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October 4, 2010

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

Whenever I have out-of-town friends or family visiting Disney World for the first time, I insist they spend one evening at Pioneer Hall at Fort Wilderness and see the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. For me, this show epitomizes what Disney is all about. It's good ol' family entertainment at its best. Young children, teenagers, parents, and grandparents all find this show extremely entertaining. Even the crankiest curmudgeon will find something to smile about at this extravaganza. It's a hoot!

During the first few years of Disney World's existence, there wasn't much to do after the Magic Kingdom closed (as early as 6pm during the slower seasons). People could attend the luau show at the Polynesian or see a name entertainer at the Contemporary. There was also a lame "midnight" cruise sailing around Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake (with nothing to see along the way). And of course, the Electric Water Pageant could be enjoyed as it floated by. But other than these few entertainment options, it was boring after the sun set during the fall and winter months. Disney realized early on that they needed more nighttime activities to keep their guests happy.

Although the Contemporary and Polynesian hotels had a number of restaurants when Disney World opened, Fort Wilderness had none. Since campers wanted options other than BBQ and campfires, Trail's End Restaurant (a cafeteria style eatery) found its way to the Imagineer's drawing boards early on. Plans also called for a large auditorium/theater (Pioneer Hall) to be located adjacent to Trail's Inn. The original thought was that diners could bring their food into this room and watch nature films and hear guest lecturers. After much consideration, it was realized that most guests would find this type of entertainment boring and new ideas were pondered. It was eventually decided that a live show, with a separate ticket price, would be staged at Pioneer Hall.

During the first several months of operation, a number of different acts performed at Pioneer Hall. At the same time, a new show was being developed by Robert F. Jani, and co-written by Tom Adair, Paul Suter and Larry Billman. On June 29, 1974, the temporary acts were replaced with the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue starring student actors from CalArts, a school created by Walt Disney in the early 1960s. For the next ten weeks, this band of three men and three women entertained guests with corny jokes, sappy songs, and unbridled enthusiasm. The show was an immediate success and the decision was made to make this theatrical a permanent fixture at Pioneer Hall. A cast of professional actors were auditioned and hired and they took over the roles on September 5, 1974. This show has remained virtually unchanged since its opening 36 years ago and has been performed over 35,000 times to more than 10 million guests.

For those of you who have never experienced this rip-snortin' good time, this is a dinner show with lots of interaction between the actors, serving staff, and guests. There is nothing sophisticated about this evening. It's just silly fun and good eats. This show is so popular that it's presented three times a night, 5pm, 7:15pm, and 9:30pm. Reservations are an absolute must and I'll discuss the details at the end of this article.

Guests are asked to arrive 30-40 minutes prior to the show so they can pick up their tickets at the nearby Guest Services window. For those of you staying at a Walt Disney World resort, tickets can also be picked up at your hotel's concierge desk.

Pioneer Hall

Tickey Window

Arriving 30 minutes before the show should not be looked upon as a negative, but rather a treat. Fort Wilderness is one of the most magical places at Walt Disney World and there is plenty to do while waiting to be seated.

First, there is shopping. The Trading Post offers the typical array of Disney souvenirs and a handful of Fort Wilderness specific merchandise.

Trading Post

For the kids, there are nearby jungle gyms and a swing set. In addition, horseshoes, giant Jinga, and a few other games are available to pass the time.

Jungle Gym

Swing Set



Want a mechanical foot massage? Then try "Barrel of Fun." For 25Β’ you can cool your heels, jingle your chaps, and sooth your sole.

Mechanical Foot Massage

Soft drinks and cocktails are available at Crockett's Tavern. A limited number of chairs and barstools are available inside and a take-out window offers convenient service for walk-up guests.

Crockett's Tavern

Crockett's Tavern

A photographer is on hand to pose some fun pictures using humorous props. Your PhotoPass is good here and your pictures will be delivered to you during your meal.

Photo Op

But perhaps the very best thing to do while waiting for the show to begin is to sit comfortably on the porch and while away the time in a rocking chair. The evening air is calming and the scenery is relaxing. Even the dozens of people milling about don't detract from the peacefulness. However, you must arrive a lot earlier than 30 minutes before the show if you want to snag one of these rockers. Once someone settles in, it takes a crowbar to pry them from nirvana - just ask the people who wanted me to move.

Rocking Chairs

Shortly before show time, the doors to Pioneer Hall will open and people line up to be seated. Since your table has been pre-assigned, there is no need to rush. Once you're seated, you'll find bread with honey butter, a pewter kettle filled with a fresh green salad, and pewter plates at each setting. Service is family style so pass the goodies and dig in.

Pioneer Hall

Table and Place Setting

Just as you're about to finish your salad, a troupe of zany actors barge in from the rear of the theater and make their way through the hall and eventually onto the stage. It's at this moment you realize you're in for a hoedown of a good time. Once on stage, this group of six breaks into their own version of the Hoop Dee Doo polka. If this tune sounds familiar, Perry Como, Kay Starr, and Doris Day all had big hits with this song in 1950.

The show stars three couples, Johnny Ringo & Claire de Lune are the dancers, Jim Handy & Flora Long are the singers, and Six Bits Slocum & Dolly Drew add comic relief. Of course they all sing, dance, and bring humor to the evening. After about 15 minutes of antics, dinner is announced and your farmer-clad server appears with all-you-can-eat Ma's Delicious Fried Chicken, Smoked Barbecued Pork Ribs, Mashed Potatoes, and Country Style Baked Beans. The chicken is especially good and it's estimated that more than 800 pounds of ribs are served each night. Beverages include unlimited Coke products, mike and chocolate milk, coffee, ice and hot tea, pomegranate lemonade, draft beer, wine, and sangria. At one time, your server would bring you specialty drinks from Crockett's Tavern, but this practice has been discontinued. However, Ultimate Margaritas can be order from your server for $7.25.

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

If you have special dietary needs, you need to tell the cast member WHEN YOU MAKE YOUR RESERVATION. You will be given a phone number to call at least 48 hours in advance to make arrangements for your meal. Last minute request may be honored, but it will take longer than if you preorder. I ate here once when I was trying to shed a few pounds. I decided to preorder the vegetarian dinner and I have to tell you, this was one of the best meals I have ever eaten at Walt Disney World. It was outstanding. I'm a meat lover, but I did not feel like I was sacrificing for the sake of my diet.

Our hearty band of performers take a break when dinner is served, but they return shortly thereafter to continue their zany performance. The finale includes audience participation and a tribute to Davy Crockett. And let's not forget about the strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Tibute to Davy Crockett

Strawberry Shortcake

For a number of years, each guest was given a souvenir "newspaper." This was a comical description of the evening's events and it also included the menu. Sadly, this keepsake was discontinued in an effort to save money. I have scanned an old copy for your enjoyment and you can view it by clicking here.

Spoiler Alert!

I have created a ten minute video of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue showcasing a few of its highlights. If you've already seen this show, then by all means relive some fond memories and watch this video. But if you haven't seen the presentation and are contemplating doing so, you might want to skip this video. This show is meant to be experienced "fresh" when seeing it for the first time. It's far more wonderful to be surprised by the corny jokes and unexpected happenings than know what's going to happen in advance. I can assure you, once you see this show, you'll be coming back for an encore. For many, this is a "must see" on every trip to Walt Disney World.

Now, on to the logistics.

As I said earlier, reservations are an absolute must. DO NOT show up a Pioneer Hall hoping to be seated. I won't say it's impossible, but it's highly unlikely. You can call (407) 939-3463 or book online 180 days prior to your visit. Pre-payment is required and charges will be levied if you cancel without sufficient notice. Tables are assigned when making your reservation, so the earlier you call, the better your table.

The hall is divided into three categories.

Category 1 is on the ground floor and offers the best views of the stage.

Category 2 is divided into two sections. One section is on the ground floor directly behind Category 1 and the other section is located on the back balcony. Some people actually prefer the back balcony as it provides an overhead view of the entire production.

Category 3 seating is also on the balcony, but located on the right and left sides of the hall. I actually prefer this category over the tables on the ground floor in Category 2.

Guests in need of wheelchair accessibility may only be seated in Category 1. Guests seated in the balcony will be required to climb a flight of stairs as there is no elevator.


For the current prices, either check out the Allears Hoop-Dee-Doo page or call Disney.

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review offers specialty celebration cakes for an additional charge. These can be arranged by calling (407) 827-2253 48 hours or more in advance. Celebrations are acknowledged during the show.

I cannot stress this enough; the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review is a MUST SEE show! Many people would not dream of visiting Walt Disney World without seeing this thoroughly entertaining production. If you already have hotel reservations for your next trip to Orlando, and you're within the 180-day window, CALL NOW and make your reservation. You will write me later and thank me for making you do this.


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October 8, 2010

Does This Couple Look Familiar?

Does This Couple Look Familiar?

Royal Couple of Anandapur

If you have paid attention while visiting the Asian section of Disney's Animal Kingdom, you should have a vague recollection of seeing this photograph. This couple's likeness turns up time and time again. But who are these people?

As it turns out, they are the Royal Couple of Anandapur, descendants of a long and noble lineage.

Anandapur (meaning "place of delight" in Sanskrit), was founded centuries ago by Ananta. This wise leader learned the importance of living in harmony with the animals and taught this lesson to his subjects. His sarcophagus can be seen on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Sarcophagus of Ananta

However, in 1544, King Bhima Disampati decreed the forest a royal preserve and built a hunting lodge for himself and invited guests. In an effort to make his "sport" easier, he had his subjects enclose much of this area, effectively trapping his prey. Soon after, he was attacked and killed by tigers in a turnabout of fate. Subsequent maharajahs, remembering Ananta's teachings, transformed this enclosure into a nature preserve where the animals and the local people could live in harmony once again - a tradition that lives on to this day.

In an effort to show their respect to the current ruling family and their benevolent ways, every shop owner in the village displays a picture of the Royal Couple. The size of the picture will vary depending on the wealth of the shop owner. Some merchants hang large, framed and matted photographs while others merely pin a postcard to the wall. The Royal Family's close association with tigers can be seen on the royal coat-of-arms.

Royal Coat of Arms

So next time you're in Asia, be sure to look for pictures of the Royal Couple. See how many you can find.

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October 12, 2010

Universe of Energy

Energy Logo

Do you know why the Universe of Energy Pavilion is located where it is in Future World?

During the planning stages of Epcot, the Imagineers had a different concept for the Energy Pavilion. Early ideas called for a "solar energy exhibit" that would feature a large building sporting a solar dish and a parabolic shaped mirror that would concentrate sunlight into a superheated receptacle. These can be seen in the concept drawing below.

Concept Art

When Exxon came on board as the pavilion's sponsor, they wanted to place less emphasis on solar power and more on fossil fuels. In the end, a more balanced look was conceived that covered a broad spectrum of energy options. However, the Imagineers still wanted to demonstrate the advantages of clean solar power. After much thought, they eventually abandoned the solar dish in favor of photovoltaic cells--which convert light directly into electricity.

Photovoltaic cells

It's important when harnessing solar power to maximize sunlight exposure. To achieve optimal conditions, technicians studied the arcing sun in Orlando for a year and finally determined that a due south orientation with a roof tilted at 30Β° from horizontal would do the trick. It was then determined that the northeast corner of Future World would be the best spot for the Universe of Energy.

The Energy Pavilion is 20 feet high above the entry doors and 60 feet high at the rear of the building. Atop the roof are 80,000 three-inch, wafer-shaped solar collectors situated in 2,200 panels. At optimum times of the day, these cells create 77 kilowatts of DC current that is then converted into AC current. This electricity is used to help power the battery operated ride vehicles. It's estimated that 15% of the attractions power comes from these photovoltaic cells. The triangle-shaped building (although actually a square when viewed from above) has more than 180,000 mirrors that add beauty to the structure and enhance the concept of solar power. The side panels of the building are painted in shades of red, orange, and yellow to signify fire or energy.

Universe of Energy Exterior

Universe of Energy was an Epcot opening day attraction (October 1, 1982) and underwent a major refurbishment in 1996. The original show was very serious as was most of Epcot in the 1980's and early '90's. But in typical Disney fashion, the Imagineers tried to educate us while at the same time, entertain us.

One of the most memorable features of the first incarnation of this attraction was the eight minute preshow featuring the "Kinetic Mosaic." The Kinetic Mosaic consisted of 100 three-sided panels arranged in four rows of 25. This "mosaic" screen measured approximately 15x90 feet. Two sides of each panel were covered in a white coating suitable to act as a projection screen. The third side was coated in a non-reflective black. Each panel was connected to a servomotor which allowed it to rotate right and left. As five projectors presented a movie detailing our many energy options, these panels occasionally rotated to add a new dimension to the film presentation. This screen was the brainchild of Czech film director Emil Radok who also directed the movie. The preshow ended with a great song, "Energy (You Make the World Go 'Round)." This piece was written by Bob Moline and sung by John Joyce.

Kinetic Mosaic

Kinetic Mosaic

After the preshow, guests were directed into Theater 1 where they boarded one of six vehicles, each capable of seating 97 people. After safety announcements were made and the lights dimmed, the vehicles, all sitting atop a giant turntable, rotated 180Β° (on a cushion of air) to face a movie screen measuring 157 feet wide by 32 feet tall. Here, guests viewed a four minute hand-animated film that depicted the beginnings of life on earth and the formation of fossil fuels. We were told that much of the earth's present supply of energy was created during this primeval era when great reptiles ruled the land. This gave us a nice transition from the film to the AudioAnimatronics dinosaurs we were about to see. The film was narrated by Peter Thomas.

Entering Theater 1

When the movie completed, the turntable rotated back 90Β° and a large, soundproof dividing wall (12 feet x 92 feet x12 inches) was lowered into the floor, clearing the way for our journey back to a primeval world inhabited by dinosaurs.

Entering Primeval Diorama

At the time, this "moving theater" represented a giant leap forward in amusement park transportation. Never before had so many people been transported all at one time. And to top it off, there was no visible track. Instead, a 1/8 inch thick wire is imbedded in the floor following a designated path. Onboard computers sense the wire which emits a low-level radio frequency and guides the vehicles through the attraction.

For power, each vehicle carries eight automotive batteries. Of course, these batteries need to be recharged frequently so within the attraction's two turntables are "charging plates" that contain electromagnets. The magnets work in conjunction with onboard magnets that create an electric current that is transferred to the vehicle's batteries. No actual physical connection is made between the charging plates in the floor and the onboard magnets. This technology, although improved, can also be seen on the Great Movie Ride and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

In the Primeval Diorama section of the attraction, the Imagineers recreated this prehistoric era with great care and precision. Fossil references where used to accurately recreate leaf patterns and needle clusters, even in areas too remote for most guests to notice. Lightweight foam and plastic was used for the creation of many of the plants and the materials mimic the actual movement of foliage in the wind.

Imagineer at Work

Imagineer at Work

It's also in the Primeval Diorama that the "theater" breaks apart and the vehicles move to create a single-file line through the swampy landscape. This configuration affords everyone an optimal view of the dinosaurs. Once your vehicle starts moving, it takes approximately seven minutes to travel through this section of the attraction.

If some of the dinosaurs look familiar, that's because Disney had already created similar scenes for the "Ford Magic Skyway" attraction at the New York World's Fair and later in the "Primeval World" diorama added to the Disneyland and Santa Fe Railroad in Anaheim.




Here is a list of the dinosaurs seen in the Universe of Energy.

"’ Dragonfly
"’ Large Millipede
"’ Edaphosaurus
"’ Brontosaurus
"’ Trachodon
"’ Allosaurus
"’ Stegosaurus
"’ Pteranodon
"’ Ornithomimus
"’ Elasmosaurus

Most people don't realize that they are actually traveling through five geologic periods representing 300 million years. These include Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. In many cases, the differences are subtle, but important when trying to convey the passage of time necessary to create fossil fuels.

Also in the first incarnation of this attraction, several heaters were strategically placed in the Primeval Diorama along with machines that dispensed a sulfur-like odor. This was done to help recreate the volcanic atmosphere we were visiting. But sadly, these effects are no longer in use.

Leaving the diorama, we traveled back to the "present" and onto a second turntable in the "EPCOT Energy Information Center."

Energy Information Center

Once all six vehicles were reassemble into their original theatre formation they were rotated 90Β° to face a 210x30 foot wrap-around screen. Here, guests viewed a twelve minute live-action film that took them on an in-depth look at current and future energy resources around the world and how technology would help us meet our energy demands. To capture the footage, three 70mm cameras were mounted on a special rig. Angled mirrors and precise synchronization blended to create a seamless film.

From Theater 2 and the Energy Information Center we returned to Theater 1and a grand finale. Side walls that were covered by curtains at the beginning of the ride now sported enormous mirrors that reflected computer generated laser-like images being shown on the rear and front screens. Another forgotten Epcot song, "Universe of Energy" ended the adventure on a high and hopeful note. This piece was written by Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn, Academy Awards winners for their motion-picture themes for Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. John Joyce, who sang "Energy (You Make the World Go 'Round)" earlier in the attraction, also sang this closing number.

From day one, Epcot was criticized as being an "adults only park." And even though the Imagineers had included humor in the "World of Motion" attraction and whimsy into the Imagination Pavilion, guests wanted lighter fare than what was being offered. In January 1996, after a thirteen year run, the Universe of Energy Pavilion was closed for a major rehab. Although it opened intermittently during the year to accommodate the summer crowds, the total refurbishment was not completed until September 15th of the same year when it reopened as Ellen's Energy Crisis, but quickly re-named Ellen's Energy Adventure.

Ellen's Energy Adventure Sign

For the most part, the exterior of the attraction remained the same. The only significant difference was a new paint job. Gone were the warm "energy" colors lining the sides of the building to be replaced with a rainbow of hues. Note, the original color scheme returned a few years ago.

New Color Scheme

The first significant change guests noticed after the rehab was that the Kinetic Mosaic had been removed. This saddened many as this was truly a Disney original that never ceased to amaze. In its place, an eight minute movie begins with Ellen welcoming us to the pavilion. We then transition to her apartment where her neighbor, Bill Nye 'The Science Guy' drops in for a visit and the subject of energy is discussed. Eventually Ellen falls asleep and dreams she's on the game show Jeopardy with Albert Einstein and her old school chum, Judy Peterson played by Jamie Lee Curtis.

Ellen's Apartment

Jeopardy Dream

After the preshow, we move to Theater 1 and take seats in one of the six vehicles. By the way, there are no bad seats. It really doesn't matter where you sit. Like the earlier incarnation of this ride, the theater rotates 180Β° and we watch a six minute movie that starts with the Big Bang and the formation of the universe, our sun, and planet earth. Eventually, we land in the era of the dinosaurs where Ellen and Bill Nye 'The Science Guy' are waiting for us. After some humorous dialogue and an explanation of how fossil fuels were created, the theater rotates back 90Β° and we move into the Prehistoric Diorama in the same fashion as before.

Besides a new story, technical improvements were also made to the show. One of the most noticeable was an enhanced sound system. Subwoofers were added that allow you to "feel" the Big Bang and new "in screen" speakers add realism when characters move from one area to the next.

Another change made during the 1996 rehab was the addition of interesting pigmentation added to the dinosaurs. Instead of looking like dull lizards, they now sport spots and patterns. Take a look at the following two pictures.

Dinosaurs without Spots

Dinosaurs with Spots

An AudioAnimatronics replica of Ellen was also added to the diorama for some additional humor.

Ellen with a Dinosaur

After we complete our journey through the Primeval Diorama, we arrive at Theater 2. While our vehicles regroup, Willard Scott can be heard broadcasting from KNRG radio. Get it? KNRG - K ENERGY. Ha ha.

Another movie is shown here that covers much of the same subject matter as in the original attraction, but once again, it's done with a humorous touch. A keen eye might notice actor Michael Richards of Seinfeld fame playing a caveman.

Michael Richards as a Caveman

The show finishes with us moving from Theater 2 back to Theater 1 and Ellen and Judy Peterson playing Final Jeopardy with a showdown question. If you want to know the answer and don't have a trip to Walt Disney World planned for the near future, you'll have to watch my video to find out.

Final Jeopardy Question

During the transition between theaters, announcer Johnny Gilbert makes two interesting comments. The first "If you would like to have your own energy nightmare, place a self-addressed, stamped envelope under your pillow, or check us out on the web at www.energy-nightmare.game." Just for the record, this is a fictitious website.

He also says: "Some contestants on Jeopardy will receive a year's supply of energy. Energy, you make the world go 'round." This comment is in reference to the song that played in the previous version of this attraction.

From beginning to end (including the preshow), Ellen's Energy Adventure takes about 45 minutes. Cast members will warn you of this in advance and you need to pay heed. Once seated in the moving theaters, you are stuck and a bathroom break is out of the question. You are also warned that dark places and loud noises may scare younger travelers.

In 2004, after 22 years of sponsoring Universe of Energy, Exxon-Mobile dropped their association with this attraction.

If you're looking for thrills, skip the Universe of Energy. There are none to be had here. Only the most timid child would be frightened by the AA dinosaurs. But if you're looking for a relaxing 45 minutes sprinkled with humor and information, then this is a great attraction. I've heard Ellen's jokes dozens of times, but they still make me smile. And the Moving Theater and the Primeval Diorama still impress me.

Disney World can be hectic - that's an understatement. So it's nice to occasionally sit back and enjoy a slow moving attraction that allows you to catch your breath. To see a much condensed version of the show, check out my video. Enjoy.

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October 16, 2010

Flag Retreat

I'm a patriotic sap. Whenever Old Glory passes by, I unapologetically tear up and get a lump in my throat. And I'm sure I'm not alone.

American Flag

Disney World plays on this emotion with several attractions. First, there is Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom. This stirring presentation introduces us to all 44 Chief Executives and includes words from Washington, Lincoln, and Obama. Nearby, a replica of the Liberty Bell reminds us of the freedom we enjoy.

Hall of Presidents

Liberty Bell

Over at Epcot, Ben Franklin and Mark Twain present us with a 30 minute history of our country in the American Adventure. Before each show, the Voices of Liberty inspire us with a stirring selection of all-American favorites.

American Adventure

Ben Franklin and Mark Twain

Voices of Liberty

But there is another, lesser known celebration of America that happens each evening in Town Square at the Magic Kingdom. At 5pm, Flag Retreat takes place with ample pomp and pageantry. If you haven't already witnessed this event, I strongly urge you to do so.

Around 4:45 each evening, the area surrounding the flag pole in Town Square is cordoned off by Disney security guards and Main Street cast members. At promptly 5pm, the Walt Disney World Band strikes up a lively medley of American patriotic favorites. When the music concludes, they march from the Train Station into Town Square followed by several security guards and the pre-selected Veteran of the Day.

Town Square

Walt Disney World Band

Band Marching

Security Guards and Veteran of the Day

The band forms a semicircle around the flag pole and begins to play the Star Spangled Banner. As they do, the Stars and Stripes are slowly lowered. It is then retrieved by the guards and properly folded.

Band Around the Flagpole

Flag Folding

Once the flag is folded, it is handed to the Veteran of the Day and a brief tribute is read detailing his or her military service. A Disney photographer is on hand to capture all of the festivities. In addition, the friends and family of the Veteran of the Day are given a special place to stand so they may capture the moment on film.

Veteran Tribute

The band then plays the anthem for each of the U.S. branches of the military, Coast Guard, Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force. When complete, the band, security guards, and the Veteran of the Day march off toward Tony's Town Square CafΓ©. The entire ceremony takes less than ten minutes.

Marching to Tony's Town Square Cafe

The Veteran of the Day is then given a certificate indicating that he or she took part in the event. They are also given a special Flag Retreat pin and asked not to trade it or sell it, but keep it as a remembrance of this wonderful ceremony. The Veteran of the Day may select (free of charge) one of the photos taken by the Disney photographer and may purchase others. The Veteran of the Day does NOT get to keep the flag.

Veteran of the Day

For many years, doves were released during the ceremony. They flew from the Train Station, down Main Street, past the Castle, to their backstage cages. Unfortunately, birds of prey caught on to the timing of their release and were snatching dinner in midair, much to the horror of guests (and the doves). This practice was discontinued a number of years ago.

So, how do you become a Veteran of the Day?

Before the Magic Kingdom opens, cast members may be mingling with the crowd waiting to get in. If in their conversation, the cast member discovers someone is a veteran, they may ask them if they would like to participate in this ceremony. But this certainly isn't always the case. More often than not, it's the first person to arrive at City Hall and ask for the honor. If you have any desire to be selected, you must make City Hall your first stop immediately after the park opens. Although this procedure does change occasionally, at the moment, you must apply on the day of the event. No advance reservations are taken.

The veteran does not need to apply in person. A friend or family member can do it for them, but it will be helpful if you know their branch of service and rank. Also, no proof of service is required. Disney hopes that in this case, honesty will prevail.

Just in case you're wondering who the veteran is in my pictures, it's my older brother, Dale. After much cajoling on my part, I finally convinced him and his wife Pat to visit Disney World for the first time in 2007. Since they did this more to please me than themselves, I wanted to make sure I provided them with a vacation they would never forget. On the morning we visited the Magic Kingdom, I made sure we were at the gates well before opening. As soon as we passed beneath the Train Station, I excused myself for a moment and dashed into City Hall. Luckily, I was the first to request this special honor. I told my brother nothing about this. Later in the day, I made sure we were at the designated spot at 4:45pm. When the security guard approached us and asked if one of us was the Veteran of the Day, I told my brother, "Don't ask any questions. Just go with this gentleman and do what he tells you."

That night, when I dropped Dale and Pat off at their hotel my brother said to me, "You might as well cancel tomorrow because nothing you can do will top today."

Below is a video of the entire Flag Retreat Ceremony. Enjoy.

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October 21, 2010

Hotel Anagrams - Questions

It's quiz time again. This time, instead of testing your Disney knowledge, I'm going to play word games with you. Below are twenty anagrams of resorts at Walt Disney World. Your job? Unscramble them.

For this quiz I have used the simplified name of the resort. For example, I have scrambled "Grand Floridian" not "Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa."

There are no prizes to be won or winners to be announced so please do not send me your answers. Good luck!

1 A Cub Belch
2 A Dark Bowl
3 A Massive Troll
4 Be A Ranch Cabbie
5 Betrayal Woke
6 Country Pep
7 Darn Frigid Loan
8 Deaf Ogres Hens
9 Demon Gold Milk Again
10 Downers Lifters
11 Goat Grasps Rains
12 God Sells New Ride
13 Insane Ploy
14 Butch Lacy
15 Loaner Sport
16 My Rancor Poet
17 Parrots Stalls
18 Poor Rancid Songs
19 Rustic Llamas
20 Stewed Yolk

Realizing that this could be a difficult quiz, I have provided hints. I hope this helps.

1 A Cub Belch - Sandy
2 A Dark Bowl - Atlantic City
3 A Massive Troll - Celluloid
4 Be A Ranch Cabbie - West Indies
5 Betrayal Woke - Cove
6 Country Pep - 100
7 Darn Frigid Loan - Admitted 27th
8 Deaf Ogres Hens - Olive, Kelly, Hunter
9 Demon Gold Milk Again - Creature
10 Downers Lifters - Stronghold
11 Goat Grasps Rains - Racetrack
12 God Sells New Ride - Forest
13 Insane Ploy - Papeete
14 Butch Lacy - Ship
15 Loaner Sport - French City
16 My Rancor Poet - Up to date
17 Parrots Stalls - Athletic
18 Poor Rancid Songs - Explorer
19 Rustic Llamas - Harmony
20 Stewed Yolk - Hemmingway

October 22, 2010

Hotel Anagrams - Answers

Here are the answers to yesterday's quiz. I hope you got them all correct.

1 A Cub Belch - Beach Club

Beach Club

2 A Dark Bowl - Boardwalk


3 A Massive Troll - All Star Movies

All Star Movies

4 Be A Ranch Cabbie - Caribbean Beach

Caribbean Beach

5 Betrayal Woke - Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower

6 Country Pep - Pop Century

Pop Century

7 Darn Frigid Loan - Grand Floridian

Grand Floridian

8 Deaf Ogres Hens - Shades of Green

Shades of Green

9 Demon Gold Milk Again - Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

10 Downers Lifters - Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

11 Goat Grasps Rains - Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs

12 God Sells New Ride - Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge

13 Insane Ploy - Polynesian


14 Butch Lacy - Yacht Club

Yacht Club

15 Loaner Sport - Port Orleans

Port Orleans

16 My Rancor Poet - Contemporary


17 Parrots Stalls - All Star Sports

All Star Sports

18 Poor Rancid Songs - Coronado Springs

Coronado Springs

19 Rustic Llamas - All Star Music

All Star Music

20 Stewed Yolk - Old Key West

Old Key West

October 27, 2010

Country Bear Jamboree - Part One

Our story about Country Bear Jamboree begins with the 1960 Winter Olympics held in Squaw Valley, California. Walt Disney had been selected as the Chairman of Pageantry and John Hench was chosen to design the Olympic Torch. This first picture is of a plaque attached to one of the official Olympic flagpoles at Squaw Valley. It displays a relief of Walt's signature.

Olympic Flagpole

Walt was struck by the area's alpine beauty and felt that the creation of a family oriented resort would be an asset to the public and help diversify his company. At the games conclusion, Walt began a search of existing and potential sites around the United States to achieve this goal.

In 1965 the U.S. Forest Service requested public bids for the development of Mineral King in the Sequoia National Forest in California. It was believed that this area had the potential to support year-round recreation. Mineral King is a subalpine glacial valley with a lower elevation of 7,400 feet with surrounding granite peaks rising to around 11,000 feet.

Mineral King

The Disney Company entered public bidding against five other organizations. In December of that year, Disney won out and was awarded a three-year planning permit. The Company spent $750K in research and planning and in January 1969 received final approval of its developmental master plan.

Disney proposed spending $35M to create a self-contained village, ski-lifts, and overnight accommodations for year-round use. In an effort to be sensitive to the fragile environment, plans called for the complete elimination of automobiles from the valley floor. Guests would be required to park at a lower elevation and be transported to the resort by an electric cog-assist railway. The State of California pledged $650K to build an all-weather access road to the "drop-off" location. Then Governor Ronald Reagan and a number of other high ranking state officials all went on record supporting the plan.

Mineral King Concept Drawing

Walt knew that the resort would offer plenty of daytime activities with skiing during the winter and hiking and camping during the warmer months. But he felt some sort of Disney entertainment was needed after the sun set. He believed that a show featuring bears would be apropos to the surroundings and be good for a few laughs. He assigned the project to Marc Davis who had been instrumental in developing characters for the Enchanted Tiki Room, Carousel of Progress, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Marc Davis and Walt Disney

Working with Al Bertino, Marc came up with a number of concepts. One featured a bear marching band. Another, Dixieland bears. Even a bear mariachi band was considered. One day in late 1966, Walt walked into Marc's office, took a look at some of his concept drawings, and told him that he loved the characters. As Walt readied to leave, he uncharacteristically said "Good bye" as he walked out the door. This was the last time Marc ever saw Walt alive. A few days later, Walt died on December 15th.

As plans progressed, it was decided to give the bears a country-western persona and feature them in the Mineral King Resort's Bear Band Restaurant Show. Although difficult to see in this Marc Davis drawing, the names were slightly different in the beginning. From left to right they are as follows: Lil' Lemonade Bear, Big Fred, Old Zeke, Cousin Ted, and Brother Zeb.

Five Bear Rugs Concept Drawing

To hear a one minute excerpt from a Mineral King demo recording, check out the following link.

Jumping back in time about 76 years we find naturalist John Muir, journalist Robert Underwood Johnson and businessman Galen Clark campaigning to create Yosemite National Park. They achieved their goal in 1890. Muir was also interested in safeguarding the entire Sierra Nevada Mountains and was instrumental in the formation of the Sierra Club. This organization promotes responsible use of the earth's ecosystems, protection of natural and human environments, education, and lawful means to carry out their objectives. Muir was elected the organization's first president and served in this capacity until his death in 1914. The Sierra Club fought many environmental battles over the years and they saw the Mineral King project as one more encroachment into pristine and unspoiled land.

In June 1969, six months after the Disney Company unveiled its master plan for Mineral King, the Sierra Club filed suit in a Federal District Court to prevent officials of the Departments of Agriculture and Interior from issuing the permits necessary for work to begin. The case proceeded through the judicial system and eventually landed in the United States Supreme Court where arguments were presented on November 17, 1971.

During the entire legal battle, Disney steadfastly stood by their plans but suspended all investments until the case was settled. Eventually, the Sierra Club prevailed and the Mineral King project was scrapped. Disney was never a part of the legal battle. This was strictly between the Sierra Club and the U.S. Government.

From 1974 through 1977, Disney tried to resurrect their plans for a mountain resort at Independence Lake in Northern California. Once again, legal entanglements eventually doomed the project.

Independence Lake

Independence Lake Concept Drawing

While the Mineral King Project was mired in legal red tape, Disney was also hard at work planning and building Walt Disney World. Sensing the inevitable outcome, the Imagineers shifted gears and took a new look at the singing bears and felt that Frontierland would be the perfect home for these ursine stars. Imagineer X Atencio and musical director George Bruns were brought on board to pull together the score. Here we see star-of-the-show Henry receiving some last minute instructions from his acting coaches.

Henry and his Acting Coaches

Country Bear Jamboree was an opening day attraction at the Magic Kingdom (October 1, 1971). The presentation is housed in Grizzly Hall and the theater can hold approximately 350 guests. The show runs just shy of 16 minutes.

Grizzly Hall

Grizzly Hall

There are a few interesting details around the exterior of the theater. High about the "Country Bear Jamboree" sign, are two bearskin rugs hanging on the wall. If you think about it, this is rather ghoulish considering who performs inside.

Bear Skin Rug

If you look closely at the pendulum on the clock near the entrance, you'll see the letters CBJ engraved in the metal.

Country Bear Clock

Pendulum with Engraving

Across the street from Grizzly Hall is Big Al's cabin and former home. With the success of the show, Al decided to cash in on the tourist trade and his home now acts as a merchandise stall and sells frontier souvenirs.

Big Al's Cabin

Big Al Sign

Disney was extremely pleased with the popularity of the show in Florida. East Coast guests loved the wacky bears and would eagerly stomp their feet and clap their hands when instructed to do so.

Less than six months after Country Bear Jamboree premiered at the Magic Kingdom, an entirely new land opened at Disneyland. On March 24, 1972, Bear Country debuted, replacing the Indian Village located in the far northwest corner of Disneyland.

Indian Village

Country Bear Playhouse

Besides a recreation of Country Bear Jamboree, this new land featured Teddi Berra's Swingin' Arcade, Davey Crockett's Explore Canoes (formerly the Indian War Canoes) and a new restaurant named Golden Bear Lodge. It's interesting to note, Disney received so many requests from guests wishing to "lodge" at the Golden Bear Lodge that they renamed the facility Hungry Bear Restaurant to avoid confusion. With the opening of Splash Mountain in 1989, Bear Country was renamed Critter Country to accommodate all of its new inhabitants.

At Disneyland, the Imagineers built two identical theaters for the Country Bear Jamboree attraction, thus doubling the capacity. However, the West Coast reaction to the show never approached that of the Magic Kingdom's. Overall, audiences were blasΓ© about the presentation and there wasn't a lot of foot stompin' and hand clappin'. Bear Country was often deserted after sunset. Even the addition of Splash Mountain did little to boost the attendance. The Country Bear Playhouse closed at Disneyland on September 9, 2001 to make room for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Tokyo Disneyland also received a copy of the show and it was an opening day attraction (April 15, 1983). Like Disneyland, this park had two theaters, however it plays to large audiences throughout the day. It's interesting to note, the spoken dialogue is in Japanese, but several of the songs are sung in English. Another subtle difference in the Tokyo version of this show is that the curtains behind the bears are black rather than red.

This attraction was not duplicated at Disneyland Paris or Hong Kong Disneyland.

Tokyo Country Bear Jamboree

Henry with Black Curtain

To give you an idea of what it's like to see Country Bear Jamboree in Tokyo, I have created a two minute video. I have only included selections presented in Japanese since the English songs are the same recordings we hear in the States. It's fun to pick out the English names and words that are sprinkled into the songs. This was filmed seven years ago with an inferior camera to what I use today.

On December 19, 1984, Disney introduced the Country Bear Christmas Special. Directed and animated by Dave Feiten and Mike Sprout, this show featured holiday songs, new outfits, and the replacement of Terrence (aka Shaker) with a lookalike polar bear. The show was presented each year from mid-November through early January. After a short rehab, the original Country Bear Jamboree show would return and play for the rest of the year. Country Bear Christmas Special was the first "interchangeable" Disney attraction. This show enjoyed holiday runs through 2005. Disney never made any official acknowledgment as to why this show did not return in 2006, but budget cuts were probably the culprit.

Christmas Show & Polar Bear

In the spring of 1986, the Vacation Hoedown show debuted at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. This variation on the original production featured the bears enjoying nature and the joys of summer travel. Most of the cast was given a new outfit and/or prop that in some way represented outdoor activities. The one variation to the cast was the elimination of Sammy, Henry's raccoon pal, to be replaced by Randy the skunk.

Although the show was well received, it failed to maintain the numbers of its predecessor at the Magic Kingdom. So on February 1, 1992, Vacation Hoedown was retired after just five years and the original Country Bear Jamboree returned. At Disneyland, Vacation Hoedown played until the attraction was closed. At Tokyo Disneyland, all three shows, Country Bear Jamboree, Vacation Hoedown, and Country Bear Christmas Special cycle through the year.

Except for the busiest days, Country Bear Jamboree does not open until 10am at the Magic Kingdom. Most people are running for Dumbo, Peter Pan, and the thrill rides during the first hour of operation.

That's it for Part One of Country Bear Jamboree. Check back tomorrow when I discuss the stars of the show.

October 28, 2010

Country Bear Jamboree - Part Two

Yesterday I presented you with a history of Country Bear Jamboree. Now let's take a look at the individual stars of the show.

Henry is the Master of Ceremonies for Country Bear Jamboree. He wears a dickey, high-starched collar, bow tie, and top hat. This gives him a formal look appropriate for hosting such a "classy" to-do. The backstory for Henry indicates that he was a football player who found music and changed careers.

Henry is voiced by Pete Renoudet who can also be heard announcing the arriving trains at Disneyland's Main Street Station. In years past Renoudet was the voice of the Captain on the Rocket to the Moon attraction, First Officer Collins on the Mission to Mars ride, and Captain Nemo in the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea adventure.

Henry can be seen on three different stages during the performance. During the show he sings:

The Bear Band Serenade (with the Five Bear Rugs)
The Fractured Folk Song (with Wendell)
Mama Don't Whip Little Buford (with Wendell)
Davy Crockett (with Sammy)
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)
Come Again (with Sammy, Melvin, Buff, and Max)



Hanging on the wall we have (from left to right) Melvin, Buff, and Max.

Melvin is a dimwitted moose and voiced by Bill Lee. Bill Lee voiced a number of Disney characters including Roger's singing voice in 101 Dalmatians and the Father in Cinderella. Lee was also a member of the Mellomen singing group.

Buff is a buffalo and the leader of the three talking heads. Buff is voiced by Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft (Tony the Tiger) who co-founded the Mellomen with Max Smith. This group lent their talents to such Disney films as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp.

Max is a stag and is also voiced by Pete Renoudet.

Melvin, Buff, and Max

Melvin, Buff, and Max

Gomer is the piano player and wears a high starched collar and blue necktie. The piano is adorned with cornstalks and a beehive sits on top with two straws for easy honey sippin'. Gomer never speaks or sings during the show.

Gomer tickles the ivories during the following numbers:

The Bear Band Serenade (accompanies The Five Bear Rugs - beginning only)
Tears Will Be the Chaser for My Wine (accompanies Trixie)
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)



The Five Bear Rugs are a country-western band consisting of Zeke, Zeb, Ted, Fred, and Tennessee. They perform the following numbers:

The Bear Band Serenade (with Henry)
Devilish Mary (Zeke as the soloist)
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)

Five Bear Rugs

Zeke is the leader of the group. He plays a banjo made out of an old frying pan and a chicken bone. With his left foot he bangs on a dishpan to create "a real ol' country beat." Zeke is an old codger and wears a collar, hat, and spectacles. Dallas McKennon provided the voice for Zeke from October 1971 to July 1975. McKennon's distinctive voice can also be heard on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and as Ben Franklin in the American Adventure.

Randy Sparks took over the role of Zeke following McKennon. Sparks is a folk musician who is probably best known for cofounding The New Christy Minstrels.



Zeb plays a homemade fiddle with a hickory bow. He wears a miner's hat and a red polka dot bandanna. He is voiced by a member of the Stoneman family.

"Pop" Stoneman was born on May 25, 1893. Music was in his blood and he played multiple instruments. After being a solo artist, Pop began to include his wife, 13 adult children, and extended family members in his performances. The group became so large and the music so varied that they frequently broke into "band segments." At times there were as many as six family bands simultaneously performing throughout the country.



Ted is rather lanky for a bear. He wears a tall hat and a white shirt. He plays the corn jug and we're told he also plays the washboard which can be seen near his feet. A close observer will notice "B flat" printed on the side of his corn jug. Two additional jugs can also be seen near his feet sporting "E flat" and "F sharp."



Fred is a big boy who learned to play the mouth-harp (harmonica) from his dad. He wears blue jeans held up by suspenders as well as a red and white striped tie.



Tennessee Bear plays the "thing," a homemade guitar-like instrument with only one string. It sits on a bathroom plunger, has symbols attached to the side of the instrument, and a wooden bird and nest sit atop its neck. Tennessee is voiced by a member of the Stoneman family.



Baby Oscar is not part of the Five Bear Rugs, but is actually Zeb's son. His constant companion is a teddy bear. Baby Oscar does not speak or sing, but contributes double-squeaks three times during the performance when he squeezes his teddy bear. Unlike all of the other bears, Baby Oscar wears no clothing.

Baby Oscar

Wendell plays the mandolin and wears a bowler hat and a blue bandanna. He has a bit of an overbite and a bit of an attitude. He is voiced by Bill Cole. Cole was part of the Mellomen singing group.

Wendell sings the following:

The Fractured Folk Song (with Henry)
Mama Don't Whip Little Buford (with Henry)
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)



It's fairly obvious how Liver Lips McGrowl got his name. He plays the guitar and wears tattered overalls and a red-checked kerchief around his neck. Liver Lips is voiced by Van Stoneman, one of the Stoneman family members.

Liver Lips sings:

My Woman Ain't Pretty
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)

Liver Lips McGrowl

Liver Lips McGrowl

Trixie (aka Loser) is a little bit of ever-lovin' cuddlesome fluff. She hails from Tampa and has a crush on Henry. She wears a blue tutu and a blue bow on her head. Trixie carries a handkerchief in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. A large perfume bottle can be seen near her feet.

Trixie only sings one song, "Tears Will Be the Chaser for My Wine" and does not appear in the grand finale. She was originally voiced by Wanda Jackson but was rerecorded by Cheryl Poole. In 1968, Cheryl Poole was voted Top New Female Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music



Terrence (aka Shaker) is from the Ozarks. He is tall and wears only a hat. He plays the ukulele and is voiced by Van Stoneman, one of the Stoneman family members.

Currently, Terrence's hat covers his brow. However in years past, you could see his eyebrows do a "dance" at the end of his number.

Terrance performs:

How Long Will My Baby Be Gone
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)



The Sun Bonnet Trio hail from Florida and consist of Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah. The triplets wear matching light blue dresses with sun bonnets and hold a handkerchief in their right hands.

Bunny, center stage, is voiced by Jackie Ward (aka Robin Ward). Ward is known as a "one-hit wonder" due to her 1963 million-selling smash "Wonderful Summer";

Bubbles stands to the audience's left, and is voiced by Loulie Jean Norman. Among Norman's many accomplishments, she is the singer of the classic Star Trek theme as well as the soprano opera-singing ghost in the Haunted Mansion.

Beulah stands to the audience's right and is voiced by Peggy Clark.

The Sun Bonnet Trio perform the following numbers:

All the Guys That Turn Me On Turn Me Down
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)

Sun Bonnet Trio

Sun Bonnet Trio

Ernest (aka Dude) wears a derby, collar, and lilac polka dot bow tie. He plays the fiddle. Ernest was voiced by Van Stoneman until July 1975. He was rerecorded by Randy Sparks.

Ernest only sings "If Ya Can't Bite, Don't Growl" and does not appear in the grand finale.



Teddi Barra hails from the Dakotas and is alluring to a number of the cast members as is evident by their catcalls and whistles. Teddi descends from the ceiling on a rose-covered swing. She wears a feathered hat and a feather boa and carries a parasol. Teddi does not play an instrument. She was originally voiced by country singer Jean Shepard but Patsy Stoneman (Stoneman family member) now provides the vocal.

Teddi Barra sings:

Heart We Did All That We Could
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)

Teddi Barra

Teddi Barra

Big Al is perhaps the "biggest" star of the show. Even before his curtain opens, the off-tune strums of his guitar brings laughter from the audience. Al has a personalized guitar and wears a red vest and hat. Al is voiced by Tex Ritter. Ritter is possibly the best known name of the voice actors in this show. His credits include Country Music Hall of Fame member, movie actor, and father to John Ritter of "Three's Company" fame.

Big Al only sings "Blood on the Saddle." Even during the grand finale, he continues with this piece while everyone else sings "Old Slew Foot."

A continuation of the song goes like this:

There was blood on the saddle, blood all around
And a great big puddle of blood on the ground

The cowboy lay in it, all covered with gore
He'll never ride tall in the saddle no more

Oh pity the cowboy, all bloody and dead
A bronco fell on him and mashed in his head

Big Al

Big Al

Sammy is Henry's raccoon friend and is voiced by Bill Cole.

It's appropriate that Sammy should be resting on Henry's head while he sings Davy Crockett. Walt's 1950's television program "Disneyland" featured three "Davy Crockett" episodes starring Fess Parker - who wore a coonskin cap. The show was a huge hit and the hat became a tremendous fad among boys all over the United States (I owned one). A variation of the cap was marketed to young girls as the Polly Crockett hat (Davy's wife). BTW, synthetic fur was used.

Here's another little known fact. Davy Crockett was not born in Tennessee as the Disney song suggests. He was born in the State of Franklin. Don't believe me? Look it up.


Well that's it for Country Bear Jamboree. I hope I've brought back some pleasant memories and provided you with some new information about the show.

In my never-ending endeavor to bring you quality videos, I sat through (endured) Country Bear Jamboree five times in a row so I could film it from five different vantage points. I hope you enjoy my efforts (and sacrifice - LOL).

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About October 2010

This page contains all entries posted to The β€œWorld” According to Jack in October 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2010 is the previous archive.

November 2010 is the next archive.

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