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October 2, 2009

More Disney's Hollywood Studios Details

During World Wars I & II, Victory Gardens (also known as War Gardens) were encouraged by various governments, including the United States. Citizens were asked to plant fruits and vegetables in their backyards and on apartment terraces and rooftops. This additional produce would help lower the price of food that the U.S. War Department needed to buy to feed the troops. The money saved could then be spent elsewhere in the military. It's estimated that these gardens produced up to 40 percent of all the fruits and vegetables consumed nationally during the war. And in addition to the tangible benefits, the gardens were considered a morale booster.

Since Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at Disney's Hollywood Studios are set in the 1930's and '40's, it makes sense that you'd find a Victory Garden here. Located behind Catalina Eddie's at the Sunset Ranch Market, is Disney's version of this civilian war effort. I especially like the scarecrow donning the oxygen mask.

Catalina Eddie's

Victory Garden

Gas Mask

And speaking of the military, over on Pixar Place, you can find the green army men hoisting a Scrabble board. If you look at the letters you'll find YOUVE GOT A FRIEND IN ME spelled out on (and off) the board. In case you don't catch the connection, this is the title song from the movie "Toy Story."

Scrabble Board

Moving over to the Echo Lake district, we find the Hollywood & Vine restaurant.

Hollywood & Vine Restaurant

If you look at the second story window to the left of the marquee, you see an ad for Eddie Valiant, Private Investigator.

Eddie Valiant

If you can't quite place this gentleman, he was the gumshoe in the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

Next to Eddie's window we see a silhouette of Roger. If you remember, while at Maroon Studios, Roger went berserk after drinking a shot of whiskey and crashed through the window in this manner.

Roger Rabbit Window

Also in this area is a billboard for Maroon Studios.

Maroon Studios Billboard

On the other side of Echo Lake is the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular attraction. To the right of the entrance you'll find an archeological dig in progress.

Archeological Dig

Next to this excavation site, is a sign that some joker has modified. Go ahead. Pull the rope. You know you want to.

Pull Rope Sign

Across from the dig, you'll find a table full of Indy's treasures. Beside the table is a box with his name and college stenciled on its side.

Artifacts on Table

Prof. H. Jones

That's all the details I have for today, but there willl be more to come.

Buzz Lightyear Returns - Magic Kingdom Parade

Buzz Lightyear

On May 31, 2008, the space shuttle Discovery rocketed from earth to rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS). Besides it seven human crew members, a galactic hero was onboard for the mission. Buzz Lightyear journeyed "to infinity and beyond" once again. But this time, instead of doing battle with the infamous Emperor Zurg, Buzz was working with his pals at Disney and NASA to help encourage students to pursue studies in science, technology, and mathematics.

Buzz and the Space Shuttle

Here we see his friend Woody waving goodbye as Buzz begins his important mission.

Woody waving goodbye to Buzz

Buzz, NASA, and Disney have created an online program known as Space Ranger Education Series. Here, kids can find educational games and teachers can download classroom curriculum. Buzz's adventures aboard the ISS were invaluable in creating this program.

Buzz's 467 days in space beats the former record set by Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov set in 1995 by a month.

After fulfilling his duties on board the ISS, Buzz returned home on the space shuttle Discovery on September 11th of this year.

On October 2nd, Buzz Lightyear and astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Mike Fincke kicked off the "Celebrate a Dream Come True" parade in a ticker-tape procession through the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Kick-off Banner

Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin

Mike Fincke

Mike Fincke

Mike Fincke

Buzz Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear

Main Street Philharmonic

Walt Disney World Band

Here's a little bit of Buzz Lightyear trivia for you. As you know from the movie "Toy Story," Buzz learns he's a toy halfway through the film. So in essence, he has two personalities, galactic hero and Andy's plaything. Keeping this in mind, these personalities are kept separate at Walt Disney World. Any encounter you have with Buzz at the Magic Kingdom, albeit it an attraction, parade, or meet-&-greet, he still thinks he's a champion of justice. But if you interact with Buzz at Disney's Hollywood Studios, he realizes he's a toy. It's a subtle difference, but an important detail.

October 4, 2009

TTA – Tomorrowland Transit Authority - Update

Update: October 3, 2009

Yesterday, I rode the TTA. I was surprised to hear a new audio track had replaced the old narrative. A cast member told me this change took place on Thursday, October 2nd - the day I was riding.

Gone are the old jokes about keeping your forward facing tentacles inside your vehicle. And Mr. Tom Morrow is no longer paged or asked to give his party on Saturn a ring. The narrative is now in a young man's voice and he points out the various sights along the way. For example, as you pass the Carousel of Progress, a brief description of this attraction is presented. This is in keeping with the original PeopleMover at Disneyland. On that now defunct ride, the many sights of Tomorrowland were pointed out as you passed by.

I have mixed emotions about the new recording. While it's sad when something we like is discontinued, updates are necessary to keep things fresh. I was told the Imagineers will monitor guest reaction to gauge how this change is received.


As you may know, Space Mountain is currently closed for an extensive refurbishment and is scheduled to reopen in November of this year. Since the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA) travels through Space Mountain, it was necessary to close this attraction as well. But the mountain's refurbishment has reached a point that the TTA could reopen and did so today (September 12th). I decided to take this opportunity to give you a little history of this sedate, yet very popular ride. But like so many other Magic Kingdom attractions, we must step back in time and across the continent to Disneyland in order to get a better understanding of the TTA, or WEDway PeopleMover as it was originally named.

When Walt was building Disneyland, money was extremely tight. Tomorrowland was practically an afterthought and during the early years, lacked greatly in attractions and ambiance. In 1959, Tomorrowland saw its first real improvement with the addition of the Submarine Voyage and the Disney/Alwig Monorail. But the biggest change came to this area in July 1967, when Tomorrowland was reborn (at a staggering cost of $23-million). Adventures Thru Inner Space, an all new CircleVision movie presented in an enlarged theater, elevated Rocket Jets, an improved Flight to the Moon, and the Carousel of Progress were all added to the land of the future. And tying them and the existing Tomorrowland attractions together was the PeopleMover sponsored by Goodyear. This elevated highway gave guests an overhead preview of all the wonderful new adventures that were just waiting to be experienced.

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 the city of the future he intended to build in Florida - a city to be called 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. 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

The PeopleMover was powered by small rubber tires (made by Goodyear) embedded along the track. Spaced about every nine feet, hundreds 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

When the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World was in the planning stages, the PeopleMover (to be known as the WEDway PeopleMover) was an obvious choice to be included in the new park. However, it was not an opening day attraction. You see, just like at Disneyland sixteen years earlier, Tomorrowland would have to wait until after the park opened before it took on its full potential. The WEDway PeopleMover did not open until July 1, 1975, six months after Space Mountain. Here are two pictures taken in January 1972. As you can see, the WEDway PeopleMover is far from operational status.

Tomorrowland Under Construction

Tomorrowland Under Construction

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. 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 version traveled at the same elevation throughout its entire journey. This concept drawing provides a good overview of the attraction.

Tomorrowland Concept Drawing

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.


The WEDway PeopleMover has changed little over the years. However, some of the sights along the way have evolved. For example, in the beginning, guests looked into the "If You Had Wings" attraction, then came "Dreamflight," and finally "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin."

As part of the Tomorrowland makeover, the attraction closed for five months in 1994. During this time it received cosmetic changes, giving the front section of the attraction a retro-futuristic look, leaving the back half virtually unchanged. The ride was also given a new name, 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.

TTA Blue Line

I have ridden the TTA more than any other attraction at Disney World. Why? First, it rarely has a line, and if it does, it's never more than a five minute wait. Next, the TTA offers a ten minute relaxing ride - allowing me to sit down in relative comfort. This is the perfect way to unwind for a few moments after being on my feet for hours. And finally, I like this attraction. It's enjoyable to people-watch from high above the crowd. In addition, I get to take in some great Disney architecture and detailing along the way. Also, if the ride doesn't have a line, you can ask the cast member if you can stay on for a second go-round.

Is this ride as thrilling or as engaging as other attractions at Disney World? Nope. Far from it. But it is a favorite of many people. I mourn the passing of the PeopleMover at Disneyland especially since the Rocket Rods attraction failed to run satisfactorily. I only hope that Disney does something with this eyesore of empty track sometime soon. I also hope that the Magic Kingdom version keeps running for many years to come.

To my knowledge, only one change of any note has been made to the TTA. A new LED lighting system has been installed and the track route changes colors every several seconds during the evening. Sorry, I do not have any pictures of this.

Here is a video I created of the TTA to help you relive the simple pleasures this ride has to offer. Note, it was a rainy day so occasionally you'll see a drop of water on my lens. Sorry.

October 7, 2009

Chester & Hester Meet & Greet

Photo Op Sign.jpg

A new, or should I say old, service station has been built at Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama.

Converted Service Station

Once a spot for motorist to fill up their gas tanks and have their cars serviced, this structure now houses a Meet & Greet opportunity in front of a giant "Greetings from Dinoland USA" postcard.

Giant Postcard

Here, guests can have their picture taken with two of Disney's most famous dogs, Goofy and Pluto.

Goofy and Pluto Photo Op

Realizing that this would be a popular attraction, a shaded queue offers some relief from the sun and rain.

Covered Queue

Just like so many other character greetings around property, a Disney photographer is on hand to snap your picture and apply it to your PhotoPass.

I recently wrote a blog about the backstory of Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama. After it was published, several of you wrote to tell me that a photograph of Chester and his wife Hester could be found in the "Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures" shop.

Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures

Photo Location

In these first two pictures, we see a young Chester and Hester proudly opening their new service station and the very first dollar they ever made.

Service Station Opening

First Dollar

This last picture shows them in their golden years.

Chester & Hester Today

And by the way, all of the cast members working at Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama are relatives of this enterprising couple, so don't be surprised if you run into one of their distant cousins. (wink, wink).

October 8, 2009

β€˜Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Resort

'Ohana means family in the Hawaiian language. And when you eat at the 'Ohana restaurant located on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian Resort, the cast members will do their best to make you feel like you belong to their clan as everyone is called "cousin."

'Ohana Sign

I hadn't eaten at 'Ohana for at least five or six years, so when my out-of-town guest suggested this restaurant, I was more than happy to return. And for the most part, everything was as I remembered it. However, I do have some words of caution for those of you who aren't familiar with this establishment.

Let me start by telling you who I think this restaurant is perfect for: Parents (and grandparents) with children between the ages of five and twelve. If your kids are outgoing and like to join in the fun, then you're all going to have a fantastic time here.

Also, if you have a big appetite for grilled meats, then you're well suited for 'Ohana.

Who should avoid this establishment: Adult couples looking for a quiet, relaxing meal. It's just not going to happen here. However, I do have a partial solution for you if you want to give this unique establishment a try and still enjoy a somewhat less raucous time. But I'll get to that later.

Your evening begins when your pager buzzes and your host or hostess escorts you to your table. Along the way, you stop by the kitchen window were tonight's dessert is pointed out and a loaf of coconut bread is secured.


Coconut Bread

The restaurant is large and a number of tables are situated next to the windows. Those lucky enough to be seated here have wonderful views of the lush landscape and some of the tables can even see the Magic Kingdom fireworks. When the nightly spectacle begins, the restaurant lights are dimmed and the music is piped into the room.

Window Table

Window Table

Window Table

Window tables are seated on a first come, first served basis. You can request a table when you check in, but you will probably be required to wait (sometimes significantly) past your reservation time before a window table opens up. If you want to make this wait a little less boring, have a drink at the adjacent Tambu Lounge.

Tambu Lounge.

Tambu Lounge.

There are a few tables situated next to the show kitchen. This is where all of the tasty meats are grilled for your pleasure.

Table next to the Grill

For those of you looking for a slightly quieter evening (as I mentioned above), request a table behind or to the side of the show kitchen. Although the entertainer's talking and singing can still be heard through the speaker system, the children's activities will not intrude.

Quiet Table

Quiet Table

At some point during your evening, it would be worth your while to stop by the show kitchen and watch the chefs work their magic. It's amazing how many skewers of meat they can simultaneously prepare.

Show Kitchen

Show Kitchen

Show Kitchen

Also, take a gander around the restaurant and you'll see the mesquite wood used on the grill.

Mesquite Wood

Mesquite Wood

Shortly after being seated, your server arrives and welcomes you to 'Ohana. Drink orders are taken, then it is explained that this is an all-you-can-eat restaurant and your meal starts out with a mixed greens salad with honey-lime dressing.


For appetizers you receive Pork Dumplings topped with a Pineapple Sweet-and-Sour Sauce and Honey Coriander Chicken Wings.

Pork Dumplings

Chicken Wings

Also brought to your table are moist, hot towels. Although you can use these to clean your hands before you start eating, they're really intended to be used after you consume the finger foods.

Moist Towels

For the main course, bowls of Steamed Vegetables and Stir-Fried Udon Noodles are served as side dishes.

Steamed Vegetables

Udon Noodles

All of this is nice, but the real reason you eat at 'Ohana is for the skewered meats. Offered each night are Asian Barbequed Pork Loin, Spicy Grilled Peel-n-Eat Shrimp, Marinated Sirloin Steak, and Mesquite Grilled Turkey. Accompanying these meats are three dipping sauces, House-made Peanut, Chimichurri, and Pineapple Sweet-and-Sour.

Dipping Sauce

The meats are presented to you on long skewers from which your server skillfully slides several portions onto your plate. This is an all-you-can eat meal so don't hold back. Seconds and thirds (and fourths) are available.

Skewered Meat

Skewered Meat

When you've had your fill of meat, it's time to force down dessert. The only thing that makes this possible is that the Bread Pudding, topped with Vanilla Ice Cream and Banana and Caramel Sauce is out of this world. Your stomach will ache, but you'll keep shoveling it in.

Bread Pudding

All of the food tastes great and no one can leave this restaurant hungry.

I would have to say, I was disappointed with the pacing of our meal. The server told us that the dinner would be served in courses. However, I wasn't into my second bite of salad when the appetizers arrived. And I doubt that I'd taken my fifth bite of greens when the steamed vegetables and noodles were served - soon to be followed by the meat. The next time I dine here, I will definitely make it clear that I don't want to see any portion of the following course until I'm finished with my current selections and I give the okay. I don't mean to be difficult, but it is a pet peeve of mine when I'm "rushed" in a restaurant.

You might be wondering why I said 'Ohana is perfect for families. Well, I'm about to tell you. Each evening, a performer entertains the diners. On Sunday and Monday, either Kahula or Lopaka are hand and the rest of the week Lipoa charms the audience. They chat with various guests as they circle the restaurant, occasionally breaking into a Hawaiian song accompanied by their ukulele. My friend Randy thinks Lipoa is the tops and only dines at 'Ohana when she's performing.


Randy and Lipoa

Roughly every twenty minutes, the children are invited to join Kahula, Lopaka, or Lipoa in the center of the restaurant for game time. After a song, the fun begins. The first event of the evening is the coconut race. Each child is given a small broom and coconut, still in its outer casing. Using only the broom, they must maneuver their tropical seed around the restaurant to the cheers of their friends and family.

A Song for the Children

Coconut Race

Another event is the limbo dance. Each participant, with maracas in hand, is invited to bend backwards under a bamboo pole as they travel by. The pole is positioned rather high so it's pretty easy for the kids to pass beneath it.


I would have to say that there are more parents out of their seats taking pictures than children participating in these games.

During other portions of the entertainment, newlyweds and couples celebrating their anniversary are asked to take center stage and partake in a romantic dance. Birthdays and other celebrations are also acknowledged. All of the games and remembrances take place along an aisle-way that circles the main dining room. If you want to participate, this is the best place to be seated. If you don't want to be bumped by a stray coconut, then request a table away from this thoroughfare.

Busy Thoroughfare

'Ohana is also open for a character breakfast. Lilo and Stitch visit each table and happily pose for pictures. This is also an all-you-can eat meal which features scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, sausage, ham, and an assortment of breads. In addition, unlimited juice, milk, and coffee are on tap.

Breakfast:: 7:30am - 11:00am
Price: Adults $18.99 Children 3-9 $10.99

Dinner: 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Price: Adults $30.99; Children 3-9 $14.99

'Ohana is one of the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World. It is practically mandatory that you have reservations. While I was checking in at 4:45pm the other evening, the hostess was questioning everyone behind me in line. Anyone without a reservation was turned away as they were accepting no more walk-ups.

Reservations can be made online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE.

If you plan on eating at 'Ohana for dinner, skip lunch and don't forget to bring your camera. As I said at the beginning of the article, 'Ohana means family and you're in for some down-home fun - Hawaiian style.

Related Links:

Breakfast Menu

Readers Review 'Ohana Character Breakfast

Dinner Menu

Readers Review 'Ohana Dinner

October 11, 2009

Mission: Space

Before Mission: SPACE, there was Horizons. Horizons opened exactly one year after Epcot on October 1, 1983. The attraction used Disney's Omnimover conveyance system and allowed guests to view the future through the eyes of scientist and authors both past and present.


The closing of Horizons (January 9, 1999) was generated by several events. First, changing public tastes. Most guests were no longer content to sit for almost 15 minutes and watch one vignette after another pass by. Lines for this attraction were practically nonexistent in the later years. Next, General Electric, sensing that this attraction had seen its day, let their contract expire after ten years and instead, decided to sponsor Illuminations. This forced Disney to pick up the operating costs for a tired attraction. And finally, it was alleged that along with major roof problems, a sinkhole was discovered under the building in 1998. Something needed to be done.

Some sort of Space Pavilion had been envisioned for Epcot since the parks inception so Disney decided that maybe now was the time to move forward with this idea. But the first step would be to demolish the Horizons building. For a number of months during 2000, cranes and bulldozers chipped away at the building. A large amount of the structure's materials were recycled.

Construction of Mission: SPACE took a little over two years. Compaq was the original sponsor of the attraction, but the company was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2002 and HP took over the contracts. The ride began soft openings in August 2003, and its grand opening was on October 9 of the same year.

Mission: SPACE Sign

The area outside of Mission: SPACE is called Planetary Plaza. If you look at the pavement, you can see orbital pathways and celestial bodies embedded into the concrete. The four large spheres near the building represent Jupiter, Mars, the Earth, and the Moon. The curving lines of the structure symbolize orbits and flight.

Planetary Plaza

The backstory for Mission: SPACE is this. The year is 2036, seventy-five years after Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. A colony is being built on Mars and the International Space Training Center (ISTC) is preparing astronauts for the journey. They will fly aboard the new X-2 Deep Space Shuttle which is propelled by solid hydrogen and can accelerate from zero to six-thousand in sixty seconds.

ISTC Training

X-2 Deep Space Shuttle

Upon entering the Mission: SPACE compound, trainees are asked if they would like to receive "Less Intense Training" (Green Team) or "More Intense Training" (Orange Team). Once you make your decision, you will be given an appropriate colored Launch Ticket. Notice, the green ticket says "CAUTION" while the orange ticket says "WARNING."

Launch Tickets

I cannot stress this enough, if you're in doubt as to which training session to choose, select the milder version. (I'll go into the ride mechanics later.) When this attraction debuted, only the "More Intense Training" was offered. Numerous guests suffered severe motion sickness during the first several years of operation. Things became so bad that Disney installed barf-bags in each training module within a couple of weeks of opening. However, they soon realized that this wasn't enough and something more drastic was needed to solve the problem. Eventually, a milder version of the attraction was developed (Less Intense Training) and came online in May, 2006. Note, if some members of your party select Mild and others request Intense, you will be separated and you will not ride together.

After you receive your Launch Ticket, take a look at the large model of the moon located behind the cast members.

Model of the Moon

Located on its surface are colored markers. These represent the 29 manned and unmanned landing sites achieved by the United States and the Soviet Union between 1959 and 1976. A single red marker designates the landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. Other manned missions are marked in blue and unmanned missions are marked in clear/white.

Moon Landing Spots

Also in this area are ten plaques containing quotations from people who have inspired and promoted space travel throughout history.

Inspiratonal Plaques

Before entering the Mission: SPACE Sim Lab, you can view a mockup of the training capsule. For those of you who suffer from claustrophobia, this will help you make a determination if this ride is suitable for you.

Simulator Mockup

Once inside the Sim Lab, the queue passes beside a reproduction of the living quarters of a space vehicle. The rooms rotate to create artificial gravity for its inhabitants. If you look at the hub of this assembly, you can see the old logo for Horizons. Disney often acknowledges previous attractions by placing some sort of remembrance in the current ride.

Rotating Space Quarters

Horizon's Logo

On the other side of the room, hanging from the ceiling, is a large model of a spacecraft. If you study the ship closely, you can see where the rotating section (living quarters) would be located on this vehicle.


Also hanging from the ceiling is a Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). On loan from the Smithsonian, this is the only LRV constructed that is not on the moon. These two-passenger "cars" were battery powered and had a top speed of 8.7 miles per hour. Designed in 1969, the LRVs were used by Apollo 15, 16, and 17 to explore the surface of the moon.

Lunar Roving Vehicle

As your journey along the queue continues, you'll pass beside a portrait gallery. Here you'll find a number of plaques commemorating milestones in space history. Starting with the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin (1961) and ending with the first X-2 Deep Space Mission with the crew of Bobby O'Brien, Sumi Yamamoto, and Frank Rodriguez (2036).

Yuri Gagarin

Internation Space Station Crew

First Family In Space

First X-2 Deep Space Mission

Across from the portrait gallery is the International Space Training Center Command Area. All activities of your mission will be coordinated from here.

International Space Training Center Command Area

If you watch the small monitors on the console, you might spot a gooney bird come in for a crash landing. Your first thought might be, "This is a strange image to be displayed here." But there is some Disney trivia behind this silly bird. During the preshow for "Flight to the Moon" and later "Mission to Mars" in the old Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom (and Disneyland), this gooney bird set off alarms and flashing lights and Mission Control went into full alert as this "UFO" came in for a landing. It was a corny joke, but was appropriate for the era and for old-timers like myself, it brings back pleasant memories.

The Command Area marks the end of the queue and your adventure will begin shortly. Those taking the "Less Intense Training" will be directed to Briefing Rooms 1 and 2 while those taking the "More Intense Training" will be directed to Briefing Rooms 3 and 4. You will be grouped into teams of four and asked to stand on corresponding numbers on the floor.

Briefing Rooms

Briefing Room

When all of the trainees are in place, the doors behind you close and a short video is presented on overhead monitors. Your mission is explained and some safety procedures covered. For those of you who don't recognize the CapCom, it's Gary Sinise.

From the Briefing Room, flight instructors guide each team around a circular room and ask them to wait on their corresponding numbers.

Team Grouping Numbers

Team Groupings

At this station, each member of your team is assigned one of the following positions: Commander, Pilot, Navigator, and Engineer. During your training session, each position will be called upon to complete two tasks. But don't worry. If you miss your cue, the computer takes over and fulfills your duty. You'll also be given additional safety tips at this time. During this portion of the video, you will see a young lady pull her restraint over her head. Close observers may recognize her from Test Track as she is also in that attraction's safety video and is shown fastening her seat belt while being seated in her vehicle.

Soon, the doors in front of you open and your team enters its training module. Stow any loose items in the bin in front of you, then pull down the safety restraint. A steady stream of cool air is blown into your face to help prevent motion sickness.

Training Simulators

Training Simulators

I have created a short video of the experience. This is an edited version of the actual events.

Now that you've watched the video, let me give you a little information about the attraction's design and mechanics. In association with former NASA advisors, astronauts, and scientists, Walt Disney Imagineering developed Mission: SPACE. Over a five year period, 650 Imagineers spent more than 350,000 hours creating this attraction. The developers said that much of the technology used for Mission: SPACE needed to be invented as nothing already existed that was capable of giving the guests this type of experience.

In each of the four training areas, there is a large, multiple-arm centrifuge. Attached to the arms are ten training modules. In the "More Intense Training" session, the centrifuge spins, giving riders a since of increased gravity and later weightlessness. This force is 2.5 times that of gravity at the earth's surface. When your craft blasts off, you feel and intense pressure on your body. Also, while your module is spinning, it pitches and yaws to add to the effect of movement through space. In the "Less Intense Training" session, the motion simulator effects are used, but the centrifuge does not spin. It seems to be the spinning that causes some guests physical problems. The ride has a capacity of 1,600 guests per hour.

I like the "More Intense Training" session - a lot. So when Disney introduced the "Less Intense Training" session, I thought it would be lacking. But to my surprise, it still delivers a good experience. Certainly anyone who can "stomach" Star Tours, can join the Green (Less Intense) Team.

If you're like me and have ridden Mission: SPACE more times than you can count, I offer you something else to watch during the ride (if your stomach can take it). Pay attention to the small video screen located next to your monitor. An animated simulation of your entire journey is chronicled on this screen.

When your training is complete, you enter the Advanced Training Lab. Here, four different stations offer additional adventures. The first is for the little ones. "Space Base" is a sort of space-aged Habitrail for kids. A number of tubes and enclosures allow them to climb through a variety of pathways.

Space Base

Space Base

At "Expedition: Mars," you command a search and rescue mission, looking for lost astronauts. This computer game offers three levels of play.

Expedition: Mars

Expedition: Mars

"Postcards from Space" allows you to create a short video and email it too friends and family back home. If you want to make someone envious that you're at Walt Disney World and they're not, you can make it happen here.

Postcards from Space

The final Advanced Training Lab attraction is "Mission: Space Race." At this station, two teams compete to create a successful mission. This game is coordinated by cast members and requires a minimum number of players. If you want to experience this event, you might need to return later in the day when crowds have grown.

Mission: Space Race

And like so many other Disney attractions, you exit Mission: SPACE through a themed shop. This one is called Mission Space Cargo Bay - Gear and Supplies.

Mickey at Mission Space Cargo Bay

Right outside the shop is a bench. This is the perfect spot for those of you who choose not to experience any training whatsoever to wait for your friends and family.

Waiting Bench

Mission: SPACE offers numerous warnings before boarding. There are multiple signs posted in Planetary Plaza. There are videos located next to the vehicle mockup. There are overhead announcements. And both safety videos explain what's coming. There is no way anyone can claim they didn't understand what was in store for them unless they paid absolutely no attention as to what was going on around them. Children must be 44" high to ride.

Well, that's what I have on Mission: SPACE. I'm not a fan of the Tea Cups at the Magic Kingdom as the spinning makes me sick, yet I have no problem with the spinning of this attraction. But don't let anyone talk you into the Intense Training unless it's what YOU want to do. It's just not worth ruining the next several hours of your visit to Epcot while you're experiencing extreme nausea.

October 16, 2009

Maharajah Jungle Trek

Maharajah Jungle Trek Sign

For centuries, the rajahs of Anandapur hunted tigers in this mystical forest. In 1544, King Bhima Disampati decreed the forest a royal preserve and built a hunting lodge for himself and invited guests. In an effort to make his "sport" easier, he had his subjects enclose much of this area, effectively trapping his prey. Befittingly, he was later killed in a hunting accident. Subsequent maharajahs, seeing the error of this endeavor, transformed this enclosure into a nature preserve where the animals and the local people could live in harmony.

For many years, British colonization oversaw much of Southeast Asia. When their rule ended in 1948, the villagers of Anandapur opened this sanctuary to the outside world. They take great pride in their forest and share their love of animals with visitors as they explore this refuge.

History of Maharajah Jungle Trek

The Maharajah Jungle Trek can be found at the north end of Asia in the Animal Kingdom. This walking trail allows guests to see a variety of animals up close and personal. Visitors can spend as little or as much time as they like in this lovely forest. But like so many things in life, the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it. Please, don't rush through this wonderful preserve. Slow down and smell the flowers.

Main Entrance

Maharajah Jungle Trek Sign

When you pass through the entrance, look up at the ceiling. Old Anandapur newspapers have been used as insulation.

Newspaper Insulation

On the other side of the entrance, be sure to pick up a guide map and animal description card. A lot of valuable information can be found on these handouts.

Map & Animal Description Cards

Map & Animal Description Cards

Map & Animal Description Cards

The first stop along the way brings us to the Komodo dragon. This largest of all lizards can be found around Anandapur and on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Montang. Growing to an average length of six and a half to almost ten feet, their large size can be attributed to the fact that there are no larger carnivorous predators on the islands on which they live. For the most part, they eat carrion but they also occasionally hunt for their meals. A Komodo dragon can live as long as 50 years.

Komodo Dragon Enclosure

Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon

As I mentioned earlier, the villagers of Anandapur take pride in their preserve and serve as guides along this trail and are full of interesting facts about each species.

Local Villager

Besides the animals, the forest itself is most inviting. Lush, tropical plants abound and the occasional signs are amusing. Be sure to pay attention to the construction of the English sentences. If you've ever traveled to other countries, you know that signs like these can be a great source of amusement.

Jungle Path

Jungle Path

Jungle Path Sign

The next stop along our journey brings us to the Malayan Tapir. Also called the Asian Tapir, this is the only one of four species native to the Asian continent. As conspicuous as we might think the tapir's markings are, this coloration is actually used as camouflage as they look like a large rock to their predators when they sleep.

The Malayan Tapir grows to between six and eight feet and weighs between 550 and 700 pounds. They are vegetarian and forage the forest for tender shoots and leaves. Their eyesight is poor so they rely on their excellent sense of smell and hearing to survive.

Malayan Tapir

Malayan Tapir

Malayan Tapir

The next animal along the trail may give some of you the heebie-jeebies. Bats! But don't worry. If you're uncomfortable with these creatures, the villagers have built an enclosure that allows you to pass through without ever seeing any of these flying mammals. But even if you are squeamish, I strongly urge you to put your fears aside and take a look. The bats are harmless and won't bother you.

Bat Entrance

Bat Bypass

Two types of bats are native to Anandapur - the Giant Flying Fox and the Rodrigues Fruit Bat call the Royal Forest home. Both of these creatures eat fruit and help replenish the forest by spreading seeds in their droppings and carrying pollen from one plant to the next.

The Giant Flying Fox is the largest bat in the world and can have a wingspan of more than six feet. The smaller Rodriques Fruit Bat has a wingspan of around three feet.

Bat Viewing Area

Bat Diagram

Giant Flying Fox

Giant Flying Fox

Also in this room are several terrariums. Here you can view a White-lipped Tree Frog, Blood Python, and an Asian Giant Centipede.


Around the corner from the bat enclosure is a second viewing area for these flying creatures. Ornate windows, beautiful in their own right, look into their habitat. This spot might give those of you suffering from chiroptophobia (fear of bats) a perceived safer vantage point from which to experience these animals.

Bat Viewing Area

For me, the real beauty of the Maharajah Jungle Trek begins at this point. It's here that you enter what were the old hunting grounds of King Bhima Disampati. The decaying ruins are dazzling and it's fun to imagine what this magnificent fortress looked like in its heyday.

Up a flight a stairs we come to a duck-blind. Or should I say tiger-blind. It was on this lookout that the king and his guests would position themselves and wait for the tigers to be coaxed into the fountain to drink and play. From that point on, the animals were easy prey to the hunter's arrows.

Stairs to Tigers

Duck Blind - Tiger Blind


Today, it's thrilling to see these magnificent beasts playing and bathing in the water, safe from hunters. For those of you in a wheelchair or ECV, a ground level vantage point is just around the corner. And don't worry if you don't see any of these large cats enjoying life here. There are more viewing spots along the trail.

Tiger at Fountain

Secondary Tiger Viewing Area

The Anandapur Royal Forest has six Bengal tigers, all female. Since male Bengal tigers fiercely defend their territory from other tigers, it was necessary to omit them from this enclosure. On the other hand, female Bengal tigers will share their terrain with other females.

A fully grown male Bengal tiger weighs between 419-569 pounds and a female weighs between 221-353 pounds. Tigers do not live in prides as lions do. Instead, they live independently and mark their territory by spraying urine on rocks and trees. Tigers live exclusively on meat and hunt a wide variety of animals. Loss of habitat and poaching has put the Bengal tiger on the endangered species list. It's estimated that less than 3,000 Bengal tigers are left in the wild today.

Although none of these beautiful animals are ever forced to perform or exhibit themselves, the villagers used several tricks to coax them into our view. For example, on hot days, the water is cooled in this fountain to encourage the tigers to splash around and play.

After leaving the tiger viewing area, you come to one of my favorite areas along the trail. Here, the walls of the old hunting lodge surround you and the canopy of trees overhead create a peaceful enclosure. Visit this area in the early morning, before the crowds materialize, and you will be transported to nirvana. In this vicinity, you'll also find another charming sign, informing you that you are safe from the tigers as long as you stay on the trail. Pay attention to the details of the structure here. Once again, you can see that King Bhima Disampati spared no expense when he built his lodge in 1544.

Lodge Enclosure

Tiger Fresco

Tiger Sign

In one corner of this enclosure is an ancient coral tree. Here, villagers hang scarves and garland as offerings and bells represent prayers that have been answered.

Ancient Coral Tree

While passing through a large archway, you can see frescos of King Bhima Disampati on the left and more ecologically minded maharajahs on the right and beyond. Notice that the king is holding a bow and arrow whereas the other three maharajahs possess peaceful symbols. It was these three enlightened rulers that helped turn the hunting lodge into an animal preserve after the king's hunting accident.


King Bhima Disampati

Ecologically Minded Maharajah

Ecologically Minded Maharajah

Ecologically Minded Maharajah

On the other side of this arch is the second tiger viewing area. Tigers spend between 16 and 20 hours each day doing very little apart from lying in the shade, sleeping, bathing, and relaxing. If you wish the see the tigers of Anandapur in a more active state, your best bet is to arrive soon after the preserve opens or shortly before it closes.

Tiger Viewing Area




The next stop along the trail brings us to a large courtyard. If you pay close attention to the decaying wall, you can see where a portion of the original structure has been destroyed and removed over time. To plug this gap in the fence, the villagers used rebar to create a new barrier.


Missing Fence

This courtyard offers one of the best spots to view the Blackbuck antelope. Native to India and Anandapur, the Blackbuck is one of the fastest land animals and can outrun most of its predators such as wolves and feral dogs. The Blackbuck eats mostly grass, pods, flowers, and fruit and lives an average of twelve years.

Blackbuck Antelope

Blackbuck Antelope

A short distance from the courtyard is an ancient medicinal garden. The villagers once used this area to grow a multitude of therapeutic herbs and aromatic plants used for healing purposes.

Medicinal Garden

Across from the garden is a watering hole. As any foreign traveler knows, drinking local water can be risky. However, the water here is potable as the overhead sign indicates.

Watering Hole

Watering Hole Sign

Moving on we come to an old bridge. Hanging above it are numerous prayer flags. These square and rectangular shaped pieces of cloth are used to promote wisdom, strength, compassion, and peace. As the wind slowly unravels the fabric, the threads are carried to heaven and these benefits rain down and benefit all.

Prayer Flags

To the left side of the bridge we often find the Banteng. This species of wild cattle is native to tropical Asia including Anandapur. They live in swamp forests and bamboo jungles and feed on grasses, fruit, and the leaves of young branches. The Banteng is active both day and night but nocturnal habits become dominate in places where humans are commonplace.


To the right side of the bridge we come to the final tiger hunting area. This section of the compound is important in that this is the spot that King Bhima Disampati was killed by a tiger while pursuing these beasts. This is depicted in a decaying fresco.

Tiger Hunting Grounds

Death of the King




Traveling on we come to five important murals. These carvings tell the story of how the people of Anandapur became at peace with the animals and land.

In the first carving, we see man and beast living in harmony.


In the second carving, we see the animals taking shelter under a tree. They are frightened and fear the encroachment of man and his destructive ways.


Next we find man at his worst, cutting down the forest and killing the animals.

Man at his Worst

The fourth carving shows the heavens' disapproval of man's destructive ways.

Rath of Heaven

And finally, we see that man has learned from his mistakes and he now once again lives in harmony with his fellow creatures.

Harmony Again

The man depicted in these carvings is Ananta, the founder of the Kingdom of Anandapur. When he died, his remains were placed in a sarcophagus and rest inside a nearby temple.



It's outside this temple that some of you must make a decision. An aviary lies just ahead through the doors. If you have a fear of birds, you might want to take the path to the left that bypasses our feathered friends. Also, guests with service animals should check with a host or hostess before entering the aviary. In addition, your guide map and animal description card can be returned just outside this building.

The aviary is so cleverly built that you would never realize you're inside a giant cage unless you pay close attention. In this enclosure are numerous species of birds native to the areas around Anandapur. Some of these are, Wompoo Fruit Doves, Indian Pygmy Goose, Golden Pheasant, Nicobar Pigeon, and White-throated Kingfisher.






There is also a beautiful collection of ornate birdcages scattered around the area. See how many you can spot.




Far too many people rush through this section of Maharajah Jungle Trek. In order to get the full enjoyment out of this segment of the tour, you need to take the time and look for the birds. Being small, they blend into the surroundings, but it's a lot of fun to spot one and point out your discovery to the rest of your group.

After leaving the aviary, you leave the preserve and head back to the village of Anandapur.

I'm sure many of you are wondering how I know so much about Anandapur and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Well, I have to admit, I did a little research. But when I was done reading, I walked the trails once again and talked to the local villagers who so proudly man each section of the preserve. They told me everything (and more) that I had learned in my research. And they like nothing better than sharing their knowledge with others. So the next time you find yourself in Asia, be sure to visit this most peaceful section of the Animal Kingdom. And take the time to smell the flowers.

October 22, 2009

Sum of all Thrills

On October 14, 2009, a new attraction opened in Innoventions East at Epcot (near Electric Umbrella). "Sum of all Thrills," presented by Raytheon, promises to be a real crowd pleaser and I predict long lines as more people discover this innovative ride.

Innoventions East

Sum of all Thrills Entrance

"Sum of all Thrills" allows guests to custom-design their own roller coaster, bobsled, or jet plane experience, then ride it. Some of you might remember a similar attraction at Disney Quest called CyberSpace Mountain, but I can assure you, this is far more elaborate.

Before riding, you might want to check out the warning sign and the test chairs to make sure you'll fit.

Warning Sign

Test Chairs

Your adventure begins in a briefing room. Here your hosts, Grace and Spencer, provide instructions on how to design your thrill ride. While doing so, they make a strong pitch for studying math and science and how these courses will give you the tools you need to build cool stuff like skyscrapers, high-performance racecars, and especially video games. Parents will appreciate this message that is intended to motivate their young.

Briefing Room

Grace and Spencer

After the briefing, a cast member hands everyone a small plastic card and directs you to an electronic drafting board.

Boarding Pass

Design Tables

Design Tables

The first task, swipe your card. This will associate you and your design so the computer can recreate your ride once you've completed it. After selecting a language on the touch-sensitive screen, you choose what type of thrill ride to develop. The options are Bobsled for a tame encounter, Roller Coaster for a mild ride, and Jet for the intense experience.

Adventure Choice

The next screen provides track options. Loops, corkscrews, hills, dives, and slaloms are all on the menu. You'll get to select three track layouts in all.

Track Sections

Next you use an electronic ruler and knob to design the intensity of the hills and the speed in which to traverse them.


Speed Knob

Once your design is complete, you give it a name (like Winter Avalanche) and then a cast member directs you to a second floor boarding area. Here you are asked to take EVERYTHING out of your pockets and store them in a free locker (key locked).


Now it's time to board. Attached to a significantly impressive robot arm are two seats. After you're seated, the cast member lowers a large apparatus over your head. While doing so you are told that there is an emergency stop button located between you. If at any time the ride becomes too intense, you can slap your hand down on this knob and the ride will immediately stop.


Within each apparatus is a television monitor. Here, an animated video recreates the ride you designed. In the corner of the monitor is a small insert picturing your riding companion. The device even creates "wind" to add to the realism.

The only way to accurately describe this attraction is to show you the robotic arm in action. Note, there are no riders in the video I filmed. For those of you who are curious, the music in the video is "The Rocketeer."

I've ridden this twice. Once with my friend Andrea and once with my friend Donald. On both occasions, I let them design the attraction. Being cautious, both of them opted for a tame experience. At the end of the ride, both of them said they would be more daring on their next visit. I will note that my head did bang against the padded head rest during the journey. This was a little uncomfortable. But other than that, I had a great time and can't wait to ride again. I also want a more intense ride.

The Sum of all Thrills only has four robotic arms, each holding two guests. In other words, the attraction has a low capacity. I predict that as word of this attraction spreads, it's going to become extremely popular. I suggest making this one of the first things you do when arriving at Epcot.

You may be wondering why Raytheon, a defense contractor, is sponsoring the Sum of all Thrills. This new attraction will be a core component of their MathMoveU program with an initiative designed to engage middle school students in math and science and help create the next generation of innovators for the United States. Representatives from Walt Disney World and Raytheon have been working to bring this experience to fruition for about 2 1/2 years. The initial sponsorship agreement will last 3 years.

Disney's Official Press Release

October 26, 2009

Tiana's Showboat Jubilee

Today, October 26, 2009, Princess Tiana was formally welcomed into the Disney family. As with any royal ceremony, Disney pulled out all the stops to receive their ninth and newest princess. Many of our favorite characters were on hand at Cinderella Castle to greet this lovely lady. With the help of Mickey Mouse, a town crier announced the arrival of Princess Tiana.

Tiana Procession

Disney Characters

Mickey & Town Crier

Soon after, a lively Mardi Gras procession danced their way to the castle forecourt, followed by a regal coach and the beautiful Princess Tiana. After much pomp and ceremony, and a few fireworks, Tiana left the area to get ready for the Magic Kingdom's newest show, Tiana's Showboat Jubilee.

Princess Procession

Royal Coach

Princess Tiana

Princess Tiana is the heroine of Disney's newest animated movie, "The Princess and the Frog." Opening on November 25th, this musical marks the return to 2D hand-drawn animation from the team of John Musker and Ron Clements (Little Mermaid and Aladdin), with music by Oscar-winning composer Randy Newman. In development since 2006, this classic story is set in the great city of New Orleans and the surrounding bayou area.

Although the welcoming ceremony was only for the fortunate few who happened to be visiting the Magic Kingdom today, a larger, more spectacular event is planned for the remainder of the year. Between now and January 3, 2010, a rousing show starring Princess Tiana will be presented three times daily aboard the Liberty Belle (check your Times Guide). Joined by a six-member jazz band, two dozen Disney Dancers, and thirty randomly picked guests, a jazz themed spectacular is staged. Several of the songs from The Princess and the Frog are performed and a number of the movie's other characters are on board for the fun.
The festivities begin at the Diamond Horseshoe where a procession dances across Liberty Square to board the Liberty Belle. Although this is great fun to watch, the real event takes place further down the river. Soon after setting sail, the Liberty Belle stops near the bridge that crosses between Pecos Bill CafΓ© and Thunder/Splash Mountains. Ask a nearby cast member for the best place to stand. Then for the next fifteen minutes a lively performance is staged. If you have plans to visit Walt Disney World during the next couple of months, I highly recommend this show.

I've put together an edited version of Tiana's Showboat Jubilee. The first thirty seconds of the video were taken as Princess Tiana is leaving Cinderella Castle, but the remaining is of Tiana's Showboat Jubilee.

Currently, the Lilly Belle is closed to guests. And during the performance, the Tom Sawyer Island rafts use the island's north dock so as not to distract from the festivities.

As you would expect, a new line of merchandise has been created and is already available at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the Disney Stores. At the moment, only children's sizes are available, but who knows what the future might bring.

Princess Tiana Merchandise

Also new is the Princess Tiana makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at both the World of Disney at Downtown Disney and the Magic Kingdom. Here, Fairy Godmothers-in-training sprinkle pixie dust on aspiring princesses with three makeover packages. Different options are available that will transform your little girl into a regal young lady.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Princess Tiana Makeover

Princess Tiana Makeover

I'm anxiously looking forward to "The Princess and the Frog" and Tiana's Showboat Jubilee added to my anticipation. While I love 3D computer animation. It's magnificent and allows a level of creation that Walt could never have imagined. But I'm glad to see a return to the 2D hand-drawn movies as well. Not all stories need elaborate canvases. Sometimes, less is more and I hope Disney's latest movie proves that once again, that simple can also be fantastic.

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About October 2009

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

September 2009 is the previous archive.

November 2009 is the next archive.

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