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February 2, 2010

Animal Kingdom Opening Show

As some of you early birds might know, Disney presents a short "Welcome to the Animal Kingdom" show each morning. However, there has been a slight change. But before I get to that, let me tell you how it used to be.

Each morning, about fifteen minutes before the park's official opening, a "family of the day" was introduced to all the guests waiting behind the turnstiles. This lucky group helped with the count-down and officially opened the park. Soon after, the gates opened and everyone rushed to a restraining rope near the entrance of Discovery Island (in front of the Tree of Life).

About ten minutes before the park opened, several youngsters were selected to crank open the Tip Board. A big "to-do" was made of this mini-ceremony and the kids seemed to love it.

Tip Board Ceremony

Five minutes before the park opened, a flatbed truck drove up carrying Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto. The group welcomed everyone to the park and reminded us to use our sunscreen, take lots of pictures, and don't forget our guide maps.

Flatbed Truck with Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto

Then a radio dispatch came in from Mickey and the group eventually spotted him rising in front of the Tree of Life. After a few more welcoming words, the restraining ropes were removed, the park opened, and everyone walked (yeah, right) to Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Mickey at the Tree of Life

I was at the Animal Kingdom today and was first in line at the turnstiles. I noticed cast members stringing restraining ropes across the opening of The Oasis (about thirty feet on the other side of the turnstiles). About fifteen minutes before the park opened, everyone was allowed through the gates and up to the ropes. Shortly thereafter, the same, brightly colored flatbed truck appeared, only Goofy was missing and was replaced by Mickey. Once positioned before the crowd, the same basic opening skit was performed. However, there was no "searching for Mickey" since he was already on the truck. When the show was over, the truck drove out of sight, the ropes were removed, and we were free to enter the rest of the Animal Kingdom.

Characters Arrive on Truck

Minnie, Mickey, and Pluto

I asked a cast member when this change took place. She said management tried this new procedure out during the Christmas season and they liked it enough to make it permanent. I then asked her what motivated the change. She didn't know.

I suspect the reason is that more people can see the truck and characters with this new arrangement. When the show took place on Discovery Island, space was limited and only the people near the rope could see the goings-on. This new arrangement plays to a larger audience as the area in front of The Oasis is much broader.

Although I personally couldn't care less about the "family of the day" and the children selected to unveil the tip board, I suspect this was a Magical Moment for those chosen and it's a shame this portion of the show has been eliminated for their sakes. Also, I thought it was cool seeing Mickey appear in front of the Tree of Life. I suppose it's a trade off so more people can see the show and I believe management felt the disadvantages were worth the gains.

February 4, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror -- Part One

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is my favorite attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In my opinion, it is one of Disney's crowning gems and an absolute "must see" on every visit. I'd be surprised if any other attraction has more details packed into it as Tower of Terror. I've been on this ride dozens of times and I'm still discovering new facts. What is to follow is a brief history of how this great "hotel" came into being and then a description of the experience.

When the Disney/MGM Studios was being planned and built, the intent was that it would function as a working studio and produce movies and television shows. At the same time, Disney would offer guests a half-day experience where they could learn about the film industry while being entertained. However, things did not work out as planned. For a number of reasons, this venue was never able to take off as a real production center. And since guests were paying the same ticket price to enter the Studios as they were for the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, they wanted more than a half-day experience. The park needed to be retooled and expanded.

Sunset Boulevard was the first major addition to come to the Studios. And with it came four attractions. In July, 1994, the "Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage" show was relocated from the Backlot Theater to a new 1,500-seat Theater of the Stars. At the same time, the "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" opened at the end of Sunset Blvd. On October 15, 1998 "Fantasmic" opened at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater. And finally, "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster" debuted on July 29, 1999.

Theater of the Stars

Tower of Terror

Hollywood Hills Amphitheater

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

An interesting note: The Sunset Ranch Market, which features Catalina Eddie's and Rosie's All American Café, was built to be a place-holder for a future attraction. If you'll notice, the structures are all small and simple and could easily be removed.

Sunset Ranch Market

The Imagineers knew they needed a major ride at the end of the boulevard. To employ a word that Walt often used, they needed a "weenie" to draw the guests past the shops and down the street. This would require an attraction that was not only a show stopper, but visually appealing.

During the planning stages for Sunset Blvd, a number of attractions were considered. One, to be called "Crime Stoppers," was to be based on the Disney movie "Dick Tracy." But the film did not meet the financial and critical expectations Disney had hoped for. In addition, Michael Eisner didn't like the violent nature of the attraction so the idea was scrapped.

The Imagineers often say that no good idea ever goes unused. Keeping this in mind, one can't help but wonder if part of the American Waterfront at Tokyo DisneySea was based on Crime Stoppers. Take a look at the concept drawing for this discarded attraction, then look at the very similar street at DisneySea. Hmmm.

Crime Stoppers Concept Art

American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea

Another early idea called for a scary, yet humorous attraction based on Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" that would be housed in an elaborate castle. Mr. Brooks even sat in on some of the early brainstorming sessions. As possibilities continued to be explored, the "Young Frankenstein" idea morphed into a haunted hotel concept. Soon after, the attraction took on a more serious tone and Mr. Brooks left the project.

Tower of Terror Concept Art

Tower of Terror Concept Art

A different idea centered around the popularity of murder mysteries in the 1930's, the same era as Sunset Blvd. In this scenario, the guests would be given a series of clues in order to solve a murder mystery. But management frowned on the idea of a ride based on homicide and nixed the idea. Another concept involved a mishap at a Hollywood wrap party. But once again, murder wasn't the story they wanted to tell at a Disney park. Eventually the Imagineers came up with the idea of movie stars being trapped in an out-of-control elevator. And in this case, the people just "disappeared" in a supernatural way, not at the hand of man.

The Imagineers believed that linking the attraction with a recognizable movie or television show would help guests grasp the storyline more quickly and a number of properties were explored. Eventually, The Twilight Zone was selected and the Imagineers viewed all 156 episodes at least twice to make sure they captured the essence of the show in both the design of the structure and the story they would tell. However, the story they created was unique and never was part of the series.

The design of the hotel needed to be appropriate to the era and blend in with the rest of Sunset Boulevard. The Imagineers decided on architecture that was inspired by the revival styles that were popular in California during the early 20th century. The hotel is modeled after such landmarks as the Mission Inn in Riverside, the Château Marmont in Hollywood, and the Biltmore Hotel located in Downtown Los Angeles. Its fictional construction date is 1917 which can be seen on a plaque while standing in line.

Construction Date 1917

But the building not only needed to blend with its immediate surroundings, it also needed to blend in with World Showcase in Epcot. You see, when crossing the bridge that leads from the Disney Traders Shop to Mexico, the hotel is clearly visible behind the Morocco pavilion. So the Tower was given a slightly Moorish feel and painted a color that was not completely accurate for its era just so it would blend into the background when viewed from Epcot.

Morocco Pavilion

The Imagineers made one mistake when designing the exterior of the building. The "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign was placed too low on the structure. In fact, the sign would have been underneath the two wings that were destroyed when hit by lightning. If you pay attention during the Library preshow, you can clearly see the sign is located above the destroyed wings, which would have been the correct placement. This mistake was corrected in the California and Paris versions of the ride. At Tokyo DisneySea the storyline is completely different and there are no wings. In fact, the hotel's name does not appear on the building as it does on its three cousins..

Tower of Terror Incorrect Sign Placement

Here are some basic construction facts about the Tower. The structure required 1,500 tons of steel, 145,800 cubic feet of concrete, and 27,000 roof tiles. The building is 199 feet tall as FAA requirements require that all structures 200 feet or more have a flashing red light on top. The Imagineers felt that this beacon would be distracting and opted to come in under this limit. A model of the Tower, used in the planning stages of the ride, can be seen in the "One Man's Dream" attraction on nearby Mickey Avenue.

Tower of Terror Construction Model

During construction, a billboard was strategically placed near the park's entrance, advertising the upcoming attraction. The three construction photos were taken by our own Deb Wills.

Tower of Terror Construction Billboard

Tower of Terror Construction Photo

Tower of Terror Construction Photo

Tower of Terror Construction Photo

The Tower of Terror (TOT) opened on July 22, 1994. It beckons guests from the parking lot and tram operators point it out as you make your way to the main gate. Later, when you turn onto Sunset Boulevard, you see it sitting majestically at the end of the street. And if that's not enough, a era-appropriate billboard can be found on the Boulevard advertising this great hotel.

Parking Lot View

Sunset Blvd. view of Tower

Tower of Terror Billboard

The stone sentries at the entrance to the attraction are close replicas of the gates found at the entrance of Hollywood's Beachwood Drive. In our case, they mark the beginning of the Sunset Hills Estates.

Stone Entrance

Stone Entrance

Sunset Hills Estates Plaque

The stone structure on the right houses restrooms and behind the one on the left, the FastPass dispensers can be found. If you look beyond the dispensers, you'll find a shed and gardening equipment once used by the hotel's landscapers.

FastPass Machines

Gardener's Shack and Tools

Perched on a hill is a sign displaying the wait time for standby riders. Although numbers less than 13 are often used, this superstitious numeral is frequently present. When it is, you know that the line is very short if not nonexistent. The TOT and the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom are the only two attractions to ever use this number. The nearby landscaping is reminiscent of Griffith and Elysian Parks found in the city of Los Angeles.

Standby Rider Time Estimate

Pay attention to the hotel's stone marquee. It eerily changes, helping set the mood for your journey into the Twilight Zone.

Tower Marquee

Next, you pass beneath an elaborate entryway where you're greeted by one of the hotel's staff. Make sure to notice the "Keep Out" sign posted on the left gate.

Hotel Entrance Gate

Keep Out Sign

Once past the gate look immediately to your right. A most unusual sundial can be found here. At one time, it was used as a wait-time indicator, but no more. Although difficult to make out in my picture, the words say, "YOUR NEXT STOP THE TWILIGHT ZONE 5 MINUTES FROM THIS POINT."


From the gate, you wander through some of the long-neglected hotel grounds. More details abound such as a cracked wall from overgrown tree roots and signs marking the way to various recreational facilities. In the background, screams can be heard as you approach the building.

Hotel Pathway

Recreational Sign

Broken Wall and Tree Roots

As you continue your walk, you come to an arbor and a long-dry fountain. Notice the vines that have encased some of the pillars over the years. And the bottom of the fountain has accumulated numerous cracks as time has passed. At one time, the fountain had a water-ring visible on the tiles, but for some reason, this has been removed. To the left of the arbor are statues of two lovely ladies.

Arbor and Vines

Dry Fountain


As you approach the arbor, music can be heard in the background. If you listen closely, you'll notice it has a far-away, echoey quality. This was done intentionally to invoke a ghost-like feel of a bygone era. The songs played are as follows:

"Alabamy Home" By Gotham Stompers
"Another World" By Johnny Hodges
"Can't Get Started" By Benny Berigan
"Dear Old Southland" By Noble Sissle
"Deep Purple" By Turner Layton
"Delta Mood" By Cootie Williams
"Inside" By Fats Waller
"Jeep's Blues" By Johnny Hodges
"Jitterbug" By Johnny Hodges
"Jungle Drums" By Sidney Bechet
"Mood Indigo" By Duke Ellington
"Pyramid" By Johnny Hodges
"Remember" By Red Norvo
"Sleepy Time Gal" By Glenn Miller
"There's a House" By Henry Allen
"There's No Two" By Frankie Newton
"Uptown Blues" By Jimmy Lunceford
"We'll Meet Again" By Vera Lynn
"When the Sun Sets" By Nobles Singers
"Wishing" By Vera Lynn

At last you come to the main entrance of the hotel and step inside. It's here that the details become too numerous to count.

Hotel Entrance

To the left side of the lobby is a small table. On it we see a game a mahjong was in progress on that fateful Halloween night when disaster struck. The tiles are accurately placed so that guests who know the game will see that it is a faithful recreation. Alongside the table is a tea cart, which would be appropriate in any fine hotel of the era.

Mahjong Game

Tea Service

Further along the same wall is another table. Here, a young couple was celebrating their engagement with a glass of champagne when lightning struck the hotel. Lipstick can be seen on one of the glasses and a diamond ring can be found on a white glove sitting on the table.

Engagement Table

To the left side of the entrance is the concierge desk. Like everything else in the hotel, it has been left untouched since October 31, 1939. On the wall next to the desk is a plaque honoring the hotel with AAA's prestigious 13-diamond award. In reality, 5 diamonds is the maximum.

Concierge Desk

AAA Award

Beside the concierge desk is a poster advertising the Tip Top Club located on the top floor of the hotel. The orchestra leader is Anthony Fremont. If you remember your Twilight Zone episodes, you might recollect a show titled "It's a Good Life." In this story, a young boy, named Anthony Fremont, could make people disappear into the cornfield.

Tip Top Club Poster

The main lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel is stunning. Some of the chairs were secured from the exclusive Jonathan Club, a well-known Los Angeles landmark built in the 1920's. Other leather chairs are authentic Renaissance antiques. And a set of luggage near the front desk is made from genuine alligator skin, a popular fashion of the time. This same set of luggage can be seen later in the library TV presentation as the bellman carries them onto the doomed elevator.

Hotel Lobby


Be sure to check out the ceiling and light fixtures. They are truly amazing works of art.


Light Fixture

A number of French and American bronze pieces are scattered around the hotel lobby. Some are recreations and others are real, crafted by the famous 19th century artist Moreau, whose work graced many of the best hotels of the era.

Bronze Bust

Located between the two guest elevators is the hotel's directory. Listed here are various facilities and their location. For example, the Tip Top Club, mentioned earlier, can be found on the TOP OF THE TOWER. Also mentioned are the Sunset, Beverly, and Fountain Rooms, which can be found on the LOWER LEVEL. I'll discuss these three rooms in more detail later.

At one time, the missing letters that had fallen from the directory spelled "EVIL TOWER U R DOOMED" at the bottom of the case. However, the letters were removed some time ago. Although I have never been given a reason for the disappearance, I suspect it was out of deference for the Twin Towers after the 9/11 tragedy.

Hotel Directory

Take a look at the two elevators to either side of the Directory. There are "Out of Order" signs in front of them and their doors have fallen off their tracks.

Out of Order Elevator

That's it for Part One. Check back tomorrow for Part Two and more interesting facts about The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

February 5, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror -- Part Two

Yesterday, I gave you a brief history of the Tower of Terror and walked you through the attraction up through the Lobby. Today we'll finish the tour.

From the hotel lobby we proceed to one of the two libraries. It's here that we're told that our rooms are not quite ready and to please enjoy the amenities until summoned. Then, with a crash of lightning, the room goes dark and the television set comes alive. For the next minute and a half, the fateful story of the hotel's demise is presented.

Rod Serling recounts the tale of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and how on Halloween night, October 31, 1939, a stylish young couple and a child actress with her stern governess, check into the hotel. An overworked bellman escorts them to an elevator and the doors close. On their ascent, lightning strikes the hotel and the building's two wings disappear, along with the inhabitants of the elevator.



The clip of Rod Serling was also taken from the episode titled "It's a Good Life." However, the voice used is that of Mark Silverman. Mr. Serling's widow made the final selection after the Imagineers narrowed down the field following hundreds of auditions.

Watch the television show carefully and you can see a Mickey Mouse plush toy in the young girl's hand right before she gets onto the elevator.

Rod Serling

A number of other details can be found in the libraries. The broken pair of glasses is from the episode titled "Time Enough at Last" starring Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis. He is a bookworm and the sole survivor of a nuclear war who drops and breaks his only pair of glasses.

Glasses from Time Enough at Last

The trumpet is from "Passage for Trumpet" starring Jack Klugman as Joey Crown, a down and out musician. While contemplating suicide, he is saved by another trumpet player, Gabriel. Beneath the trumpet is sheet music titled "What! No Mickey Mouse? What Kind Of Party Is This?" The song was written in 1932.

Trumpet from Passage for Trumpet

On the shelf above the books is a small spaceman. This creature was from "The Invaders" starring Agnes Moorhead who is terrorized by what turns out to be a space mission from earth.

Spaceman from The Invaders

Also on the overhead shelf is a fortune telling machine that tormented William Shatner in an episode titled "Nick of Time." All of these items are accurate reproductions of the actual props used in the television show.

Fortune Telling Machine from Nick of Time

When "Tonight's Episode" concludes in the Library, a hidden panel slides open and you proceed to the Boiler Room and the Service Elevators.

This Way to the Service Elevators

Pay attention to the noises in the Boiler Room. You can hear a number of sounds appropriate to your surroundings such as motors running and pipes banging. The first two brick structures you encounter when entering this room are the hotel's furnaces. One is still in service. If you look closely, you'll find several carloads of coal waiting to be stoked. Boiler tanks and electrical equipment can also be found down here.

Basement Walkway


Coal Bin

Water Tank

Eventually you reach the Service Elevators. Between each set of elevators is a caged area. In this area is the electrical motor that lifts and lowers the cars (not really). Pay attention and you can hear the motor start and stop as the cars rise and lower. And occasionally you can see sparks within the machine. Also, if you watch the "floor indicator," you can tell when the elevator is arriving.

Service Elevator

Elevator Motor

Floor Indicator

I know there are a few of you who have absolutely no desire to ever ride on TOT. And that's totally understandable. But I would strongly suggest you accompany your friends and family to this point. The queue and preshow are an attraction in their own right and worth seeing. If you've made it this far, just tell the bell hop you don't wish to be taken to your room at the moment and you'll be allowed to bypass the elevator and meet your companions later.

Now it's time to board the 1917 caged service elevator for a quick trip to your room. If you look to the side of the car, outside the cage, you can see a "Permit to Operate" certificate dated October 31, 1939. The certificate was signed by Inspector Cadwallader. This is in reference to the Twilight Zone episode "Escape Clause" where Walter Bedeker (played by David Wayne) makes a deal with the devil -- a gentleman who calls himself Mr. Cadwallader (played by Thomas Gomez). In addition, the certificate also displays "STATE ID NUMBER 10259." This is a nod to the date The Twilight Zone premiered on CBS, October 25, 1959

Elevator Car

Permit to Operate Sign

After everyone has been secured in their seat, the elevator doors close and you're whisked up several stories. When the doors reopen, you're looking into one of the hotel's hallways. Shortly thereafter, the family that disappeared on that fateful night long ago, reappears for an instant, before lightning strikes once again and they vanish forever. The effect is wonderful and eerie. I'm not going to give away the secret here, but if you're curious as to how this trick is accomplished, look up "Pepper's Ghost" on the internet. Wikipedia has a good description and discusses several Disney attractions.

Hotel Hallway and Guests

The doors close once again and your elevator car continues its ascent. When the doors open this time, the elevator moves horizontally into the Fifth Dimension. This room was inspired in part by the "Little Girl Lost" episode of The Twilight Zone. In this show, the daughter of a young couple rolls under her bed and through the wall into another dimension.

In order to accomplish the elevator's forward motion, the cars needed to be motorized and on wheels. These "Autonomous Guided Vehicles" are powered by onboard electric motors and batteries. Improving on techniques developed for Epcot's Universe of Energy, the vehicles use fast charging batteries that can be recharged while in use.

One of the props in the Fifth Dimension Room is a giant eyeball that opens to reveal a passing elevator car. At one time, a picture of the actual car you were riding in was displayed and you could see yourself. But sadly, this effect was eliminated a number of years ago due to obscene gestures some guests made while having their picture taken.

At the end of the Fifth Dimension Room a star field gathers and suddenly, doors open to reveal an inky blackness. Your elevator proceeds into this abyss, then stops. For a moment, nothing happens"then your elevator goes wild. The drop sequence that you experience is selected by a computer and each ride is unique and random. You never know if your journey will start with a ride to the top or a drop to the bottom. Here are a couple of pictures taken from the top.

View from the Top

View from the Top

To accomplish a faster-than-gravity fall, the elevator car you are riding in actually enters a secondary elevator car located in the drop-shaft and locks into place. This secondary car has cables attached to both the top and bottom of the elevator, allowing a motor to pull you down faster than a natural freefall would generate. The motors used on these elevators are significantly more powerful than those used in modern skyscrapers.

Eventually, the elevator comes to a rest in the basement. If you look to the side of the car before it turns, other Twilight Zone props can be seen. The slot machine from the episode "The Fever" and the ventriloquist dummy from the show titled "Caesar and Me" are both in view. You will also notice a large "B" painted on the inside of the elevator doors, signifying "Basement." As the doors open, the "B" splits in half creating the number 13.

Basement 13

After exiting the elevator, you walk down a long hallway to find a hotel storage room. I've read that various other Twilight Zone props can be found on these shelves, but I couldn't identify any and the cast members I spoke with were unaware of them.

Hotel Store Room

It's at this storage facility that you can order a picture of yourself taken while riding on the elevator. Also notice the chalkboard that reads, "Picture If You Will"" a quote often used by Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone television show.

Picture if you Will Sign

Around the corner is a large desk where your photo can be purchased and picked up.

Photo Pick-up Desk

Just beyond this desk are three sets of doors labeled Sunset, Beverly, and Fountain Rooms. I mentioned these earlier when talking about the hotel Directory. In reality, these lead to backstage areas. But in the realm of the Hollywood Tower Hotel these are banquet rooms.

Sunset Banquet Room

If you check the menu next to the Sunset Room, you can see that a gala dinner was taking place here on October 31, 1939. As you can see, the guests were in for a sumptuous feast. Here's what was on the menu that night:


Hors D'oeurve
Grape Fruit Maraschino
Sweet Gherkins à la Moutarde
Bismark Herrings

Glear Turtle with Sherry
Potage Ecossaise
Cold Consommé

Grilled Bluefish
Dover Sole
Whitefish Matheson

Mignon of Beef
Rack of Lamb Johnson
Tournedos Nicoise

Mutton Chops
Spring Chicken
Calf's Liver and Bacon
Deviled Quail on Toast

Fresh Green Peas
Cauliflower au Gratin
New Carrots

Autumn Salad
Belgian Endive
Polonaise Beaumont

Peach Shortcake
Apple Pie and Cream
Gateau Chocolate au Rodman

Tea and coffee, Liqueurs, Cigars, Cigarettes

I want to thank my friend Kev for pointing out that some of the menu items contain the names of writers of the Twilight Zone TV show such as Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and George Clayton Johnson.

All good hotels have a gift shop and the Hollywood Tower Hotel is no exception. Here you can find HTH logo merchandise that is only available in this shop. Also, a number of books and pamphlets about The Twilight Zone television show are for sale.

Hotel Shop

Hotel Shop

Logo Merchandise

Outside the shop are three windows displaying elegant merchandise once for sale at the hotel. Pumpkins make up part of the window dressing in honor of Halloween. Also, a sign in the window mentions the upcoming Halloween Extravaganza, presumably being held in the Sunset Room.

Shop Window

Shop Window Sign

While researching this piece, I read of other attraction details, but I have chosen not to mention them for various reasons. But rest assured, there are more hidden treasures scattered around this outstanding attraction.

Restrictions: Guests must be at least 40" tall; cannot suffer from any neck, back, or heart problems; cannot suffer from motion sickness or claustrophobia; wheelchair guests must be able to walk in unassisted and possess full upper-body control; pregnant women may not ride.

Finally, I would like to answer a question I get time and time again: "Where are all the people?"

1. Whenever I do a photo-shoot, I arrive at opening (9am). This gives me roughly an hour to take unobstructed photos.

2. For this blog, I know that everyone rushes down Sunset Boulevard for Rock 'N' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror first thing in the morning. All I had to do was wait ten minutes for the morning onslaught to be absorbed by these two people-eaters. Then I had the street, queue, and much of the attraction to myself.

3. I made multiple trips to Disney's Hollywood Studios in order to take my pictures.

4. I'm very patient. I will wait, and wait, and wait for people to move out of my way before I snap a shot.

5. And finally, I'm very good with the computer and can remove a lot of unwanted objects from my pictures.

Because I waited patiently for everyone else to rush ahead of me, I got to ride in an elevator all by myself. Cool.

All by Myself in the Elevator

I have created a five-minute video of the Tower of Terror. I have tried to capture as much of the attraction as possible and hope that I can provide you with everything but the thrill of the drop. Enjoy!

Check back tomorrow when I present an overview of the Towers in California, Paris, and Tokyo.

February 6, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror -- Part Three

In Part One and Two of this blog series, I discussed in detail the Tower of Terror (TOT) attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In Part Three, I'm going to give you an overview of the other three TOT's around the world. Let's start with the second tower to be built.

Disney's California Adventure

Disney's California Adventure (DCA) did not open to the rave reviews Disney had hoped for. Beginning operation on February 8, 2001, it struggled for an audience. Guests continually compared it to Disneyland next store -- and there was no comparison. Something needed to be done. DCA needed more "E" attractions.

Since DCA has a "land" known as Hollywood Pictures Backlot, similar in concept to Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Imagineers looked to Florida to see what could be copied and brought to Anaheim. It didn't take too much thought to realize that the highly successful TOT would be a natural at the California park. However, there wasn't as much land in California as there is in Florida and the bean-counters wanted to spend less building the second tower. To accomplish this, the attraction would need to be redesigned significantly.

Hollywood PIctures Backlot

In Florida, guests board the elevators in four loading zones. Each elevator has its own ascent shaft and looks into its own, separate "hallway" sequence. Once the elevators reach the Fifth Dimension Room, two vehicles merge and share a single track and move toward one of the two drop shafts. Once the elevator finishes its ride and unloads its passengers, it completes the circuit and returns to the loading dock.

This configuration required a significant amount of land, something that was at a premium in California. Also, if one of the shafts was out of service, the ride's capacity was cut in half. In addition, the Fifth Dimension Room was prone to breakdowns. It was decided that a fresh look and redesign of the attraction could possibly remedy some of these problems and bring construction costs down.

First, the Imagineers eliminated the Fifth Dimension Room. Without this section of the ride, the elevators would not need to make a complete "circle" for each cycle. This would significantly reduce the footprint of the building. Now, loading and unloading would take place at the same location. However, to increase capacity, each shaft would load from one of two floors in the boiler room. As car "A" was loading on the ground floor, car "B", which had loaded from the second floor, was experiencing the ride. But since two cars cannot occupy the same shaft at the same time, the elevators travel horizontally between the shaft and loading platforms. And finally, a third drop-shaft was added to increase capacity. Now, if a problem occurs, only one third of the attraction is out of service while repairs are being made.

DCA Tower of Terror

DCA Tower of Terror

DCA Tower of Terror

It is interesting to note how similar, yet different the attractions are from one another. Take for instance the lobby. At a first glance, the DCA version looks just like the reception area in Florida, but upon closer inspection, you can see a number of subtle differences.

DCA Tower of Terro Lobby

The Imagineers felt bad about eliminating the popular Fifth Dimension Room. To make up for this, they added a new effect. Now the elevator makes a second stop on its journey to the top of the hotel. At this floor, the elevator doors open and you see a reflection of the car's inhabitants in a mirror hanging on the wall. Rod Serling tells us to "wave goodbye to the real world." A moment later, lightning strikes and electricity arcs around the mirror and everyone's face morphs into a ghostly green and eventually fades into nothingness. In the end, the mirror's reflection reveals only empty seats in your elevator.

Another change involved the hallway scene. In Florida, we see a window at the end of the hallway that eventually floats and breaks before us. But in California, we see an open elevator at the end of the hall. When you arrive at this floor, the narration says, "What happened here to dim the lights of Hollywood's brightest showplace is about to unfold once again." Then we see the doomed five appear then disappear, in the same manner as in Florida. But in California, they reappear in the open elevator at the end of the hall, which eventually drops out of sight, taking its passengers with it. A moment later, the elevator you are riding in also drops before making its numerous ascents and descents.

Tower of Terror opened at Disney's California Adventure on May 5, 2004. It is 183 feet tall, making it shorter than the Florida tower which is 199 feet in height. However, the California version extends 40 feet underground. Unofficial sources put the construction cost at $90M, $50M less than its cousin in Florida.

Tower of Terror is one of DCA's more popular attractions. And like all of its cousins around the world, the view from the top is fantastic. From here you can see the Disneyland Hotel, Disney's California Adventure, Downtown Disney, and much of Disneyland.

Walt Disney Studios Paris

Like Disney's California Adventure, The Walt Disney Studios in Paris was also suffering "theme park envy" when compared to Disneyland Paris next door. And once again, TOT came to the rescue. But unlike Florida and California, the Paris park did not have a comparable Hollywood street. One would have to be created to surround the tower.

Walt Disney Studios Hollywood Section

The Paris version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is an extremely close copy of its cousin at Disney's California Adventure. Both were designed in the "Pueblo Deco" style of architecture which is the blending of Art Deco and Native American art from the Southwest U.S. In addition, it uses the same loading system as California and has no Fifth Dimension Room, but features the mirror effect.

Paris' TOT is also the only tower to present Rod Serling's introduction in a language other than English. As the library fills, the bellboy can change from the original English recording to a French narration. Serling's voice in the French version was dubbed by a vocal artist whose voice resembled the original dubbing of the "La Quatrième Dimension" when the Twilight Zone TV show was shown in France. Both recordings feature subtitles in the opposite language.

The attraction opened on December 22, 2007. Here are a few pictures of it taken by my friend TDLFAN. Compare these to the pictures of the Disney's California Adventure tower and you can see they are practically twins.

Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror Lobby

This picture is from a Paris ad campaign.

Paris TOT Ad Campaign

Tokyo DisneySea

One of the "lands" at Tokyo DisneySea is called the American Waterfront. This section of the park is divided into three areas, New York City, New York Harbor, and Cape Cod. The time? Just after the turn of the 20th century.

One of the most recent additions to Tokyo DisneySea and the New York City section is the Tower of Terror. However, this tower varies in several ways from its cousins in the other Disney parks. In Paris and California, the exterior of the buildings have a Southwestern motif while in Florida the building has a Moroccan flavor. The Tower in Tokyo is built of red brick and has a gothic feel. To me, the Tokyo tower is the most elaborate and beautiful of the four.

Tokyo DisneySea TOT

Tokyo DisneySea TOT

Another change to the Tokyo attraction was necessitated because the Japanese are not familiar with the Twilight Zone television series. To remedy this, the Imagineers came up with a completely new storyline. Since the tours of the hotel are presented in Japanese, English speaking guests are given a handout explaining the storyline. The following five paragraphs are a direct quote from that handout.

"Welcome to the 'Tower of Terror' tour, presented by The New York City Preservation Society. On New Year's Eve in 1899, explorer, antiquities collector and multi-millionaire Harrison Hightower III held a press conference in the luxurious Hotel Hightower to announce his latest find - a statue called 'Shiriki Utundu' which he had acquired in a remote region of Africa.

Shiriki Utundu

That very night, the hotel's main elevator crashed to the ground with Hightower and the idol inside! Shiriki Utundu was recovered from the shattered elevator, but of Harrison Hightower III there was no sign. He had vanished. After his disappearance, Hotel Hightower was closed. People began calling it the 'Tower of Terror.'

Rumor has it that Shiriki Utundu is a cursed statue, and that it may have something to do with the disappearance of Mr. Hightower.

As you tour this magnificent building and view Harrison Hightower's collection of rare art from across the globe, you will also hear about the mystery of his disappearance.

The tour climaxes with a ride on the service elevator up to the top floor to see Mr. Hightower's penthouse. Please enjoy the ride."

Tour Sign in Queue

Unlike the other three towers, the queue for the Tokyo version actually christcrosses its way through the lobby.

TOT DisneySea Lobby

In the pre-show room, we see a stained-glass likeness of Harrison Hightower and a statue of Shiriki Utundu sitting on a pedestal. As the story unfolds Mr. Hightower's image changes from an arrogant robber-baron to a very fearful man. Then the lights dim and Shiriki Utundu disappears from sight. The effects are excellent and sets the stage for the terror to come.

Stained-Glass Window

From here we enter the storerooms that house Mr. Hightower's vast collection of art that he's commandeered from around the world. Eventually, we're taken to an elevator for our journey to the penthouse. An interesting note, the elevators in Tokyo's tower have shoulder harnesses as well as lap restraints. Shiriki Utundu continues to play a major roll during your rise and fall and appears over and over again.

TOT Storeroom

The exterior of the building also adds a bit of excitement to the show. Before each elevator drops, a flash of green light erupts from Mr. Hightower's penthouse and then the light travels to the window of the next elevator to fall.

Photographs of Harrison Hightower can be seen throughout the attraction. A keen eye will notice that Mr. Hightower bears a striking resemblance to Joe Rohde, designer of the Animal Kingdom.

Harrison Hightower

TOT opened at Tokyo DisneySea on September 4, 2006. I can't say that the Tokyo version of this attraction is better than the other Towers around the world. But with the storyline being so different, it does add a new excitement level. The Tokyo attraction does not have the 4th dimension room like the one in Florida. Instead, the elevator makes a second stop on its way to the top as do the Towers in California and Paris.

This completes my blog series about the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I think the Imagineers outdid themselves when dreaming up this magnificent attraction. No matter how many times I ride, I keep discovering new details.

February 11, 2010

Got A Light? - Part One - Disney's Hollywood Studios

In my never ending crusade to get people to notice the details at Walt Disney World, I recently wrote a series of blogs about the benches in the four theme parks. Although I thought the subject matter was interesting, I really wasn't sure if anyone else would find these articles worthy of note. Boy, was I surprised. I received over eighty comments thanking me for coming up with the idea.

One of my readers suggested I do a follow-up piece about the trashcans and how they are themed. With this in mind, I looked around at the waste receptacles with a critical eye. But to be honest, the trashcans really aren't that different between lands and parks. For the most part, the same style receptacle is used over and over again. The only real variation is a slightly different paint job as you transition from land to land. But I liked the idea of doing a second series so I kept an eye out for another concept. It wasn't long before I noticed the lampposts and how much they play a part in the theming of a given area. I also discovered that there is a tremendous amount of variation between posts, sometimes within the same land.

So for the next four days, I'm going to give you a sampling of these illuminating towers. For the most part, I will be concentrating on lamp"posts." There are so many other lighting fixtures that it would be impossible to cover them all. But for variety sake, I will throw in an occasional non-post just to make sure you're paying attention. Since the article is about the lampposts, not the light they emit, I took the pictures in the daytime so I could actually capture the "fixture" in my photograph.

I'm beginning this series at Disney's Hollywood Studios simply because that was the first park I photographed. Let's start in the parking lot. These lights are utilitarian. They serve their purpose and brightly light the cars below. Disney has tried to spruce these guys up by adding banners. Also, they serve a double function by displaying the parking section.

Parking Lot Lamp Post

Surrounding the small lake that connects with the waterway between the Studio and Epcot we find a rather modern looking fixture. Once again, banners have been added to liven things up.

Lake Lamp Posts

Near the ticket booths is this simple, double light fixture.

Entrance Area Lamp Posts

The lampposts on Hollywood Boulevard are far more elaborate than their counterparts outside the gate and are reminiscent of a bygone era. Similar posts can still be found in many cities and towns to this day. This same design extends into the courtyard in and around Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat.

Hollywood Blvd Lamp Post

Even though Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards have similar architecture, the streetlamps are different. The first half of Sunset sees intricate fixtures while further down the street we find a more utilitarian light. Notice that these simpler posts also do double duty with an armature to support the electric cable for the Red Car.

Ornate Sunset Blvd Lamp Post

Simple Sunset Blvd Lamp

Here we see a lamppost at Sunset Ranch Market. In Part 4 of this series you'll see this same fixture in Dinoland U.S.A.

Sunset Ranch Market Lamp Post

Although not streetlamps, this clock and old traffic signal can also be found on Sunset Boulevard. I selected these two fixtures because they are both tall and slender and light up.

Sunset Blvd Clock

Sunset Blvd Signal

There are two different, but similar lampposts near the Tower of Terror. The first can be found in the queue and the second near the exit.

Twilight Zone Lamp Post

Twilight Zone Lamp Post

A number of tall and slender street lamps are located in the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster courtyard.

Rock 'N' Roller Coaster Lamp Post

The Hollywood Brown Derby sports its own, unique lamps. These have a stylized Asian design to complement the nearby Chinese Theater. In addition, Chinese designs and styles were popular in the 20's through the 40's.

Brown Derby Lamp Post

The light posts in Animation Courtyard always display banners for a new or recent Disney animated feature. Here we see a banner for "The Princess and the Frog."

Animation Courtyard Lamp Post

As we know, Disney does a fantastic job at landscaping their parks. And their efforts don't stop at ground level. This next, art deco styled lamp, complete with hanging baskets, can be found outside the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" attraction.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Lamp Post

Flanking both sides of Pixar Place is another art deco beauty. This lamppost was selected because it blends in well with the nearby soundstages.

Mickey Ave Lamp Post

Mickey Ave Lamp Post

Perhaps the most stark lamppost of all can be found within Pixar Place. It's simple design does not compete with the busy brickwork and array of toys strewn around the area.

Pixar Place Lamp Post

As we approach the "Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" streetlamps typical of a city park line the roadway.

Lights, Motors, Action! Lamp Post

At the end of New York Street is a traffic signal that might have been found in the Big Apple around the 1940's. Once again, I threw this fixture in because it was tall and lights up.

New York Street Signal

I was expecting the lampposts on New York Street to be elaborate like those found on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. But to my surprise, they were really quite simple.

New York Street Lamp Post

However, around the corner on San Francisco Street, the streetlamps are far more decorative. Also, take a look at the large backdrop. The artists were careful to recreate the same fixtures in their painting. While on the Streets of America, be sure to read the various signs attached to the posts. They help tell the story of your surroundings.

San Francisco Street Lamp Post

San Francisco Street Backdrop

In the plaza outside of "MuppetVision 3D" the lampposts are typical of those that would be found in any city park.

MuppetVision 3D Lamp Post

The areas around "Star Tours" and "Backlot Express" resemble a working outdoor movie set. Once again, the lamps found here are utilitarian and are typical of those found in many of the studios of the 30's and 40's.

Star Wars

Echo Lake is lined with another Asian-themed light fixture. Once again, this design helps tie the area in with the nearby Chinese Theater. Remember, in the early years, Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat was not there and there was a more cohesive feel between this famous landmark and the surrounding area.

Echo Lake Lamp Post

Finally, another park-like fixture can be found outside the Hollywood & Vine Restaurant.

Hollywood & Vine Lamp Post

Tomorrow we'll take a look at Epcot.

February 12, 2010

Got A Light? - Part Two - Epcot

In Part Two of my Lamppost blogs I'll be discussing the many variations of these light fixtures found at Epcot. Let's start outside the gate. Leading from the bus stop to the ticket booths are these very modern fixtures, each with a banner. The ticket booths themselves are covered with a large overhang with recessed lighting so no lampposts are found near the entrance.

Lamp Post - Walkway from the Bus Stop

In addition, the large forecourt in front of Spaceship Earth also has no lampposts. In-ground lighting and fixtures located alongside the flower beds provide a low level, muted illumination.

In Innoventions Courtyard we find lamp posts with a somewhat space aged appearance.

Innoventions Courtyard Lamp Post

The lampposts in Future World West are all identical to one another. They're also the same make-and-model as the fixtures out front of Epcot, minus the banners.

Future World West Lamp Post

In keeping with the automotive theme, the streetlamps in Front of Test Track in Future World East look like those that might be found along an interstate or turnpike.

Test Track Lamp Post

In front of Mission: Space the fixtures are sleek and straight, almost as if they were blasting off to the stars.

Mission: Space Lamp Post

There are no lampposts in front of the Energy Pavilion. Low level lighting is all you'll find in this area.

Future World also has some, how should I put this, unattractive fixtures. But what's interesting is that until I started searching for lamp post to picture in my blog, I never noticed them. Even for all their ugliness, they seem to blend in with their surroundings.

Ugly Lamp Post

Ugly Lamp Post

Ugly Lamp Post

As I did in Part One of this series, I want to include a few non-lampposts -- items that have nothing to do with lighting, but scream to be included anyway. This next picture is of a birdhouse located between Test Track and Mouse Gear.

Bird House

The bridge that joins Future World with World Showcase is a transition area. Buildings and fixtures placed here must blend seamlessly with both lands. Here is the lamppost the Imagineers chose to line this walkway.

Transition Lamp Post

Circling World Showcase Lagoon are a number of post not readily associated to a particular nation. There is some variation from one post to the next, but there is a basic style that remains constant as you travel around the promenade. Here are two examples.

Promenade Lamp Post

Promenade Lamp Post

Let's start our journey around World Showcase with Mexico. The bridge that approaches this pavilion features very ornate, wrought iron half-post fixtures.

Mexico Lamp Post

The vast majority of the lighting within the Mexico Pavilion comes from the various marketplace stalls scattered around the area. However, there are several stylish, five-globe streetlamps that were prominent during the colonial period of Mexico's history.

Mexico Lamp Post

In the Norway Pavilion we find a number of different lampposts. Everything from the very rustic to the very fashionable. Some of these "lanterns" would have fit right in with the Castle Akershus, the 14th century fortress fashioned here.

Norway Lamp Post

Norway Lamp Post

Norway Lamp Post

As you would expect, China has some very stylized fixtures. Those along the promenade have a pagoda-like feel while those in the courtyard look like stone lanterns. If you venture deeper into the pavilion, bamboo and decorative globes create illuminating works of art.

China Lamp Post

China Lamp Post

China Lamp Post

China Lamp Post

Most of the lighting at African Outpost comes from the shops and a few bare light bulbs strung overhead. But this area does have one "hidden" lamppost. I want to thank my friend Rob for bringing this to my attention.

African Outpost Lamp

The Germany Pavilion was inspired by villages found along the Rhine and the light fixtures here would be typical of many of these communities. Only two posts are represented here and both are very similar in appearance. Notice the posts all sport baskets filled with geraniums year-round.

Germany Lamp Post

Germany Lamp Post

The Italy Pavilion was modeled after the Doge's Palace in Venice. Here you'll find some of the most exquisite and beautiful lampposts in World Showcase. They complement the architecture beautifully in the day and even more so in the evening.

Italy Lamp Post

Italy Lamp Post

Italy Lamp Post

The American Adventure only has one style of lamppost. It's simple and reflects the colonial design of the pavilion.

American Adventure Lamp Post

The primary lampposts in the Japan Pavilion have blue tops to match the nearby pagoda. This pagoda was modeled after an 8th century structure located in the Horyuji Temple in Nara. Further back in the pavilion large lanterns, reminiscent of traditional Japanese paper lanterns, hang from bamboo poles.

Japan Lamp Post

Japan Lamp Post

Although not a source of illumination, I felt this stone lantern must be included in my tour.

Japan Stone Lantern

The Morocco Pavilion is divided into two sections. The front half, with a replica of the Koutoubia Minaret, represents Marrakech while the back half is the "old city" of Media. However both sections share the same design of lamppost. Pay attention to the detail and you'll notice the post has a spiral design and the colored glass is supported by intricate metal work.

Morocco Lamp Post

The architecture for the France Pavilion recalls the Belle Epoque ("beautiful age") style of design which was prevalent during the second half of the 19th century. The streetlamps also reflect this era. The first posts you encounter are out front of the Chefs de France restaurant.

France Lamp Post

Near the Boulangerie Patisserie the lamps take on a more Art Nouveau design.

France Lamp Post

And finally, in the Galerie de Halles we find lampposts appropriate to this grand marketplace designed by noted French architect Victor Baltard.

France Lamp Post

My next non-lamppost is also found in the France Pavilion. This ornate pole supports a clock and is located in a lovely garden to the right side of the entrance.

France Clock

The United Kingdom Pavilion seamlessly combines a number of locales into a small area. An elegant town square coexists with a waterside pub and rural country dwellings. And the lamppost all blend in naturally with the appropriate surroundings.

United Kingdom Lamp Post

United Kingdom Lamp Post

United Kingdom Lamp Post

As much of the Canada Pavilion is placed in Disney's version of the Rocky Mountains, the lampposts here have a rustic look. Gas lanterns, the type that miners and frontiersmen might have used, are perched on poles and suspended high above.

Canada Lamp Post

Canada Lamp Post

Canada Lamp Post

In the lovely Victoria Gardens, inspired by the Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, we find a lamppost befitting of this lovely park. These gardens are the largest (and most labor intensive) of all the Epcot pavilions.

Canada Lamp Post

My last offering in this blog is not a lamppost, but how could I ignore possibly the most famous bit of lighting in the park. IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is a wonderful show and begins each evening with the narrator "blowing out" all of the nineteen torches which surround World Showcase Lagoon. As the show was originally created for the Millennium Celebration, the torches represent the nineteen centuries of the Common Era. The twentieth torch is presented and lit at the end of the show as the globe opens up and it rises from within. Each of the water-side torches stand 27 feet high.

IllumiNations Torch

In tomorrow's blog I'll be discussing the lampposts of the Magic Kingdom.

February 13, 2010

Got A Light? - Part Three - Magic Kingdom

In this third installment of my Lamppost blog series I'm going to discuss the Magic Kingdom. This first of the Disney World parks has a lot of diversity with its many lands and adventures so let's get started.

Out in the parking lot we find extremely tall light towers. They're not particularly attractive, but they do their job.

Parking Lot Lamppost

The Transportation and Ticket Center has similar, yet slightly different light fixtures than the parking lot. Take a look at the actual lights and you can see the difference. Thank goodness the lighting options within the Magic Kingdom show more imagination than these peripheral fixtures.

TTC Lamppost

The lampposts around the monorail station and adjacent area has a simplified "Main Street" look about them. This helps set the mood for your adventure to come.

Monorail Lamppost

A description often used when describing the era of Main Street is, "It's a time when gas lamps were giving way to the electric light bulb." How fitting since street lighting is the subject of this blog. The first fixtures we come to on Main Street are on Town Square and the Train Station. Here, multi-globed electric lights sit atop ornate poles. The lamps at street level are painted in a drab shade of green whereas the fixtures located on the upper levels of the Train Station have a bronze texture.

Town Square Lamppost

Train Station Lamppost

As we leave Town Square and walk down Main Street, we find that gas lamps are still king.

Main Street Lamppost

As I've done in the two previous Lamppost blogs, I've included a few non-lights simply because they cry out to be a part of this article. In this next picture we see a stately clock proudly displaying the current time. And in a way, it is a lamp as it does light up.

Main Street Clock

On The Hub, we find the same glass globes that are used in Town Square, but here the posts take on a simpler, less ornate design. In the second picture the light fixture sits atop a speaker.

The Hub Lamppost

The Hub Lamppost and Speaker

Let's turn our attention next to Tomorrowland. Although there is lighting between The Hub and the entrance of this futuristic land, none of it is in the form of lampposts. The first such fixtures don't show up until you reach Rockettower Plaza and you find them encircling this structure. It would be difficult to find a more simplified design than this.

Rockettower Plaza Lamppost

I applaud the Imagineer that thought up the idea of metal palm trees. These offer a whimsical touch to this concrete expanse and provide accent lighting when "up lights" illuminate the fronds in the evening. .

Palm Tree Lamppost

Along the route of the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, lighting typical of any highway can be found.

Tomorrowland Indy Speedway Lamppost

The rest of the lamppost lighting in Tomorrowland is uninspired. The poles look like the type you might find in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I think this is a throwback to the early visions of Tomorrowland when everything was designed to look stark and sterile.

Tomorrowland Lamppost

Let's move next to Mickey's Toontown Fair. But first, let's take a look at the lampposts positioned just outside this land's entrance (located in Fantasyland).

Fantasyland/Toontown Lamppost

Now let's look at the lamps within Mickey's Toontown Fair. Notice how similar, yet slightly different they are. This similarity helps create a smooth transition between the two lands.

Toontown Lamppost

Next to The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm, the lamps are utilitarian, as might be found on a rural structure, and attach to no-nonsense 4x4s. And at Donald's Boat, nautical lanterns sit atop similar posts.

Barnstormer Lamppost

Donald's Boat Lamppost

There is a walkway that connects Mickey's Toontown Fare with Tomorrowland. The first picture shows the lamps lining the initial half of the path, while the second photo displays the lights closer to Tomorrowland. Notice again how similar, yet different they are, providing a smooth transition between lands. Also notice that the Tomorrowland globes have a ring around them, suggesting the planet Saturn.

Toontown/Tomorrowland Walkway Lamppost

Toontown/Tomorrowland Walkway Lamppost

My final mention in Mickey's Toontown Fair is not a lamppost, but I felt it qualified for an honorable mention since it's tall, slender, and lights up at the top.

Train Signal

In Fantasyland there are a number of lovely lanterns located in and around Cinderella Castle. The colored glass used in these fixtures provides atmospheric enhancement more than useful lighting

Castle Lamppost

Playful lampposts surround Dumbo. Pay special attention to the decorative tops. A scene from the movie is recreated here.

Dumbo Lamppost

Dumbo Lamppost Top

One of the most unusual lighting creations was designed for Ariel's Grotto. This seaweed and shell lamp fits right in "under the sea."

Ariel's Grotto Lamppost

Another bit of unusual lamppost design can be found near the Mad Tea Party. In this case, fanciful leaves and flowers create whimsical illumination for the area.

Mad Tea Party Lamppost

The lampposts near Pooh's Playful Spot are rustic and are just what you'd expect to find in the 100 Acre Wood.

Pooh's Playful Spot Lamppost

The majority of the lampposts scattered around Fantasyland are black wrought iron and typical of what might have been found in a European village of long ago.

Fantasyland Lamppost

Fantasyland Lamppost

Fantasyland Lamppost

As we travel into Liberty Square, we see lighting fixtures lining the bridge. These posts are actually part of the structure's design.

Liberty Square Entrance Lamppost

There are two lampposts in front of Hall of Presidents. These simple, colonial fixtures would be inconsequential if not for the eagles perched on the top of each.

Hall of Presidents Lamppost

Hall of Presidents Lamppost Top

As you might expect, the Haunted Mansion has its own unique lampposts. Years of neglect have allowed a green patina to form on the metal's surface and the lamps themselves have a spooky look about them.

Hall of Presidents Lamppost

The rest of the lighting in Liberty Square fits right in with the Federal and Georgian architecture of the area. These lanterns, in days gone by, would have been lit each evening by a lamplighter.

Liberty Square Lamppost

My final non-light for this blog is one of the birdhouses found near Hall of Presidents. In reality, no birds live here as this is just a hiding place for a speaker.

Liberty Square Birdhouse

Now let's jump over to the entrance of Adventureland. Several years ago, a bridge was built linking this area with Liberty Square. The lamppost that guards this passageway is another good example of transition. The ropes binding the beams together have more of an Adventureland feel while the lanterns would be more at home in Liberty Square.

Adventureland/Liberty Square Lamppost

This next photo is of the lamppost that illuminates the entrance walkway into Adventureland.

Adventureland Entrance Lamppost

The basic lamppost used in the first half of Adventureland has a colonial feel about it -- as if it was transported here by Europeans as they discovered new territories.

Adventureland Lamppost

Near Swiss Family Treehouse, the lampposts are makeshift. The family used salvaged goods from the shipwreck to fashion lighting fixtures.

Swiss Family Treehouse Lamppost

The lampposts that surround Magic Carpets of Aladdin are ornate and suggest a locale somewhere in the Middle East. Once again, the colored glass allows these lights to function more as a decorative enhancement than a functional bit of lighting.

Magic Carpets of Aladdin Lamppost

In Caribbean Plaza, the lampposts are very elaborate and fit nicely with the Spanish colonial architecture.

Caribbean Plaza Lamppost

The final section of the Magic Kingdom I'll be discussing is Frontierland. Here, almost all of the lighting is in the form of kerosene lanterns (electrified) hung or mounted on a rustic pole.

Frontierland Lamppost

Frontierland Lamppost

Frontierland Lamppost

Frontierland Lamppost

Frontierland Lamppost

It's interesting to note that the wooden walkway that skirts the Rivers of America has two different lanterns. The first picture shows the lights closer to Liberty Square and the second displays the fixtures closer to Splash Mountain. Once again, the use of different light helps with the transition between the two lands.

Frontierland Walkway Lamppost

Frontierland Walkway Lamppost

Well that's it for the Magic Kingdom. Tomorrow I'll post the final blog in this series all about Disney's Animal Kingdom.

February 14, 2010

Got A Light? Part Four – Animal Kingdom

This is the last blog in my series about lamp posts. The Animal Kingdom, the newest of the Disney World parks, has a number of custom made fixtures worth your attention. As in previous articles, I'll begin this tour in the parking lot, were we find a utilitarian fixture that is unremarkable at best. The Animal Kingdom usually closes before the sun goes down, but on those occasions when the park is open late, these tall giants help us find our cars by not only illuminating the ground below, but also by marking the section where we parked our car.

Parking Log Lamppost

Near the bus loading and unloading area are these simple fixtures. Banners help spruce up otherwise unremarkable lights.

Bus Station Lampposts

It's not until we arrive at the tram loading area that we get our first taste of the fun lamps that populate the Animal Kingdom. If you look closely at these lights, you can see the park's logo created out of metal and glass.

Tram Lamppost

Tram Lamppost

Animal Kingdom Logo

The Oasis acts as a transition between the outside urban world and the land of nature and animals. In keeping with this natural theme, two bamboo styles of lampposts are used in this area.

Oasis Lamppost

Oasis Lamppost

Discovery Island was designed to tie all of the other lands of the Animal Kingdom together. In this "center" land, you can find a multitude of animals in all shapes and sizes. But the Imagineers didn't want to convey any specific area of the world as this would detract from the other sections of the park. So they created a playful atmosphere - an almost cartoon-land of animals. This design lends itself to some of the most entertaining lampposts at Disney World.

This first lamp is the "basic" fixture of Discovery Island and can be found throughout the area.

Basic Discovery Island Lamppost

In front of the Disney Outfitters store we find this whimsical lamppost. The top is adorned with an owl while the entire pole is supported on the back of a turtle.

Disney Outfitters Lamppost

Turtle Base

The Island Mercantile store was themed with animals that "work." So it's fitting that outside the shop we find elephants holding lanterns in their trunks.

Island Mercantile Lamppost

In front of Pizzafari the lampposts have large butterflies resting on top of the light. This makes sense since moths are drawn to flames. And while you're in the area, be sure to visit the inside of this restaurant for more interesting theming. Each of the four dining rooms displays animals grouped together by their similarities. See if you can figure it out.

Pizzafari Lamppost

Butterfiles on to of Lamppost

In front of the Creature Comforts shop is this amusing ladybug lamppost. Once again, this is appropriate since this store is themed with animals featuring spots and stripes.

Creature Comfort Lamppost

Ladybug Lamppost

Over near Flame Tree BBQ are more fanciful lampposts. The first fixture features a spider and her web while the second displays another owl, but this time, we find bunnies on the lanterns.

Spider Lamppost

Spider Lamppost

Owl and Bunny Lamppost

Owl and Bunny Lamppost

At a first glance, the tower in the next picture looks like nothing more than ornamental decoration. But upon closer inspection, you can see the brightly colored banner actually houses a light. Be sure to take a moment and look at the intricate carvings on this pole. Numerous animals have been meticulously sculpted onto its surface.

Carved Lamppost

Carved Lamppost

Camp Minnie/Mickey only has one light fixture throughout the entire area. To be honest, when I studied it in detail, I wasn't sure it fit with the theme of camping in the Great Outdoors. I would think Coleman lanterns would be more appropriate for this task. Then I got to thinking"

As you might already know, Camp Minnie/Mickey was originally built to be a "place holder" until the corporate budget could afford to build Beastly Kingdom, an area featuring mythological animals. At that time, Camp Minnie/Mickey would be razed to make room for a mystical land filled with fabled creatures. I think these existing light fixtures tell this second story far more effectively and perhaps the Imagineers always planned to reuse them in Beastly Kingdom. Hmmm.

Camp Minnie/Mickey Lamppost

Camp Minnie/Mickey Lamppost

On the bridge leading into Africa and Harambe we find this double-fixture leading the way.

Africal Bridge Lamppost

Much of the lighting in the central marketplace of Harambe comes from overhead fixtures strung across the street. It's not until you leave the village and enter the outskirts of town that you find a smattering of lampposts. Most of these are simple and makeshift as much of Africa is poor and expensive fixtures would be out of the question.

African Outskirts Lamppost

One would assume that these next two, more elaborate examples, were brought to Harambe by Europeans during the colonial years.

Colonial Lamppost

Colonial Lamppost

There are no lampposts on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. This area is a nature preserve where scientists and students observe animals in their natural habitat. The last thing you would want to do in this environment is draw attention to yourself so the trails were intentionally left dark.

There is a long pathway that leads from Harambe, Africa to Anandapur, Asia. As you would expect, the lighting changes as you leave one area for another. The first picture is on the African side and the second on the Asian.

African Trail Lamppost

Asian Trail Lamppost

On the bridge that leads from Discovery Island into Asia we find this next lamppost. It has a decided Thai design.

Asian Bridge Lamppost

As we enter Anandapur we see a number of rusting electrical towers. Attached to these are neon fixtures. As we venture out of town, the metal towers give way to a more traditional wooden pole to carry the jumble of wires and lighting fixtures.

Anandapur Metal Tower Lamppost

Anandapur Wooden Pole Lamppost

A few ornamental lampposts can be found scattered around the area.

Asian Ornamental Lamppost

Guests enter the Kali River Rapids attraction via an elaborate temple. As no expense was spared when building this opulent structure, it makes sense to find ornate lampposts were incorporated into the design.

Kali Temple Lamppost

There are no lampposts along the Maharaja Jungle Trek. The only lighting here comes from stone lanterns that line portions of the path.

Maharaja Jungle Trek Lantern

Our next stop in Asia is Expedition Everest. As the setting here is in the high plains that surround the Himalayan Mountains, resources are scarce and money is hard to come by. Most of the structures are makeshift and the lampposts are no exception. Near the more populated area surrounding the booking office and temple we see light fixtures hanging from electrical poles.

Electrical Tower Lamppost

As we venture further away from civilization, kerosene lanterns become the main source of lighting - including that Coleman lantern that I think should be found in Camp Minnie/Mickey.

Kerosene Lanterns

Kerosene Lanterns

Kerosene Lanterns

Kerosene Lanterns

Our final stop in the Animal Kingdom is Dinoland USA. One must remember the backstory for this land in order for some of the posts to make sense. Before prehistoric bones were found in the area, there was little here except an old hunting lodge. Because of this, lamps are simple and rustic as can be seen by these next two examples.

Hunting Lodge Lampposts

Hunting Lodge Lamppost

This next fixture adorns the walkway leading to the old lodge.

Hunting Lodge Lamppost

Years later, when fossils were discovered and the Dino Institute was built, the areas around the digs were provided with more up-to-date lamps and the institute was given a fixture appropriate to its stately architecture.

Dig Lamppost

Dino Institute Lamppost

Along the road that separates the Dino Institute from Chester and Hester's Dinorama, lampposts typical of many highways can be found.

Highway Lamppost

There are no lamppost at Chester and Hester's. All of the lighting here is provided by dozens of bare light bulbs strung overhead.

Outside the Theater in the Wild is this modern lamppost. It fits appropriately with the building's contemporary architecture.

Theater in the Wild Lamppost

Well that's it for my lamppost blogs. I hope you've enjoyed my tour of these lighting fixtures around the four parks of Walt Disney World. As I said in my first blog, there are numerous other lighting options that are every bit as interesting and themed appropriately to their surroundings. My main objective in writing this article was to help open your eyes to the many details that surround you when you visit this magical place. Little things we take for granted and don't even notice, play a part in our overall enjoyment of the parks. Who would have thought that lampposts could be interesting?

Next time you visit, pick a topic. Check out doorknobs, or fences, or windows -- anything you like. Then pay attention as you move from land to land and park to park. You'll be amazed at what you discover.

February 15, 2010

Japan – Timeless Beauty

Timeless Beauty

A new exhibit has opened in the Japan Pavilion. Entitled "Timeless Beauty," this display heralds the World Heritage sites of Japan. The entrance is located at the back of the pavilion on the left side as you enter the castle.

Entrance to Timelss Beauty

In 1971, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted an international treaty to identify, protect and preserve natural and cultural places of outstanding value to humanity. World Heritage sites belong to all people, no matter the country in which they are located. This new exhibit showcases the 14 World Heritage sites found throughout Japan.

UNESCO World Heritage Map of Japan

When you enter the exhibit, the first thing you notice is the rock garden. Often called "Zen gardens," these were influenced mainly by Zen Buddhism and can often be found at temples of meditation. Rock gardens first appeared in the Muromachi period of Japanese history (1392-1568) and create symbolic representations of natural landscapes using stone arrangements, white sand, moss and pruned trees. When reflecting on this work of art, one might wonder, "Does it represent islands floating on a sea, or mountain peaks rising above the clouds?"

Japanese Rock Garden

The walls of this tranquil room are lined with the photographs of Kazuyoshi Miyoshi. An honored Japanese photographer, Mr. Miyoshi published a collection of his works in 1998 entitled "The World Heritage In Japan" and some of his photographs can be seen here.

Miyoshi Photographs

If you want to learn more about the World Heritage sites of Japan, a pamphlet is available.

Japan World Heritage Pamphlet

Will this exhibit knock your socks off? Nope. Should you visit it anyway? Yep. After you've wondered through the Mitsukoshi Department Store, you'll pass right by the entrance as you exit the building. This exhibit won't take more than five minutes of your time. And the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful pictures found in this room will feel like a deep breath and give you the courage to face the throngs of people just outside the door. Please, give it a try and give some of the photographs more than a passing glance. You'll be glad you did.

February 20, 2010

Crew’s Cup Lounge

Crew's Cup Lounge Logo

The other afternoon, I was bored and wanted something to do -- I needed to get out of the house for a while. I didn't feel like going into a theme park; that would require too much effort. But I was in the mood for something at Disney. I finally decided that a diet coke and a snack at any of the resorts would fill the bill. But where? Many of the hotel restaurants close between lunch and dinner and I wasn't in the mood for any of their counter service eateries. These would be much too frenetic for my leisurely mood. I needed something quiet.

After a lot of thought, I remembered the Crew's Cup Lounge located at the Yacht Club Resort. For those of you who aren't familiar with this spot, it's located next door to the Yachtsman Steakhouse. Its entrance is rather inconspicuous and easily missed.

Crew's Cup Lounge Entrance

Crew's Cup Lounge Sign

Yachtsman Steakhouse

The atmosphere is decidedly dark and intimate. In fact, I had to brighten my pictures so you could see what the place looks like. There is a counter at which you can sit and enjoyed the bartender's company, four cozy booths, and a number of tables and chairs scattered around this comfortable hide-a-way.

Full Service Bar

Four Booths

Tables and Chairs

Although this lounge's primary purpose is to provide a spot in which to wait for your table when dining at the Yachtsman Steakhouse, this is wonderful place in its own right. As you might conclude from the name, the theme here is rowing. An abundance of wood furnishings, mirrored and textured walls, and rowing memorabilia create a sporting atmosphere that is inviting to both men and women. A large screen TV is usually tuned to ESPN, however, it doesn't intrude.

The Crew's Cup Lounge opens daily at noon. Last call is at 11:45 and closes at midnight. Appetizers are served all day. They are as follows:

Buffalo Chicken Breast Nuggets - served with Celery Sticks and Blue Cheese Dressing - $7.99
Nachos - with Beef Chili, Cheddar, Cheese, and Salsa - $8.49
Spinach Dip with Chips - $7.49
Honey-Ginger Chicken Wings - $8.49

I had the Nachos and was very pleased. There was an abundance of chili and this dish would provide one person a full meal or could easily be shared with two or three.


On a subsequent visit, I ordered Spinach Dip with Chips and Buffalo Chicken Breast Nuggets. I believe the Spinach Dip is the same "side dish" that is served at the Yachtsman Steakhouse. Regardless, they're delicious. The Buffalo Nuggets were very spicy, but if you dip them in the accompanying blue cheese dressing, it cuts the fire.

Spinach Dip and Chips

Buffalo Chicken Nuggets

A limited lunch menu is offered and served from 2 pm until 5:30 pm. Featured are two sandwiches, a burger, and clam chowder. These items are prepared in the Captain's Grill kitchen and are identical to what you would receive at that restaurant.

A scaled-down dinner menu is available at the Crew's Cup Lounge from 5:30pm to 10pm. Filet Mignon, Beef Sirloin, and Beef Ravioli are offered along with a number of side dishes. Four different cheese platters and two desserts also tempt during the evening hours. These meals are served out of the Yachtsman Steakhouse kitchen and would be comparable to what you would receive there.

A large window on one wall of the Crew's Cup Lounge looks into the aging/cutting room of the Yachtsman Steakhouse. In the evening, it's fun to watch the chef preparing the various cuts of meat.

Window into Yachtsman Steakhouse

Aging and Cutting Room

Disney World can be hectic and finding a peaceful spot away from it all can be difficult at times. If you're looking for a quiet spot where you can enjoy a cocktail, light bite, or a full meal, this is the perfect place. Although children are welcome, they are usually not in abundance. Evenings are busier than afternoons as many have a drink here before heading next door for dinner. In the afternoon, you can often enjoy the Crew's Cup Lounge with just your party and the bartender. I highly recommend this hidden Disney treasure.

This restaurant does NOT accept reservations and is NOT on the Disney Dining Plan, but it does accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount.

Crew's Cup Menu

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About February 2010

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

January 2010 is the previous archive.

March 2010 is the next archive.

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