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May 1, 2014

Water at Walt Disney World -- Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Last Monday I wrote how the Walt Disney World property was crisscrossed with canals and levees to help maintain water integrity. I also discussed the many water features found in the Magic Kingdom and how these help add atmosphere to the park. Today I'm going to take a look at Epcot.

Unlike the Magic Kingdom, Epcot does not have a beautiful lake at its front doorstep. However, it does have one of the flood canals running through its parking lot. It's not particularly inviting, but Disney has lined it with grassy slopes and oak and pine trees.


Epcot Parking Lot

Epcot Parking Lot


In front of Spaceship Earth is a large fountain. For many years, a Lucite piece of art graced the top of this structure. In later years it was removed and the fountain's smooth tile surface was replaced with textured stones and rocks.


Entrance Fountain

Entrance Fountain

Entrance Fountain

Entrance Fountain


In Innoventions Courtyard is a large fountain. On EPCOT Center's opening day, representatives from 22 countries each poured a gallon of water from their homeland into the fountain. On Epcot's 25th Anniversary, cast members from the eleven World Showcase countries repeated this symbolic act.


Innoventions Fountain

Innoventions Fountain


The original fountain was refurbished in 1993. At that time, 304 nozzles and water cannons were added with the ability to propel water over 150 feet in the air. It took three months of computer programing to design the water ballets that run every 15 minutes. At night, the fountain comes alive with 1,068 colored lights that are also synchronized with the water cannons and music. The fountain measures 180 x 120 foot oval and holds over 108,000 gallons of water.


Innoventions Fountain

Innoventions Fountain

Innoventions Fountain

Innoventions Fountain


At "The Seas with Nemo & Friends" we see waves crash against jagged rocks while seagulls call out "Mine, mine, mine." Over at the Land Pavilion, water flows behind the letters on the marquee and a small river meanders beneath lush foliage. (Both were dry when I took these pictures.)


The Seas with Nemo & Friends

Land Pavilion

Land Pavilion


When the Land Pavilion opened, a large fountain graced the food court seating area. It was removed a few years ago to enlarge the Sunshine Seasons dining room. I know by today's standards this fountain was dated, but I miss it.


Old Land Fountain


Although not a "water feature" as such, water is described in the "Living with the Land" attraction. We are told how rainfall and erosion shape and nourish the land.


Living with the Land

Living with the Land


The Imagineers wanted guests visiting the Imagination Pavilion to open their minds to new inventive ideas. To that end, they created three water features to spark our imaginations. The first is the upside-down waterfall. Where else can you see water flow up?


upside-down waterfall

upside-down waterfall


The next is an artistic fountain.


Imagination Fountain


And finally, there are the Leap Fountains.


Leap Fountains

Leap Fountains

Leap Fountains


Meandering through the west side of Future World are a number of ponds. In the early years, these ponds looked more like shallow swimming pools with concrete bottoms painted pale blue. Approximately 13-14 years ago, the Imagineers lined the bottoms of the ponds with river rocks. This gave the pools a natural, more relaxed feel and helped move Future World away from the "concrete era" futurists once predicted. (Unfortunately, I don't have any 'before' pictures to share with you.)


Future World West Ponds

Future World West Ponds


The east side of Future World has very few water features. One of these is located just beyond Mouse Gear as you enter this section of the park. Here we find a splash and play area for the kids.


Splash and Play Area


Over at the Energy Pavilion we find a reflection pool that bounces light off of the adjacent mirrored tiles.


Energy Pavilion


And behind Test Track we find Cool Wash. This Coca-Cola concession stand spritzes a refreshing mist on hot and tired guests when the weather is warm.


Cool Wash

Cool Wash

Cool Wash


The bridge that connects Future World with World Showcase crosses a small lake. To my knowledge, this body of water has no official name. Although I cannot substantiate this, I have read that the Imagineers discovered a sinkhole in this area when designing the park so they opted to put a lake here as the area was unsuitable for building.

During the annual Flower and Garden show, the gardeners line the banks of this lake with colorful flowers and float more blooms in the water.


Transition between Future World and World Showcase

Transition between Future World and World Showcase


On the bridge is another splash and play area for the kids.


Splash and Play Area


Of course, the biggest water feature at Epcot is the World Showcase Lagoon.


World Showcase Lagoon


If you've pay attention, you might notice that every World Showcase country extends to World Showcase Lagoon and takes advantage of this water. Let's start with the Canada Pavilion.

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


Canada Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon

Canada Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon

Canada Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon


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

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


Rocky Mountains Dry

Rocky Mountains Wet


This waterfall feeds a roaring stream and two ponds. One pond is near the Maple Leaf Mine, the other in the middle of Victoria Gardens.


Canada Stream

Maple Leaf Mine

Victoria Gardens


Next door to the Canada Pavilion, the United Kingdom Pavilion uses the World Showcase Lagoon to recreate one of the locks of the Grand Union Canal. The Grand Union Canal stretches 137 miles from London to Birmingham with branches that reach Leicester, Slough, Aylesbury, Wendover and Northampton. Along its route are 166 locks. This canal was used for the transport of goods (primarily coal and building materials) between communities.


Grand Union Canal


There is only one water feature within the UK Pavilion. This is a small fountain found outside the restrooms.


UK Fountain


At the France Pavilion, the World Showcase Lagoon represents the banks of the Seine. Here you can see an easel and painting. If you study the painting carefully, you'll notice a budding artist is creating an impressionistic interpretation of International Gateway across the river.


Banks of the Seine

Banks of the Seine

Banks of the Seine

Banks of the Seine


For me, one of the most beautiful fountains at Walt Disney World can be found in the France Pavilion. I love to sit on the edge of this structure and people watch.


France Pavilion Fountain


At the Morocco Pavilion, an old water wheel once brought water from World Showcase Lagoon to feed the Chahar Bagh (Persian for four gardens). The classic design of a Chahar Bagh has a fountain or holding trough at the center of the garden which flows into four channels at right angles to each other. The four channels are often associated with the four rivers of Paradise as described in the Koran. These waters flow to the four quarters of Heaven.


Old Water Wheel

Chahar Bagh

Chahar Bagh


Recently, the Chahar Bagh was removed to make way for the new Spice Road Table. However, the Imagineers left the waterwheel. Although, without the nearby Chahar Bagh, it has no logical reason to exist. But don't despair. The waterwheel may not be useful anymore, but it is still a distinctive part of the Morocco Pavilion. When seated at the bar within Spice Road Table, it serves as a lovely moving backdrop behind the colorful bottles.


Waterwheel Exterior

Waterwheel Exterior

Waterwheel Interior


In the Ville Nouvelle (new city) portion of the Morocco Pavilion is a lovely "town square" fountain. In the Medina, or old city, a replica of the Nejjarine Fountain can be found. This second fountain would be used by the townspeople to fill their pales with drinking water.


Morocco Fountain

Morocco Fountain


Fez House is a recreation of a traditional Moroccan home built around a central courtyard. From the courtyard are a number of rooms which can be opened and closed depending on the need for privacy. In the main room is another fountain.


Fez House Fountain


A beautiful torii gate graces the shores of the World Showcase Lagoon in front of the Japan Pavilion. This Shinto icon is fashioned after the one found off the rocky coast of Itsukushima Island in southern Japan.


Torii Gate


Notice the barnacles at the base of the torii gate. This is a realistic representation as the original sits in the salty Inland Sea.


Barnacles


A typical Japanese garden contains a number of elements in its design. These include water, rocks & sand, bridges, architecture, lanterns, fences, trees & flowers, and fish. At the Japan Pavilion, we see the beginnings of this meticulous garden near the outdoor seating area of Katsura Grill. Here we find cascading water adds a tranquil sound for diners as it gathers in a pond then begins its journey downhill and beneath several bridges.


Japan Pavilion Water Feature

Japan Pavilion Water Feature

Japan Pavilion Water Feature


As the water continues, it tumbles over more falls and ends up in a serene koi pond.


Koi Pond


The last water feature in the Japan Pavilion can be found surrounding the castle. Here, a mote protects this mighty structure from invaders.


Castle Mote


At the American Adventure we see the Golden Dream sailing ship anchored on the shores of World Showcase Lagoon.


Golden Dream


The only water feature within the pavilion is a simple fountain. If you pay attention, you'll notice that the fountain is turned off when any shows or presentations are staged nearby. This reduces the background noise greatly. During the holiday season, this fountain is often covered and replaced with a Christmas tree.


American Adventure Fountain

American Adventure Fountain


The World Showcase Lagoon plays host to Venice at the Italy Pavilion. A canal, arched bridges, and a gondola can be seen here.


Venice Canal


Also in the Venetian section of the pavilion is an unassuming fountain.


Venetian Fountain


But if you venture further into the Italy Pavilion you'll come to perhaps the most recognizable fountain in all of Epcot, the Neptune Fountain. This landmark often has a line of people waiting to take their turn getting a picture with this Roman god in the background. The fountain is based on two sculptures, the original Neptune Fountain in Florence by Bartolomeo Ammannatin and Trevi Fountain located in Rome by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.


Neptune Fountain


At the Germany Pavilion, a stone wall and garden line World Showcase Lagoon. This design would be typically seen on the many rivers that crisscross Germany.


Germany Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon


In the center of the platz is a fountain and a statue of Saint George and the Dragon. Fountains like these were common in villages during the Middle Ages. The everyday use of indoor plumbing was still centuries away and a central water source was the spot for townsfolk to fill their pails. This statue of Saint George slaying the dragon is modeled after a sculpture found in Rothenburg, Germany. Saint George is the patron saint of soldiers and references to him can be found throughout Europe.


Saint George Fountain


In the Biergarten Restaurant, a waterwheel can be found at the far right of this beer hall.


Biergarten Restaurant Waterwheel


Although African Outpost isn't a "real" country of World Showcase, the Imagineers still included a presence for this spot on the lagoon. Here we see tribal canoes drying on a sandy beach, ready for a fishing expedition.


African Outpost on World Showcase Lagoon


At the China Pavilion, manicured lawns and bushes line the banks of World Showcase Lagoon. This style of gardening would be similar to those you might find at the Emperor's Summer Palace or a high ranking official's home.


China Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon


Also on the shore are three large rocks and several stone benches. Centuries ago, the Chinese believed that contemplation of unusual rock forms brought inner peace and serenity. So profound was this practice that ancient rulers would spend considerable amounts of money and engage hundreds of men to search for and transport a particularly interesting rock back to the palace. Some of these expeditions could last up to three years.


China Pavilion Rock


The main water feature of the China Pavilion can be found just past the Gate of the Golden Sun. This lovely lotus pool is surrounded by a typical Chinese garden and was inspired by those in Suzhou, a large city located adjacent to Shanghai.


China Pavilion Pond

China Pavilion Pond


The Norway Pavilion has perhaps the simplest of the World Showcase Lagoon waterfronts. All that is offered here is a basic stone retaining wall and shrubbery.


Norway Pavilion on World Showcase Lagoon


But inside the Norway Pavilion guests find a tantalizing water feature which is part of the popular attraction, Maelstrom. This waterfall gives wannabe Vikings a glimpse of what's in store for them if they dare to ride.


Maelstrom

Maelstrom


The Mexico Pavilion's presence on World Showcase Lagoon was that of a small, fishing village. A rocky coast and a small boat invited guests to visit our neighbor to the south. Although this rocky coast still exists, it was greatly decreased with the addition of La Hacienda de San Angel a few years ago.


Old View of Mexico Pavilion

New View of Mexico Pavilion


Inside the Mexico Pavilion guests will find two fountains. The cute guy in the picture is me - a long time ago. LOL


Mexico Pavilion Fountain

Mexico Pavilion Fountain


Of course, the biggest water feature in the Mexico Pavilion can be seen from the San Angel Inn. Tables in this restaurant overlook a river that meanders past a Mayan pyramid and active volcano.


San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn


Today we've seen how water adds atmosphere, history, relaxation, and excitement to Epcot. Check back Monday when I will finish this series with a look at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom.


May 5, 2014

Water at Walt Disney World -- Part Three

Jack Spence Masthead

Last Monday I discussed how water played a role in the creation of Walt Disney World and how it helps entertain guests in the Magic Kingdom. On Thursday I continued this discussion with a look at Epcot. Today I'm going to finish this series by highlighting the water features found in Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

The original plans for the Disney/MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) called for this park to be a real working studio that allowed guests to come in and witness the movie-making process. In addition, a few rides and attractions would be thrown in for good measure. Of course, we all know that things didn't turn out that way. For a multitude of reasons, movie and television production did not take hold here and the studio evolved into a full-fledged theme park. However, much of the park still resembles a movie studio and because of this, there are not many water features found here.

Like Epcot, a landscaped flood canal splits the Studio parking lot in half.


Studio Parking Lot

Studio Parking Lot


The first water feature found inside the Studio is located at the end of Hollywood Blvd. Near the information board is a lovely art deco fountain. Once the park opens, it's difficult to get a picture of this fountain without someone sitting on its edge. This is a popular meeting spot for groups.


Art Deco Fountain


The biggest water feature at the Studio is Echo Lake. This lake pays homage to the film industry that once found homes in the Echo Park, Silverlake, and the Hollywood districts of Los Angeles. The real Echo Lake is a man-made reservoir in the upscale community of Echo Park.

At the Studio, Echo Lake is home to Min & Bill's Dockside Diner and Dinosaur Gertie's Ice Cream of Extinction. There are also a number of umbrella-covered tables and chairs that are perfect for a little down time.


Echo Lake

Echo Lake

Echo Lake


The silliest of all fountains can be found in front of Muppet*Vision 3D. Here, Miss Piggy is a movie queen being directed by Gonzo and filmed by Fozzie Bear.


Muppet Fountain

Muppet Fountain

Muppet Fountain

Muppet Fountain


Inside Muppet*Vision 3D, Fozzie Bear showers the audience from his fake boutonnière.


Fozzie Bear


On the Streets of America, you just might encounter a leaky fire hydrant or two.


Fire Hydrant

Fire Hydrant


Also found on the Streets of America is an umbrella that comes complete with its own rainstorm.


Umbrella


On the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure, a Super Soaker sporadically discharges a stream of water on the unsuspecting guests below.


Super Soaker


Water is a major theme on the Studio Backlot Tour. First, volunteers from the audience recreate a WWII battle scene. Between 400 gallons of make-believe waves, simulated bombs, air-pressure torpedoes, and phantom bullets, our unsuspecting participates would get soaked if it weren't for the protective gear they wear. And some members in the first row of the audience do get splashed a bit.


Studio Backlot Tour

Studio Backlot Tour


Later in the tour, guests visit Catastrophe Canyon and experience the biggest water extravaganza at Walt Disney World. This attraction uses enough water to fill ten Olympic sized swimming pools and can propel 25,000 gallons of water over 100 feet. If a basketball were placed in one of these water cannons, it could be shot over the Empire State Building.


Catastrophe Canyon

Catastrophe Canyon


Over at the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show, water is used to a lesser extent in a chase scene using a jet ski.


Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show


Near the Studio Catering Co. is a statue of a mermaid. This recreation of a prop used in the 1984 movie "Splash" is made entirely out of fiberglass and was created here in the Studio Scenic Shop. The mold used to produce the mermaid and dolphins were originally created for ice sculptures seen in the movie, "Herbie goes Bananas."


Mermaid Fountain


In the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show, a fine mist covers the audience as they descend "under the sea." In addition, a curtain of water is used to help guests believe they have descended into Ariel and Sebastian's world.


Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid


Outside the theater that houses the "Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage" show is a simple, art deco waterfall.


Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage


At the Tower of Terror, there are several water features. But since the hotel has been abandoned for years, all of them are in a state of disrepair and dry.


Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror


Disney's Animal Kingdom

Returning rainwater to the aquifer is important in Florida. To that end, retention ponds have been created everywhere on Disney property and the Animal Kingdom is no exception. In the parking lot, you will find several of these man-made mini-lakes.


Retention Pond


In the early years of the Animal Kingdom, Rain Forest Café featured one of the largest waterfalls at Walt Disney World. It spanned almost the entire length of the restaurant's roof and created an impressive sight.


Rain Forest Café Waterfall


As the years passed and the shrubbery matured, the new growth all but obscured this man-made wonder. Eventually the Imagineers had to redesign this area. Today, much smaller waterfalls flank the entrance to this restaurant.


Rain Forest Café Waterfall

Rain Forest Café Waterfall


Near the back entrance to Rain Forest Café is a playful garden complete with some cute animals and a bit of water.


Rain Forest Café Playground

Rain Forest Café Playground


Of course, Rain Forest Cafés is also noted for their innovative aquariums.


Rain Forest Café Aquarium


The Oasis is the first land guests enter at the Animal Kingdom. Here, the Imagineers endeavored to create natural and realistic settings. It was their desire to make it look like Mother Nature fashioned this scenic spot. Starting with waterfalls in the upper elevations, the water collects in pools and flows downhill until it reaches the main entrance. This arrangement provides many homes for some wondrous creatures.


The Oasis

The Oasis


Hidden within the Oasis is a rustic suspension bridge which spans a portion of this water. The bridge bounces a bit when mischievous guests walk a little too ambitiously.


suspension bridge


Discovery River surrounds Discovery Island. This waterway adds atmosphere to the Animal Kingdom and provides homes for a number of animals. But in the early years, it was to be much more. Discovery River was to be home to an attraction.

The Imagineers originally intended the Discovery River Boats to provide guests with an orientation of the Animal Kingdom as it skirted each land of the park. In addition, it would provide transportation from one side of the park to the other. Along the way guests would encounter an AudioAnimatronics dinosaur, a geyser, and a few animal enclosures. In addition, cast members on board would showcase small critters such as tarantulas, geckos, and scorpions. Guests could board Discovery River Boats at one of two stations. One station was located in Safari Village (now Discovery Island) near the entrance to Dinoland and the other in Asia across from the bird show. Since this was considered a "transportation" attraction, guests were forced to exit at the other station.


Discovery River Boat Attractions

Discovery River Boat Attractions


When the Animal Kingdom first opened, there were very few attractions. An hour wait for Discovery River Boats was common as there was little else to do. With precious few sights along the river banks and a forced exit at the other station, people inundated Guest Relations with complaints.

In an effort to spruce up this failure of an attraction, Disney retooled the ride and renamed it Radio Disney River Cruise." The boats were repainted in bright colors and a round-trip to your original station was now provided. In addition, an onboard radio show was presented with music, trivia questions, and animal facts. It was still a dismal failure and guests continued to complain. The ride closed for good in August, 1999, just a year and a half after the park opened. Today, many parts of Discovery River are overgrown with trees and shrubbery.


Discovery River

Discovery River


Personally, I think the Imagineers set themselves up for failure. With few exceptions, EVERY guest who road Discovery River Boats was familiar with the Jungle Cruse in the Magic Kingdom. So it would be a natural expectation when visiting the Animal Kingdom and boarding a similar vessel that guests would see real animals instead of one AudioAnimatronics dinosaur and only a couple of bird sanctuaries. I know that was my expectation.

The water found on Discovery Island surrounds the Tree of Life. Once again, the Imagineers have tried to make this area look natural - as if it could really be the real-life home of the animals seen here.


Discovery Island Animals

Discovery Island Animals

Discovery Island Animals

Discovery Island Animals

Discovery Island Animals


Near the exit to "It's Tough to be a Bug" is a towering waterfall.


Discovery Island Waterfall


Even though Camp Minnie/Mickey has been shuttered for good, it did have a few water features. The first could be seen on the banks of Discovery River as you entered this land. To the right was a stone dragon spewing water. His presence was to remind us that Beastly Kingdom would be coming soon.


Rock Dragon


As we ventured further into Camp Minnie/Mickey, we happened along a country stream and some intrepid hikers.


Country Stream

Hikers


Thirsty? An old well acted as a drinking fountain.


Well


And of course, no camping trip would be complete without a visit to the ol' fishin' hole.


Ol' Fishin' Hole

Ol' Fishin' Hole


There are no water features in the town of Harambe in Africa, but on Kilimanjaro Safaris water is abundant. But once again, most of it is presented naturally to add realism to the attraction. However, the Imagineers did go above and beyond when designing this ride. While traveling through the hippo area, the safari trucks ford a river. If you look closely at the roadway, you can see tire tracks in the mud. But these are not real tire tracks or real mud. But rather colored concrete.


Ruts in the Road

Ruts in the Road


I'm sure you all know that Flamingo Island is shaped like Mickey.


Flamingo Island


Up until recently, Kilimanjaro Safaris ended with a high-speed chase pursuing poachers. This trek took us between a number of erupting geysers. But most of these were removed when the storyline was changed and the poacher story eliminated.


Geysers


As guests exit Kilimanjaro Safaris they pass by a Ranger Station. Nearby is an interesting water fountain and Gorilla Falls.


Water Fountain

Gorilla Falls


While walking Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, guests enter a beautiful aviary. Inside they find waterfalls and a large aquarium.


Pangani Aquarium


Further along the trail guests can get a different view of the hippos by looking through glass walls into their bathing pool.


Hippo Bathing Pool

Hippo Bathing Pool


Water plays a major role in the gorilla sanctuary. Watching these magnificent beasts beside the raging falls is spectacular.


Gorilla Sanctuary


Water is also prevalent in Asia. The backstory for this land 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, gibbons have taken over this shrine and made it their own.


Asian Temple


No other attraction at Disney World is more about water than Kali River Rapids - not even Splash Mountain. There is no way around it, this ride is all about getting wet.


Kali River Rapids

Kali River Rapids

Kali River Rapids

Kali River Rapids


Near the end of the attraction, friends and family can give riders one final soaking by encouraging the elephants to spray the rafts.


Elephant Spray

Elephant Spray


Water also plays an important part on the Maharajah Jungle Trek. One of the main features revolves around the tiger-blind found here. The backstory tells us that evil King Bhima Disampati built this structure for himself and his guests. Perched high on a lookout platform, they could shoot the tigers as they came to drink from an elaborate fountain. Fortunately, King Disampati was killed and his diabolical sport was discontinued.


Maharajah Jungle Trek

Maharajah Jungle Trek

Maharajah Jungle Trek


Further along the trail we come to an aviary. Here we find a combination fountain/birdbath.


Bird Bath


An artistic fountain can be discovered near the restrooms in this part of Asia. I love the glass-like design the water makes as it falls to the waiting pool. It's fun to put your finger in the water and disrupt the flow.


Asian Fountain

Asian Fountain


As we leave the wetlands of Anandapur, we travel to the vast plains that sit at the foot of the rugged Himalayas. Rainfall is scarce here and the land is parched. Take a look at the dry creek beds found near Expedition Everest.


Dry River Bed

Dry River Bed

Up on the mountain slopes things are different. Melting snow creates a glorious waterfall.


Everest Waterfall


Dinoland U.S.A. uses very little water to entertain guests, but it does exist. The one obvious spot can be found in front of the "Dinosaur" attraction. Here we see Aladar standing in a reflecting pool.


Dinosaur

Dinosaur


At Chester & Hester's Dinorama, the arcade game Fossil Fueler uses water guns to aim at targets.


Fossil Fueler


That pretty much covers the water features found in the four theme parks - I think. As I was writing this article, I kept finding more and more examples of water as I browsed through my pictures and wandered the parks. I became more and more amazed at how often H2O turns up everywhere. It's astounding how prevalent this life-giving liquid can be.

In ending, I would like to point out one more water feature. This one is common to all four parks. It's the combination squirt gun/fan. It's perfect for a Florida summer afternoon.


Squirt Gun Fan


May 12, 2014

I Miss the Little Things

Jack Spence Masthead


Things are constantly changing in the Disney parks and hotels. Sometimes we like the changes, sometimes we don't. But like it or not, things are going to keep changing so we might as well get used to it. As I like to point out to people who grumble about change, if the parks didn't grow and evolve, at Disneyland brassieres would still be sold on Main Street and bathroom fixtures would be on display in Tomorrowland. Nonetheless, this doesn't stop us from waxing nostalgic for the "good ol' days."

Sometimes it's obvious why the Imagineers remove or change something. Sometimes it's not. I like to believe that they always have a good and compelling reason when they tinker with the parks, but sometimes I believe it comes down to simple economics. It's cheaper to do without.

Today's blog will not be about the big changes that have taken place at Walt Disney World over the years, but rather the little things. We all miss the full-scale attractions like the Skyway, Mickey Mouse Review, Horizons, and World of Motion. But these attractions have all been lamented over in numerous articles through the years. Today I want to talk about the small stuff. The details. And minutiae.

So here we go. I'll start with the Magic Kingdom.

I miss slow days. When I lived in California, I always visited Walt Disney World over its anniversary on October 1st. I found the weather tolerable and the crowds more than manageable at this time of year. That's not the case anymore. Now seasons at the Disney parks can be sorted into two categories, Busy, and Very Busy. Even January, which used to be the slowest month of the year, is hectic nowadays.

Disney is a business. And contrary to what many think, their primary goal is to make money, not magic. Because of this, the Disney marketing team is constantly coming up with new ways to entice people to visit the Most Magical Place on Earth. I understand this, and accept it, but I still miss my beloved Octobers of the 70's, 80's, and 90's.

These next two pictures were taken right after the Magic Kingdom opened (9am) sometime in early October, 1989. When was the last time you saw Main Street this empty during the day?


Main Street

Main Street


I miss breakfast at Tony's Town Square Café. If you want a full-fledged morning meal in the Magic Kingdom, you can either go to Cinderella's Royal Table or the Crystal Palace, both character meals. Not everyone wants to pay extra to dine with Tigger, Pooh, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. Some of us would like eggs & bacon sans characters.

One of my fondest memories of the Magic Kingdom is enjoying a Christmas morning breakfast on Tony's porch, watching the holiday guests arrive.


Tony's Town Square Café


I miss the House of Magic on Main Street. As a kid, I loved going into the Magic Shop at Disneyland and marveling at the magician's slight-of-hand illusions. I also loved browsing the merchandise racks in this shop, longing to buy a marked deck of cards or a fly suspended in plastic that looked like an ice cube. These were good times and have provided me with good memories.

I didn't start visiting Walt Disney World until I was an adult, but the kid in me still enjoyed the illusionist and the shelves stocked full of tricks and gags found in the House of Magic on Main Street. Unfortunately, magic tricks and gags don't bring in as much cash as Disney souvenirs and magicians are paid more than sales clerks.


House of Magic


I miss the large trees that once graced the Hub. These beautiful old oaks provided shade and softened the overall feel of this area. And in the evening, they lit up with hundreds of make-believe fireflies. These trees were removed to provide more viewing opportunities when Disney started projecting images on the castle as part of their nighttime entertainment.


Big Trees on the Hub

Big Trees on the Hub

Big Trees on the Hub

Small Trees on the Hub

Small Trees on the Hub


I already miss the recently removed Rose Pavilion that was razed as part of the Hub makeover. This was such a wonderful place to escape and relax.


Rose Pavilion

Missing Rose Pavilion


Here is an artist rendering of what the new Hub will look like when complete.


Hub Artist Concept Drawing


I miss the rocking chairs that once sat beneath the arbor next to Liberty Tree Tavern. This was a wonderful place to sit and people watch. I don't know why these were removed as rocking chairs still exist in Frontierland and in front of Exposition Hall on Main Street.


Liberty Tree Tavern


I miss Aunt Poly's. This spot on Tom Sawyer Island once served cold fried chicken, ham sandwiches, chips, and brownies. It was a wonderful place to have lunch and escape from the crowds.


Aunt Poly's


I miss the log cabin on fire as seen from the Liberty Belle Riverboat. I realize that burning gas for this prop was wasteful, but I was okay with the cellophane fire effect that replaced the real flames. I mean, if you can accept the "statuesque" moose and deer on the banks of the river, fake fire is okay. Now this all-but-forgotten structure isn't even mentioned by Sam Clemens or Captain Horace Bixby as we pass by.


Log Cabin


Epcot


Over at Epcot, I miss the Lucite work-of-art that sat on top of the fountain in front of Spaceship Earth. Well, that's not really true. By the time the Imagineers got around to refreshing this fountain, the Lucite was looking pretty tired and dated. But I do feel this fountain looks naked without something eye-catching perched on top of it. Disney must agree on some level because they occasionally use this spot during the annual Flower and Garden show.


Epcot Fountain

Epcot Fountain

Epcot Fountain


I miss Dreamfinder. Enough said.


Dreamfinder


I miss the double-decker buses that once circled World Showcase. I admit, they really didn't offer good transportation around this promenade, but I loved sitting on the upper level for a different perspective of the countries. But alas, the large crowds of today would not grant these stately vehicles safe passage.


Double Decker Bus


I miss the flamingos that once enjoyed the waters near the Mexico Pavilion. They were beautiful to watch and added atmosphere to the area.


Flamingos


I miss the song that played in the old "El Rio del Tiempo" attraction, "Ola Mis Amigos." I like the re-imagining of this attraction to include the Three Caballeros. And I understand why this song was retired. But I still miss it. It was a catchy tune.


El Rio del Tiempo


I miss the Viking ship playground that once sat beside the Norway Pavilion. Not that I played on it, but I did enjoy watching kids getting lost in make-believe. This mini-attraction was removed due to safety concerns.


Viking Ship


I miss long trains on the miniature railroad at the Germany Pavilion. By 'long train' I mean an engine pulling six or seven cars and a caboose at the end. I can't remember when I last saw more than a single vehicle traveling along the tracks here.


Germany Trains

Germany Trains


In the same pavilion I miss the movement of the wooden oompah band inside the Der Teddybär shop. At one time, this cute display perched in the rafters of the store was animated. But alas, it's been a long time since I've seen these characters move to the rhythm of their music. I hope this lack of movement is on someone's punch list and these characters will be brought back to life someday soon.


Oompah Band


In the France Pavilion I miss the second story of Plume et Palette. At one time, this space was an art gallery and sold prints of the French masters. This spot also offered wonderful views of the World Showcase promenade.


France Pavilion

France Pavilion

France Pavilion


At the Canada Pavilion, I miss the fine shop that was located within the Hôtel du Canada. The merchandise here was more refined and genteel compared to the goods sold in the Northwest Mercantile located on the lower level of the pavilion.


Canada Shop

Canada Shop

Canada Shop


At the Coral Reef Restaurant, I miss butter shaped like Mickey Mouse. It was fun to cut his head off.


Mickey Butter


Disney's Hollywood Studios

At Sci-Fi Dine-In I miss the clever menu names that were once offered here. Most selections had sci-fi appropriate names such as "Onion Rings of Saturn," "Milky Way Shake," and "Monster Mashed Potatoes." Now the menu offers standard names with no imagination. I also miss the roller-skating servers.


Sci-Fi Dine-In


On the Great Movie Ride, I miss the rotating Busby Berkeley Girls. When this attraction first opened, each level of this circular platform revolved opposite the level below. It added some pizzazz to an otherwise boring tableau. But due to technical problems, this movement was discontinued and a scrim was added to help hide this embarrassing display.

Come on Disney. How difficult can it be to rotate these plastic-looking girls?


Busby Berkeley Girls


Anyone who has taken the Studio Backstage Tour knows that you visit Catastrophe Canyon. After experiencing this special effect, the tram drives around behind the make-believe scenery to reveal how the magic is created. When I took this tour in October 1994, I snapped this picture of a sign posted on one of the electrical control boxes.


You're Fired Sign

You're Fired Sign


This sign cracked me up because it was so un-Disney. It was so un-magical. I'm sure this is why it was removed. But I miss it.

In the fall of 2009, Imagineers tested an animatronic version of Pixar's Luxo Jr. (the dancing lamp). Every 15-20 minutes, Luxo Jr. made an appearance across the street from Toy Story Mania. Perched on a stage above the crowd, this cute little fellow danced to a variety of tunes. The passing crowd would come to a standstill as Luxo Jr. went through his routine. However, he was discontinued soon after his debut with no official explanation. Luxo Jr. was cute. I miss him.


Luxo Jr.

Luxo Jr.


I miss the unobstructed view of the Chinese Theater at the end of Hollywood Blvd.


Chinese Theater


I miss the vehicles that were once parked on Hollywood Blvd, Sunset Blvd, and New York Street. I'm sure they were removed to accommodate larger crowds, but they added a touch of realism.


Street Vehicles

Street Vehicles

Street Vehicles


I miss the coin-operated rocking horse that stood in front of Celebrity 5&10 on Hollywood Blvd. As a kid, I often begged my mother to let me ride similar machines that were strategically place in front of our local food market. I have seen this Disney horse come and go over the years, but it's been quite a while since its last appearance. I suspect upkeep on this machine became more than maintenance wanted to deal with.


Mechanical Rocking Horse


Animal Kingdom


Since the Animal Kingdom is the newest park at Walt Disney World, it has seen fewer changes over the years. But there are still a few things I miss. The first are the scarlet ibis that once greeted guests just passed the ticket booths. Their vivid color always impressed me.


Scarlet Ibis


I know that in any zoo, the exhibits are constantly changing, but I still look for the return of the scarlet ibis someday.

Also on the Oasis are the "tunnel" rock formations. Similar underpasses spanned both the west and east passageways leading to Discovery Island. These portals provided a nice transition into the main park. About a year ago, the upper rock portions were removed on both walkways.


Tunnels

Missing Tunnels


When this happened, I figured management needed a higher clearance for vehicles to pass beneath. However when I asked a cast member, I was told that water had seeped into the fake rocks and damaged the structure beyond reasonable repair. I don't know if this is true or not, but I miss the tunnels.

I miss the name "Countdown to Extinction", the original name for the Dinosaur attraction. I also miss the menacing triceratops that once stood sentinel.


Countdown to Extinction


To help promote the 2000 Disney movie "Dinosaur," Michael Eisner had the attraction's name changed to "Dinosaur" and the triceratops replaced with Aladar, the friendly iguanodon that starred in the movie. The film was mildly successful, but certainly not counted among one of the Disney greats.


Dinosaur


I understand the importance of Disney tie-ins, but I wish they had left this attraction's name and mascot alone.

In the spring of 2012, a branch fell from the Tree of Life. No one was harmed, but it was an alarming event. As safety is always top priority with Disney, they immediately took action to make sure no guest could be harmed while they investigated and repaired this and any other trouble spots. To that end, they built open-air canopies over the Discovery Island Nature Trails and portions of the "It's Tough to be a Bug" queue.


Protective Covers


I totally understand Disney's move and I applaud their quick response. But now I feel like I'm in a cage and my view of the Tree of Life diminished. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that someday, after all repairs have been made, these canopies will be removed.


Downtown Disney


Over at Downtown Disney, the Empress Lilly riverboat (Fulton's) is missing its paddlewheel.


Paddlewheel

Missing Paddlewheel


I have no idea why it was removed. It added realism to the structure. Without the paddlewheel, the boat looks stupid. Once again, I suspect this was an upkeep issue and management didn't want to spend the money.

I miss the personalized swizzle sticks and fruit picks that every resort and restaurant once offered. These made wonderful souvenirs.


Swizzle Sticks


Okay. Now it's your turn. Tell me what LITTLE things you miss. Please don't tell me you miss the Adventurers' Club or Horizons. These are BIG things and we all miss them. I'm looking for small details that help promote the magic. The "stop and smell the roses" stuff.



May 19, 2014

All Star Resorts -- A Relook

Jack Spence Masthead

I recently stayed at the Coronado Springs Resort to see what had changed since my last review several years earlier. Today I will be revisiting the All Star Resorts to take another look at these value properties. The last time I visited here was in April, 2011.

When I first started visiting Disney World, my only lodging options were the Contemporary and the Polynesian. As the years went by, I've always been fortunate enough to be able to afford the other deluxe resorts as they were added to the lineup. It wasn't until I moved to Orlando and began writing for AllEars that I stayed at the All Stars for the first time. And I have to tell you. I like them - a lot. In fact, I occasionally stop by for lunch in one of their food courts simply because I enjoy the atmosphere here. The All Star Sports, Music, and Movies are a hoot! They're fun! They're crazy. In fact, I would recommend to any Disney fanatic to stop by for a visit one afternoon to experience their over-the-top architecture. It's worth your time to see how Disney has themed these imaginative resorts.

In reality, not much has changed since my last review three years ago so this will not be a full review. But it's always nice to know what's going on if this is your Disney resort of choice. To see what I wrote three years ago, click here.

The All Star Sports Resort was the first of the three to open (April 29, 1994) and this is where you'll see the biggest change. After 20 years, Disney has decided it's time to give the food court a new look and feel. And I'm glad they did. The food ordering stations were beginning to look dated and a little dingy. The new look is a lot brighter and less busy. The first picture was taken before the remodel, the second, after. Both were shot from approximately the same angle.


Old All Star Sports Food Court

New All Star Sports Food Court


However the biggest change can be seen out in the dining area. Once again, the Imagineers have gone for a less busy look. The old dining room featured a huge mural of sports figures. There were also room dividers topped with acrylic silhouettes of more athletes.


Old All Star Sports Dining Room

Old All Star Sports Dining Room

Old All Star Sports Dining Room


All of this has been replaced with brightly colored pictures of the Fab Five engaged in a variety of sports activities. These graphics are a lot more fun and a lot more kid friendly.


New All Star Sports Dining Room

New All Star Sports Dining Room

New All Star Sports Dining Room

New All Star Sports Dining Room


I spoke with a manager at the All Star Sports Resort and was told that the food courts at Music and Movies Resorts will also be seeing similar refurbishments in the months to come.

A special note" The Hidden Mickey Guy, Steve Barrett, has been immortalized at the All Star Sports Resort food court. A caricature of him can be found on one of the new wall dividers.


Steve Barrett

Steve Barrett caricature


This next change is not restricted to just the All Star Sports Resort, but to ALL Disney resorts that offer beverage stations. You can no longer get unlimited refills with a standard beverage purchase. Your paper cup now has a microchip attached the bottom of it. When filling your cup for the first time, a small computer screen above the dispenser will inform you that you have three refills remaining for the next two hours (which is more than generous). When you return for a second helping, you are told you have two refills remaining until x-o'clock. And so on. If you want unlimited refills, you need to buy a Rapid Fill plastic mug. And don't think about using your own cup to steal beverages. Without this microchip, you get zip. Which seems more than fair to me.


Beverage Station


Another change can be seen in the Portrait Hall of all three lobby areas. In the past, photographs of recognizable people were displayed. Now the pictures are larger and more generic.


Portrait Hall

Portrait Hall


Even though the All Stars are divided into three sections (Sports, Music, and Movies), and each have their own check-in desks, it is considered one giant resort. This means that all All Star guests can use all of the common/public areas - like the swimming pools and play areas. However, I discovered a kink in this policy that even the resort's management wasn't aware of.

As you may know, all Disney resorts now use the Magic Band, armband, as a room key.


Arm Band


Before Magic Bands, the All Star laundry rooms were unlocked each day from 8am to 10pm. After hours, they required a room card key to enter.


Laundry Room


Now, all All Star laundry rooms are locked 24/7 and require an armband for access. However, your Magic Band will ONLY unlock the laundry rooms in your resort (Sports, Music, or Movies). For example, if you're staying at Music, you cannot use the laundry facilities at Sports, even if you're enjoying the Sports pool.

I discovered this while trying to take pictures of the various laundry rooms and could not gain access to some of them. It took me over an hour of discussions with several managers to finally find out what was going on. And it was news to them too. I don't know if this policy will change in the future, but that's the way it is now.

On this last visit, I stayed at Music. The room has changed a bit. The first thing you'll notice is the bedspread is missing and has been replaced with a simple throw. This gives the room a cleaner, more contemporary look. You'll also notice the room colors are different. The headboard and nightstand are the same.


Old Bed

New Bed


The chest-of-drawers and television stand are identical except a refrigerator has replaced the interior shelves.


Old Chest

New Chest


Speaking of the television, when you turn it on, your senses are no longer assaulted with Stacy telling you about the top 10 things to see and do at Disney. Instead, you are greeted to a simple information channel. If you want to find Stacy, you need to change channels. In addition, every time you turn the TV on, the volume is reset to its lowest setting. This is fantastic as you won't blast out others in the room who may be sleeping.

The table and mirror are the same but the chairs are new. I prefer the new chairs as they have a cushioned seat.


Old Table

New Table


All of the furniture in the All Stars have laminate surfaces. This allows adults to relax when their kids put wet items on the table and chest-of-drawers.

The old carpet was brighter and a little more festive. It also featured Mickeys in the design. The new carpet is darker and features stars. I think I prefer the old carpet style.


Old Carpet

New Carpet


The ceiling wallpaper boarder is new and more colorful. It now displays the resorts icons which is a nice touch.


Old Wallpaper


New Wallpaper


The drapes have also changed. Gone are the musical features in favor of simple stripes.


Old Drapes

New Drapes


My previous room had a picture of Donald Duck. My new room had a picture of Mickey Mouse. Although I don't know for certain, I suspect that the pictures change from room to room and have nothing to do with the upgrade.


Donald Picture

Mickey Picture


The only difference I could find in the bath area was the shower curtain. Gone is the plain design for one that features the resort's icons.


New Shower Curtain


That's it for the room. Now I'll take a walk around the resorts and point out a few more changes.

Currently, Mickey is missing from Mount Mickey at All Star Sports. I'm assuming he's backstage being refurbished.


Mount Mickey

Mount Mickey


Right after I took the above picture, a family walked up to this empty pedestal and encouraged their teenaged daughters to climb up for a photo op. Once on top, each girl took a one-legged "sports" pose. I just cringed.

PLEASE. Do not encourage your children to act irresponsibly. These girls had absolutely no business being atop this high pedestal. I don't care that there were no signs posted. Common sense tells you that this is a dangerous stunt. If they had fallen, they could have been injured seriously and their hard-earned vacation would have gone down the drain.

In the Touchdown! Section of All Star Sports, the three-dimensional X's and O's have been replaced by a football play embedded in the turf. I suspect this change was made for safety reasons.


X's and O's

Football Play


In the Broadway section of Music, the marquees that anchored the main entrances to the buildings have been upgraded. In years past, the marquee surface was full of small holes and "Beauty and the Beast" was the only show spotlighted. Today, the marquee surfaces are solid. In addition, Disney has had many more Broadway shows since the construction of this resort and their posters have been added to the lineup.


Old Marquee

New Marquee

New Marquee


Over at All Star Movies, Herbie is missing from The Winner's Circle. Once again, I'm assuming that he's just backstage being refurbished as the plaque describing him is still present.


Winner's Circle

Winner's Circle

Winner's Circle


As you can see, the changes to this resort are minor. This whimsical place is still as much fun as it always was.

To wrap things up, I would like to give my recommendations of which of the fifteen themed areas are best depending on your needs. A particular section can be requested when making your reservation, but not guaranteed.

If you want to be close to the food court, bus stop, and the major pool, stay in the Surf's Up (Sports), Calypso (Music), or Fantasia (Movies) sections.


Surf's Up

Calypso

Fantasia


If you have young children, I suggest the Toy Story (Movies) section. Your kids can easily relate to the film characters and there is a play area nearby.


Toy Story

Toy Story


If you're a smoker, the Broadway (Music) section is nice. This area has a lovely secluded park that is wonderful for a relaxing break.


Broadway


If you like to eat alfresco, try the Country Fair (Music) section. There are a number of picnic tables under numerous shade trees. This is a wonderful spot.


Country Fair


If you want a quiet swim, the Mighty Ducks (Movies) section features the least used pool.


Mighty Ducks


If you plan on doing laundry while on vacation, the Mighty Ducks (Movies) and Baseball (Sports) sections are closest to the least busy facilities.


Mighty Ducks

Baseball

RELATED LINKS:
** Reader Reviews All Star Movies

** Reader Reviews All Star Music

** Reader Reviews All Star Sports


That's it for my relook at the All Star Resort. Check back next week when I start my Tomorrowland series.



May 26, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


I hope you all like Tomorrowland, because for the next eight weeks this will be the topic of my blogs. Why eight weeks? Because this land has seen more attractions and changes to its theming than any other area in the Magic Kingdom.

To cover this vast land, I will be taking an interesting approach. To begin with, I will discuss the attractions and architecture through approximately 1994. It was in this year that Tomorrowland began a major transformation. Once I complete the early years, I will begin again describing the newer attractions and the current look and feel of this land of the future. So when you finish today's article, don't write to tell me I've forgotten Alien Encounter or Stitch's Great Escape. I'll get there eventually. It will just take some time.

And one more thing" I have covered several of the Tomorrowland attractions in the past and I plan on reusing some of the same passages and photographs again. So if while reading my blogs you get the feeling of déjà vu, you really have read it before.


Tomorrowland


When I was a kid, Tomorrowland was my favorite land at Disneyland. Even before the 1966/67 reimagining of this land, I was fascinated with the offerings here. I remember touring Monsanto's House of the Future and riding Richfield's Autopia and thought they were great.


House of the Future

Autopia


Sometime after 1959, I remember waiting an agonizing hour in line to ride in the General Dynamics' Submarine Voyage and then another hour to ride the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail.


Submarine Voyage

Disneyland Alweg Monorail


But real bliss came in the spring of 1968 when I came back home to California after living in Japan for over two years. Shortly after my return, my cousin and I were deemed old enough to visit Disneyland on our own. I was 15 and Steven was 13. We were dropped off at the Disneyland entrance by our parents early one morning and had an all new park to explore as things had changed dramatically since our last visit. All of the World's Fair attractions had been added. Pirates of the Caribbean had opened. There was an all-new Tomorrowland to discover: Monsanto's Adventure Thru Inner Space, AT&T's new Circle-Vision Movie, McDonnell/Douglas's Flight to the Moon, Goodyear's PeopleMover, and best of all, GE's Carousel of Progress (which was a free attraction in the days of ticket books).


Adventures Thru Inner Space Poster

America the Beautiful

Flight to the Moon

People Mover

Carousel of Progress


At Disneyland, acreage is at a premium, so the Imagineers need to pack as much "wow" factor as they can into relatively small areas. This impressed me with Tomorrowland. Everywhere I looked something exciting was happening. The future was all around me and I savored every aspect of it. Tomorrowland was energetic. Tomorrowland was dynamic. Tomorrowland was vibrant. But most of all, Tomorrowland was boss to a 15 year old kid.

Although I was too young at this age to really appreciate Walt's hand in things, I know now that Tomorrowland was his vision of a utopian society. He believed that corporate America could help solve people's problems and he recruited their sponsorship to help finance his dreams. This can be seen by the many business names I mentioned in the paragraphs above.

As we know, the Magic Kingdom was modeled after Disneyland. With the exception of Liberty Square replacing New Orleans Square, all of the other lands would be reimagined for this new park and Tomorrowland was no exception. And just like Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom would open with an incomplete Tomorrowland. Here are two pictures I took in January, 1972, just three months after the park had opened.

In this first picture, we're looking toward what will someday be the Astro Orbiters. On the right is the America the Beautiful attraction and on the left is the Flight to the Moon ride. In the middle of the picture is a construction wall.


Unfinished Tomorrowland


This next picture was taken from the Skyway. The building to the right would someday house the If You Had Wings attraction. The center area would eventually be the home of the Tomorrowland Theater. And Carousel of Progress would be located to the left.


Unfinished Tomorrowland


I wish I had more pictures of this era to share with you, but film was expensive on a Disneyland salary in 1972 and who wanted construction pictures back then. I wanted pictures of the finished product.

As I've shared in other blogs, the entrance to Tomorrowland was much different in the early years. Two water-spewing spires marked the beginning of the land of the future. When the wind was light, this was an impressive sight. Unfortunately, even the smallest breeze caused the water to spray those walking by.

The first picture below was taken at a later date than the second picture. You can tell because the large walls behind the spires are different. When Tomorrowland first opened, the walls were a solid blue color. Later they were given a mosaic design.


Tomorrowland Entrance

Tomorrowland Entrance


I took the second picture above not for the spires, but for the cast member. His popcorn vendor costume had debuted at the Magic Kingdom and would be coming to Disneyland soon. (This was exciting stuff to a CM back then.)


Popcorn Vendor


The first attraction I'll be discussing today is Flight to the Moon. The Magic Kingdom version of this ride would be based on the second Disneyland iteration of this attraction. The first such attraction at Disneyland was called Rocket to the Moon and ran from 1955 until 1966. The attraction reopened after the Tomorrowland remodel and was titled Flight to the Moon. This would be the version that opened in the Magic Kingdom on December 24, 1971.

The experience began when a hostess escorted us into a preshow area called Spaceport Mission Control. Here she introduced us to Tom Morrow (voiced by George Walsh). While waiting for Flight 92 to finish final flight preparations, our hostess asked Mr. Morrow several short questions relevant to our flight. Mr. Morrow would then spend the next five minutes explaining the various operations being conducted here. Flight to the Moon was the very first attraction in which a live actor would carry on a conversation with an AA figure.


Mission Control


During the middle of Mr. Morrow's orientation, alarms began to sound and red lights flashed. From the loud speakers we heard, "Emergency, emergency! Unauthorized approach on Runway Number 12!" Then, one by one, each monitor switched to a video of the crisis, only to discover it was an albatross coming in for a less than stellar landing. When things settle down, Mr. Morrow chuckles, "Well, at least this is one UFO we can identify."


Albatross

Albatross


By the way, the Imagineers have included this historic albatross footage in the Mission: Space attraction at Epcot. Look for it on one of the monitors in the Mission Control section of the queue. It repeats every several minutes.

Once Mr. Morrow finished his tour, our hostess escorted everyone to the Lunar Transport (capacity 162) that would take us to the moon and back. Inside the spacecraft, the seats were located on four levels, positioned in a circular arrangement. There were two large, round viewing screens, one on the floor and one on the ceiling. These would be activated once the flight began, the lower screen showing guests where they had been and the upper where they were going. There were two more traditional monitors attached to the walls on each side of the cabin. These were used by the captain to display videos of interest.


Rocket Ship Cabin


(Note: The above picture of Mission Control and the photo showing the interior cabin are actually from the Mission to Mars attraction, but this attraction and Flight to the Moon were virtually indistinguishable from one another.)

As Flight 92 took off, hydraulic mechanisms beneath each seat deflated, causing guests to sink an inch lower in their seats. This was supposed to simulate the G-forces of acceleration. In 1971, it was a reasonable effect. Later in the flight, the hydraulics were reactivated, this time raising our seat an inch or so. This was supposed to make us believe we were experiencing weightlessness. Trust me. It didn't work. It just felt like something was exerting pressure on your bottom. (Mission: Space at Epcot has accomplished both the acceleration and weightlessness effect much better.)

Eventually, Flight 92 made it to the moon, but we did not land. Instead, we were treated to a live interview with an astronaut currently stationed there for exploration. He told us about his space suit, described some of the landscape, and demonstrated the fun of being weightless while pointing out the dangers of such falderal.

After the interview concluded, we continued our trip around the moon, surveying the pockmarked surface below. When we passed into the dark side of the moon, flairs were launched to enable us to see the landscape beneath us.

Eventually, our tour of the moon concluded and we started our journey back to the Earth. But of course, one more adventure awaited us. With no warning, we passed through a shower of meteoroids. Lights flashed, alarms sounded, and our hydraulic seats lowered and raised several times. When things settled down, the captain told us that we took a few hits, but we'd make it home alright. It was all very exciting.

Our trip to the moon and back took eight minutes. It required a "D" ticket.

In case you were curious, the cast members working on Flight to the Moon were all female. This made perfect sense since all airline flight attendants (stewardesses) at that time were female.

Even though Flight to the Moon presented a time in the future when space travel to the lunar surface was common place, this attraction was already out of date when it opened. Man had landed on the moon four times by the time this attraction premiered at the Magic Kingdom. The moon had become ho-hum. Less than four years later, Flight to the Moon took its final voyage at the Magic Kingdom on April 15, 1975.

Mission to Mars filled the void left by Flight to the Moon and opened on June 7, 1975. In an effort to keep costs at a minimum, the basic ride facility was changed minimally.


Mission to Mars


Once again, our voyage began when a hostess directed us into the Mission Control Center. And once again, the lead technician (now Mr. Johnson) stood before the same bank of TV monitors and spoke to the waiting passengers. This time, our preflight briefing included information about zero-gravity manufacturing and the production of crystals in space. And just like in the Flight to the Moon briefing, an alarm sounded during the presentation and all monitors switched to see the same footage of an albatross landing at the space facility. Only this time, Mr. Johnson says, "Oh no, not again! Just as I thought. Somehow this silly bird trips the emergency system every time he comes in. And I think he knows the laugh's on us." (Trust me. It was funny in the 1970's.)

After the laughter died down, Mr. Johnson showed the waiting passengers actual NASA footage taken from aboard Skylab and pictures of Mars taken by Mariner 9. Of course, it was all given a Disney spin that made it applicable to the Mission to Mars attraction. When the five minute preshow completed, the hostess escorted everyone into one of the two theaters that would simulate Space Flight 295 aboard a DC-88 Space Liner.

Our blast off to Mars was very similar to our blast off to the moon. On the lower screen we saw the rocket's flames and on the upper screen we saw a blue sky give way to a starry field. And our seat still sank an inch to simulate G-forces. However, a new element had been added to the story to help explain how we could make a trip to Mars in such a short amount of time. Our tour guide, Third Officer Collins, told us that we would be using a new method of space travel called a hyperspace-jump. This would allow us to travel vast distances in just a few seconds. During the hyperspace-jump, a psychedelic light display was projected on the upper and lower screens while the words "Hyperspace Penetration" blinked on the wall-mounted monitors. All the while, sci-fi sound effects were loudly pumped into the cabin. This was Disney's version of a wormhole. Hey, this was state-of-the-art stuff at the time. LOL

With our hyperspace-jump complete, we now saw Mars looming nearby on the upper screen. As we flew closer, our ship dispatched several camera rocket drones. These would give us close-up views of the red planet while we maintained a safer distance above.

While exploring Olympus Mans, a huge volcano on the Martian surface, the ship was hit by a shower of meteoritic particles. An emergency was declared and the craft entered another hyperspace-jump for a quick trip back to Earth. Once we were out of danger, Third Officer Collins says, "Everything's all right now, but ah, that was a close call. Actually the chances are a million to one against meeting another emergency like that, so please fly with us another time. There's a lot more to see on Mars. Now, please stand by for touchdown."

Unfortunately, there really wasn't a lot more to see on Mars after all. By the mid to late 1980's, this "D" ticket attraction was showing its age and sophisticated audiences were abandoning it for more high tech fare over at EPCOT Center's Future World. Mr. Johnson welcomed his last passengers at the Magic Kingdom on October 4, 1993.

Luckily, Tom Morrow and Mr. Johnson have not been forgotten completely. From 1994 to 2009, an onboard TTA announcement could be heard which said, "Paging Mr. Morrow. Mr. Tom Morrow. Your party from Saturn has arrived. Please give them a ring." Today, a new TTA announcement says "Paging Mr. Morrow. Mr. Tom Morrow. Please contact Mr. Johnson in the control tower to confirm your flight to the moon."

Over at Innoventions, a small, wiry robot has been seen in several locations and he is called Tom Morrow 2.0.


Tom Morrow 2.


I have read that the original AudioAnimatronics figure that was used for Tom Morrow and Mr. Johnson was reused as S.I.R. in the Alien Encounter attraction. However, I have serious doubts about this. S.I.R. was an extremely sophisticated AA figure and could move in ways his predecessors could never imagine.

That's it for Part One of my Tomorrowland series. Check back next Monday when I'll explore other, early attractions in the land of the future.



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About May 2014

This page contains all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in May 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2014 is the previous archive.

June 2014 is the next archive.

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