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May 4, 2010

Port Orleans – Riverside

Port Orleans Logo


I recently spent three nights at Walt Disney World - each night in a different resort. I experienced a value (Pop Century), moderate (Port Orleans Riverside), and deluxe (Wilderness Lodge Villas) resort. I did this so I could update some of the pictures on Allears.net and to gain information in order to write reviews.

But before I start discussing Port Orleans Riverside, I'd like to share with you some of the general differences between resort categories.

The first interesting fact is the "room charging privileges" afforded guests. In each case, I secured my reservation with the same credit card. In the value resort, I was told I could use my room key to charge up to $500 to my account. In the moderate resort I could charge $1,000 and in the deluxe $1,500.

There was definitely a difference in the quality of the toilet paper and the thickness of the towels between the budget and deluxe resorts.

The deluxe room offered shampoo, conditioner, and body scrub. The budget and moderate resorts only provided shampoo.

And of course, room size. The more you pay, the bigger the room.

Okay, onto Port Orleans Riverside.

Construction started in the fall of 1989 and the resort opened on February 2, 1992 as Disney's Dixie Landings with 2,048 rooms. On April 1, 2001, the resort merged with the nearby Port Orleans Resort. Dixie Landings was renamed Port Orleans - Riverside and what was Port Orleans became Port Orleans - French Quarter.

From this point forward, I will refer to the resort only as Riverside.


Riverside%20001.jpg


The Riverside Resort harkens back to the old south of the 19th century. The place? Somewhere along the Sassagoula River. Sassagoula is an Indian word for Mississippi. A small town has sprung up along the river's banks and both the wealthy and common folk have populated the surrounding area. This was a graceful era when jawin' with your kinfolk on the front porch with a mint julep in hand was the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon.

Your stay begins underneath the porte-cochère where bellmen can help you with your luggage and direct you to the check-in desk. Also in this area is the Airline Check-in counter. At departure time, those guests using American, Continental, Delta, United, JetBlue, US Airways, AirTran and Southwest can check their luggage and receive boarding passes at this location and skip the hassle found at the airport.


Porte-cochère

Airport Check-in


Check-in takes place inside the Sassagoula Steamboat Company building. This area was designed after the inside of an actual riverboat. Check-in time is 3pm. If you check in early, you can make arrangements for the front desk to call you when your room is ready to be occupied. Bell Services will be happy to store your luggage until that time.


Check-in Counter


Be sure to check out the ceiling in the check-in area. Circling the room are a number of cities serviced by the Sassagoula Steamboat Company.


Ports of Call


Located off the main lobby is Fulton's General Store. In addition to the typical Disney souvenirs and clothing, snacks, sundries, magazines, and baby products are available. This shop also has several animated Disney characters worked into the displays.


Fulton's General Store.

Fulton's General Store.

Fulton's General Store.


Next to Fulton's is the River Roost Lounge. This cozy location offers overstuffed chairs and an inviting fireplace. If you want to mingle with others, have a seat at the bar and strike up a conversation with fellow vacationers and the friendly bartenders.


River Roost Lounge

River Roost Lounge

River Roost Lounge


But the best thing about the River Roost Lounge is "Ye Haa" Bob Jackson. This hilarious guy performs Wednesday through Saturday from 8:31pm to midnight. To call his show a sing-a-long would be a misnomer. It's more like a bunch a friends getting together for a toe-tappin' good time. Familiar songs, antics, and audience participation fill the evening - and kids are more than welcome.

I can't recommend this show enough. Bob has a loyal following and to many, a trip to Walt Disney World without seeing his performance is unthinkable. Plus, the show is free! There is no cover charge and no minimum drink order. So even if you're not residing at the Riverside Resort, I strongly urge you to head this way one evening during your stay for a knee-slapping good time.



If you're looking for a quieter, more intimate moment, check out the River Roost Lounge on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday evenings. This establishment is open daily from 4pm until midnight.

I have put together a five minute video featuring some of the highlights of "Ye Haa" Bob Jackson's show. This will give you a good idea of what's in store.



The River Roost Lounge is also a good spot to wait for a table to open up at Boatwright's Dining Hall next door. This restaurant is fashioned after an old ship building facility and actual tools of the trade line the wall. The center piece of the restaurant is the under-construction "New Orleans lugger." Lugger boats were used to haul cotton up and down the Mississippi River in the 1820s. This authentic reproduction was built by the Brewer's Ship Yard with plans secured from the Smithsonian Institute. Other sections of the restaurant feature a more intimate atmosphere complete with fireplace. Boatwright's can seat 208 guests.


Boatwright's

Boatwright's

Boatwright's


I wrote a review of Boatwright's Dining Hall in July 2008 and you can read it by clicking here. Boatwright's is open only for dinner. The hours are 5pm to 10pm. Reservations are strongly suggested and can be made online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE.

The other dining option at the resort is Riverside Mill Food Court. This eatery was themed after an old Southern cotton mill and features a cotton press powered by an authentic 35 foot water wheel. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner from five stations and offers a wide variety of options. Everything from pizza, pasta, hamburgers, chicken, custom-made salads, and outstanding carrot cake are offered. In addition, a selection of beer and wine are on hand. I've had a number of meals here over the years and have always been pleased.

Breakfast is served from 7am to 11am. Lunch and dinner from 11am to 10pm. The bakery is open from 6am to midnight and a limited night menu is available from 10pm to midnight. The seating area can accommodate 450 guests.

A word of warning" I ventured into the Riverside Mill Food Court around 10am on the morning of my visit. I have never seen such an onslaught of people. The line at each food station had between 15-20 people waiting to order - and the lines at the cash registers were similar. I strongly suggest dragging yourself out of bed early to avoid this madhouse unless you really enjoy standing in line and eating cold food due to the long wait to pay.


Riverside Mill Food Court

Riverside Mill Food Court

Riverside Mill Food Court

Riverside Mill Food Court


The Medicine Show Arcade, located in the Sassagoula Steamboat Company building, offers kids, big and small, a chance to lose themselves for a while in electronic magic. The arcade is open 24 hours a day.


Medicine Show Arcade

Medicine Show Arcade


When you stand back from the main buildings of the resort, you can see that they are designed to look like a small town along the river.


Town along the River

Town along the River


In the mood for a little recreation? Then head over to the Riverside Levee. A number of boats, bikes, and surreys are available for rent by the hour and half-hour. In the evening (6:00-9:30), 25-minute carriage rides are the perfect way to enjoy the resort's ambiance. The carriages can hold four adults or two adults and three children.


Riverside Levee

Carriage Rides


But for me, nothing beats seeing this resort by foot. Numerous walkways pass by manicured lawns, through the woods, and along the Sassagoula River. It's very easy to forget you live in the 21st century while strolling along these pathways. Your imagination can effortlessly transport you back to a simpler time. Be sure to notice the leaf imprints in the pavement. These were made by pressing real leaves into the wet concrete and removed once the cement began to set.


Resort Pathways

Resort Pathways

Resort Pathways

Resort Pathways

Resort Pathways

Another wonderful feature of the Riverside Resort is the boat service between here, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Downtown Disney. Service begins each day at 10am and ends at 11pm. The two and a half mile river offers a lovely and relaxing way to travel and the boat ride is an attraction in its own right. I especially enjoy this journey at dusk. The river takes on a whole new magic at this time of day.


Boat to French Quater and Downtown Disney


Legend has it that Ol' Man Island was settled in 1835 by a young man. This retreat became his home deep in bayou country. As the years passed, a nearby town was settled and prospered. Eventually, the children of the settlers discovered the island and the many wonders it presented. Today, a number of activities can be found here for the young and young at heart. Everything from a fantastic swimmin' pool, playground, and fishing hole tempt guests.

The pool (12,980 square foot and containing 158,000 gallons of water) offers numerous waterfalls and fountains along with a great slide. Towels are available at the Ol' Man Island pool. However, the "quiet" pools do not offer this service and you will need to bring them from your room. If you need more, just call housekeeping and they'll be happy to replenish your supply. There are plenty of lounges, tables and chairs scattered around the pool - some in the sun and some in the shade. Children under twelve must be accompanied by an adult while in the pool area.


Swimming Pool

Swimming Pool

Pool Slide

Pool Table and Chairs

Playground


At the Fishin' Hole, cane poles and bait are available for some leisurely recreation. Catfish, bass, and bluegill are just waiting to nibble at your hook in this stocked section of the river. Also available are two-hour guided fishing adventures down the Sassagoula River in a pontoon boat. Twenty-four hour advance reservations are required for this event.


Fishin' Hole

Fishing Boat


Need to cool down after a long day in the parks? Check out Muddy Rivers Pool Bar for a cold beer, frozen Margarita, or soft drink. This shady spot is the perfect place to unwind and relax.


Muddy Rivers Pool Bar


While on Ol' Man Island, be sure to check out the giant live oak tree (Quercus virginiana) located on the back side of the swimmin' hole. On Earth Day, April 22, 1991, this tree was transplanted to the island. Months of preparation and three days of effort were required to move this 85 ton tree from an area located in what is now Disney's Animal Kingdom.


Giant Live Oak Tree


The guest rooms at the Riverside Resort are divided into two sections, Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayou. Each section has 1,024 rooms. Although furnished differently, the rooms are all the same size and configuration (315 sq ft). Most rooms sleep four in two double beds; however there are a number of rooms that offer one king. Almost half of the Bayou rooms offer a trundle bed (extra charge) enabling you to accommodate another child. Both resorts feature "quiet" pools that may be closer than Ol' Man Island and definitely more peaceful. Ice and vending machines are plentiful and self-service laundry facilities are available at each quiet pool.

The rooms at Magnolia Bend have been cleverly incorporated into what looks like stately plantation mansions that were once plentiful throughout the old south. Here, grand staircases, stately white columns, and intricate railings create a regal atmosphere befitting a wealthy gentleman and his lovely lady. The grounds have been planted with azaleas, oaks and magnolias with the occasional fountain to be found within the manicured lawns.


Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend


Alligator Bayou is located in "cajun country" and features small cottages or "villages" that would be indicative of the rural bayou regions of Southern Louisiana. Once again, numerous guest rooms have been cleverly incorporated into large, weathered wood buildings with tin roofs. The buildings' massive size has been ingeniously masked by the numerous trees and vegetation that encircle each structure.


Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou


Here are several pictures of the interior of a bayou room. Although Disney is currently replacing all of their tube TVs with flat screen models, the room I stayed in had not yet been changed over. Note, the shower and toilet area has a door; however the vanities can only be separated from the bedroom with a curtain.


Alligator Bayou Room Interior

Alligator Bayou Room Interior

Alligator Bayou Room Interior

Alligator Bayou Room Interior

Alligator Bayou Room Interior


Other room amenities include high-speed internet access ($10 daily fee), safe, iron, ironing board, refrigerator, coffee maker, and hair dryer. Disney is also promoting "green" behavior. On the back of the room door is a sign asking you to check that the television and lights are turned off, to make sure the faucet isn't dripping, and suggest that you use your towels an extra day.


Keep it Green


Transportation to the four theme parks and Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon is available via Disney buses. Four bus stops are positioned around the resort for your convenience.


Bus Stop


Port Orleans Riverside is a physically large resort. Some rooms are definitely further from the Sassagoula Steamboat Company and its facilities than others. If mobility is an issue for you, be sure to note this when you make your reservation and again when you check in.

I like this resort. And I'd have a hard time choosing between staying at Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend. Both are unique and offer so much beauty in entirely different ways. The elegance of the "mansions" is compelling, but the simple charm of the Cajun cottages beckons as well. There is no wrong choice. No matter where you stay, you'll fall in love with is graceful resort.

I have created a nine and a half minute video covering most aspects of the resort. Since I know someone will ask, the music selections are as follows: Let the Rain Pour Down (from Disney's Song of the South), Shenandoah, and Banjo Clog. Enjoy.


Related Links:

Port Orleans Riverside FAQ
Port Orleans Riverside Photo gallery
Port Orleans Riverside Reader Reviews


May 6, 2010

Disney Quiz 102 - Questions

It's time for another Disney quiz. However this time, the questions are somewhat difficult so I'm making this a multiple choice test. I'm also going to throw in some trick questions so be on your guard.

Once again, please do not send me your answers. This quiz is strictly for your amusement and no winners will be announced or prizes awarded.

1. When Walt Disney World first opened, it was often stated as being roughly the same size as what American city?

A. San Francisco
B. Manhattan
C. Orlando
D. Anaheim
E. None of the above



2. What was Walt Disney's middle name?

A. Elijah
B. Eli
C. Elias
D. Ellenshaw
E. None of the above



3. The Mark Twain Riverboat at Disneyland and the Liberty Belle Riverboat at the Magic Kingdom circle what land mass?

A. Huck Finn's Island
B. Tom Sawyer's Island
C. Harper's Island
D. Frontierland Island
E. None of the above



4. Who was the original narrator for Spaceship Earth

A. Judi Dench
B. Vic Perrin
C. Walter Cronkite
D. Jeremy Irons
E. None of the above



5. When did the Disney/MGM Studios open?

A. April 12, 1992
B. April 15, 1983
C. May 1, 1989
D. October 1, 1982
E. None of the above



6. Who is the voice of the "Ghost Host" in the Haunted Mansion (American parks)?

A. Thurl Ravenscroft
B. Rex Allen
C. X Atencio
D. Paul Frees
E. None of the above



7. Which is NOT the name of a steam train engine at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World?

A. Walter E. Disney
B. Roy O. Disney
C. Roger E. Broggie
D. Fred Gurley
E. All of the above ARE steam train names at the Magic Kingdom



8. What television network helped finance the building of Disneyland?

A. ABC
B. CBS
C. NBC
D. All of the above
E. None of the above



9. What were the names of Disney's two daughters?

A. Diane and Sharon
B. Lillian and Daisy
C. Lilly and Alice
D. Diane and Alice
E. None of the above



10. We all know that Donald Duck's nephew's names are Huey, Dewey, and Louie. But what are Daisy Duck's niece's names?

A. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather
B. Andrina, Arista, and Attina
C. April, May, and June
D. Prissy, Giggles, and Catty
E. None of the above



11. In what Disney movie do we travel to the Isle of Naboombu?

A. Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.
B. Bedknobs and Broomsticks
C. Blackbeard's Ghost
D. Swiss Family Robinson
E. None of the above



12. What does the name Epcot stand for today?

A. Every Person Comes Out Tired
B. Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow
C. Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow
D. Every Paycheck Comes On Thursday
E. None of the above



13. What is the prince's name in the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?

A. Prince Charming
B. Prince Phillip
C. Prince Eric
D. Prince John
E. None of the above



14. Who is the current CEO of the Walt Disney Company?

A. Michael Eisner
B. Robert Iger
C. Jay Rasulo
D. Thomas O. Staggs
E. None of the above


15. We all know that Walt was the original voice of Mickey Mouse. But who was the original voice of Donald Duck?

A. Mel Blanc
B. Cliff Edwards
C. J. Pat O'Malley
D. Clarence Nash
E. None of the above


16. What is the name of the castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World?

A. Cinderella's Castle
B. Sleeping Beauty's Castle
C. Belle's Castle
D. Snow White's Castle
E. None of the above


17. What is the last line spoken in the Carousel of Progress before the family breaks into song.

A. (Mother) Maybe sometime in the new century your father will learn how to talk to our oven.
B. (Son) Don't worry dad. Someday, everything is going to be so automated you won't ever have to cook another Christmas turkey again.
C. (Father) But hey. As long as we're all here and happy and together for the holidays, who cares if I burned our Christmas turkey?
D. (Daughter) Who knows? We've got a whole new century waiting for us out there.
E. None of the above.


18. Ben Franklin begins The American Adventure by speaking what opening line?

A. America did not exist.
B. We built America and the process made us Americans.
C. Excuse me Mr. Twain.
D. Mr. Twain, pride is one of our national passions.
E. None of the above.


19. Where is the "Happiest place on earth?"

A. Disneyland
B. The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
C. Disneyland Paris
D. Hong Kong Disneyland
E. All of the above


20. Who played Zorro in the Disney TV series of the same name?

A. Leslie Nielsen
B. Tim Considine
C. Jimmie Dodd
D. Guy Williams
E. None of the above



May 7, 2010

Disney Quiz 102 - Answers

Disney Quiz 2

It's time for another Disney quiz. However this time, the questions are somewhat difficult so I'm making this a multiple choice test. I'm also going to throw in some trick questions so be on your guard.

Once again, please do not send me your answers. This quiz is strictly for your amusement and no winners will be announced or prizes awarded.

1. When Walt Disney World first opened, it was often stated as being roughly the same size as what American city?

A. San Francisco
B. Manhattan
C. Orlando
D. Anaheim
E. None of the above

Answer: A - San Francisco

When Walt Disney World opened, the Disney Company owned approximately 47 square miles of land. The city of San Francisco has a land area of 46.7 square miles. Disney World was also touted to be roughly twice the size of the island of Manhattan (23 square miles), but that's not what the question asked.

Over the last several years, Disney has sold some of its land and now owns approximately 40 square miles.


San Francisco



2. What was Walt Disney's middle name?

A. Elijah
B. Eli
C. Elias
D. Ellenshaw
E. None of the above

Answer: C -- Elias

Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901 to Elias Disney and Flora Call Disney.


Walter Elias Disney



3. The Mark Twain Riverboat at Disneyland and the Liberty Belle Riverboat at the Magic Kingdom circle what land mass?

A. Huck Finn's Island
B. Tom Sawyer's Island
C. Harper's Island
D. Frontierland Island
E. None of the above

Answer: E - None of the above

I told you there were going to be trick questions. This one was so seemingly easy it should have rung alarm bells in your head. The name of the land mass is "Tom Sawyer Island." It is NOT "possessive" as so many people make it. To all of you who got this one right, give yourself a gold star!


Tom Sawyer Island



4. Who was the original narrator for Spaceship Earth

A. Judi Dench
B. Vic Perrin
C. Walter Cronkite
D. Jeremy Irons
E. None of the above

Answer: B - Vic Perrin

Vic Perrin was an American actor and voice artist. He is best remembered as the "Control Voice" in the original version of the TV series The Outer Limits. Vic was followed by Walter Cronkite in May 1986. Jeremy Irons took over in August 1994. And Judi Dench, the current narrator, started hosting this attraction in February 2008.


Vic Perrin



5. When did the Disney/MGM Studios open?

A. April 12, 1992
B. April 15, 1983
C. May 1, 1989
D. October 1, 1982
E. None of the above

Answer: C - May 1, 1989


Disney/MGM Studios


April 12, 1992 - Disneyland Paris
April 15, 1983 - Tokyo Disneyland
October 1, 1982 - EPCOT Center



6. Who is the voice of the "Ghost Host" in the Haunted Mansion (American parks)?

A. Thurl Ravenscroft
B. Rex Allen
C. X Atencio
D. Paul Frees
E. None of the above

Answer: D - Paul Frees

Frees was also the voice of Professor Ludwig Von Drake and several of the buccaneers in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. He's also appeared in numerous Disney movies including The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, and The Monkey's Uncle.


Paul Frees


Thurl Ravenscroft (voice of Tony the Tiger) is a Disney Legend and can be heard in many Disney attractions. He's Buff in Country Bear Jamboree, the lead vocalist of the singing busts in the Haunted Mansion, and Fritz, the German-accented parrot in the Tiki Room.

Rex Allen was the voice of the original Father in the Carousel of Progress attraction (New York World's Fair and Disneyland) and now voices the Grandfather in the current version of this attraction.

Among his many Disney accomplishments, X Atencio co-wrote the song "Grim Grinning Ghosts".



7. Which is NOT the name of a steam train engine at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World?

A. Walter E. Disney
B. Roy O. Disney
C. Roger E. Broggie
D. Fred Gurley
E. All of the above ARE steam train names at the Magic Kingdom

Answer: D - Fred Gurley

The Fred Gurley is the name of a steam train at Disneyland in California. The missing name from the list is the Lilly Belle, a 2-6-0 Mogul-type engine named in honor of Walt's wife Lillian.


Fred Gurley



8. What television network helped finance the building of Disneyland?

A. ABC
B. CBS
C. NBC
D. All of the above
E. None of the above

Answer: A - ABC

Roy Disney went to New York and met with executives of NBC and CBS. Both companies were interested in Disney films, but had no desire to invest in such a risky venture as a theme park. Then Roy turned his attention to the fledgling ABC network. After much persistence, Roy convinced Leonard Goldenson, head of the network, to invest $500,000 in the park plus loan guarantees for $4.5 million. In return, Disney gave ABC a 35% interest in Disneyland and agreed to produce a weekly one-hour television show. In 1960, Disney was able to buy back ABC's 35% ownership of Disneyland and in 1996, Disney purchased ABC outright.


ABC Logo



9. What were the names of Disney's two daughters?

A. Diane and Sharon
B. Lillian and Daisy
C. Lilly and Alice
D. Diane and Alice
E. None of the above

Answer: A - Diane and Sharon

Diane Marie Disney was born on December 18, 1933. Her husband, Ron Miller, became president of Walt Disney Productions in 1980 and CEO in 1983. In 1984 he was ousted by Roy E. Disney, Stanley Gold, and Sid Bass. Michael Eisner took over the reins at that time. On October 1, 2009, the Disney Family Museum opened at the Presidio of San Francisco and was co-founded by Diane Disney Miller.

Sharon Mae Disney was born on December 31, 1936 and died on February 16, 1993. It was not made public until after Sharon's death that she had been adopted.


Diane, Sharon, and Walt



10. We all know that Donald Duck's nephew's names are Huey, Dewey, and Louie. But what are Daisy Duck's niece's names?

A. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather
B. Andrina, Arista, and Attina
C. April, May, and June
D. Prissy, Giggles, and Catty
E. None of the above

Answer: C - April, May, and June


April, May, and June


Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather are the three Good Fairies in Sleeping Beauty.
Andrina, Arista, and Attina are three of Ariel's sisters in The Little Mermaid.
Prissy, Giggles, and Catty are three of the elephants in Dumbo.



11. In what Disney movie do we travel to the Isle of Naboombu?

A. Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.
B. Bedknobs and Broomsticks
C. Blackbeard's Ghost
D. Swiss Family Robinson
E. None of the above

Answer: B - Bedknobs and Broomsticks

The Isle of Naboombu was featured in the animated portion of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The cast of characters travel to this magical world in search of the Star of Astoroth to learn the magical words "Treguna, Mekoides, Trecorum Satis Dee."


Bedknobs and Broomsticks



12. What does the name Epcot stand for today?

A. Every Person Comes Out Tired
B. Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow
C. Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow
D. Every Paycheck Comes On Thursday
E. None of the above

Answer: E - None of the above

This was another trick question. When the park opened, it was officially named EPCOT Center - EPCOT being written in all capital letters and was an acronym for "Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow" (Answer "B"). In 1994 the park was renamed Epcot 94 and EPCOT (all caps) was changed to Epcot (upper and lowercase letters) signifying it was no longer an acronym. The following year the name was changed to Epcot 95. In 1996, the year was dropped and the name became just Epcot. Today, Epcot is only the name of a park.

Guests might find some validity in Answer "A" and cast members can relate to Answer "D."


Epcot Logos



13. What is the prince's name in the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?

A. Prince Charming
B. Prince Phillip
C. Prince Eric
D. Prince John
E. None of the above

Answer: E - None of the above.

The leading man in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs had a very small role and was never given an actual name. He is simply referred to as the Prince.


The Prince from Snow Whtie


Prince Charming was in Cinderella.
Prince Phillip was in Sleeping Beauty
Prince Eric was in The Little Mermaid
Prince John was in Robin Hood



14. Who is the current CEO of the Walt Disney Company?

A. Michael Eisner
B. Robert Iger
C. Jay Rasulo
D. Thomas O. Staggs
E. None of the above

Answer: B - Robert Iger

Bob Iger is the sixth CEO in The Walt Disney Company's 86-year history and was appointed to this post on October 1, 2005 after the company's board of directors elected him to succeed Michael Eisner in March, 2005.


Bob Iger


Jay Rasulo is the Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

Thomas O. Staggs is Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.



15. We all know that Walt was the original voice of Mickey Mouse. But who was the original voice of Donald Duck?

A. Mel Blanc
B. Cliff Edwards
C. J. Pat O'Malley
D. Clarence Nash
E. None of the above

Answer: D - Clarence Nash

Nash voiced Donald for 50 years in over 120 shorts and films. Animator Tony Anselmo trained under Nash and took over as Donald's voice after Nash died in 1985.


Clarence Nash and Donald Duck.jpg


The only voice Mel Blanc did for Disney was as Uncle Orville and a pet bird in the Carousel of Progress.

Cliff Edwards was the original voice for Jiminy Cricket and his haunting rendition of When You Wish Upon a Star plays in every Disney fan's head.

Among his many Disney connections, J. Pat O'Malley acted on the Spin and Marty TV show and was the voice of Colonel Hathi in The Jungle Book.



16. What is the name of the castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World?

A. Cinderella's Castle
B. Sleeping Beauty's Castle
C. Belle's Castle
D. Snow White's Castle
E. None of the above

Answer: E - None of the above

Just like Question 3, this was a trick question. The castle's name is Cinderella Castle - not possessive. Mind you, the restaurant inside is called Cinderella's (possessive) Royal Table and the merry-go-round is Cinderella's (possessive) Golden Carousel. But the castle is named after the Princess; it doesn't necessarily belong to her.


Cinderella Castle



17. What is the last line spoken in the Carousel of Progress before the family breaks into song.

A. (Mother) Maybe sometime in the new century your father will learn how to talk to our oven.
B. (Son) Don't worry dad. Someday, everything is going to be so automated you won't ever have to cook another Christmas turkey again.
C. (Father) But hey. As long as we're all here and happy and together for the holidays, who cares if I burned our Christmas turkey?
D. (Daughter) Who knows? We've got a whole new century waiting for us out there.
E. None of the above.

Answer: B -- The son speaks his line then the dog barks.

The song "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" was written by the Sherman Brothers and was used at the New York World's Fair and at Disneyland. When COP was moved to the Magic Kingdom, General Electric wanted a new, more up-to-date song and "The Best Time of Your Life," also written by the Sherman brothers, was introduced. In 1994, "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" returned as the attraction's theme song.


Carousel of Progress



18. Ben Franklin begins The American Adventure by speaking what opening line?

A. America did not exist.
B. We built America and the process made us Americans.
C. Excuse me Mr. Twain.
D. Mr. Twain, pride is one of our national passions.
E. None of the above.

Answer: A - America did not exist.

Ben Franklin opens the show by speaking to the audience while Mark Twain snoozes nearby. The American Adventure Theater holds 1,024 people and the show is a little over 28 minutes in length.


Ben Franklin and Mark Twain



19. Where is the "Happiest place on earth?"

A. Disneyland
B. The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
C. Disneyland Paris
D. Hong Kong Disneyland
E. All of the above

Answer: A - Disneyland

The word "happiest" is a superlative. There can only be ONE "Happiest place on earth" - which is Disneyland. However, for years, people have been calling the other parks, especially the Magic Kingdom in Florida, by this designation. Recently, in an effort to give the Magic Kingdom its own identity, the Imagineers came up with "The most magical place on earth" for the Florida Magic Kingdom.


Disneyland the Happiest Place on Earth



20. Who played Zorro in the Disney TV series of the same name?

A. Leslie Nielsen
B. Tim Considine
C. Jimmie Dodd
D. Guy Williams
E. None of the above

Answer: D - Guy Williams

Guy Williams played the title role of Zorro in 78 episodes over two seasons (1957-1959). He also played Professor John Robinson in the TV show "Lost in Space" for three seasons (1965-1968).


Guy Williams


Leslie Nielsen played American Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion in the Disney television series "Swamp Fox." The series was not a success and only eight episodes were produced. Coincidentally, Tim Considine was also in this series as Marion's nephew Gabe.

Tim Considine played Spin in the Disney TV serial Spin and Marty (1955-1957).

Jimmie Dodd hosted the original Mickey Mouse Club (1955-1959).



May 11, 2010

Disney Steam Trains - Part One - Disneyland

Sometime ago, this article appeared in the AllEars® Newsletter (Part 1 and Part 2). Since not all of you receive this weekly publication, I thought I'd rerun it as a blog and add a few pictures. Enjoy.

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What is to follow is a brief history about Walt's passion for steam trains and how this loved helped build Disneyland and four other theme parks around the world.

Before I start this article, I want to say that the vast majority of the information I present here is from the book "Walt Disney's Railroad Story" by Michael Broggie. This is an excellent book, not just for railroad buffs, but for anyone interested in the history of Disney theme parks. What I offer below just barely scratches the surface of what this remarkable book has to offer. I would highly recommend purchasing it and it's sold on Amazon. Click here.

We've all seen the television interview of Walt Disney, describing how the idea of Disneyland came to him. He recalls a day when he was sitting on a park bench, watching his daughters ride the merry-go-round, and thinking to himself that there should be someplace created where children and parents can play together.


Walt talking about Disneyland


This is a charming story, told by a charming man, and its telling has delighted viewers for years. But this is also the simplified account of how Disneyland came into being. As lovely as this legend is, there is far more behind the birth of Disneyland than this one defining moment - and steam trains played an essential part in the building of the Happiest Place on Earth.

From his earliest memories, Ward Kimball (an animator at the Disney Studios) had a passion for trains. In 1938, he and his wife Betty purchased a full-sized 1881 narrow-gauge Baldwin steam locomotive from the Nevada Central Railroad and spent a number of years restoring it to its former glory. He ran his prize in his own backyard.


Ward Kimball Steam Train


In 1945, Ward was hosting a "steam-up" party for the local Live Steamers club and invited his boss, Walt Disney, to be the guest engineer for the event. Ward recounts that he never saw Walt smile more broadly than the moment when he pulled the throttle and the engine emerged from the roundhouse. By the time the party ended, Walt was hooked and railroading was in his veins.

In 1948, Walt discovered that another of his animators, Ollie Johnson, was also a railroad buff and was building a 1/12 scale live steam locomotive to be run in his backyard. Walt was fascinated with the idea and when the engine was completed, he visited Ollie's home numerous times to play with this intriguing new toy. As Walt's interest continued to grow, he searched for others involved in the hobby and after many inquiries eventually made the decision to build his own backyard railroad.

Of course, if he was going to build a locomotive, rolling stock, and tracks to run it on, he would need a suitable backyard. So on June 1, 1949, Walt and his wife Lilly bought five acres of land in Holmby Hills, a stylish subdivision located between Bel Air and Beverly Hills.

Next, Walt turned to master draftsman, Eddie Sargeant, to help him develop a track layout for his new railroad. After several weeks of planning, Eddie came up with a design that squeezed 2,615 feet of track and 11 switches onto the property. Besides encompassing most of the back yard, Walt insisted that the train run completely around the house. At 1/8th scale, that was equivalent to eight miles of track.

Lillian Disney was a good sport, but she had her limits. She had selected a large section of the property for her flower beds and she did not want her husband's trains to run through the middle of this area. To appease his wife, Walt had a gag legal contract drawn up between himself, Lilly, and his two daughters, Diane and Sharon, giving him legal ownership and control of the railroad. And as an incentive for her to sign, Walt agreed to build a 90 foot tunnel under her proposed garden. With a sigh, Lilly acquiesced, put pen to paper, and the Carolwood Pacific Railroad was born.

Now that the right-of-way was secure, Walt needed to start construction on his locomotive. As modern and European engines did not appeal to him, he decided on a more ornate locomotive, the type that were used to build America. After much research he selected the Central Pacific 4-4-0 No. 173 for his prototype. This engine was in service primarily in Northern California between 1864 and 1909.

Just like with his company, Walt wanted to be involved in every aspect of his new hobby. Roger Broggie was a precision machinist at the studio, and under his watchful eye, Walt studied blueprints and learned how to operate machine tools. Over the months to come, Walt worked side by side with the studio mechanics and built a working locomotive completely from scratch. Nothing on it had been purchased "pre-built." To honor his ever tolerant wife, Walt named his new engine the Lilly Belle. The total cost for his locomotive, rolling stock, and backyard layout came to $50,000. That's roughly $450,000 in today's dollars.


Walt's Backyard Train


Walt normally insisted that his personal life be kept private. But word of his fantastic train layout spread and the Carolwood Pacific was the cover story for several railroad enthusiast periodicals. He even allowed Look magazine to write a feature article and photograph his backyard layout. These stories only fanned the flames of public interest and letters started to flow into the studio, asking for permission to visit his estate and the Carolwood Pacific Railroad.

With the public's interest in his train growing, Walt started to think about putting some kind of scale model train on the studio backlot for visitors to ride on the weekends. As his ideas grew, he thought about developing the land next to the studio and turning it into some sort of entertainment park. He remembered Ward Kimball's full-scale narrow-gauge railroad and the idea of owning his own "real" train took root.

In the winter of 1951, famed illustrator and railroad enthusiast, Harper Goff was in London to purchase two 1/8 scale steam locomotives for his own layout. However, when he arrived at the shop, the clerk informed him that they had just recently been purchased by a famous American named Walt Disney. Dejected, Harper searched for Disney and found that he was staying at a nearby hotel. He arranged a meeting and desperately tried to convince Walt to sell him one of the engines. Walt declined, but invited Harper to dinner. As the evening progressed and the admiration between them grew, Walt shared his ideas for a park to be named "Walt Disney's America." Harper was intrigued and by the time dinner was over, he had joined Walt's exclusive team to help design The Secret Project.

Interestingly, the two engines that Walt had snatched from under Harper Goff's nose were badly damaged while being shipped home. Despite efforts by the studio mechanics to save them, they never did become operational.

At the same time, storyboard illustrator Ken Anderson was working on another project. He was given the task of developing 24 miniature scenes depicting American folklore. Walt wanted Ken to study the technique of Norman Rockwell as he felt this artist had a flare for storytelling and his illustrations appealed to Walt's Midwestern upbringing and humor.

A 1/8th scale mock-up of "Granny Kincaid's cabin" was completed and Walt planned to display this tableau and the others on a specially designed train. This traveling show would stop at railroad stations around the country and school children would be invited to experience a three-dimensional history lesson. Walt was very proud of this idea and was excited to show off his first prototype. Granny's cabin can be seen in the One Man's Dream attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


Granny Kincaid's Cabin


But Roger Broggie did not share Walt's enthusiasm. He explained to Walt that the miniature scenes would be expensive to create and maintain. Also, the operation of a full scale train would be expensive and the show's capacity would be limited due to the narrow passageways in train cars. Bottom line, it would be very difficult to make money with this project.

Never one to give up on a good idea, Walt started to rethink the concept. Instead of displaying the miniatures on a train, why not create some sort of "Opera House" and share his tableaux with the guests that visited his studio.

In the spring of 1953 an incident happened that shook Walt greatly. It was a Sunday afternoon and as usual, Walt's backyard was full of invited friends and business associates. A guest engineer was at the throttle of the Lilly Belle and took a curve too fast. The train tipped over and broke the whistle off of the engine, releasing a jet of high pressure, invisible steam. One of the passengers, a five year old girl, was unhurt by the derailment, but she ran through the jet of steam and received painful, although not serious, burns on her legs.

Walt was greatly upset by the incident. The idea that this little girl, or anyone else, could be hurt by something he had created was too much for him to bear. The next morning he had Roger Broggie drive out to his house, pick up the Lilly Belle, and store it at the studio. The rolling stock was put into the 90 foot tunnel for safekeeping and he halted work on a second engine that was under construction. Bob Gurr recalls that Walt would occasionally visit his beloved Lilly Belle and always touch it affectionately.

Even after this jolting incident, Walt was still interested in building a small park next to his studio and opening it to paid guests on the weekends. His plans called for a safer Carolwood Pacific Railroad to be part of his project. Harper Goff and Eddie Sargeant created plans for a 16 acre park that would include a 1/8th scale railroad, a circus tent, carousel, old west town with riverboat, Victorian village and picnic area.


Plans for Studio Park


But the land Disney wanted to develop was next to the Los Angeles River (a flood control channel) and the soon to be built Ventura Freeway. Fighting "City Hall" to obtain the needed permits to utilize this land proved daunting and eventually, Disney gave up. And by this time, his imagination had outgrown the 16 acres next to his studio.

The search was now on for a large piece of flat land, big enough to hold Walt's ever increasing ideas. Eventually, a spot was found in Anaheim and negotiations began with 17 families who owned contiguous parcels of land. In the end, Disney acquired 160 acres on which to build his new park Disneylandia, later to become Disneyland. Initial projections suggested that Disneyland would cost $11 million to build and first-year attendance would be between 2.5 - 3 million.


Disneyland Under Construction


Even for a company the size of Disney, $11 million was a lot of money in 1953, so Walt turned to his financially savvy brother Roy for help. Roy immediately went to work and started negotiating with some New York investors. On Thursday, September 24, Roy received word that the investors wanted to meet with him the following week. Knowing that visual representations help sell a product, Roy told his brother that he needed some sort of rendering of Disneyland to present at his meetings. Since most of the ideas for the park were scribbled on scraps of paper and still in the minds of Walt and a select few, Walt called a friend and former employee of his, Herb Ryman.

Herbert "Herb" Dickens Ryman had previously worked with Walt on such projects as Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Fantasia. He was known for his talent in oils, pen & ink sketches, and especially watercolors. He had also been employed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and 20th Century Fox and worked on a number of their movies.

After much cajoling, Herb finally agreed to draw the first interpretation of Disneyland. Herb listened carefully as Marvin Davis, Dick Irvine, and Walt explained their ideas. Eventually, Marvin and Dick removed themselves from the meeting and Herb and Walt spent the entire weekend alone, creating an overview drawing of Disneyland. At the entrance to the park was a Victorian train station with tracks that completely circled the many lands of Disneyland.


Herb Ryman Disneyland Drawing


Roy took Herb Ryman's rendering to New York and met with executives of NBC and CBS. Both companies were interested in Disney films, but had no desire to invest in such a risky venture as a theme park. Then Roy turned his attention to the fledgling ABC network. After much persistence, Roy convinced Leonard Goldenson, head of the network, to invest $500,000 in the park plus loan guarantees for $4.5 million. In return, Disney gave ABC a 35% interest in Disneyland and agreed to produce a weekly one-hour television show.

On October 27, 1954, the "Disneyland" show premiered with Walt as its host. This made him a national celebrity and allowed him to "advertise" his new park as each episode revolved around one of the "lands" to be built at Disneyland. Both new footage and old movies and cartoons were used in production. The show was an instant success and ABC achieved top ratings. In 1960, Disney was able to buy back ABC's 35% ownership of Disneyland and in 1996, Disney purchased ABC outright.


TV Guide Featuring Disneyland


To help promote Disneyland, the Lilly Belle was taken out of moth balls and returned to Walt's home. A number of Live Steamer club members and Kirk Douglas' family were invited to spend an afternoon playing with the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. The afternoon was casually filmed and some of the footage was eventually shown on one of the "Disneyland" television shows.

With financing secured, Walt announced that his new park would open in July, 1955. Ground breaking occurred in August 1954, which only allowed an eleven month window for construction. Since this article is primarily about Walt and his trains, I'm going to concentrate on that aspect of the building of Disneyland.

Check back tomorrow for Part Two where I'll complete the Disneyland story. In Part Three I'll discuss the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. And I'll finish everything up in Part Four when I talk about Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong.


May 12, 2010

Disney Steam Trains - Part Two - Disneyland

In this blog I'll finish the story of how Walt's love for steam trains played an important part in the creation of Disneyland.

As Walt's dreams grew, so did the size of his Disneyland railroad. Scaled down replicas simply wouldn't do in his new park. He searched several locations for existing locomotives, but ultimately decided to build his own, using his existing plans from the Lilly Belle. He ordered a large machine shop to be built at the studio behind the Ink & Paint department and construction was completed within 90 days. A staff was assembled and designs started to take shape. With the exception of the wheels and boilers, which were purchased from outside companies, the rest of the locomotive would be built at the studio and completed on-site at Disneyland.

After much tinkering, a 5/8th scale of actual size was ultimately decided on for the rolling stock and engines. To accommodate an engineer and fireman, the cab of the engines would be designed at 3/4th scale.

Reducing standard gauge track by 5/8th brings it to roughly 36 inches. This is the same width as American narrow gauge track. When running a full scale narrow gauge train on narrow gauge track, the engine and cars look oversized. But when reduced to 5/8th scale, they look appropriate to the tracks they're riding on.

Contrary to popular belief, Main Street at Disneyland was NOT built to 5/8th scale to match the trains. Various scales were used throughout the park to promote forced perspective, giving the buildings a feeling that they are taller than they actually are. Besides the trains, the only structures at Disneyland that are built to 5/8th scale are the horseless carriages and the Mark Twain riverboat.

Initial research indicated that three trains would be needed to handle the crowds, but with the $11 million budget already bursting at its seams, Walt decided to only build two trains for the time being. When additional funds became available, a third train would be added. It was also at this time that Walt decided to construct the railroad with his own money and he owned the trains through WED (Walter Elias Disney), the design arm of the company.

Except for minor differences, Engine No. 1 was almost identical to the Lilly Belle. In an effort to add variety to the park, Engine No. 2 was tweaked. Although identical mechanically, the smoke stack, pilot, headlamp, cab roof, and color scheme were changed.

When completed, the engines cost $40,511 each and their tenders $5,010 each. The passenger train's six cars cost $93,332 and the freight train's cars cost $55,691 for a grand total of $240,065.

On June 17, 1955, exactly one month before Disneyland opened, Walt took Engine No. 2 out for its first run. Even though the track did not yet circle the entire park, Walt was in his glory running his new engine and stopping for publicity photo ops with his pal Mickey Mouse. With a tremendous amount of work still on the horizon for Disneyland, Walt commented, "At least we'll have the railroad operating on opening day."


Riding the rails before Disneyland opened


When Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, general admission was $1 for adults, 50¢ for children, and parking was 25¢. Ticket books had not yet been envisioned and each attraction required a separate ticket to be purchase for cash at various kiosks located around the park. The train cost 50¢ for adults and 35¢ for children to ride. Ticket books were introduced in October of that year and featured A, B, and C coupons - of which the railroad was a "C." In 1956 the "D" ticket was introduced and in 1959 the "E" ticket came into being where the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad remained for many years.


E Ticket


The Santa Fe Railway Company was one of the original lessees (now participants) and paid $50,000 per year to have their name displayed on the trains, posters, trestles, tickets, and other railroad related items. In addition, Walt agreed to name train No. 1 the C. K. Holliday for the Santa Fe founder and train No. 2 Edward P. Ripley for the line's first president when the company reorganized in 1895.

In the beginning, there were two different types of rolling stock for the Disney trains, the passenger cars and the freight cars. The passenger cars worked well enough, but the freight train consisted of three cattle cars, two gondolas, and a caboose. Those relegated to the cattle cars complained that they felt like, well, cattle and weren't happy with their place on the train. And besides that, it was difficult to see anything as the opening between the car's slats was only four inches wide. It didn't take long to realize that something needed to be done and the cattle cars were eventually reworked to afford better viewing.


Cattle Cars


With attendance booming, it became evident that a third engine would be needed sooner, rather than later. But this time, instead of building an engine from the ground up, the Disney team decided to buy an old engine and refurbish it. After some scouting, they found an 1894 Baldwin locomotive that had once hauled sugar cane to and from New Orleans. It was in dreadful shape, but had potential. Negotiations began and a price of $1,200 was eventually agreed upon.

After much work, the new engine began service on March 28, 1958. The final cost was $37,061 for its purchase and restoration, far below the $100K that it would have cost to build an engine from scratch. The No. 3 engine was named Fred Gurley after the chairman of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company.

The loading and unloading of the passenger train was slow and time consuming as there were only doors at the front and back of each coach. For the Fred Gurley, a Narragansett-style open air coach was designed by Bob Gurr. The train would feature forward facing seats and each seat could be accessed directly from the station platform, facilitating a much faster loading process. In addition, the new design allowed for 325 guests compared to 268 held by the passenger train.

Have you ever wondered why there are two sets of tracks in front of the Disneyland Main Street Station?


Two Sets of Tracks


When Disneyland opened, there were only two stations, Main Street and Frontierland. One train would make a complete circle around the park without stopping, beginning at the Main Street Station. The other train would circle the park starting from the Frontierland station. Because of this, there needed to be a second set of tracks at each station so one train could pass the other while circling the park. By 1958 this practice was ended when the Fred Gurley joined the two original engines and the Fantasyland and Tomorrowland stations opened.

The section of track between Tomorrowland and Main Street passed backstage areas so a wooden tunnel was constructed to conceal this from the guests. To improve this boring section of track, Walt ordered a new show piece for his train, the Grand Canyon. A diorama painted on a seamless piece of canvas measuring 306 feet long and 34 feet wide depicted this natural wonder. Now instead of a boring tunnel, guests are treated to a depiction of an entire day at the Grand Canyon from daybreak to sunset, complete with thunderstorm. Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite can be heard from onboard speakers. This new addition cost $367,814 and opened March 21, 1958.


Grand Canyon Opening


It was determined that a fourth engine was needed so that the other three could occasionally be taken off line for maintenance. Once again, a scouting team found an old locomotive, this time a Baldwin 0-4-0T that was built in 1925 and hauled sand to builders in the Northwest. It was purchased for $2,000 and shipped to the studio for refurbishment. Named the Ernest S. March after the current president of the Santa Fe Company, engine No. 4 went into service on July 25, 1959.

The Ford Motor Company approached Walt in 1963 and asked him to create an attraction for the upcoming 1964 New York World's Fair. Walt agreed and when completed, the ride allowed guests to travel back in time aboard a Ford convertible and witness cavemen and dinosaurs as never seen before. Audioanimatronics were used on a grand scale and guests were impressed beyond belief. When the fair closed in 1966, Walt packed up the dinosaur section of the attraction, shipped it to Disneyland, and added a second diorama to his railroad. Only this time, it would not be stagnant as the Grand Canyon diorama was. Like the World's Fair, guests were amazed by the movement of these prehistoric monsters. Disney movie buffs might recognize many of the scenes as they were modeled after the "Rite of Spring" segment of Fantasia.


Primeval World

Fantasia


As WED Enterprises grew more and more entwined with the studio, Walt decided to sell the design portion of the company, now known as Imagineering, back to the studio in January 1965. However, he retained the rights to his name, the steam trains, the monorails, and his apartment over the Fire Station on Main Street. A new company was created to manage these assets and named Retlaw (Walter spelled backwards). The family owned the trains for many years until they finally sold them back to the studio in 1982 for 818,461 shares of Disney stock.

In 1999, the Disney Company purchased its fifth steam locomotive from the Cedar Point Amusement Park and in 2004 it entered service at Disneyland. Engine No. 5, was named Ward Kimball in honor of the man responsible for getting Walt hooked on model railroading.

Check back tomorrow when I discuss the steam trains of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.


May 13, 2010

Disney Steam Trains - Part Three - Walt Disney World

In this blog I'll be discussing the steam trains of Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Roger Broggie, who was responsible for building much of Disneyland's railroad, was put in charge of Walt Disney World's transportation system. Since everyone knows that Florida is flat, it came as a surprise to Broggie when he discovered that his trains around the Magic Kingdom would have to deal with a 2% grade. His solution, buy larger locomotives than those used at Disneyland. Not only would they be more powerful and negotiate the grade better, they could also pull longer trains, thus increasing capacity.

Steam engines first appeared on the Yucatan peninsula in 1875. For years, these work-horses hauled supplies in and out of this isolated region. In the early to mid 1960's, the Mexican government was busy replacing many of these engines to diesel-electric locomotives. Once an engine was replaced, its tired remains were hauled off to a holding area to rust in the elements. With this knowledge in hand, Broggie and Earl Vilmer headed to Mexico with a directive to buy four engines for the Magic Kingdom.

The first two locomotives selected were identical 1925 Baldwin 4-6-0 "Ten Wheelers." For 40 years these two engines had carried Agave sisalense (sisal hemp), a local crop to the dock at Progreso.

The next engine chosen was a Baldwin "Mogul"-type 2-6-0 built in 1928. And finally, a Baldwin "American"-type 4-4-0 built in 1916. An agreement with the Mexican government called for Disney to pay $8,000 each for the four locomotives.

As Broggie and Vilmer were concluding the deal, another engine caught there eye. Perched on a platform in the middle of a small park was a 2-6-0 Mogul built by the Pittsburgh Locomotive Works in 1902. When they asked the Mexican officials if it was for sale they were told that they could have it for $750 if they would haul it away. So an unexpected fifth locomotive was added to their collection.

Restoration of the engines was to take place at a Tampa shipyard. It was Disney's desire to give as much work as possible to Florida businesses to help strengthen their ties with the community. Initial plans called for the five locomotives to be floated across the Gulf of Mexico on a huge Mississippi-type barge. But upon further investigation, it was determined that it would be cheaper to send them by rail, even though the journey was over 2,000 miles.

When restoration began, the machinist found that the engines were in worse condition than originally thought. In fact, the fifth locomotive, the one found in the park, presented so many challenges that it was eventually sold.

The tenders were completely useless and everything except their trucks were discarded and then rebuilt. One engine's frame was broken in half and required a master welder to put it back together. The boilers on all four engines needed to be replaced with new ones and the wood and steel cabs were exchanged with new designs created by the Imagineers in Glendale.

Remembering the trouble Disneyland had with the loading and unloading of the original passenger cars and how the newer Narragansett-style open air cars solved this problem, it was decided that a similar "excursion car" would be used at Disney World. The passenger cars would be 40 feet long, have 15 benches, and carry 75 guests. Twenty coaches were built from the ground up at the same Tampa shipyard where the engine restoration was taking place. In the end, the team completed their project under budget and ahead of schedule.


Narragansett-style open air cars


The four trains are named as follows:

No. 1 - Walter E. Disney - This was one of the twin 4-6-0 "Ten-Wheelers and the tallest of the four. It's painted red and pulls red cars.

No. 2 - Lilly Belle - This was the 2-6-0 Mogul-type engine. It's painted green and pulls green cars.

No. 3 - Roger E. Broggie - This was the other "Ten Wheeler" and is painted green and pulls yellow cars.

No. 4 - Roy O. Disney - This was the 4-4-0 "American"-type engine. The engine is painted red and it pulls blue cars.

At night, all four engines are stored behind the Magic Kingdom in an interesting roundhouse. The ground floor houses the steam trains and the upper level houses eight of the eleven monorails.

Like Disneyland, when the Magic Kingdom opened it only had two stations, one on Main Street and the other in Frontierland. But unlike Disneyland, one train never passed another while sitting in a station. A third station was added between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland in 1988 when Mickey's Birthday Land (now Mickey's Toontown Fair) was erected. A trip around the Magic Kingdom, including stops, takes approximately 20 minutes, covering 7,809 feet, the longest of the Disney trains, at an average speed of 10-12 miles per hour.

When Splash Mountain was built, it became necessary to remove the "stand alone" Frontierland station to make way for the new attraction. When completed, a new station had been incorporated into the overall design of Splash Mountain and the train now ran through the ride, affording guests a view of some of the "goings on."


Old Frontierland Train Station

New Frontierland Train Station


The Walt Disney World Railroad does have a feature unique among the five worldwide steam train loops. After leaving Thunder Mountain, it crosses a large, truss bridge that sits atop a turntable. When necessary, the track can be pivoted out of the way and provide boat access between the Rivers of America and the Seven Seas Lagoon.


Rotating Bridge


Behind Fantasyland the train runs along a canal. In the early years, guests occasionally could spot an alligator swimming slowly or sunning itself along the banks. But for a long time now, Disney captures any gator that ventures too close to public areas and relocates it to a more secluded area.

I'm sure you've all heard the train blow its whistle while riding the rails. Well these toots aren't for the guest's benefit, even though they do add enjoyment to the ride. They're actually used as warning and signaling devices. Here is a list of the whistles and their meaning:

" One Short - Attention
" Two Short - Forward Movement
" Three Short - Reverse Movement
" One Long, One Short - Approaching Station
" One Long, Two Short - Crew spotted along track. (Also used as a general greeting)
" Two Long, One Short, One Long - Public Crossing ahead.
" Two Long, One Short - Meeting Point (Junction)
" One Long - Stop Immediately / Emergency stop.
" Four Long - Train in distress - let's hope we never hear this one!

There was another steam train system at Walt Disney World. It was used to transport guests around Fort Wilderness and ran from 1973 to 1977. Click here to learn more.

Check back tomorrow for my final steam train blog where I'll be discussiong the Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong parks.


May 14, 2010

Disney Steam Trains - Part Four - Tokyo, Paris & Hong Kong

In this final blog about Disney steam trains I'll be discussing the Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong parks.

Tokyo Disneyland

The Western River Railroad is unique among its steam train cousins in the other Disney parks in that it doesn't circle the perimeter of Tokyo Disneyland. You see, if it did, its track length combined with multiple stations would have classified it as "public transportation" under Japanese law and it would have fallen under different government regulations. This of course was unacceptable to Disney and some other solution needed to be reached. And that solution was a railroad that runs only through Adventureland and Westernland (Frontierland) and only has one station.

For those of us thoroughly familiar with Disneyland and Walt Disney World, you might think that you're going to be cheated on this shorter steam train loop (5,283 feet). But nothing could be further from the truth. In my opinion, it's the best as it affords it's passengers with the most sights along the journey.

You board the train in Adventureland from a second story station. The lower level is used for the queue of the Jungle Cruise. When you depart, you're in a bamboo forest. Soon a clearing comes into view and you can look down onto the Jungle Cruise attraction. You can even see the boats passing by. The glimpse is short, but adequate.


Adventureland Train Station

Jungle Cruise as seen from the Steam Train


As the train continues its journey, you pass by a western train station. This is strictly for show as the train does not stop here. From the station you venture deeper into the woods and see familiar sights like moose, deer, and the "cabin on fire." You also pass by several Native American encampments. Eventually you leave the forest and you're now riding along the banks of the Rivers of America. Tom Sawyer Island is to your right and Splash Mountain is ahead of you.


Wilderness Train Station

Native American Village


At this point you travel across a very long trestle as it skirts Critter Country and then enters a section of Westernland. For a long section of track, guests can walk under the trestle as the train passes overhead. This is one of the most beautiful spots in Tokyo Disneyland.


Train on Trestle next to Splash Mountain


The train then passes by a substantial section of Thunder Mountain. You can see the runaway mine cars race by and a large number of dinosaur bones scattered about. Your train is traveling in and out of rock formations during this section of the ride until if finally enters a deep tunnel. Here guests are treated to Primeval World - a copy of the one at Disneyland. Once again, Audioanimatronic dinosaurs delight guests as they pass by.

It's a very nice transition between Thunder Mountain and Primeval World. First you see the bleached bones of these ancient creatures strewn around parched wasteland. Then you see the actual beasts. When you emerge from the other end of the tunnel, you're back at the Adventureland Station.


Thunder Mountain

Primeval World


All four locomotives used at Tokyo Disneyland were built from scratch in Japan. They were modeled after the Denver & Rio Grande Railway 2-4-0 Montezuma designed and built by Baldwin. Each train has a different color scheme and was named after an American River: Mississippi, Rio Grande, Missouri, and Colorado.

Guests ride in forward-facing excursion cars similar to those used at Walt Disney World. The one noticeable difference to the layman's eye, these trains have small doors (hard-plastic flaps) at each bench. They swing inward and provide a little extra safety so young ones won't fall out.

Disneyland Paris

In my opinion, Disneyland Paris is the most beautiful of the five Magic Kingdoms. Disney pulled out all the stops when creating this park and their attention to detail shows. Even though I vote Tokyo's steam train as my favorite, Disneyland Paris is a VERY close second - and for the same reason. You see more sights on these two lines than you do on the other three.

Shortly after leaving an elaborate Main Street Station, you enter the Grand Canyon Diorama, a copy of the one found at Disneyland California. Once again, you hear the music of Grofe as a full day of the Canyon unfolds as you pass by.


Grand Canyon Diorama


Emerging from the tunnel, you travel past mud pots and geysers. Then a section of the Rivers of America comes into view. Here you can see the Mark Twain and the Molly Brown sail by with Big Thunder Mountain (an island in the middle of the river) towering in the background. Eventually you pull into the Frontierland Station.


Rivers of America

Frontierland Train Station


As your journey continues, you see Woody's Roundup Village before crossing over into Adventureland. The next sight you see is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril to be followed by a grassy meadow and then a tunnel. Inside the tunnel you can catch a glimpse of the Pirates of the Caribbean (similar to seeing Splash Mountain at Disney World). When you emerge from the tunnel, you're in Fantasyland.


Fantasyland Station


As you skirt the edges of Fantasyland, you see Alice's Curious Labyrinth and Mad Hatter's Tea Party before crossing a trestle. You then pass in front of "it's a small world" in the same manner that you do in Disneyland, California. A few chugs later and you're at the Discoveryland (Tomorrowland) Station.


Small World

Discoveryland Station


From Discoveryland you are afforded views of Star Tours, Space Mountain, and a small section of the Autopia. After 7,150 feet of track, you're back at Main Street Station.


Space Mountain

Main Street Station


Disneyland California and Disneyland Paris are the only two parks to have four stations.

Disneyland Paris has four trains, all build from the ground up. They would be mechanically the same as Disneyland's C.K. Holliday, but each engine and accompanying cars would be given its own identity and color scheme.

No. 1 - G. Washington - This engine is the most ornate of the four. It features numerous American eagles and portraits of Washington and Marquis de Lafayette who served under Washington in the American Revolution. The cars it pulls are named Mt. Vernon, Boston, Philadelphia, Yorktown, and Valley Forge.

No. 2 - Cyrus Kurtz Holliday - This engine honors Disneyland's C.K. Holliday and has a lavish look befitting of turn-of-the-century Main Street. The cars it pulls are the Coney Island, Atlantic City, Chesapeake, Long Island, and Niagara Falls.

No. 3 - W.F. Cody - Complete with deer antlers on the front of the train, this locomotive honors Buffalo Bill and the Wild West. Behind it you'll find cars named Silverton, Durango, Denver, Wichita, and Cheyenne.

No. 4 - Eureka - This engine honors the part trains played in expanding our nation to the Pacific Ocean. Its passenger cars are named San Francisco, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Diego, and Sacramento.

The rolling stock for Disneyland Paris is also unique in that the cars are better enclosed due to the variations in weather and they feature an interesting seating pattern. Instead of forward or side facing benches, these trains use a "U" shaped or "booth" configuration. Each car is divided into six sections and within each section you'll find a "U" shaped bench with one portion facing forward, another facing sideways, and one backwards. The idea was to give everyone a better view. Personally, I found this configuration a little cramped. When sitting in a "corner" seat, your legs and knees are pressed against those of your fellow passengers.


Paris Passenger Car


Hong Kong Disneyland

Like its four predecessors, Hong Kong Disneyland has trains. However, these are powered by diesel, not steam. In addition, this park has the fewest engines and passenger cars.

As you might expect, one of the stations is located at the beginning of Main Street. Modeled after the one in Disneyland California, this station is modest compared to Disney World and Paris, but it still packs a lot of charm.


Main Street Station

Main Street Station


The second station is at the other side of the park in Fantasyland. This station has a toy-like circus feel about it. It's flanked by manicured grassy knolls and dotted with topiary. Its design complements the nearby Dumbo attraction and Fantasia Gardens.


Fantasyland Station


The railroad has three engines, the Walter E. Disney, the Roy O. Disney, and the Frank G. Wells, but only two are used at a time. Their departures and arrivals are coordinated so that when one train leaves Main Street, the other is leaving Fantasyland. The total route is just shy of 5,000 feet, making it the shortest of the five steam trains worldwide.

The rolling stock is named for locations that played an important part in Walt's life. One set of cars are named Anaheim, Burbank, Glendale, Los Angeles, and California. The second set is named Chicago, Marceline, Kansas City, Hollywood, and Orlando. Each train holds approximately 250 passengers on long benches that face sideways, rather than forward.


Orlando Passenger Car


As the entire west side of Hong Kong Disneyland is occupied by Adventureland, jungle sights and sounds dominate the first half of your journey. Along the way you can see Tarzan's Treehouse, sections of the Jungle Cruise, and various audioanimatronic birds and animals interspersed among the trees.


Jungle Cruise as seen from the Train


After leaving the Fantasyland Station, you are able to see a few glimpses of the Mad Hatter Tea Cups and the Festival of Fools restaurant before entering Tomorrowland. In Tomorrowland, the train travels next to a portion of the Autopia highway giving delight to those driving the little electric cars. As you approach the Buzz Lightyear attraction, the 3-eyed, green space men from the movie Toy Story pop up and down and wave from the rooftop as you pass by.


Autopia and Steam Train

Tomorrowland as seen from the Steam Train

Little Green Men


Well there you have it, five very different, yet very similar steam trains. Trains that helped build Disneyland and four more fantastic parks. Next time you ride any of these marvels, remember, you're riding on one of Walt's greatest loves.


May 18, 2010

Pop Century Resort – The Classic Years

I like the Grand Floridian Resort. I have stayed here several times and have enjoyed the luxurious surroundings of Disney's flagship resort. It's wonderful to be pampered at this deluxe facility. Staying here makes me feel special.

But I also like the Pop Century Resort. It also makes me feel special, but in an entirely different way. You see, it has qualities that the Grand Floridian does not - like whimsy. It's fun to stay at the Pop Century! The resort is silly in the extreme. It has kitsch. And it's full of memories from our youth.


Pop Century Sign


As soon as you turn onto the roadway leading to the resort you know you're in for a walk down memory lane. Signs from another era like "Color TV" and "Air Conditioning" greet you as you drive by. And then there's the sign that every parent can identify with"


Are We There Yet? sign


The Pop Century Classic Years Resort opened on December 14, 2003. This hotel takes a lighthearted look at the second half of the 20th century with different sections of the resort representing the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. But what you see here is just Phase One of the project.

Phase Two was to cover the first half of the century, the Legendary Years. Construction began on Phase Two, but shortly after work started, it was discovered that Disney wasn't filling all the hotel rooms they already had so until tourism picked up, the project was put on hold. You can see the beginnings of Phase Two across Hourglass Lake. Phase Two of Pop Century has been officially canceled. Disney announced on May 12, 2010, that the area for Phase Two will now become Disney's Art of Animation Resort scheduled to open late 2012.

Phase Two


When you drive up to the resort, a giant logo of the property greets you as well as the dates for the five decades represented here. These flank the Classic Hall building, containing the resort's public rooms.


Classic Hall

Classic Hall

Classic Hall


Inside Classic Hall is the registration area. Behind the counter is a timeline with recognizable photographs from the 1950s through the 1990s. It's here that you'll check-in and receive your welcoming package containing a property map, current Disney information, and other fun stuff to rifle through once you get to your room.


Registration Desk

Resistration Desk Wall


Check-in is after 3pm, but registration can be completed before this time. If a room is ready before 3pm, you will be given a key at that time. Check-out is at 11am. Magic Your Way Tickets may be purchased and dining reservations may be made at the adjacent concierge desk.


Concierge Desk


Opposite the registration desk is for me, one of the best displays at Walt Disney World. I've been known to take out-of-town friends to the Pop Century Resort just to show them this incredible wall. Once again, a timeline from the 1950s through the 1990s is represented here. But this time, the wall is filled with memorabilia from the era. The "pop" culture of fifty years is on display. Just to give you the smallest inkling of what I'm talking about, here are some of the items you'll see: old TV Guides, an 8-track player, cabbage patch kids, a Trivial Pursuit game, a "Where's the beef?" plate, platform shoes, an aluminum ice-cube tray, 45rpm records, and more. It would be impossible for someone to stand before this wall and not recognize something that they owned at one time in their life. For me, this wall is an "E" ticket attraction.


Memorabilia Timeline

Memorabilia Timeline


While checking in, there is a nearby children's area where the little ones can watch Disney cartoons until mom and dad finish with the necessary paperwork. For the teenagers of the family, Fast Forward Arcade is also nearby.


Children's TV Waiting Room

Fast Forward Arcade

Fast Forward Arcade


Also housed in Classic Hall is Everything Pop Shopping and Dining. The shop portion of this complex offers your typical array of Disney souvenirs and clothing.


Everything Pop Shopping and Dining

Everything Pop Shopping


The food court here is massive. A number of different stations offer everything from pasta and pizza to ethnic choices. Of course, hamburgers and fries are available as well as some healthy meals. There is also a Grab-N-Go section with muffins and croissants in the morning and premade salads, sandwiches, and desserts during the rest of the day. Breakfast is served from 6:30am to 11am, lunch and dinner from 11am until midnight. Seating is available in three large areas surrounding the food court. For a complete menu, click here.

Just a word of warning. In the morning, the food court looks like Grand Central Station. Plan accordingly because your meal is going to take longer than you anticipate.


Everything Pop Dining

Everything Pop Dining

Everything Pop Dining


Transportation to the theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney is by bus. These depart approximately every twenty minutes. There is only one stop for the entire resort and it is located outside of Classic Hall.


Bus Pick-up and Drop-off


The resort has only one playground and it can be found between Classic Hall and the 1970s theme buildings.


Playground


1950

Now it's time to take a look at the various sections of the Pop Century Resort, starting in the 1950s era. Three four-story buildings make up this grouping. The structures here are painted purple and the balconies are adorned with silhouettes of the popular dance craze of that decade as well as the catch phrases of the day. The swimming pool is in the shape of a giant bowling pin and larger-than-life icons anchor the entrance to each building.


Dance Craze

Pop Saying

Lady

Tramp

Juke Box

Bowling Pin Pool


Here are some interesting facts about these icons. The juke box is 40 feet tall. Lady is 23 feet tall and Tramp is 30 feet tall. The barrels they sit on are 8 feet in diameter and 21 feet tall. The bowling pins that house the stairwells at the end of each building are 65 feet tall.

Be sure to read some of the song titles on the juke box. They're a hoot. For example, "My Car's Jacked Up But My Heart's Broke Down." "My Love Is Deep (Like A 3D Movie)," and "She's Got A Color TV (Now She Never Looks At Me)."

There is a self-service laundry near the pool. It is housed in a giant bowling shoe rack.


Laundry Facility

Laundry Facility


1960

The buildings in the 1960s section of the resort are painted in shades of orange with lime green accents. Once again, the latest dance craze and catch phrases decorate the exterior of the buildings.


1960s Building


The icons here are Mowgli and Baloo from the Jungle Book and a container of Play-Doh. Be sure to look at the wall behind the Play-Doh and you can see a number of extruders which came with the Fun Factory toy set. Also check out the elephant's ears. You can see the "child's" fingerprint that crafted the animal. The stairwells here are enclosed in giant Duncan yo-yos. The Play-Doh can is 22 feet high and 19 feet in diameter. Mowgli is 19 feet tall and his sidekick Baloo is 35 feet tall. And the yo-yos are 37 feet tall and 27 feet wide and the string is 1 foot in diameter.


Mowgli and Baloo

Play-Doh

Duncan Yo-Yo


The Hippy Dippy Pool is in the shape of a large flower with shower-flowers positioned around the pool's edge spray the swimmers below. All three of the resort's pools are open from 7am to 12-midnight. Lifeguards are on duty from 10am to 10pm. No towels are available poolside and should be brought from your room. Life vest are available at each pool.


Hippy Dippy Pool

Shower Flower


A full-service bar called Petals is located near the Hippy Dippy Pool as is a ping pong table and children's interactive fountain.


Petals Bar

Ping Pong Table

Interactive Fountain


1970

Disco was king in the 1970s and this is evident in the next cluster of rooms. Painted in shades of green, mood rings and platform shoes line the balconies and 8-track tapes house the stairwells.


1970s Building

8-Track Tape Stairwell


Disney contacted many of the original manufactures of the reproduced toys for specifications in order to recreate them accurately. The toys were digitalized then a machine built a larger-than-life reproduction. Foam, fiberglass, and steel complete the final assembly. If you look at the back of some of the objects, you can even see the trademark information.

A Mickey Mouse telephone and a Big Wheels are the giant icons here. If you go up to one of the upper floors and look down on the Big Wheels, there's a cute joke to be seen. The Mickey phone is 30 feet tall and stands on a base which is 8 feet tall. The push button "keys" are 1 foot wide and the handset is 20 feet in length. The front wheel on the Big Wheel is 18 feet in diameter and the tops of the handle bars are 25 feet off the ground. The 8-track tape is 35 feet tall and the "tape" is 2 feet, 6 inches wide.


Mickey Mouse Telephone

Big Wheels

Big Wheels Joke


A giant foosball table with 12 foot players sits between Mickey and the Big Wheels. Further down the way is an outdoor Twister set.


Foosball Table

Twister Set


A pleasant walkway can be found skirting Hourglass Lake. Lining the path are signs describing interesting bits of trivia appropriate to the era. And be on the lookout for Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head for a great photo op. (I remember when you used real potatoes with this toy.)


Resort Walkway

Trivia Sign

Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head


1980 & 1990


The last cluster of rooms contains three buildings and combines two decades. The 80s buildings are painted in shades of red with Rubik's Cubes housing the stairwells and the 90s rooms are in shades of blue with very dated cell phones hiding the steps. The Rubik's Cube is 23 square feet on each side and each color panel is 7 feet by 7 feet. The peak point of the cube is 41 feet off the ground. The various cubes are in different stages of solving the same puzzle. The cell phone is 55 feet tall to the top of the antenna and the buttons are 2 feet, 8 inches wide.


Rubik's Cube

Cel Phone


The large entrance icons for the 80s building are a Walkman and Roger Rabbit. The 90s building features a giant laptop computer. Roger Rabbit is 23 feet tall and his barrel is 12 feet in diameter. The Sony Walkman is 33 feet high and the headset is 37 feet wide at its widest point and its earphones are 4 feet in diameter. The laptop computer screen is 28 feet wide by 21 feet high and the keys are 1 foot, 8 inches by 1 foot, 8 inches. Be sure to check out the information on the screen. You just might find a Disney reference or two.


Walkman

Roger Rabbit

Laptop Computer

Laptop Computer Screen


The pool area resembles a giant desktop computer. The keyboard is part of the decking and the pool itself is the monitor. The laundry room is the computer and a stack of floppy disks sits nearby housing backstage equipment. The "mouse" can be seen on the "pool rules" sign.


Computer Pool

Laundry Room

Computer Disks


The Pop Century is a value resort. This means the rooms are some of the smallest on property. Measuring 260 square feet, most feature two double beds and can sleep four. Some rooms offer one king bed. Cribs are available upon request. Adjoining rooms can be requested but not guaranteed. The views are either "standard" or "courtyard."

Are the rooms spacious? Nope. Are they adequate? Yes. Two people will have no problem sharing these quarters, but when you add a third or fourth person, things can get tight. Be sure to pack your sense of humor.

Towels left on the floor will be exchanged for fresh. However, Disney is encouraging that folks reuse their towels and ask that you place them back on the towel bars. Bed sheets are changed every four days unless you request otherwise.

Currently, all of the rooms at the Pop Century are undergoing renovation. The remodeled rooms feature a clean, almost a minimalist look. A chest of drawers with a flat screen TV and a small table and two chairs complete the furnishings. High speed internet connection is available, but the plug is on the baseboard and requires getting down on your hands and knees to find it. There is a $10 daily fee for the connection.

The pictures below are of a newly remodeled room.


Two Double Beds

Chest of Drawers and TV

Table and Chairs


The bedspread depicts the Fab Five in various "pop" poses and the carpet has some hidden Mickeys.


Bedspread

Mickey Carpet


The vanity area only has one sink and is open to the bedroom. A curtain can be drawn for additional privacy. The drinking glasses are plastic. Also found in this area are an iron and board, luggage rack, hairdryer, and safe. A small refrigerator (for medical needs) is available upon request. The toilet area is basic.


Vanity Area

Toilet and Shower


The window curtains were designed to overlap one another when drawn, effectively blocking out any "leaking" sunlight. I like this.


Overlapping Curtain Rods


Ice and drink vending machines are available on each floor and all buildings have elevators.


Ice and Vending Machines


The Pop Century offers very few frills. But it does offer a lot of fun. You can't help but smile when visiting this resort. The Pop Century was designed for the budget conscious traveler; however Disney went out of their way to make sure it doesn't feel that way. As I said at the beginning of this article, I like the Grand Floridian. But I also like the Pop Century. I have a great time when I visit this resort.

There are less expensive options available on Hwy 192, but they don't offer the magic and the perks found at a Disney resort. If your budget can afford it, I would suggest considering the Pop Century. You'll be glad you did.

I have created a six minute video of the resort for your enjoyment.




May 23, 2010

Which Picture Doesn't Belong #2 - The Quiz

I've got another quiz for you. In each picture are four smaller pictures. Three of them belong to a grouping, but one doesn't for some reason. It's your job to figure out which picture is out of place and why.

In my explanations, I will refer to the pictures as follows.


1%20Doesn%27t%20Belong.jpg


For the most part, the pictures are of Walt Disney World. However, when I've included pictures from other parks, I felt that a person familiar enough with Florida could still figure out the misplaced picture. It is possible that you'll come up with an answer different than mine, but equally valid.

DO NOT send me your answers. No winners will be announced and there are no prizes to win. This is strictly for your amusement.

Tomorrow I'll post the answers. So grab a piece of paper and letter it A through Z.

Good luck.


AA%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



BB%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



CC%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



DD%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



EE%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



FF%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



GG%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



HH%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



II%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



JJ%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



KK%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



LL%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



MM%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



NN%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



OO%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



PP%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



QQ%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



RR%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



SS%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



TT%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



UU%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



VV%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



WW%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



XX%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



YY%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



ZZ%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



Check back tomorrow for the answers.



May 24, 2010

Which Picture Doesn't Belong #2 - The Answers

Here are the answers to yesterday's quiz. Remember, you might have come up with an equally good answer - something I didn't think about.

Once again, DO NOT send me your answers. No winners will be announced and there are no prizes to win. This is strictly for your amusement.



A: Picture 1 was taken at the Winter-Summerland Miniature Golf Course. The other pictures were taken at Blizzard Beach.


AA%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



B: Although all of the tiles were designed by Mary Blair, Picture 3 was taken of the long-gone mural in Disneyland's Tomorrowland. The others were taken at the Contemporary Resort.


BB%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



C: Picture 2 was taken at the Grand Californian at the Disneyland Resort. Pictures 1, 3, and 4 were taken at the Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World.


CC%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



D: While all the pictures feature characters from the movie Fantasia, Picture 1 was taken in Fantasyland at Hong Kong Disneyland while the others were taken at the Fantasia Miniature Golf Course at Walt Disney World.


DD%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



E: Although the architecture is very similar between the Grand Floridian Resort and the Disneyland Hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland, there are differences. Picture 4 was taken at Hong Kong.


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F: Picture 3 is a model of a carousel found at the Boardwalk Resort. The other three are all real carousels found within Disney parks.


FF%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



G: Picture 2 was taken in Adventureland. Pictures 1, 3, and 4 were taken at the Polynesian Resort.


GG%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



H: Picture 4 was taken on the Gran Fiesta Tour attraction in the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot. The other three pictures were taken on "it's a small world."


HH%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



I: Picture 1 was taken in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom while Pictures 2, 3, and 4 were taken in the Germany Pavilion at Epcot.


II%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



J: Although all of the pictures are of Pirates of the Caribbean, only Picture 1 exists at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. The other three are not in the Magic Kingdom, but at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland.


JJ%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



K: Picture 2 was taken at the Italy Pavilion in Epcot. Pictures 1, 3, and 4 were taken at various locations around Disney's Hollywood Studios.


KK%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



L: Picture 2 was taken in the Oasis at the Animal Kingdom. The other three were taken on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom.


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M: The monorail in Picture 3 is at Walt Disney World. The other three were taken at Disneyland.


MM%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



N: Picture 4 is not a Disney Vacation Club Resort. All the others are.


NN%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



O: Picture 3 was taken in Fantasyland at Disneyland Paris. Pictures 1, 2, and 4 were taken in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom in Florida.


OO%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



P: Picture 3 was the logo for Future World. Picture 1 (The Land), 2 (Spaceship Earth), and 4 (Imagination) were the logos for individual pavilions within Future World.


PP%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



Q: Picture 1 is in the stretch room at Phantom Manor in Paris. The other three are from the other Haunted Mansions around the world.


QQ%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



R: Pictures 1, 3, and 4 are of the Yacht Club Resort at Walt Disney World. Picture 2 is of the Newport Bay Club at Disneyland Paris.


RR%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



S: Picture 1 was taken at the All Star Resort. Pictures 2, 3, and 4 were taken at ESPN's Wild World of Sports.


SS%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



T: Picture 3 is of the Liberty Belle at the Magic Kingdom (one smoke stack). The other pictures are of the Mark Twain at Disneyland (two smoke stacks).


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U: The restaurants in Pictures 1, 2, and 3 are located in resorts while Picture 4 is located in a theme park (Magic Kingdom). Also, Picture 4 is the only counter service restaurant. All of the others are table service.


UU%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



V: There are two equally good answers to this picture. Both Picture 3 & Picture 4 are out of place depending on how you look at it. Picture 3 because it is the only scene that still exists today and Picture 4 because it was taken at Disneyland while the others were taken at Epcot. In case you don't recognize the photos, here goes. Picture 1 was taken in the World of Motion Pavilion. Picture 2 was taken in the Horizons Pavilion. Picture 3 was taken in Spaceship Earth. And Picture 4 was taken in the Mission to Mars attraction.


VV%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



W: Picture 1 was taken on the Epcot monorail line. The others were taken on the Resort monorail line.


WW%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



X: Picture 2 was taken at Disney's Hollywood Studios near the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular Show. The other three were taken at the Magic Kingdom in Adventureland.


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Y: Although they are all boats that transport guests to and from theme parks, only the vessel in Picture 3 travels the waterways of Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. The other three traverse Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon.


YY%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg



Z: Pictures 2, 3, and 4 were taken at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Picture 1 was taken in the American Waterfront of Tokyo DisneySea at the Twilight Tower of Terror.


ZZ%20Wrong%20Picture.jpg




May 29, 2010

Tokyo Disney Resort - Duffy and Sinbad

Hi everyone. I just got back from a two week vacation. Before I left, I arranged for several blogs to be published in my absence. Deb Wills was kind enough to post them, but she was unable to respond to everyone's comments the way I normally try to do. So if you were wondering why I didn't replied to your email, now you know. But I want to thank you all for the kind words you shared with me. And a big thanks to Deb for posting my blogs and your comments.

So, were did I go on vacation? Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Yea! However, I'm not going to write long involved blogs about these wonderful places. I did that two years ago and if you'd like to learn more about these magical destinations, you can click on the links above and read my previous accounts. However, my vacation did furnish me with some fun adventures that I'd like to share with you in two or three blogs over the next week or so.

Before I get started, I'd like to tell you about an exciting moment that happened on my return home. I had just completed the grueling fourteen hour flight from Hong Kong to Chicago and was relaxing in the Red Carpet Room during my four hour layover. I was wearing a polo shirt with a Disney insignia. A few minutes after getting settled, a gentleman approached me. He said he had noticed my shirt and wondered if I worked for Disney. I told him no but explained that Disney was my hobby and I was returning from the Tokyo and Hong Kong Disney Parks. As it turns out, this gentleman had been on the same flight as me and was returning from his first trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. After a little more conversation, I learned that he was checking out the resort - sort of a "research" trip. You see, his name is John Pepper and he's been Disney's Chairman of the Board since 2007. How cool is that? I got to meet the Chairman of the Board for Disney.

Okay, onto my actual blog.

A few years back, Disney came out with a new merchandise line that featured a plush bear whose face resembled Mickey Mouse and the famous three-circle Mickey shape stitched onto each paw. I thought the bears were incredibly cute and bought one for myself. However, they weren't a big hit in the U.S. and were more or less discontinued. But in Japan this lovable creature caught on. He was even given a name, Duffy, The Disney Bear. As the months went on, Duffy became a phenomenon. Now, it's the "in" thing to carry your Duffy with you whenever you visit Tokyo DisneySea where he, his girlfriend Shellie May, and their clothes are sold exclusively. Everywhere you look, you see Duffy and Shellie May enjoying a day in the park with their human companions.

Let me give you an idea how big Duffy has become in Japan. A day at a Tokyo Disney Park starts well before the official opening time. The first picture below was taken 65 minutes prior to Tokyo Disneyland opening. At this time, there were already several hundred people patiently waiting at the turnstiles. When the park finally opens, there will be thousands and thousands of people lined up at the gates. This can be seen in the second picture - which was taken 25 minutes before park opening and only shows half of the crowd. And Duffy waits dutifully in line like all of his human companions.


Waiting for the park to open

Waiting for the park to open

Duffy waiting in line


The above pictures were taken at Tokyo Disneyland, but similar crowds gather each day at Tokyo DisneySea which is where Duffy is sold.

Now, after waiting an hour or so to enter DisneySea, many people skip the rides and RUN to one of the two shops where Duffy merchandise is sold, only to get into another long line. You see, these shops get so crowded access must be limited.


Waiting to buy Duffy

Waiting to buy Duffy


Here, thousands of Duffys, Shellie Mays, and their various outfits are sold each day. I've heard from a reliable source that 25% of all the merchandising revenue at the Tokyo parks comes from these characters and their accessories.


Duffy Merchandise

Duffy Merchandise


In the parking lot for Tokyo Disneyland, large faces of Duffy and Shellie May have been meticulously recreated out of orange traffic cones.


Parking Log Duffy


Now you might think that this phenomenon is limited to little girls. Nothing could be further from the truth. Duffy knows no age or sex limitations. It's just as common to see guys and older folks carrying Duffy with them while visiting Tokyo DisneySea.


Duffy and his Human

Duffy and his Human

Duffy and his Human

Duffy and his Human

Duffy and his Human


And Duffy doesn't just get mindlessly carried throughout the day. Many have baby straps to give him a comfortable ride. And when Duffy's "parents" sit down at a table, he is given his own seat and doted over.


Duffy at the Table

Duffy at the Table


As I mentioned earlier, Disney has created a line of clothing for Duffy, but that's much too limiting. The really cool Duffys have handmade wardrobes or nifty costumes.


Duffy Dressed to the Nines

Duffy in Costume

My Japanese friends Katsumi and Daisuke use their Duffys to help hold a place for the upcoming shows presented at Tokyo DisneySea. And if you'll notice, their Duffys are not sitting on the pavement. They're given something clean and cushiony to sit on.


Katsumi and Daisuke waiting for a Show


There are also a number of Picture Spots located around the park where you can pose your Duffys and get a photo of your entire group with this cuddly family member.


Duffy Picture Spot


Realizing that my Duffy back home in Orlando was sitting around naked, I decided I better buy him an outfit. I opted for the Cape Cod ensemble. Pretty cute, huh?


Jack's Duffy


So next time you're at Walt Disney World or Disneyland in California, and you see someone carrying a smartly dressed Mickey-faced bear, it's a pretty good bet they're from Japan and giving their Duffy a well deserved vacation.

The next topic in this blog will be about one of my favorite attractions at Tokyo DisneySea, Sindbad's Storybook Voyage. This is a boat ride comparable to Pirates of the Caribbean, minus the waterfalls. Disney expected Sindbad's Storybook Voyage to be a major draw as its scope was large and encompassing. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. From what I understand, the Japanese people aren't all that familiar with the story of Sindbad and this attraction often has minimal lines while the rest of the park is busy.

To try to remedy this, the attraction was closed for a major refurbishment a few years ago. One of their goals was to change the storyline and soften the foreboding feel. In the original version, Sindbad had a beard. In the second incarnation, he's clean shaven for a less sinister look. The Giant in the first version was vengeful. Now he's grateful. And Sindbad was given a sidekick in this second go-round, Chandu. This is a cute little tiger cub that helps Sindbad conquer evil. And finally, a very melodic song (Compass of Your Heart), written by Alan Menken, was added for Sindbad to sing.

To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed the previous ride, but with the addition of the new song and Chandu, this is now one of my favorite attractions at Tokyo DisneySea. I even bought a Chandu plush.


Chandu Plush


My friend Katsumi tells me the changes have helped and popularity of this attraction is growing. I have created a video of the entire ride so check it out and see for yourself. I'm sure you'll agree, this is a wonderful attraction.



May 31, 2010

Wilderness Lodge Resort and Villas

Wilderness Lodge Logo


I think the Wilderness Lodge is spectacular! Modeled after the Old Faithful Inn (circa 1904) in Yellowstone National Park, this resort is themed to evoke the atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest. And it succeeds. I've visited this resort dozens of times and I'm still awed by its magnificence.

Your adventure begins when you turn onto Timberline Drive and see the stately arch spanning the roadway. And after a short drive through the backwoods the lodge comes into view. Rough hewn timbers and a green slate roof allow this structure to blend in naturally with the surrounding forest. It's hard to believe you're in Florida and not Wyoming or Washington when visiting here.


Wilderness Lodge Archway

Wilderness Lodge Exterior Shot


Valet parking is available as is self-parking. Bellmen are on hand to help you with your luggage and direct you to the check-in desk. But before you venture inside, be sure to check out the topiary buffaloes just outside of the porte-cochère. A sharp eye will also notice their footprints embedded in the nearby walkway.


Buffalo Topiary


Once you enter the lobby, your jaw will drop. This seven-story cavernous area is impressive. Giant totem poles, tepee chandeliers, wood carvings, Native American artifacts, and log-construction combine to create a breathtaking room. You'll find the check-in desk to the right as you enter. Check-in time for the Lodge is 3pm and 4pm for the Villas. However, if a room is available earlier, you will be given access at that time. If your room is not ready early, Bell Services will be happy to store your luggage. Check-out time is 11am.


Check-in Desk


Now let's take a look at some of the unique features that make up this impressive lobby, starting with the four massive chandeliers that hang from the rafters. Resembling tepees, these fixtures use hand painted rawhide stretched over a structural framework. Inside each tepee are 48 bulbs which provide 2,880 watts of light. Each fixture is 12 feet, 6 inches high and 9 feet, 4 inches in diameter and weighs 600 pounds. The tepees are surrounded by a bronze and steel ring that features riders on horseback and buffaloes.


Tepee Light Fixtures


One can't help but notice the large amount of natural wood used in the construction of the lobby. A total of 85 loads of "Lodgepole Pine" logs were delivered from Oregon and Montana for this structure. The Lodgepole Pine is a tall, slender tree that is highly adaptable and can grow in all sorts of environments. It's one of the first trees to invade after a wildfire as its cones are protected by a seal of pitch that require fire or heat to release the seeds.


Lodgepole Construction


Supporting the roof area are four log-bundle columns. Native American legend says that these bundles "hold up the heavens" as well as the roof. If you take a closer look, you'll notice that each log is topped with a unique animal carving.


Log-Bundle Supports

Animal Carvings


There are three hand-carved totem poles in the lobby. The two large poles (Raven and Eagle) are each 55 feet tall and depict various Native American legends. A 10 foot totem can be found in front of the Mercantile shop and features Humphrey Bear, Donald Duck, Goofy and Mickey Mouse. Crafted by local artist William Roberson, this totem required months of work to accurately recreate these famous characters.


Lobby Totem Poles

Mercantile Totem Pole


The multi-colored fireplace represents two billion years of erosion and the strata of the Grand Canyon. More than 100 shades including black, green, magenta, buff, red, and brown were used for this depiction and the layers are proportionate to the strata found in the Grand Canyon. At 82 feet tall, this stone structure is as high as Chickapin Hill at Splash Mountain. A fire is usually crackling away and rocking chairs invite weary travelers to sit and relax.


Grand Canyon Fireplace

Grand Canyon Fireplace


A number of Native American artifacts have been recreated and are displayed throughout the lobby. The tribes of the Cheyenne, Crow, Sioux, and Blackfoot are all represented.


Native American Artifact


On the second floor of the lobby are a number of seating areas. As most guests are unaware of these pleasant getaways, these spots make the perfect locales to curl up with a good book or write a postcard to your envious friends back home.


Second Floor Seating

Second Floor Seating

Second Floor Seating

Second Floor Seating


The Wilderness Lodge is full of Hidden Mickeys. But I'm not going to tell you where they are. You'll either have to find them yourself, ask a cast member, or buy Steve Barrett's book.

The Whispering Canyon Café is a great spot for families. Located adjacent to the lobby, this full service restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers down-home cookin' and lots of laughs. To see their current menu click here.

As with the rest of the resort, a strong western theme is in play here. The works of noted "cowboy" painters Charles Russell and Bill Gollings are on display and a large picture window looks out onto a pine forest.

A number of activities are always taking place at Whispering Canyon like "horse races" and "napkin twirling." And the servers get into the act with antics of their own. If you're looking for a quiet, relaxing meal, skip this establishment.

You can order a traditional "plated" meal or family-style where platters of food are placed on a lazy-Susan with all-you-can-eat portions. And not everyone must eat family-style. One diner may opt for a traditional meal while everyone else gorges themselves.

Oh, and one more thing, no matter what meal you're enjoying, be sure to ask for the catsup. If you want to know why, you'll just have to eat here and ask.


Whispering Canyon Café

Whispering Canyon Café

Whispering Canyon Café


For a quieter, more upscale meal, check out Artist Point. Considered one of Disney's signature restaurants, this eatery is inspired by the dining rooms found in the National Park lodges across the Pacific Northwest. High ceilings, large windows, wrought iron light fixtures, and an abundance of wood create a rustic yet elegant environment in which to enjoy a romantic meal. Open for dinner only, the food and wine draw inspiration Washington and Oregon. The menu changes seasonally but the house specialty, cedar plank roasted salmon, is always available. Click here to view the current menu. Dinner is served from 5:30 to 10.

The large murals found high above the tables were recreated from the works of famed American wildlife artist Carl Rungius. Rungius was an avid sportsman and earned a reputation as the most important big game painter and the first career wildlife artist in North America.

Artist Point Restaurant

Artist Point Restaurant

Artist Point Restaurant

Artist Point Restaurant


Adjacent to Artist Point is Territory Lounge. This watering hole draws its inspiration from Teddy Roosevelt who signed legislation creating our first national parks. More recreations of the works of Carl Rungius can be found here. Territory Lounge is very dark and very cozy. If you're looking for a romantic rendezvous, this is the spot. I have lightened the following pictures significantly to allow you to see the décor. Territory Lounge is open from 4:30pm to midnight.


Territory Lounge

Territory Lounge


In the mood for a quick bite? Then head down to the lower level of the resort and check out Roaring Fork. This counter service restaurant serves cereal and pastries from 6am to 10:30am and full breakfasts from 7am to 11am. Sandwiches, salads, burgers, pizza and more are available from 11am to 10pm. I've eaten here a number of times and have always been pleased with my selections.


Walkway to Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork


Seating for Roaring Fork is in an adjacent room, but to be honest, I think this area lacks the charm typical of most Disney establishments. I feel like I'm eating in a dark closet. A better choice is to secure one of the tables just outside and eat al fresco.


Roaring Fork Dining Room

Outdoor Seating for Roaring Fork


Wilderness Lodge Mercantile offers the typical array of Disney souvenirs plus some exclusive merchandise created specifically for this resort. Be sure to check out the Lincoln Logs set that contains everything you need to build a miniature Wilderness Lodge. At the back of the store are refrigerators and food items intended for those staying in the Villa rooms with kitchens.


Wilderness Lodge Mercantile

Wilderness Lodge Mercantile

Wilderness Lodge Mercantile


Near the Mercantile is a lovely bridge and bubbling hot spring. A close observer will notice that this newborn brook travels under the nearby window and outside into a beautiful meadow to become "Silver Creek." As the creek travels further it grows in size and eventually cascades 15 feet over "Overlook Point." If you continue to follow Silver Creek downstream you discover it eventually empties into the swimming pool.


Hot Spring

Silver Creek

Silver Creek Waterfall


Silver Creek Springs Pool looks like it was carved into the rocks by years of erosion. Complete with a slide, this pool offers a wonderful escape from the hectic parks. Plenty of lounge chairs are on hand for relaxing and sunning. Towels are available at the pool so there is no need to bring them from your room.


Silver Creek Springs Pool


Near the pool is Trout Pass Bar. This spot offers panoramic views of the pool, lodge, beach and Bay Lake. A number of tables and chairs can be found on the backside of this watering hole. Trout Pass Bar opens daily at 11am. Closing time changes with the season.


Trout Pass Bar

Trout Pass Bar Seating


Beyond Trout Pass Bar is a wonderful white sand beach. A number of activities can be found in this area. First, more lounge chairs are available, some with great views of Bay Lake. This is also the perfect spot to watch the Electrical Water Pageant presented each evening at 9:35pm. At Teton Boat & Bike Rental you can rent a mini power boat or pontoon boat for a zippy or leisurely tour of Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. Bikes and surreys can also be rented here and a nearby pathway connects Wilderness Lodge with Fort Wilderness and an abundance of scenic trails. A play area for the little ones is also offered.


White Sand Beach

Teton Boat & Bike Rental

Marina

Children's Play Area


Situated between the pool and Bay Lake is Fire Rock Geyser. This recreation of "Old Faithful" erupts on the hour from 7am to 10pm and shoots a plume of water 120 feet into the air. The geyser is computer controlled and erupts with realism. It even has on-line input adjustment for wind drift.


Fire Rock Geyser


A wonderful way to travel to the Magic Kingdom from Wilderness Lodge is by boat. To me, this is an often overlooked but extremely magical way to spend time at Walt Disney World. Launches depart ½ hour before the Magic Kingdom opens until 1 ½ hours after the park closes. So even on days when Extra Magic Hours are offered, you can get to the Magic Kingdom in plenty of time. Boat service is also offered to the Contemporary and Fort Wilderness from 6:45am to 11:30pm.


Boat Dock

Magic Kingdom Boat

Contemporary/Fort Wilderness Boat


Bus service is also available to the theme parks (including the Magic Kingdom), water parks, and Downtown Disney. Once again, they are timed appropriately to get you to and from the parks, even when Extra Magic Hours are offered. To reach the pick-up and drop-off area, walk past the Mercantile shop and down the long covered walkway. Signs clearly mark the way.


Walkway to Bus Stop

Bus Stop

Bus Stop


On the way to the bus stop you'll pass by Buttons and Bells Game Arcade. Here you'll find state-of-the-art video games to challenge the novice and expert.


Buttons and Bells Game Arcade

Buttons and Bells Game Arcade


If you'd like to know more about the Wilderness Lodge, sign up for the "Wonders of the Lodge" tour offered on various days beginning at 9:30am. A "ranger" will escort you and your group around the resort and share interesting facts about the lodge's distinctive construction, theming, and artwork. Check with the Front Desk for the schedule of tour days and availability.

In November 15, 2000, the Disney Vacation Club expanded and opened the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. This expansion contains 181 units and is situated in a five-story building adjacent to the original lodge. As with everything that Disney does, this new structure also has a storyline. In this case, the Villas "pre-date" the Lodge with a design that is reminiscent of the 1860's hotels built by the early railroad workers in the old West national park region.


DVC Villas at Wilderness Lodge

DVC Villas at Wilderness Lodge


The railroad theme is obvious in the Game Room. Besides finding tables specifically designed for afternoon diversions, memorabilia and photographs of Walt's beloved Carolwood Pacific Railroad are on display.


Game Room

Carolwood Pacific Railroad Sign

Lilly Belle Railroad

Picture of Walt on a Handcar


The Villas' lobby offers a number of cozy seating areas including a fireplace to curl up in front of. Beneath a covered porch are a number of rocking chairs that are just begging to be used.


Villa Lobby and Fireplace

Villa Porch and Rocking Chairs


The Villas feature studio, one, and two bedroom units and are not restricted to DVC members. If there is availability, anyone can rent one of these rooms. I recently stayed in a studio and what follows are pictures of my room.

When you enter the unit, the first feature you encounter is the kitchenette. Here you'll find a small sink, under-the-counter refrigerator, microwave oven, toaster, coffee maker, dishes and utensils. Obviously you can't cook a full meal here, but quick breakfasts and snacks are a cinch. One and two bedroom units offer full kitchens with a complete set of pots, pans, and other cooking necessities.


Kitchenette


Opposite the kitchenette is the vanity which includes one sink, a hair dryer, large mirror and a number of towels. On one side of the vanity is a large closet. Inside are a small wall safe, vacuum cleaner, highchair, and crib. This is also where you'll find the cable to connect your computer to the high speed internet. The outlet is near the table in the main room. On the other side of the vanity is the toilet and shower room.


Bathroom Vanity


A studio unit sleeps four. Two on the queen sized bed and two on the sleeper sofa. The sleeper sofa is incredibly easy to unfold and is comfortable. Extra blankets and pillows can be found in the closet.


Bed and Sleeper Sofa Closed

Bed and Sleeper Sofa Open


Opposite the bed and sofa are a table and chairs and chest-of-drawers. A flat-screen TV and DVD player can be found in the upper section of the chest.


Table & Chairs and Chest of Drawers


The units also have a small balcony that's just large enough to accommodate a table and two chairs. This was the view from my room.


Balcony

View from the Room


Room sizes:

Lodge:

Standard room: 340 square feet
Junior suite: 500 square feet

Villas:

Studio: 356 square feet
One bedroom: 727 square feet
Two bedroom: 1,080 square feet

For more information about the Wilderness Lodge, click here.
For more information about the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, click here.

The Wilderness Lodge is a deluxe property and is one of the more expensive resorts at Walt Disney World. But if you can afford it, this hotel will not disappoint. You truly feel like you're in the Pacific Northwest, not Florida (except for the humidity). As I said at the beginning of this article, I have visited here many times yet I'm still amazed each time I return. It's always just a beautiful as I remember. And if you can't afford to stay here, I would highly suggest making reservations at Whispering Canyon or Artists Point restaurants. This will allow you to soak up some of the atmosphere while having a great meal.

I have created an eight minute video highlighting the resort and a Studio room. Enjoy.

This is a video of the Studio at the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge

Related Links:

Wilderness Lodge Fact Sheet
Photo Gallery
Reader Reviews
Concierge Club Reader Reviews

Villas at the Wilderness Lodge Fact Sheet
Photo Gallery
Reader Reviews



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About May 2010

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

April 2010 is the previous archive.

June 2010 is the next archive.

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