, the sets and AudioAnimatronics figures remained the same, but other changes would be more significant. The first noticeable difference was the building. At the World’s Fair it was three stories high. At Disneyland, it was two stories. But at the Magic Kingdom it would only be one story with a loft large enough for the PeopleMover to pass by comfortably. In addition, the carousel now rotated counterclockwise rather than clockwise. Guests would also enter and exit on the first floor. Here is an early picture of CoP at the Magic Kingdom. Notice the blue and white stripes on the building.


Magic Kingdom CoP


General Electric had also tired of the song “There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” They didn’t want to encourage their customers to “wait” for the future before they bought their appliances. They wanted them to buy them “now.” So the Sherman brothers were brought back on board and they composed “The Best Time of Your Life” or as it is also known, “Now is the Time.”

CoP opened at the Magic Kingdom on January 15, 1975. Space Mountain also opened on this same day. The sets for the first three acts closely resembled the original, but an all-new fourth act displayed an updated Christmas scene. In addition, Andrew Duggan now voiced Father. In 1981, the fourth act was updated once again to reflect a 1980’s home.

Horizons, opened at Epcot on October 1, 1983 and was sponsored by General Electric. GE also was sponsoring the nighttime spectacular Illuminations. So when their ten year contract for CoP expired on March 10, 1985, they chose not to renew. The attraction closed briefly so all references to General Electric could be removed. The GE logo was replaced with a logo that showed a stylized blueprint of the six carousel theaters surrounding the six fixed stages.


New CoP Marquee

New CoP Logo


It’s interesting to note, references to “General Electric” and “Hotpoint” can still be seen on several of the appliances today.

That’s it for Part Four of my Tomorrowland series. Check back next week when I’ll be discussing Space Mountain and the Grand Prix Raceway.



June 9, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Three

Jack Spence Masthead


Today I’ll be looking at the Skyway, Star Jets, and the WEDWay PeopleMover.

In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 - Tomorrowland An Overview - Flight to the Moon - Mission to Mars
Part 2 - Circle-Vision movies - If You Had Wings - Dream Flight


As I mentioned in Part One of my series about Tomorrowland, this futuristic land was far from complete when the Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971. The Circle-Vision 360 movie America the Beautiful didn’t premier until November 25, 1971 and Flight to the Moon opened a month later on December 24. If You Had Wings was a real latecomer debuting on June 5, 1972. In fact, the only Tomorrowland attractions up and running when the Magic Kingdom initially opened were the Gran Prix Raceway and the Skyway.


Gran Prix Raceway Poster

Skyway Poster


The first Disney Skyway opened at Disneyland on June 23, 1956. Walt was so taken by this mode of transportation that he signed an agreement to purchase this attraction from the Von Roll, Ltd. Company without giving any consideration as to where this ride would be located in his park.

Walt thought of the Skyway as more than just a ride. He thought of it as another mode of transportation that could be used to carry people across large parking lots and shopping centers. He wanted to use Disneyland to showcase this idea.

There is a legend that says that part of Walt’s inspiration for Disney World came to him while riding the Disneyland Skyway. From the lofty height of sixty feet, he could see outside the park and onto the rush-hour traffic of the Santa Ana Freeway that skirted his property. He knew then that he needed more land so he could shield any future project from the outside world.

There were three Disney Skyways in total, the second opening at the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971 (opening day) and the third at Tokyo Disneyland on April 15, 1983 (also on opening day). All three offered one-way rides between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The Magic Kingdom’s version had the distinction of being the only one that made a turn in the middle of the journey.

It is often reported, incorrectly, that the Magic Kingdom closed the Skyway due to the death of a custodial cast member working on the attraction. Although it is true that Raymond Barlow was accidentally killed while cleaning a narrow Skyway platform, this had nothing to do with the decision to shutter the ride. Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland had both closed their versions of this attraction before this death occurred. The decision to close all of the Skyways was strictly economical. These attractions were old and expensive to run and maintain. Also, they had low capacities. This made it harder and harder to justify on a “dollar spent per guest ride” basis. Combine this with the constant problem of teenagers spitting and throwing things on the guests below and it’s not hard to understand why Disney said “Enough.” The Magic Kingdom Skyway closed on November 9, 1999.

The Skyway was a perennial favorite of many people. Even though the line was often long, it was worth the wait once we were airborne and looking down on the many sights below. As you passed other gondolas, you would smile and wave to its passengers. And when you could see the terminus station come into view, you grew sad because you knew your flight was almost over.


Tomorrowland Skyway

Tomorrowland Skyway


Although the overall concept for Tomorrowland was pretty much set in concrete from the beginning, it wasn’t until sometime in early 1973 that the plans were finalized and this land began to see real growth. For the next two years, construction was an ongoing presence here.


Tomorrowland Concept Drawing

Tomorrowland Under Construction


Walt believed in weenies. A weenie (hotdog) was the “item of interest” that would entice a crowd to move in a certain direction. For example, Cinderella’s Golden Carousel was purposely placed directly behind Cinderella Castle to help draw guests into Fantasyland. And the Liberty Square Riverboat Landing was placed directly in line with this land’s entrance to help lure people in. Interestingly, Adventureland intentionally did not have a weenie. It was omitted to help make this exotic land more mysterious.

Keeping the weenie concept in mind, the Imagineers knew Tomorrowland would also need something interesting to draw guests into this land of the future -- and the Star Jets filled this bill perfectly. Between this attraction’s soaring height and spinning movement, it was precisely what was required to draw guests down the Tomorrowland concourse.


Star Jets


But before we discuss the Magic Kingdom’s Star Jets, let’s take a look at this attraction’s predecessors at Disneyland.

The first space-aged aerial carousel-style ride at Disneyland were the Astro Jets. They officially opened on March 24, 1956. These puppies climbed to the staggering height of 36 feet and traveled in a circle with a 50 foot diameter.


Astro Jets

Astro Jets Poster


Because money was short and Imagineers were busy working on other projects, Walt decided to buy an off-the-shelf carnival ride and have his people spruce it up later. This task fell to Imagineer John Hench. Besides giving the attraction its now familiar red and white checkered pattern, he also decided that each rocket be given a name. These were, Altair, Antares, Arcturus, Canopus, Capella, Castor, Pica, Procyon, Regulus, Rigel, Sirius, Spica, and Vega.


Astro Jets

Astro Jets


If you counted, you found thirteen names. Although no official reason was given as to why there was one more name than needed, Disney historians speculate that the thirteenth name was a “spare” that could be used if one of the rockets needed to be removed and repaired. Those that pay close attention to such things have never found the name “Pica” on an Astro Jet photograph.

When United Airlines began sponsoring The Enchanted Tiki Room, they complained that the name Astro Jets was giving free advertisement to their competitor, American Airlines who offered coast-to-coast Astrojet service to their customers. In order to keep United happy, the attraction’s name was changed to Tomorrowland Jets. This designation lasted until September 1966 when the ride was closed to make room for the new and improved Tomorrowland.

The attraction returned to Disneyland on July 2, 1967 with an all-new look. Now called Rocket Jets, this new design in theme park space flight now sat atop the Goodyear PeopleMover and was serviced by two gantry-style elevators. The center pylon no longer had a carnival look, but was instead a stylized replica of a Saturn V rocket. And the ride vehicles were sleek and modern. Rocket Jets remained open until 1997 when they were removed to make ready for another Tomorrowland makeover.


Rocket Jets Poster

Rocket Jets

Rocket Jets

Rocket Jets


Original makeover plans called for this attraction to once again sit atop the PeopleMover, now Rocket Rods Station, but the new design proved too heavy for the structure. The new Astro Orbitor would end up sitting at ground level near the entrance to Tomorrowland.


Astro Orbitor


Okay, now let’s get back to the Magic Kingdom of the early 1970’s.

As I mentioned before, the Star Jets would be the weenie that drew people into Tomorrowland. But this attraction was just one part of a “triple whammy.” Copying Disneyland’s successful design, the Imagineers placed a quick-service food stand, the Space Bar, at ground level. The PeopleMover station would sit above the Space Bar. And perched on top of it all would be the Star Jets. This multi-layer designed was created for Disneyland because of space constraints, but it worked so well and fitted the Tomorrowland concept so perfectly, it was repeated in the Magic Kingdom. The Star Jets opened on November 28, 1974.


People Mover and Star Jets

People Mover and Star Jets


Like Disneyland, the Star Jets center pylon resembled a Saturn V rocket. However, the ride vehicles had a completely different design. At Disneyland, guests rode in mini-rockets. But at the Magic Kingdom, guests were seated in a vehicle that more resembled a hovercraft which featured a broader and flatter design, not to mention the sporty back fins.


Astro Orbitor

Star Jets


The Star Jets were suspended approximately 80 feet above the ground and were attached to the center pylon by a 20 foot arm. Each of the 12 vehicles held two passengers with up and down flight controlled by a control stick located near the front of the craft. Riders were treated to 11 rotations per minute and the attraction averaged 1.2 million miles a year. Star Jets required a “D” ticket to ride.


Star Jets and Space Mountain

D Ticket


Sitting directly below Star Jets was the WEDWay PeopleMover. Just like I did with the Star Jets, I need to go back in history and take a look at Disneyland’s PeopleMover before discussing the Magic Kingdom’s version.


Disneyland PeopleMover Poster


The Disneyland PeopleMover was part of the 1966/67 Tomorrowland makeover. It opened on July 2, 1967. Sponsored by Goodyear, this elevated highway gave guests an overhead preview of all the wonderful adventures that were just waiting to be experienced in the new and old Tomorrowland.


Disneyland PeopleMover

Disneyland PeopleMover


In its day, the PeopleMover was innovative and Walt thought of it as more than just a ride. He felt that the PeopleMover, along with the monorail, could help cities solve problems of congestion and overcrowding. In fact, he was so taken with both of these modes of transportation that they were incorporated into the plans for his future city of EPCOT. In this 1967 concept drawing of EPCOT, you can see both the PeopleMover (left) and the monorail (right).


Epcot Concept Drawing


The queuing process for Disneyland’s PeopleMover was unique and innovative. First, guests boarded a speed-ramp (an inclined conveyor belt) for transport to a second level boarding area. At the end of the ramp they were deposited onto a stationary platform, surrounded by a large rotating turntable. Since the inside of a disk moves slower than the outside, it allowed guests an easy transition from the stationary platform to the moving turntable. As they walked to the outer edges of the turntable, their speed gradually increased. This arrangement allowed for better guest safety and improved ride capacity since the cars didn’t need to slow down as much in order to be boarded.


Disneyland PeopleMover Queue


The PeopleMover was powered by small rubber tires (made by Goodyear) embedded along the track. Spaced about every nine feet, hundreds of electric motors powered these tiny tires as they pressed against fiberglass epoxy plates positioned on the bottom of the cars. Top speed: six miles per hour. Each train consisted of four cars, holding four passengers each. They were equipped with power doors and an automated roof that tilted out of the way for easier loading and unloading (see above picture). The PeopleMover had an astonishing capacity of 4,600 guests an hour.

Along the nearly one mile route, a cheery narrative was piped into each car, describing the sights along the way while occasionally praising Goodyear. Unlike its future Florida cousin, Disneyland’s PeopleMover changed elevation as it circled Tomorrowland. It traveled over the Autopia, through shops, and above the submarine lagoon. It even paralleled the monorail for a short distance.


Disneyland PeopleMover

Disneyland PeopleMover

Disneyland PeopleMover


Now back to the Magic Kingdom.

The WEDWay PeopleMover did not open in Tomorrowland until July 1, 1975, almost four years after the Magic Kingdom had opened. However, it was always intended to be included in this land as can be seen in the picture below taken in January 1972. Even though Tomorrowland is far from complete, the PeopleMover right-of-way is clearly visible on the left and right sides of the picture.


Unfinished Tomorrowland

Magic Kingdom PeopleMover Poster


There were several changes made to the Florida version of this ride from its California counterpart. First, it would not be powered by moving wheels embedded in the track, but rather by linear induction motors. This made for a much smoother ride than at Disneyland. It also allowed for better operation during rainy weather. Second, due to Florida’s weather, it was decided that individual roofs over each car would not be sufficient protection from the elements, so the entire track was covered. Another change would be the addition of a fifth car to each train. And as I mentioned earlier, the Magic Kingdom’s version traveled at the same elevation throughout its entire journey.

Another change would come with the attraction’s name, it would now be called the WEDWay PeopleMover. WED are Walt’s initials (Walter Elias Disney). WED Enterprises, or more commonly called “WED,” was the creative branch of the Disney Company. This was where all of the Imagineers worked (and played). Eventually, WED was renamed Walt Disney Imagineering (also known as WDI or simply Imagineering).


WEDWay PeopleMover Sign


The original sponsor of the WEDWay PeopleMover was the Edison Electric Institute. This association represents all investor-owned electric companies in the United States. Its members provide electricity for 220 million Americans, operates in 49 states and the District of Columbia, and directly employs more than 500,000 workers today.

Back at Disneyland, the Carousel of Progress was being dismantled so it could be shipped to Florida. On the second floor of the COP building was a large model of Progress City " the prototype for the city of EPCOT. The Imagineers didn’t want to destroy this beautiful work of art, yet they had no place to store or display it at Disneyland. It was eventually decided to make it one of the sights seen while riding the new WEDWay PeopleMover in Florida; however, it was much too large in its current state and would need to be cut down dramatically in order to fit into the space available. Believe me, anyone who saw the original model at Disneyland, knows that this resized version pales by comparison.


Progress City

Progress City


Like Disneyland, The WEDWay PeopleMover gave guests a preview of many of the shops and attractions found in Tomorrowland. Along the way, Jack Wagner (the “Voice of Disneyland”) provided an ongoing commentary. In June 1985, his narration was replaced by the voice of ORAC One - "The Commuter Computer".

At Disneyland, the PeopleMover just skirted the inside edge of Space Mountain, offering very little to see due to the dark nature of this ride. At the Magic Kingdom, things would be quite different. The WEDWay PeopleMover traveled through the middle of the attraction, giving passengers a fantastic view of astronauts repairing a giant spacecraft.


Space Mountain Interior


The WEDWay PeopleMover traveled just shy of a mile in 10 minutes time at a speed of 6.84 mph. It required a “D” ticket to ride.

That’s it for Part Three. Check back next week when I’ll be discussing the Carousel of Progress.



June 2, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Last week I told you how the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland was far from complete on opening day. I also discussed the Flight to the Moon and the Mission to Mars attractions. Today I will continue my tour of Tomorrowland with a look at the Circle-Vision movies that were shown here along with If You Had Wings and three of its predecessors.

Directly across the concourse from the Flight to the Moon/Mission to Mars ride was the America the Beautiful attraction. Like so many other rides, this presentation could trace its roots back to Disneyland.

The first Disneyland 360 film was titled “A Tour of the West.” It was shot on 16mm film and used eleven cameras and eleven screens to completely surround guests with images of Southern California, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Monument Valley. It was an opening day attraction and one of just a handful that survived the day without a mishap. It was shown in the Circarama Theater and was eleven minutes in length. The name Circarama was a takeoff of the recently coined term Cinerama, the new theater process in which movies such as “How the West Was Won” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” were shown on three synchronized screens.

Most people know that Walt was associated with the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair, but most do not know that he was also associated with the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.

After the opening of Disneyland, Walt was approached by Howard S. Cullman, U.S. Commissioner General in charge of the fair’s American exhibit. He asked Walt to create a Circarama movie showcasing the United States. Cullman wanted to show Europe the beauty and majesty of our fine country. The movie would be shot using 35mm film and would ultimately end up being 18 minutes in length. The movie was titled “America the Beautiful.” The Ford Motor Company would sponsor the attraction. After the fair closed, the movie was moved to Disneyland and opened in June, 1960, replacing A Tour of the West.


1958 Brussels World’s Fair

1958 Brussels World’s Fair

Circarama

America the Beautiful Poster


When Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was remodeled in 1966 and 1967, a new 360 movie was filmed. In addition, the number of cameras and screens were reduced from eleven to nine as it was discovered that fewer screens made viewing more palatable for guests prone to motion sickness. The new movie was still titled “America the Beautiful,” but the theater was now called Circle-Vision 360.


America the Beautiful Movie

America the Beautiful Movie


The film began with a view of Mount Rushmore and a rousing chorus of “America the Beautiful” being sung in the background. It then took audiences on a stirring 18½ minute journey across America. During production, the camera was mounted atop a car, a hook & ladder fire truck, and several water craft. It was also suspended from a B-25 bomber. To create an unobstructed view while in flight, the camera was attached to a specially designed hydraulic device contained within the plane’s bomb-bay. When flying over desired locales, the camera could be lowered for filming.


CircleVision Camera

CircleVision Camera


This second version of America the Beautiful opened in the Magic Kingdom on November 25, 1971 and was sponsored by Monsanto. It was a free attraction in the day of ticket books. It entertained audiences for a mere 28 months when its run ended on March 15, 1974. However, this abrupt withdrawal wasn’t due to a lack of popularity, but rather a hiatus in which the movie could be modified for the upcoming American Bicentennial. During its absence, a new film, Magic Carpet ‘Round the World took its place.


CircleVision Theater


Magic Carpet ‘Round the World took guests on a 21-minute journey through more than 20 countries. To enhance the experience, a 24-voice chorus and 56-piece orchestra was used as accompaniment. According to a Disney press release, more than 37 hours of film were edited to create the movie. And some of this cut footage was later reused in the Timekeeper attraction that would play in this same space many years later. This film closed sometime in 1975 and once again, America the Beautiful began showing here, this time with added footage of Philadelphia.

The newly edited version of America the Beautiful only played in Tomorrowland until 1979 when it was once again replaced by Magic Carpet ‘Round the World. This second showing of Magic Carpet ‘Round the World was featured here for another five years when it was ultimately replaced with an all new movie, American Journeys which opened on September 15, 1984. (Confused? I know I am. Try this. It might help.)

America the Beautiful
Magic Carpet ‘Round the World
America the Beautiful (revised)
Magic Carpet ‘Round the World
American Journeys

American Journeys was similar in concept to America the Beautiful in that it toured our great nation from sea to shining sea. But along the way, it tried to present a more realistic view of America. Depictions of the land and its people were far more diverse and “colorful” than its “predominately white” predecessor. During a portion of its run, American Journeys was sponsored by Black and Decker. It was last shown in the Magic Kingdom on January 9, 1994.

In 1980, the second version of America the Beautiful was released on 16mm film for educational use. However, it was not in 360 Circle-Vision. Only the front-facing screen was shown. Anyone who has ever seen this movie would know, without the other eight screens, the viewer is missing a lot. This single-screen version can be seen on YouTube if you’re curious.

I had the privilege of watching the second version of America the Beautiful once with a cast member working the attraction at Disneyland. As he was required to be in the theater while the movie was shown to audiences, he had become very familiar with it. In fact, he had watched the movie so many times he decided that he would start watching only one screen for an entire showing just to see what he could discover. And it turns out his efforts were not wasted as he found that not all the scenes used in the movie were entirely family friendly. Fortunately, most of the objectionable scenes were not noticeable to the audience as they were not the focus of attention at that particular moment in the film or were “blurred” out by Disney. But since AllEars is a family-friendly site, I can’t share these images with you now. However, if you ever run into me while I’m out and about in the parks, feel free to ask me.

When discussing the original Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland, there is one attraction that stirs people’s interests more than any other, If You Had Wings. This Florida original had a loyal following and many still lament its passing into obscurity.

You will see the attraction’s name written in three different ways on official Disney brochures and plaques: If You Had Wings (all words capitalized), If you had wings (only “If” being capitalized), and if you had wings (no capitalization). For ease of reading, I will use traditional “title” convention.

If You Had Wings was sponsored by Eastern Airlines, a major player in the airline industry at that time and the official airlines of Walt Disney World. In 1971, Eastern provided flight service to Orlando from 60 different cities. It is estimated that the airline paid $10M to sponsor the attraction.

In reality, If You Had Wings was nothing more than an amusing 4½ minute advertisement for Eastern. To that end, it did not require a ticket to ride. If You Had Wings opened on June 5, 1972.


If You Had Wings Poster

If You Had Wings Poster Theater


Some suggest that If You Had Wings was inspired by Disneyland’s Adventure’s Thru Inner Space which had opened four years earlier. After all, they both used the new Omnimover ride system. Both could be viewed from the PeopleMover. Both saw the ride vehicles disappear into large structures (a microscope or globe). They both used a similar track layout. And most importantly, both were designed by Disney Legend Claude Coats who was known for his dark ride designs.

Guests walked through an unassuming doorway to enter If You Had Wings. Once inside they found themselves in a large room that was designed to resemble a modern airport passenger terminal. Overhead were arrival and departure boards listing exotic locales that Eastern serviced. Here is a list of the pending departures:

Caribbean and Island Ports of Call
Su Casa Service to Old San Juan
The Pyramids of Ancient Mexico
The New Orleans Jazz Flight
Bermuda's Underwater Reefs
The Adventure Specials
Bahamas 700 Islands.


Departure Board


As guests continued through the queue, they eventually came to a speed-ramp which would carry them to one of the 102 continually moving 2-3 passenger vehicles. Once seated, guests entered a giant, stylized globe.


If You Had Wings Globe

If You Had Wings Globe


The ride began with the vehicle gently tilting back. This was to impart the feeling of an airplane takeoff. Projected on a blank wall were animated silhouettes of seagulls in flight. These were soon replaced with animated silhouettes of airplanes racing across the sky. In the background, the haunting tune “If You Had Wings” began to play. The music for this ditty was written by Buddy Baker and the lyrics by X Atencio.

A few moments later, guests found themselves in the thick of things. All around them were colorful props that featured windows, arches, and any number of openings in which a transparent screen could be placed. Behind these screens there were a number of projectors churning out continuous loops of movies depicting some of the many locales Eastern Airlines flew. These included Mexico, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and New Orleans.


If You Had Wings Attraction

If You Had Wings Attraction


In all, the attraction had forty-one 16mm projectors, three 70mm projectors, forty special lighting effects projectors, and one 35mm projector. Unfortunately, all of these projectors made a lot of noise. And no matter how loud Disney turned up the music, it couldn’t drown out the rhythmic clicking these machines made.

After visiting the many exotic locations presented at the beginning of the attraction, guests entered the SuperSpeed Tunnel. This was an elongated room with an arched ceiling. Here, racing dune buggies, speeding motorcycles, dare-devil water-skiers, hurtling airboats, acrobatic planes, and other assorted vehicles were seamlessly projected onto the walls and overhead. At the same time, your Omnimover vehicle tilted back and fans blew cool breezes onto your face. All of this combined to give the rider a sense of extreme motion even though you never exceeded the speed of two miles an hour. It was the virtual reality of its day. Unfortunately, technology really hadn’t caught up with execution and the images were pretty blurry. Nonetheless, most folks thought this was the best part of the ride.

The SuperSpeed Tunnel was followed by the Mirror Room. In this space, floor to ceiling mirrors reflected images of snow-covered mountains and other serene landscapes.

The final scene brought us back to more projected seagulls and an occasional Eastern aircraft passing by. An announcer would leave us with these parting words: "You do have wings, you can do all these things, you can widen your world, Eastern...we'll be your wings."

Due to financial troubles, Eastern ended its sponsorship of If You Had Wings on June 1, 1987. Four years later, Eastern would be out of business. Despite Eastern’s problems, the attraction was extremely popular and racked up over 40 million visitors in just six years.

After Eastern pulled its sponsorship, the Imagineers did a quick makeover of the attraction. In just five days, all references to Eastern Airlines were removed, the theme music and recordings swapped out, and signage changed. The attraction reopened on June 6, 1987 as If You Could Fly.

Although in most ways, If You Could Fly was identical to its predecessor, however it never caught on with the public. Some claim that the attraction had lost its heart and soul when Eastern left. But in reality, this attraction had become tired and out of date. Audiences wanted something more exciting. If You Could Fly closed permanently on January 4, 1989, less than two years after its debut. All of the sets were hastily destroyed in an effort to get ready for the next attraction that would be housed here soon.

Always on the lookout for a corporate sponsor, Disney found a new ally with Delta Air Lines who was eager to take over this outdated attraction and advertise its own product. The new ride would be officially named Delta Dreamflight, but most everyone just called it Dreamflight. Delta would also become the official airlines of Walt Disney World.


Delta Dreamflight Coming Soon


In an effort to save money, the existing Omnimover, track layout, and floor plan were reused, but everything else about this attraction would be new. In just a little over five months after the closing of If You Could Fly, Dreamflight began entertaining guests on June 23, 1989.


Dreamflight Entrance


The first changes guests saw in the new attraction was in the queue. Immediately after entering the building they encountered the nose of Delta 767 plane, complete with jet ramp. The jet was named "The Spirit of Delta"


The Spirit of Delta


The name of this aircraft, “The Spirit of Delta,” was more than just a cute designation the Imagineers picked for this plane. It actually had a special meaning for Delta.

Due to a weak economy, high fuel prices, and deregulation, Delta posted its first yearly loss in the spring of 1982 after 35 years of consecutive profits. To show their support for the company, three flight attendants spearheaded “Project 767.” Their mission was to rouse support among Delta’s employees, retirees, and friends and raise $30million in donations to buy Delta its first Boeing 767. On December 15, 1982, they achieved their goal and the company’s first 767 was named “The Spirit of Delta.”

Further along in the queue guests entered a newly themed terminal lined with travel posters advertising exotic destinations from around the world. Finally, they would enter the jet via a neon and mirrored jet ramp and loaded an Omnimover vehicle.


Delta Dreamflight Attraction

Delta Dreamflight Attraction

Delta Dreamflight Attraction


The basic premise of Dreamflight was to give riders a lighthearted history of flight. This was achieved by using pop-up book style sets, projection techniques, a few AA figures, and realistic tableaus.

Shortly after the ride begins, riders pass by a large rotating turntable. Here they were treated to simple pop-up book depictions of early flight. These included a hot air balloon, a giant wing, and a dirigible type device. In the background, “The Dreamflight Song” by Edo Guidotti is played.

As we entered the next room, we found ourselves in the barnstormer era. On both sides of our vehicle are fairgrounds, farmland, tents, daredevils, and spectators. Overhead, biplanes circled. Once again, the images were simple, pop-up book caricatures.


Dreamflight Attraction


As we moved forward, we entered a barn which some poor pilot had crashed into. Once inside, we could see him hanging from the rafters.


Dreamflight Attraction


On the other side of the barn was a large room with a massive screen on a side wall. As we entered, our vehicle pivoted to face the ever-looping movie and for the next 58 seconds we saw acts of daring do as a biplane and stuntman performed aerial tricks.


Dreamflight Attraction


As we entered the next phase of the ride, things took a slightly more serious look at air travel. We were now at the beginning of the passenger service era as we boarded a seaplane sitting in San Francisco Harbor. Once inside the plane, we saw how First Class was treated.


San Francisco

Plane Interior


Next we passed by a home in Tokyo and finally traveled along the rooftops of Paris.


Tokyo

After our globe-trotting experience of the 1930’s and 40’s, we entered the Jet Age. To help us make the transition, an overhead voice asked us to prepare for supersonic flight. As we continued forward, we faced a giant spinning light (think Maelstrom from the Norway Pavilion). Add some fog effects and a couple of fans and it gave the impression we were about to actually enter the inside of a turbo jet engine. All around us were the sounds of jet engines revving up and taking off.


SuperSpeed Tunnel


In the SuperSpeed Tunnel left over from If You Had Wings, guests traveled down a runway and took flight into the clouds. And in what was once the Mirror Room, a computer-generated movie had guests flying above the earth, in a canyon above water, and eventually flying into a futuristic city.

In the final scene, guests were treated to one last pop-up book effect in which a giant page flipped between New York and London. On a nearby wall, a projection of a Delta plane flies by.

Delta Dreamflight was a success and generally well received by guests. However, Delta ended its sponsorship at the end of 1995. But unlike Eastern ending its funding of If You Had Wings, Disney did not immediately remove all references to the carrier. The only noticeable change was in the name. It was now called Dreamflight instead of Delta Dreamflight. This name lasted until early June of 1996. At that time, Delta’s moniker was finally erased from the attraction and it reopened as Take Flight on June 5 of that same year. Take Flight lasted until January 1998 when it was shuttered for good.

Many people wax nostalgic at the passing of If You Had Wings and Dreamflight. Both were quintessential Disney attractions and harkened back to a slower period in theme park history. But for the most part, that’s not what younger audiences want today. Both of these attractions were wonderful for what they were, but they had seen their day and now it was time for more exciting fare to take their place.

That’s it for Part Two. Check back next week when I’ll continue my look at Tomorrowland with a look at the Skyway, Star Jets, and the WEDWay PeopleMover.



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