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January 2, 2012

Christmas Week

Now that the busy holiday season is over, I have a question for all of you who visited Disneyland and Walt Disney World the week between Christmas and New Year's. Why?

When I applied to work at Disneyland, the interviewer made it very clear - I would work while others played. This meant weekends, nights, and especially holidays. I started as a Miscellaneous Kitchen Helper at the Blue Bayou Restaurant in May, 1971. After my initial training, I began my regular duties. I caught on quickly and survived the hordes during Easter week, the mobs of summer vacation, and the masses over the long Thanksgiving weekend. But nothing prepared me for Christmas week and I was taken by surprise at just how busy the park can be at this time of year. I had never experienced such a work load before that. For seven days straight, the Blue Bayou Restaurant had an hour-long line from the time we opened at 11:30am until closing at midnight. (This was in the days before reservations.) Mandatory overtime was instituted and many of us worked six or seven, 10-12 hour days. It was hell.

In the picture below, imagine the inside lobby of the Blue Bayou Restaurant completely filled with a zigzagging line that exits the door then snakes out of sight along the side of the building. And this was just to eat at a restaurant. The really long lines were for the attractions. Most of you who visit Walt Disney World have never had to experience long lines to eat at a table service restaurant.

Blue Bayou Restaurant

I have often asked myself, "Why would anyone visit Disneyland or Walt Disney World the week between Christmas and New Year's?" This is hands down the busiest week of the year. Park closings due to capacity issues are a daily experience. Of course, the answer to this question is simple. The kids are out of school this week and very often mom and dad have coordinated their vacation to coincide with this. But I'm here to tell you, a trip to a Disney park over Christmas week just might not be worth it.

Living in Orlando, I can go to Disney World anytime I like. And writing for AllEars requires that I visit here 3 to 5 times a week. But I avoid Disney World like the plague between Christmas and New Year's. It' simply isn't worth it. It's too darn crowded. Even Interstate 4, Highway 192, and the streets near Disney become a clogged mess during this time of year.

But the question "Why do people visit during this week" kept nagging at me. I know not everyone was doing so because of school schedules. There must be something I'm missing about this week that attracts so many of you. So I decided to take a drive down to the Magic Kingdom on December 29th (2011) to see if things are as horrible as I remember.

First, I knew I needed to arrive before 10am. The Magic Kingdom is the busiest of the four parks and is always the first to close due to capacity issues. I wanted to make sure I arrived before this happened. A complete description detailing Disney park closing policies can be found at the bottom of this blog.

When a park is reaching capacity, Disney will post signs around property, informing guests that a particular park is closed. However, these signs are easily missed. Once you reach a "point of no return" on the roadway, you are committed to drive all the way to the toll booth where you'll be asked to make a U-turn. This can take a lot of time as the cast members must explain the disappointing news to each and every car ahead of you.

If a park is open, you will still have many vehicles ahead of you at the toll plaza when it's busy. I must admit, Disney is magnificent at parking cars efficiently, but it can still take a lot of time to pay the attendant and be directed to a space.

If you're staying at a Disney resort, by all means, use Disney transportation during Christmas week. It's easier and will save you a lot of time and hassle.

I parked my car in the Magic Kingdom lot at 9:30am. I had to wait for three trams before I could board for my trip to the TTC. Once there, the lines to catch the monorail and ferry boat were incredible. I opted for the ferry and was able to catch the second boat to pull in. Once at the Magic Kingdom, the lines for bag check were humungous, as were the lines to pass through the turnstiles. In all, it took me a full hour to get from my car to the tunnel under the train tracks.

Waiting for the Tram

Waiting for the Monorail

Waiting for the Ferry Boat

Waiting for the Monorail and Ferry Boat

Waiting at the Turnstiles

Waiting at the Turnstiles

Since my objective was to blog about the day, not experience the park, I did not ride any attractions. I simply circled the park and took pictures and shot videos. Here are few photos of Main Street and The Hub.

Crowds on Main Street

Crowds on Main Street

Crowds on The Hub

Crowds on The Hub

Take a look at Tomorrowland.

Crowds in Tomorrowland

Crowds in Tomorrowland

Crowds in Tomorrowland

If you want to avoid lines at counter service restaurants, eating at off times is absolutely necessary. These next pictures were taken at Cosmic Rays Starlight CafΓ© at 11:30am. As you can see, it's already pretty busy. But this is nothing compared to what it will look like at noon. Even at 11:30, cast members were guarding every doorway leading into the restaurant. All were designated as "exit only" with the exception of one which was designated "entrance only." Disney does this to facilitate better crowd control. In addition, cast members had the entrance to the main dining room barricaded. You were required to have trays of food before being allowed to find a table. Past experience has shown that people will save tables, thus taking up this precious space for twice as long as necessary.

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe

By the way, did you know that Disney raises the prices on counter-service food over this week - just because they can?

This is Fantasyland around noon. There were still some open spaces, but you had to use your best maneuvering skills to negotiate the walkways.

Crowds in Fantasyland

Crowds in Fantasyland

Crowds in Fantasyland

In Liberty Square, the line for the Haunted Mansion began near the entrance to the Liberty Belle.

Crowds in Liberty Square

Haunted Mansion Line

In Frontierland, the wooden walkway that skirts the edge of the Rivers of America was designated as a two-way street. Masking tape had been placed on the ground with arrows indicating direction. Cast members were stationed along the route about every 15 feet to keep things moving. There was no stopping allowed. Traffic was so regimented in this area, I was not able to stop and get a picture. This next shot was taken In Liberty Square as you approach the Frontierland walkway.

Walkway Leading to Frontierland

The area in front of Thunder and Splash Mountains was a mob scene. There must have been a couple hundred people in line just to get FastPasses for TM, which was already stating a comeback time of 2:45-3:45. And remember, with crowds like these, returning to this area when your FastPass comes due is going to take additional time.

Crowds in Frontierland

Crowds in Frontierland

As you can imagine, Adventureland was as crowded as the rest of the park.

Adventurland Crowds

Adventurland Crowds

The shortest stated attraction line I ever saw was in Tomorrowland. Shortly after I arrived at 10:30 the line for Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor was 20 minutes. However, before I left the area, it was 30 minutes. The sign posted for Snow White was 40 minutes, Dumbo 60 minutes, Small World 75 minutes, and Space Mountain 2 hours. But mind you, all of these signs said "From this point" and the lines extended well past the signs, which could add another 10-20 minutes to your wait. Even the People Mover and Swiss Family Treehouse had lines - attractions that never see people waiting. Carousel of Progress was playing to almost full theaters.

As I circled the park, I kept saying to myself, "I'm glad I'm here just to document the crowds and I'm not trying to get my money's worth."

I have created a humorous 3 minute video to better illustrate just how crowded things were that day. Check it out.

People often ask me how I can take pictures and videos at Walt Disney World with few or no people in the shot. Well one thing is certain, I don't attempt this the week between Christmas and New Year's.

After spending three hours at the Magic Kingdom, I'm still shaking my head. It is beyond me why anyone would spend their hard-earned money to visit Walt Disney World during Christmas week (other than it coincides with school vacation). If you want to see the holiday decorations, you can do that with manageable crowds from December 1st to around the 18th. The only thing you'd miss out on seeing during the early weeks of December is the Christmas parade. However, this is available if you attend one of the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parties.

If you're thinking that you'll get to see the filming of the Christmas Parade and special entertainment broadcast every Christmas morning on ABC, think again. This was filmed weeks earlier at both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland when the crowds were manageable.

So folks, help me understand. Send me your reasons for visiting during the busiest week of the year (besides school vacation). Tell me why you'll pay top dollar to stand in hour-long lines day after day when you could experience the parks at slower, less expensive times during other parts of the year. Would you do it again? I'd also like to hear some of your experiences, both good and bad, that occurred over Christmas week. I know I'd enjoy reading them and I think my readers would as well. (Try not to write a book. LOL)

When I worked at Disneyland in the 1970's, the projected attendance for the day was posted backstage for the cast members to see. Christmas week regularly attracted 60 to 70 thousand people per day. Disney now guards this information judiciously. So don't ask me how many people visit. I don't know.

Below are the official Disney guidelines in regards to park closings at Walt Disney World. Note, it is common for the parks to reopen later in the afternoon as guests begin to leave.

Alternate Parking:

All Walt Disney World parks are open, but due to parking limitations, guests will be requested to park their vehicle at a different theme park and use Disney transportation to their ultimate destination. For example, guests wishing to visit the Magic Kingdom may be directed to park at Epcot and use the monorail.

Phase 1:

The following guests will be turned away at the Auto Plaza:

"’ Day guests with Magic Your Way Base Tickets
"’ One-Day/One-Park Tickets
"’ Guests without theme park admission
"’ Cast members using Main Gate & Silver Passes.

Phase 2:

Only the following guests will be allowed entrance:

"’ Disney Resort guests*
"’ Annual and Premium Annual Passholders
"’ Guests with Park Hopper tickets coming from another park visited earlier in the day
"’ Guests re-entering the same park
"’ Guests with dining reservations
"’ Guests with reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, The Pirates League, or Harmony Barber Shop (Magic Kingdom)
"’ Guests with reservations for Wild Africa Trek (Animal Kingdom)

Phase 3:

At this phase, park admission is limited to:

"’ Disney Resort Guests*
"’ Annual and Premium Annual Passholders,
"’ Guests with dining reservations
"’ Guests with reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, The Pirates League, or Harmony Barber Shop (Magic Kingdom)
"’ Guests with reservations for Wild Africa Trek (Animal Kingdom)

Phase 4:

Closed to all guests as the park has reached total capacity

* The following non-Walt Disney World hotels are considered part of the Disney Resort:

Swan and Dolphin
Shades of Green
The hotels along Hotel Plaza Blvd (provided guests arrive via their hotel shuttle bus)

January 8, 2012

Disney California Adventure Part Six of Six

Jack Spence Masthead

Yesterday I discussed Disney California Adventure's (DCA) newest addition, Cars Land. Today I'll be closing this series of articles with a description of Paradise Pier. Paradise Pier is based on Victorian boardwalks that were once found along the coast of California. It features "Coney Island" style rides and a midway. But before I go into detail about this land, I'd like to address some criticism that this section of the park often receives. Some people claim that Walt would never have built a "carnival" or offered midway games.

First off, I don't like to speculate what Walt would do. We have no idea what Walt would think today. He was always changing with the times. In fact, I wrote an entire article around this fact. But I'd like to offer my opinion as to what Walt was thinking back in the early 1950's when he was planning Disneyland.

We've all heard the story of how Walt was watching his two daughters ride the merry-go-round at Griffith Park when he thought to himself, there should be someplace where the entire family could go and enjoy themselves.

At that time in history, there was an amusement area and pier in Long Beach called The Pike. This spot offered your typical carnival rides like roller coasters, bumper cars, Ferris wheels, and midway games. It was about an hour's drive from Walt's home in Holmby Hills and I have no doubt that he visited The Pike on several occasions while planning Disneyland.

Walt knew he could do better than The Pike. He knew he could offer superior rides and a more pleasant environment. But his real complaint wasn't about the attractions and the midway, but the people who worked at and frequented The Pike.

Many of The Pike's employees were crusty old men who had experienced the seedier side of life. Coarse language and a gruff attitude were common among a number of the workers.

The Pike was located close to the naval shipyards of Long Beach. Because of this, sailors haunted the area in search of alcohol and loose women - both of which were plentiful.

The Pike also had a number of privately owned food stands and midway games, all doing their own thing. Many of the games of chance were dubious in their legitimacy and the food was of questionable quality. The Pike was typical of the amusement parks of the era and Walt knew this.

Don't get me wrong. The Pike had many fine, honest establishments and abundant opportunities for a good time. But in Walt's eyes, this was definitely not a place for a family with young children. Not to mention, he wanted total control over every aspect of his park. This was something that the carnivals and boardwalks of the day did not offer.

The Pike

In the first paragraph I mentioned that some people believe that Walt never would have built a "carnival" park with a midway. But is that true? Let's take a look at Disneyland in 1955. Dumbo was a simple spinning ride. The only difference between this attraction and a similar carnival ride was the passenger seating area. Walt simply spruced it up with an imaginative flair.

Take a look at the next picture of the original Disneyland Dumbo ride. This is not the elaborate attraction we're used to today. This was a simple carnival ride.


The Tea Cups are another good example of Walt taking existing carnival technology and theming it to one of his movies.

Tea Cups

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was simply an amusement park fun house ride that Walt dressed up with his own characters. Even today, this attraction uses two-dimensional figures throughout the ride - not elaborate AudioAnimatronics.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

As for midway games, Disneyland had two for many years. There were shootin' galleries in both Adventureland and Frontierland - the Frontierland gallery exists even today.

Adventureland Shootin' Gallery

I don't believe Walt would have a problem with a period-piece, well-themed boardwalk/carnival in one of his parks today - just as long as it was clean, well run, and free from a rowdy environment. Paradise Pier meets all of those criteria.

Despite its name, Paradise Pier does not sit on a pier. It's arranged boardwalk-style and circles Paradise Bay. Although it can be entered from two locations, only one entrance is labeled with a sign.

Paradise Pier Entrance

Paradise Pier Entrance

The first structure we come to is Ariel's Grotto. This restaurant offers character dining with the princesses and serves American cuisine. Ariel's Grotto sits on the water and offers spectacular views of much of Paradise Pier. Its interior theming is "under the sea."

Ariel's Grotto

Ariel's Grotto

When DCA first opened, this restaurant offered first-class seafood and was run by Wolfgang Puck. It was named Avalon Cove after the city on Catalina Island.

Avalon Cove

The Imagineers knew that much of Epcot's attendance was derived from guests seeking out the many fine eating establishments the park offered. So they reasoned that the throngs of guests who would be visiting DCA would also be thrilled to dine at an upscale eatery run by such a well-known celebrity chef. But the throngs of guests never materialized. DCA was projected to draw an average of 19,000 people a day. Eight months after opening, it was drawing a mere 4,500 people a day. Avalon Cove suffered severely with these small crowds and Wolfgang Puck withdrew from the restaurant in October of 2001. Avalon Cove didn't even last a year.

There is a small shop located across the walkway from Ariel's Grotto which sells the typical DCA souvenirs.

Souvenirs Shop

From the shop, the boardwalk curves downward to the main thoroughfare. Along the way, several period billboards advertise DCA attractions and present-day products.




This area of the boardwalk is also a good spot to watch the rollercoaster, California Screamin', launch its guests on a raucous ride.

California Screamin'

In a previous article, I mentioned that Soarin' Over California was one of the parks few, hit attractions. California Screamin' was the other runaway sensation.

Designed to resemble an early 20th century wooden coaster, California Screamin' is actually a steel coaster. It is the eighth longest roller coaster in the world at 6,072 feet. It was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering and was built by Intamin, a company known around the world for creating thrill rides and roller coasters. The coaster uses a linear induction motor to launch its trains up the first hill. Guests accelerate from zero to 55 miles an hour in four seconds. Like Space Mountain at Disneyland, the cars are equipped with speakers and jammin' music is piped to each seat during the ride. California Screamin' is an integral part of the boardwalk and winds its way above and around many of the buildings here.

California Screamin'

California Screamin'

California Screamin'

California Screamin'

California Screamin'

California Screamin'

Here's a picture of me, accelerating to 55 miles an hour in four seconds.

Jack on California Screamin'

California Screamin' has one inversion loop. Before the recent DCA refurbishment, the loop was highlighted by a giant silhouette of Mickey Mouse. But this was changed recently and now a massive sun emphasizes the inversion. More on this later.

California Screamin'

California Screamin'

Near the entrance to California Screamin' is King Triton's Carousel of the Sea. Rather than riding on horses, this simple merry-go-round features colorful flying fish, sea horses, dolphins, whales and other ocean creatures.

King Triton's Carousel of the Sea

King Triton's Carousel of the Sea

King Triton's Carousel of the Sea

Displayed around the carousel's canopy are the names of a number of the former and present day piers and boardwalks found up and down the California coast.

King Triton's Carousel of the Sea

One of the first attractions added to DCA as part of the parks $1.1 billion refurbishment was Toy Story Midway Mania. It opened on June 17, 2008 and was an immediate success. In addition, the attraction's theming fit perfectly along a boardwalk that also featured real midway games.

Toy Story Midway Mania

The basic attraction is almost identical to its cousin at Disney's Hollywood Studios. However, the queue and loading areas are entirely different. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, a large portion of the line is indoors and features a number of oversized nostalgic games. At DCA, much of the line is covered, but it is still open to the outdoors and not air-conditioned. In addition, no games are displayed.

At DCA, Mr. Potato Head is in clear view of the boardwalk. Here, he acts as a barker, drawing attention to himself, the guests, and Toy Story Midway Mania.

Mr. Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head

The loading zone is also open-air and does not feature the games of Andy's room. Instead, this area continues the boardwalk theme with brightly colored graphics and a multitude of overhead light bulbs.

Toy Story Midway Mania

Toy Story Midway Mania

Appropriately, real midway games can be found just a little further down the boardwalk from Toy Story Midway Mania. And unlike the midway games found at Dinoland U.S.A at Disney's Animal Kingdom, the stuffed animal prizes you can win at DCA are Disney themed.

Mideway Games

Mideway Games

Mideway Games

Further along the boardwalk we find shops and other places of interest. Don't worry. They're not real tattoos. They're the temporary type.





Also lining the boardwalk are a number of concession stands offering popcorn, hotdogs, sodas, and other traditional amusement park fare.

Concession Stands

When DCA first opened, its giant Ferris wheel was called the Sun Wheel. It appropriately featured a giant sun at its center.

Sun Wheel

One of the major complaints guests had about DCA was its lack of a Disney identity. So as part of the recent makeover, Mickey's rather undistinguished silhouette was removed from California Screamin' (see above) and a more familiar and personal image of his continence was added to the Sun Wheel. In addition, the attraction was renamed Mickey's Fun Wheel.

Mickey's Fun Wheel

In a further effort to Disneyfy Mickey's Fun Wheel, each of the gondolas was given a new persona. Gone are the old "Paradise Pier" logos to be replaced with the faces of Disney characters.



Mickey's Fun Wheel is 160 feet tall. Its design was inspired by the 1920 Wonder Wheel found at Coney Island. These two Ferris wheels differ from most others in that a number of their gondolas ride along oblong shaped tracks within the wheel. This causes the gondolas to slide inward and outwards as the wheel rotates. Mickey's Fun Wheel offers 24 gondolas of which 16 swing. Guests may choose to ride in a sliding or fixed gondola. Each gondola can hold up to six people. The swinging gondolas offer the most thrill and can be nerve-racking for the faint of heart.

Mickey's Fun Wheel

The views from Mickey's Fun Wheel are spectacular and offer some good photo opportunities. However, for safety reasons, the gondolas are completely caged in and you must look out through wire mesh.

View from Mickey's Fun Wheel

View from Mickey's Fun Wheel

View from Mickey's Fun Wheel

Not all attractions received a makeover during DCA's renovation. In the case of the Maliboomer, it was removed completely. The Maliboomer was a thrill ride that launched guests straight up a 180 foot tall pylon at a speed of 40 miles an hour and generating g-forces of 3.5.

Disney's official reason for removing Maliboomer was that Paradise Pier is supposed to represent of Boardwalk of the 1920's and this type of attraction had not been invented yet. However, Goofy's Fly School also doesn't meet this criteria and it survived (see below).




One Paradise Pier attraction received a major identity reassignment. The original Orange Stinger was an off-the-shelf "wave swinger" ride. Guests sat in swing chairs and were lifted upwards and spun while the overhead canopy undulated. This undulating motion added an up and down, or wave motion which increased the thrill factor of the ride. The orange design paid tribute to the orange groves that once populated the land Disneyland now sits on.

Orange Stinger

Orange Stinger

Like the Sun Wheel, the Imagineers wanted to give the Orange Stinger a Disney identity. So the orange was removed and the attraction was rethemed after one of Mickey's famous cartoons, "The Band Concert." Renamed "Silly Symphony Swings," this revamped ride now reenacts the tornado that played havoc on Mickey's orchestra. To the music of William Tell Overture, the center column rises, exposing more and more of the band members as the storm whips them around.

Silly Symphony Swings

Silly Symphony Swings

Silly Symphony Swings

Silly Symphony Swings

Silly Symphony Swings

Silly Symphony Swings

A nice byproduct of this refurbishment was the creation of a lovely and mostly forgotten seating area. This is a wonderful spot to sit waterside and take a breather.

Silly Symphony Swings Seating Area

Another section of Paradise Pier also received a major makeover. In the early years, there was a food court here that featured two counter service restaurants. These were Pizza Oom Mow Mow and Burger Invasion. The theme was that of freestanding beachside food stands. Although the concept was carried out well, it still felt cheap and cheesy. In addition, most of the seating was exposed to the elements with just a few umbrellas to shield you from the sun.

Pizza Oom Mow Mow

Burger Invasion

Burger Invasion

This area was replaced by a beautiful Victorian pavilion. It's difficult to express what a wonderful transformation took place here. This food court is stunning and in my opinion, the most elegant counter service area of any Disney park. It is truly splendid. The offerings here are Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta and Paradise Garden Grill.

Victorian Food Court

Victorian Food Court

Victorian Food Court

Victorian Food Court

Victorian Food Court

Victorian Food Court

As we continue our trip around the boardwalk we come to Goofy's Sky School. This is an off-the-shelf "wild mouse roller coaster" (similar to Primeval Whirl at Disney's Animal Kingdom - but with no spinning). The ride is based on Disney's animated short "Goofy's Glider".

Goofy's Sky School

Goofy's Sky School

Goofy's Sky School

As with other attractions, Goofy's Sky School is the result of reworking an older attraction and giving it a Disney persona. In the beginning, the ride was called Mulholland Madness and was supposed to represent the famous Mulholland Drive, a twisting and turning roadway that snakes its way through the Santa Monica Mountains.

Mulholland Madness

This attraction is a perfect example of why DCA had a reputation of being a cheap, off-the-shelf park. Many couldn't believe that after Disney had built such wonderful coasters as the Matterhorn and Thunder Mountain that they would allow such a cheap ride within one of their parks. Disney would counter that Mulholland Madness fit the theme of a boardwalk amusement park.

The retheming of this attraction from Mulholland Madness to Goofy's Sky School was minimal. There just isn't that much anyone can do to spruce up such a ride. Luckily, most of the track is hidden from public view and doesn't intrude onto the boardwalk.

Next to Mulholland Madness there was a large, sunglass-wearing dinosaur. He also was a victim of the refurbishment and was eliminated as he wreaked California beach rather than Victorian boardwalk.

Sunglass-wearing Dinosaur

Across from Goofy's Sky School is Jumpin' Jellyfish. This is a parachute jump-style ride that has been given a marine-life theme. Unlike Maliboomer which was a true thrill ride, Jumpin' Jellyfish is much tamer and offers a gentle ascent and decent. This ride remained virtually unchanged during the makeover.

Jumpin' Jellyfish

Next door we find Golden Zephyr, another ride that was left as-is during the refurbishment. This attraction features six Bock Rogers-style rocket ships suspended from a rotating tower. When the tower spins, the centrifugal force propels the rockets outward over the land and water.

This is a pretty tame ride. Unless you have a fear of heights, you should be okay.

Golden Zephyr

Golden Zephyr

Golden Zephyr

The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Undersea Adventure is also a part of Paradise Pier. However, I have already discussed this attraction in Part Four of this series.

Disney learned long ago that fireworks and shows like Fantasmic encouraged guests to linger at Disneyland longer than they might have otherwise without such nighttime entertainment. They also learned that the longer guests stay in the park, the more money they spend on food and souvenirs.

When trying to turn around DCA, the Disney executives new they needed to create some super fantastic nighttime entertainment if they wanted guests to remain in their struggling park after sundown. And since Disneyland already had fireworks, they had to find something else. Thus was born World of Color.

World of Color is a nighttime spectacular that takes place one to two times each evening on Paradise Bay. A combination of water jets, lasers, mist, fire, Disney animation, and Disney music combine to create a magnificent production that never fails to woo audiences. It officially opened on June 11, 2010.

World of Color

World of Color

World of Color

World of Color

World of Color

It's estimated that Disney spent $75 million to design and build World of Color. The show uses more than 1,000 fountains that can shoot water up to 200 feet into the air.
The fire nozzles can project flames 50 feet skyward. And the fans of mist act as projection screens for animation.

Although the show can be seen from anywhere around Paradise Pier, it is definitely directional and best viewed from Paradise Park. This terraced garden/park can accommodate 4,000 spectators. FastPass is available as are prime viewing locations when combined with a dinner package at the Carthay Circle Restaurant. Disney even sells special Mouse Ears that receive radio transmissions and the ears blink and change color with the show.

Paradise Park

Paradise Park

This concludes my series of articles about Disney California Adventure. I know it's hard to believe after six long columns, but I've only scratched the surface. DCA has many details that I haven't begun to mention.

As we know, DCA got off to a rocky start. But Disney has done the right thing and corrected many of the mistakes that were made here. There is still room for improvement, but this will come in time. In the meantime, DCA is worth your consideration. It makes an excellent companion park to Disneyland and the entire resort is magical. If you haven't already visited the "new" DCA, I hope you make plans to do so soon.

January 9, 2012

Pounding the Pavement at Walt Disney World

Pounding the Pavement

Some time ago, I wrote a blog about benches and another about lampposts found at the theme parks at Walt Disney World. My intent was to show you the lengths the Imagineers go to, to tell a "story" with details. Today I've picked another topic to illustrate this point. And the topic I've selected is just about as mundane as you can get, pavement. Most people never give a thought to the ground they walk on, but believe me, Disney has given this subject a lot of consideration. As I so often do, let's start our story at Disneyland in California.

It's hard to believe, but Disneyland opened just one year after construction began. The park was far from finished when the first guests rushed through the gates, but the basics were there. Main Street, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Adventureland all had something to offer, but it was obvious that work still needed to be done. One famous story tells of women's high-heel shoes getting stuck in the soft asphalt that had been poured only the day before.

Yes folks, women wore heels to Disneyland in the 1950's. This next picture was taken in late July, 1955, just two weeks after the park opened.

High Heeled Shoes

On opening day, the streets of Frontierland were not paved, but had dirt roads. I don't know if this was done intentionally to help add authenticity to the land, or for a lack of money and time. But either way, this wasn't going to work. According to the Hammond/Hazlewood song, "It Never Rains in Southern California," but trust me, this just isn't true. It does rain in Southern California and rain turns dirt into mud. I don't know how long dirt streets lasted in Frontierland, but it wasn't too long before they were paved over.

Since we're talking about the opening of Disneyland and the uncompleted park, I'd like to take a little side trip. For years, the Disney marketing folk have quoted Walt's famous opening day words:

"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world."

To this day, Disney uses these words to "spin" magic into each and every new project that comes down the pike. And there's nothing wrong with this. However, these words have a far more humble beginning than Disney would have you believe.

As you know, Walt was in debt up to his eyebrows trying to get Disneyland built. And at some point, ready or not, he was going to have to start allowing paying guests to enter the park if he was going to generate income and keep building.

Walt and his Imagineers knew that the park looked incomplete on opening day. This was obvious to everyone. They also knew the press was going to ask Walt, "When will Disneyland be finished?" In the business world, it's always important to emphasize the positives and downplay the negatives. So this prophetic statement was crafted only to pacify the media, not to become a creed for the Disney Company to live by.

Now, back to pavement.

Most areas of Disney parks are paved with special cement that is supposedly softer than regular concrete, thus easier on the feet. I know this is hard to believe after a long day of touring, but that's what the Disney folk say. In addition, the pavement is usually painted with non-skid paint. Disney also uses color to help tell a story. For example, the ground in the Magic Kingdom's Frontierland is painted a brownish-red to suggest the earth of the Wild West, while over in Tomorrowland, the concrete is painted gray, to hint at, well, um, concrete.

Frontierland Pavement

Tomorrowland Pavement

But not all of the pavement in Tomorrowland is boring. Throughout the main entrance concourse, the ground has been modeled to look like giant gears, wheels, sprockets, and cogs.

Tomorrowland Pavement

Tomorrowland Gears

Tomorrowland Circles

Tomorrowland Gears

At the Winnie the Pooh ride in Fantasyland we see how pavement can delineate an attraction from the main walkway. Pavement color, texture, and material are used extensively throughout all of the parks to set boundaries.

Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh

Behind the castle, a beautiful compass rose is missed by most as they hurry to Dumbo and Peter Pan.

Fantasyland Compass Rose

In front of the Yankee Trader Shop in Liberty Square, the remains of a foundation of a long forgotten structure can be found. And at the nearby Haunted Mansion, the horseshoe prints of a ghost horse are seen around the hearse.

Yankee Trader Shop

Old Foundation


Horse Prings

One of the most famous bits of Disney concrete lore revolves around the Haunted Mansion. There were several versions to the story, but the tale tells of Master Gracey and his bride. Somehow, her wedding ring was lost (thrown, stomped on, flung, misplaced) and it ended up embedded in the concrete near the exit of the ride. As guests would leave the Haunted Mansion, "informed" experts would point out the ring to newbies. However, what they were pointing out was either an old gate post hole or a piece of electrical conduit. Either way, it was most certainly not a person's ring. It was too small to fit on any finger. Eventually, Disney tired of the traffic jams this faux ring was causing and removed it. When Disney reimagined the queue for the Haunted Mansion last year, they included a real wedding/engagement ring in the cement. The ring is slightly off the beaten track so you'll have to look for it to find it.

Wedding Ring

In Adventureland, you can find broken tiles, gems, and coins scattered around The Flying Carpets of Aladdin.

Flying Carpets of Aladdin

Broken Tile



Between Adventureland and Frontierland, another compass rose can be found with additional flourishes to enhance the design.

Adventureland and Frontierland Boarder

Compass Rose


A number of the trees that line Main Street have attractive wrought iron grates to protect them from harm. If you look closely, some even say "Main Street U.S.A."

Main Street Tree Base

Now let's move to Epcot.

For the most part, the pavement leading from the parking lot up to and past Spaceship Earth is pretty mundane. Delineating Spaceship Earth from Innoventions Plaza is a swath of coarse black squares. During the day, these squares command little attention, but at night, they become magical. Fiber optics have been embedded into a number of these squares and tiny lights sparkle in the dark. But even more impressive is a small area in front of Innoventions West. Here, three larger sections of pavement have been outfitted with these lights and they dance and change colors after the sun sets. Unfortunately, most people never see this light show as it is in an area few people walk.

Innovations Plaza

Black Tiles

Fiber Optics Embedded in Black Tile

Dancing Fiber Optics

Dancing Fiber Optics

Dancing Fiber Optics

Concrete can have a tendency to crack if not mixed and poured correctly. To reduce cracks from spreading, concrete is poured in sections with grooves separating one block from the next. In Innoventions Plaza, the Imagineers have taken advantage of this and created great designs and accented the sections with color. In some cases, the concrete has been roughened to add texture to the design.

Innoventions Plaza

Innoventions Plaza

Of the Future World pavilions, Mission Space has the best pavement. The area in front of the attraction has dozens of planets, asteroids, and comets imbedded into the ground. The design helps set the mood for the adventure to come.

Mission Space

Mission Space Pavement

Mission Space Pavement

On the pathway leading from Future World to World Showcase is a giant design of the old EPCOT Center logo. This is best appreciated when viewed from above.

EPCOT Center Logo

EPCOT Center Logo

EPCOT Center Logo

The promenade around World Showcase is basic with no real design other than an occasional swath to delineate one nation from the next. However, once you enter a country, the pavement takes on the design of that nation.

Delineating Swath

In the Germany Pavilion, the bricks create a repeating crescent shape. This is indicative of what you might actually find in a small German town. (I hate to break the magic, but these are not real stones. The Imagineers used a stamp to imbed the pattern into wet concrete.)

Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion Pavement

The patterns and designs of Saint Mark's Square in Venice were duplicated at the Italy Pavilion.

Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion Pavement

At the Japan Pavilion, large pieces of flag stone were randomly imbedded in the ground.

Japan Pavilion

Japan Pavilion Pavement

In the ville nouvelle (new city) section of the Morocco Pavilion, the ground is covered with neatly ordered bricks. However, in the Medina (old city), the pavement is very coarse with many exposed rocks. The Imagineers did their best to simulate dirt without actually having to resort to this substance.

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion New City Pavement

Morocco Pavilion Old City Pavement

Perhaps the most famous pavement at Walt Disney World can be found at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In the forecourt of the Chinese Theater are the foot and handprints of a number of celebrities. This practice comes from the original Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Chinese Theater

Foot and Hand Prints in Cement

Foot and Hand Prints in Cement

There are a number of stories as to how the tradition of actors placing their footprints in the cement came about. The most famous tells that Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped in wet cement outside of the theater, giving Sid Grauman, part owner of the theater, the idea.

Humans aren't the only creatures imbedding their footprints in the pavement at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Gertie the Dinosaur and an Imperial Walker have also left their impression on the landscape.

Gertie the Dinosaur

Gertie the Dinosaur Footprint

Imperial Walker

Imperial Walker Footprint

For the most part, Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards consist of concrete sidewalks and curbs and asphalt streets. But near the Tower of Terror, you can find that the pavement has worn away to expose the original brick streets and the Red Car tracks. These tracks pay homage to the Pacific Electric Railway which once offered the people of Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties over 1,000 miles of mass transit.

Red Car Tracks

There are a number of theater facades on Sunset Boulevard. As was typical of the 30's and 40's, these playhouses had elaborate entries, often created out of terrazzo. Here we see the Beverly Sunset Theater's entrance.

Beverly Sunset Theater

Beverly Sunset Theater Entrance

On Pixar Place, Scrabble tiles have fallen from the overhead game board. Could "W" and "D" possible stand for Walt Disney? What are the odds?

Scrabble Board

Scrabble Tiles

The pavement in front of Rock 'N' Roller Coaster is designed to showcase G-Force Records, the recording studio currently working with Aerosmith. Anchoring the grid's corners are gold records.

Rock 'N' Roller Coaster Pavement

Gold Record

The building that houses Muppet*Vision 3D is built of red brick so it is fitting that the pavement outside the theater be of the same material. Unlike other areas where the Imagineers used a stamp to simulate stone or brick, this is the real McCoy.

Muppet*Vision 3D Theater

Muppet Courtyard

The pavement on New York Street is unremarkable and at first glance, not worth too much attention. It's made up of concrete curbs and sidewalks and an asphalt road. But upon closer examination you'll notice the Imagineers included potholes - a nice detail for a busy thoroughfare.

New York Street


Now let's travel to Disney's Animal Kingdom. In the area between the tram drop-off and the ticket booths, guests can see sweeping swaths of color in the walkway. From ground level, these lines appear to be nothing more than a random pattern. But when viewed from above, the shape of an abstract tree can easily be seen.

Animal Kingdom Forecourt

Animal Kingdom Forecourt Tree

Most of the pavement in the Animal Kingdom has a natural feel about it. In many cases, the concrete has been designed to represent dirt and mud, a material that is unsatisfactory for a theme park. When preparing the walkways, all sorts of items were imbedded into the wet cement to help achieve a realistic character. Some of these include leaves, pine needles, branches, human feet, horseshoes, bicycle tracks, tire tracks, and bird tracks.



Pine Needles


Foot Prints

Horse Tracks

Bicycle Tracks

Tire Tracks

Bird Tracks

Over in Dinoland U.S.A. you'll find a winding highway. To complete the setting, traffic signs, bumper guards, and roadside advertisements can be found along its route.

Dinoland Highway

If you pay attention, you'll notice that Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama was built on top of an abandoned parking lot. The "Enter" and "Exit" lettering and parking lot lines are still visible, but fading. In addition, the asphalt is cracking under the sun's intense heat.

Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama

Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama Parking Lot

Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama Parking Lot

Also in Dinoland is a dinosaur that kids can climb on. Since children are prone to slip and fall, a special ground covering has been designed that is soft and bouncy and helps alleviate cuts and bruises. In this case, the material has been made out of wood particles. In other spots around Walt Disney World, man-made materials have been used to create a softer surface.


Soft Surface

Over in Asia, real bricks have been used for the outside seating area of Yak & Yeti Restaurant. Over the years, these bricks have been broken or stolen and the owners found it cheaper to fill in the gaps with cement rather than replace them. At a nearby temple, time has taken its toll on the tile flooring in front of an aging shrine.

Yak & Yeti Restaurant

Broken Bricks

Broken Bricks


Broken Tiles

Outside Tamu Tamu Refreshments in Africa, the foundation of a long demolished building can be seen.

Tamu Tamu Refreshments


Out front of Conservation Station at Rafiki's Planet Watch is a beautiful mosaic featuring an assortment of animals. This work of art was created in Italy then shipped to the Animal Kingdom for final assembly. Most folk just walk right over this piece without ever stopping to appreciate its beauty.

Conservation Station


Also at Conservation Station is a petting farm. This is one of the very few places at Walt Disney World where guests can actually walk on real dirt.

Petting Farm

I'm going to end this article with a challenge in an effort to get you to pay more attention to the ground you walk on. I've snapped a picture of an interesting piece of pavement or flooring in each of the four parks (none are in attraction queues). It's your job to find them. Unlike my quizzes, I will NOT be posting the answers to these questions. And if you send me their whereabouts in a comment, I will NOT post that portion of the comment as I do not want to give away their locations. Good luck.

Somewhere in the Magic Kingdom a bronze plaque is embedded into the ground. It features a castle spire and the letters "M" and "K" (Magic Kingdom). It measures roughly 18 inches in diameter.

Note: Apparently this emblem is part of a new "Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom" game and there are several of these located around the park. I was not aware of this at the time my blog was published.

Magic Kingdom Marker

At Epcot, tire tracks can be seen embedded into the pavement. The area in question is about 2 feet in diameter.

Epcot Marker

At Disney's Hollywood Studios, you can find a "contractor's signature" marker imbedded in the concrete. It reads: Mortimer & Co. Contractor 1928. For those of you who don't understand the significance, Mortimer was the name Walt wanted to give his new little mouse in 1928. However, his wife Lillian wasn't too keen on the moniker and convinced him to change the name to Mickey. This marker measures about 4x6 inches.

Studio Marker

At the Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life is etched into the concrete someplace at the park. The etching is approximately 2 foot tall and 2 feet wide.

Animal Kingdom Marker

January 16, 2012

Norway Pavilion in Epcot - Part One

Norway Pavilion

The Norway Pavilion was the last nation to be added to World Showcase. Its soft opening occurred on May 6, 1988 and its official debut followed two months later on July 5. Crown Prince Harald V attended the ceremony and the festivities were broadcast live to Norway.

Norway Pavilion

The original idea was to create a Scandinavian Pavilion with elements of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden being showcased. As negotiations with the various countries progressed, it was the corporate investors in Norway who eventually came up with the $30 million required at that time to sponsor and build a World Showcase pavilion, thus securing an "exclusive" national showplace. Disney would also contribute one-third of the construction costs. In 1992, the Norwegian investors sold their interests to Disney; however, the government decided to continue sponsorship and signed a five year agreement with $200K annual dues. This contract was renewed for another five years in 1997 but in 2002 it was allowed to lapse. Now, Disney is solely responsible for the pavilion.

The sea has always played an important part in Norway's history. So it was this aspect of Norwegian life that the Imagineers focused on. The 58,000 square-foot pavilion is designed to look like a coastal village. The communities of Bergen, Oslo, Alesund and the Setesdal Valley were used as inspiration.

The focal point of the Norway Pavilion is the Stave Church. The Disney version is based on the Gol Stave Church in Norway dating back to1212. The first picture below was taken in Epcot, the second of the Gol Stave Church. The similarities between the two are remarkable.

Epcot Stave Church

Norway Stave Church

The wooden statue out front of the Stave Church is that of Olaf II, King and Patron Saint of Norway.

As a young royal, Olaf Haraldsson took park in Viking raids throughout Europe. During his travels, he converted to Christianity and then returned to Norway, where he subdued his rivals and proclaimed himself king in 1015. He unified the country and forcefully completed Norway's conversion to Christianity. In 1028, angry Norwegian noblemen rallied around Knut the Great (King of Denmark and England) to force Olaf II from the throne and exile him. Two years later, Olaf II was killed in battle while attempting to regain Norway's throne. Today "Saint Olaf" is regarded as the Patron Saint of Norway and a symbol of national independence.

King Olaf II Haraldsson

Norwegians were excellent woodworkers. This came from their long Viking history of shipbuilding. So when Saint Olaf brought Christianity to Norway, the people used this skill to build Stave Churches. The first of these structures were constructed around the year 1050AD and used post and beam construction with vertical plank walls. Christian designs were intermixed with pagan Viking motifs, such as the interwoven dragon motifs, finials, and beautifully carved doors. Of the over 1,000 Norwegian Stave Churches built in the Middle Ages, only 28 survive today.

Viking Symbols


Carved Woodwork

Inside the Stave Church are a number of displays. One features another likeness of King Olaf II Haraldsson dressed in traditional garb. The fabric and clothing styles are based on samples unearthed by archaeologists and the colors are based on naturally occurring pigments from the area. The weapon and jewelry are accurate to the era. A Christian cross can be seen hanging from his neck.

King Olaf II Haraldsson

The Vikings were merchants, pirates, explores, and warriors. Their travels took them as far east as Constantinople and the Volga River in Russia, as far west as Greenland and Newfoundland, and south to the Iberian Peninsula and the Straights of Gibraltar. A map inside the Stave Church chronicles their exploration routes.

Viking Exploration Routes

Another display showcases a model of the Oseberg, a well-preserved Viking ship discovered in a large burial mound in 1904. The ship had 15 oar holes on each side, allowing it to accommodate 60 rowers. It also featured a large square sail that would allow the ship to reach speeds of up to 10 knots - a stunning velocity for the day. Since there were no lower decks, all hands worked, ate, and slept on the main deck, regardless of the weather.

One of the Oseberg's most remarkable features is its meticulously carved curving prow. The mere sight of a Viking prow struck fear in the hearts of medieval European villagers who called the ships "dragons of the sea," and associated them with violence, pillage, and plunder.

Model of the Oseberg

The actual ship can be seen in the opening sequence of the "Spirit of Norway" movie presented after experiencing the Maelstrom attraction. As the film begins, we see a young boy standing next to the Oseberg in the Viking Ship Museum in Norway.

Oseberg at Viking Ship Museum

There are several other exhibits within the Stave Church that are worth your time. It won't take more than ten minutes to read all of the signage and look at the displays.

Disney tries to staff the World Showcase pavilions with individuals from the various countries. If nationals aren't available, Disney hires people who have lived in that nation for extended periods and are knowledgeable about the land and customs. The Norway Pavilion is no exception and it takes approximately 150 cast members to keep things running smoothly.

Many of the Norway cast members wear a costume inspired by the traditional national folk attire, the bunad. The designs are typically elaborate, with embroidery, scarves, shawls, vests, and a multitude of buttons. Women's dresses are long and gentlemen wear knee pants. Even today, the bunad is often worn at weddings, folk dances, and on Constitution Day (National Day) celebrations. The Disney version of the bunad is slightly less elaborate for practical reasons as it must be worn daily and laundered often.

Norway Pavilion Costumes

The backdrop of the Norway Pavilion is Akershus Fortress (or Castle). Construction on the real fortress began in the 1290's and it guarded the City of Oslo. The fortress has never been captured by a foreign army but it did surrender without combat to Nazi Germany in 1940 in the face of a German assault. Today, portions of the fortress are used to house offices for the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. Other sections contain the Norwegian Resistance Museum.

Akershus Fortress

Looking at the above picture, you can see that both natural stone and smooth masonry were used in the construction of the fortress. This is also evident at the Norway Pavilion. In addition, one of the fortress' steeples has been recreated.

Rock Construction at Norway Pavilion

Smooth Masonry at Norway Pavilion

Fortress Steeple

If you look closely at many of the fortress walls at the Norway Pavilion, you'll see decorative pieces of iron embedded into the masonry. These were not placed here for adornment, but for construction purposes. In days of old, rock and brick walls were much too heavy and had a tendency of sagging and collapsing under their own weight. In medieval times, buttresses were often used to rectify this problem and fortify the walls. But the use of tie-rods could often accomplish the same thing for a lot less money and labor. In these cases, a long iron rod ran between parallel walls. The decorative caps anchored the ends of the rods in place. This would hold the wall in a vertical position.

Tie-bar Construction

Tie-bar Construction

Tie-bar Construction

The fortress' military importance has not been forgotten here at Epcot. A number of gun turrets can be seen in the walls and atop the structure.

Gun Turrets

Gun Turrets

The Norway Pavilion has a wonderful stage for live entertainment. At one time, a lively group played folk music and demonstrated festive dance steps several times each day. But alas, their performance was terminated some time ago and not replaced. I have to assume Norway's entertainment was eliminated due to budget cuts. However, the stage is used in December when Norwegian storytellers recount their customs and traditions during the holiday season.

Norway Pavilion Stage

Holiday Storytellers

A detail I really love at the Norway Pavilion can be found on the turret closest to the China Pavilion. If you take a good look at the structure, you can see that several windows have been closed off with bricks.


Bricked up Windows

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall was named for the fortress in which it is located. The restaurant is beautiful. The intricately carved wood beam ceiling and arched windows give the main dining room a church-like ambiance. Another dining room is enclosed by whitewashed stone and is reminiscent of an ancient castle chamber. And a third seating area feels like a cozy inn or cottage.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Sign

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Entrance

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Main Dining Room

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Ceiling

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Archway

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Dining Room

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Dining Room

Lunch and dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is served buffet-style. The cuisine hints at Norwegian. Breakfasts are served family-style, meaning all of the food is brought to the table and everyone digs in. This meal is definitely American in flavor. All three seatings include visits by the Disney princesses. Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Princess Aurora, Mulan, and Mary Poppins all make the rounds and pose for photographs. A Disney photographer is also on hand to capture the magic. Note, the princesses appear on a rotating schedule so there is no way to guarantee which royal beauty will be appearing on any given day. These meals are extremely popular and advanced reservations are an absolute must.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Buffet

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Buffet

Princess Meet & Greet

I must use this moment to editorialize. "Akershus," as the restaurant used to be known, was one of my favorite World Showcase eateries. I enjoyed the reasonably authentic Norwegian food, the lovely cast members, and the wonderful atmosphere. Sometime in 2004, Disney decided to start offering "princess" breakfasts here. This would make the Norway Pavilion the only World Showcase nation to offer breakfast or a character meal. The meal was an instant success. As is so typical with Disney thinking, "If a "little" is good, "more" must be better." So in 2005, Disney started offering princess appearances at lunch and dinner as well - at a premium price.

I totally understand that character meals are a cash cow for Disney and they make children (and their parents) extremely happy. But not everyone is rejoicing at this conversion. By going overboard to please one group of guests, Disney has completely abandoned another group. I have no children and I have no desire to have my meal interrupted by a Disney character. And I certainly don't want to pay a premium price to be subjected to unwanted table guests.

All I ask is that Disney give up character meals during lunch at the Norway Pavilion. It's not fair that I can no longer enjoy this restaurant. And as I mentioned in another blog, if the demand for character meals is so great, let Restaurant Marrakesh or Nine Dragons offer a princess meal at lunch. Both of these restaurants could use an incentive to entice diners to their establishments for the midday meal.

Okay, I'll get off of my soapbox now and continue with my review"¦

Well, maybe not. I think it's time for a breather. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.

January 17, 2012

Norway Pavilion in Epcot - Part Two

Yesterday, I provided you with a brief history of the Norway Pavilion and started describing some of the sights. Today I'll complete the tour.

When the Imagineers and the pavilion's sponsors got together for the first time to brainstorm ideas for an attraction, they quickly came to an impasse. The Imagineers wanted to present Norway's exciting history of Vikings and fantasy realm of trolls. But the investors wanted the world to know that Norway was a modern, industrial country. It soon became obvious that some sort of compromise was needed.

A maelstrom is a very powerful whirlpool. Legend has it that these swirling vortexes can swallow ships whole. The Imagineers felt that the name Maelstrom would help set the mood for the voyage that lie ahead.


Maelstrom Entrance

Maelstrom Sign

The queue for Maelstrom is rather unremarkable. Norwegian flags line portions of the line and a large map depicting Viking exploration routes is affixed to the back wall. But the most striking detail in the queue is the huge mural located behind the loading dock. Here we see depictions of Norwegian life, both historical and modern.

Maelstrom Queue

Viking Exploration Map

Norway Mural

Norway Mural

I don't usually point out Hidden Mickeys. I leave this to the expert, Steve Barrett. But in the case of the Maelstrom queue I will make an exception. If you examine the Viking ship on the mural very closely, you can see that one of the warriors is wearing mouse ears.

Viking with Mouse Ears

The boats used on the Maelstrom attraction were modeled to look like ships Eric the Red might have used. The ship's prow was designed to resemble the head of a dragon, a common symbol used on Viking vessels. The third picture below was taken of an actual brow at the Viking Ship Museum in Norway.

Maelstom Boat

Maelstom Boat Prow

Authenic Viking Prow

Larger-sized people take note. Do not let the cast member seat four of you in one row. If even one of you is carrying a few extra pounds, it will be a tight fit.

Our voyage begins with an ascent up a waterfall. The Norse god Odin speaks to us. "You are not the first to pass this way, nor shall you be the last. Those who seek the spirit of Norway face peril and adventure. But more often find beauty and charm. We have always lived with the sea, so look first to the spirit of the seafarer."

Viking God

As we reach the top of the hill, we see a Viking woman patiently waiting for her menfolk to return from the sea. As we travel further, we encounter a group of men unloading supplies for the village. And further along, we pass a harbor and a villager signaling ships at sea with his horn. Disney was very careful to portray a Viking's everyday life rather than their bloody and ruthless conquests.

Viking Woman

Unloading Cargo

Gaurding the Harbor

We travel next to troll country. Trolls originated in Norse and Scandinavian mythology. They are supernatural beings who dwell in isolated mountains, forests, rocks, and caves. They usually live in family units and are rarely supportive or friendly to human beings. In fact, they are considered dangerous. Depending on the legend, trolls can be grotesque and ugly or very human like. But their disagreeable disposition remains constant.

On the Maelstrom attraction, we encounter a three-headed troll. They tell us, "This is troll country. Go away. Be gone. Aye. Cast a spell. Yes. Yes. You disappear, disappear, disappear. Aye. Back. Over the falls." Their disagreeable nature is all too evident.

Three-Headed Troll

With their warning, our boat begins to sail backwards. First we pass by several polar bears, one ready to attack. As Norway reaches into the arctic region, polar bears are a part of their heritage.

Polar Bear

Polar Bear

Leaving the bears behind we continue our backwards adventure through a Norwegian forest - another area populated with trolls who lurk upwards from the water and rocks. Suddenly, we find our boat at the edge of a waterfall overlooking the outside village below. These are the same falls the trolls mentioned earlier and magically sent us toward. But fortune intervenes and we once again reverse course - only to be faced with yet another waterfall.

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest




As you take the 28 foot plunge, be sure to notice the cruise ship sailing in the fjord. Norwegian Caribbean Lines were once one of the pavilion's sponsors.

Cruise Ship

As we splash down, we find the time period of our adventure has changed. We are now in present day Norway - in the turbulent North Sea to be exact. Lightning flashes, thunder rumbles, and waves crash. Overhead and in the distance we see large off-shore oil rigs.

Oil Rig

North Sea and Oil Rig

We continue our journey and sail into a peaceful seaport. Gulls can be heard squawking and buoys ringing. You may also notice a number of signs adorning the various buildings. These companies were all sponsors of the pavilion before their contract expired. It is also in this picturesque village that we disembark. Our adventure lasted just over four and a half minutes.

Seacoast Village

Seacoast Village

Seacoast Village

Seacoast Village

Something new was tried with Maelstrom. On all past attractions, if a film was to be shown, it was presented before the ride began - as a sort of preshow. A good example of this was the movie seen at the "Living Seas" pavilion (before Nemo and his friends took over).

For the Norway Pavilion, the Imagineers decided to reverse things and place the film at the end of the movie to better continue the modern story of Norway. Unfortunately, this didn't work out quite as well as they had hoped for. If riders disembarked just as the six minute movie was beginning, they were forced to stand around in the seaport waiting for the doors to open and the next showing to begin. This did not please people. Once the theater doors finally opened, over half of the guests dashed through the hall and skipped the movie altogether. Recently, the Imagineers decided to leave the theater doors open all the time, allowing guests to either exit the theater immediately or take a seat and enjoy the show. And since the movie doesn't really have a storyline, you can start viewing at any time without losing continuity.

Spirit of Norway Movie

Spirit of Norway Movie

Spirit of Norway Movie

Spirit of Norway Movie

I like the "Spirit of Norway" movie. And I enjoy taking a breather occasionally and watching this creative film. However, I'm as guilty as the next guy and more often than not, skip the movie. However I always feel guilty when I do this. I worry that the Norwegian cast members will think I don't care about their country.

If you read some of the Disney bulletin boards, there is a lot of chatter about the "Spirit of Norway" movie. This film is almost 24 years old. It no longer depicts the modern nation the corporate sponsors and the country itself wanted to present to the world. Computers are big and boxy. Flat screen monitors are nowhere to be seen. And cell phones haven't even been invented. Both the China and Canada Pavilions have updated their movies. Many think it's time for the Norway Pavilion to do the same.

Being only one of two rides in World Showcase, Maelstrom is popular. Lines can be long here on busy days. FastPass is available.

Like all good Disney attractions, guests leave Maelstrom and enter a gift shop. But before you do, be on the lookout for this cute little troll. His sign tells us that the South Pole is 8,157 miles (13,157 kilometers) away and the North Pole is 4,251 miles (6,857 kilometers) away. This charming corner makes a great photo op.

Troll and Sign Post

Puffin's Roost is a collection of shops, each selling a different assortment of merchandise. The first stop brings us to a clothing mart. Here you'll find a large collection of winter apparel. Jackets, sweaters, and scarfs are in abundance. Living in Florida, I rarely spend too much time here, but I'm sure the rest of the country could easily find a few items that would be useful back home.

Clothing Store

People probably spend the majority of their time in Puffin's Roost in this next shop. It's not because the merchandise is so appealing, but because it features the best photo op in the Norway Pavilion. I had to arrive soon after opening to snap this picture without a group of people milling about.

Troll Photo Op

This section of the store sells Norwegian souvenirs. A large array of trolls is available as well as Viking helmets (plastic) and swords (wood) and other goodies.

Souvenir Trolls

Souvenir Viking Helmets

Souvenier Viking Swords

While looking at the various mementoes, a bit of my childhood came rushing back to me when I found a book from my youth, "The Three Billy Goats Gruff." I hadn't thought of this book in years and a flood of memories filled my head and thoughts of my 2nd grade teacher reading this tale to her class. I had to fight my instinct to buy the book, but ultimately decided I really didn't need it. But I was sure tempted.

For those of you not familiar with this Norwegian fairy tale, it goes something like this.

There are three goats, one small in stature, one medium in size, and the last large and strong. On their side of the stream, all of the grass has been eaten. But across a bridge is a green meadow. Living under the bridge is a mean and ugly troll who eats anyone who tries to pass to the other side. The smallest goat attempts to cross first, but is stopped by the troll who threatens to eat him. The sharp-witted goat tells the troll that his larger brother will be along soon and to wait for a meatier meal. The troll agrees and allows the small goat to pass unharmed. When the medium sized goad attempts to cross the bridge, the same scenario plays out with the second goat suggesting the troll wait for his even larger brother. Once again, the troll agrees and the second goat is allowed to cross the bridge unscathed. Finally, the largest goat attempts to gain access to the green meadow on the other side of the stream. The hungry troll meets him on the bridge, this time, determined to have his meal without any trickery. However, the last goat is large enough to easily toss the troll into the stream below where he is washed away, never to be seen again. With the evil troll vanquished, the three goats live happily ever after in their new green field.

Book -

A KidCot station can also be found in this section of the shop. This is where children can relax with some arts-and-crafts and have their Epcot Passport signed.

KidCot Station

From rustic to sophistication. The next shop is beautifully decorated in soft blues and whites. Gingerbread woodwork and glass shelves highlight fine jewelry and perfumes. Showcased here are fragrances by Geir Ness.

Jewelry and Perfume

The last shop in the Puffin's Roost arcade features more Norwegian souvenirs.

Norway Souvenirs

Although most people enter Puffin's Roost after riding Maelstrom, there is nothing to stop you from entering through the front door. If you notice, above the entrance is an Atlantic Puffin, a cute little sea bird that is found throughout the North Atlantic, including Norway.

Puffin's Roost Main Entrance


The exterior of Puffin's Roost was modeled after structures in Bergen, Norway.

Norway Pavilion Exterior

Bergen, Norway

Next to Puffin's Roost is Kringla Bakeri og Kafe. As you can probably make out by the name, this is a bakery and cafΓ©. Beside a large selection of pastries and other baked goods, sandwiches like Ham & Apple, Roast Beef, Salmon & Egg, and Norwegian Club are available. It is very easy to get a satisfying meal here. But my favorite is the soft pretzel covered in white frosting and slivered almonds. Yum.

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe

The exterior of this shop was modeled after structures found in Setesdahl Valley. Sod roofs were once common in this part of Norway. Before the sod is placed on the structure, birch bark is laid across the roof as the watertight element. The main purpose for the sod is to hold the birch bark in place. In addition, sod is an excellent insulator and its heavy weight helps stabilize the structure.

Setesdahl Valley Dwelling

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe

Sod Roof

Behind Kringla Bakeri og Kafe is a covered area with plenty of tables and chairs. This is the perfect spot to enjoy your treats and escape the sun (or rain).

Dining Area

Near this seating area is a statue of Grete Waitz. This Norwegian marathon runner won nine New York City Marathons between 1978 and 1988, more than any other runner in history. She also won a silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a gold medal at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki. Grete passed away last year on April 19, 2011 at the age of 57.

Stature of Grete Waitz

At one time, a recreation of a Viking ship provided children with a wonderful playground. They could swashbuckler to their heart's content on this imaginative structure. Unfortunately, safety concerns came into play and the ship was dismantled. Now, only remnants of this once glorious vessel remain.

Viking Ship Playground

Remains of Viking Ship Playground

A Kim Possible Recruitment Center is also located at the Norway Pavilion. If you haven't already tried this interactive game, I strongly suggest you do. Although intended for kids, adults can have a great time as well. Using Kimmunicators, you and you fellow secret agents decipher clues to thwart super villains and activate hidden rewards. That game takes between 30 and 45 minutes to play and there is no additional cost.

Kim Possible Recruitment Center

That's it for the Norway Pavilion. In researching this article, I learned a few things I didn't know before. I hope you picked up a few tidbits as well.

As always, I've created a video of the pavilion. It's about nine and a half minutes in length.

January 23, 2012

The Good Stores

My first trip to Disneyland was in late 1957. I was five years old and I only have a few recollections of that trip. But since my family lived in Southern California, we made yearly outings to "The Happiest Place on Earth" and my memories began to build. On these visits, I never bought souvenirs. My parents considered these mementoes junk and a waste of money.

For my 8th birthday in 1961, my parents gave me a fairly elaborate HO electric train set. It was mounted on a 4'x8' piece of plywood and had a mountain, houses, bridges, switches, and a decent amount of track. This was a pretty cool present for a kid of 8.

I'm the kid on the left with my hand on the throttle.

Jack's HO Train Set

I remember going to Disneyland in 1962, a couple of years after the monorail had opened. While in Tomorrowland, I stumbled across a magnificent treasure - an electric monorail set. I think it cost about $15, which was a lot of money in those days. I begged my parents to buy it for me, explaining that it would make a wonderful addition to my train layout. (The monorail was not HO scale, but I was a kid of ten. What did I care?) My parents gave me an unqualified "no" and told me if I really wanted it, I would have to save my money and buy it myself.

Model of Disneyland Monorail

Well, that's what I set out to do. I saved my money and approximately a year later, we returned to Disneyland. When we reached Tomorrowland, I had to search, but eventually found my treasure. It was still available. Thank goodness.

It was at this point in time that parental guilt and pressure came into play. My mother said to me, "Fifteen dollars is a lot of money, dear. Are you sure you want to spend it on that?"

"Yes. I'm sure."

"Are you really, really sure?"

"Yes. I'm really, really sure."

Then in a disapproving tone my mother says ever so sweetly, "All right dear. It's your decision. Do whatever you think is best."

I knew how my parents felt about Disney souvenirs and I knew how to read my mother's tone. Needless to say, guilt won the day and l left Disneyland empty handed - a decision I have regretted to this day.

In its day, this monorail was not considered a collectible. It was just an expensive toy. For that matter, there weren't any Disney theme park collectibles in the '60s and '70s. Even though Disneyland had already established itself as the king of amusement parks, there were no quality items for sale representing the park. Even the hand-painted cels that today sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars were considered junk in the 1960's and sold in Tomorrowland from between $2-$5.

If someone had one of these monorails today in good condition, it would be worth hundreds. I remember seeing a set for sale about 10 years ago for around $750. Of course, if I had bought this monorail as a kid, it would have been used (and probably abused), and not worth nearly that much.

Over the years, my love for trains never faded. As an adult, I have built several HO train layouts. And on one cityscape I created, I even had a working monorail. It wasn't the Disneyland version. But it was scaled correctly.

Jack's HO Train Layout

Jack's HO Train Layout

Jack's HO Train Layout

The only Disneyland souvenirs I collected in my youth were annual stock reports, pictorial books and those large maps that needed to be unfolded to view.

Guide Maps and Stock Reports

When I moved from Anaheim to San Francisco in 1985, I missed Disneyland terribly. Now that the park was 400 miles away rather than just around the corner, I could no longer visit anytime I wanted. I needed a Disney fix.

In 1987, a reasonable compromise presented itself and helped alleviate my Disney need -- The Disney Store opened at the end of Pier 39 in San Francisco. This was the third store in the soon to be growing chain. I visited often. It wasn't Disneyland, but it was filled with Disney music, a Disney motif, and in those early years, quality Disney merchandise. My first purchase was of a cel featuring Donald Duck and Cyril the horse from "Mickey's A Christmas Carol." I hung it on the fireplace over the mantel so I could see it each evening. As the months passed, I continued to visit The Disney Store. And I continued to buy animated cels.

Donal & Cyril

In that same year, The Disney Gallery opened above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland. This location featured a changing exhibit of artwork from Walt Disney Imagineering. In addition, some of the displayed works were recreated in limited quantities and signed by the original artists. Here are a few examples of what was available.

The Disney Gallery

Gallery Artwork

Gallery Artwork

As the years passed and my collection grew, I realized that I needed a direction. There were now many, many Disney pieces of quality available and it would be impossible to do any one genre justice. After a lot of thought, it came to me. I have always been interested in Disney theme parks above all else, so I decided that all future Disney purchases must be related to this topic. This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, but it is a guideline I try to stick to.

Today, every room in my house is filled with pieces of Disney art. I love it. I realize it's not everyone's taste. But it makes me happy to surround myself with reminders of places and things that have brought me so much joy over the years.

When first-time guests visit my house, one of the initial questions they ask is, "Where did you get all of this stuff?" The truthful answer is, "All over the world." But a more helpful answer would be, "From the Good Stores," which brings me to the reason for this blog.

Disney makes a ton of money selling merchandise. The vast majority of these goods are what I would qualify as "souvenir quality." These are tchotchkes, mementoes, toys, trinkets, and the like. These items are relatively inexpensive and not really meant to stand the test of time. These are perfect "vacation" purchases and this is what the vast majority of Disney guests want to buy. But there is a niche audience (like me) who want items that will stand the test of time - and possibly increase in value. Disney has accommodated this group of people with special shops. Although these shops have real names, I collectively call them "The Good Stores." This is because these shops sell "good" or quality merchandise rather than traditional souvenirs.

In the Magic Kingdom, "The Good Store" can be found in the Main Street Cinema and Uptown Jewelers.

Main Street Cinema

Uptown Jewelers

At Disney's Hollywood Studios, "The Good Store" can be found off of Animation Courtyard. Guests exit through this shop after experiencing "The Magic of Disney Animation" attraction. Here the shop is called "Animation Gallery."

Animation Gallery

In Epcot, "The Good Store" is actually called, "The Art of Disney" and is located to the west of Spaceship Earth.

The Art of Disney - Epcot

And finally, at Downtown Disney Marketplace, "The Good Store" is also called "The Art of Disney."

The Art of Disney - Downtown Disney

For a number of years, the Animal Kingdom also had a "Good Store" located in "Disney Outfitters" on Discovery Island. However, the collectible merchandise once found here is no longer offered.

So just what is available at the Good Stores? A ton of quality items. To begin with, paintings and lithographs. A number of Disney-approved artists create works of art which are then reproduced on canvas or quality paper. These can range in price from $35 for an 8"x10" litho to $5,000 for a limited edition oil painting.

Disney Paintings and Artwork

Disney Paintings and Artwork

At the Good Store at Downtown Disney, kiosks are available where you can select from a wide variety of topics. Disney characters and theme park attraction posters are just a few of the subjects offered. Once you find a picture you like on the display screen, you can then select the size and medium it will be printed on, paper or canvas. The larger the size, the higher the cost. Canvas is also more expensive than paper. After paying for your treasure, the artwork will be printed while you wait. Custom framing is also available. However, if you add this option, the print will be shipped to you at a later date as framing is contracted out to a local company.

Ordering Kiosks

Ordering Kiosks

A very popular collectible are the character sketches created by artists in the various stores. Here you can actually watch them start with a blank piece of paper and create your favorite Disney character. In some cases, pins, watches, and personal photos can be added to the drawing. In the case of the timepieces, the watch's face matches the larger sketch.

Sketch Artist

Character Sketches

Character Sketches

Character Sketches

Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding, these artists are not the same animators who create the movies we all love. These talented individuals start with an approved "original" and reproduce and embellish the various characters.

For those of you on a tighter budget, posters are available. These come in a sturdy cardboard tube so you can hopefully get them back home in good condition.


BigFigs (Big Figures or Figurines) have become quite popular over the years. At Disney World, the collection is pretty much limited to characters, but for a while at Disneyland, attractions like the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain were offered. Below you can see a BigFig of Fantasyland. I really wonder why similar attraction BigFigs aren't offered here in Florida.



Fantasyland BigFig

Fantasyland BigFig

Smaller figurines are also offered at the Good Stores. Brands like Lenox, Precious Moments, Royal Dalton, and Lladro can be found. At one time, the Good Stores also offered a large selection of Walt Disney Classic Collection pieces, but for the last several months, these items have not been replaced as the stock dwindles.

Disney Figurines

Disney Figurines

Disney Figurines

Disney Figurines

Time-specific and topic-specific goods can also be found in the Good Stores. For example, when Disney World was celebrating its 40th anniversary, many fine-quality collectibles related to this celebration were available in these shops. And currently, paintings, figurines, plaques, coins, and clothing highlighting Disney trains are being showcased.

Train Merchandise

The merchandise is always changing in the Good Stores. Since much of what is offered is limited in quantity, if you see something you like, I suggest strongly buying it NOW rather than later. Chances are good it will not be here when you return next year. In addition, the four Good Stores do not carry the exact same pieces. In theory they do, but in reality, they don't.

My trips to the Disney parks vary from visit to visit. But one thing is constant. I always visit the Good Stores on every trip. I want to make sure I don't miss out on a treasure.

January 30, 2012

Quiz Time -- First & Last Names - Questions

Hey everyone, it's quiz time again. For this test, I've listed the first and last names of Disney animated characters. It's your job to match them up. Since I'm often told my quizzes are difficult, I've made sure that all of my selections are major players in the film or short. Note that in some cases, the last name is deduced rather than stated.

So take out a piece of paper and letter it A thru Z, then write the corresponding number next to it. I'll give you the answers tomorrow.

First Names:

A. Alameda
B. Alfredo
C. Andy
D. Carl
E. Charlotte "Lottie"
F. Chip
G. Cinderella
H. Claude
I. Cruella
J. Li
K. Flynn
L. J. Audubon
M. J. Thaddeus
N. J. Worthington
O. Jack
P. James P.
Q. Jane
R. Jessica
S. John
T. Jose
U. Olivia
V. Robert "Bob"
W. Roger
X. Thomas
Y. Wendy
Z. Windwagon

Last Names:

1. Woodlore
2. Tremaine
3. Toad
4. Sullivan
5. Smith
6. Smith
7. Slim
8. Skellington
9. Shang
10. Rider
11. Radcliffe
12. Rabbit
13. Potts
14. Porter
15. Parr
16. O'Malley
17. Linguini
18. La Bouff
19. Frollo
20. Fredricksen
21. Foulfellow
22. Flaversham
23. de Vil
24. Davis
25. Darling
26. Carioca

January 31, 2012

Quiz Time -- First & Last Names - Answers

Yesterday I asked you to match first and last names of Disney animated characters. So how did you do? Did you get them all correct? Since most Disney characters don't have last names, the list of possibilities was already limited for you. I'm sure this quiz was a snap. LOL

Here are the answers.

(A) Alameda (7) Slim

Alameda Slim is the main villain in the 2004 film, "Home on the Range." Slim is able to hypnotize the cattle he rustles by yodeling. Randy Quaid voiced this character.

Alameda Slim

(B) Alfredo (17) Linguini

Alfredo Linguini is the inept soul who secures a job as the garbage boy at the Resturant Gusteau in the 2007 film "Ratatouille." The character's name is somewhat of a joke as "Alfredo" is a type of cream sauce used on pasta dishes and Linguini is a type of pasta. Linguini was voiced by Lou Romano.

Alfredo Linguini

(C) Andy (24) Davis

Andy Davis represents the "child in all of us" and appeared in three movies, "Toy Story" (1995), "Toy Story 2" (1999), and "Toy Story 3" (2010). John Morris voiced Andy in all three movies. (Just thinking about "Toy Story 3," makes me tear up.)

Andy Davis

Andy Davis

(D) Carl (20) Fredricksen

Carl Fredricksen is the curmudgeonly old man in the 2009 movie "Up." Carl was voiced by Edward Asner. Carl's looks were inspired by Spencer Tracy.

Carl Fredricksen

(E) Charlotte "Lottie" (18) La Bouff

"The Princess and the Frog" opened on November 25, 2009. Charlotte "Lottie" La Bouff is a southern debutante and Tiana's childhood friend. Although it is Lottie's dream to marry a prince, in the end she helps Tiana realize this dream. Lottie was voiced by Jennifer Cody.


(F) Chip (13) Potts

Chip Potts is the cute little teacup from the 1991 film "Beauty and the Beast." Although Chip's last name is never given, we must assume he shares the surname of his mother, Mrs. Potts.

Chip Potts

(G) Cinderella (2) Tremaine

We have to assume that Lady Tremaine took her husband's name when she married Cinderella's father. Thus, Cinderella's last name would be Tremaine. The movie "Cinderella" premiered in 1950. Our heroine was voiced by Ilene Woods. Lady Tremaine was voiced by Eleanor Audley.


Lady Tremaine

(H) Claude (19) Frollo

Judge Claude Frollo is the antagonist in the 1996 film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Voiced by Tony Jay, Flollo lusts after the gypsy Esmeralda and imprisons Quasimodo in the CathΓ©drale Notre Dame. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is considered to be one of the darkest animated films to come out of the Disney Studios.

Judge Claude Frollo

(I) Cruella (23) de Vil

Betty Lou Gerson voiced Cruella de Vil in the 1961 movie "One Hundred and One Dalmatians." This over-the-top villain's name is a play on the words cruel and devil. In some translations, Cruella's last name was changed to de Mon (demon).

Cruella de Vil

(J) Li (9) Shang

Captain Li Shang was the love interest for Mulan in the movie of the same name. The film opened on June 19, 1998. B.D. Wong voiced Li Shang's spoken lines and Donny Osmond sang his songs.

Captain Li Shang

(K) Flynn (10) Rider

Flynn Rider was the pseudonym for Eugene Fitzherbert in the movie "Tangled" which opened November 24, 2010. The film was originally titled and marketed as "Rapunzel." However, Disney felt that this name would limit the movie's appeal to girls only so the film's title was changed. Flynn Rider was then featured more prominently in trailers and advertisements to help entice boys into the theaters. Zachary Levi voiced Flynn Rider.

Flynn Rider

(L) J. Audubon (1) Woodlore

J. Audubon Woodlore is our favorite ranger at Brownstone National Park. More often than not, he's keeping an eye on Humphrey the Bear. Woodlore appeared in a number of shorts and has been voiced by Bill Thompson and Corey Burton.

J. Audubon Woodlore

(M) J. Thaddeus (3) Toad

J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq., or Mr. Toad as most of us are more familiar, appeared in the 1949 film "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad." Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was based on this character and was an opening day attraction at both Disneyland (1955) and the Magic Kingdom (1971), however, the Florida version of this ride closed in 1998. Mr. Toad was voiced by Eric Blore.

J. Thaddeus Toad

(N) J. Worthington (21) Foulfellow

Who knew there were so many Disney characters with the first initial J?

J. Worthington Foulfellow (also known as Honest John) is a cunning and sneaky fox. With his befuddled friend Gideon, they persuaded Pinocchio to ignore his conscience and stray from the straight and narrow. "Pinocchio" opened February 7, 1940. Foulfellow was voiced by Walter Catlett.

J. Worthington Foulfellow

(O) Jack (8) Skellington

Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town and the main protagonist of the 1993 film "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Jack, growing weary of celebrating the same holiday year after year, opens a portal to Christmas Town and commandeers the holiday for himself. Jack's speaking voice was by Chris Sarandon and his singing voice provided by the score's composer, Danny Elfman.

Jack Skellington

(P) James P. (4) Sullivan

James P. "Sulley" Sullivan is the best scarer at Monsters Inc., the power plant that supplies energy to Monstropolis. Voiced by John Goodman, Sulley and his assistant Michael "Mike" Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) discover that laughter provides 10 times more energy than screams. "Monsters Inc. was released on October 23, 2001.

James P.

(Q) Jane (14) Porter

Movies need a love interest and Jane Porter provided Tarzan with a girlfriend. Daughter of Archimedes Q. Porter, Jane is the first member of her explorer group to meet Tarzan and a bond grows between them. Disney's version of this Edgar Rice Burroughs classic opened on June 18, 1999. Jane was voiced by Minnie Driver.

Jane Porter

(R) Jessica (12) Rabbit

Without a doubt, Jessica Rabbit is the most provocative character the Disney Studios ever created. As Jessica says to Eddie Valiant, "You don't know how hard it is being a woman looking the way I do."

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" combined the human world with the toon world. In the film, cartoon characters from a number of studios appeared on screen together. Warner Brothers insisted that their biggest star, Bugs Bunny, receive equal screen time with Disney's Mickey Mouse.

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" opened on June 22, 1988. Jessica Rabbit was voiced by Kathleen Turner.

Jessica Rabbit

(S) John (5) Smith

"Pocahontas" opened June 23, 1995 and told the story of a Native American girl who befriends John Smith, an Englishman searching for gold in the New World. The song "Colors of the Wind" won an Academy Award for Best Song. Pocahontas' speaking voice was provided by Irene Bedard and her singing voice by Judy Kuhn.

John Smith

(T) Jose (26) Carioca

Jose Carioca hails from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Jose first appeared with Donald Duck in the movie "Saludos Amigos" in 1943 and again in "The Three Caballeros" in 1944 when Panchito Pistoles joined the duo.

Jose Carioca

(U) Olivia (22) Flaversham

"The Great Mouse Detective" (July 2, 1986) tells the story of Basil, a crime solving mouse who emulates Sherlock Holmes. In this tale, Olivia's toymaker father is kidnapped and Basil comes to the rescue. Susanne Pollatschek voiced Olivia.

Olivia Flaversham

(V) Robert "Bob" (15) Parr

Because of his super-human powers, Bob Parr and his family have been forced into hiding. However, circumstances force them back into action in the movie "The Incredibles" released on October 27, 2004. Bob Parr was voiced by Craig T. Nelson.

Bob Parr

(W) Roger (11) Radcliffe

Everyone remembers Pongo, and Perdita from the movie "One Hundred and One Dalmatians." But very few remember their owner's name, Roger Radcliffe (voiced by Ben Wright). It's interesting to note, Roger's occupation was a songwriter, yet the movie was not a musical. The only song given any real air time was "Cruella de Vil."

Roger Radcliffe

(X) Thomas (16) O'Malley

After the success of "Lady and the Tramp," Disney tried to strike gold again with a story about felines in "The Aristocats" (opening December 11, 1970). Although the plot was different, the similarities are glaring. For example, the heroine, Duchess the White Cat (voiced by Eva Gabor) is well-to-do and pampered (just like Lady). She falls in love with an alley cat (similar to Tramp). Thomas O'Malley was voiced by Phil Harris who also voiced Baloo in "The Jungle Book."


(Y) Wendy (25) Darling

Wendy, Michael, and John are the three children who travel to Neverland in the movie "Peter Pan" (opening on February 5, 1953). Their last name was Darling. In stage versions of this story, the part of Mr. Darling (the children's father) also often plays the part of Captain Hook. Wendy was voiced by Kathryn Beaumont who also voiced Alice in "Alice in Wonderland."

Wendy Darling

(Z) Windwagon (6) Smith

This was perhaps the most difficult of all the questions as Windwagon Smith is definitely a lesser known character (although still the star). This protagonist appeared in a Disney short titled "Windwagon Smith" released on March 16, 1961. The story tells of a sea captain who attempts to cross the American prairie in a wind-driven Conestoga wagon. This short was narrated by Rex Allen.

Windwagon Smith

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About January 2012

This page contains all entries posted to The β€œWorld” According to Jack in January 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2011 is the previous archive.

February 2012 is the next archive.

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