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August 6, 2012

Animal Kingdom's Kali River Rapids - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead

When most Americans think of Asia, it's Japan, China, and Korea that first come to mind. These nations are often in the news due to political and socioeconomic events. Their stories often make front-page headlines. These countries are also densely populated and their wild animals have had to take a backseat to industrialization. It is for these reasons that the Imagineers avoided these areas and set their sights on the regions of India, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia when designing the Animal Kingdom's Asia. Although portions of these "secondary" nations are modern and cosmopolitan, they also cling to ancient customs and lifestyles. In addition, they possess vast areas of undisturbed nature that is in imminent danger from encroaching human population.

Although each of these countries individually offered wonderful storytelling opportunities, the Imagineers did not want to specify one particular nation as their Animal Kingdom representative. This would be far too limiting. Instead, they wanted to create an overall feeling of the southern climes of the world's largest continent. To that end, the mythical Kingdom of Anandapur (ah-NAHN-dah-poor) was born. This ancient community would sit on the floodplains and lower foothills of the Himalayan mountain range and take on elements of several countries and make them its own.


Entance To Asia

Map of Anandapur


Being a mythical locale, Anandapur can incorporate a number of geographic features and architectural styles without incongruity. Arid plains and lush jungles sit side by side in harmony. Marble temples and weathered wooden structures blend seamlessly. The backstory tells of the Chakranadi (CHAWK-rah-nah-dee) River that is born from the snowmelts in the Himalayas. Its nurturing waters soon reach warmer regions where a dense jungle grows and eventually flows into the Bugis Sea.

The Chakranadi River also experiences springtime floods. This can be witnessed at a decaying temple near the edge of town. If you examine the area, you can see how the river has overflowed its banks and its waters have surrounded this structure. In dryer times of the year, the doorways are accessible. In the meantime, the gibbons have taken over this shrine and made it their own.


Flooded Temple


Coming from the "Roof of the World," the waters of the Chakranadi River are clean and pure. A local restaurant and hotel, the Yak & Yeti, advertises that they use these waters in their establishment.


Yak & Yeti Restaurant

Fresh Water Advertisement


To help give Anandapur an even more mythical, yet authentic feel, the ancient language of Sanskrit was chosen to be the nation's tongue. In Sanskrit, Anandapur means "place of all delight" and Chakranadi means "river that flows in a circle."

During the planning of Asia, Kali River Rapids was to be named Tiger Rapids Run to honor the most famous animal of the region. Initial thoughts called for a waterborne safari ride with animal encounters (as seen in the first two concept drawings below - look carefully). However, early on, it was decided that the whitewater excursion would not feature animals, but instead, tell the story of deforestation. It was felt that continual screams from the guests as they careened over the falls could be stressful for the creatures. In addition, for most of the trip, you'd be traveling too fast to see the animals for more than a couple of seconds. So in an effort to focus our attention in an ecological direction and to not set up false expectations of spotting tigers along the journey, the name was changed from Tiger River Run to Kali River Rapids. Kali (KAH-lee) is the multi-armed Hindu goddess who represents the destructive forces of nature, forces that change and reshape the planet.

Below are three concept drawings of Tiger Rapids Run/Kali River Rapids and a representation of Kali.

Kali River Rapids Concept Art

Kali River Rapids Concept Art

Kali River Rapids Concept Art

Godess Kali


Asia and the Kali River Rapids officially opened at the Animal Kingdom on March 18, 1999.

Anandapur Township is a different type of community than Harambe in Africa. Harambe is a town of concentration. Buildings are clustered together with a civic pride toward growth. Anandapur Township is more sparsely populated with a hodgepodge of structures scattered around the landscape. The Imagineers tried to give each "land" of the Animal Kingdom a distinction all its own. For example, bamboo is a common sight in many parts of the real Africa, yet it was not planted in Disney's recreation of this land. However, it was used widely in Asia and Anandapur. This is a subtle detail, but important in the scheme of things.

In my blog about the Maharaja Jungle Trek, I discussed how the evil King Bhima Disampati built a hunting lodge where he and his guests could stalk and kill tigers. Eventually his regime was overthrown and a more ecofriendly attitude spread throughout much of the land. Today, the residents of Anandapur depend greatly on tourism for their livelihood. Throughout the township, a number of brightly painted signs entice visitors to see the various local attractions. Trekking through the forests and mountains, bicycling tours, and of course, whitewater rafting on the Chakranadi River are all offered.


Points of Interest in Anandapur

Points of Interest in Anandapur


In and around the Anandapur Township, flyers like the one below have been showing up. It seems that the Tetak Logging Company is using slash & burn techniques and devastating the land. The local population is planning a protest meeting for Thursday evening to discuss what can be done about this problem.


Protest Flyer


One of the best known and oldest travel adventure companies of the area is Kali Rapids Expeditions. The business was founded by a local woman named Manisha Gurung who was concerned that her beloved country was being destroyed by illegal logging. It was her desire to demonstrate that there are other, ecofriendly ways of generating income for her village. Kali Rapids Expeditions was named after the most thrilling section of the Chakranadi River, the Kali Rapids.


Kali Rapids Expeditions Sign


As visitors venture into Anandapur, they come to a structure elevated by stilts. This type of construction is typical in this region of the world as it aids in cooling by allowing air to circulate around the entire building. In addition, these stilts protect the structure from floods during the springtime melt. This is also the residence of Kali Rapids Expeditions' owner Manisha Gurung and her family. The stairs/ladder to reach the dwelling can be seen on the side of the building. If you look at the windows, you'll notice the curtains are old shirts. This is a poor country and the residents make do with what they have. We also discover that this building sits at the edge of civilization and is the jumping off place for exotic adventures.


Home of Manisha Gurung

Home of Manisha Gurung

Shirt Curtains

Stairway to House


The FastPass machines were designed to look like podiums that an official might use to check and stamp passports and other administrative documents. Nearby, rafting supplies are being readied for transport to the Chakranadi River.


FastPass Machines

Rafting Gear


As our trek into the jungle begins, we can see an ancient temple in the distance.


Tiger Temple in the Distance


We start out walking through a bamboo jungle, our path marked by fanciful lanterns.


Bamboo Forest

Bamboo Forest

Lantern


Soon we come to a stone outcropping. Judging by the brick and rock flooring, we make the assumption that this area once had significance to the local population.


Stone Outcropping

Stone Outcropping


On the other side of the rocks, bamboo has given way to more lush landscaping. Religious relics can be seen along the trail. Many of these have succumbed to the ravages of time, weather, and earthquakes. In addition, glimpses of the Chakranadi River can be seen through the growth.


Lantern

Religious relics

View of Chakranadi River


At last we come to Tiger Temple, nestled deep in the forest.


Tiger Temple


In an effort to be as authentic as possible, the Imagineers visited and studied many of the countries in Southeast Asia. They returned home with a multitude of ideas and artifacts, many of which ended up in the Kali River Rapids queue. There are over 5,000 props in Tiger Temple and the adjoining buildings.

As you approach the temple, you will see one wall is covered in ribbons and several bells hanging from the rafters. Each ribbon represents a prayer left by a passing traveler. The bells represent answered prayers. It is believed that if a ribbon is removed, the prayer is nullified. Because of this, Disney maintenance does not touch these ribbons and lets them deteriorate just as they would in "real life." Occasionally, new ribbons are added, just like would happen at an actual temple.


Prayer Ribbons


Although it's obvious this is a religious temple, the actual beliefs of the Anandapur people are a little ambiguous. The Imagineers did this purposely as to not misrepresent a particular conviction. However, this region of the world is dominated by Buddhism and Hinduism and this is hinted at throughout the area. But it was the Imagineers intention to honor animals in the Tiger Temple rather than a deity. This is made clear as you first enter the building. A carved mahogany panel features eleven animals sacred to the kingdom.


Animal Panel


Just past the panel is a large statue of a tiger. Although he looks more like a domestic cat than a mighty hunter, his fierce countenance and stylized stripes leave no doubt as to the species. Tigers often grace the entrances of temples and shrines as they are considered a "guardian" deity as they keep evil spirits from entering. Tigers are admired for their ferocity, great strength, and grace. Around the Anandapur tiger's neck are adornments and fruit has been left as an offering.


Stone Tiger


The tiger looks out onto a grassy knoll. Here we find a number of statues, possibly Buddhist angels, in various states of decline. In this case, it is more than the ravages of time that have taken their toll on these stately creatures of heaven. If you'll notice, a landslide has buried the back two statues. In all probability, this mud flow was brought on by slash & burn logging activity nearby.


Buddhist angels

Buddhist angels


Behind the tiger are a number of cages. Locked behind wire mesh are numerous religious artifacts that are only used for special celebrations. On these days, the objects are brought out and displayed in noteworthy ceremonies or religious pageantry.


Religious Artifacts

Religious Artifacts

Religious Artifacts


These two friendly folk represent characters in Bali folklore. Performers wear these masks (topeng in Indonesian) and interpret traditional narratives concerning fabled kings, heroes and myths.


Bali Masks


Just outside this area of the temple, we find a local peddler's bike. He has come to sell the priests and merchants the produce of his farm. He has also used this time to cook himself a meal.


Peddler's Bike

Peddler's Bike


As we wander deeper into the temple, we come across nāgas. In Hinduism, King Cobras, nāgas, are considered nature spirits and the protectors of springs, wells, and rivers. They are also susceptible to mankind's disrespectful actions in relation to the environment. In the Tiger Temple, the nāgas protects the Chakranadi River. Once again, notice that the people of Anandapur have left an offering to this god.


Nāgas


The next room of the Tiger Temple is rather uninspiring - at ground level. However, if you look up, you'll be dazzled. This is the Painted Pavilion and depicts a number of the Jataka Tales. These are the stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form. There are more than 500 of these morality tales and they date back to 3000 BCE.

"The Fearless Lion and the Brave Elephant" is one of the stories depicted in the Painted Pavilion. The fable tells of a group of merchants being tormented by great beasts. The lion and elephant hear their cries, come to their aid, and kill the attackers. In return, the grateful merchants vow to honor the lion and elephant for all eternity.

Consider stepping to the side of the line and let a few people pass by so you can study these works of art at your leisure. They are magnificent.


Painted Pavilion

Painted Pavilion

Painted Pavilion

Painted Pavilion


As we continue our journey, we leave the Tiger Temple and enter Mr. Panika's Shop. The transition is smooth and almost undetectable as the shop is built directly adjacent to the temple. If you pay attention, you'll notice the construction of the shop is far less sturdy than that of the temple. Mr. Panika is hoping to cash in on the budding tourist trade with tour groups like Kali Rapids Expeditions.


Mr. Panika's Shop


Outside the shop we see that Mr. Panika is very eager to make a sale. He is willing to ship anywhere you like - just please buy something. A scale and package sits nearby, waiting for the post.


Shop Sign

Shop Sign

Shop Scale


Also outside the shop we see a movie poster for "Majboor." This is a real, Indian-Hindi film that premiered in 1974.


Movie Poster


Inside Mr. Panika's Shop is a huge inventory from which to choose - and almost everything for sale here is animal related. Cabinets are filled to the brim, wall space is at a premium, and the rafters are overflowing. This shop is a museum of sorts. Mr. Panika's desk is overflowing with paperwork and invoices. I especially like one sign hung high above the desk that reads "ANTIKS MADE TO ORDER." Mr. Panika also insists on cash.


Mr. Panika's Shop

Mr. Panika's Shop

Mr. Panika's Shop

Mr. Panika's Shop

Mr. Panika's Shop

Mr. Panika's Shop

KalMr. Panika's Shop


Outside a pane-less window, we see a well and children's toys. In all probability, they belong to the Panika's family.


Yard & Well


One advertisement I find especially amusing is for a local hotel whose name has been obscured by rust.


Hotel Advertisement


In case you can't read the print on the picture, let me list the amenities for you. I don't think the Grand Floridian has anything to worry about.

Cheap prices
Friendly staff
Nice view
Rooms with windows available
Fans in most rooms
Bathroom with running water on both floors
Mattress and toilet paper just a little extra
Next to bird market

Birds are a popular pet in many parts of Asia and countless local shopping districts feature bird markets. Next to Mr. Panika's Shop is Disney's version of a bird market, minus the actual animals due to humane reasons. An aviary sits opposite the bird market on the other side of the queue. I have memories of birds inhabiting the aviary in the early years of this attraction, but I can't be certain my memory is correct.


Bird Market

Bird Market


After leaving the shop we finally find ourselves in the Kali Rapids Expeditions office. An outdated slide projector displays faded pictures of our upcoming journey while the prerecorded voice of founder Manisha Gurung describes how her business came into existence.


Kali Rapids Expeditions office


On the desk we see an old typewriter, telephone, and answering machine. Above are brochures for nearby attractions. They even sell cameras and film - the digital age hasn't quite reached this remote corner of the world. A close observer will notice First Aid kits stored beneath the desk.


Office Desk

First Aid Kits


Hanging on a nearby wall is the Royal Couple of Anandapur. If you pay attention while visiting the many shops and restaurants in the area, you will encounter their likeness again and again as it is customary to honor them in this manner. Below the Royal Couple is the first 100 rupee note the business earned.


Royal Couple


Hung on a side wall is the Raft Position Board. Here, guides can keep track of the various expeditions and their locations. If you pay attention, you'll notice the names on this board actually correspond to the rafts you'll be riding in.


Raft Chalkboard

Raft Name

Raft Name


Here is a list of all of the rafts posted on the chalkboard and their current status. I have also included a short definition as to the name's origin. This list is not complete as there are more than 15 rafts. Be sure to read the status of the last raft.

Annapurna Orchid - Out - Sector 5 northern route - Annapurna is a section of the Himalayas in north-central Nepal

Monsoon Mama - Out - Sector 3 rapids run - The term "monsoon" was first used in British India to describe a large, seasonal wind blowing off of the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea which brought heavy rains to Southeast Asia.

Darjeeling Darling - Awaiting use - Darjeeling is a Himalayan city in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is also a type of tea.

Sherpa Surfer - Awaiting use - Sherpa are an ethnic group of people from the most mountainous region of Nepal. Mountaineering guides in the area are also known as Sherpa.

Jungle Jumpapoo - Repaired - Jumpapoo is a type of Thai vehicle.

Bali Bumper Car - On reserve for Ohio tour group - Bali is an Indonesian Island and home to most of Indonesia's Hindu minority in an otherwise Muslim country.

Java Jumper - Out - sector 5, southern route - Java is an Indonesian Island and one of the most densely populated places on the globe.

Baloo Meaway - Oars may need inspection - Baloo is featured in Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" and is also a favorite Disney character.

Himalayan Hummer - Rafting on Sector 2 with Himalayan - The Himalayas are a mountain range located immediately north of the Indian subcontinent and are sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Prambanan Princess - Rafting on Sector 2 with Himalayan - Prambanan is a Hindu temple in Java, Indonesia.

Bhaktapur Bubbler - Awaiting Use - Bhaktapur is an ancient city in Nepal.

Durga's Delight - Awaiting Use - Durga is a Hindu goddess and noted for having up to 18 arms.

Banyan Boy - Replenish supplies - The Banyan is the national tree of India.

Rajah Run Around - Seat Repaired - Rajah is an Indian term for a monarch.

Manaslu Slammer - Due back yesterday! - Manaslu is the eighth highest mountain in the world


On the opposite wall hangs a map of the Kingdom of Anandapur. In addition, paddles, signed by previous and current raft guides, adorn the wall. The paddle in the upper right was signed by many of the Imagineers who traveled to Southeast Asia and help design the attraction.


Map of the Kingdom of Anandapur

Paddles

Imagineers Paddles


During our walk through Tiger Temple and Mr. Panika's Shop we have heard the unmistakable buzz of chain saws in the distance. This annoying sound has intruded on the serenity of the area and brought concern to the locals.

In the next room, tea is brewing for the tour groups awaiting departure. Overhead, stylized paintings depict the various rapids that lie ahead. While in this room, an old radio receiver comes to life with a warning for tour company owner Manisha Gurung. The alert warns her that illegal logging is taking place along the Chakranadi River and all rafting should cease until this problem can be addressed. Unfortunately, Manisha is not in the office and does not get the message, so her guides continue to launch rafts into dangerous waters.


Brewing Tea

Rafting Painting

Rafting Painting

Radio Receiver


The queue for Kali River Rapids is amazing. I've only touched on the highlights of this beautifully executed temple, shop, and office. In Disneyland's early days, a queue like this would have been considered an attraction in its own right.

I know that many of you have no desire to ride Kali River Rapids - and that's okay. But you should experience the queue. In the morning between 9 and 10 (on non-Extra Magic Hours days), this attraction rarely has a line. During this hour you can take your time and enjoy the queue at your leisure. When you reach the boarding area, you simply tell the cast member you're not riding. It's as easy as that.

That's it for Part One. Check back tomorrow when I'll discuss the rafting adventure along the Chakranadi River.



August 7, 2012

Animal Kingdom's Kali River Rapids - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead

Yesterday I discussed Tiger Temple and the queue leading to Kali River Rapids. Today I'll discuss the actual adventure this attraction offers.

Kali River Rapids is NOT "Splash Mountain" where you might get splashed. As the sign at the attraction entrance states, "You WILL get wet! YOU MAY GET SOAKED!


Warning Sign


It is now time to board your raft. But before you walk down the incline to the loading dock, you need to take care of a few details. First, you MUST wear shoes. Signs are posted at the beginning of the line and at several other spots along the queue. If you know you're going to ride Kali River Rapids before leaving your hotel room, think about wearing sandals, thongs, Tevas, or some other open footwear. If you're wearing standard shoes, you might want to take off your socks and put them in the provided compartment on your raft (not in your pocket - this won't help). It's yucky to walk about with wet socks.


You Must Wear Shoes


If you have a rain poncho, consider wearing it. And be sure to don it before you reach the rotating boarding area. If you wait until climbing into your raft, you won't have time.

Think about bringing some Ziploc bags from home for wallets, cameras, and cell phones (and socks).

I have been soaked to the bone on more than one occasion riding Kali River Rapids. And it took several hours for my clothes to dry out - and this was when the temperature was in the 90's. Do not underestimate how wet you can get.

The line terminates beneath a large wooden pagoda. It is here that a cast member will direct you to a raft. If you look at the top of the pagoda, more tigers can be seen. Hanging from wires are numerous prayer flags. These square and rectangular shaped pieces of cloth are used to promote wisdom, strength, compassion, and peace. As the wind slowly unravels the fabric, the threads are carried to heaven and these benefits rain down and benefit all.


Dock Entrance

Tigers on the Pagoda

Prayer Flags


Loading and unloading of the rafts takes place upon a giant, rotating turntable. The rafts move at the same speed as the turntable so it's easy to get in and out. Cast members will offer limited assistance to those who need it. Guests riding in wheelchairs must be able to transfer. You will be requested to buckle your seat belt.


Loading Dock Turntable


Each raft holds twelve adventurers who sit in a circle, facing inwards. The seats are probably wet. Don't worry about it or try to wipe them dry. This little bit of moisture is the least of your worries. Also, don't try to determine which seat will remain the driest (or wettest). Since the rafts spin freely, there is absolutely no way to figure out who is going to get soaked on the big drop.


12 Man Raft


In the center of the raft are two bins in which to place items that you don't want to get wet. These bins are NOT entirely waterproof, but will keep the majority of the moisture out. Note, some people will put oversized backpacks in these bins, leaving little space for anyone else's belongings -- which is why you might want to bring a few Ziploc bags from home.


Storage Compartment


As we leave the loading dock, we head for an incline that takes the rafts to the top of the river and Tiger Bay. Bamboo and other tropical plants line the waterway. Stone sentinels guard the up-ramp. Their gaze is stern as if to remind us that this pristine environment belongs to animals, not humans.


Up Ramp

Up Ramp

Stone sentinels

Stone sentinels


At the top of the hill, multiple geysers erupt - one directly in our pathway. In the background, a rock-tiger keeps a watchful eye on the surroundings. Although portions of the raft will receive a few good splashes from the geysers, most of us will remain relatively unscathed from this first encounter.


Geysers

Tiger Rock


From Tiger Bay the Chakranadi River makes a ninety-degree turn and we continue our journey through a lush forest. The water becomes choppier and our raft begins to pitch and spin. A number of birds can be heard squawking in the trees. As we continue on, the unmistakable sound of chain saws can once again be heard in the distance. Ahead, an opening in the trees reveals a scorched landscape.


Chakranadi River

Chakranadi River


Moments later, we find that we're in the middle of the illegal logging activity we heard about on the radio receiver back in the tour office. We hear the crackle of fire and see piles of discarded wood being burned. The earth is black and charred. On the other side of the river, a logging truck is slipping slowly into the water on a mud bank. The driver has become victim to the problem he has helped create, erosion.


Slash & Burn

Slash & Burn

Slash & Burn

Slash & Burn


On the truck door we see the name Tetak. This is the same name we saw on the flyer in town calling for a protest meeting.


Tetak Truck

Protest Flyer


As our minds process the scope of what we have just seen, we begin to hear the sound of a waterfall in the distance. As the noise grows louder, we realize we're about to plunge down a 30 foot rapid into a deep canyon.


Waterfall


To make sure this plunge offered the thrill the Imagineers were looking for, they created a mockup of the falls at the Walt Disney Imagineering campus in Burbank. The angle, distance, and splash were all tested and retested until they achieved the right balance.

Just so you know, it's the folks that careen down the falls backwards that will sustain the maximum soaking.

With the strip-logging incident behind us, our journey continues along the Kali Rapids and through the beautiful forests of Anandapur. Our raft continues to bob and spin in the choppy water. Ahead we see a cave and some leaky pipes dripping into the river. Emerging from the cave we pass by three gods filling the river from clay pots. (These water features were turned off the day I took these pictures, but trust me, they provide a good soaking.)


Cave

Spraying Goddesses

Spraying Goddesses


As I mentioned earlier in the article, Chakranadi means "river that flows in a circle" in Sanskrit. So it is now that our raft returns to the protection of Tiger Temple. After passing beneath a bridge, we see more relics of this shrine. Two of these are elephants as they are considered good luck in many parts of Asia, especially if their trunks are raised.


Whitewater Rafting

Red Elephant


On the bridge are two buttons. When pressed, these cause the elephants to spray water on the passing rafts. This is a great photo op if you've decided to stay dry and you want to capture your friends and family receive one final soaking.


Bridge

Spray Button

Spraying Elephant

Spraying Elephant


Next to the bridge is a Spirit House. These miniature shrines are common in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Most homes and businesses of these countries have such a structure and it is usually placed on some sort of pedestal in the corner of their property. The purpose of the Spirit House is to provide shelter and appeasement to problematic spirits so that they will leave the residents of the main dwelling in peace.


Spirit House


You now return to the loading dock, wet, dripping, and laughing. Be sure to retrieve any belongings you placed in the center compartment and exit the raft. The journey was approximately five minutes long.

Is Kali River Rapids suitable for everyone? In terms of the thrills you will encounter, most people are probably okay. However, Disney posts the standard warning sign stating that you must be in good health, free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, are not pregnant, and not prone to motion sickness. Children must be 38 inches tall to ride.

The real question is, are you willing to get wet - and I mean really wet? Even the "driest" rider still receives a decent splashing. And those who receive the brunt of the Chakranadi River will be soaked to the bone. If you're okay with this, then by all means, take the plunge.

On "regular" days (non-Extra Magic Hours days), this attraction has little or no wait between 9am and 10am. After that, a long line is common. On days when the park opens early to resort guests, Kali River Rapids may have a line come "official" park opening time as this ride is not part of the Extra Magic Hours list of attractions and the early birds have already experienced Dinosaur and Expedition: Everest and are looking for their next thrill.

As I said in Part One of this article, I think everyone should experience the queue of Kali River Rapids. If you have friends and family riding, wait in line with them and take the chicken exit before boarding. You'll be glad you did.

As always, I have created a video of Kali River Rapids. It features both the queue and the rapids ride. It also contains the two narratives played in the queue that very few people ever hear (or listen to). These narratives help tell the story of Kali River Rapids. This video runs a little under 8 minutes. Enjoy.




August 12, 2012

Lion King Suite - Art of Animation Resort

Jack Spence Masthead


Hey everyone!

Being the ever vigilant Disney reporter that I am, I was at the Art of Animation Resort on opening day of the Lion King section (August 10th). I wanted to share with you some pictures of the grounds and room and share my thoughts with you. Let's start with the exterior.

The two Lion King buildings are located to the north of the Finding Nemo section of the resort. When exiting Animation Hall toward The Big Blue Pool, you would turn left. The first thing you notice as you approach this area are the two rock monoliths that "hide" the staircases on the ends of the building.


Rocks Hidding Stairs


As the walkway approaches the opening between the two buildings, we see Rafiki welcoming us to his world. This is the first of many photo opportunities guests will encounter here.


Rafiki


Also from this spot, we can begin to see the wonderful graphics painted on the buildings. Elephants, giraffes, and giant acacia trees punctuate the make-believe landscape. Clouds top the building's fourth floor.


Building Graphics

Building Graphics


As we enter this African environment, we meet Mufasa surveying his kingdom atop Pride Rock.


Mufasa on Pride Rock

Mufasa on Pride Rock


Our pathway continues through the grasslands of the Serengeti. Unlike the Finding Nemo section of the resort that is busy with multiple schools of fish and the Cars section which is studded with several automobiles and "Burma Shave" signage, the Lion King section is more subdued and has the feel of nature about it. This area is far less "cluttered" which is appropriate for the theme.


Grasslands

Grasslands


In the center of the Lion King Section is perhaps the most impressive of all the iconic pieces of character art. Here we find Timon, Pumbaa, and young Simba crossing a fallen log. You can't help but start humming Hakuna Matata.


Hakuna Matata

Hakuna Matata


Simba

Pumbaa

Timon


After walking through more grassland, we come to the Elephant Graveyard and children's play area. This area is impressive with the skeleton of an elephant and Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed looking down on us. Through the elephant's rib bones is a small cave.


Elephant Graveyard

Elephant Graveyard

Banzai

Shenzi

Ed


I have to be honest with you; I was disappointed with this area. In acknowledging that the Lion King section of the resort does not have a pool, Disney touts that it DOES have a children's playground. But what is it that the children are supposed to play on? There is no slide. No swings. No jungle gym. And all over the grounds are signs that say, "No Climbing Please." With the exception of a VERY small cave, there is absolutely nothing for children to do here. Yes, this area is visually very pleasing. In fact, it's fantastic in that respect. But it would take a mighty big imagination to call this a playground.


No Climbing

No Climbing


Moving on we find Scar keeping a watchful eye on the Elephant Graveyard and the hyenas.


Scar

Scar


Anchoring the far end of the resort is Zazu.


Zazu


On the back side of the buildings are black & white sketches of various Lion King characters, demonstrating the "movement" of animation. There are also several signs with interesting bits of trivia regarding the movie and the resort.


Back of the Buildings

Trivia Signs


Because the Lion King section of the resort lacks a pool, this area is more subdued and quieter than the Cars and Finding Nemo sections. This can be a major plus for many people. And for those of you who do want to cool off with a refreshing dip, the Big Blue Pool and the Flippin' Fins Pool (not open yet) are close at hand.

To see a three minute movie of the Lion King section, check out my video below.



Now let's take a look inside the Lion King buildings. The guest rooms in this section are all one-bedroom suites that open onto an interior hallway. On each floor, a different painting greets guests as they enter and exit the elevators.


Lobby Artwork

Lobby Artwork

Lobby Artwork

Lobby Artwork


The hallway carpeting is full of foliage and various animal footprints.


Hallway Carpeting


When entering a suite, you're in the dining room. A special "Murphy" bed/table makes up the bulk of the furniture in this room. One person can easily open and close this bed as it has counterweights. Two end tables flank the bed. A sleeping Simba is revealed when the bed is open.


Convertable Table/Bed

Convertable Table/Bed

Nightstand

Sleeping Simba


The dining chairs look like leaves and are stackable. This is a nice space-saving feature.


Leaf Chairs

Leaf Chairs


When the bed is put away, the graphics are cute. It seems that five birds have just landed on the branches of a tree and the nearby insects are running for their lives. More hungry birds can be seen on a nearby picture. I suppose these are appropriate graphics for the dining room - birds looking for a meal.


Table Graphics

Hungry Birds


The living room has a convertible sofa, two coffee tables, a lamp, chair, chest of drawers, and an open closet. Also in the living room is a kitchenette that features a sink, microwave, mini-refrigerator, coffee maker, plastic cups & cutlery and paper plates & bowls.


Living Room

Living Room


Let's take these features one-by-one. The kitchenette is not intended for the cooking of full meals. It is to function as a place where you can reheat last night's pizza, keep sodas cold, and get a drink of water.

The base of the unit is designed to look like wood, perhaps a tree trunk. The upper portion represents foliage. You will see this theme repeated again and again.


Kitchenette

Kitchenette


The convertible sofa is upholstered in an orange, textured material. Behind the sofa are five, very cute giraffes. Like the fold-down bed in the dining room, this convertible sofa can easily be opened by a person with moderate strength.


Convertable Sofa

Convertable Sofa

Giraffes


A word of warning to anyone who sleeps in this room. The bed is in close proximity to both the air conditioner and the refrigerator. Both of these appliances cycle on and off continually. If you're a heavy sleeper, this isn't a problem. But if you're a light sleeper, beware.

The lamp-table next to the sofa features three "blossom" lights. A close observer will notice vines creeping up the structure.


Lamp


The two coffee tables resemble logs. On the top of the logs, the "rings" are actually the lyrics for "I Just Can't Wait to be King" and "Hakuna Matata."


Coffee Tables

Coffee Tables


I laughed out loud when I saw the chair. It resembles the "grub" that Pumbaa eats. This chair isn't particularly comfortable to sit in, but it is cute - and it tastes like chicken.


Grub Chair


The chest has two large and two small drawers. A hidden compartment contains audio/visual connections. A flat screen TV sits on top. Next to the chest is an open closet with additional storage in a lower cabinet.


Chest of Drawers

Audio/Visual Connections

Open Closet


Something I was happy to see on this trip was a small sign informing us that the TV channel lineup can be found on channel 17. No more searching randomly for something to watch.


Channel Lineup


The carpet is also very cute. More foliage, bugs, and a few hidden Mickeys can be seen. And after some deliberation, I finally determined that the ceiling lights were supposed to represent clouds.


Carpet

Ceiling Light


The "guest" bath is divided into two rooms. You enter a vanity area that contains one sink. The mirror is framed with leaves and a few bugs. A hair dryer can be found attached to the wall.


Guest Bath

Frame Bugs


Off of the vanity are the toilet and a tub/shower. The tile in the shower is especially impressive. The Pumbaa and Timon shower curtain is for sale at the Ink & Paint Shop located in Animation Hall. There is a full length mirror on the bathroom door.


Guest Bath

Guest Bath

Guest Bath

Full Length Mirror


The bedroom features a queen-size bed, two nightstands, a chest of drawers and TV (identical to the living room version) and another open closet. If you look closely, you will notice that the bedspread completes the headboard design.


Bedroom

Bedroom

Headboard

Lamp

Chest of Drawers

Chest of Drawers


In the open closet you'll find an iron, ironing board, and an electronic safe. I hope in the future, Disney converts all of their in-room safes to these more modern strong boxes. I recently stayed at the Boardwalk were they still require a key.


Open Closet


A second bath is located off of the bedroom. The one-room facility features a single sink, toilet, and walk-in shower.


Bedroom Bath


To see a five minute movie of the Lion King suite, check out the video below.


I like the Lion King suite. It's relaxed and fun. I think the Cars suite is slightly better themed, but there is a comfort level about the Lion King room that works for me. I think any family would enjoy returning to this suite after a busy day in the parks.

To see my article about the overall Art of Animation resort and the Finding Nemo and Car rooms, click here.

That's it for this blog. Stay tuned for the final phase of this resort with the opening of The Little Mermaid section.



August 13, 2012

Mickey Mouse Suite at Laffite's Landing

Jack Spence Masthead


I have to admit, when I posted pictures of my Pinocchio guest bathroom last month in one of my blogs, I was bragging a little bit. What can I say? I have an ego that needs stroking occasionally. LOL However, I really did believe that some of you would be interested in seeing that "Disney" can be a legitimate decorating theme just like colonial or contemporary. And I was amazed at the feedback I received.

Many of you asked if I had other rooms decorated in Disney. The answer is yes. In fact, every room in my house is decorated in this style - tastefully of course. But only two rooms have dedicated themes. You've already seen one of my "themed" rooms with my Pinocchio guest bath. Today I'm going to share with you my other themed room, my Mickey Mouse guest bedroom.

When I moved to Orlando, I knew I would have friends and family who would want to come and visit and use my house as their base of operation - and save on hotel bills. That was cool with me. So when looking for a house to buy, I knew I needed a dedicated guest bedroom - preferably with its own, private bathroom. As luck would have it, I found such a home.

I also knew that I wanted my guest bedroom to be special - something that would help set the tone for my guest's adventures to come. (Mind you folks, I did this twelve years ago, long before Disney started decorating their hotel rooms with dedicated themes.) I also knew that the vast majority of the people using my guest bedroom would be adults. So I wanted to make sure I didn't create a child's room. This blog is going to show you how I created a Mickey Mouse guest suite, suitable for all ages.

First you need to know, most of the items in this room were collected over time - and many of them are no longer for sale or available. But that doesn't mean you can't create your own themed room. You will simply have a different set of decorating items.

Before I get to the Mickey Mouse Suite, let me start with my overall home. When I moved to Orlando, I knew my house needed a grand name. All great homes have a grand name. There is the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. There is the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. So my home would be known as Laffite's Landing. Laffite's Landing is the name of the loading dock for Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland so my house's moniker does have a Disney connection.


Laffite's Landing Plaque


On the door to the Mickey Mouse Suite is a picture frame and door knocker. Whenever a guest will be staying in this room, I create a special sign for them and place it in the frame welcoming them to Laffite's Landing. I also include their picture. So if Deb Wills were to be my guest, her welcome sign would look something like this.


Bedroom Door

Deb Wills Welcome Sign


Below this welcome sign is a Mickey Mouse door knocker. Although difficult to make out in the picture, he's wearing a top hat and tails.


MM Door Knocker


On the back of the bedroom door is a diagram of the house with escape routes marked in red. I take the safety of my guests very seriously. I also had a lot of time on my hands before I started writing for AllEars. LOL


Escape Map


One of the first things I needed to do when designing the Mickey Mouse Suite was to come up with a color scheme. Of course, the obvious choices are red, black, white, and yellow. So that's exactly what I picked. However, you need to be careful when decorating with red and black. These are strong colors that can overpower a small room. To that end, I decided to paint one accent wall in red with the other three walls in white. This worked quite nicely.


MM Bedroom


For the carpet, I took a gamble and selected black. I really debated before choosing this color. The wrong paint color is easily and cheaply remedied, but the wrong carpet color is costly to correct. Happily, the black carpet was the perfect choice. One thing to remember, dark colors show every piece of lint and dust. But because this room only receives light traffic, it's okay.


Black Carpet & Throw Rug


When it came to choosing a bedspread, I decided to stay away from those featuring Mickey Mouse prints. Although there were several I liked, I felt it could make my room too busy. Instead, I stuck with solid colors. The dust ruffle is white and the spread is red. The pillow duvet is black, and the bed curtains are white and black with yellow accents and ties. I made these curtains myself using inexpensive sheets. I topped the bed with four Mickey pillows that resemble his shoe, pants, ears, and glove. In addition, I added Mickey and Minnie plushes.


Bedspread and Plushes

Bedspread and Plushes


Over the plush Mickey's eyes is a Mickey sleep mask for those who need a little extra darkness.


Sleep Mask


Above the headboard are two reading lights and Mickey's gloves. High above the bed is a "DREAM" sign I found. I painted it yellow and it fits perfectly.


MM Gloves and Sleep Sign


I had a roll of Mickey Mouse wallpaper boarder that someone had given me, but not enough to circle the entire room. So I used what I had on the red accent wall only. To complete the circle around the rest of the room, I painted a red stripe and capped it with yellow molding.


Ceiling Molding

Ceiling Molding

Ceiling Molding


Because I didn't want to go overboard with Mickey colors (too late) and give the room a juvenile feel, I decided the furniture should have a more natural look. I settled on a light wood tone. I picked a similar color for the ceiling fan.


Night Stand

Chest of Drawers

Ceiling Fan


On the night stands are Mickey lamps that were once sold at a shop called "Disney Home Store" located at Downtown Disney. This store sold all sorts of Disney related items for the home like linens, bedding, furniture, hardware, kitchen items and more. Unfortunately, in an effort to save money, Disney greatly decreased their high end line of merchandise and this shopped was closed. Sigh.

Of course, no Mickey Mouse room would be complete without a Mickey telephone. In the Mickey shaped dish, I place red, black, yellow, and white M&M's when guests are expected.


Nightstand, Lamp, and Telephone


For three dollars I was able to purchase an old coat rack that was once used at Port Orleans. On each end are cutouts of Mickey's silhouette. I sprayed the shelf with a texture coating then painted it yellow. I hung a Mickey Mouse jacket on one peg to make it look functional. On top are a bobble-head Mickey and an inexpensive reproduction of an antique Mickey & Minnie toy.


Coat Rack

Coat Rack


I realize that flat screen TVs are now the norm, but I wouldn't give up my old tube Mickey Mouse TV and DVD player for anything. I also made a Mickey Mouse accented shelf to hold a selection of Disney movies for my guests.


MM TV and DVD Player

Video Shelf


Two of my prized possessions in this room are quilts that friends/guests made for me as thank you gifts after staying in the Mickey Mouse Suite. One I have hung on the wall as it features all Mickey characters and the color scheme is correct. To help theme the bar from which it is hung, I added Styrofoam Mickey silhouettes to each end.


MM Quilt

MM Quilt Pole


The other quilt was much larger and features dozens of different Disney characters. This quilt is draped over a Mickey Mouse quilt rack.


Disney Character Quilt

MM Quilt Rack


Since this is a guest room, I felt my lodgers would like a mirror in the bedroom. Here I took an inexpensive mirror I purchased at a home improvement store, framed it with molding, and painted it accent yellow. I also installed a small shelf so my guests would have a place for keys, coins, and other small items.


Shelf and Mirror

Shelf and Mirror


On this shelf sits Mickey Mouse holding a picture frame. However, I didn't know whose picture to put in the frame. A photo of me would be a bit too narcissistic. Since I've already used my guest's picture on the bedroom door, I had to come up with another idea. So I took a picture of the Mickey, holding the picture frame. Then, using the magic of computer graphics, I duplicated the picture again and again, giving Mickey infinity into nothingness.


Infinity Mickey


Some time ago, Disney sold Mickey Mouse letter-writing kits. Since all fine hotels feature postcards, stationary, and envelopes, I purchased a number of these kits for my guests. However, to my knowledge, no one has ever used one sheet of paper - and I even include stamps!


MM Letter Writing Kit


I've also carried out the Mickey Mouse theme in the closet. Here I have coat hangers that sport this famous guy's face. I also provide Mickey Mouse robes for my guests.


MM Coat Hangers

MM Robes


Here are a few other pictures of the bedroom.


MM Chest

MM Balloon

MM Plant Rack

MM Room

MM Room


Knowing I was going to theme my guest bedroom and bathroom after Mickey, I chose the colors in the bath before the house was built. For the floor I picked white tile with red veins of color. The grout is red. For the vanity I selected white with a red laminate top and a black accent stripe. I also found some Mickey Mouse knobs that fit perfectly on the cabinets and drawers.


MM Bathroom Sink

MM Bathroom Sink

MM Knobs


I found a great Mickey Mouse mirror at the Disney Home Store. At first I thought that I would remove the large mirror and only use the smaller Mickey Mouse mirror in this room. But this is a small space and the large mirror helps it from becoming claustrophobic. So in the end, I glued the Mickey Mouse mirror over the existing mirror.


MM Mirror


On the sink I have a Mickey Mouse "basket." In it I keep all sorts of toiletries in case my guests have forgotten toothpaste, shaving cream, shampoo, and the like. I also have a Mickey Mouse soap dish with Mickey Mouse soap. A number of years ago, Disney sold Mickey branded toiletries and I stocked up on them knowing I would need them in the future.


Toiletries

MM Soap Dish


The shower curtain and towels also sport our friend. The shower curtain is hung with Mickey hooks.


Toilet and Shower Curtain

Shower Curtain Hooks


In the tub I have non-slip Mickeys.


Non-slip Mickies


I installed a magazine rack across from the toilet. I always keep a Disney magazine and the current park maps and times guides for my guests to glance through while taking care of business.


Magazine Rack

Magazine Rack


Just like I do with my Disney hotel rooms, I've created a video of my Mickey Mouse Suite (tongue in cheek). It runs a little under three minutes. Enjoy.



So there you have it, my Mickey Mouse Suite. Is it a little over the top? Of course it is. But I'm not decorating for Vern Yip and Genevieve Gorder on HGTV's "Design Star." I'm decorating for myself, friends, and family. I don't really care if other people like it or not. I like it and that's all that matters.

Collectively I spent a few bucks on this bedroom and bath. But individually, nothing in these rooms was very expensive. In fact, most of the items were necessary regardless what decorating style I went with. You need paint, bedding, towels, and knickknacks in any bedroom and bath. I just selected a rather unorthodox theme (by most people's standards). So if you have an idea, go for it. You've got very little to lose and everything to gain.



August 20, 2012

Common Bonds Quiz - Questions

Jack Spence Masthead


Today's quiz is a little different. Instead of asking you questions and providing you with multiple choice answers, I will be giving you three words or phrases that have something in common. It will be your job to figure out where at Walt Disney World these words would all be applicable. For example, if I were to say City Hall, Emporium, and Horse-drawn Trolley, the common bond would be Main Street.

In the past, I have usually confined my questions to the four theme parks. But for today's quiz, everything at the World is on the table.

As always, this quiz is just for fun. No winners will be announced and no prizes awarded.

The answers will appear in tomorrow's column.



Common Bonds 1

Barrel
Old Scratch
Windmill



Common Bonds 2


Jesse Owens
Neil Armstrong
Alucobond



Common Bonds 3

Elbows
I Married Joan
Kitchen



Common Bonds 4


Grand Canyon Concourse
Mary Blair
Sand Bar



Common Bonds 5


China Bowl Restaurant
Isherwood Jewelers
Public Library



Common Bonds 6


Manatee Landing
Fahrenheit Drop
Downhill Double Dipper



Common Bonds 7


A game of mahjong
Black & white television set
Tip Top Club



Common Bonds 8


Mr. Panika's Shop
Bird Market
Cobra



Common Bonds 9


Bacchus (the god of wine)
Six giant mushrooms
Six giant brooms



Common Bonds 10


Mickey's Gift Station
Richard F. Irvine
Villains



Common Bonds 11


Lytum & Hyde
Cumulus Isobar
I.B. Hearty



Common Bonds 12


Pyramid
El Centro
Panchito's



Common Bonds 13


Red phone booth
Gardens
Mine



Common Bonds 14


Ready Room 3
Rotating
ISTC



Common Bonds 15


Art
Jack
Earl



Common Bonds 16


Free kittens to a good home
Ginger snaps
Twelve inch butterflies



Common Bonds 17


Sea serpent
Alligators
Rue D' Baga



Common Bonds 18


Sue
Gas station
Find of the day



Common Bonds 19


Bowling
Play-Doh
Mickey Mouse telephone



Common Bonds 20


Pump organ
Hammocks
Waterwheel



Common Bonds 21


Moonliner
Disneyland's Main Street
Tree of Life



Common Bonds 22


Warriors
Reflections
Lions



Common Bonds 23


Roundhouse
Storks
Casey



Common Bonds 24


George Washington
Teddy Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt



Common Bonds 25


A stately name
Sandy Cove
A Queen and her Prince




August 21, 2012

Common Bonds Quiz - Answers

Jack Spence Masthead


Here are the answers to yesterday's Common Bonds Quiz. You were to take three words or phrases and determine where at Walt Disney World all would be applicable. I hope you did well.

As always, this quiz is just for fun. No winners will be announced and no prizes awarded.


Common Bonds 1

Barrel
Old Scratch
Windmill


The common bond here is Tom Sawyer Island at the Magic Kingdom. Barrel refers to the Barrel Bridge. Old Scratch's Mystery Mine is one of the three caves on the island. And the windmill belongs to Mr. Potter.


Barrel Bridge

Old Scratch's Mine

03-Mr. Potter's Windmill



Common Bonds 2


Jesse Owens
Neil Armstrong
Alucobond


Spaceship Earth contains these three elements. Jesse Owens is seen in a theater news clip competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the ticket taker is holding a newspaper proclaiming "Owens Wins Gold." A family is watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon from the comfort of their living room. The triangular tiles that make up Spaceship Earth are made of a material called Alucobond. This is a polyethylene plastic chemically bonded to two layers of anodized aluminum -- and are self-cleaning in the rain.


Newspaper with Jesse Owen

Family watching Neil Armstrong

Spaceship Earth



Common Bonds 3

Elbows
I Married Joan
Kitchen


Anyone who has eaten at the 50's Prime Time Café has been told to keep their elbows off the table while watching "I Married Joan" in a 1950's style kitchen.


50's Prime Time Cafe

50's Prime Time Cafe



Common Bonds 4


Grand Canyon Concourse
Mary Blair
Sand Bar


The fourth floor of the Contemporary Resort is known as the Grand Canyon Concourse. Here you can see a tile mural created by Disney Legend, Mary Blair. Out by the pool, you can enjoy a drink at the Sand Bar.


Grand Canyon Concourse

Mary Blair Mural

Sand Bar



Common Bonds 5


China Bowl Restaurant
Isherwood Jewelers
Public Library


All three of these places of business can be found on the Streets of America at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


China Bowl

Isherwood Jewelers

Public Library



Common Bonds 6


Manatee Landing
Fahrenheit Drop
Downhill Double Dipper


Cross Country Creek circles the Blizzard Beach waterpark. This attraction allows guests to enjoy a lazy waterway while riding in inner tubes. Along the way are many "in & out" spots. Manatee Landing is one of these loading areas. Fahrenheit Drop and Downhill Double Dipper are two other attractions found at Blizzard Beach.


Manatee Landing

Fahrenheit Drop

Downhill Double Dipper



Common Bonds 7


A game of mahjong
Black & white television set
Tip Top Club


Within the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel we find a game of mahjong in progress. In the library, a black & white television set brings us the events of a night in 1939. And the Tip Top Club is the lounge located on the top floor of the hotel.


A game of mahjong

Black & white television set

Tip Top Club<br />



Common Bonds 8


Mr. Panika's Shop
Bird Market
Cobra


All three of these sights can be seen in the queue for Kali River Rapids at the Animal Kingdom.


Mr. Panika's Shop

Bird Market

Cobra



Common Bonds 9


Bacchus (the god of wine)
Six giant mushrooms
Six giant brooms


At the Fantasia Gardens miniature golf course, these classic Disney characters come to life.


Bacchus

Six giant mushrooms

Six giant brooms



Common Bonds 10


Mickey's Gift Station
Richard F. Irvine
Villains


At the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC) we find Mickey's Gift Station, a place to buy last minute souvenirs. The Richard F. Irvine is one of the three ferry boats that docks at the TTC. And guests catch a tram back to their car at either the Heroes or Villains station.


Mickey's Gift Station

Richard F. Irvine

Villains Parking Station



Common Bonds 11


Lytum & Hyde
Cumulus Isobar
I.B. Hearty


Lytum & Hyde is a brand name of explosives found in the queue of Big Thunder Mountain Railway. Cumulus Isobar is the old prospector seen bailing water in the flooded town of Tumbleweed. And I.B. Hearty is the name of one of the runaway engines that careens through the rugged mountains.


Lytum & Hyde

Cumulus Isobar

I.B. Hearty



Common Bonds 12


Pyramid
El Centro
Panchito's


The pool area at the Coronado Springs Resort is dominated by a pyramid. The lobby and other resort facilities can be found in El Centro. And Panchito's Gifts and Sundries is the place to buy Disney merchandise. For those of you who guessed the Mexico Pavilion, there is no "El Centro" located here.


Pyramid

El Centro

Panchito's



Common Bonds 13


Red phone booth
Gardens
Mine


The red phone booth can be found on the upper level of the Canada Pavilion at Epcot. The gardens refer to Victoria Gardens. And the waiting room for the O'Canada CircleVision movie is located in an old mine.


Red Phone Booth

Victoria Gardens

Mine



Common Bonds 14


Ready Room 3
Rotating
ISTC


There are four Ready Rooms for Mission: Space. In these areas potential astronauts are briefed before their training mission. In the queue, guests pass by a rotating space station. ISTC stands for International Space Training Center.


Ready Room 3

Rotating Space Station

International Space Training Center



Common Bonds 15


Art
Jack
Earl


At Downtown Disney - Marketplace you'll find the Art of Disney shop, Cap'n Jack's restaurant, and the Earl of Sandwich restaurant.


Art of Disney

Cap'n Jack's

Earl of Sandwich



Common Bonds 16


Free kittens to a good home
Ginger snaps
Twelve inch butterflies


While in the queue for the Jungle Cruise, a ripped t-shirt advertises free kittens (tiger cubs) to a good home. While on our voyage through the jungle, we are introduced to a crocodile named Ginger. But we are advised to keep our hands inside the boat as Ginger snaps. We also see some butterflies in the rainforest. We're told that their wingspan ranges from twelve inches to a whopping one foot.


Free kittens to a good home

Ginger snaps

Twelve inch butterflies



Common Bonds 17


Sea serpent
Alligators
Rue D' Baga


King Neptune rides a sea serpent by the pool at Port Orleans - French Quarter. The sidewalks of the resort are lined with jazz playing alligators. And the streets all have clever names such as Rue D' Baga and Cake Walk.


Sea serpent

Alligators

Rue D' Baga



Common Bonds 18


Sue
Gas station
Find of the day


At Dinoland U.S.A. we find Sue, a skeleton of a t-rex. Before Chester & Hester built their mini-amusement park, they ran a gas station. And at the boneyard, guests can pose with the paleontologist's latest discovery.


Sue

Gas station

Find of the day



Common Bonds 19


Bowling
Play-Doh
Mickey Mouse telephone


All of these are giant icons at Disney's Pop Century Resort.


Bowling

Play-Doh

Mickey Mouse telephone



Common Bonds 20


Pump organ
Hammocks
Waterwheel


An ingenious waterwheel transports this precious liquid to all of the rooms in the Swiss Family Treehouse at the Magic Kingdom. The three brothers, Fritz, Ernst, and Francis, sleep in hammocks in the upper levels of the tree. And a pump organ brings music to the family.


Pump organ

Hammocks

Waterwheel



Common Bonds 21


Moonliner
Disneyland's Main Street
Tree of Life


At One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios, guests can see a model of the Moonliner, the rocket ship that transported budding astronauts at Disneyland to the moon during the 1950's. Guests can also see models of Disneyland's Main Street and the Animal Kingdom's Tree of Life.


Moonliner

Disneyland's Main Street

Tree of Life



Common Bonds 22


Warriors
Reflections
Lions


A miniature reproduction of the Xi'an Warriors can be found in the China Pavilion at Epcot. Numerous stone lions can also be seen at several doorways. And Reflections of China is the CircleVision movie shown here.


Xi'an Warriors

Stone Lions

Reflections of China



Common Bonds 23


Roundhouse
Storks
Casey


The restrooms at Storybook Circus in the Magic Kingdom can be found in a train roundhouse. Atop the Dumbo attractions are a number of storks, carrying our baby hero. Nearby, Casey Jr. has pulled into town for a watery good time.


Roundhouse

Storks carrying Dumbo

Casey Jr. Circus Train



Common Bonds 24


George Washington
Teddy Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt


This was an easy Common Bond. However, there are two answers to this question. And you had to think of both of them to get credit. First, there is Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom. Second, these gentlemen also appear in the American Adventure at Epcot.


Hall of Presidents

George Washington

Teddy Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt



Common Bonds 25


A stately name
Sandy Cove
A Queen and her Prince


The Grand Floridian has a "stately" name. At this resort we find a shop named Sandy Cove. We also find a Queen and her Prince - Victoria & Albert's.


Grand Floridian Entrance

Sandy Cove

Victoria & Albert's



That's it for today's quiz. I hope you got them all correct.

For those of you who didn't do very well on the non-theme park questions, this means you need to get out of your rut and do a little exploring. Just because you're staying at the Polynesian Resort, doesn't mean you shouldn't check out the All Star Resorts just to see what they're all about. Before I moved to Orlando, I always went hotel hopping during my vacations here. Disney does a quality job on everything and it's worth your time to see all of their handiwork.




August 27, 2012

Port Orleans Riverside - Room Refurbishments

Jack Spence Masthead


Over the last several months, all of the rooms at Port Orleans Riverside have been refurbished and slightly redecorated. Last week I spend a couple of days here so I could film and photograph the new Alligator Bayou and Mansion rooms. While I was there, I was also given access to a Mansion Accessible room which I will also cover today. The new Royal rooms were discussed in another blog so these will not be discussed at this time.

This blog is strictly about the new room designs. If you'd like to know more about the resort and its amenities, check out the article I wrote two years ago by clicking here.

The Alligator Bayou rooms are located in 16 two-story lodge buildings. They are nestled in groves of pine and oak trees which create the feeling of backwoods wilderness. The exterior of the lodges have not changed with the refurbishment.


Alligator Bayou Lodge Exterior


Inside the room, we'll look first at the two queen beds. The headboards have not been altered from the previous design. They appear to be made out of small logs and branches. However, the bedspreads have been updated. They now sport scenes from around the resort.


Two Queen Bed

Bedspread


The decorative pillow features Louis from the Disney animated film, "The Princess and the Frog."


Louis Pillow


Two lantern-styled lamps can be found above the beds. Each is operated by a separate switch located over the nightstand.


Lantern Lighting

Lantern Lighting


The nightstand resembles a shipping crate that might have traveled along the Mississippi in another era. On it are a telephone and clock radio.


Nightstand


The picture on the side wall is that of the Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland. It was painted by Disney Legend Herb Ryman.


Blue Bayou Picture


All rooms have at least one, large window. Corner rooms have two. Besides blackout curtains, Venetian blinds allow guests to adjust the amount of outside light that enters the room.


Window


Beneath the window is a reasonably disguised air conditioner. In the past, the controls were on the unit itself. Now, a wall-mounted thermostat operates the device. This is a nice improvement.


Air Conditioning

Thermostat


Like the headboard, the room's table appears to be made out of logs and branches. The chairs have slat backs and are painted dark brown. The carpet continues this wood theme and looks like peg-and-groove construction.


Table & Chairs

Carpet


The biggest change to the Alligator Bayou room comes in the way a fifth person is accommodated here. In the past, inconvenient trundle beds were located under one of the primary beds. These have been done away with and replaced by an easy-to-use foldout bed. Resembling more shipping crates, this single bed opens and closes with ease. When the bed is open, we see Louis again, dreaming an alligator dream.


Fold-down Bed

Fold-down Bed

Fold-down Bed


FYI: This bed is intended for children and young teenagers. An adult would be a little tight on space.

When not in use as a bed, this structure offers bench seating. Beneath the bench are three drawers. On one of the drawers we see a stenciled silhouette of a steamboat. The lettering says Willie Inc. Est. 1928. This is in reference to Mickey Mouse's debut in the animated short "Steamboat Willie."


Bench Seating

Willie Inc


On top of the "crates" is a shelf, perfect for the storing of wallets, jewelry, room cards, and park tickets. You'll also find convenient audio-visual outlets for connecting your video camera to the TV.


Shelf

Audio/Visual Connections


Next to the foldout bed is a cupboard that houses a small refrigerator and two shelves. On top of this cabinet is the coffee maker and ice bucket. The hammered tin door is especially appealing with its scene of water lilies and cattails.


Cabinet and Shelves

Refrigerator

Coffee Maker

Tin Door


Above this cupboard is a coat-rack adorned with Mickey. However, the close proximity to the coffee maker below makes this coat-rack almost useless except for very small items.


Mickey Coat-rack


All of the walls have been given a texture treatment. I don't know if this is wallpaper or plaster, but either way, it adds a nice, rustic touch. Rough-hewn wood planks circle the ceiling.


Textured Walls

Ceiling Molding


The vanity area of the bathroom is separated from the bedroom by a curtain.


Vanity Curtain


The old bathroom design featured two pedestal sinks. This was attractive, but offered very little counter space. These have been replaced by a vanity unit with two sinks. Beneath the counter are shelves and a decorative washboard. The two mirrors are framed with "branches" that match the headboard and table. The number 92 on the washboard represents the year the resort opened. The hairdryer on the wall has a small light on the bottom of the unit. This makes a perfect nightlight.


Bathroom Vanity

Washboard


Next to the sink is an open closet. There is plenty of space here to hang your clothes. Also in this area are extra bedding, an iron, ironing board, and key-locking safe.


Open Closet


The toilet and tub/shower are located in a separate room. The shower walls are covered in a material that resembles wood planks. The shower curtain features a non-Disney design of fish.


Shower

Towels

Shower Curtain


I liked this new design of the Alligator Bayou room very much. It was rustic, but didn't reek "outdoors." It still retains some sophistication. I was comfortable here and suspect most others would be too. If you have five people, or a son and daughter that require separate beds, I would highly recommend one of these units.

To see a three minute film of an Alligator Bayou room, check out my video below.



Whereas the Alligator Bayou section of the resort offers backwoods charm, the Mansion section of Port Orleans suggests stately elegance. Four massive buildings, each with a different Southern Plantation design, house the rooms here.


Mansion Building


The two queen-sized beds are draped in a non-Disney blue bedspread. A dust ruffle covers the lower mattress.


Two Queen Beds

Bedspread


Each headboard features a beautiful painting inspired by real places at Port Orleans Riverside.


Headboards

Headboard Scene

Corresponding Resort Scene

Headboard Scene

Corresponding Resort Scene


Above each bed is a simple, but elegant light fixture. Once again, they are operated by switches above the nightstand.


Bed Lighting


The nightstand is of an unassuming design which features a shelf and a drawer. A phone and a clock radio sit on top.


Nightstand

Nightstand


The window is draped in a rich fabric of elegant design. Venetian blinds add additional lighting options.


Window Treatment


A round table and two chairs offer a nice spot to set up your laptop. I was especially impressed with the chair coverings. Additional fabric hangs below the seat cushions. In the scheme of things, this extra material is completely unnecessary, but adds a stylish touch worthy of the Grand Floridian.


Table and Chairs

Chair


The chest has three drawers and a cabinet that houses a mini-refrigerator. The flat-screen TV and coffee maker sit on top.


Chest of Drawers

Chest of Drawers


I must use this opportunity to complain. I see this time and time again in EVERY Disney resort. It is a minor inconvenience, but it annoys me.

Many small refrigerators have reversible doors. Why is it that Disney doesn't match the way the refrigerator door opens with the way the cabinet door opens? When one door opens to the left and the other to the right, it makes accessing the unit difficult. They should both open in the same direction.


Refrigerator Door


Next to the chest is a cushioned bench. Above this is a Mickey coat rack. The arrangement here works better than at the Alligator Bayou rooms as there is space beneath the coat-rack, allowing you to hang longer pieces of apparel.


Bench & Coat-rack


The picture on the wall is of Disneyland's Mark Twain riverboat.


Painting of Mark Twain


Like the Alligator Bayou rooms, the controls for the air conditioner have been moved to a wall unit.


Air Conditioning


The bathroom vanity is located behind a hand-drawn curtain.


Vanity Curtains


The vanity has a large counter-top with two sinks. Above this is a shelf and two mirrors and the room has more than adequate lighting. A hairdryer hangs on the wall.


Vanity-Sinks

Vanity-Sinks


The open closet has plenty of hanging space, an iron, ironing board, and a small safe. I have the same complaint with the safe as I do with the refrigerators. Why can't the safe door open toward the wall? By opening away from the wall, it becomes more cumbersome to use.


Open Closet

Safe


The toilet and tub/shower is located in a separate room. The shower walls are covered in a plastic material that hints at tile work.


Tub Shower

Tub Shower


I like the Mansion Rooms. They are nice. Very nice. But I didn't feel that the theming was anything out of the ordinary. Remove the picture of the Mark Twain and a few other Disney references, and I could be in any nice motor lodge around the country. On the other hand, the Alligator Bayou rooms are loaded with character. You will not find rooms like these at your local motel. Disney has taken the decorating of their rooms to a new level. The Alligator Bayou rooms are a good example of this. The Mansion rooms are nice, but nothing to write home about.

To be fair, I'm not sure what Disney could do to "plus" the Mansion rooms any more than they already have. But when you stay in an Alligator Bayou room one night and a Mansion room the next, the differences become more obvious.

To see a two and a half minute movie of a Mansion room, check out my video below.



While on my most recent trip, I also visited an Accessible Mansion room. Since the overall décor is identical to a standard Mansion room, I will only highlight what has been changed to make this room "accessible."

You may have noticed, at all of the moderate resorts, the doors are placed within an alcove. (First picture.) In order to give the Accessible rooms a little more square footage, these alcoves have been eliminated. (Second picture.)


Standard Door

Accessible Door


The doors of Accessible rooms have two peepholes -- one at a standard height and a second at a level convenient for someone sitting in a wheelchair.


Door Peephole


The beds are several inches lower than in standard rooms for easier access.


Lower Beds


The switch plate above the nightstand also has an electrical outlet so you don't have to go searching for it along the baseboard.


Electric Outlet


Between the beds and the room door is a full-length mirror.


Full Length Mirror


Standard rooms have a round table. Accessible rooms have a square table designed for those using a wheelchair.


Square Table


In making the bathroom larger and more convenient, the closet in the vanity was eliminated. In its place, a large wardrobe was placed in the bedroom area. In it are shelving, hanging space, the iron, and ironing board.


Wardrobe Cabinet

Wardrobe Cabinet


Unlike standard rooms that use a curtain to separate the vanity area from the bedroom, Accessible rooms use a solid, pocket door.


Pocket Door


The bathroom has been radically redesigned from the Standard room. First, it's one large room rather than two. This allows the toilet area more space. Handrails have also been added for support.


Toilet


There is only one sink with no cabinetry below. This frees up this lower space for those riding in a wheelchair. To make up for the lack of counter space, additional shelving has been added nearby.


Sink

Additional Shelves


The shower is designed to be "rolled" into. Dual height controls and a shower head on a flexible hose provide easy access. A fold-down chair is attached to the wall.


Roll-in Shower

Shower Controls

Shower Seat


To see a two and a half minute movie of an Accessible Mansion room, check out my video below.



That's it for my coverage of the new room decors at Port Orleans Riverside. This is a great resort and I highly recommend giving it a try sometime.



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About August 2012

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

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