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July 2, 2012

Backlot Express Restaurant

Jack Spence Masthead


I was recently at Disney's Hollywood Studios with some friends when lunchtime approached. Since we didn't have reservations for any of the table-service restaurants, and we really didn't want to spend that much money anyway, we opted for a counter-service eatery. After a little discussion, we settled on the Backlot Express Restaurant. The Backlot Express Restaurant is sandwiched between the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Star Tours.


Backlot Express Restaurant

Backlot Express Restaurant


The Backlot Express Restaurant is housed in a warehouse/factory. The backstory is that this is the location on the studio lot where movie props are created and stored. Because of this, the atmosphere here is rather chaotic and cluttered.

You enter the restaurant through the primary factory entrance. If you look up when walking through the main doors, you'll notice signs indicating various departments of the shop.


Shop Signs

Shop Signs

Shop Signs


Through these doors you'll find the largest dining room of this facility. Although there is a roof over most of this area, there are few walls, allowing for cooling breezes to flow through the shop. This is a wonderful spot to have an alfresco meal when the weather is nice.


Outdoor Seating

Outdoor Seating

Outdoor Seating


As always, there are plenty of details if you take the time to look. One of the largest is the police paddy-wagon used by the weasels in the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit".


Paddy Wagon

Paddy Wagon


This area is one of two spots in the building used by the paint department - that's why it's an open-air facility. The paint fumes need a way to escape. Scattered around a work table are a number of projects currently under development. For instance, you can see how a small piece of wood has been transformed to look like the spines of several old books.


Paint Department

Paint Department

Paint Department


Also in the paint department is a forklift, carrying two barrels of pigment. If you study the containers closely, you'll notice the colors are very appropriate for a counter-service restaurant.


Forklift

Barrels of Paint


Take a look at the ground. In this next picture you can see three different styles of pavement the prop department can recreate.


Pavement Styles


If you pay attention to the tables and chairs you'll notice that they are a mismatched collection. This is because this is a warehouse. They are only being stored here until needed for a future film.


Chair

Chair

Chair


An old furnace and boiler sit nearby. These were once used to power much of the factory.


Furnace and Boiler


In another section of this shop you'll find a plastic mold and the capital of a column that it created. This display helps demonstrate that in the movies, what we see is mostly fake and inexpensively produced.


Plastic Mold

Column Capital


Past the paint department you'll find the entrance into the food ordering area of the Backlot Express Restaurant. To see the entire menu for this eatery, click here.


Restaurant Entrance

Ordering Counter


There are inside dining rooms to both sides of the ordering counter. To the left we find the Automotive and Stunt section of the warehouse. Since many stunts involve automobiles, it is logical to house these two departments of film making together.

In one section of the shop you'll discover a number of auto parts and tools scattered around the room. You'll also find the time clock where workers punch in and out at the beginning and end of their shifts.


Automotive Section

Automotive Section

Time Clock


Another prop from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" can be found in this section of the warehouse. This small vehicle was driven by actor Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant) when he was driving Benny the Cab. Pictures above the vehicle depict what Bob looked like in real life and then how he looked after Benny was animated around him.


Benny the Cab

Benny the Cab

Benny the Cab


In one corner of the room, the Stunt Office can be found. This is where the stunt coordinator will meticulously plan and choreograph the film's feats of daring-do.


Stunt Office

Stunt Office


On the other side of the room, a large chalkboard is used to teach the stunts to the stuntmen and women.


Stunt Chalkboard


My friend Rob D. pointed out that above the Stunt Office is a prop from the old Horizons attraction. This contraption was the hovercraft seen in the Mesa Verde farming scene.


Horizons Prop

Mesa Verde


Scattered around the room and hanging from the ceiling are a number of vehicles used in various action-packed feats of danger. Attached to the wall is a bulletin board with photographs of past stunts.


Motorcycle

Mini-Airplane

Mini-Sub

Bulletin Board


The beverage and condiment station in this area is designed into automotive tool chests.


Beverage and Condiment Station


To the right of the ordering counter is a large mural painted on canvas. Scenes like these are often used on movie sets to represent the background in a shot.


City Mural


On the opposite side of this completed mural is another mural in progress. You can see the artist has finished most of the painting but still has some work to do. You will also notice a smaller, similar painting the artist is using as a template.


Country Mural

Country Mural

Mural Template


As you have probably figured out, this area is part of the Paint Department. In the corner of the room is the Paint Department Office. Inside, the busy coordinator has surrounded himself with paint chips, diagrams, and schedules. Next to the office is a sink for the washing of brushes and paint trays.


Paint Office

Paint Office

Paint Office

Paint Sink


On the wall are samples of surfaces that can be recreated in paint, a significantly cheaper way of creating textures. Although these samples look unconvincing here, with the proper lighting and through the eye of the camera, they will look quite real.


Paint Samples

Paint Samples


The beverage and condiment station in this section of the restaurant is located in the paint mixing area. Splatters and drips of color can be seen on many of the surfaces.


Beverage and Condiment Station


The last dining room is found among the many plaster castings that are used in the movies. Similar to using paint to recreate flat surfaces, plaster is an inexpensive way of duplicating three dimensional objects.


Plaster Props

Plaster Props


Just like the Automotive and Stunt sections of the warehouse are housed together, there is also a reason the Paint and Plaster departments are located adjacent to one another. Paint can turn a boring white structure into a work of art. Take a look at this ship's masthead and the elaborate Chinese column.


Painted Plaster Props

Painted Plaster Props


I have to be honest; the Backlot Express Restaurant has never been one of my favorite counter-service eateries. Not because I don't like the food, but because I really don't want to eat in a warehouse. However, my opinion has changed somewhat since I took the time to study this location in detail. I have eaten here twice recently with a new eye. Instead of concentrating on the fact that this is a large storage facility, I'm paying attention to the movie magic that is created in places like these at real film and TV studios around the world. There are a lot of details to be discovered here. And it doesn't take an expert to figure out the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. Anyone who is willing to take the time can find a lot of interesting particulars in the nooks and crannies.

As for the food" On my first "return" visit I had the Grilled Turkey & Cheese - (multigrain ciabatta with arugula and red peppers served with French fries or carrot sticks $8.99). I was very pleased and would definitely recommend this choice to others. On my second "return" visit, I had the Southwest Salad with Chicken (mixed greens, crisp corn tortilla, black bean relish, avocado, and cilantro vinaigrette $8.29). I was extremely happy with this selection and impressed with how much chicken I was given. There was meat in every bite. The dressing was tasty, but didn't overpower the ample avocado provided. I plan on having this salad again soon.

The Backlot Express Restaurant currently opens daily at 11:30am. Closing time is dictated by the park's hours. If you want an earlier lunch than the Backlot Express offers, check out the ABC Commissary which often opens at 11am.

When the Walt Disney Studios Paris first opened, it hosted a restaurant by the same name and with similar theming. However, I have been informed by one of my readers that in June 2009 it was renamed and retooled and is now called "Disney Blockbuster Café."


Backlot Express Paris

Backlot Express Paris

Be sure to visit the Rate and Review area so you can read what others experienced and post your own reviews too!


Well that's it for today's blog. And it shows, details can make the difference. Because I paid attention to the story the Imagineers were trying to tell at the Backlot Express Restaurant, I have come around and will not hesitate to eat here in the future.

Remember, slow down and smell the roses.



July 9, 2012

The Pinocchio Village Haus in the Magic Kingdom

Jack Spence Masthead


Before I discuss The Pinocchio Village Haus, the counter-service restaurant found in the Magic Kingdom, let me give you a little background about the marionette this eatery honors.

The original story of Pinocchio was written by Carlo Collodi of Italy. His story tells of a woodcarver named Geppetto who carves a marionette and dreams that someday his creation will become a real boy. The name "Pinocchio" means "pine eye" in Italian. The first half of Collodi's story was written as a serial during the years of 1881 and 1882. It was later expanded and completed as a children's book in February 1883 (The Adventures of Pinocchio).

Initially, Collodi did not see children as the primary audience for his story as it dealt with more mature themes such as food, shelter, and the hardships of daily life. In fact, the tale takes on a very adult perspective at the end of the 15th chapter, the last of the serialized version of the story, when Pinocchio is gruesomely hanged for his many faults. It was Collodi's publisher that requested the story be continued and Pinocchio be brought back to life and redeemed. Collodi agreed and introduced the Fairy with Turquoise Hair to perform this magic. It's in the second half of the book that the tale begins to lean more toward children's literature.


Collodi's Pinocchio


"The Adventures of Pinocchio" was brought to Walt's attention in 1937, during the making of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Walt read the book and immediately knew he wanted to animate the story. Bambi was to be the studio's second animated movie, but the book was proving difficult to adapt to film and would require more time than expected. The project was put on temporary hold. This opened up a spot for Pinocchio.

In the beginning, the Disney script writers used many of Collodi's characters and plot points as described in his book. But this wasn't working as the original tale was much too harsh. After Walt read some of the early drafts, he became unhappy with the direction the project was taking and put a halt to production until the story and characters could be rethought.

One of the first changes came to Pinocchio himself. Collodi's character was a wisecracking sarcastic individual. He was tall and lanky, had a long pointy nose, and wore a dunce-like hat (see above). Walt realized that audiences would not be sympathetic to such a persona and would probably cheer his hanging. So Walt asked lead animator Milt Kahl to redesign his protagonist.

The revised character looked much more like a real boy. First, Pinocchio went from a tall, adult-like stature to a shorter, child-like height. The dunce cap became a Tyrolean hat. His long, thin nose was transformed into a much smaller and charming feature. And he went from five skinny fingers to four pudgy ones (a typical cartoon character adaptation). Only his arms and legs retained a puppet-like appearance with angular dimensions and joints at the elbows and knees. His personality also went under the knife and Pinocchio emerged as an innocent, naïve, and caring individual.


Disney's Pinocchio


Jiminy Cricket also went through a transformation. In Collodi's version, Jiminy was a minor character and far more cricket-like in appearance. He was known only as The Talking Cricket and was killed accidentally when Pinocchio threw a hammer at him.

Ward Kimball altered Jiminy' s appearance to resemble a small, dapper man (minus ears). Ward would later say, "The only thing that makes him a cricket is because we call him one."


Jiminy Cricket


"Pinocchio" was released on February 7, 1940 and received generally positive reviews. However, the movie did not make as much money as its predecessor "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." A large part of the movie's financial failure was due to the outbreak of WWII which cut off the European and Asian markets to American films.

"When You Wish Upon a Star" became a major hit and won an Academy Award for Best Original Score. The melody has since become the representative song of The Walt Disney Company.


Pinocchio Movie Poster


Disney offers copious amounts of information when it comes to the detailing of their rides and attractions. Books have been written on this subject. But when it comes to their restaurants and shops, facts are difficult to come by. This isn't a purposeful withholding of information. Disney just figures that most people really aren't all that interested in this aspect of theme park design. Because of this, I could find precious little "official" information on The Pinocchio Village Haus.

The Pinocchio Village Haus can be found at the back of Fantasyland. This is a major food facility in the Magic Kingdom and feeds thousands of people each day.


Entrance Sign


The original story of Pinocchio was set in the Tuscan region of Italy. So I've always found it interesting that the Imagineers chose Bavarian architecture to house this restaurant. Perhaps it was Pinocchio's newly acquired Tyrolean hat that inspired the Disney film storytellers to move the film's action to Northern Italy and the Alps.

The first three pictures below were taken from the movie "Pinocchio." Here, the architecture hints at an Alpine village. However, the actual buildings of Fantasyland (pictures four and five) have a much stronger German feel than Italian. In addition, the Italian influence of the story is also downplayed at the Magic Kingdom with the inclusion of the German word "Haus" in the restaurant's name.


Pinocchio's Village

Pinocchio's Village

Geppetto's Shop

The Pinocchio Village Haus Magic Kingdom

The Pinocchio Village Haus Magic Kingdom


I think the architecture of Disneyland's Pinocchio attraction and its version of Village Haus Restaurant better captures the mood of the movie.


Pinocchio's Daring Journeys Disneyland

Village Haus Restaurant Disneyland


Despite the fact that the Imagineers used questionable (in my judgment) architecture for The Pinocchio Village Haus, it helps to understand their overall intent when designing Fantasyland. Fantasyland is a make-believe place. It is supposed to represent a quaint European village that encompasses a number of different regions, all protected by the walls of Cinderella Castle. For example, Mickey's PhilharMagic, Peter Pan, and "it's a small world" feature a medieval tournament/tent look while Castle Couture, Sir Mickey's, and Seven Dwarf's Mine exhibit the attributes of English Tudor.


it's a small world

Castle Couture


This next picture is looking above and beyond The Pinocchio Village Haus. If you'll notice, you can see the castle wall surrounding this "village." In addition, more castle walls are being built as part of the new Fantasyland expansion. As part of the backstory, as you pass through these walls, you leave the protection of the castle and enter the "countryside" of Fantasyland. This is where you'll find the Dwarf's Mine, and Beast's and Prince Eric's Castles.


Castle Walls

Castle Walls


It takes a large building to house a counter-service restaurant. However, a structure of this size would not have been found in medieval Europe. So the Imagineers designed the exterior to look like several buildings. This can be seen in the subtle changes in architecture from one "building"� to the next and the different colored roofing tiles and shingles.

Upon closer examination, it would appear that some of these structures were designed as places of business while others, dwellings. Of course, during this era, most business owners lived above their shops. The numerous weather vanes atop the roofs would represent the various families living below. The word "Village" in the restaurant's name also helps convey that these are numerous small structures, not one large building.


Building Exterior

Building Exterior

Building Exterior

Building Exterior

Building Exterior

Weather Vanes


While researching this piece, I came across a picture I took from the Skyway in 1975. If you'll notice, the shingles were much less colorful than they are today.


The Pinocchio Village Haus in 1975


Outside of these shops and homes is the village square. This is marked by a fountain/well. Wells were often found in the middle of town and would be the place for the local citizenry to gather, gossip, trade, and obtain fresh water. There are also numerous tables and chairs in this area for outdoor dining.


Village Square


Nearby is a bell tower - and this Disney version contains a real carillon. In days of old, bells were used to sound the hour and announce special events. The carillon at The Pinocchio Village Haus can be heard every quarter hour.


Bell Tower

Bell Tower


Often found near The Pinocchio Village Haus is Stromboli's wagon. Here, you can purchase various Disney-themed souvenirs. However, due to the Fantasyland construction and space constraints, this villain's cart is currently parked backstage.

The Pinocchio Village Haus has entrances on all sides of the building. In most cases, these are used for both in and out access. However, during busy times, cast members will man these doors for better crowd control. The main entrance (pictured below) will be used for entrance only while the side doors for exit only. In addition, people will not be allowed into the dining rooms until they have their food in hand. This may seem rather strange, but it actually helps keep more tables available. If guests are allowed to hold tables while waiting for others in their group to order meals, the table is "out of service" yet not being used for food consumption. Believe it or not, this is in your best interest.


Restaurant Entrance


The ordering area was designed to resemble a large, open-air courtyard (although completely indoors). A lighted ceiling represents the sky and it is lined with tiled and shingled roofs. Timbered walls, stained-glass windows, and ever-blooming flowerboxes complete the appearance of a village square. A stringless Pinocchio looks down from above with food and drink in hand.


Food Ordering Area

Food Ordering Area

Food Ordering Area

Food Ordering Area


The Pinocchio Village Haus has a number of dining rooms, each named for and themed after a particular character. The largest of these is the Stromboli Room.


Stromboli Room

Stromboli Room

Stromboli Room


I have read two different accounts pertaining to the function of this room - given that it exists in a real Alpine village. First, it could be a tavern. This can be deduced by the room's décor, the chandeliers, and the mugs and beer steins found on the overhead shelving.


Steins

Steins


The other account states that this is an "outdoor" puppet theater. This can be reasoned by noticing several different aspects of the room. First, the large stained-glass windows that separate the Stromboli Room from the ordering counters feature marionettes in various poses. Second, the balcony on the other side of the room would be the puppeteer's catwalk --- the area where he would control the marionettes. And finally, a large fresco on the wall which reads, "Stromboli presents Pinocchio the string-less puppet.


Stained Glass Puppet

Stained Glass Puppet

Balcony

Stromboli Marquee


Since I do not have access to the Imagineers thoughts on the subject, I have no idea which (if either) account is correct. But in the scheme of things, it really doesn't matter. The atmosphere is fun and lively in this room.

Other, smaller dining rooms flank both sides of the ordering area. Each of these rooms pays homage to a different "Pinocchio" character with colorful frescos. These rooms include The Blue Fairy, Geppetto, Cleo, Figaro, Jiminy Cricket, and Monstro. The following two pictures are of the Geppetto Room and the Jiminy Cricket Room, respectively.


Geppetto Room

Jiminy Cricket Room


Take a look at some of the charming frescos found throughout the restaurant. They tell the story of Pinocchio if you take the time to look at them all.


Pinocchio Fresco

Figaro Fresco

Blue Fairy Fresco

Jiminy Cricket Fresco

Geppetto Fresco

Can Can Fresco


Instead of frescos, the Cleo Room features stained glass to give her a watery atmosphere. In addition, the room has a number of cuckoo clocks, something Geppetto enjoyed making.


Cleo Room

Cleo Stained Glass

Cuckoo Clocks

Cuckoo Clocks


J. Worthington Foulfellow (Honest John) and Gideon have not been forgotten and can be seen in this beautiful woodcarving.


J. Worthington Foulfellow (Honest John) and Gideon


Perhaps the most sought after dining area can be found in the Monstro Room. This is because several of the tables in this section of the restaurant sit beside windows that overlook the "it's a small world" loading area. When the restaurant isn't under "crowd control" measures, these are some of the first tables people will hold while others in their group order food.


Monstro Room

Monstro Room

Monstro Room

Monstro Room

it's a small world Loading Area


But for me, the best tables can be found upstairs on the outside balcony. When the weather is nice, this is the perfect spot to enjoy a meal and watch the crowds below.


Staircase

Balcony

Balcony

Fantasyland


As with all Disney restaurants, the menu at The Pinocchio Village Haus is constantly changing. However, the offerings usually have an Italian leaning - which works well with the Pinocchio theme. Recently, flatbreads have been added to the menu. I've had the opportunity to try two, the Barbequed Chicken Flatbread and the Caprese Flatbread. Both were quite good and I would definitely order them again.


Barbequed Chicken Flatbread

Caprese Flatbread


I've eaten at The Pinocchio Village Haus a number of times over the years and have always been pleased with the taste and quantity of the food - keeping in mind that this is a counter-service eatery and not a deluxe restaurant. To see the complete menu, click here.

If I have to find fault with this restaurant, it would be that it's a popular place to eat. This means it will be crowded and very noisy if you dine at peak hours. This is another reason I seek out the balcony that only has five tables and is removed from the madding crowds.

The Pinocchio Village Haus usually opens each day at 11:00am. Closing times vary with park hours.

I'm going to end today's blog in a rather unorthodox way - with pictures of my guest bathroom. However, as you will see, it does fit the topic at hand - Pinocchio.

When the Disney Stores first opened, they carried some high-end merchandise as well as traditional souvenirs. One day while browsing the store at Pier 39 in San Francisco, I came across a full-sized, fully functioning marionette of Pinocchio. I didn't have a clue of what I'd do with him, but I knew I had to have him. Somehow, he ended up in my guest bathroom and a collection grew around him.

This first picture is an overall view of my current guest bath.


Overall view of Bathroom


This next picture is a close-up of Pinocchio. The following photo is the ingenious way I figured out how to suspend and display him - from Mickey's glove.


Pinocchio

Mickey's Glove


On the counter top I have several pictures and other related Pinocchio pieces.


Counter Pieces

Counter Pieces


These next several photos capture the pieces I've placed above the toilet. Cleo and Figaro are simple plush toys and Cleo has been placed in a cheap goldfish bowl.


Above the Toilet

Cleo and Figaro

Pinocchio Pieces Above the Toilet

Pinocchio Pieces Above the Toilet


On the opposite wall I have a number of 3D plates and pictures of other characters from the film. These pictures are nothing more than drawings I found in a child's book. I framed these drawings with inexpensive frames and ready-cut matting I purchased at an art supply store.


Oppisite Wall

3D Plates

Cheap Pictures


I might be biased, put personally I think I've pulled off a classy bathroom using Disney characters.

People often ask me if Pinocchio is my favorite Disney character since I themed an entire room around him. Not really. I just fell in love with the marionette and had to figure out what to do with it.

Remember, when you wish upon a star, dreams come true.



July 16, 2012

Do You Pay Attention Quiz -- Questions

This quiz is designed to see how well you pay attention when visiting Walt Disney World. All of the answers can be seen or heard easily while visiting the four theme parks and the various attractions found within.

Like all of my quizzes, no winners will be announced and no prizes awarded. This is just for fun.

The answers will appear in tomorrow's column.

Good luck.



1. In "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" at the Magic Kingdom, four macaws play host to the show. Which is NOT the name of one of these hosts?

A. Jose
B. Michael
C. Pierre
D. Friedrich


Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room



2. Within the queue for "It's Tough to be a Bug" at the Animal Kingdom there are a number of theatrical playbills. Which one is NOT part of the "Tree of Life Repertory Theater Group" productions?

A. Antie Get Your Gun
B. Beauty and the Bees
C. Barefoot in the Bark
D. The Dung and I


It's Tough to be a Bug



3. In the "Universe of Energy" at Epcot, Ellen plays Jeopardy against her old college roommate, Judy Peterson. What is Ellen's nickname for Judy?

A. Dumb Judy
B. Stupid Judy
C. Know-it-all Judy
D. Smarty-pants Judy


Universe of Energy



4. What is the name of the ship moored on Echo Lake at Disney's Hollywood Studios?

A. S.S. Down the Hatch
B. Min & Bill's
C. U.S.S. Anchors Away
D. S.S. Echo Leak


Echo Lake



5. What is the name of the flooded town seen on "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad" found in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom.

A. Rainbow Ridge
B. Nugget Way
C. Dry Gulch
D. Tumbleweed


Big Thunder Mountain Railroad



6. Name the two counter service restaurants found on Discovery Island in the Animal Kingdom.

A. Restaurantosaurus and Yak & Yeti
B. Yak & Yeti and Pizzafari
C. Pizzafari and Flame Tree Barbeque
D. Flame Tree Barbeque and Restaurantosaurus


Discovery Island



7. Most of us are familiar with the four main parking sections of Epcot: Journey, Discover, Amaze, and Create. However, on extremely busy days, three other lots are used to handle the extra vehicles. Which is NOT one of the Epcot parking lots?

A. Imagine
B. Explore
C. Communicate
D. Wonder


Epcot Parking Lot



8. What is the name of the gas station found on Hollywood Boulevard at Disney's Hollywood Studios? (I've removed all references from the photograph.)

A. Sid's
B. Oscar's
C. Walt's
D. Oswald's


Gas Station



9. The queue for the "Haunted Mansion" at the Magic Kingdom was recently enhanced. One of the new additions in this area is a pipe organ. What is the brand name emblazoned above the keyboard? (Once again, I have removed the name from the photograph.)

A. Ravenscroft
B. Gracey
C. Xavier
D. Culpepper


Haunted Mansion Organ



10. What tour company operates the expeditions to the Himalayans and Everest at the Animal Kingdom?

A. Expedition: Everest
B. Tashi's Tours
C. Hillary's Conquests
D. Himalayan Escapes


Everest



11. At "Mission Space," NASA has joined with what other organization to help guests prepare for their trip to Mars?

A. Earth/Mars Exploration Compound
B. National Aeronautics Guidance Complex
C. International Space Training Center
D. Exploration Planetary Coordination Orbital Training


Mission Space



12. Inside the "One Man's Dream" exhibit at Disney's Hollywood Studios, a life-size two-dimensional figure of Walt Disney can be seen. What is he standing in front of?

A. A replica of his Burbank Studio office
B. Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland
C. An early map of Walt Disney World
D. A filmstrip of Mickey Mouse


One Man's Dream



13. While riding "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin" at the Magic Kingdom you see dozens and dozens of batteries. What type batteries are these?

A. Ion Distillation Batteries
B. Crystolic Fusion Batteries
C. Plasma Induction Batteries
D. Dilithium Crystal Batteries


Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin



14. At the entrance of the Animal Kingdom are three buildings where guests can buy admission tickets. On top of each building is the head of a creature. An elephant anchors the middle building. What two creatures are seen on the other two buildings?

A. Unicorn & T-Rex
B. Dragon & Triceratops
C. Unicorn & Triceratops
D. Dragon & T-Rex


Animal Kingdom Entrance



15. Who is the current chairman of the Imagination Institute at Epcot?

A. Dr. Nigel Channing
B. Professor Ned Brainard
C. Dean Eugene Higgins
D. Inventor Wayne Szalinski


Imagination Pavilion



16. In what year did lightning strike the Hollywood Tower Hotel in Disney's Hollywood Studios?

A. 1936
B. 1937
C. 1938
D. 1939


Tower of Terror



17. In the first act of "Carousel of Progress," grandma can be seen listing to a new talking machine. What song is being played?

A. "The Best Time Of Your Life" (also known as "Now is the Time")
B. "Yankee Doodle"
C. "Stars and Stripes Forever"
D. "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow"


Carousel of Progress



18. The "Maharajah Jungle Trek" at the Animal Kingdom takes guests through what nature reserve?

A. The Imperial Himalayan Lowlands Park
B. The Colonial Forest of Harambe
C. Anandapur Royal Forest
D. Rajah Disampati Royal Reserve


Maharajah Jungle Trek



19. While riding "Spaceship Earth" at Epcot, we reach the information age near the top of the attraction. In this scene, we discover a standing woman surrounded by computers. What is she holding?

A. Clipboard
B. Spool of magnetic tape
C. Electronic Calculator
D. Notebook


Spaceship Earth



20. In "The Great Movie Ride" at Hollywood Studios, we see John Wayne sitting on his horse. In one hand he holds the reins. What is he holding in the other hand?

A. Revolver
B. Rifle
C. Rope
D. Nothing


Great Movie Ride



July 17, 2012

Do You Pay Attention Quiz - Answers

Jack Spence Masthead


Before I give you the answers to my quiz, I want to wish Disneyland a happy 57th birthday today. Hurray!



This quiz is designed to see how well you pay attention when visiting Walt Disney World. All of the answers can be seen or heard easily while visiting the four theme parks and the various attractions found within.

Like all of my quizzes, no winners will be announced and no prizes awarded. This is just for fun.

The answers will appear in tomorrow's column.

Good luck.



1. In "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" at the Magic Kingdom, four macaws play host to the show. Which is NOT the name of one of these hosts?

A. Jose
B. Michael
C. Pierre
D. Friedrich

Letter D is the correct answer. Fritz is the fourth host, not Friedrich.


Fritz


It's interesting to note, the bird's feather colors represented their nationalities. Jose (voiced by Wally Boag) was covered in red, white, and green feathers, the colors on the Mexican flag. Michael (voiced by Fulton Burley) donned green and white feathers to represent his Irish background. Pierre (voiced by Ernie Newton) sported blue, white, and red for his French nationality. And Fritz (voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft) was covered in red, white, and gold feathers for his German heritage (FYI - the Germany flag colors are black-red-gold).



2. Within the queue for "It's Tough to be a Bug" at the Animal Kingdom there are a number of theatrical playbills. Which one is NOT part of the "Tree of Life Repertory Theater Group" productions?

A. Antie Get Your Gun
B. Beauty and the Bees
C. Barefoot in the Bark
D. The Dung and I

Letter A is the correct answer.


Playbill


Here is a list of all of the playbills:

A Cockroach Line (A Chorus Line)
A Stinkbug Named Desire (A Streetcar Named Desire)
Antie (Annie)
Barefoot in the Bark (Barefoot in the Park)
Beauty and the Bees (Beauty and the Beast)
Little Shop of Hoppers (Little Shop of Horrors)
My Fair Ladybug (My Fair Lady)
The Dung and I (The King and I)
The Grass Menagerie (The Glass Menagerie)



3. In the "Universe of Energy" at Epcot, Ellen plays Jeopardy against her old college roommate, Judy Peterson. What is Ellen's nickname for Judy?

A. Dumb Judy
B. Stupid Judy
C. Know-it-all Judy
D. Smarty-pants Judy

Letter B is the correct answer.


Jeopardy


Although Ellen calls Judy both "Know-it-all Judy" and "Smarty-pants Judy," her actual nickname was "Stupid Judy." Judy's nickname for Ellen is "Stupid Ellen."



4. What is the name of the ship moored on Echo Lake at Disney's Hollywood Studios?

A. S.S. Down the Hatch
B. Min & Bill's
C. U.S.S. Anchors Away
D. S.S. Echo Leak

Letter A is the correct Answer.


S.S. Down the Hatch


Min & Bill's Dockside Diner is the name of the counter service restaurant located inside the ship. "Min and Bill" was an MGM movie released in 1930. It starred Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery and tells the story of a dockside innkeeper (Min) who, while raising her adopted daughter, has an ongoing love/hate relationship with a boozy fisherman (Bill) who lives at the inn. Dressler won the Academy Award for her portrayal of Min in 1931.



5. What is the name of the flooded town seen on "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad" found in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom.

A. Rainbow Ridge
B. Nugget Way
C. Dry Gulch
D. Tumbleweed

Letter D is the correct answer.


Tumbleweed


Rainbow Ridge was the name of the mining town at Disneyland's now defunct Nature's Wonderland attraction. Nugget Way is the name of the pathway that leads to the observation area for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. And Dry Gulch was to be the name of the town guests would float by on the never-built Western River Expedition.



6. Name the two counter service restaurants found on Discovery Island in the Animal Kingdom.

A. Restaurantosaurus and Yak & Yeti
B. Yak & Yeti and Pizzafari
C. Pizzafari and Flame Tree Barbeque
D. Flame Tree Barbeque and Restaurantosaurus

Letter C is the correct answer.


Pizzafari and  Flame Tree Barbeque


Restaurantosaurus is located in Dinoland U.S.A. and Yak & Yeti is located in Asia.



7. Most of us are familiar with the four main parking sections of Epcot: Journey, Discover, Amaze, and Create. However, on extremely busy days, three other lots are used to handle the extra vehicles. Which is NOT one of the Epcot parking lots?

A. Imagine
B. Explore
C. Communicate
D. Wonder

Letter C is the correct answer.


Epcot Parking Lot


Here is a list of all seven Epcot lots and their corresponding row numbers.

Journey - Rows 1 - 10
Discover - Rows 11 - 25
Amaze - Rows 26 - 38
Create - Rows 39 - 54
Imagine - Rows 55 - 67
Explore - Rows 68 - 83
Wonder - Rows 84 - 103



8. What is the name of the gas station found on Hollywood Boulevard at Disney's Hollywood Studios? (I've removed all references from the photograph.)

A. Sid's
B. Oscar's
C. Walt's
D. Oswald's

Letter B is the correct answer.


Oscar's


Oscar's serves as a stroller and wheelchair rental shop.



9. The queue for the "Haunted Mansion" at the Magic Kingdom was recently enhanced. One of the new additions in this area is a pipe organ. What is the brand name emblazoned above the keyboard? (Once again, I have removed the name from the photograph.)

A. Ravenscroft
B. Gracey
C. Xavier
D. Culpepper

Letter A is the correct answer.


Organ Keyboard


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



10. What tour company operates the expeditions to the Himalayans and Everest at the Animal Kingdom?

A. Expedition: Everest
B. Tashi's Tours
C. Hillary's Conquests
D. Himalayan Escapes

Letter D is the correct answer.


Himalayan Escapes


Expedition: Everest is the name of the attraction. Tashi is the name of the gentleman who runs the supply store and Yeti Museum. Hillary is the name of the first man to reach the top of Everest.



11. At "Mission Space," NASA has joined with what other organization to help guests prepare for their trip to Mars?

A. Earth/Mars Exploration Compound
B. National Aeronautics Guidance Complex
C. International Space Training Center
D. Exploration Planetary Coordination Orbital Training

Letter C is the correct answer.


International Space Training Center


During the mission briefing, Gary Sinise often refers to the International Space Training Center by its initials, ISTC. In case you didn't notice, the initials for choice D spell EPCOT.



12. Inside the "One Man's Dream" exhibit at Disney's Hollywood Studios, a life-size two-dimensional figure of Walt Disney can be seen. What is he standing in front of?

A. A replica of his Burbank Studio office
B. Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland
C. An early map of Walt Disney World
D. A filmstrip of Mickey Mouse

Letter C is the correct answer.


An early map of Walt Disney World


On October 27, 1966, Walt made a 25 minute film, describing his plans for Walt Disney World. The purpose of the film was to convince American corporations to buy into the idea of EPCOT and ultimately, invest in the project. This was the last film Walt would ever make as he died on December 15th of that year.



13. While riding "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin" at the Magic Kingdom you see dozens and dozens of batteries. What type batteries are these?

A. Ion Distillation Batteries
B. Crystolic Fusion Batteries
C. Plasma Induction Batteries
D. Dilithium Crystal Batteries

Letter B is the correct answer.


Crystolic Fusion Batteries

Crystolic Fusion Batteries


I threw in Dilithium Crystal for you Star Trek fans.



14. At the entrance of the Animal Kingdom are three buildings where guests can buy admission tickets. On top of each building is the head of a creature. An elephant anchors the middle building. What two creatures are seen on the other two buildings?

A. Unicorn & T-Rex
B. Dragon & Triceratops
C. Unicorn & Triceratops
D. Dragon & T-Rex

Letter B is the correct answer.


Dragon & Triceratops


The elephant represents the animals of today. The triceratops represents the prehistoric creatures of our past. And the dragon represents the mythical creatures of earth and were originally planned to be showcased in a land to be called Beastly Kingdom.



15. Who is the current chairman of the Imagination Institute at Epcot?

A. Dr. Nigel Channing
B. Professor Ned Brainard
C. Dean Eugene Higgins
D. Inventor Wayne Szalinski

Letter A is the correct answer.


Dr. Nigel Channing


The character of Dr. Nigel Channing (Eric Idel) was created specifically to host the Epcot attraction, "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience."

Professor Brainard (Fred McMurray) could be seen in the Disney movies "The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and "Son of Flubber (1963).

Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn) could be seen in the Disney movies "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (1969), "Now You See Him, Now You Don't" (1972), and "The Strongest Man in the World" (1975).

Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) was a character in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" (1989), "Honey, I Blew Up the Kid" (1992), and "Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves" (1997).



16. In what year did lightning strike the Hollywood Tower Hotel in Disney's Hollywood Studios?

A. 1936
B. 1937
C. 1938
D. 1939

Letter D is the correct answer.


Rod Serling


On a television set located in the Library of the hotel, Rod Serling tells guests: "Hollywood, 1939. Amidst the glitz and the glitter of a bustling young movie talent at the height of its golden age, the Hollywood Tower Hotel was a star in its own right. A beacon for the show business elite. Now, something is about to happen that will change all that."



17. In the first act of "Carousel of Progress," grandma can be seen listing to a new talking machine. What song is being played?

A. "The Best Time Of Your Life" (also known as "Now is the Time")
B. "Yankee Doodle"
C. "Stars and Stripes Forever"
D. "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow"

Letter D is the correct answer.


Grandma


"There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" was the original theme song for "Carousel of Progress" at both the New York World's Fair (1964-1965) and at Disneyland (1967-1973). When the attraction moved to Walt Disney World (1975), the theme song was changed to "The Best Time of Your Life." In 1996, the original "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" returned to the show.



18. The "Maharajah Jungle Trek" at the Animal Kingdom takes guests through what nature reserve?

A. The Imperial Himalayan Lowlands Park
B. The Colonial Forest of Harambe
C. Anandapur Royal Forest
D. Rajah Disampati Royal Reserve

Letter C is the correct answer.


Anandapur Royal Forest


A sign near the trail reads: Anandapur Royal Forest -- Since very ancient times, the rajahs of Anandapur have hunted tigers in the forest. In A.D. 1544, King Bhima Disampati decreed the forest a royal preserve closed to all save his guests and built a royal hunting lodge whose ruins lie nearby. After 1948, the royal forest was given to the people of Anandapur. Today the forest protects not only the remaining tigers and other wildlife but is a valuable watershed of the Chakranadi River and some of the last remaining virgin forest in the region.



19. While riding "Spaceship Earth" at Epcot, we reach the information age near the top of the attraction. In this scene, we discover a standing woman surrounded by computers. What is she holding?

A. Clipboard
B. Spool of magnetic tape
C. Electronic Calculator
D. Notebook

Letter A is the correct answer.


Woman with Clipboard


On July 9, 2007, Spaceship Earth closed for its fourth major rehab. When it reopened in February 2008, a computer room replaced the previous scene of an American boy and Japanese girl communicating via two-way video screens.



20. In "The Great Movie Ride" at Hollywood Studios, we see John Wayne sitting on his horse. In one hand he holds the reins. What is he holding in the other hand?

A. Revolver
B. Rifle
C. Rope
D. Nothing

Letter B is the correct answer.


John Wayne


This tableau of John was designed to represent films of the Western genre rather than one specific movie.



July 23, 2012

A Brief History of Orlando (Part 1 of 3)

Jack Spence Masthead


My next blog (presented over the next three days) will be a little different than my usual articles. I know you check out my webpage each week to learn more about the Disney parks, past and present. But occasionally I need a little break from all the magic. Believe it or not, I do not live and breathe Disney 24/7 - only 23/7 - and the next several columns will be an accumulation of all those non-Disney hours that have been collecting over the months. But don't despair; my topics will still be applicable to Walt Disney World - in fact Part Three will be very relevant.

Today I'm going to take a look at the history of the City of Orlando, something I suspect you know little to nothing about. I know I didn't have a clue about The City Beautiful (the city's nickname) until after I moved here. So I have decided to educate you, just in case you're resolved to move to Central Florida sometime in the future (Part Two). You wouldn't want to do what I did and put these important lessons off until the last minute.

Part Three will discuss getting a job at Walt Disney World.


Orlando Postcard


The area we know today as Orlando was sparsely populated by Creek and other Native American tribes prior to the arrival of Europeans. They lived a simple, uncomplicated life.

In the late 18th century, the Seminoles were forced to migrate to Northern Florida from the Carolinas and Georgia due to settler encroachment. However, this migration did not lesson hostilities between them and the U.S. Army and many of the tribe continued their move south to the Orlando area. To counter further hostilities and protect homesteaders in Central Florida, the army built Fort Gatlin in 1838. (The fort was located just south of what is now known as Downtown Orlando.) Battles continued but eventually the undefeated Seminoles accepted a treaty in 1842 that granted them land and promised peace.

In that same year, the Armed Occupation Act offered 160 acres to any pioneer willing to settle in the area, build a cabin, plant five acres, live there for five years, and help protect the land against the Seminoles. Lured by this offer, Aaron Jernigan and his family moved to the area and became the first permanent residents of a town that would eventually bear his name. The Jernigan Post Office was established eight years later on May 30th, 1850.

So how did the town of Jernigan come to be named Orlando?

Well, no one is really sure. There are four reasonable theories, but none concrete enough to win over all of the historians. What is known is that Jernigan became Orlando in 1857. This change was probably motivated when Aaron Jernigan was relieved of his military command by officials in 1856 due to notorious acts.

Orlando became the county seat of Orange County when Orange County was carved out of Mosquito County in 1845.

In 1860, Orlando was little more than a forgotten, rural community. Cotton and cattle were the area's commodities and settlers were able to eke out a meager living. But when the American Civil War began in 1861, things changed for the worse. Many of the local men enlisted in the Confederate Army, slaves ran away, and the Union blockaded the state. Unable to get supplies and without able-bodied men to work the fields, the farms withered and died.

After the war, the cattle industry continued and thrived. Reconstruction brought many new residents to the area with the promise of fertile land and a warm climate. And the cotton fields were brought back to life with a new crop, citrus. The city was incorporated in 1875. Orlando was on its way.

In the years that followed, Orlando became the heart of Florida's citrus industry. However, the Great Freeze (December 1894 and February 1895) decimated the crops. Up until this time, Florida was producing as much as 6 million boxes of fruit per year. After the Great Freeze, production dropped to a mere 100,000 boxes a year and did not reach the 1 million mark again until 1901. This calamity forced many of the smaller growers to sell their farms to a handful of better off farmers who later would be known as the "Citrus Barons." In an effort to stave off future disasters, these "Barons" moved much of the industry to more southern and warmer counties.


Citrus Packaging

Citrus Packaging


Orlando became a modest tourist destination in the years before World War I. In the early 1920's, unscrupulous promoters touted Miami and the rest of Florida as a tropical paradise. People started snatching up land all over the state and prices began to skyrocket. Orlando saw some of this growth and several communities were built in the downtown area. However, the bubble burst and prices plummeted when new buyers became impossible to find. Several factors lead to this downturn. First, the land was overpriced and this eventually became apparent to everyone. Then, several hurricanes hit Florida in the late 1920's, making northerners rethink a move to the state. And finally, the Great Depression was the ultimate insult.

The New Deal helped Florida and Orlando regain its economic footing with hundreds of public projects. One of the most important to Orlando was the resurfacing of the runways of the city's municipal airport. With improved transportation options, the city advertised their community to the rest of the country with the hopes of luring others to move here. Here is the cover of a 20 page promotional booklet distributed to prospective residents.


Orlando Promotional Booklet


With the beginning of World War II, Orlando became home to an army base, training facilities, barracks, a military hospital, and airfields. This brought thousands of servicemen to the area, many who would later decide to make Orlando their home at the conclusion of the war. In 1950, the city had a population of almost 52,000.

In 1958, Orlando's Pinecastle AFB was renamed McCoy Air Force Base after Colonel Michael N.W. McCoy. And in the 1960s, McCoy AFB became the home to the 306th Bombardment Wing of the Strategic Air Command (SAC).

Additional families moved to Orlando in 1956 when Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) established a plant south of the city. This move was facilitated because of the burgeoning space program taking shape at nearby Cape Canaveral. This would be the beginning of Orlando becoming a strong contender in the aerospace and computer industry. Today, more than 20 nations have over 150 technology based facilities in the Metro Orlando area.

In 1962, a portion of McCoy AFB was turned into a civilian jetport to serve the city and the growing aerospace industry. By 1970, four major airlines (Delta Air Lines, National Airlines, Eastern Airlines and Southern Airways) were making scheduled flights to the McCoy Jetport - in preparation for the mouse that would forever change the region.

In 1975, McCoy AFB closed and its runways and adjacent lands became Orlando International Airport. Today, Orlando International Airport is the 13th busiest in the United States and the 29th busiest in the world. And if you've ever wondered why the international airport code for OIA is MCO, now you know. MCO stands for McCoy.

Of course the biggest influx of residents to the region followed Disney's announcement in 1965 that they were going to build another Disneyland-type park and the City of Epcot south of Orlando. The Magic Kingdom opened six years later on October 1, 1971. Sea World would soon follow and opened its doors in 1973. Not to be left out, Universal Studios came to town in 1990.

However, the giants of the theme park world caused some casualties along the way. Many of the "mom & pop" attractions simply couldn't compete with the big boys. Some of these are Cypress Gardens (now Legoland), Church Street Station, Boardwalk & Baseball, Brave Warrior Wax Museum, Circus World, Hooray For Hollywood Wax Museum, House of Mystery, King Henry's Feast, Mystery Fun House, and Splendid China.

I read an article a few years ago that asserted that if Disney had not come to Orlando, the city would be comparable today to Ocala, another inland community 90 miles to the north. Although a prospering city, few outside of Florida have ever heard of Ocala. Yes, Orlando would have had the aerospace industry that Ocala lacks, but it would not have achieved a metropolitan population of over 2 million without Disney, followed by Sea World and Universal. It took Disney to bring the other, significant industries to the area and make Orlando a city known around the world.

Although Orlando today does have a varied economy, tourism is still the backbone of the area. Over 50 million people visited the Orlando area in 2011. Foreign visitors made up almost 4 million of these guests with the bulk of these coming from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. In the United States, Orlando is second only to Las Vegas in the number of hotel rooms, convention facilities, and convention events.

Well that's it for the history of O-Town (another nickname for Orlando). Check back tomorrow when I'll try to describe what to expect if you decide to move to The City Beautiful.



July 24, 2012

Moving to Orlando (Part 2 of 3)

Jack Spence Masthead


In yesterday's blog, I talked about Orlando's first permanent resident Aaron Jernigan and the events that enticed thousands of others to follow him here over the last 169 years. But what about you? Do you want to move to the Orlando metropolitan area? Since many of you have written to me, stating this desire, I would like to fill you in on what to expect. Let's start with the weather.

November through most of May is fantastic. You can often turn off your air conditioner and leave the windows wide open and let fresh air invade your home. But remember, it can get cold in Florida during January and February. Don't forget the big freeze of 1894/95. In fact, on January 2, 2001, I stepped out on my front porch early one morning to get the newspaper, slipped on ice, and broke my ankle.

From late May through most of October, it is hot and humid. You must be prepared for this. However, in the twelve years I have lived here, I have never seen the temperature reach the 100 degree mark. Now the local weathermen will tell you that it's going to "feel" like 100 degrees or more, but the actual temperature rarely reaches the century mark. The nighttime temperatures during this time are in the 70's. Even at three in the morning, it's going to be warm and humid outside. During this time of year, most people run their air conditioner 24/7. People wear shorts most of the year. I only own one jacket -- and it's light weight.

It rains in Florida year round. It's not so bad in the winter months, but come summer, it can be a daily occurrence. However, for the most part, this isn't a major inconvenience. The storms usually occur in the late afternoon or early evening and only last 30 minutes to an hour. Most people take this in stride and carry an umbrella if they know they're going to be out and about. I always keep an umbrella in my car, just in case.

Here is a picture of Main Street during one of our summer downpours. I'm sure many of you have experienced this personally.


Raining at the Magic Kingdom


Due to the ongoing drought in Florida, much of the Orlando area mandates that you can only water your lawn once or twice a week, depending on the time of year. This makes the rain all the more welcome to us locals.

You would think with all this rain we would have a major mosquito problem, after all, this area used to be a part of Mosquito County. But I've only been bitten three times in all the years I've lived here. Much of this has to do with the proactive measures Orlando (and the theme parks) take to kill the larvae before they hatch.

Florida is the lightning capital of the United States, but in reality, it's Central Florida that gets the brunt of this menacing force of nature. You learn very quickly once you move to Florida to respect lightning. If you can hear the thunder, you're not safe outdoors. You come inside immediately. Once inside, you stay away from windows and out of the shower. And I learned the hard way (three times) that lightning doesn't actually have to strike your house to cause damage. Electrical charges can run underground and cause problems if they pass beneath your house. You can buy and install surge protectors on your TV and other expensive electronic equipment. These will offer some protection. But if the electrical charge is strong enough, there is nothing you can do.

Florida "hosts" more hurricanes than any other state. Although Orlando is inland and hurricanes start to lose their punch as soon as they move across land, if the storm is big enough, damage can ensue. During the 2004 hurricane season, Orlando was hit by three named storms that caused significant damage, with Hurricane Charley the worst of these. Even though I suffered no wind damage, Charley stalled over Orlando and pelted my home with driving rain for 16 hours. I had water damage in three rooms of my home.

Florida is flat. I came from California where foothills and mountains are everywhere. "Flat" took some getting used to. I miss the varied landscape.

Here is a picture I took from an airplane in 1983. As you can see, the landscape is smooth. If you look carefully, you can also see Spaceship Earth on the horizon.


Flat Florida


For those of you who like to putter in the garden, I have good news and bad news. The good news is our soil is very sandy. This means it's easy as pie to dig a hole for plants and shrubs. You can even skip the shovel and use your hands the soil is so easy to dig in. On the down side, our sandy soil doesn't have a lot of natural nutrients and most plants will require additional fertilizers and potting mixes to assure they get all the food they need. Be sure to watch out for fire ants.

Florida has no state income tax. Which is good come April 15th. However, schools, roads, and other services must be paid for somehow. This is accomplished with high property taxes and some toll roads.

Gas prices in Central Florida are generally less than the national average. The three Hess stations at Walt Disney World usually offer competitive prices to other local, non-tourist stations.


HESS Station


If you've been paying attention to the upcoming presidential election, you know that Florida is a battleground state. Northern Florida is very conservative while Southern Florida is extremely liberal. As you move north and south, the mix between Republicans and Democrats becomes more even. You will often hear about the I-4 corridor. This is the area between Tampa on the west coast and Daytona Beach on the east coast connected by Interstate 4. This area is politically very middle-of-the- road. National politicians focus the majority of their energies on these communities when visiting Florida as this is the area that will ultimately decide how the state votes. Walt Disney World often plays hosts to political rallies of both parties. In fact, back in June, both Romney and Obama made speeches at the Contemporary Resort. Buddy Dyer (Democrat) is the current mayor of Orlando and Teresa Jacobs (Republican) is the current mayor of Orange County.

BTW, I-4 is often congested.

Orlando has excellent medical facilities. With two non-profit hospital systems, good care is close to most communities.

When I moved to Orlando, my intent was to be as close to Walt Disney World as possible so I could visit often. Because of this, I decided that 30 minutes would be the maximum I wanted to drive to reach the theme parks. In the end, I purchased a home 9 miles due north of Downtown Disney. From here, I can be in any of the Disney parking lots within this 30 minute time limit. I can't be at the gates, but I can be in the parking lots. I am extremely happy I made this demand. If you stop and think of it, this 30 minute restriction means that I spend an hour commuting every time I visit Disney.

I know that many of you will want to ask me what communities you should be looking at. This would be impossible for me to answer. Within a 30 minute radius of Disney are homes in the $100K price range to the multi-million dollar neighborhoods. When you're serious about moving, talk with a real estate agent -- NOT ME. I simply am not current on specific neighborhood prices and I would end up giving you more misinformation than accurate. The one thing I can tell you, if your goal is to be close to Disney World, move south of Downtown Orlando.

Many experts will suggest you rent in a new city for six months or more before deciding where to live and buying a home. This will give you the opportunity to explore the area at your leisure and gain a more informed perspective of the different neighborhoods.

Most of the developments built in the last 15-20 years will be part of an association. Many of these developments will be gated. Remember to take into account homeowner dues when figuring out a budget.

When considering a neighborhood, find out if the homes can be rented to tourists. If you're buying a home in Orlando for occasional use, it would be nice to know if you will be able to rent it to others while you're living elsewhere. However, if you plan on being a permanent resident, you might not want a new set of neighbors every two weeks.

In 2011, U.S. News reported on a study released by the F.B.I. stating that Orlando is the third most dangerous city in the United States. Fortunately, I've never had a problem with any sort of crime. But then, most of my life is spent in my gated community or at the theme parks which are very well patrolled and protected.

Obviously, you will want to buy an annual pass to Walt Disney World once you move here. Something to keep in mind, the Premium Annual Pass and the Annual Pass include parking. Seasonal Passes have blockout dates and do NOT include parking. Currently, parking costs $14 per day. Depending on how often you plan to visit, you might be better off buying an Annual Pass rather than a Seasonal Pass. Universal Studios and Sea World also offer several annual pass programs. Check with their websites for more information.

FYI, if you get a job at Disney, you are granted free admission to the parks. More about this in Part Three.

For more information on Disney annual passes, click here.

To learn more about Orlando, click here.

Personally, I'm extremely happy I made the move to Orlando. I live in a nice neighborhood, I've come to terms with the weather, and I've made many new friends who share my passion for Disney. And Orlando does have more to offer than just the theme parks. There are over 300 golf courses within a fifty mile radius of Orlando. We have the Orlando Magic for you sport's fans and the Bob Carr Theater for those of you who enjoy theatrical performances. We have museums, cultural events, and a selection of fine restaurants that would rival cities three times the size of Orlando.

With the right mindset, Orlando can be a great place to live. For us Disney fans, it's wonderful to drive down to the World and have lunch at a resort or in one of the theme parks. Because we have an annual pass, we don't have to worry about "getting our money's worth." We can simply wander Main Street or World Showcase at our leisure and snicker at the tourists who are running around at a frantic pace. We have found that riding the Haunted Mansion takes a backseat to people watching. Trust me when I say, you will notice far more spooks outside the mansion than within when you have the time to look. LOL

Check back tomorrow when I'll discuss working at Walt Disney World.



July 25, 2012

Getting a Job at Walt Disney World (Part 3 of 3)

Jack Spence Masthead


In yesterday's blog, I talked about what to expect if you move to Orlando. I realize that for many of you, this is only half of the dream. The other half is getting a job at Walt Disney World. This is fantastic! Many thousands of retirees have already done this and they couldn't be happier. But before you sign on with the Mouse, you need to understand what you're getting into - good and bad. You need to have realistic expectations. That's what today's blog is all about.

One of the first things to remember is, "You work while others play." This means you will be scheduled nights, weekends, and holidays. So if you have fantasies of your grandkids visiting you in Orlando over Christmas vacation, think again. You will be working.

Can you stand on your feet for eight hours at a time? How do you feel about working outdoors in the heat, sun, cold, and rain? Can you put on a happy, "Disney" face when you're feeling down? Can you deal with the occasional rude guest? These are questions you need to ask yourself.

Another thing to consider, "Do you want to see the backstage areas of Walt Disney World?" Some people don't want to know how the magician accomplishes his tricks. Are you okay with seeing how the illusions of the Haunted Mansion are created? Or would this ruin the "magic" for you?

Are you okay with a job that is entirely backstage? Many people dream of interacting with guests and bringing a smile to a child's face. If you are assigned to a backstage job, you will have little to no contact with the public.

Here is a picture of me working in at Disneyland's Blue Bayou kitchen. The only contact I ever had with guests while working as a fry cook was when I walked through the park on my way to and from the job.


Backstage at the Blue Bayou


Disney has a strict grooming policy. Although it has loosened up considerably since I worked at Disneyland in the 1970's, there are still rules and regulations that must be adhered to.

Working at Disney is a real job with real challenges. Cast members work hard to make people feel the magic. Working at Disneyland for nine years was a fantastic chapter in my life. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I had a lot of fun. But I also worked very hard.

One of the next questions you need to ask yourself is, do you want a full or part time job. A fulltime cast member (CM) will be scheduled 32 hours or more per week. A fulltime position entitles you to medical benefits. A part time CM will be scheduled less than 32 hours per week and will not be offered medical.

In an effort to cut costs, Disney greatly reduced its fulltime workforce over the last several years. The main reason for doing so is to eliminate the cost of medical insurance. Fulltime jobs still exist, but the chance of being hired off the street into one of these positions isn't something you should count on unless you want to join housekeeping and clean rooms. This is a very difficult position to fill. Chances are good that you'll be offered a part time position.

A third category of employment is the "seasonal" position. A seasonal CM must be willing to work 150 hours per year. Many seasonal CMs will work the Flower & Garden or Food & Wine festivals at Epcot each year. But there are many other possibilities.

When you apply for a job, you can stipulate that you are not available on certain days of the week. For instance, if you have a standing doctor's appointment on Wednesdays, you can request not to be scheduled on Wednesdays. But if you stipulate you aren't available on Saturday and/or Sunday, you can pretty much kiss your chances of a job at Walt Disney World goodbye. The more availability you can give them, the better chance you have of becoming a CM.

Although some people might be hired off the street to pilot the monorail, this is the exception. Most people will need to start in a less glamorous job. I know you're saying to yourself, "But I'm an expert on all things Disney. The company would be grateful to have someone as knowledgeable as myself." I'm sorry to inform you, you're a dime a dozen. Everyone who enters Casting tells the interviewer that they are the ultimate Disney fan. You are not unique and you will not be hired to be a tour guide because you "know everything." If you want to work at Disney, have realistic expectations. But there is good news. Most entry level jobs only require you to stay in that position for six months. After you've completed your mandatory service, you can apply for other, more exciting jobs.

For the most part, wages are low. Don't expect to get rich working at Walt Disney World. For most retirees, a job here provides some great vacation money so you can get away from Orlando and go someplace exciting. LOL

Getting a job at Walt Disney World is not guaranteed just because you have full availability, know everything there is to know about Disney, and you have a spotless work record from your last job. Just like the rest of the world, the economy is slow in Orlando. Disney is not hiring as many cast members as they once did. And many of those who are hired are part of the College Program which brings young adults from all over the country to work here for 6 to 9 months.

So far, my comments have been a bit negative, but I want to make sure you know what you're getting into before you move here and apply for a job. Most people only see Orlando through the eyes of a tourist. This can blind you to the realities of daily life here.

So now it's time to be a little more positive" Here are some of the perks you get from working at Walt Disney World.

You get to tell all of your friends and family you're a Disney CM. Now here in Orlando, this doesn't carry a lot of "wow" factor. Walt Disney World employs 65,000 people. But back home in Kansas or Illinois, people will be impressed with your new job.

As a CM, your ID card grants you access to the four theme parks year round. You will also be given a Blue Main Entrance Pass. Although there are far too many details to go into here, the Blue Main Entrance Pass allows you to get a designated number of friends and family into the parks 6 to 18 times a year. Once you've worked for Disney 15 years (full or part time), you are given a Silver Main Entrance Pass. This allows you to get friends and family into the parks every day. (Blockout dates and other restrictions apply to both passes.)

Your Main Entrance Pass is also good at Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland for admission and discounts. It is not good at Tokyo Disneyland since this park is owned by Oriental Land Company.

Depending on the season, you receive discounted admission to Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Disney Quest.

As a CM, you are given a 20% discount on most merchandise for the first three years of service. After that, you are given a 35% discount.

CM's are given a 20% discount at most full service restaurants and at the counter service restaurants at the Animal Kingdom.

You can receive Disney hotel discounts of up to 60% depending on the time of year and availability. The Disney Cruise Line also offers a range of CM discounts.

More cast discounts can be found at the Company D and Cast Connection stores. Company D sells cast exclusive merchandise like clothing and pins along with other gift type items. Cast Connection sells discontinued clothing, toys, and other items originally sold in the parks. Discounts here can range from between 25% to 75%.

Many non-Disney businesses offer discounts to CMs.

Disney publishes the "Eyes & Ears" every other Thursday. This company news magazine offers information and pictures on a wide array of Disney topics. If you like Disney trivia, this is a good periodical to read.


Eyes & Ears


You will meet a lot of really nice CMs. Most of the people who work here are just like you; they love Disney and want to be part of the magic.

You will meet a lot of really nice guests - who will think you're really special just because you're a CM. LOL

If you want to work at Disney World, the first thing to do is check out their webpage by clicking here. This will get you started. As I said earlier, the more flexible you are with your availability and job preference, the better chance you have of being hired. Good luck!

This concludes my three part look at Orlando. I hope you've enjoyed my walk through time and the information I've provided will help you make better decisions if Central Florida and Walt Disney World are your dream.



July 30, 2012

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


Animal Kingdom Lodge Sign


The Animal Kingdom Lodge presented the Imagineers with a challenge. You don't come across too many massive six story buildings out on the Serengeti. So how do you disguise an enormous hotel to look like an authentic, intimate structure that you might actually find someplace in East Africa? The answer to this problem was twofold.

First, you use landscaping to camouflage and conceal. Trees and shrubbery hide most of the building's outward appearance as you approach the hotel. From the moment you pass the guard shack, you are surrounded by a lush, tropical forest. Your view is completely shrouded in greenery. Even as you near the hotel, if you use self-parking, you will not see the Animal Kingdom Lodge until the Imagineers deem it appropriate. You must first exit your vehicle and take a winding set of stairs through additional jungle before you see your vacation home. In fact, more than 170,000 shrubs and trees have been planted along this route to help set the mood.


Entering the Animal Kingdom Lodge

Entering the Animal Kingdom Lodge

Entering the Animal Kingdom Lodge

Entering the Animal Kingdom Lodge

Entering the Animal Kingdom Lodge


If you plan on letting Bell Services take care of your luggage and drive to the resort's porte-cochère and drop-off area, you only see a fraction of the actual building. And what you do see is deceiving. The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a six story building. However, the Imagineers placed the lobby and the main entrance on the third floor. The first and second floors are below ground level on the front side of the building. In addition, the sixth floor, when viewed from the front, resembles a thatched roof. Both of these factors greatly hide the massiveness of the structure.


Animal Kingdom Lodge Main Entrance

Animal Kingdom Lodge Main Entrance


A small hint of the details to come can be seen on the resort's driveway. "Fire Lane" and "No Parking" signs are painted on the pavement in a freehand, African style.


Fire Lane


The colors of the Animal Kingdom Lodge are that of the earth. Reddish browns, tans, and ochre walls resemble mud that has baked in the sun to create bricks and stucco. Along the pathway that leads to the resort's bus stop, simple African reliefs adorn the walls.


Walkway to the Bus Stop

African Reliefs

Animal Kingdom Bus Stop


Before I go any further, I should probably mention that the Animal Kingdom Lodge is actually two resorts in one. Opening on April 16, 2001, the first phase of this resort's existence featured standard rooms and suites open to all guests. On May 1, 2009, a second resort opened nearby that would offer Disney Vacation Club (DVC) studio units, and 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartment-like homes. With this addition, the respective resorts were given the additional names Jambo House (this blog) and Kidani Village to differentiate between them. Jambo means "hello" in Swahili.


Jambo House Sign

Kidani Village Sign


Although there is a pathway connecting Jambo House and Kidani Village, it is about a half mile long and much of it runs through the parking lots. In my opinion, it's worth avoiding. At one time, a complicated method of using theme park buses offered transportation between the two. Now, a dedicated shuttle van runs between the resorts from 8am to 10pm. This greatly simplifies the trip.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge was designed by architect Peter Dominick. You might recognize his style as he is also responsible for the designs of Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's Grand Californian. Vast, open lobbies, surrounded by balconies, create a stunning and impressive first impression.


AKL Lobby

AKL Lobby

AKL Lobby


The massive chandeliers are designed to look like Maasai shields. Used not only as a defensive weapon by the people of Kenya, these shields are also used to express art and culture. Usually made of buffalo hide, these shields traditionally are painted with only three colors. Black identifies lineage and the red and white denotes the age and geographic location of the owner. The geometric patterns painted on the shields also have special meaning: the ones marked with circles signify the Kisongo province of Kenya, the squares denote the Loita province, and the triangles are used by Ol bruggo province.


African Chandelier


The Animal Kingdom Lodge houses the second largest hotel collection of artwork in the world. Many of these pieces can be seen in the lobby, scattered among the seating areas.


African Art

African Art

African Art


The lobby flooring is made of teak, a tropical hardwood native to Asia but now cultivated in Africa. Embedded in the wood planks are more works of art. Five bronze medallions, designed by West African artist and storyteller, Baba Wague' Diakite', depict man and animals and their relation to the earth. The first and largest medallion measures eight feet in diameter. The others measure four feet across.


Bronze Floor Art


I really don't know anything about this next piece of art, but every time I see it I think of "The Lion King" film where Simba and Nala are raised higher and higher into the air by the various African animals.


African Art

Scene from the Lion King


One of the most impressive lobby works of art is the Ijele mask. This 16 foot high, 240 pound mask is worn on the head of one man and the success of his ceremonial dance brings good luck and prestige to the entire community. This example was the first of its kind ever to leave Nigeria. The entire story of the Ijele mask is told via signboards surrounding the piece.


Ijele Mask


The lobby balconies are adorned with tusk-like braces and antelope railings. At the top of each of the supportive columns which surround the room are Grand Bedu mask which stare down onto the guests below. Bedu masks are found throughout the Bondoukou region of the Ivory Coast. They are associated with New Year's festivities and symbolize the transfer of one year to the next.


Tusk Support

Antelope Railing

Grand Bedu mask

Grand Bedu mask


A firepit provides a tribe with a means of cooking and staying warm. But it also offers a pleasant venue for community storytelling. In the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby, Ogun's Firepit offers guests its own version of this tribal setting. This is a wonderful spot to plan your day in the morning or recollect about your adventures in the evening. Ogun is an African god who presides over iron working, hunting, politics and war.


Ogun's Firepit

Ogun's Firepit


An updated version of the firepit is available for children as they wait for their parents to check-in. Hand-carved wooden stools from the Ivory Coast surround a 21st century, electronic "firepit."


Children's TV


One of the most striking features of the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby is the fifth floor suspension bridge. This elevated platform provides wonderful views of the Arusha Savanna and the animals that roam just beyond the floor-to-ceiling, vine-covered windows. A note of caution to those of you with acrophobia, you might want to skip this bridge.


Bridge

Bridge

Bridge

Window


In the afternoon, African cast members are on hand in the lobby with additional treasures. Jewelry, wood carvings, flags, skulls, and more are on display and these folk love nothing more than talking about their homeland and sharing bits of trivia with guests. Stop by and pick these cast member's brains. You'll be glad you did.


African Cast Member and Artifacts


The lobby furnishings were also chosen with great care. Each of the six seating areas has two shelter sofas and two to four overstuffed chairs upholstered in the muted colors of the savanna. The coffee and end tables are constructed of alder wood and mahogany, their tops covered in lapis, stone and metal. A number of torchères circle the room. These artistic, nine-foot tall lamps resemble bundled branches and their flickering light adds a bit of rustic charm to the lobby.


AKL Lobby

AKL Lobby


The front desk is also quite beautiful and artistically designed. A low ceiling of twigs provides a more intimate feeling than the grand lobby. The back wall is draped with African inspired quilts.


Front Desk


Next to the front desk is Sunset Overlook. When the main lobby gets a bit too hectic and noisy, slip into this mental oasis. Designed to resemble an explorer's retreat, this spot offers comfortable couches, chairs, and more African artwork. This is the perfect spot for a quiet and relaxed conversation. When you visit, be sure to spend some time examining the photographs and artifacts. A nearby balcony offers views of the Sunset Savanna.


Sunset Overlook

Sunset Overlook

Sunset Overlook

Sunset Overlook


On the other side of the lobby is Zawadi Marketplace. Open from 7:30am to 11pm, this is the spot to pick up Disney souvenirs and a limited selection of food stuffs to take back to your room.

Zawadi Marketplace is also one of my favorite Disney hotel shops. The reason? Because this shop sells more than just Disney souvenirs and a limited selection of food stuffs to take back to your room. A fantastic collection of African art, jewelry, and clothing is also offered here. Now I'm not really a fan of African art, jewelry, and clothing, but it's refreshing to have something other than Mickey and princess merchandise to browse through.

Be sure to notice the lion sculpture found behind one of the counters.


Zawadi Marketplace

Zawadi Marketplace

Zawadi Marketplace

Zawadi Marketplace


At the back of the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby are two staircases that take guests to the Arusha Rock Savanna Overlook. Here at ground level, you can wander through an outcropping of boulders and discover a number of viewing spots ideal for animal encounters. Knowledgeable cast members are often on hand to answer questions about the creatures who call this savanna home. Arusha Rock was named for the volcanic landscape between Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.


Stairway to Arusha Rock Savanna Overlook

AKL Exterior

Arusha Rock Savanna Overlook

Arusha Rock Savanna Overlook

Arusha Rock Savanna Overlook


The Arusha Rock Firepit can also be found in this outdoor area. Lit each evening around dusk, this is another wonderful spot to relax and unwind. In addition, storytellers can be found here with folktales of their homelands.


Arusha Rock Firepit


On each side of the lobby are patios that offer shaded overlooks that peer onto the Arusha Savanna and firepit.


Patio Exterior View

Patio Overlook


To give you some idea of the lengths that the Imagineers went to in an effort to create a place where both humans and their animal neighbors would feel at home, let me provide you with a few facts:

" The various savannas of the Animal Kingdom Lodge contain 130 Sand Live Oak trees
" More than 35,000 shrubs and bushes were planted in the savannas
" There are 165 varieties of shrubs and bushes
" Most of the plants came from California, Arizona, and Africa
" A number of plants were grown from seeds brought over from Africa
" Greenery was transplanted from the Caribbean and Pop Century Resorts as well as the Animal Kingdom theme park
" Approximately 24 miles of irrigation pipe was installed
" Approximately 60,000 square feet of artificial rockwork was created

Back in the main building, Victoria Falls is the place to have an evening cocktail. Open from 4pm to midnight, this watering hole is located on the second floor off of the lobby and overlooks Boma - Flavors of Africa. This spot can be reached via stairs from the first and third floors. For those of you in wheelchairs and ECV's, a ramp is available from the third to the second floor. In addition, a hallway leading from the elevator's second floor stop leads to this location.


Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls


Many people, myself included, believe that Boma - Flavors of Africa (known simply as Boma to most) is the best buffet to be found at Walt Disney World. Located on the first floor of the resort, this establishment serves a wide range of African cuisines at dinner. From all corners of the continent, the chefs have brought together a multitude of flavors, but nothing so exotic as to intimidate the picky eater. The carved meats are sumptuous. And I've heard several vegetarians say that no place else on property offers them so many choices. Breakfast presents a more traditional, American meal.

The word "boma" refers to a rural African settlement surrounded by a fence made of sticks and mud. It would often act as a fort and within its boundaries were huts for its human residents and other areas allocated for livestock. At Disney's Boma, stick fencing can be seen throughout the restaurant as it separates the various dining areas from one another. Beneath the "huts," guests are offered the tribal selections of the day. A show kitchen and rotisserie fueled by a wood-burning grill add to the atmosphere.

If I had to find something negative to say about Boma it would be that it is crowded and noisy due to its popularity. Also, the wooden chairs are a little hard on the behind. But other than that, I love this place. The positives of Boma far outweigh these minor annoyances.

The restaurant is open for breakfast from 7:30am to 11am. Dinner is offered from 4:30pm to 9:30pm. Although it might be possible to snag a walk-up reservation, you are highly advised to book a table here months in advance. Boma can seat 270 guests. To see current selections and prices, click here.


Boma Restaurant

Boma Restaurant

Boma Restaurant

Boma Restaurant

Boma Restaurant

Boma Restaurant


Next door to Boma is Jiko - The Cooking Place (known simply as Jiko to most). This signature restaurant is comparable in caliber to The Flying Fish at The Boardwalk and Citricos at The Grand Floridian. Jiko means "cooking place" in Swahili, thus the restaurant's subtitle "The Cooking Place".

Jiko serves modern African cuisine infused with flavors of India and the Mediterranean. Two, large wood burning ovens sit in the middle of the restaurant. This prominent location allows guests to witness flatbreads and other menu items be prepared first hand. The restaurant boasts an "all South African" wine list, one of the largest in North America. In addition, all of the servers at Jiko have completed at least their Level I Certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

When entering Jiko, a bar can be seen to the right. This is the spot to relax if you arrive before your reservation time. Next to the bar is an imaginative floor to ceiling wine rack. Behind this wall of wine is the private Cape Town Wine Room which can be reserved for special events and parties. The Cape Town Wine Room can seat up to forty guests.


Jiko Bar

Cape Town Wine Room


The restaurant's décor is simple and clean and uses a warm color pallet. The support columns are adorned with rings which symbolize those worn around women's necks in some African tribes. The sweeping back wall represents the sky and changes colors during the evening. This color transformation represents the passage of time, sunrise to sunset, and completes this display three times each night. Stylized bird sculptures help set the mood of the Serengeti and can conjure up images of The Lion King movie's opening scenes.


Jiko Dining Room

Jiko Dining Room

Jiko Dining Room


A number of tables sit next to oversized windows which look onto a pool of water which represents an African watering hole.


Jiko Dining Room

Watering Hole


In an effort to maintain some sort of decorum, Jiko does have a dress code. Resort casual is the requested attire. Not allowed are: Tank tops, swimwear, hats for gentleman, cut offs or torn clothing. T-shirts are now permitted however offensive language or graphics are not acceptable.

Jiko is a popular establishment and reservations are highly recommended. These can be arranged by calling 407-WDW-DINE. To see current menu and prices, click here. Jiko can seat 235 guests.

That's it for Part One. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



July 31, 2012

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Yesterday I ended my blog with a brief description of Jiko, the Animal Kingdom Lodge's signature restaurant. Today I'll continue my tour of the grounds and amenities of the resort and discuss the attributes of a standard guest room.

The watering hole next to Jiko meanders through the jungle and eventually joins Uzima Pool. Uzima means "clear water" in Swahili. This expansive pool covers 11,000 square feet and has a 67-foot long waterslide. Uzima Pool also features zero entry access. This sloping entrance allows those riding in specially designed wheelchairs to roll directly into the pool. This is also the perfect spot for toddlers to splash and play in shallow water. Remember, diaper-aged children are required to wear swim diapers or rubber pants whenever using any Disney pool.


Uzima Pool

Uzima Pool


Next to the pool is Uzima Springs Watering Hole. This is the spot to order your favorite liquid concoction or try a specialty African libation. Numerous tables, chairs, and lounges are nearby for relaxing in the shade or sun.


Uzima Springs Watering Hole

Uzima Springs Watering Hole

Uzima Springs Watering Hole


Also near the pool is the Hakuna Matata Playground. Parents should have "no worries" when their little ones climb and swing on this modern-day jungle gym. The ground covering is soft and bouncy and will absorb most of the "ouch" when young'uns fall down.


Hakuna Matata Playground


Another savanna overlook can be found next to the playground. Flamingos are a common sight here, but other animals are often seen in the area as well.


Savanna Overlook

Savanna Overlook

Flamingos


When everyone gets tired of fun in the sun, the kids can head over to Pumbaa's Fun & Games Arcade and the adults can work off that meal enjoyed at Boma at Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center.


Pumbaa's Fun & Games Arcade

Pumbaa's Fun & Games Arcade

Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center

Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center


Besides Boma and Jiko, the Animal Kingdom Lodge also features a counter service eatery called The Mara. Open from 6am to 11:30 pm, this location offers grab-and-go snacks and cooked-to-order meals. For me, The Mara is perfect for breakfast as this meal is difficult to find within the theme parks unless you're attending a character breakfast. However, many others know this and The Mara can become very busy starting around 8am.

The name "Mara" comes from the Mara River and the Masai Mara National Reserve located in south-western Kenya. The clever mural that lines the walls of the dining room represents this Serengeti ecosystem.

To see the current menu for The Mara, click here. The Mara seats 186 guests.


The Mara

The Mara

The Mara

The Mara

The Mara

The Mara


To see an overview of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, click on the video below.



As with all of the deluxe resorts, the Animal Kingdom Lodge has a special lounge dedicated to those staying in suites or who are willing to pay extra to partake in the services offered at this lounge. Here, this retreat is called Kilimanjaro Club and it is located on the sixth floor of the resort, overlooking the lobby.


Kilimanjaro Club

Kilimanjaro Club


The Kilimanjaro Club offers dedicated concierge services. These cast members will help you plan your vacation as well as make dining, show, and tour reservations. In addition, Kilimanjaro Club Level guests can book a special safari adventure not available to other guests.

The Sunrise Safari lasts approximately two hours and takes guests on a 45 minute tour of the Animal Kingdom's African ecosystem. Along the way, a guide will be on hand to answer questions and provide information not usually disseminated on the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris. Afterwards, a lavish buffet breakfast is presented at Pizzafari. This tour is booked at the Club Level Concierge Desk and is subject to availability.

For those of you not staying in a Club Level room, don't despair. Disney offers another program exclusive to Animal Kingdom Lodge guest only. The Wanyama Safari offers guests a three hour adventure where they will ride in trucks through the various savannas of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. They will also have the opportunity to interact with Animal Program Team members and learn about the various creatures of the Lodge and the attention and care Disney gives them. The adventure concludes with a multi-course dinner at Jiko. This tour is booked at the Main Lobby Concierge Desk and is subject to availability.

This next picture is of the Club Level Concierge Desks.


Club Level Concierge Desks


The Kilimanjaro Club also offers a continental breakfast each morning, cookies, sodas, and other treats in the afternoon, and hot & cold appetizers and wine in the evening. Check with the concierge for times.


Kilimanjaro Club

Kilimanjaro Club


To see a short video of the Kilimanjaro Club, click on the picture below.



Eighty percent of the rooms at the Animal Kingdom Lodge look out onto one of the resort's four savannas. Those that don't have views of a savanna look over the pool area or parking lot. Room rates are appropriately set. To see current prices, click here.

The resort's basic shape was inspired by a traditional African "kraal" (or corral). This centuries old village design created a circular wall of protection for its inhabitants and animals. This defensive layout can easily be seen on the resort map below.


AKL Map


The resort has four wings, or trails. They are named Ostrich, Giraffe, Zebra, and Kudu. In order to maximize savanna views, the Zebra and Kudu Trails are especially long. If you have mobility issues, be sure to let the cast member know when making your reservation and again when you check in.

Standard rooms are located on floors 1through 4 and measure 344 square feet. Deluxe rooms and converted DVC rooms can be found on floors 5 and 6. I recently stayed in a standard room and will be describing its attributes to you now.

Since the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a deluxe resort, all rooms open onto an inside corridor. Many people prefer this arrangement as it affords more privacy and cuts down on noise.


Trail Corridor


Entering the room brings you into a short hallway. Off of this are a closet, the bathroom, and a door to the adjoining room (should you request connecting rooms.)


Room Hallway


The closet is decent sized. Inside are a luggage rack, a fold-up crib, extra bedding, an iron, and a wall safe big enough to hold a laptop computer. Robes are provided in Club Level rooms.


AKL Room Closet

AKL Room Closet

AKL Room Closet


The sink area of the bathroom is large and well lit. The marble countertop cradles two basins with pewter faucets. A large mirror is framed in dark wood and a hairdryer hangs on a side wall. The wallpaper in this room is especially fun as it displays a stylized colonial African map with steam trains, propeller driven airplanes, and a collection of animals.


AKL Bathroom

AKL Bathroom

AKL Wallpaper


Guests staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge are treated to H20+ products such as shampoo and conditioner. An enhanced selection of toiletries is provided to Club Level Room guests. Some of these might include: Collagen Conditioner, Revitalizing Shampoo, Body Wash, Hydrating Body Butter, Foot Rub, and a dental package.


H20+ Products

H20+ Products


The toilet and shower/bath is located in an adjacent room. The wall behind the shower features large, earth-tone colored tiles with one row displaying vividly colored African designs. The shower curtain continues the African theme with tribal patterns and animals. The towels are fluffy and absorbent.


AKL Tub-Shower-Toilet

AKL Tub-Shower-Toilet


The bedroom is large and includes two queen sized beds. The wall color is tan and dark woods make up the bulk of the furniture. Much of this furniture was handmade in Zimbabwe. The carpet hints at an animal pattern.


AKL Bedroom


The beds are comfortable and covered in a brightly colored spread African textile designs. The headboard is intricately carved and inspired by African butterfly masks. The sheer material draped above the headboard symbolizes the mosquito netting so necessary when sleeping outside while on safari. Between the beds is a nightstand with a phone and clock-iPod docking station.


AKL Bed

AKL Headboard

AKL Night Stand


On the wall opposite the beds are the other furnishings of the room. A small chest houses a mini-refrigerator and on top is the coffee maker and ice bucket. Although I don't drink coffee and never used this appliance, I felt its position was a little low for convenient use.


AKL Furniture

AKL Coffee Maker

AKL mini-refrigerator


The flat-screen TV is contained in a handsome chest of drawers. A DVD player and audio/visual connections are located on the open shelf below. If you bring your own cables, you can playback each day's videos on the TV.


AKL Chest of Drawers and TV


A table, two chairs, pole lamp, and mirror are positioned in the corner of the room. Free WiFi is now standard at Disney World resorts and this table doubles nicely as a desk.


AKL Table and Chairs


To see a short video of a Standard Room, click on the picture below.



Of course, the real reason to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is to view the animals. All rooms have a long, narrow balcony with a table and two chairs. Please note, the savannas are under constant camera surveillance. It is possible for these cameras to inadvertently see into your room. To insure privacy, keep your drapes drawn during times of undress.


AKL Balcony

AKL Balcony

AKL Balcony


Here are a couple of pictures taken from my balcony.


AKL Balcony View

AKL Balcony View

AKL Balcony View

AKL Balcony View

AKL Balcony View


At night, the savannas are bathed in a soft glow that resembles moonlight. Since I often have trouble sleeping, I've been known to step out onto my balcony at two in the morning. Sure enough, I can often see animals sleeping just below me in the peaceful surroundings. This is truly a magical moment.

Disney realizes that guests want to be able to see the animals every time they step out onto their balcony. But this just isn't possible for a number of reasons. After a lot of consideration, it was decided that in the morning, most people are hurriedly getting ready for a day in the parks. They are showering, dressing, and thinking about breakfast. Animals are not the first thing on their minds at this time of day. So it is in the morning that the animals will be most scarce.

Each day at 6am, the animals are encouraged to return to an enclosed area backstage for general care and treatment. And while the vets and other experts are tending to the animals, the horticulturists and groundskeepers use this time to maintain the savannas. By noon, all of the animals are returned to the grounds and will remain available for viewing until 6am the next day. However, the animals are allowed to roam freely and can wander wherever they want within a savanna. Disney employs "tricks" (like placing food all around the savannas) to entice the creatures to venture near your room, but this doesn't always work.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge has its own set of animals. They are not shared with the Animal Kingdom theme park. On occasion, a particular animal might be moved from one location to another, but overall, they call either the Lodge or the Park home.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House & Kidani Village) has four savannas, Uzima, Arusha, Sunset, and Pembe. Each is approximately 10 acres in size. These savannas are a representation of the plains used by migrating herds of the reserves in Zululand. Disney does not specify which animals will be appearing in a given savanna as their location changes frequently. This is done to accommodate the needs of the animals and the vets and to keep the savannas ever changing for the benefit of resort guests.

Here is a list of animals that might be seen while staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge:

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill
African Spoonbill
Ankole-Watusi Cattle
Blue Crane
Blue Wildebeest
Common Eland
Common Shelduck
East African Crowned Crane
Egyptian Goose
Giraffe
Grant's Zebra
Greater Flamingo
Greater Kudu
Hartmann's Mountain Zebra
Helmeted Guineafowl
Impala
Marabou Stork
Nyala
Okapi (Pembe Savannah only)
Ostrich
Pink-Backed Pelican
Radiated Tortoise (Found outside of the Sanaa guest waiting area located at Kidani Village)
Red River Hog
Roan Antelope
Sable Antelope
Thomson's Gazelle
Vulture
Vulturine Guineafowl
Waterbuck

Is the Animal Kingdom Lodge right for you?

That depends. If you LOVE animals and are willing to spend the extra money to live among them for a couple of days, then by all means, book a room here. Even the rooms that overlook the parking lot and pool have easy access to several animal overlooks so the creatures are never far away.

But if the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at the Animal Kingdom fulfills your animal needs, then there might be better choices when it comes to a deluxe resort at Disney. The most common complaint I hear about the Animal Kingdom Lodge is that it is so far away from everything. If you don't have a car, you must take a bus everywhere you go. All of the other deluxe resorts offer monorail or boat transportation to at least one park - a far more "romantic" way to travel.

Last month, I wrote an article about Golden Oak, the new community being built at Walt Disney World. For that press event, Disney provided me with free lodging at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I used this opportunity to my advantage and gathered information for this blog while staying there. Disney's generosity did not influence my story and my opinions are my own.

I like the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Whenever I have out-of-town guests visiting, I make sure to book a meal at Boma so they can experience this excellent buffet, see the splendid architecture, and gaze upon the magnificent animals. This is truly a unique resort and it's full of Disney magic.



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About July 2012

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

June 2012 is the previous archive.

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