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July 7, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Seven

Jack Spence Masthead


Welcome back to Part Seven of my Tomorrowland series.

In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 - Tomorrowland An Overview - Flight to the Moon - Mission to Mars
Part 2 - Circle-Vision movies - If You Had Wings - Dream Flight
Part 3 - Skyway - Star Jets - WEDWay PeopleMover
Part 4 - Carousel of Progress.
Part 5 - Space Mountain and the Grand Prix Raceway
Part 6 - Tomorrowland History Around the World

Last week I discussed how Tomorrowland had been transformed from a dated 1970's look into a retro Space Port that might have been imagined by the visionaries of the 1920's and 30's. I also discussed Alien Encounter and Stitch's Great Escape. Today I'll be taking a look at The Timekeeper, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

On the right side of Tomorrowland's entrance corridor we found the Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center. Here we could travel to the past and future with "The Timekeeper."


The Timekeeper

The Timekeeper


This attraction originally debuted at Euro Disneyland on April 12, 1992, then at Tokyo Disneyland on April 15, 1993, and finally in Florida on November 21, 1994. When the attraction first opened in the Magic Kingdom, it was called "From Time to Time" and was presented in the Transportarium. Six months later, the attraction was renamed "The Timekeeper" and the theater renamed the "Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center."

The lobby for The Timekeeper continued the mechanical-age theme found outside. Carved stone created bases on which iron girders rested. The walls were accented with acrylic cylinders filled with some sort of bubbling liquid. And glowing orbs radiated light. It was reminiscent of what a museum or science center might have looked like if designed by visionaries of the past.


The Timekeeper Lobby

The Timekeeper Lobby

The Timekeeper Lobby


The preshow introduced guests to 9-Eye. This name referred to the nine cameras this Circumvisual Photo Droid used to transmit pictures back to the Timekeeper. While waiting for the time-travel presentation to begin, we witnessed a film of 9-Eye at work filming: plunging over Niagara Falls, riding the Space Shuttle, and entering a barn full of explosives. 9-Eye was voiced by Rhea Pearlman.


9-Eye

9-Eye


The Timekeeper attraction would reuse the CircleVision movie concept, but for the first time, add a linear story to the show. To help tell this story, an AudioAnimatronics character was used. His name was Timekeeper and voiced by Robin Williams. Timekeeper would also be a state-of-the-art AA figure as audiences would be watching him for a significant amount of time and it was necessary that he portray believability.


Timekeeper


When entering the presentation area, guests saw Timekeeper behind a panel of controls, busily checking his instrumentation. As he tinkered, he made occasional comments to the incoming audience, hurrying them along. Once everyone was in place and his instruments calibrated, the show began. A readout on Timekeeper's panel displayed the current year and would change as we jumped from era to era.


Timekeeper


Our adventure began with a quick trip to the Jurassic period where 9-Eye was attacked by an angry allosaurus. From there we visited the Ice Age and then a medieval battle scene. We briefly met Leonardo da Vinci (played by Franco Nero) before dropping in on a recital being given by a young Mozart. Eventually we ended up at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris where we met Jules Verne (Michel Piccoli) and HG Wells (Jeremy Irons). The two authors had a brief squabble about time travel before Verne discovered 9-Eye. While examining 9-Eye, Vern got enveloped in Timekeeper's time vortex and was accidentally transported to present day. After some discussion, it was decided to show Verne around and we were treated to some beautiful and zany CircleVision scenery. Ultimately, Verne was brought back to the Paris Exposition where he once again ran into HG Wells.

Leaving the authors in the past, Timekeeper decided to send 9-Eye into the future, along with a family from the audience. He chose the date 2189, 300 years after the Exposition Universelle. We were then treated to an aerial view of future Paris. While hovering over the City of Lights, another flying vehicle pulled up beside us with Verne and Wells sitting side by side. 9-Eye asked them, "How did you get here?" and Verne responded, "In the future, anything is possible."

As this show was originally created for Euro Disneyland, it featured all European locales. In an effort to cater to American audiences, a scene of Red Square in Moscow and another in Roissy Airport in Paris were omitted and a flyover a New York City was added.

Due to reduced attendance, the show was only open seasonally beginning in January, 2001. However, during the construction of Stitch's Great Escape, The Timekeeper was open most days to help boost ride capacity in Tomorrowland.

A dwindling guest count wouldn't be this attraction's only problem. When each presentation began and ended, Timekeeper's clock displayed the current year. After 9/11, this became problematic as the World Trade Center was prominently seen in the flyover of New York City. After some discussion, it was decided to begin and end each show with the year 2000 being displayed, a year before the attacks. However, this created some confusion with audiences that didn't understand why this date was being displayed when it was actually 2003, 2004, etc.

The terrorist attacks also slowed tourism significantly and some attractions suffered more than others. The Timekeeper was one of these. Eventually, it was decided that The Timekeeper had seen its day and it closed for good on February 26, 2006.

The American Adventure also encountered a similar problem after the 9/11 attacks as the World Trade Center could be seen in the final scene of the film montage. This was rectified by a fireworks display superimposed over the buildings.

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor replaced The Timekeeper and opened on April 2, 2007.


<br />
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

<br />
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

<br />
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor


If you remember the plotline of the movie "Monster's Inc.," you know that the city of Monstropolis was powered by the screams of frightened children. It is later discovered that laughter provides ten times more power than screams and their scare factory has been converted from one source of power to another.

This story is continued in Tomorrowland. Here we learn that instead of the monsters coming to the human world to gather laughter, humans have been invited to enter the monster world and visit their power factory.

The first waiting area for Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor is essentially unchanged from The Timekeeper attraction. The only difference is the addition of overhead banners that contain jokes and give instructions on how to submit your own anecdotes to be performed by the monsters once everyone is seated in the comedy club.


Monster's Inc Lobby

Monster's Inc Lobby


At the far end of this room is a set of doors. These doors act as a portal in which humans can leave Tomorrowland and enter the monster world. Once they open, approximately 450 are admitted.


Doors into the Monster World


In this next room we find another set of doors. Above them it says "Scare Factory 17." However the word "SCARE" has been partially overlaid with a banner that says "LAUGH." Beyond these doors is the laugh factory, but it will be a few more minutes before we are allowed to enter. Take this time to look around.


Scare Factory 17


This area was once the break room for monsters before they began their shift in the next room scaring children. It has since been converted into a lobby for humans waiting for the upcoming comedy show.


Break Room


You can see evidence that this was once a break room by checking out the various items found in this area. The first of these is a snack machine. I especially like the option, "Salt, Sugar, and Fat."


Snack Machine


Another tell-tale clue is a bulletin board on the wall. Besides displaying the mandatory work safety rules, monsters have posted a number of personal ads for their co-workers. These postings are funny and definitely worth your time.


Bulletin Board


More evidence that this once was a break area can be found on another wall. At one time, this bulletin board proudly displayed the photographs of the "Scarer of the Month." Now it displays "Monsters of Comedy."


Monsters of Comedy


The monsters realized that they had to keep the humans entertained before the next show so a number of TV monitors were installed in this old break room. Here we see Roz showing outtakes of Mike Wazowski from past shows. These outtakes are heavy into slapstick and help warm up the audience before the real show begins. We are also given instructions on how to text jokes to the monsters. It's just possible that your joke will be included in one of the upcoming routines.


Roz

Mike Pratfalls


This preshow video was recently updated to include information about Monster's University. We learn that the comedians we will be seeing are still in school and not the cream of the crop.

Eventually it's time for the antics to begin and we enter the showroom. If you pay attention, you can see that the room is round, a reminder of the CircleVision movies that were once shown here. But the Imagineers have done a good job of converting this space and it doesn't reek of a remodel. Rows of seats face the stage and the occasional cocktail lamp accents the small tables. As with any Disney theater presentation, you will be asked to move to the end of your row. Please do so. All of the seats are good.


Laugh Floor

Laugh Floor

Laugh Floor


Mike Wazowski is the Monsters of Ceremony while Roz keeps the show moving along. During the presentation, a number of animated monsters entertain us with silly and very wholesome jokes. As they do, a large canister located near the stage is seen filling with energy as the laughs continue.

The main presentation of Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor is not a movie in which the same film is shown at each performance. This is a live show that uses computerized animated puppetry to create characters that can move and speak on cue. The monsters can also see into the audience and with the help of microphone-carrying ushers, communicate with several of the humans. And one "lucky" person will be selected to be "That Guy."

The show runs about 10 minutes and is a lot of fun. Most jokes are corny and understandable by children, but a few take a little more adult sophistication to get. Generally people leave the monster world with a smile on their face.

There is a faction out there that feels that Tomorrowland's backstory has been lost with the addition of Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. They feel this land has been "over animated" in an effort to cater to young children and their parents. They also question what monsters have to do with Tomorrowland and believe this attraction is poorly themed for its current location. Many long for Tomorrowland to return to more science fiction/fact based rides.

The first Tomorrowland attraction to be based on animated characters was "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin." Replacing "Take Flight," this ride officially opened on November 3, 1998 and was based on the Pixar "Toy Story" movie series.


Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin


As with all attractions, our adventure begins in the queue. Since Buzz Lightyear is a toy, all of the props in this waiting area are oversized to make us believe we share the dimensions of the Toy Story gang.


Buzz Lightyear Queue

Buzz Lightyear Queue

Buzz Lightyear Queue

Buzz Lightyear Queue


As we approach the loading area we find Buzz Lightyear talking to his new recruits, the Junior Space Rangers. He is motivating them with powerful words as he outlines the mission objectives. It seems the Evil Emperor Zurg is attempting to steal crystallic fusion cells (batteries) used by the Little Green Men to power their spacecraft. It is the job of the Junior Space Rangers to stop Zurg.


Buzz Lightyear


Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin is a combination dark ride and video arcade game. Using the latest in Omnimover design, the ride vehicles are under the control of the passengers and can be rotated 360 degrees with the use of a joystick. The track layout is the same as the one used when "If You Had Wings" opened in this building on June 5, 1972.

Two passengers can fit comfortably into one of the colorfully painted XP-37 Space Cruisers. Each rider has a pivoting laser gun which is attached to the console. Beside each gun is an electronic scoreboard. The joystick is positioned between the guns.


XP-38 Space Cruisers

XP-38 Space Cruisers


When this ride opened at the other four Disney resorts around the world, the laser guns were not attached to the console, but rather tethered to the ride vehicles via cables. This allows guest to pick guns up giving them more maneuverability and better aim.

The ride begins in a dark room. This is a good time to check the gun's accuracy. Aim at the black wall and fire. Note if the laser beam is pointing slightly up, down, left, or right of center. This is valuable information that you can use to rack up more points once the space battle begins.

The adventure takes Junior Space Rangers through the galactic world of Evil Emperor Zurg and Buzz Lightyear. Florescent monsters, robots, and other creatures line each side of the track. On these otherworldly objects are Emperor Zurg insignias. It's your job to hit as many of these emblems as possible while traveling through the Gamma Quadrant.


Gamma Quadrant Targets

Gamma Quadrant Targets

Gamma Quadrant Targets

Gamma Quadrant Targets

Gamma Quadrant Targets

Gamma Quadrant Targets


The targets have different point values, but there is no way of knowing this in advance. When you hit a target, the amount is tabulated on your personal scoreboard. Usually the more difficult or hidden the target, the higher its value. However, the location of these high-scoring targets is changed periodically as hardcore lovers of this attraction learn quickly were the best insignias are located. The top score is 999,999. I achieved this once while riding with one of these hardcore aficionados. I also learned on my ride with this guy that there are hidden targets on the dark walls of the Speed Tunnel. If you look closely, you can make them out.

At the end of the ride, a large sign informs you of your new rank depending on how well you succeeded at combating Evil Emperor Zurg.

Level 1 Star Cadet: 0 - 1,000
Level 2 Space Ace: 1,001 - 10,000
Level 3 Planetary Pilot: 10,001 - 100,000
Level 4 Space Scout: 100,001 - 300,000
Level 5 Ranger 1st Class: 300,001 - 600,000
Level 6 Cosmic Commando: 600,001 - 999,998
Level 7 Galactic Hero: 999,999


Ranking Board


Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin is an extremely popular ride. FastPasses are highly recommended.

Across from Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin is an outdoor gift stand. It is designed to look like the claw machine/spacecraft of the Little Green Men.


Little Green Men

Little Green Men


Near the exit of Space Ranger Spin is a Buzz Lightyear meet-and-greet area. Like all character meeting areas, this one forms a line early in the day.


Buzz Lightyear


Buzz is standing in front of what once was the entrance to the Galaxy Palace Theater at Rockettower Plaza. This theater offered a proscenium arch type stage where full theatrical productions could be presented. In addition, the large bench-style seating area was protected from the hot sun with overhead canopies. The Galaxy Palace Theater was used for special events like Disney Magic Music Days and full-blown productions like "Mickey's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" show. However, for no reason ever given to the public, this stage was closed and demolished in January 2009. Rumors circulated that the area was needed for a new show building that would house an upcoming attraction, but nothing has ever been announced. Today this area is used as a cast member parking lot for those working in the offices located above Main Street.


Galaxy Palace Theater

Galaxy Palace Theater


To fill the void left by Galaxy Palace Theater, a replacement of sorts was built in the middle of Tomorrowland. This new venue is called Rockettower Plaza Stage.


Rockettower Plaza Stage


A new show debuted here on May 8, 2009 called "Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration." I was there on opening day and gave the presentation a favorable review. However, the show was not well received and closed seven weeks later on June 27th. I've always felt that a lack of seating and no protection from the sun has hindered this theater from being a true replacement for the Galaxy Palace Theater.


Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration


Today, the Rockettower Plaza Stage is used for special events, holiday shows, and dance parties where guests can boogie with the Incredibles, Stitch, and other galactic-clad characters.


Rockettower Plaza Stage

Rockettower Plaza Stage

Rockettower Plaza Stage


Stitch also can be found in this area posing for pictures.


Stitch


Now let's take a look at some of the smaller fun stuff that was added to Tomorrowland as part of the 1995 makeover.

Near the PeopleMover entrance we find Robo-Newz. This servant-of-the-future advertises that he will print the news while you wait. An old-style typewriter keyboard can be seen embedded in his chest. The newspaper for sale is the Galactic Gazette and today's headline proclaims that Stitch has escaped.


Robo-Newz

Robo-Newz

Robo-Newz


Nearby we find a phone booth of the future. Here, GCN (Galactic Communications Network) allows guests to call Toll Free from anywhere in the galaxy.


Galactic Phone Booth

Galactic Phone Booth


I just love the space-aged palm trees that mechanically grew in Tomorrowland.


Palm Tree


There is one item in Tomorrowland that intrigues both adults and children, the hovering granite ball. This polished stone floats on a thin layer of water and can be freely rotated with a slight push of the hand.


Floating Sphere


Contrary to what many believe, it is not high water pressure being pumped beneath this massive sphere holding it up. Actually, it is just the opposite. All it takes is a socket and sphere cut so precisely that not even a playing card could be inserted between them and a small pump that delivers low water pressure near the base of the sphere. The high density of water does the rest and the granite ball floats.

Thirsty? Head over to Cool Ship. This beverage station is designed to look like a futuristic shipping and receiving station. Nearby you can find several packages with galactic shipping labels attached.


Cool Ship

Cool Ship Package

Cool Ship Package


The rocket ship docked next to Cool Ship is actually one of two prop spacecraft used in the film "Flight of the Navigator." In the movie, the vehicle was sleek and silver. When it was brought to Tomorrowland, it was painted red, turned around backwards, and adorned with extra space aged paraphernalia.


Thirst Ranger


Nearby, the Disney Vacation Club Information Booth acts as a landing port for visiting flying saucers.


Space Port

Flying Saucer


Even the Tomorrowland drinking fountains and outdoor food carts were given a makeover in 1995 to match the new theming.


Drinking Fountain

Food Cart


That's it for Part Seven of my Tomorrowland series. Check back next week when I'll finish things up with a look at the remaining attractions.



July 14, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Eight

Jack Spence Masthead


Welcome back. Today will be my eighth and final article about Tomorrowland.

In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 - Tomorrowland An Overview - Flight to the Moon - Mission to Mars
Part 2 - Circle-Vision movies - If You Had Wings - Dream Flight
Part 3 - Skyway - Star Jets - WEDWay PeopleMover
Part 4 - Carousel of Progress.
Part 5 - Space Mountain and the Grand Prix Raceway
Part 6 - Tomorrowland History Around the World
Part 7 - The Timekeeper, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

Today I'll finish things with a look at how the Tomorrowland makeover of 1995 affected the Carousel of Progress, Space Mountain, the PeopleMover, Astro Orbiter, and the Tomorrowland Speedway. Let's start with Carousel of Progress (CoP).

I mentioned in Part Five of my series that a major makeover of Tomorrowland had been planned, but the ailing Euro Disney Resort was draining Disney's resources and a scaled back conversion of Tomorrowland was implemented instead. This can be seen when looking at how the reduced budget was allocated. The front half of Tomorrowland received the lion's share of the money and was beautifully transformed. On the other hand, the back half of Tomorrowland was short changed and only minor alterations were made.

Take a look at these CoP before and after pictures. Only the building's paint job was changed for the remodel. In the first picture, the rotating building was painted in blue and white stripes. In the second photo, the Imagineers replaced these bands of color with gears, cogs, and sprockets to tie this building in with the new Tomorrowland look as seen through the eyes of visionaries of the 1920's and 30's.


Carousel of Progress

Carousel of Progress


The next change came with the attraction being renamed "Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress" with the lettering being placed on more gears.


Carousel of Progress


Inside, the song "The Best Time of Your Life" was retired and the original "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" took its place. Those who grew up with "The Best Time of Your Life" were horrified. But those who remembered the attraction from the New York World's Fair and Disneyland were delighted. Even the Sherman Brothers admit their preference for the original song.

Another big change came to the show in this year. A new cast was hired to voice the characters headed by Jean Shepherd as Father. Shepherd is best remembered as the adult voice of Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" which was partially based on his story, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash." Grandma is now voiced by Janet Waldo who voiced Judy Jetson on the popular 1960s television cartoon show "The Jetsons." And Rex Allen returned as the voice of Grandpa.

The fourth act of the show was also updated. This time it would reflect the typical home in the year 2000. In the earlier iterations of this show, CoP jump 20 years with each rotation. But now it jumped 60 years from the 1940's in Act 3 to 2000 in Act 4.


Act 4


Attendance dropped dramatically at Walt Disney World after the 9/11 attacks. So much so that it was decided to close CoP the following month. But due to guest complaints, the attraction was soon reopened on a seasonal basis. Today the attraction is open every day.

CoP is showing its age, this cannot be denied. The theaters are never full and the wait to ride is never more than one revolution away. Like the old Tomorrowland, Act 4 is especially out-of-date. Not only is an archaic video game prominently displayed, the term "car phone" and "laser disk" are used. Also, Mother's laptop is a bit bulky.

Rumors have circulated for years of its impending closure. But Disney steadfastly denies that this is in the works. Only time will tell. In the meantime, the show is still entertaining and if you view it as a part of Disney history, it has endearing qualities.

The PeopleMover received a limited makeover with the new Tomorrowland. The track found in the front half of this land was beautifully augmented with retro-future metal girders and fittings. However, the track located in the back half of Tomorrowland only received a new paint job. More recently, a new LED lighting system was installed and the track's ceiling changes colors every several seconds during the evening.


PeopleMover Track

PeopleMover Track

PeopleMover Track

PeopleMover Track


The ride was also given a new name with the makeover, the "Tomorrowland Transit Authority" or TTA. The backstory being that this is a future mode of transportation in the metropolis of Tomorrowland and the "Blue Line" services this area. However, people never stopped calling this attraction "PeopleMover" and Disney would eventually rename the attraction again to "Tomorrowland Transit Authority PEOPLEMOVER."


TTA Sign

TTA Sign

PeopleMover Sign

PeopleMover Sign


Along the route, a few new scenes were inserted within the "tunnels" of the attraction. The first being the addition of a galactic spaceport for the robotic inhabitants of Tomorrowland.


Robot Spaceport


Near the end of the ride, guests could once view "If You Had Wings" and "Dreamflight" through three windows. When "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin" replaced these early attractions, one of these windows was eliminated and a scene of a futuristic hair salon was added in its place.


Beauty Salon


The most recent change to the PeopleMover came last year. The tongue-in-cheek audio that was broadcast during the ride was replaced with a simple narrative describing the sights along the route. Judging by the mail I have received on this topic, many people are not happy with this change.

Flying high above Rockettower Plaza were the Star Jets. This attraction would receive a significant makeover with the new Tomorrowland, beginning with a new name, Astro Orbiter on April 30, 1994. Interestingly, at Disneyland, this attraction also has the same name, but is spelled differently, Astro Orbitor.

The ride vehicles of Astro Orbiter would be given a completely new look. Gone was the futuristic rocket/hovercraft design to be replaced by a retro-rocket fitting of Tomorrowland's new backstory. And the center pylon was converted from a Saturn Rocket to a transmission tower.


Rocket Jets

Astro Orbiter

Rocket Jets

Astro Orbiter


But the biggest change to come to this attraction would be the addition of colorful planets that surrounded the rocket path. Now, space travelers could view celestial bodies as they circled high above the Earth-bound pedestrians below. Astro Orbiter would become an energetic "weenie" to draw guests into this refurbished land.


Orbiting Planets

Orbiting Planets

Orbiting Planets

Astro Orbiter Weenie


Currently, Astro Orbiter is undergoing another major refurbishment. In fact, the entire attraction has been removed for maintenance and updates. It is scheduled to reopen in late September of this year.


Astro Orbiter Refurbishment

Astro Orbiter Refurbishment


Beneath Astro Orbiter and the PeopleMover is The Lunching Pad at Rockettower Plaza. This is a great spot to grab a hot dog, chips, and a drink and enjoy some shade at one of the many tables nearby.


Lunching Pad

Lunching Pad


FedEx took over sponsorship of Space Mountain in 1994 which coincided with the Tomorrowland refurbishment. Minor changes were made to the entrance doors, color schemes were tweaked, and new warning signs were posted. But to the average guest, the only noticeable change would be the addition of FedEx logos. The mountain's structure was left completely unchanged.

The real modification to Space Mountain in 1994 didn't involve the ride, but rather the construction of a building next door. As with so many other attractions, now guests would exit Space Mountain directly into a shop.


Tomorrowland Arcade


The backstory for this structure is that it provides power for the metropolis of Tomorrowland. This can be seen on a sign near the exit of Space Mountain. Besides selling Disney merchandise, a large array of video games are also available for those with a few coins burning a hole in their pockets.


Tomorrowland Arcade

Tomorrowland Arcade

Tomorrowland Arcade


FedEx ended their sponsorship of Space Mountain in 2004 and most of their insignias were removed at that time.

In 1997, Disneyland's Space Mountain was painted in shades of gold, bronze, green, and copper to match the surrounding buildings. However, this change was not well received by the public and it was repainted white several years later. The Imagineers learned their lesson and did not try a similar paint job in the Magic Kingdom's version of this ride with the upcoming renovation.


Disneyland Space Mountain


In early 2009, Space Mountain closed for a lengthy refurbishment. It reopened seven months later on November 22. Much had changed.

The first noticeable improvement occurred to the right of Space Mountain. Disney had finally gotten around to removing the old second-story Tomorrowland Skyway Station. In the process, they created a lovely plaza. They also turned the old merchandise facility into a face painting area. In addition, the remaining restrooms were gutted and more modern lavatories took their place.


Razing Skyway Terminal

Space Mountain Plaza

Face Painting

New Restrooms


Inside Space Mountain, the queue was augmented with new space-aged back-lit murals. The first of these is an advertisement for space travel. The sign reads, "Welcome Space Travelers - STARPORT SEVEN-FIVE - Your Gateway to the Galaxy." The "SEVEN-FIVE" is in reference to the year Space Mountain opened, 1975. On a side panel you'll find references to all the Active Earth Stations, each with a nod to the five mountains around the world.

Tomorrowland MK-1 (Magic Kingdom)
TL Space Station 77 (Disneyland)
Discovery Landing Station (Disneyland Paris)
Ashita Base (Tokyo Disneyland)
HK Spaceport (Hong Kong Disneyland)


STARPORT SEVEN-FIVE


As you venture deeper into the mountain, a number of space-maps line the wall referencing the various routes available for travel from the Starport.


Space Maps


The biggest change to the queue was the addition of 87 video game stations along the path. These were added to help occupy guests' time as they waited in line. There are four games to play and they help further the story of interstellar vacation travel. This could include clearing a runway of asteroids or moving cargo from one location to another.


Space Games

Space Games


The final waiting areas were covered with a dome. Blue neon lights shine down from above.


Dome Ceiling


This new dome created a good and not-so-good effect. The up side was that it cut down on ambient light shining into the actual ride. This made it more difficult for guests to see the track ahead. The downside was that it created a dead zone when journeying through this area on the PeopleMover. Now you traveled in total darkness for an extended period of time

Although portions of the Space Mountain track were replaced, the basic layout was identical to the original design. Many claimed that the ride was smoother after this rehab, but others say it was just as jerky as always.

Another improvement was the addition of an on-ride photo op. Placed near the beginning of the ride, guests' pictures were snapped as they whizzed by. Besides providing another souvenir opportunity, the flash in peoples' eyes made it more difficult to see in the darkened environment. Photo viewing was placed at the end of the journey and pictures could be obtained in the Tomorrowland Arcade.


Photo Viewing


The long exit through the mountain saw a few minor changes. The first was a baggage claim area and a revamped control center. Once again, the backstory of space vacation travel was being told.


Baggage Claim

Control Center


The ride along the moving sidewalk was also updated to help tell the story of tourism space travel. Television monitors were added to the various space-aged scenes broadcasting advertisements for the many far off and exotic places Tomorrowland citizens could visit leaving from the Starport.


Vacation Options

Vacation Options


Many thought that this refurbishment of Space Mountain would include new ride vehicles that contained speakers mounted in the headrests. They were hoping that the ride would offer the same audio experience as could be had on Disneyland's Space Mountain and Rock 'N' Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios. However, this did not come to pass.

Then on August 30, 2010, Disney unexpectedly announced that they had added a new sound system to Space Mountain. In a general announcement they said it wasn't added during the previous rehab in order to bring the ride back on line as quickly as possible. They also said they did not retrofit the ride vehicles because they wanted the experience to be different than that of Disneyland's Space Mountain. Instead, they strategically placed 60 speakers throughout the mountain.

The reaction to this new sound system was mixed. Some found it additive while others thought Disney had cheaped-out.

Leaving Space Mountain we head down the long corridor that runs toward the Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland. This area only received minor upgrades with the 1994/95 refurbishment of Tomorrowland. And many of these look tacked on.


Tomorrowland Corridor

Tomorrowland Props


Still, this area of Tomorrowland does have some interesting space-aged looking trees.


Trees


The Grand Prix Raceway is also located along this corridor. As I said in Part Five of this series, the Interstate System had become passé by the late 1960's so the Imagineers opted for a racetrack theme at the Magic Kingdom rather than the freeway design of Disneyland's Autopia. However, a speedway really didn't fit with the Tomorrowland theme. But having no better place to put it, that's where it ended up.

The new backstory for Tomorrowland was no better than the old when trying to come up with a logical reason for this attraction to exist where it does, so the Imagineers didn't even try. It's simply a racetrack, no more, no less. However, the attraction did receive some enhancements as part of the Tomorrowland makeover and reopened after a short refurbishment on September 27, 1996. It was now called the Tomorrowland Speedway.

Three years later, Disney and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway joined forces to change the theme of the track. Enhancements such as the Yard of Bricks, the Scoring Pylon, Gasoline Alley, and the Wheel & Wing logo were added. The attraction also received another name change to incorporate the new sponsor and on December 19, 1999 became known as the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.


Tomorrowland Indy Speedway


In 2008, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway dropped its affiliation and the name changed back to Tomorrowland Speedway. To my knowledge, only the Scoring Pylon remains today from the previous refurbishment.


Tomorrowland Speedway

Scoring Pylon


Today the track is 2,260 feet long. The original design of the Mark VII cars is still used (minus the spoiler). However, the cars have undergone several different paint jobs over the years. Here's the current style.


Speedway Cars

Speedway Cars

Speedway Cars


The car's nine-horsepower engines are fueled by gasoline and can attain speeds of an astounding 7.5 miles per hour. The vehicles hold two adults and there are approximately 140 cars in the fleet.

The Tomorrowland Speedway is a popular ride. For an adult, it is far from being the most exciting attraction at the Magic Kingdom, but for a kid, it can be the highlight of their visit. Many guests race to this attraction when the Magic Kingdom opens each day, making it the first ride on their "must do" list. Long lines develop quickly and last throughout the day.

Across the corridor from the Tomorrowland Speedway is Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café.


Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café


When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, this eatery was known as the Tomorrowland Terrace and was/is the largest restaurant in the park. Although I don't have a picture of the interior from back then, I do have a picture of its counterpart at Tokyo Disneyland. The two were strikingly similar.


Tomorrowland Terrace at Tokyo Disneyland


When Disneyland's Tomorrowland received a makeover in 1966/67, the Imagineers added a futuristic stage, one that raised from the depths of the earth to appear "out of nowhere." Logistically, this was a performer's dream come true. This allowed the band to do all of their advance preparations unseen, then rise to the occasion playing their latest hit.


Disneyland Stage


This concept worked so well at Disneyland that it was duplicated at the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland Terrace, albeit inside rather than out. Now performers could enter this stage via the Utilidors and make grand entrances.


Tomorrowland Terrace Stage


When it came time to create a new backstory for the Tomorrowland Terrace in 1994, the establishment was given a new name, Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café. This would be the first Earth restaurant franchise from outer space and the local hangout for both the citizens of Tomorrowland and its interplanetary guests.

The exterior of the restaurant saw only minor changes.


Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café Exterior

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café Exterior

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café Exterior


However the interior was given a whole new look and feel. Three "Bays" each offer a different menu so there is something for everyone here.

Bay 1: Chicken
Bay 2: Hamburgers
Bay 3: Sandwiches


Bay 1

Bay 2

Bay 3


Nearby is an excellent topping bar.


Topping Bar


Abundant seating options are available both inside and out.


Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café Seating

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café Seating

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café Seating


But the real draw of Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café is Sonny Eclipse and his Astro Organ.


Sonny Eclipse

Sonny Eclipse


Sonny took up residence on the old "elevating" stage. But unlike his human predecessors, Sonny doesn't need a break and performs continually whenever the restaurant is open.

Sonny is a lounge lizard, literally. His singing style is Bossa Supernova and Eclipso. He is backed up by the Space Angels and his routine lasts 25 minutes. As with most lounge acts, most people just talk through the entertainment, but I would caution against this. Sonny is funny. Corny, but funny. (Sonny is voiced by Kal David, a professional jazz/blues artist.)

The elevating stage is still used today for special events. Sonny actually sits on what was the roof of the old stage. When a live performance entertains here, Sonny rises into the fly area. This next picture was taken at a recent holiday event.


Elevating Stage


Today, the name "Tomorrowland Terrace" refers to the restaurant located between Main Street and Monsters Inc.


Tomorrowland Terrace


Well that's it for my look at Tomorrowland old and new. As we've seen, this land has changed a lot over the years and will probably continue to do so in the years to come. Although nothing official has been announced for upcoming attractions in this land, we know that the Imagineers are always on the lookout for new ideas.

This has been a long series and I hope it held your interest. I know I learned a few things researching this piece. I hope you acquired some new Disney knowledge as well.



July 21, 2014

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – A Relook

Jack Spence Masthead


The last time I reviewed the Caribbean Beach Resort was during an overnight stay in November 2010. (To read that review, click here.)

Last month (June 2014) I returned for a two-night stay to see what had changed since my last visit. After a look around I discovered that very little has been altered during the past three and a half years. So with just a few exceptions, the resort is pretty much the way you remember it. Here are the changes I discovered during my stay.

In case you didn't already know, Disney no longer uses plastic key-cards as room keys. They now give each guest a wristband that "magically" unlocks the door when you tap the band to a Mickey head positioned near the doorknob. You can also use these wristbands to pay for food and drink by simply "tapping" and entering a Personal Identification Number that you created at check-in. (You must leave a credit card on file during check-in to have charging privileges.)


Wristband


I have stayed at three Disney World resorts since the implementation of these wrist bands. And I have to tell you, I like them. I really appreciate wearing my room key on my wrist. It beats pulling out my wallet and searching for the keycard. The same holds true when paying for something. It's much easier to "tap" than search for a credit card or cash. Also, the wristbands are waterproof which makes trips to the pool all the more convenient. Now you don't have to leave your wallet or purse unattended while swimming. You can leave your money and credit cards back in the room. You have everything you need right at "hand." I think the wristbands are great!

NOTE: I am NOT talking about using the wristbands for FastPasses. This is a whole other topic that I will NOT be discussing here. And please don't send me comments on the subject of FastPasses. They will NOT get posted. All I'm saying is that I like the wristbands for room access and charging.

All six laundry rooms are now locked 24/7 and require a wristband for access. I can personally assure you that no matter what section of the resort you're staying in, you can use any of these facilities. I know, because while I was filming the resort, I checked each and every laundry room and my "Barbados" wristband granted me access to all of them.


Laundry Room

Laundry Room


The offerings at the Marina have been scaled back dramatically. No longer available are the Sea Raycers, pontoon boats, canoes, pedal boats, and sail boats. If you want to pilot your own craft, you must now travel to the Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, or the Yacht Club. Still available at the Caribbean Beach Resort Marina are surreys, bicycles, fishing excursions, and the Pirate Cruise. This was a cost-cutting measure made by Disney that has impacted all of their moderate resorts.

In this next picture, you can see the empty channel where the Sea Racers once waited for eager captains.


CBR Marina


As I mentioned in my recent blog about the All Star Resorts, the paper drinking cups purchased at the food court now have a microchip attached to them that monitors your consumption. After your initial serving, you are allowed three refills over the next two hours.


Fountain Drinks


I booked a standard room for my stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort. When I entered, I saw that nothing had really changed since my last visit in November 2010. The only noticeable difference was the lack of a bedspread in favor of the "spa" look. A "Finding Nemo" throw now offers the only splash of color in the room. Additionally, my room did not have a "Finding Nemo" wallpaper boarder circling the ceiling as my room did in 2010.


Guest Room

Guest Room

Guest Room


As I mentioned in my blog about the All Stars, the TVs at the Caribbean Beach now turn on to an informational channel about the resort. In addition, the volume is initially set very low as to not disturb others. I really like this change and I'm glad to see it being implemented at all of the resorts.

I was disappointed with the electrical outlet near the table as the refrigerator was plugged into one of the receptacles. I was visiting by myself and wanted to plug in both a cell phone and a laptop. I can't imagine how a modern family of four would make out with just one outlet.


Electric Outlet


Overall, I found the room to be tired and uninspired. Very clean, but tired and uninspired. I can't say that there was anything wrong with my accommodations, but I can't say that there was anything particularly compelling about them either. If you were to pin me down for details as to why I felt this way, I would be hard pressed to come up with any. Overall, I'd just have to say that the room lacked Disney magic. With just a few small Disney details (the throw, a picture of a Disney Cruise Line ship, and one hidden Mickey), a similar room could be found at any motel along Hwy 192.

This depressed me. I know that the Caribbean Beach is a favorite of many, but I was going to have a hard time promoting this room. I began wondering how I was going to write a review and gently let down the ardent fans of this resort. But fortunately, this story does, or will, have a happy ending.

The next day, I set out on a three hour trek around the entire resort to film and photograph each of the six villages. I started at the Barbados village then moved on to the Aruba section. When I got to the Jamaica village I discovered that a number of the buildings were closed and construction workers were scurrying everywhere. It didn't take me long to realize that Disney was in the process of refurbishing the rooms at the Caribbean Beach and work had only recently begun.

I try to respect rules and I try not to venture where I don't belong. But I wanted to see what was happening so I carefully passed by a construction warning sign so I could peek into one of the almost completed rooms. And I have to tell you, it looked great. A far cry from the room I was currently staying in. However, I did not take any pictures because I didn't want to push my trespassing any further than I already had. Instead, I headed over to Custom House so I could speak with a hotel manager.

After introductions were made, I explained to him that I write for AllEars and was currently staying at the resort. I asked if there was any way I could change rooms for my second night. But I was told that very few remodeled rooms are on line and nothing was available at the moment. I went on to explain that I live nearby and could stop by any day if they would grant me access to a remodeled room for just 10-15 minutes so I could photograph and film the new accommodations. Once again, my request was politely declined.

So, for the time being, all I can tell you is that new and more compelling rooms are on their way to the Caribbean Beach Resort. I know that AllEars will make every effort to bring you pictures and videos as soon as we can, but it will probably be a few months away. Since Disney will not guarantee an updated room when making a reservation, we need to wait until more refurbished rooms come online so we can be somewhat certain we're booked into a newer unit.

As I mentioned earlier, I spent three hours circling the resort so I could videotape all of the villages. I also spent several more hours filming Old Port Royale Centertown. Below is the culmination of my efforts. I hope you enjoy this overview of the resort.



Since I've already told you about all of the changes I discovered at the Caribbean Beach Resort, and this blog is only half the normal length I strive for, I thought I would use the rest of the space to give you an in-depth review of the food court and Shutters, the resort's table-service restaurant. Let's start with the food court.

First, you need to know that I like Disney resort food courts. In fact, since I live so close to Disney World, I will occasionally stop in at a resort simply to have lunch at one of these counter-service eateries. Of course, when eating at a food court, one must keep in mind that this is not a fine dining establishment. For the most part, the food offered at these locations is pre-prepared or is a dish that can be cooked quickly. This is perfectly fine with me as I don't always want "fine dining." As long as you have the right frame of mind and don't compare these establishments with a table-service restaurant, you should be fine.

The food court at the Caribbean Beach Resort is located in the Old Port Royale Centertown building. Disney tried to place this building in the center of the resort, convenient to everyone. But the truth is, it can be a long walk from some of the villages. Because of this, Disney offers bus service that continually circles the resort and stops at all villages and Old Port Royale Centertown.


Old Port Royale Centertown

Old Port Royale Centertown


As I've mentioned many times before, when making a room reservation, you can request a specific location. Disney will not guarantee they will honor the request, but they will try their best. So if you want to be close to Old Port Royale Centertown, request either the Martinique or Trinidad North village. Second choices would be Aruba and Jamaica.

The food court at the Caribbean Beach Resort is themed to resemble an open-air marketplace found somewhere in the islands. Brightly colored buildings line a stone street, each selling their wares. On the second story, you can see the homes of the shop owners. Overhead, lanterns light the way beneath a perpetual evening sky.


Food Court Alley

Second Story Shop Owner's House

Second Story Shop Owner's House

Second Story Shop Owner's House

Second Story Shop Owner's House


The first shop we come to is Grab N Go. This is the largest of the five shops found along this street and as the name implies, it's the spot where you can "grab" your goodies quickly, pay, and be on your way.


Grab N Go

Grab N Go


The selection here is large. In the bakery section, rolls, muffins, and bagels dominate the offerings in the morning. As the day progresses, these give way to cookies, cupcakes, and other cake-like goodies.


Bakery


On an adjoining shelve, chips, salty snacks, more cookies, and wine are available. Whole fruit can also be found nearby.


Shelf of Goodies


The rest of the offerings can be found in open refrigerators. Here you'll find sliced fruit, salads, yogurts, premade sandwiches, soft drinks, adult beverages, power drinks, milk, juices, desserts, and much more.


Grab N Go Refrigerator

Grab N Go Refrigerator


I'm not a big breakfast eater, so for me, Grab N Go works perfectly. I can get a bagel, cream cheese, and an orange juice and be more than happy.

Note, at Grab N Go you pay for your purchases within the store. At all other locations in the food court you pay at central registers.

When the Caribbean Beach Resort first opened, the Grab N Go station did not exist. This space was divided into two shops, Cinnamon Bay Bakery and Oriental Express. The latter served a variety of Chinese items like egg rolls, spareribs, and soups. Later, this shop was renamed the Wok Shop.

The next stop along the road is Royale Pizza and Pasta Shop.


Royale Pizza and Pasta Shop

Royale Pizza and Pasta Shop

Royale Pizza and Pasta Shop


The pizzas served here are the same as the ones served in the parks. Personally, I think they're fine. Is it gourmet pizza? Nope. But they don't taste like the store-bought cardboard variety either. However, your toppings are limited to cheese and pepperoni.

Other options here are Fettuccini Pasta and Meatballs, Vegetable Lasagna, Chicken and Mushroom Marsala, and Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage. Since I was at the resort to write a review, I decided to give this spot a try and selected the Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage for lunch one day. The meal is accompanied with your choice of either a breadstick or a simple iceberg lettuce salad.


Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage


I discovered while photographing this meal that the red and green table tops were not particularly complementary to the food. So please believe me when I say, the pasta tasted much better than it looks here. LOL

Overall, I was happy with my selection. It was quite tasty. My only complaint was with the salad. I wish it contained a little something more than just lettuce. A cherry tomato would have been nice. Prepackaged Ken's dressing is available at the ordering station.

Next on our journey is the Old Port Royale Hamburger Shop. The offerings here include a 1/3 Lb. Angus Bacon Cheeseburger, Caribbean Catch Sandwich, Chicken Breast Nuggets, Hot Dog, Jerk Chicken Sandwich, Vegetable Burger, Chili-Cheese Hot Dog, and Portobello Mushroom Sandwich.


Old Port Royale Hamburger Shop

Old Port Royale Hamburger Shop


Here I selected the Bacon Cheeseburger and my friend Donald tried the Chicken Nuggets. For the burger, a topping bar is available near the beverage station that includes tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and onions. For the nuggets, several dipping sauces are offered.


Bacon Cheeseburger

Chicken Nuggets


We were both pleased with our selections. Everything was hot and the fries were fresh, not soggy.

Bridgetown Broiler is only open for breakfast (7am to 11:30am) and dinner (5pm to 11pm). I did not sample any of their wares so I can't offer any opinion for this spot. In the evening they offer Baked Chicken, Roast Turkey, Mojo Pork, Ropa Vieja (Braised Beef), a Vegetable Plate, and Seared Salmon.


Bridgetown Broiler

Bridgetown Broiler

Bridgetown Broiler


The last stop along this quaint street is Montego's Deli. The selections at this shop include Turkey BLT Sandwich, Royale Sandwich, Vegetable Wrap, Cheesesteak, Roast Beef & Blue on Ciabatta, Cuban Sandwich, Caribbean Salad with Chicken, Shrimp or Tofu, Caesar Salad with Chicken or Shrimp, and Lime Chicken Wrap.


Montego's Deli

Montego's Deli


On the afternoon I opted to eat at this shop I selected the Royale Sandwich. It is loaded with turkey, ham, salami, roast beef, provolone, and red pepper ranch spread. It is served with either house-made jerk chips or pasta salad. I chose the latter.


Royale Sandwich


This sandwich was extremely tasty. In fact, it was probably the best meal I had at the food court. The pasta salad was also quite good. Sometimes pasta salads can be rather bland, but this one was not. It tasted of the many other ingredients present in the mix.

The food court begins serving hot breakfasts at 6:30 each morning with just one store being open. At 7am, two more stores begin serving and at 8am, the last of them comes on line. With each opening, more offerings are available. Note, the Grab N Go is open all day from 6:30am to 11pm.

Breakfast dishes include, Bounty Platter, French Toast, Spinach & Feta Omelet, Ham & Cheese Omelet, Western Omelet, Cheese Omelet, Mickey-Shaped Waffle, Steak & Egg & Cheese Quesadilla, Pancakes, Chocolate-Chip Pancakes, and Breakfast Cuban Sandwich.

Besides tasting as many meals as I could during this trip, I had another goal for this review. I wanted to take flattering photographs of the food to share with you. This prompted me to select the Bounty Platter as I thought it would make a good picture. The Bounty Platter comes with a scoop of scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, two strips of bacon, one sausage patty, one biscuit, and one slice of French toast.


Bounty Platter


It is my experience that breakfast foods do not hold heat well. This can be a problem when eating the morning meal in a food court. Even though I encountered no line when paying, the process still took a couple of minutes. After which I had to proceed to the condiment station and find jelly, salt, butter, syrup, cutlery, and napkins. By the time I got seated, my food was only lukewarm. By the time I had my last bite, it was cold.

The scrambled eggs tasted fine. After all, it is pretty hard to mess up scrambled eggs. However, they did need salt (and pepper, but I forgot to pick some up and I wasn't going back to the condiment station).

I also like the potatoes. They were lightly spiced and actually quite good.

On the down side, the bacon slices were small and limp. If you like your bacon crispy, forget it.

The sausage was absolutely tasteless. In fact, if you had blindfolded me and given me a bite of this sausage, I would not have been able to tell you what had been placed in my mouth.

The biscuit was so cold it was incapable of melting a pat of butter. And the slightly warm French toast quickly lost what heat it had once I poured the cold syrup on top.

In the future, I'll stick with my traditional bagel and cream cheese.

To enter the dining room, you must pass by one of several registers and pay for your meal. This is also the time to order your fountain drink if you didn't pick up a bottle or can at one of the food stalls. On the backside of the register stands are napkins and plastic cutlery.


Food Court Register


Just past the registers is the beverage station. As I mentioned earlier, you must have a microchip embedded drinking cup or an all-you-can-drink mug to activate the machines. Water is the one exception.


Beverage Station


Behind the beverage station guests can find a multitude of offerings. Toasters, a microwave oven, condiments, the topping bar, and everything else you need to complete your meal is located here. If you don't see something you need, just ask one of the nearby cast members and they should be able to help you out.


Microwave Oven

Toasters


The eating area consists of one large dining room and two smaller adjacent rooms. They all continue the same festive color scheme found at the food stalls.


Food Court Dining Room

Food Court Dining Room

Food Court Dining Room

Food Court Dining Room


With the exception of one of the smaller rooms, this space is not carpeted. Nor are the seats padded. Thus, there are no soft surfaces to soak up the noise. So when things get busy here, it can also get loud.

There a handful of tables located just outside of the food court. On nice days, this is a wonderful place to enjoy lunch or dinner.


Outdoor Seating


Near the beverage area is a "To Go" station. Here you'll find everything you need to package up your meal for a trip back to your room. Plates, lids, napkins, cutlery, beverage holders, and paper bags are all available.


To Go Station

To Go Station


Overall, I like the Old Port Royale food court. I'm obviously not too keen on my recent breakfast, but other than that, I liked everything I sampled and I would have no problem returning here for lunch, even if I wasn't staying at the resort.

Below is a short video of the Caribbean Beach food court. If you've already seen my resort overview video, there is no need to view this one as you've already seen the food court earlier.



My regular readers know that I am a believer in trying everything that Disney has to offer. That being said, I would hope that if you're staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort, you only enjoy one, maybe two meals at the food court during your stay. Even if you don't have the budget to eat in some of Disney's finer dining establishments, stop in at the other resorts and give their food courts a try. Who knows, you just might be captivated by the offerings someplace else and want to give another resort a try on your next trip.

Well it seems that I've rambled on so long that I've run out of space from my review of Shutters. So I guess you'll have to check back tomorrow to see what I think of the Caribbean Beach Resort's only table-service restaurant. Until then, Bon Appetit.



July 22, 2014

Shutters at Old Port Royale

Jack Spence Masthead

Welcome back!

Yesterday, I discussed the changes that have been made to the Caribbean Beach Resort over the last three and a half years. I also presented you with a review of the food court found here. Today, I'll be discussing Shutters at Old Port Royale. But before I do, I need to give you the history of this restaurant.

The Caribbean Beach was Disney's first moderately priced resort. When planning this property, the Imagineers did not think budget minded guests would be interested in a table-service restaurant, so they only included a food court in their plans. However, they were wrong. When the resort opened on October 1, 1988, guests immediately started complaining and requesting more dining options. However, it would be almost six years before the first solution came to life.

When the resort initially opened, a large lounge called Captain's Hideaway was located in what is now the food court seating area near the Calypso Trading Post. This spot offered a full bar with an emphasis on tropical drinks. In 1994, this spot was renamed Captain's Tavern and dinner service began in a partially converted lounge. Prime rib, chicken, and crab legs were some of their specialties. However, Captain's Tavern had its drawbacks. First, the atmosphere was still that of a lounge. It was nice, but hardly an intimate getaway.

The next, and more daunting problem came with its location. Because of the initial design of the building, Captain's Tavern had no adjacent kitchen and no place to add one. In order to serve this new restaurant, a portion of the food court kitchen needed to be converted so it could prepare upscale meals. Besides depriving the food court kitchen of much needed preparation space, this distant location also created a problem for the wait staff as they were forced to cross a busy walkway and pass through a small door to get to and from the backstage kitchen.

In 2002, things changed dramatically. Captain's Tavern was closed and this space was converted into more food court seating. At the other end of the food court, a section of the dining room was walled off for a new table service restaurant that would be opening soon.

When finished, the new restaurant would have three intimate dining rooms that could seat up to 130 guests. In addition, a new kitchen was built specifically for this eatery. However, because of space limitations, the kitchen still needed to be located across a guest walkway. To address this distant site, the Imagineers would make this a "show" kitchen open for all to see. No longer would the servers be forced to walk backstage to place orders and pick up food. Secondly, the foot traffic at this end of the food court is relatively light and dodging guests would no longer be a significant problem.


Show Kitchen


The official name of the table service restaurant at the Caribbean Beach Resort is "Shutters at Old Port Royale." The reason for this long name is to differentiate this establishment from a restaurant at Disney's Vero Beach Resort which is simply called "Shutters." However, everyone drops the "at Old Port Royale" and just calls the Caribbean Beach version "Shutters" as well.


Shutters at Old Port Royale

Shutters at Vero Beach


Although you can get to Shutters via the food court, the official entrance is off of the esplanade. Inside the restaurant's lobby, guests check in at an unassuming podium. Although this restaurant can usually accommodate walk-ups, reservations are always a good idea. You especially need reservations here on holidays like Mother's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.


Shutters Main Entrance

Shutters Lobby


The atmosphere at Shutters continues the rich and varied color pallet found in the food court, however the hues in the three dining areas have been muted and are relaxing rather than jarring. I find these rooms comfortable and welcoming.

Do note, the dining room located immediately to the right of the main entrance is often used as a passageway between the kitchen and another dining room located just beyond this first room. If you're seated here, you will be subjected to servers coming and going throughout your entire meal. If a host tries to seat you in this room, I would suggest that you request another spot.

Here are two pictures each of the entrance and all three dining rooms. The last two pictures are of the dining room I mentioned above.


Shutters Entrance

Shutters Entrance

Shutters Dining Room 1

Shutters Dining Room 1

Shutters Dining Room 2

Shutters Dining Room 2

Shutters Dining Room 3

Shutters Dining Room 3


Here is a picture of a table ready for guests. Although you probably can't see it in this photo, the napkins are paper. I have a problem with this.


Shutters Table Setting


Come on Disney. I ate lunch at Bahama Breeze the other day, a similarly themed chain restaurant, and even this eatery offers cloth napkins. At the prices you're charging at Shutters, surely you could afford to provide guests with cloth napkins. And don't tell me it's part of the "island theming." I've been to many nice restaurants in the Caribbean and been provided with cloth napkins. I don't mind that you don't have tablecloths, but paper napkins are for coffee shops. If you want to promote Shutters as a fine dining establishment, then take the necessary steps to do so.

Shutters is currently open from 5pm to 10pm each evening. Donald and I had 5:30 reservations and arrived a little early. We were given a pager but were called to our table before we could even find a seat in the lobby. We were escorted to the dining room I warned you about and given a table. (This is how I learned firsthand that this is the least appealing dining room of the three.)

Before I go any further with this review, I need to share with you one of my pet peeves I experience when dining out and how I've finally decided to handle the situation in the future. And this trip to Shutters would be my first execution of my solution.

Little annoys me more than going to a nice restaurant and being rushed. More times than I can count, I've had my entrée arrive while I'm still enjoying my appetizer. Grrr. In the early years, I would let the server place the food on the table as I hurried through my soup. But eventually I started insisting that they take the food back to the kitchen until I was ready for it.

At some point, I started explaining to my servers when I was first approached that I was in no hurry. I politely, but firmly, told them that I didn't want to be rushed and I wanted to relax between courses. I was always assured that this would not be a problem. Sometimes my plea for leisurely pacing worked, but more often than not, it didn't. Although I would be finished with my appetizer, my dirty plate would often still be in front of me when my entrée arrived.

Last month I ate at California Grill, one of Disney's signature restaurants. As has been my policy for a long time now, I told my server I was in no hurry and to please time my meal accordingly. I was told that he was an expert at such things and this wouldn't be a problem. He went on to say that I should feel free to order my entire meal and he would take care of everything.

Not true.

I was still enjoying my before-dinner cocktail when my appetizer arrived. And there were a whopping three minutes "breathing time" between my appetizer and my main meal. Grrr. I'm sorry, but when I eat at a fine Disney restaurant, I don't want to be served like I'm at a corner coffee shop.

Anyway"

After that night, I swore that I would never let this happen to me again when I'm planning on an enjoyable dinner in a nice restaurant. And Shutters would be my first experience with my new tactic.

Our server Kyra greeted us shortly after we were seated and offered us drinks. While I was ordering my Mai Tai and Donald his iced tea, I told Kyra that I was having difficulty making choices tonight and I thought that I would hold off ordering appetizers until after I enjoyed my drink. She smiled and said, "Not a problem." Our drinks arrived about five minutes later and Kyra left us alone.


Mai Tai


My Mai Tai was good and I'm glad I ordered it. Donald's iced tea was ice tea. What can I say? LOL

For you lovers of rum, Shutters offers two different Rum Flights where you are served three shots of rum and can enjoy side-by-side tastings. I seriously considered trying one of these but decided I wanted a fruity concoction instead.

While enjoying our drinks, Kyra brought us a bread basket and butter topped with sea salt. I thought the bread was a little bland but the butter and sea salt made up for any lack in taste. In addition, I want to compliment Shutters on providing me with more than enough butter. There was plenty. Later in the evening, we were brought a second bread basket and more butter.


Bread Basket


After we finished our drinks, Kyra returned to our table and asked if we were ready to order. I told her we would select our appetizers now, but we still didn't know what we wanted for our entrées. Once again, she smiled and said "No problem."

I ordered the Braised Beef and Pepper Jack Cheese Empanada with Chayote Slaw and Piquillo Pepper Dipping Sauce.


Braised Beef and Pepper Jack Cheese Empanada


The empanadas were good, but not outstanding. I wish they had been a little more flavorful. If I were to return to Shutters in the near future, I would definitely try something else before reordering this dish.

Donald ordered the Caesar Salad with House-made Dressing and Cornbread Croutons.


Caesar Salad with House-made Dressing


This was the one true disappointment of the evening. After taking one bite, Donald said the dressing was so bland he could hardly taste it. He offered me a bite and I had to agree. If I hadn't seen the dressing on the leaves, I would have guessed it was missing altogether. I suggested that Donald add salt. He did and it helped a little.

I know that Disney has a tendency to "dumb-down" some of their spicier meals so to appeal to the masses. If this is what they did here, they over did it.

After we were finished with our appetizers and our dishes cleared, Kyra returned to take our entrée order. I selected the Black Jack Barbecue Pork Brisket with Crab, Shrimp, and Corn Imperial. This was served with Green Beans and Piquillo Peppers.


Black Jack Barbecue Pork Brisket with Crab, Shrimp, and Corn Imperial


This meal was outstanding!

First, take a look at the presentation. There is wonderful color and texture balance. The plate was artistically arranged. This meal just looks delicious.

My first bite was of the Crab, Shrimp, and Corn Imperial (right side of the plate). It was wonderful. I could easily make an entire meal of this side dish alone. Besides being extremely flavorful, it was chockfull of large shrimp.

The green beans were cooked al dente, which I like. The piquillo peppers added a sweet taste with no "heat."

The serving of pork was large. There was plenty of meat here for a hungry eater. And the barbecue sauce was the perfect topping. It definitely had a barbecue flavor, but it was subdued. This is not the strong taste you'd get when ordering ribs at your local BBQ joint. This sauce was more refined.

Donald loves short ribs, but was afraid to order them as restaurants often skimp on the serving size. Kyra assured him that Shutters offers 10oz of meat with this offering. So Donald ordered the Caribbean-Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs in a light Curry Sauce with Mashed Yucca and Yukon gold Potatoes.


Caribbean-Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs in a light Curry Sauce with Mashed Yucca and Yukon gold Potatoes


Donald was more than pleased with his selection. The dish is served in a large bowl and is reminiscent of pot roast. Besides the beef and potatoes, the meal had plenty of carrots and onions. He said it was all delicious and it was so tender that no knife was needed.

By this time, Kyra had picked up that I was ordering my meal slowly and gave us an appropriate pause after our main meal before offering us dessert. In fact, she didn't even bring the menus to the table until after she had asked us if we were interested.

For my last course I ordered the Vanilla Cheesecake with Banana Caramel Sauce and Brulee Bananas.


Vanilla Cheesecake with Banana Caramel Sauce and Brulee Bananas


Once again, I hit the jackpot. This was an outstanding dessert. The cheesecake had an original flavor. Meaning, it didn't taste like "Cheesecake Anywhere USA." It was obvious that it was made on premises with someone's personal recipe. The brulee bananas were good as was the multi-nut brittle that garnished the plate.

Donald order the Tres-Coconut Tres Leches -- Sweet Cream, Caramel, and Passion Fruit.


Tres-Coconut Tres Leches


Donald also felt like he was a winner with his selection. All three offerings were flavorful and had subtle but distinct differences from one another. He especially liked the Passion Fruit.

In conclusion, we had an enjoyable meal at Shutters and I'm glad we ate here. And even though paper napkins, bland empanadas, and a tasteless Caesar salad started the evening off with less than a bang, the friendly service, outstanding entrées, and wonderful desserts made us forgive the rocky start. Not to mention, we spent more time at Shutters than we did at the California Grill a month earlier thanks to my new ordering tactic.

Would I return to Shutters in the future? Sure. Especially if I was staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort and wanted a nice meal.

Would I go out of my way to eat at Shutters? The answer to this question is a little more difficult. Shutters is good, but it's hardly unique. On the other hand, Disney offers an outstanding array of restaurants with more interesting atmospheres and experiences. This makes it difficult for Shutters to compete.

Would I consider Shutters a Disney signature restaurant? Definitely not. And neither does Disney as Shutters only requires one dining credit, not two, when using the Disney Dining Plan. But Shutters is a good choice for a somewhat upscale, casual meal.

Well, there you have it, my experience at Shutters. If you've eaten here, feel free to add your thoughts to the AllEars "Rate/Review" page by clicking here. To see the current menu, click here.



July 28, 2014

Before & After Quiz - Questions

Jack Spence Masthead


Today's quiz is for you fans of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. If you watch either of these shows you know that one of their categories is called "Before & After." Here the answer or puzzle has two phrases and/or titles that contain a common middle word that connects the two together. For example, if I were to give you the clue: North Epcot meets South Epcot, the answer would be Future World Showcase. "World" would be the common word that joins the two titles.

In today's quiz, I will give you clues for both the beginning and ending subject. The answers can be anything from an attraction, restaurant, shop, character name, or movie title. I will be using locations at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but not any of the foreign parks. In addition, I may drop the leading "The" from a title. For example, "The Shaggy Dog" would become simply "Shaggy Dog." You must come up with the two correct answers and combine them successfully to create a "Before & After."

As with all of my quizzes, this is just for fun. No winners will be announced or prizes awarded. The answers will appear in tomorrow's column.

Good luck.

1. African resort and a soulful restaurant.

2. The Sherman Brothers' most famous song sung on a Walt Disney World roadway.

3. The first American ship to circumnavigate the globe from a Liberty Square eatery.

4. Christmas extravaganza with red and black Opels.

5. An extraterrestrial feline lands at Spaceport 75.

6. Ice Gator's home at a DVC

7. What if Jane's boyfriend moved from his current home in Adventureland to a home in Tomorrowland's past?

8. An Epcot annual event meets Walt Disney World's most popular show.

9. Your favorite AllEars blog meets a boney fellow.

10. Princess Aurora dines at a World Showcase restaurant.

11. Shipwrecked survivors move from the current home to a timeshare at Walt Disney World.

12. A flying galleon travels to the lunar surface.

13. Annette, Cubby, Karen, Roy, and the gang join a private restaurant at Disneyland.

14. 1959 Disneyland attraction discovers Flotsam and Jetsam at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

15. An a cappella singing group performs on a Rivers of America vessel.

16. Liberty Square shop will swap you two of their heads for one of yours.

17. The home of J. Thaddeus meets the leaders of the free world.

18. Ben and Mark are miniaturized to the size of a water molecule.

19. A DVC has a broken elevator.

20. Experiment 626's flees and meets aliens Tony and Tia.

21. One who slumbers, one who is beautiful, and one who is plagued by a curse.

22. Simians return to their dwelling on the prairie.

23. Golden State flyover of the Contemporary's 15th floor.

24. Charley's golden eggs are found by Huey, Dewey, and Louie in 100 television episodes.

25. An Irishman battles with leprechauns while riding in Tomorrowland.

26. An ape-man travels the great rivers of the world.

27. A forgetful instructor meets an accomplished mallard.

28. Mark Twain inspired area at the North Pole.

29. A specific elevated train travels where not even light can escape.

30. Market Place child's shop meets 3D arcade game.


July 29, 2014

Before & After Quiz - Answers

Jack Spence Masthead


Here are the answers to the Before and After quiz. Some of these were easy. Some were difficult and required that you reach back in your memory to come up with the correct answer. I hope you did well.

As I said yesterday, all of my quizzes are just for fun. No winners will be announced or prizes awarded.


1. African resort and a soulful restaurant.

Jambo House of Blues


Jambo Houseg

House of Blues


2. The Sherman Brothers' most famous song sung on a Walt Disney World roadway.

it's a small World Drive


It's a small world

World Driveg



3. The first American ship to circumnavigate the globe from a Liberty Square eatery.

Sailing Ship Columbia Harbour House


Sailing Ship Columbia

Columbia Harbour House



4. Christmas extravaganza with red and black Opels.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show


Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show



5. An extraterrestrial feline lands at Spaceport 75.

The Cat from Outer Space Mountain


The Cat from Outer Space

Space Mountain



6. Ice Gator's home at a DVC

Blizzard Beach Club Villas


Blizzard Beach

Beach Club Villas



7. What if Jane's boyfriend moved from his current home in Adventureland to a home in Tomorrowland's past?

Tarzan's Tree House of the Future


Tarzan's Tree House

House of the Future



8. An Epcot annual event meets Walt Disney World's most popular show.

International Flower & Garden Festival of the Lion King


International Flower & Garden Festival

Festival of the Lion King



9. Your favorite AllEars blog meets a boney fellow.

The World According to Jack Skellington


The World According to Jack

Jack Skellington



10. Princess Aurora dines at a World Showcase restaurant.

Brier Rose & Crown


Brier Rose

Rose and Crown



11 Shipwrecked survivors move from the current home to a timeshare at Walt Disney World.

Swiss Family Treehouse Villas


Swiss Family Treehouse

Treehouse Villas



12. A flying galleon travels to the lunar surface.

Peter Pan's Flight to the Moon


Peter Pan's Flight

Flight to the Moon



13. Annette, Cubby, Karen, Roy, and the gang join a private restaurant at Disneyland.

The Mickey Mouse Club 33


The Mickey Mouse Club

Club 33



14. 1959 Disneyland attraction discovers Flotsam and Jetsam at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Submarine Voyage of the Little Mermaid


Submarine Voyage

Voyage of the Little Mermaid



15. An a cappella singing group performs on a Rivers of America vessel.

Voices of Liberty Belle Riverboat


Voices of Liberty

Liberty Belle Riverboat



16. Liberty Square shop will swap you two of their heads for one of yours.

The Yankee Trader Sam


The Yankee Trader

Trader Sam



17. The home of J. Thaddeus meets the leaders of the free world.

Toad Hall of Presidents


Toad Hall

Hall of Presidents



18. Ben and Mark are miniaturized to the size of a water molecule.

The American Adventure Thru Inner Space


The American Adventure

Adventures Thru Inner Space



19. A DVC has a broken elevator.

Bay Lake Tower of Terror.


Bay Lake Tower

Tower of Terror



20. Experiment 626's flees and meets aliens Tony and Tia.

Stitch's Great Escape to Witch Mountain


Stitch's Great Escape

Escape to Witch Mountain



21. One who slumbers, one who is beautiful, and one who is plagued by a curse.

Sleeping Beauty and the Beast


Sleeping Beauty

Beauty and the Beast



22. Simians return to their dwelling on the prairie.

Monkeys Go Home on the Range


Monkeys Go Home

Home on the Range



23. Golden State flyover of the Contemporary's 15th floor.

Soarin' over California Grill


Soarin' Over California

California Grill



24. Charley's golden eggs are found by Huey, Dewey, and Louie in 100 television episodes.

Million Dollar DuckTales


Million Dollar Duck

DuckTales



25. An Irishman battles with leprechauns while riding in Tomorrowland.

Darby O'Gill and the Little PeopleMover


Darby O'Gill and the Little People

PeopleMover



26. An ape-man travels the great rivers of the world.

George of the Jungle Cruise


George of the Jungle

Jungle Cruise



27. A forgetful instructor meets an accomplished mallard.

The Absent Minded Professor Ludwig Von Drake


The Absent Minded Professor

Professor Ludwig Von Drake



28. Mark Twain inspired area at the North Pole.

Tom Sawyer Island at the Top of the World


Tom Sawyer Island

Island at the Top of the World



29. A specific elevated train travels where not even light can escape.

Monorail Black Hole


Monorail Black

Black Hole



30. Market Place child's shop meets 3D arcade game.

Once Upon a Toy Story Midway Mania


Once Upon a Toy

Toy Story Midway Mania


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About July 2014

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

June 2014 is the previous archive.

August 2014 is the next archive.

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