« December 2009 | Main | February 2010 »

January 2010 Archives

January 4, 2010

Teppan Edo

No visit to Epcot would be complete without dining at one of the restaurants in World Showcase. Each country offers a unique experience and an opportunity to learn about another culture. Today I'm going to write about Teppan Edo, one of the eateries found in the Japan Pavilion.

Teppan Edo Sign

Your adventure begins on the second floor of Japan's main building. If the stairs are a bit intimidating, an elevator can be found next to the front entrance of the Mitsukoshi Department Store.

Japan Pavilion Main Building

At the check-in desk, you'll be given a pager and asked to wait in the adjacent seating area. This area also serves as the waiting room for Tokyo Dining, a table-service restaurant that shares this floor.

Check-in Desk

Waiting Room

Tokyo Dining

The restaurants open at noon. If you can arrange your meal at this time, you're in for a treat. Before business commences each day, all of the servers and chefs line up in formation, as if waiting for inspection. Then two hostesses welcome you to Japan and their restaurants. The ceremony is charming and worth seeing. It helps set the mood for your meal to come. I don't have any "still" pictures of this, but I did capture it on video (see below).

When your table is ready, you will be escorted down a long hall to one of five dining rooms. Each room has four tables that seat eight. So unless you're traveling with a large group, you will be sharing your meal with other guests. But that's okay. Teppan Edo isn't about intimate dining. It's about fun and showmanship. In no time at all, you'll be conversing with your fellow tablemates. And if you're shy, there is a surefire opening question you can ask to get the conversation going, "Where are you visiting from?"

Teppan Edo Hallway

Teppan Edo Dining Room

Shortly after getting settled, your server will appear and introduce herself. Drink orders will be taken and hot towels handed to each guest. Besides cleaning your hands, feel free to wipe your brow. If you're like me, nothing is so refreshing as a clean face.

Hot Towels

Each place setting has a pair of chopsticks waiting for you when you arrive. However, forks are offered for those of you who need them. Also, your waitress can devise some "training" chopsticks if you'd like to try to learn how to use them.

The restaurant features teppanyaki style cuisine. Teppan means iron plate and yaki means grilled, broiled or pan-fried. Here, a chef entertainingly prepares your meal at the table, while you watch. The concept originated in 1945 as a way of introducing western-style foods to the Japanese. However, the concept quickly became more popular with foreign visitors than with the Japanese themselves. So as time progressed, the chef's performances became more elaborate and amusing to continue attracting tourists.

Appetizers such as sushi, miso soup, soybean pods, and tempura are available. These dishes are not prepared at the table, but are brought out just prior to the chef arriving to cook your meal.

Shrimp, scallops, chicken breast, and sirloin steak are the meats offered here. They can be ordered individually, or in a number of different combinations. Accompaniments include Udon noodles, mushrooms, zucchini, and onions. In addition, everyone is served a bowl of steamed white rice. (Feel free to ask for seconds of rice.)

When the chef arrives, he or she is introduced to you by your server and then the show begins. As you can tell by the next picture, they are usually pretty jovial and ready to have some fun.

Jovial Chef

The first order of business is to give each guest some dipping sauce. These include ginger, mustard, and cream which the chef deftly pours into serving dishes.

Dipping Sauce

With that bit of business taken care of, the vegetables and noodles are introduced to the grill. The way these chefs handle their knives and forks make the hucksters on TV selling Veg-a-Matics look like idiots (not that they needed any help in this area). The chefs at Teppan Edo can slice and dice like nobody's business. They have this technique down to an art form.

But the best part is the building of the onion volcano. Here, the chef skillfully separates ring after ring of onion and layers them one on top another, creating Mount Fuji. Then oil and water are poured into the center to create a smoking volcano.

Preparing Onion Volcano

Onion Volcano Eruption

Next, the meats are introduced to the grill. Once again, we see the magic of these talented individuals as they toss pepper grinders, fling bits of meat into the air, and continue to slice and dice -- all the while keeping us entertained with a steady stream of chatter.

Slice and Dice


Tossing Shrimp

The vegetables will be ready first and the chef will use a spatula and dish a portion onto your plate. It always amazes me how they can accurately divide the large amount of steaming food into equal portions for each guest. Since your meat is still cooking, don't hesitate to start eating or else your vegetables will get cold.

Once the meat course has been served, the chef will clean the grill, say goodbye, and leave. Shortly thereafter, your server will offer dessert. These include Soft Serve Ice Cream, Green Tea Pudding, and Chocolate Ginger Cake. Although obvious on the menu, I want to make sure I haven't given you the wrong impression, appetizers and desserts are an extra charge.

I want to remind all of you with special dietary needs to bring this fact to your server's attention. At my table, one gentleman had a severe allergy to shellfish. Our waitress relayed this information to the kitchen staff and the restaurant manager came out to our table to discuss his concerns. In this case, his meal was cooked in the kitchen to make absolutely certain that no shellfish contamination could take place on the show-grill. ALL Disney restaurants, including counter service establishments, will work with you to make sure you and your family's needs are met.

Would I recommend Teppan Edo? Absolutely! I think this restaurant is a lot of fun and should be on everyone's Epcot "must do" list. However, I think Teppan Edo needs to be experienced in moderation. Personally, I only need to visit every three to four years. Any more than that and the experience becomes old hat. I need time to forget all the little nuances that took place so it will be fresh on my next visit.

Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. The restaurant opens at noon and remains open during the remainder of the day.

I have prepared a four minute video highlighting the experience. Enjoy.

Related Links:

Teppan Edo Reader Reviews

Teppan Edo Menu

January 9, 2010

Have a Seat in Walt Disney World - Part 1

Anyone who has ever visited a theme park knows that it doesn't take very long before your feet begin to hurt and your back begins to ache. Most of us just don't spend that much time walking -- and standing -- anymore. We often tucker out quickly. So it's no surprise that Disney has placed seating options just about everywhere. It doesn't take a genius to know that sore bodies make grumpy guests.

But like everything that Disney does, theming is paramount. In this multi-part blog I'll be touring all four parks and pointing out benches, chairs, and other seating options that have been themed specifically for a land or area. For the most part, I'll be concentrating on non-restaurant seating.

Let's start in the Magic Kingdom.

Main Street doesn't have much general seating. This is because this thoroughfare is primarily used to enter and exit the park. Most guests have little need to sit down here as they're too busy getting to where they're going. However, if you do decide you need to rest your weary bones, the porch outside of Exhibition Hall has a number of nifty rocking chairs to relax on.

Exhibition Hall Rocking Chair

Also in front of Exhibition Hall you can find Goofy taking a rest from the park. Although folks should remember, this bench is more of a photo-op than a place to spend any significant amount of time.

Goofy on a Bench

Across the Plaza near Package Pick-up is a beautiful turn-of-the-century wrought iron bench.

Package Pick-up Bench

Halfway down Main Street, toward the back of Center Street you can find a number of tables and chairs. If you want to escape the crowds, this is one of the best spots in the Magic Kingdom as this area is seldom busy. The furniture here has an old-time, ice cream parlor design.

Center Street Table and Chairs

In The Hub we find what I call the "basic-green-Disney-bench." This design and color has been around since the early Disneyland days and can be found in all five Magic Kingdoms around the world.

Basic Green Hub Bench

The old Swan Boat landing offers another tranquil spot to spend some time away from the hordes. Once again, a turn-of-the-nineteenth-century theme is used for the tables and chairs.

Swan Boat Landing

Swan Boat Seating

And for you smokers, Disney has set aside one of the most beautiful spots in the park to relax and unwind.

Smoking Section

Smoking Section

In Tomorrowland we find a trick that Disney uses time and time again -- turn a retaining wall into additional seating. Here we see a planter, designed with a ledge at the perfect height to accommodate our bottoms.

Tomorrowland Planter Seating

Around many of the PeopleMover (TTA) pylons, the Imagineers have created sculpture-like benches. Artistic? Yes. Comfortable? No. But when you need to rest, "hard" is better than nothing.

PeopleMover Pylon Seating

In keeping with the futuristic theme of Tomorrowland, this next bench has a streamlined appearance.

Tomorrowland Bench

Near the Indy Speedway are a number of sleek and modern tables and chairs.

Tomorrowland Tables and Chairs

In Fantasyland we find more ornate benches, befitting of the old-world charm of the area.

Ornate Fantasyland Seating

Near Ariel's Grotto the tables and chairs are painted in festive colors. Also notice, another planter has been used to create additional seating.

Colorful Fantasyland Seating

Colorful Fantasyland Seating and Wall/Bench

Since Winnie the Pooh lives in the Hundred Acre Wood, it makes sense that the benches and chairs located here take on a more outdoorsy look.

Hundred Acre Wood Seating

Hundred Acre Wood Seating

The seating in Liberty Square reflects its colonial roots. The second bench is rather austere.

Liberty Square Bench

Liberty Square Bench

Liberty Square also offers two places in which you can find rocking chairs. One is on the porch to the right side of Hall of Presidents and the other is just outside the Yankee Trader Shop. Both of these spots are popular with guests and it's often difficult to secure a seat here.

Hall of Presidents Rocking Chair

Yankee Trader Rocking Chair

As you would expect, Frontierland offers rustic seating. The support for this next bench was fashioned out of wagon wheels.

Wagon Wheel Bench

A log cabin design can be found on this next resting spot.

Log Cabin Bench

In the mood for a game of checkers? This table and chairs is located out front of the Shootin' Arcade.

Checkers Table and Stools

And finally in Frontierland, more rocking chairs are on hand along the boardwalk. If you look closely, you'll notice these are the exact same chairs as on Main Street and in Liberty Square, only with a different finish.

Frontierland Rocking Chair

Our final stop in the Magic Kingdom is Adventureland. Near the entrance to this exotic land is a large planter made of volcanic rocks. Once again, seating has been designed into the structure.

Adventureland Entrance Planter Bench

Another planter/bench can be found near the Swiss Family Treehouse. If you look closely, you'll see some of the wrecked ship's flotsam incorporated into the design.

Swiss Family Planter/Bench

Across from the Treehouse is a covered porch. Here, a number of tables and chairs provide the perfect escape from the sun. Their color and design suggest a tropical feel.

Adventureland Tables and Chairs

Near the Enchanted Tiki Room simple slat benches can be found. This open-air design is perfect for a hot and humid climate.

Adventureland Benches

Our next stop on this seating tour is Epcot. Come back tomorrow for Part 2!

January 10, 2010

Have a Seat in Walt Disney World - Part 2

Like everything that Disney does, theming is paramount. In this multi-part blog I'll be touring all four parks and pointing out benches, chairs, and other seating options that have been themed specifically for a land or area. For the most part, I'll be concentrating on non-restaurant seating.

Yesterday we covered the Magic Kingdom.

Our next stop on this seating tour is Epcot.

There are very few benches between the turnstiles and Spaceship Earth, yet plenty of seating can be found here. All of the planters in this area have a wide projection that acts as a seat and the fountain's ledge provides a perfect photo opportunity for groups to sit on.

Epcot Entrance Planter/Bench

Epcot Entrance Fountain

The following two benches are located in Future world. The first picture illustrates the seating found within the Innoventions Courtyard and on the walkway leading to World Showcase. Although it can be seen in various colors, its simplistic, modern design remains constant in these areas. The second bench is positioned throughout Future World East and West.

Innovention Benches

Future World Benches

Let's start with Mexico on our tour around World Showcase. The benches here are somewhat simple, being made up of wrought iron ends and wooden slats.

Mexico Bench

The benches in Norway are slightly more detailed than those in Mexico. If you notice, the bench's back is more elaborate than its Latin American neighbor.

Norway Bench

In China we find a traditional Asian design. Pleasant to the eye. Hard on the butt.

China Bench

African Outpost offers a number of tables and chairs. This is a good spot if you need to relax for more than just a couple of minutes.

African Outpost Table and Chairs

In between many of the pavilions you'll find a very generic bench. It was chosen as it would blend into any surrounding without detracting from the distinct national architectures found around World Showcase.

World Showcase Generic Bench

In Germany you'll find another simple slat bench. But you'll also find a number of tables and chairs situated around the Saint George fountain. This is another good spot to while away some time.

Germany Bench

St. George Fountain Table and Chairs

Like China, Italy offers some rather hard seating options. Carved marble might be lovely to look at, but after a couple of minutes sitting on one of these beauties and you'll be back on your feet in no time. For a slightly more relaxing choice, pick one of the nearby metal-work tables and chairs.

Italy Bench

Italy Table and Chairs

The only benches I could find outside of the American Adventure were in the American Gardens Theater -- and these are only available during performances. The seating options here are either on the brick planters or the cushioned tables and chairs adjoining the Liberty Inn Restaurant.

American Adventure Planter/Bench

American Adventure Table and Chairs

Like China and Italy, the seating options in Japan are rock hard.

Japan Benches

In Morocco we find yet another stone bench. But the nearby fountain is beautiful enough to make you forget for a moment that you're sitting on a hard surface.

Morocco Bench

Morocco Fountain

France offers a wooden bench, but don't plan on leaning back. The support is somewhat lacking. However, sidewalk-café styled tables and chairs are available on the water's edge for a more leisurely moment.

France Bench

France Table and Chairs

One of the most lovely spots in World Showcase can be found in the United Kingdom and there are plenty of benches in this area to sit on and enjoy the atmosphere.

United Kingdom Bench

And of course, one of the most famous seating areas in World Showcase is found on the UK's waterfront. This is a great place to watch Illuminations (and have a beer), but you must stake out your table an hour in advance -- sometimes more -- if you want to watch this nightly spectacular.

UK Table and Chairs

With a view of the Rockies, these simple but stylish benches in the Canada Pavilion are a great place to escape and catch your breath.

Canada Bench in the Rockies

Near the Le Cellier Restaurant we find a more rustic bench, appropriate to the great outdoors.

Le Cellier Bench

With Epcot complete, tomorrow we'll look at Animal Kingdom

January 11, 2010

Have a Seat in Walt Disney World - Part 3

Like everything that Disney does, theming is paramount. In this multi-part blog I'll be touring all four parks and pointing out benches, chairs, and other seating options that have been themed specifically for a land or area. For the most part, I'll be concentrating on non-restaurant seating.

Part 1 covered the Magic Kingdom.
Part 2 covered Epcot.

Let's move on to the Animal Kingdom.

The first benches you come to here are on Discovery Island. These multi-colored, multi-shaped seats are made out of recycled plastic products.

Recycled Milk Carton Bench

Also on Discovery Island is this lovely wall and bench.

Rock Wall and Bench

Africa has several large planters with wrap-around benches. In addition, some seating is incorporated into the actual building.

Africa Planter/Bench

Africa Wall-Bench

Behind Tamu Tamu Refreshments is a secluded courtyard called Fort Harambe. A number of trees and overhangs create a shady spot where you can sit at tables and recharge your body.

Tamu Tamu Table and Chairs

Another shady spot can be found next to the entrance to Tusker House. Numerous tables and cushioned chairs are on hand and live entertainment takes place in this area -- not to mention the Dawa Bar is nearby serving luscious libations.

Dawa Bar Seating

Perhaps the most charming spot to sit in at the Animal Kingdom can be found at the entrance to Asia. Here, a simple wooden bench has been placed between the paws of a crumbling idol. This same bench can be found in other nearby locations, but none are so interestingly placed.

Asia Idol Seating

Asian Basic Bench

Across from the Flights of Wonder bird show is a pleasant spot to take a break. This covered area has a number of tables and chairs to relax in and is seldom busy. Notice that the chairs are mismatched. This would be typical in some of the poorer nations of Asia.

Asia Table and Chairs

Next to the Drinkwallah beverage stand is one of the most unusual seating spots in Asia. This sentry post features several hand-crafted barstools and offers good views of Discovery River.

Asia Sentry Post

Sentry Post Barstools

Although more of a photo op than a place to spend time, this rickshaw is enticing.


Simple, weathered benches like this next example can be found throughout Asia.

Asian Weathered Bench

I complained earlier that some of the benches in Epcot were as hard as a rock. Well a few of the seating choices near Expedition: Everest literally are rocks.

Expediton: Everest Rock Bench

Next stop, Dinoland U.S.A.. As Restaurantosaurus was originally a hunting lodge, the benches in this area are rustic and simple.

Restaurantosaurus Bench

Over at Chester and Hester's we find a variety of seating options. Next to the gift shop is this interesting bench with glass dinosaurs embedded into the surface.

Dinosaur Bench

Dinosaur Bench Close-up

Near the old barn are a number of picnic tables. These are especially useful to those of you who have brought your own food into the park.

Dinoland Picnic Table

Over on the midway the benches are painted in bright colors. This fits in perfectly with the carnival like atmosphere of the area.

Midway Bench

The seating in front of the Finding Nemo show is an example of a fence being used as a bench.

Finding Nemo Fench/Bench

Our last stop in the Animal Kingdom is Camp Minnie-Mickey. The benches here are built out a real branches. Because of this, no two are exactly alike.

Camp Minnie-Mickey Bench

Camp Minnie-Mickey Bench

Camp Minnie-Mickey Bench

Camp Minnie-Mickey Bench

Camp Minnie-Mickey Bench

Camp Minnie-Mickey Bench

The final park on our tour is Disney's Hollywood Studios, so stop by tomorrow!

January 12, 2010

Have a Seat in Walt Disney World - Part 4

Like everything that Disney does, theming is paramount. In this multi-part blog I'll be touring all four parks and pointing out benches, chairs, and other seating options that have been themed specifically for a land or area. For the most part, I'll be concentrating on non-restaurant seating.

Part 1 covered the Magic Kingdom.
Part 2 covered Epcot.
Part 3 Animal Kingdom

The final park on our tour of the World brings us to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Like the other parks, there are few seating options near the entrance. The only place to sit here is on the planters located between security check and the ticket booths.

Studio Entrance Planter/Bench

Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards offer "anywhere U.S.A." city benches. It's interesting to note that Sunset Blvd. has one of the largest concentrations of benches anywhere. Almost the entire street is lined with these wood and concrete seats.

Anywhere USA Bench

Sunset Blvd. Benches

Characteristic of the real world, a number of these benches display advertisements. If you pay attention, you'll notice that the locales depicted on the ads all exist on the two streets. Take a look at the last picture. You can tell by the sagging slats that this bench is used frequently. There's a reason for this. It's near the restroom where guests wait for others to finish their business.

Bench with Advertisements

Bench with Advertisements

Bench with Advertisements

Bench with Advertisements

Bench with Advertisements

Near the Tip Board is an art deco style fountain. As the park gets busy, this area becomes a "meeting spot" an seating here is often at a premium.

Tip Board Fountain

Near the Tower of Terror, the seating is decidedly formal.

Tower of Terror Bench

The only seating you'll find in the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster courtyard is the planter ledge that lines the front of the building.

Rock 'N' Roller Coaster Planter Bench

On Mickey Avenue you'll discover the same benches as are used in Innoventions Courtyard at Epcot. And at Pixar Place the seating has a sort of futuristic/cartoon appearance.

Mickey Avenue Bench

Pixar Place Bench

You'll find a different version of the "anywhere U.S.A." city bench on the Streets of America.

Streets of America Bench

Near Pizza Planet there are a few simple benches and a number of tables and chairs.

Pizza Planet Bench

Pizza Planet Table and Chairs

Along Echo Lake are umbrella-covered tables and chairs. Buy an ice cream from nearby Dinosaur Gertie's and enjoy it here.

Echo Lake Table and Chairs

This concludes my tour of theme park benches. But the detailing doesn't stop here. The resorts are full of seating options as unique as the ones I've presented in this blog. As I always keep preaching, pay attention to the little things and your trips to Walt Disney World will be all that more rewarding

By the way, in order to get pictures of benches with nobody sitting on them, I had to arrive at each park at opening, then make a mad dash around the park before people started tiring out.

January 16, 2010

Spaceship Earth -- Epcot's Icon -- Part 1

When planning my vacations to Disney World, I would always request a seat on the left side of the plane. I knew that if we approached the airport from the south, I could see Spaceship Earth as we came in for a landing. This was a major thrill for me as I knew I was almost "home."

Spaceship Earth as seen from an Airplane

Spaceship Earth also had special meaning for me at the end of my vacation. After touring the parks for a week or more, I would always choose to spend my last evening in Epcot. Since I had to get back to my room and pack for an early morning flight, I usually didn't stay for Illuminations, but would leave the park shortly after dinner. But before exiting, I would ride Spaceship Earth one final time. After all, it would be several years before I returned and I wanted to enjoy my favorite Epcot attraction once more. This was always a bittersweet experience, knowing that this was my last adventure before leaving Walt Disney World.

Spaceship Earth Entrance - Late at Night

The early concepts for Spaceship Earth called for the attraction to be housed in a geodesic dome. But the Imagineers wanted to present a more dramatic entranceway than a dome could provide. After all, walking through a doorway on the side of the structure was rather lackluster. They felt that guests should ascend into the attraction from below.

Concept Drawing for Spaceship Earth

To accomplish this, a radical new concept was devised, instead of building a geodesic dome, build a geodesic sphere -- something that had never been done before. Construction would be no easy task. Although still in its infancy, Computer Aided Design (CAD) was required to plan and engineer this project. One of the first challenges was to lift and support the structure above the ground. Six legs, radiating away from the sphere to give the appearance that the globe is floating, were sunk 120 to 150 feet into the earth. This was done as much to carry the weight of this behemoth as it was to keep it from blowing away in hurricane force winds. A 1/16 inch = one foot model of Spaceship Earth was tested in a wind tunnel against simulated winds of 110 miles per hour. Interestingly, no scaffolding or temporary supports were used during construction.

Spaceship Earth Under Construction

Spaceship Earth Under Construction

Spaceship Earth Under Construction

Spaceship Earth is actually two separate spherical structures, one inside the other. The facade of the outer sphere is positioned two feet away from the inner core. A total of 11,324 triangles make up the external surface of the sphere. These triangles are made of a substance called Alucobond. Alucobond is polyethylene plastic chemically bonded to two layers of anodized aluminum -- and are self cleaning in the rain. The panels are spaced one inch apart so they may expand and contract in the heat and cold. In addition, this spacing allows rain to flow between the panels and be collected in an ingenious gutter system. The water is then channeled through the support legs and into the surrounding canals. From there it flows through a retention pond where oils and pollutants are removed before returning it to the environment.

Panels and Drainage System

Panels and Drainage System

In the end, the structure would stand 180 feet tall, have a diameter of 165 feet, a circumference of 518 feet, weigh 16 million pounds, and have a volume of 2,200,000 cubic feet. If Spaceship Earth were a golf ball, the golfer would need to be one mile tall! Construction took 26 months and over 40,800 labor hours. A model used in the planning stages of Spaceship Earth can be seen at Disney's Hollywood Studios in the "One Man's Dream" attraction.

Model of Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth, a term first coined by Buckminster Fuller, was an opening-day Epcot attraction (October 1, 1982) and tells the story of communications through the ages. Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury helped Imagineers write the original script.

Many people remember Walter Cronkite as the attraction's first narrator, but he didn't join the show until 1986. In the beginning, Vic Perrin told the story of communication. Mr. Perrin was a character actor in the 40's, 50's, and 60's and is best remembered as the "Control Voice" in the original version of the TV series "The Outer Limits." In the early years, a fog machine created a mist which the Omnimover vehicles (your time machine) passed through on their initial ascent.

In May 1986, Walter Cronkite took over as narrator and voiced the attraction until early 1994. The fog machine was removed at this time and replace with a lighted tunnel representing a time-portal. In addition, the song "Tomorrow's Child" was added to the decent.

In August 1994, Jeremy Irons replaced Walter Cronkite. Three scenes highlighting computer use in the 1980's were removed and replaced with a single scene depicting a boy and girl using the internet to chat between the U.S. to Japan. A completely new orchestration was composed for the attraction and miniature sets were added to the decent.

The present version of Spaceship Earth debuted in February 2008. A completely new script is read by Dame Judi Dench and another new score replaced the old. Also, the decent was completely changed. The miniature sets were removed and each time machine was equipped with a touch-sensitive TV monitor. By answering a number of questions, guests can now choose and watch the type of future they may someday live in.

The Bell System was the original sponsor of Spaceship Earth. But in 1984, Ma Bell was broken up into regional companies and the parent company, AT&T took over until 2002. The attraction had no sponsor for several years until Siemens, the parent company of Sylvania which sponsors Illuminations, took over in 2005.

Bell Systems Logo

AT&T Logo

Siemen's Logo

When Epcot first opened, each Future World pavilion had its own logo. As time progressed, they were abandoned. But when Siemens took over, a new logo was developed for Spaceship Earth. Below are the original and new emblems.

Original Spaceship Earth Logo

Current Spaceship Earth Logo

Here is an early postcard for Spaceship Earth. Notice the scene in the upper right no longer exists.

Spaceship Earth Postcard

To celebrate the new millennium, Sorcerer Mickey's arm was constructed to the side of Spaceship Earth and the number 2000 arched over a portion of the sphere. This new icon stood 240 feet tall and weighed 100,000 pounds. When the celebration ended, the number 2000 was replaced with the name Epcot.

Many hard-core Disney fans were not happy with the decision to leave Mickey's arm and hand. They didn't feel Mickey should be represented so significantly at Epcot. As part of the fourth Spaceship Earth update, the decision to remove the arm was made and deconstruction began on July 9, 2007.

Mickey Arm and 2000

Mickey Arm and Epcot

No Mickey Arm

In the early years of Spaceship Earth, the area at the end of the ride was known as Earth Station. Here you entered a sort of futuristic City Hall. A number of computer terminals lined the walls and guests could have their questions answered electronically or speak with a live person via a two-way camera.

During this time, World Showcase restaurant reservations could only be made on the same day and were secured at Earth Station. At rope-drop, guests would run to this area so they could get their first choice in dining. It didn't take long to realize that only the early birds were going to enjoy a table-service meal at World Showcase. Sleepy heads were out-of-luck. Eventually, this policy was relaxed and guests could make reservations three days in advance. So for those of you who think getting a dining reservation at Disney World is an arduous task today, you can only imagine what it was like in the early and mid 80's.

Earth Station Entrance

Earth Station

Have you ever wondered what's on the second floor of Project Tomorrow (Earth Station)?

Second Floor of Project Tomorrow

All of the Future World Pavilions have lounges in them that are used by the corporate sponsors. This provided the companies with a place to entertain clients, media, and other individuals. This next, unimpressive picture was taken in the lobby of the AT&T lounge sometime in the late 90's.

AT&T Lounge

That's it for Part One. In the next installment we'll take a ride on the current Spaceship Earth.

January 17, 2010

Spaceship Earth -- Epcot's Icon -- Part 2

In Part One, I discussed the history of Spaceship Earth. Now let's take a ride on this attraction as it appears today.

Please note: Flash photography is prohibited on Spaceship Earth. The reason? It's very annoying to those around you. All of the pictures here were taken with a high-speed camera and enhanced with my computer.

Our 13 1/2 minute adventure begins as we travel through a time portal for a journey back in time. Just past the portal, your picture is taken for later use. Be sure to look at the monitor straight-on and smile.

Time Portal

The first glimpse into the past is somewhere around 30,000 BC where we see several Cro-Magnon men hunting a wooly mammoth. Rudimentary communication skills will help them work as a team and down this ferocious creature.

Caveman Fighting Mammoth

The next scene brings us to a time when man lived in caves. A prehistoric shaman recounts a recent hunt to his fellow tribesmen and wall paintings help record his tale for future generations.

Shamon Telling Stories

As we travel forward in time, we find ourselves in ancient Egypt. Here we see a man pounding papyrus reeds to create a crude paper. Nearby, the pharaoh dictates decrees which are copied onto scrolls by his scribe. The scribe (not pictured here) uses a simplified cursive form of hieroglyphics -- a sort of ancient shorthand if you will. The hieroglyphics on the surrounding walls are authentic recreations from actual Egyptian structures.

Making Papyrus



A new era in communications began with the Phoenicians. These merchants were once a dominate trading force in the Mediterranean and carried their twenty-two letter alphabet from port to port. With this new alphabet, most languages could be written using the same characters.


The ancient Greeks refined the Phoenician alphabet by adding vowels. Now the written word could be enunciated. With this improvement came philosophy, logic, and mathematics. The Greeks were also the first to create public schools, which is depicted in this next scene.


The Romans built a vast network of roads across the known world so their armies could maintain order and reach the most distant outposts of their empire. But these roads carried more than soldiers. Ideas and information also traveled along these ancient passageways. In this scene we see a Roman senator handing a message to a centurion with orders to rush the dispatch to Britain.


Much of recorded history was lost when Rome falls and the Library of Alexandria burns.

Burning of Library of Alexandria

Fortunately, copies of many of these books and manuscripts were also kept in Middle Eastern libraries. To the right side of our vehicle we see Islamic scholars from various cultures discussing science, astronomy, medicine, and art. Standing on the observation tower is an astronomer with a quadrant probing the secrets of the heavens. And to the left we see a Jewish wise man studying in a great library.

Islamic Scholars


Jewish Scholar

As we continue our journey, we enter a scriptorium. Literally translated, scriptorium means "a place for writing" and they were found in medieval European monasteries. Here we see monks toiling endlessly to keep up with the ever growing demand for books.

Monk in Scriptorium

Monk in Scriptorium

In the mid fifteenth-century, Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type printing press. His new device now makes information available to the masses. In the background of this scene we see pressmen sorting paper and setting type while in the foreground, Gutenberg examines a page from the bible he is currently printing. This sheet is an exact replica from the Gutenberg Bible on display at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Johannes Gutenberg

Men working the Press

But religious manuscripts weren't the only documents created in mass. Literature, philosophy, music, and art also flourished in the years to come. The Renaissance rekindled man's pursuit of knowledge and a rebirth of education. Across the aisle from Gutenberg we see a mentor reading Virgil's "Aeneid" to a student and musicians performing a new piece of music.

Mentor Reading to Student


Further signs of the Renaissance are seen as our journey progresses. First we see an artist's assistant mixing paint while he works on his latest masterpiece. And just beyond a sculptor chisels a statue from marble.

Mixing Paint

Artist Painting


Commissioned by Pope Julius II, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel between 1508 and 1512.

Sistine Chapel

During the first portion of our journey, advancements in communications came slowly. Progress was achieved over a period of hundreds and hundreds of years. But as we turn the next corner, inventions arrive on the scene almost in a blink of the eye.

Next we find ourselves in 1865 and the American Civil War has just ended. Steam power has brought the printing press into the modern age and periodicals are common. On a street corner, we see a young boy hawking newspapers.

Steam Powered Printing Press

Marconi's telegraph is seen next as a reporter dispatches the following message: "MAY - 10 - 1869 - OFFICIALS - OF- THE - TWO - RAILROADS - HAVE - GATHERED - AT - PROMONTORY - POINT"." For the first time the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are connected by railroad.


Less than a decade later, Alexander Graham Bell successfully transmitted the spoken word across a wire. By the early 1900's, telephones were becoming commonplace. For the first time, people could talk with their loved ones, even when physically far apart.

Telephone Switchboard

In the 1930's, citizens could keep abreast of the news at their local movie house. Movietone News presented audiences with a vast array of subject matter. Currently showing is a clip of Jesse Owens winning a race at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Movie Theater

In 1928 an excited newscaster announces to his radio listeners that Amelia Earhart has just become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

Radio Broadcast

Fast forward to 1969. People all over the world were glued to their television sets as Neal Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Walter Cronkite, who once narrated this attraction, can also be seen on this program.

The Imagineers poked a little fun at Mickey in this scene. Next time you ride, take a look behind the couch. The board game Mouse Trap is set up and waiting to be played.

Man Walks on the Moon

1960's Living Room

In the early years of computers, only governments and large corporations could afford them. And their binary language was known to only a handful of people. These large behemoths took up an enormous amount of space and required chilled rooms in which to operate.

Main Frame Computer

Main Frame Computer

It wasn't too long after the main-frame computer became common place in businesses that people started thinking about a home model. In this next scene we see a California garage in the 1960's and a studious young man working on a prototype "personal" computer.

Many people speculate whether this is Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak. But it's neither. This gentleman represents all of the pioneers that helped bring this modern marvel into our homes.

Personal Computer

After traveling through the "Data-Flow Tunnel" we arrive near the top of Spaceship Earth. Here we see our blue and green planet floating in space. Our Time Machine then rotates 180 degrees for the descent back to earth.

Soon the touch-screen monitors on our vehicles come to life and we're asked to select what aspect of our future we'd like to see. The choices are Home, Work, Health, and Leisure. After several more selections, a humorous video transports "you" into the future.

Touch-screen Monitors

Touch-screen Monitors

After exiting the Omnimover, you find yourself in "Project Tomorrow." Here you come face-to-face with a giant globe of the earth.

Project Tomorrow Globe

Shortly after arriving, your picture will appear somewhere on the globe and remain in sight for roughly a minute. Then with a swoosh, your photo is whisked to the hometown you selected at the beginning of the ride. A small white dot will appear on the globe to represent this location. The globe starts out "clean" each morning.

Since Central Florida becomes a mass of white dots early on, I often pick some other city as my hometown. It's fun to see my picture transported to Perth, Australia or Cape Town, South Africa.

Also found in Project Tomorrow are several games.

"Body Builder" is a 3-D interactive game that enables users to assemble a digital human body, simulating the Siemens technology developed to perform remote surgeries.

Body Builder

"Super Driver" is a simulation video game that showcases motor vehicle accident avoidance systems developed by Siemens.

Super Driver

"Power City" demonstrates how to manage power in a growing city.

Power City

I have created a four and a half minute video of a journey through Spaceship Earth. Please note, the narration has been edited due to time constraints. In addition, lighting of the scenes is low, making a few of the sets difficult to see. However, I think you'll enjoy the trip. It's the next best thing to actually being there.

Well that's it for Spaceship Earth -- my favorite Epcot attraction. I realize it's not as exciting as Test Track or Mission: Space. And it's not as inspiring as Soarin'. But I like it and never tire of it.

January 21, 2010

Magic Kingdom -- Imagineering the Magic DVD

A new two-disk DVD set has started appearing on the store shelves at Walt Disney World. Titled "Magic Kingdom -- Imagineering the Magic" these disks tell the story of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and how many of the attractions came into being.

Magic Kingdom -- Imagineering the Magic

Disk One features legendary Imagineers such as Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, and Tony Baxer (and many others) discussing how this magical place came into existence. On a personal note, a friend of mine from my Club 33 days, Kevin Rafferty, now an Imagineer, also appears in this DVD.

Marty Sklar

The story begins by discussing "Project X" and how the Florida property was secretly purchased. Then, each land of the Magic Kingdom is discussed and we're given insight on how the various attractions were selected and designed.

Disk Two is more of a hodge-podge of information. Chapter One tours the Cinderella Castle Suite.

Cinderella Castle Suite

Chapter Two contains the original news conference where Walt, Roy, and Florida Governor Burns announced Walt Disney World.

Florida News Conference

In Chapter Three we see a portion of the film Walt made shortly before his death as he describes his plans for the Florida property. In addition, leaders from U.S. Steel and RCA speak to the media, discussing the part they'll play in the building of Walt Disney World.

Walt Discussing Walt Disney World

Next we see a film of Roy Disney's Dedication Speech given on October 23, 1971.

Roy Disney's Dedication Speech

Chapter Six is titled "Mickey's Trivia Tour." In reality, it's a quiz to see if you've been paying attention to the information presented on the two disks. All of the answers are covered before reaching this selection.

The final chapter contains over forty artist renderings of the various lands and attractions of the Magic Kingdom.

This DVD set is intended for the general Disney tourist. It gives just enough detail to educate, without boring. My blogs and much of the Allears.net website give much more detailed information. But I wouldn't let this stop a hard-core Disney fanatic (like me) from purchasing these disks. Wonderful archival footage is presented and it's great listening to the actual Imagineers, those men and women who designed the Magic Kingdom, discuss their work.

I purchased my disks at the Animation Gallery shop at Disney's Hollywood Studios. However, it will be available at all of the parks and Downtown Disney. The cost is $24.95.

Also available is a similar two-disk set titled, "Disneyland Resort -- Imagineering the Magic." I would really suggest you buy the park you're most familiar with first, then decide if you want the other. But any true Disney fan will want both.

Disneyland Resort -- Imagineering the Magic

January 29, 2010

Cinderella Castle Mosaic Murals

I'm going to make the assumption that all of you have at least noticed the five mosaic murals that line the wall along the corridor that passes through Cinderella Castle. These magnificent works of art were designed by Disney Legend Dorthea Redmond and tell an abridged version of the classic story "Cinderella."

Artisan Hanns-Joachim Scharff took Dorthea's drawings and enlarged them to full-scale, each measuring fifteen feet high and ten feet wide. Sections of these enlarged drawings were then covered with fabric netting. With the help of his wife and daughter, Scharff hand cut and shaped over one million pieces of glass, bits of gold and silver, and numerous "jewels." More than 500 colors were employed. Using the pattern beneath the netting, the mosaic pieces were meticulously glued, one by one, face down onto the fabric. The assembled sections were then transported to Cinderella Castle where a team of six craftsmen pressed them into wet cement that had been applied to the walls.

Installing the Tiles

Installing the Tiles

After the cement had dried, the fabric netting was carefully removed. Then a coating of special mortar was applied and worked into the gaps between the tiles to ensure that each tiny mosaic would stay in place and could withstand the touch of millions of hands. The entire process took two years to complete.

Castle Walkway and Murals

While taking the pictures for this blog, I spent a fair amount of time in the castle's archway. This was necessary since I had to patiently wait for people to pass by in order to get unobstructed shots of the murals. I soon became aware at how quickly guests breeze through this area on their way to Fantasyland. Most people never gave these murals even a passing glance. And those that did, only slowed down slightly. I heard one mother say to her daughter, "Look honey. It's Cinderella" as she tugged on the child's hand so as not to slow down their forward momentum.

I totally understand the need to get to Dumbo and Peter Pan before long lines ensue. But I really hope that some of these hurried souls might return later in the day to study this beautiful masterpiece in a little more detail.

Let's start with the first mural. Here we see Lady Tremaine reading the invitation to the upcoming ball. Standing next to her are her two, spoiled daughters Drizella and Anastasia. Mistreated Cinderella is nearby, slaving away. Also in the scene are Bruno the dog and Lucifer the cat.

Mural One

Mural One

The story-telling portion of the next mural is high above a doorway. Here we see Cinderella's fairy godmother transforming her rag-dress into a beautiful gown. Her pumpkin coach can be seen in the background. It's interesting to note, some of the characters depicted on these murals bear a resemblance to their movie counterpart -- but the fairy godmother does not.

Mural Two

Mural Two

Next we find our heroine at the ball. The court is assembled in the foreground and at the top of the stairs we see Cinderella dashing off, leaving a glass slipper behind. A full moon, that looks very much like the bright sun, is shining in the sky.

Mural Three

Mural Three

The fourth mural brings us to that fateful moment when Cinderella tries on the slipper. Special care was given to the stepsister's faces in this scene. Anastasia is colored red to signify anger and Drizella is green with envy. The footman's face is that of Herb Ryman and the gentleman behind him bears the countenance of John Hench. Both men started their Disney careers as animators and went on to have significant input in the building of the New York World's Fair, Disneyland, and Walt Disney World.

Mural Four

Mural Four

In the final scene we see Prince Charming taking Cinderella away from her misery to live happily ever after.

Mural Five

While studying the murals, also pay attention to the carvings atop each column. Cinderella's mice and feathered friends are exquisitely carved into the stone.

Column Capital

And while you're in the area, pay attention to some of the other nearby details. First, take a look at the large castle doors. Study the right one closely and you can see a door-within-a-door. This feature was used in medieval structures. When the large doors are closed, this smaller door allowed individuals access into the castle without opening up the entire fortress to possible danger.

Large Castle Doors

Just inside the castle is another doorway. Notice the detailed carvings and the fanciful metal pieces that fasten the door together. And a nearby lamp also displays intricate metalwork.

Small Castle Door

Castle Light Fixture

Behind the castle is a lovely courtyard with a beautiful fountain. Here we find a bronze statue of Cinderella and some of her creature friends. Cinderella's fairy godmother can often be found in this area ready to pose for pictures.

Cinderella Fountain

Cinderella Fountain

Fairy Godmother

I really encourage you to stroll, not run, through the castle one day and take a look at the murals. This really won't take you more than five minutes, but it's well worth your time. Note, during the Castle Forecourt show, this section of the castle is closed to guests so plan accordingly.

Return to Blog Central

About January 2010

This page contains all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in January 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2009 is the previous archive.

February 2010 is the next archive.

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