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August 2, 2009

Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama

When Disney announced and built Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama, I was annoyed. I realized that the Animal Kingdom desperately needed more rides and attractions, but I felt that the bean-counters tried to remedy this situation by the cheapest means possible. They bought "off-the-shelf" rides and had the Imagineers spruce them up the best they could. I also did not like the "carnival" atmosphere they created with the games on the midway. After all, Walt built Disneyland in an effort to get away from this sort of cheap amusement park. So the first time I visited Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama, I had a chip on my shoulder and didn't like what I saw.

After some time had passed, it finally sunk into my thick head that Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama wasn't going away. It was here to stay. So I decided to climb down from my high-horse and take another look at this section of Dinoland U.S.A., only this time, I'd try to be objective. Once I did this, and embraced the storyline, I found that the Imagineers actually built a pleasant and engaging area. And like everything else they do, it's full of details.

The story of Dinoland U.S.A. goes something like this. In the early 1940's, Diggs County contained little more than ranch and farmland. This is evident by the barn seen on the property.

Barn and ATM

An elderly married couple, Chester and Hester, owned a rundown gas station and a few acres of land along the highway. This allowed them to eek out a meager living.

Gas Station

They sold Sinclair gasoline. The irony of this would become evident in the years to come.

Sinclair Gas

In 1947, amateur fossil-hunters found some dinosaur bones in the area. Once their authenticity could be verified, scientist and grad students swarmed the area, eager to discover their own finds. An old fishing lodge (Restaurantosaurus) became their gathering place and soon after, the Dino Institute was founded. When time travel was invented in the early 70's, the Institute erected a modern building to facilitate research. To help subsidize costs, tours were offered to non-professionals.

Dino Institute

Meanwhile, Chester and Hester could see others getting rich while their profits had only risen mildly with the influx of tourists. Determined to cash in on the area's new found wealth, they started selling souvenirs as well as gas. It wasn't long before their tacky merchandise was raking in more money than the gas they sold, so they converted the entire service station into a large shop called "Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures."

Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures

Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures

Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures

While in the store, see if you can find a picture of Chester and Hester and the framed "first dollar" they made.


First Dollar

Out back and behind their store they created a photo op where their customers could pose with a whimsical dinosaur.

Whimsical Dinosaur Photo Op

Take a look at some of the corny signs and slogans they erected to attract passing motorists. If you look carefully at the last sign, you can see how they painted over an old GAS sign with a souvenir ad.

Going out of existence sale

Ice Age

Prehistoric Prices

Dirt Cheap

Reused Gas Sign

Another "attention getter" was a dinosaur (if you can call it that) that they created out of plaster, rocks, bottles, and broken glass and mirrors. I've read that there is a Steamboat Willie pin embedded somewhere on this dinosaur, but I have not verified this.

Plaster Dinosaur

Ever frugal, the team used old tires as planters.

Planters made out of Tires

On the roof top you can see a number of homemade dinosaur weathervanes.

Dinosaur Weathervane

As profits started to grow, Chester and Hester decided to build a small amusement park across the street from their souvenir shop. Since their land bordered the main highway, this would be the perfect spot to attract passing tourist aiming for the Dino Institute.

Diggs County Highway

Diggs County Highway

Diggs County Highway

Diggs County Highway

Diggs County Highway

Soon after, Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama was born.

Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama Main Entrance

Like all roadside attractions of the day, numerous signs, advertising the approaching venue, were placed along the highway for miles in both directions.

Roadside Signs

Also found in the vicinity are billboards advertising the Dino Institute and Diggs County.

Dino Institute Billboard

Diggs County Billboard

Near the entrance to Chester & Hester's, the word DINO-RAMA is spelled out with plants. Upon closer inspection, you can see that the ever thrifty couple used old license plates to form the outline of the letters.

DINO-RAMA spelled with Plants

DINO-RAMA spelled with Plants

At one time, there was parking for Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama next to the souvenir shop, but this area has been turned into a picnic area.

Parking Lot

Picnic Area

Typical of the era, "novelty architecture" was brought into play with the creation of a large yellow dinosaur (concreteasaurus) to entice motorists to stop.



The midway, Fossil Fun Games, contains six different challenges.

Dino Whamma!

In this game you use a mallet and lever to try to ring the bell. Some of the "levels of expertise" you can achieve are: Wimposaur, Biceptoraptor, Brawnosaurus, and Triceps-A-Tops

Dino Whamma!

Fossil Fueler

Here you use a water pistol to fill your fuel tank before the other players can achieve the same goal.

Fossil Fueler

Mammoth Marathon

At this game, you roll baseballs into a number of holes with different point designations. With each point, your mammoth advances toward the finish line.

Mammoth Marathon

Comet Crasher

With this contest, you toss comets (balls) into a sea of goblets. The color of the goblet your comet lands in, determines the prize you win.

Comet Crasher


This is a basketball toss game.



As dinosaurs pop up, you whack 'em with your mallet.


The games each cost $2.50 to play; however, the booths do not accept cash. You must purchase coupons at either the nearby souvenir stand, a strolling vendor, or at Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures. The prizes awarded are brightly colored plushes resembling everything from fanciful dinosaurs to snakes. None are Disney characters.

Souvenir Stand

There are other midway attractions besides the games. You can see a "deformed" image of yourself in a wavy mirror.

Wavy Mirror

Have four automatic pictures taken of you and your friends as you cram yourselves into this small picture booth. (Cost, $5).

Photo Booth

Or you can pose for a picture behind a dinosaur cut-out.

Cut-out Picture Op

Chester and Hester took their old vacation trailer and converted it into a concessions stand. Hot dogs, popcorn, and frozen and liquid drinks are for sale at Dino Diner.

Dino Diner

If you look at the pavement, you can tell that Chester and Hester were tight on money when creating their little park. As it expanded, they just built on top of their former parking lot. Also notice the flowerbeds are lined with the old tires that they accumulated over the years running their service station.


Tire Boarder

There are two rides at Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama, TriceraTop Spin and Primeval Whirl. Let's start with TriceraTop Spin.

In case you didn't notice, the second "T" in TriceraTop is capitalized. That's because the ride resembles a giant top - the kind you had as a kid and would pump and watch spin.

TriceraTop Spin Sign

The vehicles you ride in are, of course, fanciful triceratops. Each has two seats. The front seat has a lever that controls the pitch and the back seat has a lever that controls the height.

TriceraTop Spin

While spinning, a comet orbits in the opposite direction around the top of the top.

Spinning Comet

The views while riding are also a lot of fun.

View from TriceraTop Spin

View from TriceraTop Spin

If you owned one of these tops as a kid, you might remember that they were cheaply made and usually constructed out of tin. The triceratopses on this ride look like "tin toys" and even have the flaps that were used to fasten them together.

Tin Toy

Another example of the thriftiness of Chester and Hester can be found on a number of signs scattered around the attractions. Once again, they recycled old license plates.

License Plate Exit Sign

The big draw in Diggs County is the time machine over at the Dino Institute. But Chester and Hester didn't want to be left out of the action so they created their own time machine and named it Primeval Whirl. Of course, you don't really go back in time on Primeval Whirl like you do at the Institute. But it is a lot of fun and a little zany.

Rimeval Whirl

There is a height restriction for this ride. Children must be 48" to ride.

Height Restriction Sign

Close observers will notice a striking similarity between these three dinosaurs found near the top of Primeval Whirl and the hitchhiking ghosts of the Haunted Mansion.

Hitchhiking Dinosaurs

Before boarding your time traveling vehicle, you walk past the machinery that makes your journey possible. Trained scientists will notice the sophisticated components Chester and Hester used when creating their time machine like discarded hubcaps and whisks from a Hobart mixer.

Queue and Time Machine

Hub Caps

Whisk from Mixer

You also pass by the technicians, readying your craft.

Technicians and Time Machine

Technicians and Time Machine

Eventually, it's time to board your time machine for a fanciful blast to the past. For those of you who have never ridden, I've created a short video to give you an idea of what it's like to travel through time with Chester and Hester.

My one complaint about this attraction is the seat size. The time machines are designed to hold four people in two seats. However, these seats are extremely small and even two average sized adults would feel cramped squeezing together under one lap bar. If you're a person of size, request a seat to yourself.

My family took many vacations by car during the 1950's and early 1960's, traveling throughout much of the western United States. During our journeys, we encountered a lot of tourist traps. Although none were quite like Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama, I think this area is a good compilation of the mom and pop enterprises that once populated the highways, long before the Interstates (and Disneyland) put them out of business. If you're old enough to remember Burma Shave signs, then you should be able to glean a certain amount of nostalgia from this area and appreciate it as a part of our history.

Burma Shave Sign

August 4, 2009

Bay Lake Tower - Opening Day

Bay Lake Tower - Opening Day

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I need to give you a little background. When I covered the Kidani Village, I was given a private, VIP tour about a week before the resort opened. Because of this, I was able to get a lot of pictures beforehand and obtain answers to the questions I knew you were going to ask. Unfortunately, that was not the case with Bay Lake Tower. So you need to bear with me.

I checked in this morning (August 4) at 7:30. I rushed around like crazy taking pictures and videos for this blog. Since my laptop isn't as powerful as I'd like, I returned home to create this blog. I'm heading back to Disney later this afternoon.

I know you're going to have dozens of questions. But at the moment, I don't have the answers. I usually try to answer my comments within 24 hours, but that's not going to be the case over the next three days. Please feel free to send your questions via the comments section of this blog, but understand, it's going to take me some time to get back to you with an answer.

Also, this blog will be heavy on pictures and short on commentary.

Okay, let's begin.

To start, you check-in at the Contemporary. Bay Lake Tower does not have a "front desk."

Contemporary Check-in

Here are some pictures of the front of the resort.

Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower Entrance

Bay Lake Tower Entrance

Just inside the front door are modernistic paintings of the Magic Kingdom castle.

Magic Kingdom Castle Are

Magic Kingdom Castle Art

Here are some pictures of the lobby.

BLT Lobby

BLT Lobby

BLT Lobby

BLT Lobby

BLT Lobby

You can also gain entrance to BLT via a walkway connecting it to the Contemporary. Okay, here comes the confusing part. The walkway at the Contemporary is on the fourth floor. It connects to the fifth floor of BLT.

BLT Skyway to the Contemporary

Contemporary Entrance to Skyway

View from BLT Skyway

You cannot gain access to any part of Bay Lake Tower without a room key. You can't enter the lobby doors. You can't walk across the skyway, and you can't enter the pool without a key.

Key Access Point

These next three pictures were taken just outside the lobby as you walk toward the pool area.

Outside Poolside Lobby

Outside Poolside Lobby

Outside Poolside Lobby

Here are some pictures of the pool.

BLT Pool

BLT Pool

BLT Pool

BLT Pool

BLT Pool

Next we see three pictures of the slide.

BLT Pool Slide

Pool Slide

BLT Pool Slide

There is a pool-side bar that also serves light meals. These include: Caesar Salad w/Chicken, Club Sandwich, Five Spice Chicken Lettuce Wraps, and Vegetable Summer Rolls.

Pool Bar Area

Here is the hot tub.

BLT Hot Tub

Adjacent to the pool is a lovely beach with lounge chairs. To me, this might become the most romantic spot at all of Disney. Being early morning, the chairs were not yet set up.

Beach Chairs

There are a limited number of lockers at the pool.

Pool Lockers

Next we see pictures of the two elevator lobbies. Notice the Contemporary and Space Mountain in the background.

Elevator Lobby

Elevator Lobby

Here is a picture of a typical hallway and room-door exterior. Also, notice the Hidden Mickey in the carpet.

BLT Hallway

BLT Room Door

Hidden Mickey In Carpet

The first thing I noticed when I entered my room was the lamp positioned squarely in front of the window. What were the designers thinking? I'm paying for a view. I didn't want a lamp in my way, so I immediately moved it.

View Obstructed by Lamp

Lamp Moved

Here are some pictures of the living and eating areas. Take a look at the Andy Warhol-esque picture of Space Mountain over the dining table.

Dining Area

Dining Area



Island Bar

Island Bar


There is a full bathroom off of the living room.

Guest Bath

I was staying in a one-bedroom unit. Here are pictures of the sleeping area.

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

Next we see the balcony off of the bedroom. There are two chairs and a small table. As you can see, there is plenty of room for several people to stand here and watch the fireworks. This is the view from the seventh floor.


Magic Kingdom View

Magic Kingdom View

The master bath is separated from the bedroom by sliding doors.

Master Bedroom / Bath

Here we see photos of the master bath.

Master Bath

Master Bath

Master Bath

Master Bath

Also found in the one, two, and three bedroom units is a washer and dryer. For those of you staying in a studio, a laundry facility is located on the first floor off of the lobby.

Washer and Drywer

Laundry Room

Okay, that's all I've got for now. I hope to visit the lounge this afternoon and hopefully have more pictures and information for you tomorrow. Below is a quick video I put together to try and give you a better idea of what the resort is all about. Enjoy.

August 5, 2009

Bay Lake Tower – Part Two

My "Opening Day" blog about Bay Lake Tower has generated a slew of questions. At the moment, some of them are answered within the comments section of my first blog. After I return home, I'll publish all of the answers in a final Bay Lake Tower article.

I'm going to start this blog discussing the "Top of the World" lounge on the 16th floor of the resort.

Top of the World

For those of you who don't remember, the restaurant/lounge that is now the California Grill at the Contemporary use to be named Top of the World. Here guests could be entertained by celebrities and in later years see a show called "Broadway at the Top" while they enjoyed a meal. The new BLT lounge pays homage to the Contemporary by reusing this name.

First, let me give you the current policy as to who may use the Top of the World. Only DVC members staying on points and staying at the Bay Lake Tower, and those staying in the room with them, may use this lounge.

I know this policy delights some and infuriates others. At the moment, Disney does not know what the actual demand for this venue will be, and until that can be ascertained, they're taking a conservative approach and limiting access. I'm certain that this policy is in flux and we will probably see it change several times before a permanent procedure is settled upon.

Check-in for the Top of the World lounge takes place at a podium in the lobby of BLT. From there, a cast member escorts your party to a special elevator that only stops at the 16th floor. Once there, it's just a short walk to the lounge.

Top of the World Entrance

These first few pictures are of the bar. The mural is an artist concept drawing that John Hench drew when the Disneyland monorails were in the planning stages. This mural is transparent with a solid backing that can be lowered behind it.

Top of the World Bar

Top of the World Bar

Top of the World Bar

These next pictures are of the lounge area.

Top of the World Lounge

Top of the World Lounge

Top of the World Lounge

Top of the World Lounge

Top of the World Lounge

Top of the World Lounge

Top of the World Lounge

Top of the World Lounge

Here is a picture of Mike and Brucie, two of the full-time bartenders. Both of these fine people will take good care of you when you visit.

Mike & Brucie

To each side of the lounge are large outdoor viewing areas. This is where you'll want to be in order to get the best view of the fireworks.

Outdoor Viewing Area

Outdoor Viewing Area

Outdoor Viewing Area

Outdoor Viewing Area

Being a long day, I tuckered out at 8 p.m., and have no pyrotechnic photos for you. Until I get some, enjoy the spectacular view.

View from Top of the World

View from Top of the World


The music from the fireworks show is played both in the lounge and out on the viewing area. Take a look at the speaker covers. The music is also available in your room on TV channel 20.

Top of the World Speaker

Although I missed out on the fireworks, take a look at the full arch rainbow we saw over Bay Lake. Believe me, my photo doesn't do it justice.


While at the Top of the World, we sampled three of the flatbreads offered. One is appropriately called a BLT - Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato. Another contained beef, mushrooms, and onions. And the third had mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. Deb and Donald both thought the BLT was the best. I preferred the beef.



The restrooms that service the lounge have the cutest sinks for children. I hope we see more of this in future locations.

Child's Sink in Restauroom

Now I'm going to move back to my room and fill you in on some details - good and bad.

Let's start in the living room. This room is designed to sleep three. The sofa and chair both fold out into beds. I have to say, I didn't find either very comfortable to sit on. However, I'm hoping that they just need to be "broken in," as my main complaint was that they were "stiff." The bar stools, on the other hand, were fine.

Living Room Sofa

There is no portable luggage rack in the unit. This could be a problem for guests sleeping and unpacking in the living room. However, there is ample drawer space underneath the TV console.

Living Room Drawers

The drapes have no sheers behind the blackout curtains. I have stayed in a tower room at the Contemporary many times. Believe me, in the late afternoon, you need sheers to defuse the harsh sunlight.


Since the DVC units are basically apartments, the kitchens come completely stocked with cooking utensils and tableware. I love how the dishes have a "modern" look.






All TVs have a connection box that allows you to hook up your camera directly. The living room TV also has a DVD player.

TV/Camera Connection

Both bathrooms have sliding doors. Neither one can be locked. Additionally, the doors do not close tightly. For instance, the bathroom off of the living quarters has a quarter inch gap running from floor to ceiling where the door meets the wall. This allows "private" sounds to easily be heard by those in the unit. This is something that Disney MUST address immediately.

The utility closet is located off of the master bedroom. Here you'll find an iron and ironing board, vacuum and safe. The safe allows you to enter a personal code rather than swiping a credit card.

Untility Closet


The luggage rack in the master bedroom is built into the furniture and a drawer can be found underneath. Additional drawers are located under the TV console.

Master Bedroom Luggage Rack

Master Bedroom Drawers

High speed internet access is available at the desk in the bedroom. I will check today to see if it is also available in the living quarters. Access is free to members staying on points. All others are charged $9.95 for each 24 hour period.

Internet Access

The clock radio has an iPod docking station.

iPod Docking Station

The duvet cover has Mickey stitched into the design.

Mickey Duvet Cover

The shower head also has a space-age look.

Shower Head

Okay, that's it for today. I'll have another installment sometime tomorrow.

August 7, 2009

Bay Lake Tower - Part Three

This final blog about Bay Lake Tower will contain some odds and ends not previously covered. Also, at the end of this article, I have included a Q&A section.

Let's start with the Community Center. Located off of the Bay Lake Tower Lobby, the Community Center is where you'll go if you want to engage in some sort of activity. When you check in, you should find a "Recreation Activities" bulletin in your room. This sheet lists all of the activities provided for the next week as coordinated through the Community Center. These include Disney trivia challenges, campfire/marshmallow roasts, pool volleyball, ceramics, and sand art creations, just to name a few. DVD's can also be checked out here. They are free to members and a $5 charge for others.

Community Center

Community Center

Community Center

Also in the Community Center are a number of games. These include Wii, computer, and the board variety. This is also the spot where you can check out shuffleboard and bocce ball equipment.

Shuffleboard Court

Bocce Ball Court

At the Cove Bar out by the pool, you can enjoy a refreshing libation. Also available is a limited menu offering quick service meals.

Cove Bar

Cove Bar Menu

Also at the Cove Bar you can order Private Dining. Just pick up the phone and place your order. Within thirty minutes your meal arrives in an attractive bento box. (Mine arrived in less than ten.)

Private Dining Phone

Private Dining Menu

I ordered the Contemporary Club Sandwich from Private Dining. The second meal is from the Cove Bar and is the Five Spice Chicken Lettuce Wrap.

Club Sandwich in Bento Box

Quick Service Chicken Lettuse Wrap

Next to the Cove Bar is the beverage refill station for those of you who have purchased refillable mugs.

Beverage Refill Station

Next to the pool is a Mickey shaped fountain for kids to run and splash in.

Mickey Fountain

The swimming pool features zero entry at one end.

Zero Entry Pool

On the shores of Bay Lake is the best spot on property to have a BBQ. Several covered picnic tables are available and you can't beat this view while basting those ribs.

BBQ & Picnic Area

BBQ & Picnic Area

To the north of BLT are two new tennis courts. These are for the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower only. No reservations are needed as this is a first come, first serve facility. Please limit your play to one hour.

Tennis Court

When you arrive at your room, one of the first things you should do is study the Evacuation Route sign on the back of the door. You need to know how to exit the building in case of an emergency.

Evacuation Route

This picture hangs over the sofa. Pretty cool.

Picture Over Sofa

These next two pictures were taken while I was lying in bed. Nice view, huh?

View from Bed

View from Bed

Back at the Top of the World, I wanted to give special thanks to my waiter Dan. He took care of serving me drinks and food for two evenings and I couldn't have asked for a better cast member to wait on me.

Waiter Dan

Here is the menu featuring the items served at the Top of the World. Last night I opted to try the Chicken & Vegetable Summer Roll. To be honest, I thought they were somewhat bland, but the accompanying peanut sauce added a nice flavor.

Top of the World menu

Chicken & Vegetable Summer Rolls

I've created a short video of the Wishes Fireworks Show and the Electric Water Pageant as seen from the Top of the World.

Questions & Answers

Many of you asked questions about the resort, and I did my best to answer them when I posted your comments, but I realize that it's not easy to wade through the comments looking for something in particular. Below, I tried to capture all of the questions asked over the last several days and provide an answer to the best of my understanding.

Q. Is there music in the lobby and halls?
A. Light Jazz/New Age music is played in the lobby, but not on the hallways. More upbeat music is played out by the pool.

Q. Are there age/height/weight restrictions for the pool slide?
A. I could find none. All I could find was a sign displaying general safety rules.

Q. Is there a charge for the pool lockers?
A. The lockers cost a quarter and are coin operated.

Q. Are the room washer and dryers reduced in size?
A. Although the washer and dryer are stacked, they seem to be of a standard size, large enough to hold a decent load.

Q. Does the pool bar accept the Disney Dining Plan or Tables in Wonderland?
A. Not at this time.

Q. Can we watch the fireworks from the Skyway Bridge?
A. Yes, and the music is played in this area.

Q. Can we watch the fireworks from the elevator lobbies?
A. Yes, but there is no music played in this area.

Q. Can you see the fireworks from the pool and hot tub?
A. No.

Q. Are there speakers on the room balconies?
A. No. However, your television broadcasts the fireworks music on channel 20.

Q. In what rooms can Ethernet/HSIA connections be found?
A. In the one-bedroom units, the only connections are in the master bedroom at the desk.

Q. What room is the balcony next to?
A. On the one and two bedroom units, the balconies are situated off of the bedrooms with sliding glass doors. An additional standard door connects the balconies to the living room.

Q. Do guests staying at the BLT have a separate check-in line at the Contemporary Resort.
A. No. All cast members can provide service for both resorts.

Q. Do the bathroom doors have locks?
A. No.

Q. Can the sliding doors between the master bedroom and bathtub be locked?
A. No.

Q. Is there someone who can provide "general information" at the BLT?
A. An information desk is located in the lobby and is manned during much of the day.

Q. Does the monorail stop at the BLT?
A. No. You must take the Skyway bridge to the Contemporary to catch the monorail. If you're heading for the Magic Kingdom, it may be quicker to walk.

Q. How long is the walk from the BLT to the Magic Kingdom?
A. I think the average walker could make it in ten minutes.

Q. Does the Skyway Bridge have glass to protect you from the wind and rain?
A. No. One small section of the walkway has frosted glass panels, but this is to shield your view of the loading dock below.

Q. What is the music you used on the video you created (on the BLT Part 1 Blog)?
A. The title of the piece is "Behind the Waterfall" and can be found on the CD titled "Natural States."

Q. Will the addition of BLT increase the number of people boarding the monorail at the Contemporary?
A. Not really. Remember, the North Wing was located here before the BLT. The two structures have basically the same amount of rooms. Although the number of people may increase some, that number is insignificant compared to the monorail capacity.

Q. The furniture looks uncomfortable. Is it?
A. The barstools were fine, but the sleeper sofa and sleeper chair were stiff and I did not find them comfortable. This simply might be because they're new. I'm hoping that after they're "broken in" they will be okay.

Q. Are hair dryers provided?
A. Yes. One can be found in the master bathroom drawer.

Q. On what floor do the rooms start?
A. In an earlier answer, I said the 2nd. This is incorrect. There are some rooms on the first floor.

Q. Do all of the rooms have a balcony?
A. Yes. Studio and one-bedroom units have one balcony. Two bedroom units have two balconies. And the Grand Villas have four. Units on the first floor have a small patio.

Q. Is construction of BLT complete?
A. Construction on Bay Lake Tower is complete. Of course, being new, there are bound to be a few things here and there that require attention. But if you're worried about hearing jackhammers, that's not going to be a problem.

Q. Does Bay Lake Tower offer room service?
A. A complete room service menu is offered. The kitchens in the Contemporary will be servicing the BLT.

Q. What type of cooking utensils/pots and pans are in the kitchen?
A. There is a full set of pots and pans, casserole dishes, knives, tableware and flatware. You name it, it's here. You will have no problem preparing meals in this kitchen.

Q. Did I see an overhead nozzle in the master bathroom shower?
A. Yes. There are two nozzles here, one on the wall and one on the ceiling. However, only one can be activated at a time.

Q. Can I use filters and loose grounds to make my coffee in the provided coffee maker?
A. Yes.

Q. Is the sofa bed comfortable?
A. I never slept on it so I can't answer your question. However, the bed in the master bedroom was extremely comfortable.

Q. Who may use the Top of the World lounge?
A. Current policy states: Only DVC members staying on points and staying at the Bay Lake Tower, and those staying in the room with them, may use this lounge.

Q. Will this policy change?
A. Probably. At the moment, Disney does not know what the actual demand for this venue will be, and until that can be ascertained, they're taking a conservative approach and limiting access. I'm certain that this policy is in flux and we will probably see it change several times before a permanent procedure is settled upon.

Q. How do you gain access to the lounge?
A. Guests must check-in at a podium in the lobby of BLT. A cast member will check your room key. They can tell by the information printed on the card whether or not you're allowed to access the lounge. Once you have been cleared, you are escorted to a dedicated express elevator.

Q. I don't like this policy. Who can I complain to?
A. Since this policy is in flux, you might want to wait a month or so and see what happens. But if you want to voice your displeasure now, contact a DVC representative if you're a member. Non-DVC members should contact guest relations.

Q. Are children allowed at Top of the World?
A. Yes. Children, accompanied by an adult, can visit the Top of the World. However, they should refrain from sitting at the bar.

Q. What is the capacity of the Top of the World?
A. The lounge and outdoor viewing area combined can hold 499. The lounge alone can accomodate a little over one hundred.

Q. What are the hours of the Top of the World?
A. The Top of the World is open from 5pm until midnight -- last call is at 11:45.

Q. Can you make reservations for Top of the World?
A. No.

Q. Can you use Table In Wonderland at Top of the World?
A. Yes.

Q. Can you use the Disney Dining Plan at Top of the World?
A. Yes. But you might not want to. It takes one full-meal credit to order one flatbread. This would not be a good use of your credits.

Q. Does Bay Lake Tower have its own bus stop?
A. No. Guests staying at BLT share the Contemporary bus stop.

Q. Does Bay Lake Tower have its own exercise room?
A. No. Guests staying at BLT will use the gym at the Contemporary.

August 17, 2009

Where Does the Music Come From?

Most people pay very little attention to the music being played in the background while visiting a Disney theme park. Our eyes are much too busy taking in all of the sights to consciously pay any attention to the melodies filling the air. The songs are simply there. But if the music wasn't surrounding us at every turn, we'd notice. Our stroll down Main Street would seem flat and wanting.

Disney puts a lot of thought into the music they select for each land or area of their parks. First, it has to be appropriate. Obviously, they're not going to play German music at the Japan Pavilion in Epcot. But you will find 1930's and 40's big band music on Sunset Blvd. at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Next, the music is usually somewhat upbeat. Disney wants their guests to be happy and a jaunty melody can affect our mood. I'm not saying that every tune played is a toe-tapper, but you won't find many dirges, either.

Disney also wants the music to be recognizable when possible. If we can hum along with a tune, we'll feel at home and comfortable.

But have you ever paid any attention as to where this music comes from? I mean, when you walk through a Disney park, the tunes are just there, as if by magic. The sounds don't come from any one direction, they surround you.

In this article, I'm going to show you how this magic happens. In reality, I'm not going to provide you with any information you couldn't garner for yourself if you were so inclined. In this blog I'll cover the Magic Kingdom and leave the other parks to your own discoveries.

Let's start with Main Street. The most commonly used technique along this thoroughfare is to hide speakers behind vents. Since many structures have openings to allow for air circulation, this is the perfect spot to place a speaker.

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Another common practice is to design the speaker into the structure.

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Out on The Hub we see the vent method used again as well as hiding a speaker in a lamp pole.

Hub Speakers

Hub Speakers

Hub Speakers

Hub Speakers

Many of the melodies played on Main Street are old standards that hearken back to a simpler time. A number of these songs, like "In the Hills of Old Kentucky" and "Kentucky Home" are performed by the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and are available for sale on Amazon. Disney's 1963 movie "Summer Magic" and his 1967 film "The Happiest Millionaire" both provide music for Main Street. The stories in both of these movies took place around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century so the theming is correct. The same can be said for the three Broadway musicals represented. Oklahoma, The Music Man, and Hello Dolly were all set in this same era.

Tomorrowland doesn't bother with trying to hide their speakers. Here the Imagineers placed them in plain site. They just disguised them to look like futuristic objects. See for yourself.

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

The music of Tomorrowland was performed with the use of synthesizers. Very few (if any) "traditional" instruments were used in the making of these recordings. The music also has a strong beat to emphasize energy. A sharp ear can make out "Strange Things" from the Disney/Pixar 1995 movie Toy Story. "A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" and "Now is the Time," both from the Carousel of Progress, can also be heard. And for you old timers, "If You Had Wings" is also played.

I have to say, I was disappointed with the speakers in Mickey's Toontown Fair. All of them that I could find were out in the open. Many times, outdoor speakers are hidden beneath bushes, but not here. The Imagineers didn't even bother. Take a look.

Toontown Speakers

Toontown Speakers

Most of the songs played in Mickey's Toontown Fair are from the cartoons Disney produced during the '30's to the '50's. "Minnie's Yoo Hoo," "The Country Cousin," and "The Three Little Pigs" are just a few of the selections in store for you here.

In Fantasyland the Imagineers did a fine job of hiding the speakers.

Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speaker

Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speakers

As you might expect, the music played in Fantasyland is from the many animated movies Disney produced over the years. These are the songs that we all know by heart and we could probably even sing the words. However, near Pinocchio Village Haus the music has a different theme and is Bavarian in nature.

Many of the speakers in Liberty Square are hidden in vents (like Main Street) so I didn't take many pictures in this area. However, I do like the bird house disguise.

Liberty Square Speakers

Liberty Square Speakers

Liberty Square Speakers

Liberty Square Speakers

The music in Liberty Square is patriotic and homespun. Violins, the fife, and the dulcimer are the instruments of choice for most of these renditions. A Disney connection is also present. The song "The Sons of Liberty" from the 1957 movie Johnny Tremain is played.

Where Main Street uses vents to hide speakers, Frontierland uses boxes. On many of the balconies and porch tops, rustic crates that blend into their surroundings can be seen.

Frontierland Speakers

Frontierland Speakers

A variation on the box theme is the barrel.

Frontierland Speakers

Frontierland Speakers

And on Splash Mountain speakers are encased in make-believe rocks.

Frontierland Speakers

Frontierland Speakers

"Oh My Darling Clementine," "Home on the Range," and "Happy Trails," among a dozen other western favorites, are all on tap. Fiddles, banjos, guitars, and harmonicas make up the orchestra in Frontierland. The Disney song heard in this area is "Davy Crockett" from the 1950's TV series.

Last, but not least we come to Adventureland. Next to the entrance sign is a drum. But upon closer examination we find that it's actually a piece of metal normally used as a vent or filter. Its multiple holes allow sound to pass right through.

Adventureland Speakers

Adventureland Speakers

On a balcony we find a lovely wicker planter. Once again, this "open" material provides the perfect place to hide a speaker. Music can easily flow through its openings.

Adventureland Speakers

Adventureland Speakers

This final picture is of the Pirate's Stage near Pirates of the Caribbean. In this case a speaker is hidden in a birdcage.

Adventureland Speakers

Adventureland Speakers

When entering Adventureland, much of the music heard is played on the marimba with a tribal African beat. In many ways, it sounds similar to the music heard in the Animal Kingdom.

As you move further into Adventureland the music takes on a Middle Eastern theme.

And finally, the music from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies can be heard in Caribbean Plaza.

I didn't want to take away all of your fun, so I've only covered the Magic Kingdom in this blog. I'll let you discover your own musical moments in the other parks. But before I go, I'd like to share one of my favorite bits of Disney trivia.

In the attraction "it's a small world" we all know that there are two counter melodies that play against each other. But in reality, there is a third melody heard on this ride. As you pass the Switzerland section, a young boy, perched high and to the right, yodels this other tune. But there's more to the story. Let's travel to Blizzard Beach. Among the many songs played here is this same young boy yodeling the third part to "it's a small world."

August 23, 2009

Richard Carpenter & Mr. Guder

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

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

Coke Corner

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

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

Close To Your Album

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repeat (*)

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

Play your game!
Stay the same.

August 28, 2009

Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride has been entertaining guests for over twenty years, allowing us to do more than just see some of the classics, but to be immersed in and surrounded by them. Fifty-nine Audio-Animatronics figures, recreating some of Hollywood's biggest stars, come to life as we travel from one cinemagraphic genre to the next. For almost nineteen minutes, we're lost in a world of make believe and illusion.

The Great Movie Ride was originally planned as an Epcot attraction in Future World. It was to be a part of an entertainment pavilion and was to be located between the Journey Into Imagination and The Land Pavilions. When Michael Eisner joined the company in 1984 with a mandate to develop more of Disney's Florida property, he decided to build a third park. Expanding on Walt's original idea to give tours of the Burbank Studio, the concept for the Disney/MGM Studios was born with the Great Movie Ride as its centerpiece.

Here is a picture of The Great Movie Ride taken in October, 1989.

The Great Movie Ride - 1989

Unfortunately, this view no longer exists. To help kick off the "100 Years of Magic Celebration" Mickey's Sorcerer Hat was constructed in 2001 at the end of Hollywood Blvd. This next picture was taken from approximately the same spot as the above photo.

Sorcerer's Hat

I have nothing against this hat. In fact, I think it's attractive. And I understand why the Imagineers placed it at the end of Hollywood Blvd. They wanted to utilize the "draw" concept. This icon will help draw guests into the park. But I think it's a shame that it blocks the beautiful Chinese Theater and I wish they could have come up with a different idea.

The exterior of Disney's Chinese Theater is an exact copy of the one located in Hollywood at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard. However, due to wear and tear on the Hollywood structure, some of the external dΓ©cor has been removed. Disney's version was built from vintage reference material and still displays these missing details.

Great Movie Ride Plaque

The original theater opened on May 18, 1927 and premiered Cecil B. DeMille's film "The King of Kings." (I have no idea why the above plaque says 1928. All of my research indicates that the theater opened in 1927.)

There are a number of stories as to how the tradition of actors placing their footprints in the cement came about. The most famous tells that Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped in wet cement outside of the theater, giving Sid Grauman, part owner of the theater, the idea. This tradition has been kept alive at the Florida counterpart as can be seen in these next pictures.

Footprints in Cement

If you're a regular reader of my blogs, I'm constantly telling you to slow down and notice the details. The exterior of this theater is no exception. The center section (main entrance) of the building is designed to resemble a giant Chinese pagoda.

Great Movie Ride Main Entrance

Flanking the entrance of the theater are two Chinese lions. These figures are often placed in front of gates or doorways as they were believed to have mystic and protective powers. Although the lions look like they're both male due to their bushy manes, one is female. Look closely at their paws. The male has a ball underneath his right paw and the female has a lion cub under her left. The ball represents unity of the empire and the cub symbolizes prospering offspring.

Chinese Lion - Male

Chinese Lion - Female

Above the door is another Chinese symbol, the dragon. And if you look carefully at the roof, there are a number of these creatures climbing about.

Entrance Dragon

Roof Dragon

The typical Chinese courtyard is traditionally a place of tranquility and privacy. In almost all cases some sort of water feature and garden will be incorporated into the design. The Chinese Theater's courtyard is no exception. This is a lovely place to wander and relax. Although difficult to see in the second picture, the large sculpture is a water feature.

Chinese Theater Courtyard

Courtyard Garden & Water Feature

You can find a bit of Disney history inside the two windows located to each side of the outer courtyard wall.

Chinese Theater Window

Both Mary Poppins (1964) and The Jungle Book (1967) premiered at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Photographs, programs, and tickets are on display in these windows.

Mary Poppins premieres at the Chinese Theater

Mary Poppins Tickes

Jungle Book premiers at the Chinese Theater

Jungle Book Tickets

There are more details worth note on the exterior of this building - too many to list here. So next time you're heading for The Great Movie Ride, take a moment and look around.

Usually you enter The Great Movie Ride through the main entrance, but during busier times you may enter via a side door. When doing so, you walk through a lovely room featuring a panel-mural, vase, and intricate carpeting. All of the carpeting in the queue was custom made by a Japanese firm. Also, be sure to look at the ceiling. It is also stunning.

Lobby Art

Lobby Ceiling

Further on in the queue are three display cases. Two have temporary exhibits, but the carousel horse that Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) rode in the movie is on permanent display. If the line is short, you won't pass by this treasure, but the queue is open in this area so feel free to step out of line for a look-see.

Mary Poppins Carousel Horse

The next portion of the queue is housed in what would be the seating area of a real theater. Here, previews of eight movies are shown. These include Alien (1979), Casablanca (1942), Fantasia (1940), Footlight Parade, (1933), Mary Poppins (1964), The Public Enemy (1931), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Searchers (1956) and Singin' in the Rain (1952). It takes a little over nine minutes to see all of the clips.

All of these movies are recreated in The Great Movie Ride with the exception of The Searchers. Although John Wayne can be seen in the attraction, this section of the show was designed to represent films of the Western genre rather than one specific movie.

For those of you who have never ridden on this attraction, you will experience one of two different scenarios during your journey through the movies. You can either receive the gangster treatment or the western adventure. In the morning, before the crowds materialize, only the gangster treatment is used. Usually by 10am, both scenarios are available. The front two vehicles will see the western bank robbery while the last two will experience the gangster shootout. If it's important to you to see one or the other, just ask a cast member when you reach the turnstiles. The same holds true if you'd like to sit on one side or the other or request the front seat. However, you might have to wait for the next show sequence to begin in order to have your request granted.

The diorama behind the loading area is a composite of elements found in the Hollywood Hills of the 1920's to the 1940's. The Griffith Observatory and the Hollywoodland sign can both be seen.

Hollywood Hils Diorama

Hollywood Hills Diorama

The actual Hollywoodland sign was built in 1923 atop Mt. Lee as a promotional gimmick for a new housing development in the area. The sign soon became an icon and was used in many publicity photos and movies. By 1949, the sign was deteriorating badly. To its rescue came the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. They restored the sign, but in a desire to more accurately portray their city, they left off the "land" portion so it only read "Hollywood." Over the years the sign received several more restorations, but eventually it reached a point of no return. So once again the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce came to the sign's rescue, but this time rebuilt it from the ground up. In a nationally televised program, the new sign was unveiled on November 14, 1978.

The Great Movie Ride does not display an obvious track. The vehicles are guided by wires imbedded in the flooring. The steering wheels on the vehicles are not functional while in normal operation. However, they can be engaged for maintenance purposes.

Ride Vehicle Steering Wheel

Listed below are some bits of trivia contained within the attraction. I've only listed a sampling here. Believe me, there are many more.

When loading and unloading the ride vehicles, the "house lights" are on. But as the ride begins, you can hear a director yell out, "Quiet on the set." At this point, the house lights dim and stage lights come on. In addition, the lights within the various buildings on the diorama begin to illuminate. In other words, filming is about to begin.

The Busby Berkeley girls in the first scene sit upon several tiered turntables. When the attraction first opened, the different levels rotated in opposite directions. Due to continual maintenance problems, this area was redesigned and now the girls stand stationary. It's a shame a better solution couldn't be found as I feel this is the weakest set on the attraction.

When first entering Gangster Alley, look to the right of the hotel. You can see movement behind the curtains on the second floor.

Further on, Mickey Mouse's feet can be seen underneath a peeling poster.

The two Audio-Animatronics gangsters are named Squid and Beans. The live gangsters are named Mugsy (male) or Mugsi (female).

The license plate on the gangsters' car reads "021429." The St. Valentine's Day Massacre took place on this date, February 14, 1929.

Gangster Car License Plate

The horse that John Wayne sits on does not represent a particular horse from his movies. It's intended to represent a composite of his film steeds.

Across from John Wayne, there is a sign on the wall with the name Ransom Stoddard Attorney. In the movie "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Stewart played the part of Ransom Stoddard.

The Audio-Animatronics bank robber's name is Snake. The live bank robber is named Kate Durango (female) or Kid Carson (male).

After the bank is blown up, you can see smoke escaping from between the timbers of the barn.

Behind the Egyptian god Horus, a hieroglyphic Mickey and Donald can be found.

Mickey/Donald Hieroglyph

Contrary to some rumors, no real skeletons are used in this attraction.

Contrary to another persistent rumor, the Lockheed Electra 12A airplane seen in the Casablanca sequence was not the same plane used in the actual movie. However, the back half of this Great Movie Ride plane was removed and can be seen in the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom.

In the Fantasia section of the attraction we're told that the sorcerer (unseen on the ride) is named Yensid. This is Disney spelled backwards. Adding to this bit of trivia, Disneyland's steam trains and monorails were originally owned by the Disney family under the company name of Retlaw, Walter spelled backwards.

Due to legal restrictions, Disney cannot provide a list of the movies shown in the final sequence of the attraction. However, one movie is mentioned by name, "Good Morning, Vietnam."

I haven't included any "show" pictures of The Great Movie Ride. Instead, I've created an abbreviated video of the experience. I hope you enjoy it.

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About August 2009

This page contains all entries posted to The β€œWorld” According to Jack in August 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2009 is the previous archive.

September 2009 is the next archive.

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