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April 2012 Archives

April 1, 2012

Storybook Circus – A Few More Details

Jack Spence Masthead


Okay. Before you get all excited" Nothing of any significance has been added to Storybook Circus since my last visit. However, I did check this area out today (March 31, 2012) just to see what was happening" And I did find a few new details.

If you walk to the exit area of the Walt Disney World Railroad, you will find a lot of circus freight has been unloaded.


WDW Railroad Exit Area


If you examine the cargo closely, you'll find a few familiar names. Within this first collection are the watering barrels of Dumbo, Caddy, Prissy, and Giddy. If you remember, Caddy, Prissy, and Giddy are three of the matronly, and somewhat cruel, elephants that taunted Dumbo.


Circus Freight

Watering Barrels


In the next collection of freight, we find a few more familiar names. Since my pictures are somewhat small, I'll type out everything printed on the trunks.


Circus Freight


"Property of HYACINTH HIPPO - The Most Exquisite Aerial Sensation of the Big Top"

In case you don't remember, Hyacinth Hippo was the ballerina hippopotamus in the movie "Fantasia."


Hyacinth Hippo


"THE BIG BAD WOLF - BALLONOLOGIST EXTRAORDINAIRE - He'll Huff & He'll Puff" And Create the Animal of Your Choice"


BIG BAD WOLF


"Melody Time BAND - BRASS HORNS - Always in Toon"

"Melody Time" was a Disney movie released in 1948 and was in the style of "Fantasia" only it featured popular and folk tunes rather than classical music. Also, notice the spelling of "toon" (tune).


Melody Time


A third pile of luggage reveals more interesting labels.


Circus Freight


"CIRCUS GRADE AND PERFORMANCE READY - RED'S AMAZING JUGGLING UNICYCLES - MANUFACTURED BY EBEN'S BIKES"

When I first published this blog, I did not know the reference to the next two labels. But if you check the comments, you'll see that a number of people were smarter than me and clued me in.

Red's Amazing Juggling Unicycles would be a nod to the Pixar short "Red's Dream" released in 1987. In this film a red unicycle dreams of becoming a world class juggler. Eben's Bikes is a nod to Pixar animator Eben Ostby.


UNICYCLES


"TEN SCHILLINGS AND SIXPENCE, LTD. - HATS FOR ALL OCCASIONS" BIRTHDAYS, UNBIRTHDAYS, AND ALL DAYS BETWEEN"

There are two references here. First, the unbirthday from "Alice in Wonderland." And second, Ten Schillings and Sixpence references the cost of the Mad Hatter's hat. Before Britain converted to the decimal system, ten schillings and sixpence would be written as 10/6.


HATS FOR ALL OCCASIONS

Mad Hatter


A great new background music loop is played around the Fantasyland Train Station. All of the songs have something to do with railroads. For example, "Casey Jones," "Freight Train" and "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain" are just a few of the selections played.

I also paid attention to the railroad tracks in this area. I can see three sets of tracks emerging from the Round House (restrooms) and two other spurs. They all converge to an area behind the plywood fence. By studying concept drawings, I can see that they terminate on a railroad engine turntable and the Casey Jr. engine (and possibly some of the circus cars) will create a water playground in this area.


Roundhouse

Train Tracks

Storybook Circus Concept Drawing

Storybook Circus Concept Drawing


To show you the detail the Imagineers are putting in this area, the tile work in the restroom floors simulates train tracks. I would have snapped a picture for you, but it usually isn't a good idea to be using a camera in a restroom.

That's all I have for this update, but I will continue to make regular trips to Storybook Circus to bring you the latest happenings. Stay tuned.



April 2, 2012

Canada Pavilion - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


There is a reason the Canada and Mexico Pavilions are located where they are along the World Showcase Lagoon. These two countries border the United States to the north and south and were thus given places of prominence along the promenade. Whether you tour World Showcase clockwise or counterclockwise, you'll come to one of our national neighbors first. Today I'm going to talk about the Canada Pavilion and hopefully provide you with a few tidbits you didn't already know.

Canada was perhaps one of the more difficult countries to portray in World Showcase. Not because it doesn't have a rich heritage and culture, but because it shares much of its history, architecture, and topography with its neighbor to the south. How do you create a unique identity that is easily recognized as Canadian, yet doesn't overlap with America?

Canada is the second largest country in the world. It spans six time zones and offers outstanding scenery from coast to coast. The Imagineers decided to use this boundless expanse and capture the natural elements of Canada's sprawling landscape rather than focus on architecture. Yet, the structures that were selected are unique to this vast land. I think the Imagineers did a fantastic job. There is no mistaking the identity of this northern jewel among the World Showcase nations.

Let's start our tour of the Canada Pavilion at the World Showcase Lagoon. Reference material tells us that this area was designed to resemble the rugged Canadian eastern seaboard. And it certainly does. However, I've often wondered if the Imagineers might also have been trying to suggest the Bay of Fundy as seen in the O'Canada movie.


Canada Pavilion Shoreline

Canada Pavilion Shoreline

Bay of Fundy


Located between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the tidal changes at the Bay of Fundy range between 47.5 feet and 53.5 feet, the highest in the world. In July 2009, the Bay of Fundy was named as a finalist in a contest to select the New 7 Wonders of Nature; however, it was not chosen.

Next time you walk along the promenade of the Canada Pavilion, notice the picket fence. Maple leaves, the national symbol, are carved into every other plank.


Maple Leaf Fence

Maple Leaf Fence


From the inception of World Showcase, regional entertainment was intended to be part of each nation's offering - and the Canada Pavilion was no exception. In the early years, a group called "Caledonian Bagpipe Band" performed at both the Canada and United Kingdom Pavilions.


Caledonian Bagpipe Band


Although bagpipes can be traced as far back as 1000 BCE in the Middle East, they didn't become commonplace in Europe until the 14th century and later. However, as classical music began to take hold, bagpipes fell out of favor due to their limited range and function.

When the British Empire was expanding during the 18th and 19th centuries, many of its units contained Highland regiments, groups that referred to Scotland in some part and had adopted items of Scottish dress and customs - which included bagpipes. Thus, the bagpipe became synonymous with many military companies. Today, the military forces of the United Kingdom and a number of its Commonwealth Nations such as Canada and New Zealand are known for their bagpipe bands which often play at formal ceremonies. In recent years, the revival of native folk music and dance has brought a resurgence of the bagpipes in popular culture.

In 1997, the Celtic-rock band Off Kilter was formed and became a permanent fixture at Epcot. Besides drums, fiddles, and guitars, bagpipes are a part of the instrumental makeup. The group became so popular that a permanent stage (The Mill Stage) and seating was erected shortly after their arrival. Unofficial surveys consistently select Off Kilter as one of the most popular live acts at Epcot. Although they perform a wide range of songs, they generally try to present pieces from Canadian artist and composers.

Senior AllEars Editor, Deb Koma, conducted an interview with Off Kilter's founding member, Jamie Holton. To read it, click here.


The Mill Stage

The Mill Stage

Off Kilter


Now to that age-old question I know some of you are thinking, "What does a Scotsman wear beneath his kilt?"

Although I haven't checked Off Kilter personally, I can assure you that EVERY cast member at Disney World is given a copy of "The Disney Look," a booklet that outlines every aspect of the Disney grooming policy. It even stipulates that cast members must wear underwear while at work. So I have to assume that the Off Kilter band has broken with tradition and follows company guidelines. (Now that's information you won't read in most people's blogs. LOL)

The aboriginal peoples of Canada's Northwest Coast, specifically the First Nations tribes, were selected to represent the indigenous tribes of Canada. Their thousand mile stretch of homeland, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east, isolated them from the rest of the country. In their isolation they became artisans and craftsmen. Representations of their handiwork can first be seen along the promenade where a great photo op presents itself.


First Nations Photo Op


As you ascend the steps to the pavilion, you are greeted by three totem poles, an art form peculiar to the Pacific Northwest. The meanings of the designs on totem poles vary from tribe to tribe. They can recount familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events.


Canada Pavilion Totem Poles


In the early years of Epcot, all three totem poles were made of fiberglass. In 1998, artist David Baxley carved a real totem pole as "performance art" at the Canada Pavilion. Upon its completion, it replaced the existing pole that sat adjacent to the shops. The story of this new pole tells of a Raven who tricks the Sky Chief into releasing the sun, the moon, and the stars from its chest. The first picture depicts the original, fiberglass totem pole. The second picture highlights the newer, wooden pole.


Original Totem Pole

New Totem Pole


There are two shops on this level of the Canada Pavilion. The first is called Northwest Mercantile and pays homage to the French and English trappers, prospectors, loggers, and traders that helped open the vast western sections of Canada. If you pay attention while browsing in this store, you will find equipment necessary for surviving in the harsh environment of Canada's wilderness. Items like these were the stock and trade of wilderness outposts during the frontier days.


Northwest Mercantile

Northwest Mercantile

Northwest Mercantile

Northwest Mercantile


Next door is the Trading Post. Here, the Native American culture that thrived in Canada before the arrival of Europeans is exhibited. The building duplicates the adze-hewn log construction used by these ancient people. Inside, more totem poles and paintings are on display.


Trading Post

Trading Post

Trading Post


The merchandise sold in these adjoined stores is a collection of stereotypical Canadian souvenirs to useful items that can be used in real life.


Shop Interior


For you hockey fans, a number of shirts and other sports related items are available.


Hockey Shirts


For the kids, I especially like these two t-shirts.


Kid's T-shirt

Kid's T-shirt


For the gourmet, several brands of real maple syrup can be found.


Real Maple Syrup


And for the ladies, a nice selection of body-care products by Fruits & Passions is for sale.


Fruits & Passions


Early plans for the Canada Pavilion called for a "main street" of restaurants and shops. One side of the thoroughfare would represent French Canada while the other, English Canada. This idea was modified greatly, but in essence, it exists in the finished product. On the upper level of the Canada Pavilion, the country's bicultural society is represented. On the right side of the street is Hôtel du Canada with its French architecture and on the left side of the street, English stone houses are patterned after those found in the maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.


Hôtel du Canada

English Stone Houses


The first English settlement in the Maritimes was in Halifax. The style of construction methods that developed in this region was very close to the architecture found in New England as the trade links between these two areas was close and the topography similar. The New England and the Maritime Provinces are mountainous and rocky. Early settlers used what was on hand to build their homes and shops, and in the case of the Northern Eastern Seaboard, stones filled that need. Take a look at this Nova Scotia structure and compare it to its Epcot counterparts.


Nova Scotia Structure

English Stone Houses

English Stone Houses


Original designs called for these "homes" to house the Canadian Tourism Information Center. But to my knowledge, this never came to pass.

Hôtel du Canada is the Canada Pavilion icon. It towers over the area with majestic beauty and grace. There is no mistaking this regal structure on the horizon.


Hôtel du Canada

Hôtel du Canada


Hôtel du Canada was patterned after Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. The resort was commissioned by Grand Trunk Railway and was constructed between 1909 and 1912 in tandem with Ottawa's downtown Union Station. Hotels like these were built all across Canada as the railroads pushed westward around the turn of the 19th/20th century. To promote passenger ridership and business, lines like the Grand Trunk Railway, Canadian National Railway, and Canadian Pacific Railway established a series of first class resort hotels along their routes. Many of these hotels do not exist today, and those that do, now belong to hostelry chains like the Fairmont, Westin, and others.

(I have had several readers comment that they believed Hôtel du Canada was inspired by structures other than Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. Looking at these other hotels, I agree that there are many similarities. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Imagineers used several hotels for their inspiration.)


Chateau Laurier in Ottawa


The next picture shows the Canadian National Hotels emblem. The second picture is Disney's take on the logo which can be found on the side of the Hôtel du Canada.


Canadian National Hotels Emblem

Disney's Canadian National Hotels Emblem


The architectural style used on Hôtel du Canada is Château. This term refers to the French country homes (châteaux) built in the Loire Valley from the late fifteenth century to the early seventeenth century. This style is noted for elaborate towers, spires, and steeply-pitched roofs.

You often hear Imagineers speak of "forced perspective." This is a technique of making an object or structure appear larger than it actually is. The Hôtel du Canada is an excellent example of this trickery of the eye.

The actual structure is only three stories high, yet it appears to be seven. The first trick was to place the building on a hill. This truly does add height to the hotel. Next, the fiberglass stones are large at the base of the structure and grow smaller as they rise. And finally, the windows and other decorative items also become smaller the higher on the structure they are placed.


Hôtel du Canada


That's it for Part One of the Canada Pavilion. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



April 3, 2012

Canada Pavilion - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Thanks for checking back for Part Two of my Canada Pavilion article. I will continue with the discussion about Hôtel du Canada, the icon of this World Showcase country.


Hôtel du Canada


In 1987, La Boutique des Provinces opened within the Hôtel du Canada. This store carried a more upscale line of merchandise than Northwest Mercantile or the Trading Post. Here you could purchase decorative leather masks, hand crafted Christmas ornaments, quality fragrances, prints, jewelry, ceramics, Anne of Green Gables items, and other articles befitting of an elegant boutique. It was nice to have a selection of quality goods that complimented the more "rugged" items sold in the other shops. In addition, the Kidcot station was located here. Unfortunately, this shop closed sometime after the millennium in an effort to save money.


La Boutique des Provinces

La Boutique des Provinces

La Boutique des Provinces


I was very sad to see La Boutique des Provinces close. Now this upper area of the Canada Pavilion has very little to capture your interest. Surely the Imagineers could come up with something profitable to fill this space - if not a merchandise shop, then perhaps a quick-service restaurant. There must be some Canadian treats that would entice guests to part with a few bucks. Anything up here would be an improvement to what it is now.

Also on the upper level is a classic red telephone box ("booth" to us Americans). Although we associate these with the United Kingdom, they were exported to many of the current and/or former British colonies around the world.


Red Telephone Box


The last point of interest on the upper level of the Canada Pavilion is an observation deck. "Pull-outs" like these are common on mountain roads in the U.S. and Canada and provide travelers with a way to "slow down and smell the roses." At the Canada Pavilion, this observation deck provides guests with a panoramic view of Disney's version of the Rocky Mountains and Salmon Island.


Observation Deck

Rocky Mountains

Salmon Island


It's interesting to note, the waterfall's intensity varies from day to day and season to season. The Imagineers would tell you it depends on the snow melt, but the truth is, Disney is concerned with your comfort. When the falls are at peak capacity, guests will get damp as mist and droplets splash them as they pass by. This is all and good during most of the year in Florida. But we do have some cooler times and when the temperatures drop, so does the water flow, greatly decreasing the residual spray. This next picture shows the falls during a brisk morning.


Minimal Waterfall


The upper level of the Canada Pavilion is accessible to wheelchairs and ECVs, but only in one direction. Ambulatory guests can continue on to the O'Canada movie from the upper level by descending nearby stairs. However, those on wheels who wish to see the movie must turn around and retrace their route. From the entrance of the pavilion, they must travel through Victoria Gardens and find a wooden bridge/walkway that leads through a gorge. Although the scenery is lovely along this walkway, and missed by many, it is extremely narrow and not well suited for wheelchairs.


Wooden Walkway

Wooden Walkway

Wooden Walkway


On Salmon Island guests enter Maple Leaf Mine, previously Moosehead Mine. This is the preshow area for the O'Canada movie. Inside the mine you'll find the remains of the Klondike era. Picks and shovels line the walls and old timbers hold back rock and earth.


Moosehead Mine

O'Canada Sign

Moosehead Mine

Moosehead Mine


Just inside the entrance of the mine is a time indicator, letting you know how many minutes before the next show. If it's more than ten, go back outside and enjoy the scenery for a few moments. The theater will not fill up and you won't miss the next show if you arrive at the last minute.


Count-down Clock


Before the show starts, one of the cast members will take the podium and introduce themselves. After giving a brief description of the movie, they very often will quiz the audience on Canadian trivia. This is always good for a laugh and it's surprising how much Americans don't know about their neighbor to the north.


Canadian Cast Member

Theater Entrance


The Canada Pavilion is currently showing its second version of O'Canada, but I'd like to visit the previous iteration first.

The Imagineers knew that a one-screen presentation of the Canada landscape would not do the country justice. The nation is just too vast and majestic to be limited to a traditional theater presentation. The Imagineers didn't want the experience to be passive. They wanted to immerse Epcot visitors in the panorama that is Canada -- and the Disney developed CircleVision was just the ticket. This technique was pioneered and refined by the Disney Company for Disneyland in the 1950's. This method requires nine cameras be mounted on a platform facing outwards in a circle to capture 360 degrees of scenery. This apparatus is then positioned atop some sort of a moving vehicle or suspended from a plane or helicopter.


CircleVision Camera


After much research, the filmmakers set out to capture Canada. They filmed for almost two years in all twelve (at that time) provinces and territories. This lengthy time period allowed them to capture seasonal events and various weather conditions found in this sprawling nation. In some cases, the temperatures were so low, the cameras needed to be warmed with electrical heaters between scenes. In all, more than a quarter of a million feet of film was shot and was edited into an 18 minute movie that delighted guests. O'Canada was an opening day attraction at Epcot.

But time marched on and as the years progressed, the film no longer reflected some of the modern aspects the pavilion's sponsor, the Canadian Tourism Commission, wished to be portrayed. After a bit of lobbying, a new movie was created using a combination of old and new footage. It debuted on August 31, 2007 and gave Epcot visitors a fresh look at Canada. But the biggest change to the movie came with the addition of Canadian comedian Martin Short who now humorously narrates the movie. In addition, the ever popular song, "Canada - You're a Lifetime Journey" was rerecorded by Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila. The new movie is 14 minutes in length.


Martin Short

Eva Avila


As guests exit the O'Canada movie, they pass by a Kidcot Station. This is the place to get their World Showcase Passport stamped. The theme of "the great outdoors" is also continued in this area with the inclusion of a canoe under construction.


Kidcot Station

Epcot Passport

Canoe


As you continue your journey, you come to Victoria Gardens. This lovely area was inspired by Butchart Gardens found in British Columbia.

In 1888, Robert Butchart began manufacturing Portland cement in Ontario. He was successful and eventually moved to British Columbia, attracted by the rich limestone deposits found in this area. In 1904, he put down roots here and opened a new factory.

As the years passed, the pit near his home grew deeper and deeper and eventually the deposits of limestone were depleted, leaving an ugly eyesore. However, his wife Jennie, conceived a plan for resurrecting this bleak pit. From farmlands nearby, she requisitioned tons of top soil and had it hauled by horse and cart to the pit. Once the wasteland was covered with nutritious earth, she began to plant an array of trees, shrubberies, and flowers and bit by bit transformed this hole-in-the-ground into the lush garden it is today.


Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens


Although Disney's Victoria Gardens can't compete in size with the original Butchart Gardens, they are stunningly beautiful. Flowers are always in bloom and the grass is always verdant green. The Imagineers even included Canada's national symbol, the maple tree. A stand has been planted adjacent to the gardens. And here's an interesting fact for you. The snowy winters of British Columbia haven't been forgotten. During the colder months of the year (by Florida standards), the Disney horticulturist plant white flowers and white-leaved shrubberies to suggest snow. As spring approaches, these white patches are scaled back to the shaded areas beneath the trees to suggest lingering snow. You can see an example of this in the fifth and sixth picture.


Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens


Off of Victoria Gardens and on the lowest level of Hôtel du Canada is the most popular eatery at Epcot, Le Cellier Steakhouse. Without exaggeration, this restaurant books up within days of reservations being available. "Walkups" are sometimes offered for off times, but one must never count on last minute reservations if they have any hopes of eating here. But this wasn't always the case.


Le Cellier Steakhouse


In the early years of Epcot, Le Cellier was a buffeteria style restaurant. As you might deduce from the name, buffeteria combines the elements of a cafeteria with a buffet. Disneyland had used this style of service at the Plaza Pavilion, Plaza Inn, and the French Market restaurants for years with great success and thought a buffeteria would be a perfect match for the Canada Pavilion's restaurant. Since most Americans are unfamiliar with Canadian specialties, a buffeteria would give guests the opportunity to see the tasty delights before ordering them. However, things didn't work out as planned. Whether it was the style of service (which has never caught on at Disney World) or the dishes offered, guests were not interested in eating at Le Cellier. Something needed to be done.

In late 1996, Le Cellier closed for a makeover. When it reopened on July 20, 1997, it had been renamed Le Cellier Steakhouse and featured an all new menu, focusing on beef. In addition, gone was the buffeteria style service to be replaced with a wait-staff. The restaurant was an instant success and good word-of-mouth only added to the eatery's popularity. Now, reservations are so in demand that Disney requires a credit card when booking a table and $10 per person will be charged if you fail to show up.

The atmosphere at Le Cellier Steakhouse is captivating. Designed to resemble a wine cellar, the dining rooms are incased within stone walls and low ceilings. The lighting is dim and the mood sedate. Yet the friendly Canadian cast members bring a lighthearted air to the service that relaxes the ambiance. Note, the next two pictures were taken with a flash so I could adequately show you the restaurant. Things are much darker in person.


Le Cellier Steakhouse

Le Cellier Steakhouse


The various sections of the restaurant are named after one of the thirteen Canadian provinces or territories. Each has its own emblem. Here are a few of them.


Province & Territoriy Emplems

Province & Territoriy Emplems

Province & Territoriy Emplems


If you have reservations for 11:30am or shortly thereafter, be sure to arrive in time to watch the wait staff sing "O Canada," the country's national anthem. Because this inspiring moment takes place in the restaurant's very small lobby, only a handful of guests get to see it.


Cast Members Singing O Canada


Back on the promenade we find several street vendors. The first sells more Canadian souvenirs, including personalized wrist bands. The second offers Coke products along with Moosehead, Moosehead Light, or Labatt Blue beer.


Souvenir Stand

Beer Cart


The Canada Pavilion is a handsome member of the World Showcase of nations. Its scenery is unsurpassed, its architecture varied, its food sumptuous, and its CircleVision film moving and humorous. Be sure to visit this gem of a pavilion on your next visit to Epcot. Take a stroll through Victoria Gardens so you can slow down and smell the roses.

As always, I have created a video of the Canada Pavilion. Enjoy.




April 9, 2012

Carousel or Carrousel Disney Style

Jack Spence Masthead


When I think of Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, rides like the Matterhorn, "it's a small world", Splash Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean come to mind. These are classic attractions that are emblazoned in my memory. But I have to be honest, the carousels don't instantly pop into my head. In fact, if someone were to ask me to take a pencil and paper and list all of the rides at Disneyland, the carousel would probably be found somewhere near the bottom of my list. It's not that I don't like the carousels, it's just that they are often overshadowed by other more flashy attractions. Yet carousels are synonymous with Disney parks. In fact, of the eleven Disney parks worldwide, there are carousels in seven plus one at Downtown Disney/WDW:

Disneyland - King Arthur Carrousel
Disney's California Adventure - King Triton's Carousel
Magic Kingdom - Prince Charming Regal Carrousel (formerly Cinderella's Golden Carrousel)
Downtown Disney/WDW - Classic Carousel
Disneyland Paris - Le Carrousel de Lancelot
Tokyo Disneyland - Castle Carrousel
Tokyo DisneySea - Caravan Carousel
Hong Kong Disneyland - Cinderella Carousel

If you noticed, the Imagineers chose to use both one and two "R's" in the spelling of the word Carousel/Carrousel - both spellings are correct. In fact, at the California and Tokyo parks, they spell it with one "R" in one park and two "R's" in the other. I wonder what the logic is with that. But because I'm lazy and the one "R" spelling takes one less keystroke, I will use the simplified version in this article. LOL

Now for a little carousel history.

During the crusades, European warriors noticed the Arabian and Turkish soldiers play a game (and training) on horseback called "garosello" (Italian) and "carosella" (Spanish) meaning "little wars". Impressed by their horsemanship and skill at these games, the crusaders brought variations of these competitions back to their respective homelands.

In France, these games evolved and took on a regal air which came to be known as carrousel. A major event of the carrousel was the ring-spearing tournament. In this game, a man would ride his steed or chariot at full gallop with his lance pointed outward. At the far end of the field a small ring was suspended from a tree limb with brightly colored ribbons. The goal, of course, was the spear the ring with his lance as he passed by at great speed. As the games grew in popularity, so did the pageantry. To add to the pomp, the horses were adorned with jeweled harnesses, draped with colorful fabrics, and sported ornately crafted saddles.

To assist in the training of these equestrians (without tiring the horses), the French carved wooden horses and chariots and suspended them from arms radiating from a center pole. Riders would then sit on these manmade steeds while someone rotated the contraption and they would attempt to spear rings suspended nearby. Thus were the humble beginnings of the modern day carousel.

By the late 1700's, carousels built for amusement purposes were a somewhat common sight in Europe. And just like the real steeds had gained in pageantry over time, now so did their wooden counterparts. As carousels grew in popularity, the horses became more and more ornate.

Early carousels had no platforms. The horses and chariots still hung from crossbeams attached to a center pole. As the machine was spun faster, the riders were flung outward from the centrifugal force. The carousels were usually powered by a man or horse tethered to the device who walked in circles. Steam power was first applied to the carousel in 1861. The first platform carousel made its appearance in the mid-19th century.

Although carousels originated in Europe, they reached their pinnacle in America as skilled craftsmen brought their talents across the Atlantic beginning in the mid-19th century. And when these talented men arrived, the carousels took on new magic. Not only did the horses become even more ostentatious, other ornate animals were added to the mix. Lions, tigers, pigs, zebras, dragons, sea monsters and unicorns became commonplace. Any creature that could be reasonably sat upon could be found on American carousels.

The Great Depression of the 1930's brought an end to the Golden Age of carousels. As the economy tanked, amusement parks began to decline in number. Used carousels could satisfy the remaining market and the few remaining carousel companies closed their doors or moved on to other products. Many carousels were abandoned or destroyed as the years marched on. Of the more than 4,000 carousels built in America during the Golden Age, fewer than 150 exist intact today.

As we all know, Walt would take his young daughters Diane and Sharon to Griffith Park in Los Angeles where he would sit nearby as they rode the merry-go-round. As the story goes, this was how the idea of Disneyland first came to him. So it's no surprise that Walt wanted a carousel to be included in his new park. It's interesting to note, all of the horses on the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round are jumpers, something Walt insisted upon when searching for a carousel for Disneyland. The first picture is of the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round, the second, an early concept drawing for Disneyland.


Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

Carousel Concept Art


After much searching, the Imagineers found an 1875 Dentzel model carousel in Sunnyside Beach Park, Toronto, Canada, an amusement park that was on its last legs of existence. . However, the carousel contained a number of beasts besides horses. So Walt sent his Imagineers out again to find additional steeds from other sources. When the new-found horses arrived back in Burbank, many were in shoddy condition and required a tremendous amount of restoration. In addition, alterations were made to "standing" horses to transform them into jumpers. This required the carving of new legs and attaching them realistically to the bodies. The original carousel had three rows of horses. To increase capacity, an additional row was added to bring the total up to 71 horses and one mule. Every horse is unique and each has a name. Here is the list in alphabetical order:

Alma, Arabian Knight, Avanti, Baby, Belle, Bruce, Centurion, Checkers, Checkers Jr., Champion, Chodis, Cinch, Copper, Crown Jewel, Crusader, Dagger, Daisy, Dante, Duke, Eagle Scout, Elinor, Elroy, Emerald, Fern, Flourish, Frenchy, Galaxy, Gypsy, Hal, Ivy, Jester, Jingles, Kaleidoscope, King Richard, Lance, Leo, Leprechaun, Lucifer's Rose, Lunatic, National Velvet, Patches, Pegasus, Penny, Queenie, Rally, Red Devil, Renaissance, Sapphire, Saxon, Screaming Eagle, Sea Biscuit, Sir Lancelot, St. Patrick, Steamer, Tartan, Tassel, Testy Pat, Thistle, Tiny, Topaz, Tulip, Turbo, Unice & Valance.

The original carousel also had two elaborate chariots. These were removed and used to decorate the tenders of the Casey Jr. Circus Trains.


Casey Jr. Circus Train


The finished product was given the name "King Arthur Carousel" and was placed directly behind Sleeping Beauty Castle so that it could be easily seen from Main Street. Here the Imagineers were employing the draw-concept. The spinning carousel, when seen through the castle, would "draw" or entice guests into Fantasyland.


Draw Concept

King Arthur Carrousel


No two horses on King Arthur Carrousel are alike and in the early years of Disneyland, their bodies were painted in a multitude of colors. However, guests seem to clamor to the white horses. So in 1975, all of the horses were repainted arctic white. The Disney folks will tell you this is because everybody riding is a "good guy."

In this next picture, taken in late July, 1955, you can see several black and one yellowish-tan horse.


Multi-Colored Horses


In 2003, King Arthur Carrousel closed for an extensive renovation. During this time, the turntable was rebuilt and a row of horses was removed and replaced with a bench. The bench can be converted to accommodate a wheelchair and an access ramp is now available making the carousel ADA compliant.


Carousel Bench


The lead horse, Jingles, was Walt's favorite. It was named such because of the strands of jingle bells hanging from the saddle. For Disneyland's 50th anniversary, Jingles was painted gold from head to tail. When the celebration ended, Jingles was dedicated to Disney Legend Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins). The saddle now sports Poppin's flying silhouette, a picture of her shoes, the number 50, and Julie Andrew's initials.


Jingles Painted Gold

Jingles Painted White

Jingle's Saddle


Keeping the horses looking good takes a tremendous amount of effort. The carousel has a number of "spare" horses that are constantly being worked on backstage. After about 40 hours of refinishing and repainting, the horses are sent back to the carousel and others removed for their turn in the shop. It takes about two years to completely repaint all of the horses - then the cycle begins again. The brass poles are given six hours of polishing every night to keep them looking bright and shiny.

King Arthur Carousel required an "A" coupon to ride in the days of ticket books.

It's interesting to note, on this early attraction poster, "Carousel" is spelled with one "R" rather than the two that are in the attraction's actual name, King Arthur Carrousel.


Fantasyland Poster


The carousel at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World is named Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. However, it wasn't always called by this moniker. Until June 1, 2010 it was known as Cinderella's Golden Carrousel. The name change was an effort by the Imagineers to give this opening day attraction a reason for existing in Fantasyland. Here is the official Disney backstory.

"Following their fairy-tale romance and happily-ever-after wedding, Cinderella and Prince Charming took up residence in Cinderella's Castle. With peace throughout the kingdom, Prince Charming had time to practice for jousting tournaments. In the countryside near the castle, he built a training device of carved horses, on which he could practice the art of ring-spearing, a tournament event in which a knight rides his horse full speed, lance in hand, toward a small ring hanging from a tree limb, with the object of spearing the ring. This event was known by various names throughout the lands, but generally came to be called "carrousel." The carrousel device drew the attention of the villagers, who wanted to take a turn on this amazing spinning contraption. So Prince Charming had a second carrousel constructed closer to the Castle, where everyone could take a spin on this wondrous invention. Instead of a working knight's training device, however, this new carrousel is more befitting its regal location in the Castle Courtyard - its rustic training horses replaced with ornately decorated prancing steeds adorned with golden helmets and shields, flower garlands, feathers and other festoons. Prince Charming invites one and all to test their horsemanship skills and to enjoy their own happy ending."


Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

Carrousel Sign


The Magic Kingdom carousel was purchased from the now defunct Olympic Park in Maplewood, New Jersey in 1967. It had originally been built for the Detroit Palace Garden Park (also long gone) by the prestigious Toboggan Company in 1917. The carousel's original name was Liberty and was decorated in colors of red, white, and blue.

Like King Arthur Carrousel at Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom's version needed a lot of work to get it ready for opening day. In addition to the layers upon layers of paint that had to be removed on every horse, some had unusually positioned legs. To rectify this, the Imagineers creatively repositioned many of the legs to create chargers. If you look closely, you can see the seams on some of the steeds. The original carousel had 72 horses. Disney expanded this number to 90 (18 rows, each five horses deep). However, this was cut back to 86 when four horses were removed to make room for one of the original chariots that was added back in 1997. Nearly all of the moving wooden parts were replaced with new metal duplicates.

A number of fiberglass molds were created of several of the horses and painted to match the originals. This was done so that when it came time to refurbish the wooden steeds from time to time, replacements would be available. Each year, fifty to sixty horses are refurbished.

The horses on the outside of the carousel are the largest and the most elaborately decorated. The horses decrease in size and adornments with each consecutive ring. By the way, the gold you see on the horses is real - 23 karats.

On the wooden canopy atop the carousel are 18 paintings depicting the story of Cinderella. Each is approximately 2'x3'. The Disney music heard in the background is generated by a band organ built in Italy. And there are 2,325 lights illuminating the carousel.


Carousel Canopy


With the exception of two horses, King and Cindy, the mounts do not have names. Instead, they are numbered. The designation can be found on the left side of the bridal. You can see this number (and me) in the next picture.


Horse Briddle and Number


King is the lead horse and decorated in ornate armor. "Cindy" is Cinderella's horse and is designated so by the golden ribbon tied around her tail - the only horse to sport a tail ribbon. However, not everyone agrees that this is actually Cinderella's horse. Isle Voght (who originally refurbished the carousel and maintained it for years) and Disney Legend John Hench both agree that there is no such animal as Cinderella's horse. If Cinderella did have a special mount, it would be located on the outer ring (not the second) and be far more elaborately decorated. And it would probably have some sort of crest to designate royalty. In addition, Cinderella's horse was not mentioned in the backstory created in 2010. It is assumed that this Disney urban legend came about by cast members trying to create Magic Moments for guests.


Cinderella's Horse

Golden Ribbon


During construction of the Magic Kingdom, the carousel was placed slightly off center from Cinderella Castle. Roy O. Disney noticed this discrepancy and insisted it be moved several feet so that it could properly "draw" guests into Fantasyland.

Like Disneyland, the carousel in the Magic Kingdom required an "A" coupon in the days of ticket books.

Many ask, "What is the difference between a carousel and a merry-go-round?"

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, some believe that carousels only have horses while merry-go-rounds have other animals and seating options. In addition, carousels generally move counter-clockwise while merry-go-rounds or "roundabouts" move clockwise. If we were to go by the strict definition of carousel, Disney's would no longer apply as they have added benches to both King Arthur Carrousel and Prince Charming Regal Carrousel.

I started this article by saying that the carrousels would be low on my list when trying to recall Disney attractions. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy riding them occasionally - or just standing nearby and watching it spin. Carousels are works of art. The craftsmanship and love that went into these attractions of yesteryear is amazing. And to know that Disney is keeping these works of art in pristine condition is gratifying. The beauty of these machines never fails to amaze me.

The carousel is often the first attraction a young visitor to a Disney park experiences. It is truly heartwarming to see a proud parent standing beside their child as the bell rings, the platform begins to turn, and the horse begins its journey, all the while, the child is smiling broadly.

If you'd like to relive this journey from the comfort of your home, check out my short video of Prince Charming Regal Carrousel.




April 15, 2012

Chimpanzee - Disneynature - World Premiere

Jack Spence Masthead


Background

On December 21, 1948, Walt Disney released his first True Life Adventure, "Seal Island." For the next twelve years, the Disney Company continued with a series of documentaries that educated and entertained at the same time. Two-reel shorts like "Beaver Valley," "The Olympic Elk," and "Bear Country" inspired an early Disneyland attraction, Nature's Wonderland. And "The African Lion" played a part in the creation of Adventureland and the Jungle Cruise.

Often narrated by Rex Allen (the original voice of Father on the Carousel of Progress attraction), these nature movies always told a story in a lighthearted manner. Although the realities of nature were touched upon, they were presented in a style that allowed the viewer to understand the seriousness of the situation without the graphic details.

Originally released in theaters, these documentaries eventually made their way to Walt's various television shows and brought the wonders of Mother Nature to a whole new audience. Many people (like me) have fond memories of these charming films and wax nostalgic about the "good ol' days" of Disney's True Life Adventures.

But we no longer need only remember the "good ol' days" as Disney is once again bringing this type of quality documentary to a new generation. On April 21, 2008, the Walt Disney Company founded Disneynature, an independent film label. The goal of this company is to create inspirational and moving films that will once again educate and entertain audiences. Some of their past films have been "African Cats" and "Oceans."


Disneynature

African Cats

Oceans


Recently (April 13, 2012), Deb Wills and I were on hand for the world premiere of Disneynature's latest film, "Chimpanzee." This heartwarming story tells the tale of a young chimpanzee named Oscar, who is still very dependent on his mother for survival. During the film we learn that Oscar and the other chimpanzees in his troop have real emotions. They work together, play together, and genuinely care for one another. They are a family in every sense of the word.

As with any good story, "Chimpanzee" has moments of extreme joy and deep sadness. But just like the True Life Adventures of yesteryear, the tragedies of life are handled in a manner that allows the viewer to understand the depth of the situation without being plagued by graphic details.

When I was young and watching the original True Life Adventures, I was always amazed at how the photographers were able to capture many of the scenes seen in the movie. I knew it took a special talent to achieve what they did. But the photographers of Disneynature have taken this skill to a new level. The cinematography in "Chimpanzee" is breathtaking. You will often wonder how the filmmakers were able to capture the chimps and the environment with such spectacular clarity and intimacy.

Tim Allen (Home Improvement, Toy Story, Last Man Standing) narrates the film and his relaxed tone carries the movie through an array of emotions. The film is rated "G" and is definitely suitable for the entire family. "Chimpanzee" opens on Friday, April 20th.

To kick off the movie, Disney staged a Hollywood-like premiere at the AMC Theater at Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World. A red carpet was rolled out and several of the movie's human celebrities made an appearance. One of the most exciting for me was Jane Goodall, who has spent her life observing these magnificent creatures.

Disneynature has joined forces with the Jane Goodall Institute for a special "See 'Chimpanzee,' Save Chimpanzees" program. For every moviegoer who sees "Chimpanzee" during the film's opening week (April 20-26, 2012), Disneynature will make a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to protect chimpanzees today and tomorrow.


Red Carpet

Jane Goodall


Another celebrity on hand for the event was Joe Rohde. Deb Wills captured a few moments with Joe on tape where he explains the relationship the Disney Company has forged with Jane Goodall and how the messages of "Chimpanzee" are played out in Disney's Animal Kingdom.


Joe Rohde


Also walking the red carpet were the movie's directors and producers, Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield and the films Executive Producer, Don Hahn.


Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield

Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield with Jane Goodall

Don Hahn


During the event, I filmed several interviews with these and other individuals connected with the movie. The video is eight minutes in length and it helps explain the importance Disney puts on the films of Disneynature and their commitment to the environment.



Several Disney Channel Stars were also in attendance as part of the Disney Kids and Nature Celebration Weekend


Laura Marano and Ross Lynch from Disney Channel's Austin and Ally


Austin and Alley


Debby Ryan from Disney Channel's Jessie


Debby Ryan


Bella Thorne and Zendaya from Disney Channel's Shake It Up


Bella Thorne and Zendaya


(Check back tuesday for Kristin's blog on the Disney Kids and Nature Celebration.)

For the last three years, Disney has also used the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival to promote their Disneynature films. During each festival, an elaborate sand sculpture is created to draw attention to their most recent movie. This year, Oscar and his family have been reproduced in this short-lived medium.


Chimpanzee%2010.jpg


To learn more about the movie "Chimpanzee," click here.


Chimpanzee Movie Poster



April 16, 2012

The Outpost in Epcot's World Showcase

Jack Spence Masthead


Today's article will focus on the "almost" pavilion of World Showcase - that "bump in the road" along the promenade - the "what's this here for?" collection of huts. I'm talking about the Outpost located between China and Germany.

As we know, Disney had grandiose dreams of filling World Showcase with a multitude of nations. There were even plans for an outer ring of countries if ever the promenade filled to capacity. But alas, this didn't come to pass. Epcot opened with nine countries and was later joined by Norway and Morocco. But other nations were well along in the planning stages before they were eventually scrapped for various reasons. Some of these included Israel, Spain, and Equatorial Africa. In fact, Equatorial Africa was so far along in planning that it was actually included as a "future project" on the opening day Epcot map. And during the Disney TV special "EPCOT Center: The Grand Opening Celebration" which aired on October 23, 1982, host Danny Kaye interviewed "Roots" author and Project Adviser Alex Haley about this soon to be added pavilion.


Early Epcot Map


The continent of Africa is made up of many poor nations. And building a pavilion at Epcot is an expensive proposition. So Disney proposed a pavilion that included a collection of African countries, rather than just one. This multi-nation concept would help distribute the costs among several countries. After much searching and many negotiations, Letters of Intent were signed by Kenya, Senegal, and Ivory Coast.

Equatorial Africa was going to be an exciting pavilion and plans for a number of attractions were on the drawing board. The first of two films, "Africa Rediscovered," would be narrated by Alex Haley and would present the abundant wild life of the area, the history of this region, and discuss modern-day Africa. The second film, "Heartbeat of Africa," would focus on African music and conclude with a laser show synchronized to the sounds of native instruments.

Another exhibit would feature a large tree house. From its heights, guests would look down on a jungle watering hole bathed in perpetual moonlight. A diorama of trees, boulders, rushing waters, and actual scents of nature would highlight a rear-projection movie of animals advancing to drink in the night.

And of course, no World Showcase pavilion would be complete without live entertainment. So a small amphitheater was to be carved into Disney "rocks" to showcase African dance and music.

Here are a few concept drawings for the African Pavilion.


Equatorial Africa Concept Art

Equatorial Africa Concept Art

Equatorial Africa Concept Art


The African Pavilion was schedule to open sometime in 1983, but as negotiations continued to drag on, it was decided to build a temporary African placeholder where guests could grab a snack and pick up a souvenir. This was done for two reasons. First, this would pacify guests who had heard about the future Equatorial Africa Pavilion on TV and seen it on Epcot maps. But also, the area between China and Germany is large. Something of interest was needed along this route to help give World Showcase a more completed look.

Unfortunately, the Equatorial Africa Pavilion never came to pass for a number of reasons. First, the political unrest of the region made it difficult to carry on negotiations with the various nations and their less than stable governments. Not to mention, these nations were already squabbling amongst themselves for top billing at the pavilion. Then there was the problem of money. Most African countries simply couldn't afford or justify spending the amounts needed to build a World Showcase pavilion. However, Disney was able to find one sponsor, a company located in South Africa. But apartheid was a major issue in the 1980's and Disney thought better of associating itself with this political bombshell. Eventually, the project was shelved. And with the opening of Harambe at Disney's Animal Kingdom, any thoughts of a future African pavilion along the World Showcase promenade probably died as well.

Officially, the African themed area located between China and Germany is known as the Outpost, although many call it African Outpost or Refreshment Outpost. Since the Outpost was constructed as a temporary placeholder, there is precious little information about this area of World Showcase available in books and on the internet. So in order to present you with a backstory, I tried to deduce what the Imagineers were thinking when creating this mini-pavilion by examining the details. Here's what I came up with.

The Outpost is a small trading center located along a rural roadway somewhere in West Africa. Local merchants bring their wares to the stalls each morning and supply travelers with the necessities of their journey. Part of this story can be seen in the signpost that points the directions to various far-a-way locales - very far-a-way indeed.


Sign Post


The Outpost has three areas: seating, shops, and refreshments. I'll start with seating.

Travelers need a place to rest before continuing along their journey and the umbrella covered tables and chairs that line the World Showcase Lagoon fulfill this need. This is a fantastic spot to stop and rest your weary feet. Although the wall behind some of the tables is high and cuts off much of your water view while seated, this is still the perfect spot to relax and people watch. It's also a decent spot to stand and watch Illuminations.


Outpost Seating

Outpost Seating

Outpost Seating


On the other side of the wall, three African canoes can be seen. These belong to some of the local inhabitants of the village who probably sell their catch at the nearby stalls.


African Canoes


Like in other regions of the world, the first boats in Africa were dugout canoes, a craft made by hollowing out a large tree. In Africa, the rainforests provided the ancient people with an abundant supply of trees for the construction of boats, and waterways for fishing and hunting. As civilization progressed, so did the construction methods of canoes. African Teak (iroko) was the favored wood due to its durability.

Today, fish provide the main source of protein for millions of people living from coast to coast in the tropical areas of Central Africa - and canoes continue to play a large role in the feeding of these hungry souls.

Travelers need to eat and the nearby stand provides for this need. The current proprietor has cleverly changed the trading post's name from "Outpost" to "Refreshment Coolpost" to attract business. This can be seen on the overhead sign that has been crudely repainted. Also notice the water tower on the roof which provides the stand with clean water and water pressure.


Refresment CoolPost

Refresment CoolPost

Refresment CoolPost


Refreshment Coolpost is sponsored by Coca-Cola. Few places at Disney World flaunt an advertiser's product so blatantly. But this display works on several levels. First, we see a number of burlap bags containing kola nuts scattered around the area. Kola trees are native to West Africa and are used to add caffeine and flavoring to Coke and other cola drinks.


Kola Nuts


In the same area are a number of crates ready to be shipped to faraway lands, all of them labeled Coca-Cola in the destination's native language. This area obviously has a bottling plant nearby and the Outpost acts as a distribution center. This can be deduced from various details. First, several of the crates are labeled FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE, and KEEP ICE COLD. From these messages we have to assume the crates are filled with bottles of Coke. If these crates contained kola nuts, no such labeling would be necessary. In addition, an old Chevy woody is loaded up and ready to make local deliveries.


Crates of Coca-Cola

Crates of Coca-Cola

Crates of Coca-Cola

Crates of Coca-Cola

Chevy Woodie

Chevy Woodie


Also found in this area is a number of Coca-Cola vending machines. These are obviously used mechanisms that are being shipped out to poorer regions. While browsing this area, be sure to open a few of them for some surprises.


Coca-Cola Vending Machines

Coca-Cola Vending Machines


It's interesting to note, Coke has used the word "Cool" at several other locations in Walt Disney World. Two can be found in other sections of Epcot with "Cool Wash" and "Club Cool."


Cool Wash

Club Cool


Mixed in among the crates and vending machines are several sets of African drums. Kids love to burn off energy here, pounding to their heart's content.


African Drums


The tapered drum above is called a djembe. It was originally the instrument of the Mandinka people but has gained greater popularity in large regions of Africa over time. It is carved from a single piece of wood and covered with goat skin. It is used mostly for seasonal celebrations, weddings, baptisms, and festivities held immediately after Ramadan.

Currently, there is no regularly scheduled entertainment at the Outpost. However, at one time, African storytellers could be found in this area where they would regale guests with Nigerian folktales and music.

The Outpost offers a limited selection of food and drink. Hot dogs and chips are as close to a real meal as you'll find here. Other offerings include soft-serve ice cream, cookies, frozen slushes, beer, and of course, Coke products. To see the complete menu, click here.


Refreshment CoolPost


The last section of this little settlement is the trading center. Here, merchants open their shops each day and sell their wares to the travelers passing through on their way to more exciting destinations. The structures here range from a permanent building to makeshift huts. I'll start with the more substantial of these, Village Traders.


Village Traders

Village Traders


Village Traders is housed in a mud house, a common sight in West Africa. The construction of these structures is relatively inexpensive and the materials are readily available. The components of a mud house are as follows: wood poles for the wall and roof support, elephant grass for the thatch, and straw and mud for the walls. In some cases, cow dung may be mixed in with the mud and straw to cut down on insects. A mud house is typically round as this aids in support. These buildings will normally last for about ten years, but eventually, termites will eat away at the support timbers and the structure will need to be rebuilt. But since everything used in construction is natural, it is all biodegradable.

Apparently, business has been good for the owners of Village Traders as they were able to build a more permanent, wooden structure adjoining their mud house.


Wooden Structure


On the outer walls of Village Traders are a number of masks. Masks like these are a common sight in Sub-Saharan and West Africa. Although their exact implications vary from one tribe to the next, they share a commonality of being used in spiritual and religious events and ceremonies.


African Masks

African Masks

African Masks


Village Traders sells a collection of African handicrafts and Disney souvenir items. For those of you who search out the Coin Presses, there is one located here.


Village Traders

Coin Press


Although there are a number of face painting stations located around Walt Disney World, the one at the Outpost is especially fitting. Face painting (which is often accompanied by body painting) has its roots in many cultures around the world and the African continent is especially known for this practice. Tribal and cultural face painting serves an array of purposes. Some people have used it to aid in hunting and camouflage. Others have used it in warfare to create fearsome countenances that would scare their enemy. And to some, religious and spiritual experiences can be enhanced with the decoration of the face.

At the Outpost, nothing this steeped in meaning is available. Instead, talented artists offer lighthearted, and a few scary, designs for kids and adults.


Face Painting

Face Painting

Face Painting


At Mdundo Kibanda, you can watch Andrew Mutiso and members of his team carve wood and soapstone into beautiful works of art. Feel free to engage these talented artists in conversation. They'll be happy to explain the process of taking raw wood and turning it into a thing of beauty.


Mdundo Kibanda

Mdundo Kibanda

Mdundo Kibanda Artist

Andrew Mutiso

African Art


The latest vendor to set up shop in the village takes up residence in Bead Outpost. This entrepreneur arranges for old Disney guide books and other out-of-day Disney paper products to be sent to his family in Uganda. Here, the paper is hand rolled into beautifully colored beads which have been strung into necklaces and bracelets. The finished product is extremely durable and water resistant and makes a wonderful gift for yourself or a friend. You can actually wear a bit of recycled Walt Disney World with these pieces of jewelry.


Bead Outpost

Recycled Beads


That's it for the Outpost. As I said at the beginning of this article, this area was never intended to still be standing 29 years after its construction, but here it is. Although not as immersive as the other World Showcase nations, the Outpost does offer more than most guests think. So on your next trip to Epcot, try not to rush through this area. There are details to be discovered here.

As always, I have created a video showcasing the Outpost. Enjoy.




April 23, 2012

International Gateway, Showcase Plaza, & Millennium Village - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


I'm going to start this two-part blog with Epcot's International Gateway. Most people give little thought to this spot along the World Showcase promenade. In fact, International Gateway is not technically part of the promenade. It lies on a small spur off of the main walkway between the France and United Kingdom Pavilions. And unless you're staying at one of the Epcot deluxe resorts, you've probably never ventured from the main thoroughfare to see what's here. And I understand this. There really isn't any need for the average guest to check out this area. But like almost everything at Walt Disney World, there is a story behind this unassuming spot. I'll begin today's tale in Europe.

Part of the inspiration for Disneyland came from Walt's visit to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was greatly impressed by the theming of the buildings, the manicured grounds, and the cleanliness of the facility. Seeing this park helped him realize that his visions for a theme park were possible. However, there was one aspect of Tivoli Gardens that Walt did not like. The park sat on a city block and had four entrances, one on each street. Walt wanted to control how people first entered and experienced Disneyland and this would require one entrance only.

The pictures below show two of the entrances to Tivoli Gardens.


Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens


As we know, Disneyland was laid out in a "hub & spoke" design. All of the lands radiated from the center of the park. This mandated that if there was only one entrance, all guests would experience Main Street before venturing into the other realms of the park. This worked wonderfully and Walt could "control" his guests' first impressions.

However, Walt broke his own rule when the Disneyland monorail was extended to the Disneyland Hotel in 1961. Now guests could board the monorail at the hotel and enter Disneyland via Tomorrowland.


Monorail at Disneyland Hotel

Monorail in Tomorrowland


The idea of a monorail running through Tomorrowland was at least discussed when the Magic Kingdom in Florida was being planned. This can be seen in an early concept drawing. Whether or not a Tomorrowland Station would have been included had this idea advanced, I do not know.


Concept Drawing of the Magic Kingdom and the Monorail


Now let's switch gears and move to Epcot in the mid 1970's.

One famous Disney legend revolves around the evolution of Epcot. In the planning stages, Future World and World Showcase were to be two separate parks -- each to require its own admission ticket. But as plans progressed, it was realized that neither park offered enough to fill a visitor's entire day. So the Imagineers literally pushed the models of Future World and World Showcase together to create one, large park.

During the first few years of Epcot's operation, both Future World and World Showcase opened at the same time, 9am. However, because the park is not laid out in the "hub & spoke" design like Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, but rather two large circles, guests tended to experience everything in Future World in the morning hours. They would not even venture to World Showcase until the afternoon and evening, leaving Future World deserted after dark. So it was decided to stagger the opening times - 9am for Future World and 11am for World Showcase - with some attractions in Future World closing at 7pm. Even on the busiest days, you can still enjoy World Showcase almost crowd-free if you tour this area between 11am and noon.

I have often wondered why the Imagineers didn't place the entrance to Epcot between the Mexico Pavilion and Test Track (then World of Motion) or between the Imagination and Canada Pavilions. If they had done this, guests would have had a choice which area to visit first and the park would have filled more evenly.

When the World Showcase promenade was being designed, the Imagineers wanted a level walkway all around the lagoon. This would aid in pedestrian traffic and make it easier for the omnibuses to navigate the 1.3 miles around the promenade. In addition, a small fleet of Friendship boats was planned to ferry guests across World Showcase Lagoon. However, the boats needed an out-of-sight dock were they could be cleaned and maintained each night. A spot was selected behind what is now the Outpost located between the China and Germany Pavilions. However, this location would require the boats pass beneath the World Showcase promenade. The only way to have a level walkway and a bridge high enough for the boats to pass beneath would be to install a draw bridge - which is what they ultimately decided to do.


Drawbridge

Friendship Boat

Omnibus


Before International Gateway, a waterway already existed next to the France Pavilion. It was modestly landscaped to look like the Seine River in Paris.


The Seine River


This next picture was taken from an early Epcot guide map, before the addition of International Gateway. Notice there is only one bridge depicted (even though the waterway (the Seine) was omitted from the map). In the second picture, you can see the walkway between the United Kingdom and France Pavilions as it appeared in 1983, before the addition of International Gateway. This area contained only a simple sidewalk lined with benches, trees, and lampposts.


Guidemap

Before International Gateway


Sometime after Michael Eisner's appointment to head the Disney Company in 1984, a vast new hotel complex was planned for the land just west of Epcot. It was to contain two non-Disney hotels (the Swan and Dolphin) to satisfy a contractual agreement with the U.S. Steel Company and three Disney owned-and-operated resorts, the Yacht, Beach, and Boardwalk. Here are the opening dates for each:

Walt Disney World Swan - January 13, 1990

Walt Disney World Dolphin - June 1, 1990

Yacht Club - November 5, 1990

Beach Club - November 19, 1990

Boardwalk - July 1, 1996

The Imagineers knew that the deluxe Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian Resorts had monorail service to connect them to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The Imagineers also knew that guests of these new deluxe "Epcot" resorts would want some sort of special theme park transportation if they were to compete with the "Magic Kingdom" hotels. Their solution was twofold.

First, they would create a "backdoor" into Epcot to be called International Gateway. This would allow guests staying at this new resort area easy access into the park. And second, they would complete a waterway all the way from International Gateway to the entrance of the recently opened Disney/MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios). Along this waterway, an expanded fleet of Friendship boats would make stops at the two theme parks, the Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach, and Swan & Dolphin resorts

The logical spot to berth the expanded fleet of Friendship boats would be at the existing dock located behind the Outpost. However, the only bridge on the west side of World Showcase (the bridge into France) was too low for the boats to pass beneath. A second bridge would need to be constructed. This left the Imagineers with two choices, build another draw bridge (expensive) or build a bridge high enough for the boats to pass beneath (less expensive). But this second choice would require a slight rise in the walkway's elevation and the promenade would no longer be level all the way around World Showcase. As we all know, the less expensive option was selected.

The first picture below is of the existing France bridge which is too low for the Friendship boats to pass beneath. The second picture was taken in 1989 and shows the new, second bridge under construction. The third picture shows the completed bridge. The fourth picture is of the new island that was formed during construction and the elaborate viewing area created here for IllumiNations. However, don't count on this spot being available come 9pm as it is usually rented to groups and organizations for private parties.


France Bridge

Second Bridge Under Construction

Second Bridge Completed

Newly Landscaped Island


To help you understand the transformation this area went through, I have created a "before and after" animation. The buildings at the top right of the picture are the United Kingdom Pavilion. The buildings in the lower left are the France Pavilion. Note, the "before" photo is just a rough approximation of what this area originally looked like.


Bridge Construction


For those of you wondering about the demise of the World Showcase omnibuses, I can't find any definitive information on the subject. According to Birnbaum's Official Walt Disney World Guide, they ran until sometime in 1996. So the rise in elevation along the World Showcase promenade probably did not play any significant role in their being discontinued. I suspect they were retired for two reasons, safety concerns and budget cuts.

International Gateway opened on January 12, 1990, just one day before the Swan, the first of the deluxe Epcot resorts. Here is a picture of International Gateway under construction and a current-day shot of this area as seen from the France Pavilion.


International Gateway Under Construction

International Gateway as seen from the France Pavilion


Since International Gateway is located directly across "the Seine", the architecture needed to complement that of the France Pavilion. To do this, the Imagineers combined elements from the Belle Epoque (the beautiful age) of Paris with an old style European customs house that might be found at a port of entry.


International Gateway


Guests arriving at International Gateway via the Friendship boats dock at a nearby landing. From here it is just a short walk to the backdoor of Epcot.


Friendship Landing at International Gateway

Friendship Landing at International Gateway

International Gateway Entrance


In the early years of International Gateway, a tram similar to those used in the parking lots circled Crescent Lake and stopped at the various hotels before returning to Epcot. However, this mode of transportation was eventually discontinued as it was felt the Friendship boats were adequate and the trams posed a danger to pedestrians sharing the same walkway.

For those guests who choose to walk to International Gateway from their resort, it takes about 15-20 minutes from the Swan & Dolphin and 10-15 minutes from the Boardwalk, Yacht, and Beach Resorts.

Just like at the main entrance to Epcot, admission tickets can be purchased at International Gateway from one of the two ticket booths. Lines are rarely long here. Near the ticket booths are large, seldom crowded restrooms.


Ticket Booth

Restrooms


Just beyond the ticket booths are bag check and then the turnstiles leading into World Showcase. The turnstile hours of operation at International Gateway are the same as those located at the main entrance.


Bag Check

Turnstiles


Once inside the park, strollers, wheelchairs, and a limited number of ECV's are available for rent. Guide maps and Times Guides are also found in this area. In addition, a small number of lockers can be rented here.


Stroller & Wheelchair Rental

Lockers


International Gateway features one shop, World Traveler. The interior of this shop is designed in the Art Nouveau style. This form of decorating uses flowing lines that incorporate plant and floral inspired motifs. Art Nouveau flourished in both America and Europe and reached its peak of popularity around the turn of the 20th century. The "international" motif of this building is further enhanced with posters promoting foreign travel. The merchandise sold here consists of Disney souvenirs and some refrigerated bottled beverages to cool down with.


World Traveler Shop Exterior

Travel Poster

Travel Poster

World Traveler Shop Interior


International Gateway is a fantastic perk when staying at one of the deluxe Epcot resorts. In the morning, it's wonderful not to worry about buses or parking, and enter Epcot via this hassle-free entrance. And at night after Illuminations, you can bypass the hordes of people cramming into Future World on their way to the parking lot. I like International Gateway and would eagerly recommend staying at one of the hotels that accesses Epcot's backdoor.

I started this article discussing the addition of a second entrance into Disneyland and later a backdoor into Epcot. Here are the other parks that feature a second entrance:

Disney's California Adventure - the second entrance is located behind the Grand Californian Hotel and enters into the Golden State section of the park. At one time, a third entrance into California Adventure could be found in the Paradise Pier section of the park and catered to guests staying at the Paradise Pier Hotel across the street. However, this entrance is no longer in use.

Tokyo DisneySea - the second entrance is via the Mira Costa Hotel and is used exclusively by resort guests.

That's it for Part One. Check back tomorrow when I will discuss Showcase Plaza and Millennium Village.



April 24, 2012

International Gateway, Showcase Plaza, & Millennium Village - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Yesterday I discussed Epcot's International Gateway. Today I'll cover Showcase Plaza and Millennium Village.

Showcace Plaza

Showcase Plaza is located at the entrance of World Showcase. This is the area surrounding the two Tower Shops. Early plans for Epcot called for a modern structure to be located here that would house the American Adventure. However, the Imagineers didn't want it to look like Disney was showing favoritism to the United States and eventually moved this attraction to its current location at the back of the park.


Showcase Plaza

Showcase Plaza

World Showcase Concept Drawing


Disney makes a lot of money by the selling of souvenirs - so much so that it affects their bottom line. The Imagineers were keenly aware of this when designing Epcot. However, early plans called for a more "adult" park and the Imagineers didn't feel plush Mickeys and Princess costumes should be seen in such grand pavilions as the Universe of Energy and Spaceship Earth. It was also decided that the shops in World Showcase would only carry merchandise manufactured in each individual nation. This concept would completely rule out the selling of Disney branded souvenirs, the big money maker, in half of the park. At the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, a shop could be tucked into every nook and cranny, but not at Epcot. So what were they to do?

There first solution was to build one large shop in the Communicore section of Future World. (This area is now called Innoventions.) This shop would be named Centorium (now Mouse Gear) and would be Epcot's version of the Emporium found on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. Notice how similar the names Centorium and Emporium are. This was no accident. Disney wanted guests to make this connection. Centorium would sell the typical Disney souvenirs guests clamor for - the same items that were sold at the Emporium. But savvy marketers and designers knew that many guests would miss this shop completely, so there needed to be more locations where guests could buy Disney branded merchandise. Enter the Tower Shops.

To make sure most everyone had a chance to buy Disney souvenirs, the Imagineers placed two stores at the entrance to World Showcase. These would be known collectively as the Tower Shops and individually as Disney Traders and Port of Entry. Unless guests took one of the smaller east or west walkways leading from Future World to World Showcase, they would walk by at least one of these stores.


Port of Entry

Disney Traders


Disney Traders and Port of Entry were designed with a nonspecific international look. These buildings would feel at home at any port around the world where they would process people and goods entering and leaving a country. In the early years, this theme was more apparent inside the shops, but with few exceptions, Disney merchandise now hides many of the buildings' interior details.


Disney Traders Interior Details

Disney Traders Interior Details

Disney Traders Interior Details

Disney Traders Interior Details


Disney Traders still offers an international feel with multinational vignettes displayed around the ceiling.


Disney Traders Interior Details

Disney Traders Interior Details

Disney Traders Interior Details

Disney Traders Interior Details


For the most part, Disney Traders has been given over to plush characters, especially Duffy and his international costumes. The story of Duffy can be read on posters located on the exterior of the building.


Duffy Display

Disney Traders Duffy Exterior


Here is the official Disney version of how Duffy came into existence.

One day, Mickey was getting ready to set sail on a long sea voyage. Minnie made Mickey a special teddy bear to take with him so he would never be lonely.

Mickey loved the bear and named him Duffy. Mickey and Duffy sailed around the world. They visited all sorts of exciting places and made lots of friends along the way.

Mickey and Duffy took pictures with their new pals and made memories that would last a lifetime.

At the end of their voyage, Mickey and Duffy sailed back home to share all their magical memories with Minnie.

To further promote Duffy, a permanent Meet-&-Greet area has been built for him across from Disney Traders.


Duffy Meet-&-Greet

Duffy Meet-&-Greet


It's interesting to note, an identical bear to Duffy was sold at Walt Disney World shortly after Y2K. However, he did not sell well and was quickly discontinued. This same bear was also sold at the Tokyo Disney Resort during this time, but unlike the U.S., he was given the name Duffy and became a cult phenomenon with the Japanese. Wanting to capitalize on this success, the American marketers reintroduced Duffy to the U.S. parks, gave him a backstory, and aggressively promoted him. When Duffy was first reintroduced to Walt Disney World, he was to be an exclusive item and sold only at Epcot. But within a couple of weeks of his debut, he could be found at all of the parks and resorts.

Although Duffy's popularity in the U.S. still lags significantly behind his Japanese brothers, he has proven to be successful.

The second shop in Showcase Plaza, Port of Entry, mainly sells Disney clothing and other Disney branded souvenirs. The only international theming remaining in this building is an overhead globe.


Port of Entry Merchandise

Port of Entry Merchandise

Port of Entry Globe


It's no accident that the Friendship Landings are located near the Tower Shops as they would provide services to the travelers leaving and arriving from these ports.


Friendship Landing

Friendship Landing

Friendship Landing

Friendship Landing


The East Friendship Landing (near Disney Traders) provides water taxi service to the Germany Pavilion and the West Friendship Landing (near Port of Entry) provides transportation to the Morocco Pavilion. Often between 11am and noon, only one Friendship boat is available for transportation across World Showcase Lagoon. Note, the boat may skip the East or West landing during this time and only make three stops along its journey.

Between the Tower shops is a vast area designed to offer unparalleled vistas of World Showcase, including IllumiNations in the evening. However, sections of this expanse are often rented to private groups or organizations.


Showcase Plaza


Near the railing of this plaza is a telescope. From it you can catch close-up views of the World Showcase nations. And the good news is, it doesn't require a coin to operate. It's free.


Telescope


The last point of interest in Showcase Plaza is Refreshment Port. Once again, notice how the word "port" has been incorporated into the name to help guests understand they're on a journey around the world. In addition, the architecture is very similar to the Tower Shops.


Refreshment Port


Refreshment Port is a snack bar that currently offers Chicken & Cheddar Poppers, Chicken Sandwiches, Crispy Fried Shrimp, and other goodies. To see the complete menu, click here.

To see the sights of International Gateway and Showcase Plaza, check out the video below.



World ShowPlace Events Pavilion

The last topic in my World Showcase tour is about the World ShowPlace Events Pavilion. This temporary structure, although now probably permanent, is used to host Disney events and is rented to private organizations for convention activities. It is located between the United Kingdom and Canada Pavilions.

So how did this "not-quite-up-to-Disney-standards" events pavilion come into being?

As the new millennium approached, Disney knew this would be a wonderful marketing opportunity. Since this would be a worldwide celebration, it was decided that Epcot would host most of the Disney World celebrations because of its "international" theme. To help kick things off, one of the best Walt Disney World logos ever created was designed and Mickey's sorcerer's hand was built above Spaceship Earth holding the number 2000.


WDW Millennium Logo

Spaceship Earth


But Disney needed more than a new logo and Mickey's hand to entice visitors to visit Walt Disney World over their 15 month celebration. They needed a new attraction.

Ever since Epcot opened, guests have continually asked, "When are you going to add new countries to World Showcase?" So Disney decided to do just that - well, sort of. They came up with the idea of Millennium Village, a spot along the World Showcase promenade where nations not already represented at Epcot could join in the festivities and spotlight their country. To house the new nations of the Epcot community, Disney built a 60,000 foot, tent-like exhibition hall between the Canada and United Kingdom Pavilions and dubbed it Millennium Village. The hall's construction was simple and inexpensive so that when the celebration ended, it could easily be dismantled.


Millennium Village

Millennium Village


When Millennium Village opened on October 1, 1999, more than 50 countries had signed on to be part of the celebration. Some exhibits consisted of little more than a small area where cast members could chat with guests about their homeland. Other countries presented interactive exhibits where guests could play games, watch movies, or participate in some sort of cultural ceremony.

A bit of controversy did arise around the Israel exhibit before the Millennium Village opened. The Arab League threatened to boycott Walt Disney World if Jerusalem was depicted as the capital of Israel. However, Disney would not allow the Arab League to see any of the advance plans. Eventually, the matter was settled at the United Nations when Disney gave its word that Jerusalem would not be mentioned in this context.

A few other events and additions came to Epcot to help celebrate the new millennium. Some of these were:

Millennium Central -- a re-themed area in front of the Fountain of Nations

IllumiNations 2000 Reflections of Earth - an updated nightly fireworks show

Tapestry of Nations - a new parade for World Showcase

The Millennium celebration ended on January 1, 2001. Overall, the Millennium Village was successful and drew daily crowds. However, I personally don't believe it "hit a home run." In many ways, its concept was similar to Innoventions. It contained many great exhibits, but these exhibits required time and energy if you were to get anything out of them. Most guests want to be entertained when visiting Disney World. They don't want to "study."

After Millennium Village closed, it was decided to keep the "temporary" pavilion and use it to hold special events at Epcot. Since the pavilion already had an adjacent kitchen, this facility would be able to feed large groups and play a major role each year at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.


World Showplace Entrance


This concludes my tour of World Showcase and its many pavilions and facilities. I sure hope you've been paying attention because in the weeks to come, there is going to be a test! Don't worry. It will be open book.



April 25, 2012

Update – Storybook Circus and Sunshine Tree Terrace

jack-spence%27s-masthead4.jpg


I promised that I would make regular trips to the Magic Kingdom to keep you informed of any new additions and updates to Storybook Circus. Well I visited a couple of days ago (April 23, 2012) and nothing new has been opened in this area. Sigh. However, I do have some additional information to share with you.

First, I snapped a couple of pictures of the new "Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station" currently under construction. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this water play area will be situated on a train turntable located beside the roundhouse/restrooms. As you can see, construction is well underway.


Casey Jr. Construction

Casey Jr. Engine

Casey Jr. Camel Car

Camel Heads


I asked a Barnstormer cast member if she had any idea when this area would be opening. She told me that Disney is hoping for June, but as with any project, this date is subject to change.

I also asked the cast member if The Barnstormer would eventually be outfitted with FastPass. She confirmed that it would.


The Barnstormer


As you might know, anytime Disney replaces an old attraction with something new, they honor the outgoing ride with some sort of remembrance. For example, inside "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" attraction is a portrait of Mr. Toad handing over the deed to Owl.

Well even though "The Barnstormer" is not technically a new ride, but just a retheming of an old attraction, "The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm" has been honored with a remembrance. If you look behind "The Barnstormer" sign that graces the entrance, you can see the jumbled letters that once read "Wiseacre Farm."


Salute to Wiseacre Farm


Since I had nothing new to report and Storybook Circus was not crowded, I decided to use this opportunity to videotape the rethemed "The Barnstormer." Watching this three minute video might be the shortest you'll ever wait to experience this attraction. Enjoy.



While I was at the Magic Kingdom, I ventured over to Adventureland to check out the recently reopened Sunshine Tree Terrace - and its new/old mascot.


Sunshine Tree Terrace


In 1969, the Florida Citrus Commission became one of the first sponsors to associate itself with a Magic Kingdom attraction: The Sunshine Pavilion which included the Sunshine Tree Terrace and the Enchanted Tiki Room. To help promote citrus products nationwide and a frozen beverage known as the Citrus Swirl sold at the Sunshine Tree Terrace, publicity art designer Don MacLaughlin created the Orange Bird. Although this character only appeared in "live" form at the Magic Kingdom, the Orange Bird became famous nationwide as he appeared on billboards and television ads across the country promoting citrus products. In addition, the Sherman Brothers penned a tune, "The Orange Bird Song" which was recorded by Anita Bryant.

The Florida Citrus Commission ended their sponsorship in 1986 and the Orange Bird slipped into Disney history. However, this character had a resurgence at Tokyo Disneyland in 2004 to coincide with Japan's annual Orange Day celebration held on April 14th.


Orange Bird

Orange Bird


But this character of yesteryear has been brought back to the Magic Kingdom -- well sort of. When the Sunshine Tree Terrace reopened last week, our little friend was added to the refreshment stand's sign. He can also be seen perched at the back of the restaurant with a crate of oranges. According to a recent blog by Kevin Kidney, this Orange Bird is an original artifact from 1971 that had been lost for years and only recently uncovered. In addition, the Citrus Swirl (orange slush with vanilla soft-serve ice cream) has been brought back and added to the menu. To see the complete offerings of the Sunshine Tree Terrace, click here.


Sunshine Tree Terrace Sign

Orange Bird

Orange Bird Mugs


Two Orange Bird t-shirts and a pin can be found at the nearby shop. As the months continue, additional Orange Bird souvenirs will be offered.


Orange Bird t-shirt

Orange Bird t-shirt

Orange Bird Pin


That's it for this update. Even though my regular blogs are posted on Mondays, you never know what you might find from me during the rest of the week. So check in occasionally.


April 30, 2012

Disney Code of Conduct

Jack Spence Masthead


I read "Dear Abby" every day. She often gives great advice - and sometimes, not so great. Occasionally, she'll run a letter written by one of her readers reminding us to behave "correctly" under certain circumstances. For example, a bank teller might write in suggesting that we have all of our paperwork completed before reaching the window. And a supermarket checker might suggest not getting into the "Ten Items or Less" line unless you actually have ten items or less.

I always laugh when I read these columns because I know that the intended audience never recognizes themselves in these situations. We always believe it's the "other" guy misbehaving, not ourselves. But despite the fact that I think these articles are basically useless at changing human behavior, I'm going to write my own version of this "advice" column in connection with visiting Disney parks. I'm hoping against hope that it might make people rethink some of their actions. Silly me.

First, and foremost, I want to cut everyone some slack. When people pass through the turnstiles, they leave their brains behind - myself included. Disney parks offer so many sights, and sounds, and smells that it overwhelms the senses. There is so much happening all around us that it's impossible to process it all. It's little wonder that we behave differently inside the Magic Kingdom than we do on the outside. People have a sense of wellbeing in a Disney park. We think nothing bad can happen to us inside the magical world of Disney. For example, the person who works in a big city and crosses many busy streets in their daily life without incident, will be the same person who trips over a curb on Main Street. Like I said, we leave our brains someplace else when we enter a Disney park.

So here I go with my list of suggestions aimed at "certain" guests. Not you, my faithful readers, but the "other" guy.

Bag Check:

Unfortunately, the world we live in is not as innocent as the one Walt left in 1966. Today, security guards must check all guests' bags before they enter a park. And the key word here is "ALL." If you have a purse, a camera bag, a Disney bag wadded up in the back of your stroller, any container that can be closed and does not fit in your pocket, you MUST let a security guard check its contents. You CANNOT go through the "No Bags" line. It's that simple.


Bag Check


And if you do accidently find yourself in the "No Bags" line and the security guard asks you to proceed to Bag Check, don't ask him or her to make an exception for you and check your bag(s). If they make an exception for you, then they have to make an exception for the next guy. This just complicates the job they're trying to do and slows down the line for those guests who don't have bags waiting behind you.

Photography:

In the days of real film and developing, if someone walked in front of me just as I was snapping a picture, I would be annoyed. But not so much anymore. In the age of digital photography, I just shrug and take another picture. Since most people are kind enough to wait while guests snap a photo, I have to believe those who pass in front of me were just so caught up in the moment that they never noticed me and my camera. I know I've unthinkingly walked in front of my share of photographs.

However" I would like to offer some suggestions to would-be photographers.

If you're taking a picture across a busy walkway or thoroughfare, you do not have five minutes to compose the perfect shot. You have roughly 10 seconds. That's about all the time people are willing to wait for you. You need to point and shoot.


Ten Second Rule


If you're group is posing in front of an icon, like the entrance sign to an attraction, or a fountain, or topiary, or the Partners statue, move away from the icon once the picture has been taken. The photographer should not join the group in front of the icon to discuss the merits of the photograph and try to determine if a second shot is needed. There are others waiting to take the same picture.


Move Away from the Icon


Cast members and recorded messages will often ask that guests refrain from using flash photography on certain attractions. Please comply. It is very annoying to those around you.


Flash Photography


Doorways & Escalators:

There is something about doorways that compels people to stop dead in their tracks once they reach this opening. I don't know why, but they do.

If you are exiting an attraction or shop, do NOT stop in the middle of the doorway. There are people behind you who want to exit (or enter). Please proceed to a less trafficked area to take care of whatever it is that needs taking care of.


Doorways


In this same vein, do not stop at the top or bottom of an escalator. Move away! There are most probably people riding behind you and the escalator is going to deposit them into the space you're occupying.


Escalator


Counter Service Restaurants:

Disney does their best to post their menus conspicuously so folks can read them and make up their minds BEFORE getting in line. I understand that if the line is long, you might get into queue beforehand with the thought that all decisions can be made in advance of reaching the cashier. But I'm amazed at the people I encounter that haven't even looked at the menu until they are asked by the cast member what they'd like to order. This is NOT the time to be querying your party. This should have been done earlier.


Checking the Menu


And another thing that baffles me is the matter of payment. People really seem surprised when the cashier asks for money. Please have your credit card, room charge, or cash out and ready to give to the cashier. After ordering, is not the time to be opening your purse or wallet to search for a form of payment. This should have been done while you were in line.


Payment


Confined Spaces:

More often than not, Disney parks are crowded. This means we must share our personal space with total strangers. For most people, this really isn't a problem and at Disney it often promotes some great conversations when waiting in long lines. But I would like to offer a few reminders.

For those of you wearing a backpack, your back now extends 8 to 12 inches further than it usually does. Remember, when you're standing in a crowded line or on the monorail, you cannot make quick twists and turns. If you do, you will whack the people standing next to you with your backpack. The same is also true for those of you with long hair. When you abruptly turn your head, your hair hits a stranger in the face.


Backpack

Long Hair


When a group of two or more is walking along a sidewalk or narrow passageway, and they encounter another group of two or more coming toward them, BOTH parties need to form single file lines so everyone can pass easily. I have grown tired of always being the person who yields so the other party won't be "inconvenienced."


Yield on Narrow Passageways


Wheelchairs & Strollers:

Maneuvering a wheelchair in a congested park can be a challenge. It's difficult enough to find an opening for a small child let alone a bulky wheelchair on a crowded day. And many people perceive that the wheelchair will be moving slower than they want to walk, so they cut in front of it as to not be "inconvenienced" by its slower pace - which only makes it all the more difficult for the chair-bound person and their party to move through the crowds. So please, give the person seated in the wheelchair and their "driver" a break. Are you really in so much of a hurry that you can't allow them to proceed in front of you?


Wheelchair


I really, really, really feel sorry for people pushing a stroller in a crowded Disney park. Maneuvering one of these baby-carriers can be a difficult challenge when traversing from one attraction to the next. I know my heels have been bruised more than once by a distracted parent. For the most part, I'm pretty understanding. These things happen when it gets crowded. However, my patience grows thin when I'm hit by the same stroller more than once.


Strollers


Complaints:

Cast members are fantastic! However, things sometimes go wrong that are completely out of their control. When things do go awry, try to assess the situation. Was it really the cast member's fault? If it was, ask to speak to a supervisor - or go to Guest Relations. If it wasn't the cast member's fault, don't take it out on them. Ask to speak to a supervisor - or go to Guest Relations.


Complaints


I have a good friend who works attractions in the Magic Kingdom. She has told me that guests have cursed her, kicked her, and spit on her just because things didn't play out the way they believed they should. I was appalled to learn this.

Diapers:

All restrooms, both men's and women's, have changing tables. Use them. Even if the diaper is just wet, I don't want you changing your baby at the table or bench next to me. Especially when I'm eating. Unfortunately, this has happened to me more times than I care to remember. Yuck!


Diapers


Smoking:

Believe it or not, I'm not going to come down on smokers here. I rarely encounter people smoking outside of the designated areas. I believe that designated smoking areas have become so common in the U.S. that most smokers are fully aware that they need to check the policy before lighting up. I find it's usually visitors from countries with less stringent rules that smoke inappropriately while visiting the parks. If you do run into someone smoking, you can politely inform them of the guidelines in place at Disney. However, I think a better idea would be to let a cast member know. They have all been trained on how to approach guests in these situations.


Smoking


Language:

Keep it clean. There are children everywhere (and adults too who don't want to hear it).


Language


Don't talk during the attraction:

Many people have visited the parks so often that they become blasé about the attractions. All too often, I will encounter guests carrying on lengthy and loud conversations during an attraction's preshow. For example, the Stretch Room of the Haunted Mansion, or the preshow for Ellen's Energy Exchange, or the recording room on Rock 'N' Roller Coaster are often full of talkers.

Please remember, even though you can recite the dialoged word for word, the people standing next to you may be visiting for the first time and would like to hear what's going on.


No Talking


Theater Seating:

When a cast member asks that you move all the way to the end of a row (or three-quarters of the way when the show isn't full), please comply. Do not plop yourself down in the middle of the row and force everyone else to go around you. If you don't want to sit at the end, then don't be the first person to rush through the entrance doors. Hold back and let a few people into the theater before you.


Theater Seating


Cell phones:

Cell phones are a fact of life today. We're constantly checking our email, texting, and chatting with others. And that's fine. However, once again, there is a time and place - and rides and attractions is NOT the place. It's annoying to others.

In addition, when you're on a call within a restaurant, try to talk in your normal tone and volume. If you need to "speak up" in order for your listener to hear you, then those sitting around you can now hear you as well - and they don't really care that Uncle Bob needs a colonoscopy.


Cell Phone


Don't feed the animals:

I know it's tempting. I know they're cute. But human food isn't good for our woodland friends. I know what you're thinking - one French fry won't hurt them. But dozens and dozens of fries will. Feeding the animals has to stop with each of us.


Don't Feed The Animal


Dress appropriately:

So far in this blog, all of my suggestions for appropriate behavior have been pretty cut and dried. It's easy to take an objective look at what I've presented - but how people dress is far more subjective than objective. What right do I have to tell anyone what they can and cannot wear? None! However, Disney used to do just that.

When I worked at Disneyland in the '70's, Disney routinely stationed plain-clothed security guards at the entrance to the park. Their purpose was to inconspicuously examine how guests were dressed and deny them entrance if they felt their outfit was too suggestive or their clothing contained offensive language or depicted drug use. Those days are long gone. Today's mores are not what they were in the '70's and we live in a far more progressive society. Trust me when I say, a good 2% - 3%% of the people visiting Disneyland and Walt Disney World today would not have been admitted to the parks back then.

I'm not a prude. Far from it. I routinely see t-shirts at the parks that crack me up. Yet, I wonder how appropriate they are at Disney as some of them boarder on risqué. Is this really the place to hint at sexual content? Can't these statements be made someplace else?

Disney will ask people to change clothes if they encounter a guest sporting a truly offensive word or slogan, but there is little they can do when brand names hint at impropriety (like French Connection United Kingdom).

All I ask is that you remember there are children everywhere at Disney. How much skin needs to be shown and how suggestive does your t-shirt really need to be? Save the bathing suit for the waterparks and the risqué t-shirt for a tailgate party.


Dress Appropriately


Is Jack the perfect Disney guest?:

Nope. I try. But I'm human too. Even I "forget" sometimes. But when I commit a transgression, I try to apologize quickly with a humble smile.

In conclusion:

I'm glad to know that none of my readers really needed to read this blog and that they would never lapse into less than perfect Disney behavior. However, if you know one of those "other" people, be sure to tell them about my article.



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About April 2012

This page contains all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in April 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2012 is the previous archive.

May 2012 is the next archive.

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