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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 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 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


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 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.


April 28, 2014

Water at Walt Disney World -- Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


If you’ve ever flown over Florida, you can’t help but notice we have a few lakes. If you’ve ever driven in Florida, you may have noticed that a great many of our major boulevards and avenues must twist and turn to avoid these bodies of water. In fact, Florida has over 30,000 lakes of which 7,700 are greater than ten acres. And that’s not even counting all of the retention ponds communities are required to build to help send rain water back down into the aquifer.

All of this H2O got me to thinking how water has influenced Walt Disney World in ways both great and small. So my article today is going to give you an overview of how water shaped the land, then I’m going to look at the fun and entertaining ways water influences our experiences in the parks.

Disneyland was built in one year. But on the other side of the continent, it took five years to get the Magic Kingdom open. Much of this time was spent preparing the property before construction could even begin on the park and hotels. And one of the first tasks of this preparation was dealing with water.

When the Imagineers arrived in Florida, they discovered a number of swamps on the property. And some of these swamps were exactly where they wanted to build. They also discovered that Florida receives torrential downpours that can easily flood low-lying areas, yet at other times, rain can be scarce. Something needed to be done, but what? The Imagineers knew they wanted to manage this water, but they also knew it had to be done in a way that would not destroy the ecosystem. To that end, they constructed 47 miles of canals, 22 miles of levees, and 24 water-control structures and floodgates.

The first plans called for the canals to run in almost straight lines, but Roy Disney would have nothing to do with this idea. He wanted the Walt Disney World property to look natural and insisted the plans be redrawn. Because of his foresight, the canals today curve in a realistic manner and blend in with the surroundings.


WDW Canals

WDW Canals

WDW Canals

WDW Canals

WDW Canals


One of the interesting features found along these canals are the floodgates. These keep water levels under control by automatically floating open when the water reaches certain levels and closing when the water subsides. They require no electricity or human monitoring and greatly reduce the risk of flooding or water shortages.


Floodgate

Floodgate

Floodgate


Speaking of drought… In the early 2000’s, Florida received far less rain than normal. Because of this, water levels in Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon dropped significantly. Since many of the docks were built at a fixed height to accommodate the normal, higher water levels, it made loading and unloading of the boats and ferries difficult. To remedy the situation, Disney retrofitted all of the docks with floating platforms so boat and dock levels would always be constant. If you look closely at this next picture, you can see a floating platform next to the stationary dock.


Floating Dock


No story of the water at Walt Disney World would be complete without mentioning the creation of Seven Seas Lagoon.

If you look at the early property map that Walt used to announce his latest endeavor, you can see the Magic Kingdom at the top left corner of the diagram. Notice that Bay Lake can be seen to the right of the Magic Kingdom, but no Seven Seas Lagoon to the south as this body of water wasn’t in the initial plans. Instead, we see several hotels clustered closely around the park.


WDW Concept Design

WDW Concept Design


Of course, as we know, the land directly south of the Magic Kingdom turned out to be swampland and was unsuitable for building. So the Imagineers drained this mucky quagmire, cleared out tons of rotting debris, and created another Florida lake.


Draining Seven Seas Lagoon

Draining Seven Seas Lagoon

Draining Seven Seas Lagoon


The creation of Seven Seas Lagoon brought about two positive happenstances. First, much of the mud that was excavated was used to bury the utilidors which lie beneath the Magic Kingdom. This earth became the “ground level” of the park.

In case you’ve ever wondered where the utilidors are located, here is a map. Notice that they do not connect every corner of the park, but only go to key locations.


Utilidors


The other positive surprise came with the discovery of white sand buried beneath the muck. This sand would eventually be used to line the shores of the Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts.


White Sand Beach

White Sand Beach


Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon give Walt Disney World something that Disneyland will never have, water recreation. From the marinas of the resorts that line these bodies of water, a number of floating activities can be arranged. Fishing, mini-speed boats, and pontoon boats are all available when someone needs a break from the parks.


Speed Boat

Pontoon Boat


At the Contemporary, Sammy Duvall offers guests an opportunity to waterski and parasail.


Water Skiing

Parasailing

Parasailing


There are other large bodies of water at Walt Disney World worth mentioning such as Crescent and Village Lakes and Sassagoula River, but I think I’m going to table these for the time being.

Now let’s take a look at the water found in the Magic Kingdom. Main Street would be a good place to start, except there really aren’t any water features in this land " not unless you count drinking fountains and restrooms. So let’s move onto the Hub.

The Magic Kingdom Hub is unique among the five Magic Kingdom-type parks around the world. It is the only one that is completely surrounded by a river. Although these other park’s may have small ponds and lakes, their Hub’s are not islands. In my opinion, this fact makes the Florida Hub the most beautiful. The water has a calming effect. This is especially welcome on busy days.


The Hub Waterway

The Hub Waterway

The Hub Waterway

The Hub Waterway


While scouring through my pictures of the Hub, I came across this next photo. It seems that at one time simple fountains added atmosphere near the Rose Garden Pavilion.


Swan Boat Fountain


As I’m sure you know, the waterway that circles the Hub was created for the Swan Boats that ran from May 1972 until August 1983. Did you also know that besides circling the Hub, the Swan Boats also circled Swiss Family Treehouse?


Swan Boat


The Imagineers were able to create the Swan Boat waterway for two reasons. First, they had the land to do so whereas Disneyland did not. But more than that, there is an abundance of water available that the non-Florida parks lack. Did you know that the Swan Boat waterway, the Jungle Cruise rivers, and the Rivers of America are all connected and are fed by Seven Seas Lagoon?


One of the most unassuming water features in the Magic Kingdom is found in front of First Aid. This simple fountain sports a pineapple on top, a sign of hospitality and welcome.


Pineapple Fountain


Because the Hub is an island, bridges are needed to transport guests to the various lands. These bridges help tell the story and prepare our minds for what is to come. Tomorrowland features a modern, concrete bridge. The Adventureland bridge has an elaborate, tropical feel whereas the Liberty Square bridge is a far more simple wooden structure. Then of course the castle bridge is made of stone and has an imposing look.


Tomorrowland Bridge

Liberty Square Bridge

Castle Bridge


Currently, the Hub is going through a major refurbishment to create more viewing opportunities for nighttime castle shows and fireworks. Because of this, the Swan Boat canal is drained of water. I think you’ll agree after looking at these next two pictures, water adds a lot to the landscape.


Drained Hub River

Drained Hub River


At the northeast corner of the Hub is a lovely waterfall. It’s fun to stand on the nearby bridge and watch the ducks take a refreshing drink.


Cosmic Ray Waterfall

Cosmic Ray Waterfall


Let’s move next to Tomorrowland. When the Magic Kingdom first opened, the entrance to this land-of-the-future looked much different. Two tall towers flanked the entrance and water cascaded down from the top of the spires. When the wind was light, this was an impressive sight. Unfortunately, even the smallest breeze caused the water to spray those walking by. On cold days, park managers turned this feature off to help protect guests from getting wet. Tomorrowland was updated in 1994 and the entrance took on a new look " minus a water feature.


Old Tomorrowland Entrance

New Tomorrowland Entrance


The Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland was designed in the late 1960’s. At that time, the Imagineers thought the future would be concrete, concrete, and more concrete. Because of this, no lakes or fountains were included in this land. The only water feature within the original Tomorrowland was the waterfall at the base of the Skyway Terminal.


Skyway Terminal


Because of this initial design, the reimagined Tomorrowland of the 1990’s still lacks water as a design element. Today, the only attractions that are remotely related to water are the large stone sphere that floats on a thin layer of water and the mist that sprays from the Thirst Rangers Rocket Ship.


Floating Stone Sphere

Thirst Rangers Rocket Ship


Interestingly, the Tomorrowlands of Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland did include water in their designs with the inclusion of the Nautilus and a children’s splash area. And of course, Disneyland had the Submarine Voyage.


Disneyland Paris

Hong Kong Disneyland

Disneyland


Let’s move counterclockwise and take the pathway that leads from Tomorrowland to Storybook Circus.

Storybook Circus has perhaps the best water feature in the Magic Kingdom. Casey Jr. Splash ‘N” Soak Station is a fantastic play area for kids. On hot days, the water jets offer a great cool-down area.


Casey Jr. Splash ‘N” Soak Station

Casey Jr. Splash ‘N” Soak Station

Casey Jr. Splash ‘N” Soak Station

Casey Jr. Splash ‘N” Soak Station


The Dumbo attraction at Disneyland has had a water feature ever since their Fantasyland was remodeled in 1984. However, the Dumbo attraction at the Magic Kingdom did not. This is because the Magic Kingdom’s version was located on top of the Utilidors and the weight of the water would be too much for the underground structure. However, when Dumbo was moved to Storybook Circus, water was added to enhance the ride. Although guests do not get wet on this attraction, the water adds a nice bit of ambiance.


Dumbo

Dumbo


As we move into Fantasyland proper, we come to the Under the Sea " Journey of The Little Mermaid. The exterior of this attraction is modeled after Prince Eric’s castle which is located on the seashore. The outside portion of this queue features a lagoon that suggests it’s an offshoot from a nearby ocean or sea. As we venture further along the path, we come to several waterfalls cascading from nearby cliffs.


Prince Eric's Castle Home

nce Eric's Castle Home

nce Eric's Castle Home


Inside the attraction we see make-believe water featured in the Kiss the Girl vignette.


Kiss the Girl


Next door to the Little Mermaid attraction is Gaston’s Tavern. Out front of this non-alcoholic pub is a statue a Gaston holding two kegs of ale, spilling into mugs held by LeFou. I find the irony here interesting.


Gaston's Fountain


Near Beast Castle, a rushing river flows from the mountains and under a bridge where it collects in a quiet pool. It appears that this pool will someday also connect with waterfalls flowing from the nearby Dwarf’s mine.


Beast Castle

Beast Castle

Seven Dwarf's Mine


Before Ariel, Beauty, Beast, and Gaston came to this area of Fantasyland, there was the 20,000 Leagues under the Sea attraction. This was a huge water feature. So big in fact that it engulfed 25% of the real estate in Fantasyland and held 11.5 million gallons of water. But unlike the water found in the Swan Boat waterway and the Jungle Cruise, this was a self-contained system which filtered 3,000 gallons of water per hour, making it clearer than tap water.


20,000 Leagues under the Sea


At Disneyland, the submarines traveled beneath a full waterfall. But at the Magic Kingdom, the Imagineers could never get the boat’s hatches to seal completely and they leaked. Eventually it was decided to part the waterfall so the subs were not directly hit with water as they sailed into the indoor portion of the attraction.


Disneyland Submarine

Magic Kingdom Submarine


In the original queue of “it’s a small world,” fountains were used in in the loading/unloading area. But after the remodel, these were eliminated.


Small World Fountain


The old Fantasyland Skyway Terminal had a small waterfall and pond to add interest to this Alpine structure.


Fantasyland Skyway Station


The Skyway Terminal was recently replaced with a new restroom and relaxation area themed around the Kingdom of Corona, home of Rapunzel. Near her tower is a small waterfall that spills into a stream that flows through the area.


Kingdom of Corona


One of the most sought after picture spots in Fantasyland also involves water. The Cinderella fountain that sits across from the castle is a favorite of many little princesses.


Cinderella Fountain


In Mickey’s Philharmagic, guests are treated to a surprise splash of water in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence.


Mickey’s Philharmagic


Liberty Square does not have any water features as I believe the Rivers of America is part of Frontierland " even though the Liberty Belle Riverboat (thematically incorrectly) loads and unloads from this land. On the other hand, Frontierland has a number of water features " like the Rivers of America.

The Rivers of America is the largest water feature in the Magic Kingdom. Although it has no fountains or waterfalls, it is still impressive and adds a tremendous amount of atmosphere to the area. The Liberty Belle is a beautiful sight as it sails by.


Rivers of America

Liberty Belle


And if you happen to time your voyage on the Lilly Belle Riverboat correctly, you just might get to see one of the steam locomotives reflecting in the water as it crosses the turntable bridge that traverses a small inlet.


Steam Train Reflection on Rivers of America


Thunder Mountain has a number of water features. The first is in the queue where we see a wooden trough funneling water away from the mountain. A second such device can be seen while riding the runaway train.


Big Thunder Mountain Trough

Big Thunder Mountain Trough


Once on the mine train, guests encounter water on several occasions. The first is when the locomotive makes its initial uphill climb. To the right is a phosphorescent pool. As droplets fall from stalactites, the ripple effect creates a rainbow of colors in the pool below. In its day, this was a state-of-the-art effect.


phosphorescent pool


Then of course, there is the raging water fall at the top of the hill that cascades to both sides of the train.


Thunder Mountain Waterfall


Further on, we come to the washed out town of Tumbleweed. Perhaps the two most interesting water related figures here are Cumulus Isobar who is frantically bailing water and Cousin Elrod who is taking advantage of the flood and relaxing in a bathtub.


Cumulus Isobar

Cousin Elrod


Near the end of the ride, the train skirts a mudpot. This acidic hot spring bubbles and gurgles as you whisk by.


Mudpot


At the exit of Big Thunder are several geysers that erupt without notice. On a hot day, the mist generated from these geysers can feel pretty nice.


Geysers


Splash Mountain is one GIANT water feature. Just watching the hollowed out logs plummet down Chickapin Hill is fun.


Chickapin Hill


Deep inside Splash Mountain guests find an amusing water feature. Just before the ascent, leap fountains crisscross our path and frogs and turtles frolic in the mist.


Leap Fountain


If you hadn’t already gotten soaked, the Imagineers wanted to give you one more chance to get wet. Toward the end of the ride, the logs pass by yet another waterfall. Although you don’t get drenched, passengers sitting on the right side of the log do get splashed. Thankfully, the water flowing down this fall is cut back when the temperatures drop.


Second Splash Mountain Waterfall


Over in Adventureland, I really wouldn’t say that Pirates of the Caribbean has a water feature as you can’t actually see the waterfall that you plunge down as you head for the battle between the Wicked Wench and the fortress.

Probably the most famous Adventureland water feature are the tiki poles designed by Disney Legend Marc Davis. When originally installed, these humorous fellows were simply a show piece with no water feature. But a remodel gave these island gods the ability to spit on guests and blow steam from their nostrils.


Tiki Gods


Speaking of spitting… The two camels keeping watch at The Magic Carpets of Aladdin like to hit unsuspecting guests with their make-believe saliva.


Spitting Camel


The queue of the Tiki Room includes a parting waterfall that reveals Clyde & Claude, cousin toucans who host the pre-show.


Tiki Room Room Queue


Before the Tiki Room was remodeled to include Zazu and Iago in “Under New Management,” it included the Enchanted Fountain. From a bed of tropical flowers, a column of water raised to a height of over five feet, astounding guests with its magical properties.


Tiki Room Water Column


"And now, we're approaching beautiful Schweitzer Falls, named after the famous African explorer, Dr. Albert Falls."

"You know, I've heard that more water comes over Schweitzer Falls in one minute than a man can drink in his entire lifetime. I don't know about you, but I find that a little hard to swallow."


Schweitzer Falls


Of course, the above quotes are just two of the hundreds that can be heard on the Jungle Cruise.

And down the river a bit, we come to the Elephant Wading Pool. But don’t worry, they all have their trunks on.


Elephant Wading Pool


Earlier I mentioned that Main Street had no water feature. I was incorrect. While looking through my pictures I found this massive example of water on Main Street.


Raining on Main Street

Raining on Main Street


That’s it for Part One. Check back Thursday when I’ll discuss the water found at Epcot.


April 21, 2014

Disney Policies -- Then and Now

Jack Spence Masthead


At a recent awards ceremony, Meryl Streep accused Walt Disney of being a sexist. To justify her claim she read from a 1938 rejection letter a female trainee program applicant received from him. It said, “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that is performed entirely by young men.”

Ms. Streep’s comment that Walt was a sexist irritated me " a lot.

Come on Meryl. It was 1938. Women really didn’t begin joining the workforce in any numbers until 1941 when World War II forced them out of the house. And when the war was over in 1945, most women returned home to take care of their families. You can’t judge a man who lived in the first half of the 20th century by 21st century standards. That’s just not reasonable.

For the most part, the women who did work in the early and mid-20th century held repetitive and non-decision-making jobs. They were telephone operators, secretaries, and sales clerks. Some even worked in the Ink & Paint Department of the Disney Studios " where Walt met Lillian.

Walt was a flawed man, just like the rest of us. He was a man of his generation and shared many of the same attitudes as his contemporaries. But Walt was always open to new ideas. If he hadn’t been, he wouldn’t have continually pushed himself and his team to think outside the box. And Walt grew and changed with the times. The Walt that sent that rejection letter in 1938 was not the same Walt that later included several women in his inner circle of Imagineers. These included Disney Legends Alice Davis, Harriet Burns, and Mary Blair. Were these women in the minority in a field dominated by men? Of course they were. But they were there nonetheless.

Television is often a good barometer of the country’s current morals and principles. Walt Disney died in December 1966 so I thought I might look at a few of the sitcoms that were popular during the 1950’s and 1960’s to see how women were portrayed back then.

The Honeymooners (1955 " 1956) -- Alice Kramden was a housewife.

I Love Lucy (1951 " 1957) " Ricky wanted Lucy to stay home and take care of the house. And when Lucy and Ethel got jobs in the episode titled “Job Switching,” they were failures and agreed that men were better suited for the workplace.

Father Knows Best (1954 " 1960) -- Margaret Anderson stayed home to take care of Betty, Bud, and Kathy.

Leave it to Beaver (1957 " 1963) " June stayed home (and wore pearls) to take care of Wally and the Beaver.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952 " 1966) " Harriet stayed home to take care of David and Ricky. (Ozzie also stayed home as he never had any recognizable job.)

The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961 " 1966) " Laura stayed home to take care of Richie. However, we did see Sally Rogers working with Rob and Buddy. But she was still assigned many of the traditional female duties within the writing team.

It wasn’t until 1970 when the Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered that things began to change for women on TV. Mary was the first never-married, independent career woman as the central character. This was three years after Walt’s death.

Walt wasn’t a sexist. Walt was a product of his time.

Now that I have that off my chest, I thought I would look back at some of the out-of-date policies that were in place at Disneyland in the early years. Once again, by today’s standards, some of them are horrifying. But Disney was a conservative company and tried to give the public what they thought the public wanted " just like most all businesses do. But in showing the negative, I also want to show the positive. I want to show you how working at the Disney parks has changed over the years. Today, Disney is often singled out as one of the top companies in the country to work for.

Disclaimer… Some of what I present here is from my own, personal observations from my employment at Disneyland from 1971 to 1980. But much of what I offer here is public record.


SHOW


Show is everything in a Disney park. For example, it bothered Walt greatly that the cast members’ locker room at Disneyland was located behind Tomorrowland. This forced cowboys and jungle explorers to walk through the Land of the Future in order to get to their jobs. This was an incongruity and created bad show.

What follows are some of the policies that were once in place to ensure that a guest never had to experience “bad show” during their visit.

Then

Cast member grooming policies were extremely strict. A male cast member’s hair could not extend over his shirt collar in the back or be long enough to get in his eyes in the front. Hair could not touch the ears and sideburns could only extend to the middle of the ear. Facial hair was strictly forbidden. Guys could not dye their hair in any manner.

Female workers could not add highlights or streak their hair. Clear nail polish was the only color allowed. Earrings could be no more than a quarter of an inch in diameter.

Cast members could only wear one ring " and it had to be on the ring or little finger. You certainly couldn’t wear it on the thumb.

Sometime around 1976, the policy on sideburns was changed. Guys were now allowed to grow them to the bottom of the ear, but no flairs or mutton-chops. Interestingly, this policy was not changed at WDW until sometime later.

Over the years, a number of cast members took Disney to court over this grooming policy, but they always lost. Disney was able to produce thousands of letters from guests stating that they loved how neat and clean all of the cast members looked. You must remember, long hair and bushy facial hair was all the rage in the 70’s with the hippie movement. Guests (and juries) found the “Disney look” refreshing.

Now

Disney still maintains a grooming policy, but things have loosened up tremendously over the years. One of the biggest changes we have seen recently revolves around facial hair. First Disney started allowing mustaches and more recently, beards.

Although Florida cast members working in food service may not wear rings for hygienic reasons, others are now allowed to wear a ring on each hand and on any finger.

Women can wear hooped earrings.

Then

If a woman got pregnant while working at Disneyland, she was allowed to work only as long as she could fit into a standard costume. Once she started showing, she had to take an unpaid leave of absence.

Now

Today, pregnant cast members may work as long as they are able and desire. Special costumes have been designed to promote this practice.

Then

Cast members with any visible impairment could not have an onstage job. For example, you would never see a wheelchair-bound cast member onstage in the 1970’s. If you broke an arm and required a cast, or had an eye infection and required a patch, you would not be allowed to work onstage. If management could find you a backstage job while you mended, you might be placed in some other position, but even this was definitely the exception, not the rule.

Now

Disney is a leader at hiring those with special needs " and often placing them in guest-facing positions. It is not uncommon at all to see a cast member in a wheelchair taking tickets, directing crowds, or in any number of roles.

Then

One of my hostess friends at the Blue Bayou Restaurant had a slight deformity on her right hand. Several of her fingers were fused together, however it was hardly noticeable. After working a summer as a hostess, it was her turn to be advanced to the position of waitress, a much better paying job. However, she was denied the promotion. She was told that her deformed hand would offend guests as she served them their food. It didn’t matter that she had been handing menus to guests for a year, serving food was considered a different matter. She ultimately threatened to take Disney to court. Disney eventually backed down and promoted her.

Now

This would never happen at a Disney park today. All positions are open to everyone. The only requirement is that an individual must be capable of doing the job.

Then

Although Disney would never admit to this (and it would be impossible to prove), those with good looks and good builds were hired into public-facing jobs " especially into Attractions (ride operators). Those with plain looks were assigned roles backstage. Of course, there were always exceptions to this unofficial policy, but it didn’t take a genius to see it was true. All you had to do is look around. This was done in the name of “show.”

Now

Once again, this type of policy would never fly at a Disney park today.


SAFETY


Disney has always been proactive when it comes to safety. But as times change, so do policies.

Then

I almost put this next entry under “Show” but decided it belonged under safety.

For a long time, cast members were forbidden to eat or drink while onstage. This was considered bad show. Even on the hottest days, cast members working out on the asphalt parking lot directing cars had to wait for their break to get a drink of water.

Now

Today, cast members are still forbidden to eat while onstage. However, many positions now allow cast members to carry a company approved water bottle on their belt so they may remain hydrated while working.

Then

Take a look at this old parking lot tram. These were still in use when I started working at Disneyland in 1971. It’s amazing that people weren’t falling out of these trams left and right.


Parking Log Tram


Now

The basic tram design we see today came about sometime during my tenure at Disneyland. But recently, Disney management went a step further and added doors.


Parking Lot Tram


SPECIAL NEEDS


Then

In the “old days” Disney parks made very few, if any, attempts at accommodating wheelchairs. Nobody did back then.

For example, in the Blue Bayou Restaurant, guests in wheelchairs had to be pulled up three stairs by their companions to gain access to the dining room.

Even today, we see signs of this lack of consideration. Take a look at the Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom. This restaurant was designed in the late sixties and opened in 1971 when mores were different. The restaurant portion of this eatery is located up two steps from the lobby. Even today, guests in wheelchairs must be brought into the restaurant through a side door or pulled up the steps.

Over at Columbia Harbour House, guests in wheelchairs wishing to eat upstairs are taken into the kitchen to use the restaurant’s only elevator.

Now

Today, Disney is a leader when it comes to ADA requirements. All new construction addresses the necessities of those with special needs and older structures are retrofitted whenever possible. Even rides that were strictly off limits to those with mobility issues have been modified to allow them to ride.

Then

When Disney World opened, there were only two hotels, the Contemporary and Polynesian. However, there was no elevator to the monorail platform at the Contemporary. Disney management of the day didn’t see a need. If someone used a wheelchair, they could stay at the Polynesian. Problem solved.

Now

Disney added an elevator to the Contemporary monorail platform. Now, wheelchair-bound guests have the same choice when it comes to accommodations as everyone else.


DISCRIMINATION


Then

When I started working at Disneyland in 1971, the park was run by men. Not as an official policy, but rather women hadn’t yet begun to move into supervisory positions with any great numbers. Of the several hundred supervisors and managers attending to the day-to-day operation of Disneyland, only a handful were women " and most in entry level management positions.

In the earliest years of the park, African Americans could only work in backstage jobs or as a performer. It wasn’t until 1968 that blacks were allowed into guest-facing jobs.

Now

Women and minorities are seen at all levels in the Disney Corporation. Here are three examples out of many:

Meg Crofton is President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations U.S. and France.


Meg Crofton


Aylwin B. Lewis is one of the members of the Disney Board of Directors.


Aylwin B. Lewis


George A. Kalogridis, an openly gay man, is President over the Walt Disney World Resort.


George A. Kalogridis,


Then

In the 1970’s, Disneyland had two ethnic restaurants, the Tahitian Terrace (full service) and Casa de Fritos (counter service). Almost all of the cast members working at the Tahitian Terrace were of Polynesian decent and almost all of the cast members working at Casa de Fritos were of Latin American decent. This hiring practice was defended in the name of theming. Disney management backed this policy by saying they were casting a role in a show. It would not be realistic to have a Mexican serving Polynesian food or a Hawaiian serving tacos.

Now

Once again, all roles at Disney Parks are open to all cast members. The exception is Epcot’s World Showcase. As these pavilions were set up to be cultural exchange areas, the majority of the cast members working here are either from the country represented or have spent a significant amount of time in that country and are extremely knowledgeable of that nation.

You might be asking yourself, “So what’s the difference between World Showcase and the Tahitian Terrace and Casa de Fritos?”

The cast members working at the Tahitian Terrace and Casa de Fritos only looked Polynesian or Latin American. In most cases, they had well established American roots and knew little about the foreign lands they were supposedly representing.

Then

In the 1970’s, only women could wait on tables in the full-service restaurants (the Blue Bayou, Tahitian Terrace, and Club 33). Men were not allowed to fill this role. It took a Club 33 busboy to change this policy. He took Disneyland to court on a discrimination charge and won the right to become a server. Still, it was several more years before Disney opened up this position to males in the Blue Bayou and Tahitian Terrace.

Now

As I keep saying, today, all roles are open to all cast members.

Then

Another area of sex discrimination took place on the Jungle Cruise and the Storybook Land Canal Boats attractions. It was reasoned that only a man could skipper a boat up the Congo and only a woman (“girl” in those days) could tell guests all about the fairytale homes found in Fantasyland.

In addition, the Tour Guide position was exclusively female.

Now

I really don’t know exactly when these practices were abolished, but eventually both of these attractions and the Tour Guide position were opened to both sexes.

Then

In the early 60’s, demands on Walt’s time were ever increasing and he needed someone “official” to represent him when he was unavailable. Thus, the Disneyland Ambassador Program began in 1965. The chosen ambassador would host dignitaries and oversee the opening of new attractions in Walt’s absence " along with a hundred other duties.

A new ambassador was selected each year. Only unmarried females were eligible for the position and she had to sign a contract stating that she would not marry during her term. Applicants went through rigorous interviews and eventually the field was narrowed down to five contenders " usually all from the Tour Guide Department. These finalists would be listed in the company newspaper, The Disneyland Line. In the next week or so, the judges would make their final selection and a winner was announced.

While I was working at Disneyland, male cast members began grumbling about this female-only position. Eventually, Disneyland opened up the ambassador position to both sexes. For a number of years afterwards, a male would make it into the final five, but somehow was never selected. It wasn’t until 1995, when three ambassadors were selected to represent Disneyland instead of just one that a male was finally chosen along with two females.

Now

Sexism is no longer a problem. In fact, in 2007, two men were selected as ambassadors of the WDW Resort (Lowell A. Doringo and Michael Kelley). Women were left completely out in the cold that year. In addition, ambassadors can now be married.

Then

Disney also discriminated when it came to a person’s size. Although I don’t have the actual statistics, people who were too tall, too short, or too big could not be hired into the day-to-day jobs at Disneyland as there were no costumes available for them.

My high school girlfriend and I applied for a job at Disneyland at the same time. I was hired (at 5’10”), but she was told she was too short (at 5’3”) as Disney didn’t make a costume in her size.

Now

You guessed it; a person’s size isn’t a problem anymore.

By the way, twenty years later, my then girlfriend reapplied and received a nice part-time job in merchandising at Disneyland.

Then

Although I wouldn’t exactly call this next entry discrimination, it certainly falls into the sexist category.

When the Club 33 opened, the vast majority of the members were local businessmen. In the early years, the restaurant was frequented primarily by these gentlemen, their guests, and the male executives of the Disney Company. To appeal to the male libido, the waitress costume was that of a stereotypical French maid. Although not racy by today’s standards, it was somewhat risqué in the 1970’s " especially for Disneyland.

This costume’s design also dictated that a rubenesque woman could not be a server at the Club 33. Not to mention, the older a woman grew, the more inappropriate the costume became.

When men began waiting tables at the Club 33, they were costumed in a tuxedo-type outfit. Still, the women remained in this sexist getup.


Club 33 French Maid Costume


Now

Although I don’t have a picture, the women servers at the Club 33 today are dressed in a far more dignified costume.


FOOD SERVICE


Since I worked in Food Service at Disneyland, these are the stories I can tell. I’m sure those working Attractions and Merchandising would have their own tales as well.

Then

Disneyland had only one executive chef who oversaw all of the park’s restaurants and was responsible for most of the menus.

New Orleans Square sits atop a giant basement. Within this basement is a large kitchen designed to serve five satellite kitchens and restaurants (Blue Bayou, French Market, Créole Café, Club 33, and an employee’s cafeteria). Knowing that this new complex would be serving thousands of meals each day, Disney hired retired army cooks to man the “Main Kitchen.” Management figured “who better” than a military man to feed the masses.

These army guys were great, hard-working souls that did a fantastic job, but none of them had any real, formal culinary training. They had all learned their craft from other army personnel while in the service. Most of these guys worked the day shift and would leave the premises in the late afternoon. In the evening, college kids took over.

In the early years, the New Orleans Square restaurants offered decent, somewhat authentic Southern food. Far above anything that had ever been seen in a theme park before. However, by the mid 1970’s, the menus had changed significantly. Due to a lack of truly professional chefs and budget cuts, many of the once cooked-on-premises items had been replaced with off-the-shelf entrees that only required thawing and heating. By the time I transferred to the Club 33 in 1977, the Blue Bayou, the flagship restaurant of Disneyland, was serving instant mashed potatoes. The restaurant was no better than a coffee shop in the quality of food that it offered.

Now

Today, all Disney restaurants have professionally trained chefs on hand or nearby. And although the topic of food is somewhat subjective, I can assure you, what is offered today at Disney’s full-service restaurants is a far cry from what it was in the late 1970’s.

Then

If you had a food allergy in the mid 70’s, you were pretty much out of luck. No chef was available to personally speak with you and cook you a special meal. There certainly were no recipes on hand for us to check ingredients. A vegetarian plate at the Blue Bayou consisted of a scoop of corn, green beans, rice, instant mashed potatoes, and a lettuce leaf with a scoop of cottage cheese. Hardly a healthy offering.

Now

If you have a food allergy, the restaurant’s chef will personally come to your table to discuss your needs. Even counter-service restaurants will work with you to see that your requirements are met. Just ask.

In addition, all restaurants offer healthy options.


CONCLUSION


I would like to say, that in spite of some of the practices that were in place while I worked at Disneyland, overall I had a wonderful experience working there. I wouldn’t trade my time at the Blue Bayou and Club 33 for anything.

Once again, please remember, these eyebrow-raising policies and incidents were a reflection of the times and Disney’s attempt to theme things accordingly. I think you can see from my examples, things have changed for the better.

Is the Disney Company perfect today? Nope. And neither is any other company. They are all run by imperfect humans. Does Disney still have out-of-date practices? Probably. I’m sure some cast members have their complaints. But in numerous surveys and studies, Disney is constantly ranked among the top U.S. employers.

So Meryl, you can call Walt a sexist if you want. But then you would also have to call “The Happiest Place on Earth” a den of inequity. Personally, I don’t buy it.



April 14, 2014

Coronado Springs -- A Relook

Jack Spence Masthead

Coronado Springs

The AllEars team strives to keep our webpages up-to-date. Trust me, this is no easy task. As you are probably aware, Disney is constantly changing things big and small and we’re often playing catch-up.

As my longtime readers know, I have written reviews for all of the Disney resorts plus the Swan and Dolphin. These are available in the AllEars archives. To find a particular article, go to our search engine and type “Jack” plus the name of the resort. Chances are good that my blog will be the first or second listing.

I am now in the process of reexamining all of the Disney World resorts to see what has changed since my last overnight visit " and I decided to start with Coronado Springs. I last posted on this resort on August 17, 2010. To see this article,
click here. What follows is not another full description of the resort, but rather a listing of what’s changed in the last three and a half years. Let’s start with the room.

Coronado Springs is one of three moderately priced resorts located at Walt Disney World. The others are the Caribbean Beach Resort and the Port Orleans Resort. Coronado Springs opened on August 1, 1997, has 1,921 guest rooms and suites, and is the only resort in this price category to have a full-fledged convention center. The entrance to the complex is located off of West Buena Vista Drive.

The guest rooms at Coronado Springs measure approximately 314 square feet. Most rooms feature two queen beds. There are 224 rooms with king-size beds and 99 disabled-accessible rooms.

On both of my visits, I stayed in the “Cabanas” section of the resort. The theme here is that of a small tropical fishing village found along the Mexican coast. On my first visit I stayed in a “standard” room, on my recent outing, I was lodged in a corner room.

(Note, on my first visit, I stayed in building 9B. The rooms in this block are “business class” rooms. On my second visit, I was lodged in building 9A, a “regular” room. Some of the changes described below can be attributed to this.)

The first change you’ll notice are the guest room door locks. These are now operated via a wristband rather than a cardkey. Guests simply “tap” the Mickey on their band to the receiver on the door and presto, the lock clicks open.


Wristband Door Locks

Wristband Door Locks


The overall décor of the rooms was the same then as it is now. I know this because I took extensive photos on each visit. The first picture below is from 2010 and the second from 2014.


Room Decor

Room Decor


The only décor change I could find has to do with seating. In 2010 the room had a chair. In 2014, the chair had been replaced by two hassocks. This can be attributed to the difference in categories. The “business” room has a chair, the “regular” room has hassocks.


Room Decor

Room Decor


In 2010 the room had a DVD player. It did not today. Once again, this can be attributed to room category.

Parents beware! At one time, Disney blocked adult content from the internet when connecting via their WiFi. This was not the case on my last visit.

The vanity and bath areas are identical except that the shower curtain now sports a colorful Mesoamerica design. It’s a little change but a big impact.


Shower Curtain

Shower Curtain


I did not notice any changes in the exterior of the buildings, the main lobby, the registration area, and Panchito’s, the resort’s shop.

Café Rix, was added to Coronado Springs several years after the resort opened. This is a “grab-and-go” food mart where guests can purchase a quick bite to eat. In 2010, this spot featured a small counter-service window were you could order a hot breakfast, hamburgers, pizza, and other similar items cooked to order. Unfortunately, this counter has been removed and now all “meals” are prepackaged at Café Rix.


Cafe Rix Counter


The “kitchen” area in the Pepper Market has been slightly rearranged and the Asian food station removed.


Pepper Market


The menu for Maya Grill has changed significantly over the last three and a half years


Maya Grill


At the Explorer’s Playground at The Dig, I noticed the swings were missing. I do not know if this is a permanent situation or temporary.


Swing Set

Missing Swings


All of the swimming pools now offer lifts that can lower and raise a mobility challenged person into and out of the water.


Swimming Pool Lift


The only other change I noticed were in the prices. Everything is more expensive today. Sigh.

I feel that Coronado Springs is the “forgotten” Disney World resort. When I ask people where they are staying, I rarely hear this resort mentioned " and I’m not sure why. I like this spot a lot. I think the architecture is wonderful and it boasts a magnificent pool and playground for the kids. In addition, the Pepper Market is a unique dining opportunity with nothing else like it at Walt Disney World. I know the resort is large, but it’s not any larger than Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. And bus service is available to transport you to and from El Centro.

I’m a big proponent of trying everything Disney has to offer. To stay at the same resort year after year and to eat at the same restaurant time and time again is limiting. Disney has put a lot of effort and imagination into everything they do. When you try something new, it might not make it to your top-ten list. But then again, it just might. And it’s rare that Disney will give you a bad experience so you really don’t have anything to lose. So next time you’re contemplating booking a moderate hotel, consider Coronado Springs. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

While visiting last week, I videotaped my guest room (2½ minutes) and the entire resort (12½ minutes). Take a look and see if you don’t agree that this resort is worth your consideration.



RELATED LINKS:

** Coronado Springs Fact Sheet
** Reader Reviews
** Holiday Decorations Around Coronado Springs Video

April 7, 2014

Disney Hodgepodge Four

Jack Spence Masthead


Pacific Electric Pictures

Today I’m going to discuss one of the stores found on Hollywood Boulevard at Disney's Hollywood Studios, L.A. Cinema Storage. Inside this building shoppers can find children’s clothing, plush toys, character hats, and princess merchandise.


L.A. Cinema Storage

L.A. Cinema Storage

L.A. Cinema Storage


As you may know, many of the buildings on both Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards were modeled after real structures found in the Los Angeles area. L.A. Cinema Storage is one of these and its inspiration can be found at 9070 Venice Boulevard, Culver City, CA.


Substation


Years before Los Angeles was famous for its freeways, it boasted the largest mass transit system in the world, the Pacific Electric Railway. LA locals affectionately called the trolleys either the P.E. or the Red Car. The system spanned southern California with over 1,100 miles of track that ran between Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties. The system was begun by Henry Huntington as a way of opening up new land to developers. As freeways grew in popularity during the 1950’s, P.E. ridership declined. The last Red Car ran in April, 1961.

The above building in Culver City was designed in the Mission Revival style of architecture and was used as a substation for the Red Car. Inside this structure, rectifiers converted AC power into DC power to run the Pacific Electric Railway. This substation was renovated in 1992 and today is used as a theater for live performances.

The backstory for the building at Disney's Hollywood Studios also suggests that this structure was used in connection with the Pacific Electric Railway. If you look near the building’s peak you can see the P.E. logo. In addition, if you examine the side of this structure (before the addition of the large awning) you can see oversized doors. These doors suggests that this building was a car barn for the Red Cars. To further this backstory, the Imagineers placed a Red Car station directly across the street.


P.E. Building

P.E. Building

P.E. Station


You might also notice the address of this building 1928. This is the year Mickey Mouse made his debut in Steamboat Willie.


1928 Address


When the Studio first opened, this structure had a far more interesting function than “just another place to buy souvenirs.” This stop along Hollywood Boulevard was called Pacific Electric Pictures. Although I have no still photos of this location, I did take a few videos using one of those gigantic on-the-shoulder cameras. What you see next are freeze-frame photos I captured from my cinematographic efforts.

A banner was draped above the doors facing Hollywood Boulevard, beckoning guests to come in for an audition and screen test.


Pacific Electric Pictures

Pacific Electric Pictures


Once inside, guests found themselves on a mini-sound stage. Several cameras and some sound equipment were positioned around the room and a number of backdrops were available. Also on hand were racks of costumes in various sizes.

Those who wandered in for a looksee were encouraged to participate, but when budding stars were scarce, cast members would recruit would-be actors from the street. Once a group was assembled, they would then be instructed how to play a particular scene by a comical director. After a short rehearsal, the scene was played out again, but this time it was videotaped. And guess what, guests could actually buy a copy of their Hollywood debut on video tape for a mere $24.95.


Pacific Electric Pictures


Researching Pacific Electric Pictures turns up almost no information. It is mentioned in the 1990 and 1991 “Steve Birmbaums’ Guide to Walt Disney World,” but it is not mentioned in the 1992 version. So obviously, this attraction did not garner enough attention (and money) to become a long-lived, must-do event.

A similar and also short-lived attraction could be found across the street in what is now the Keystone Building. At Sights and Sounds, guests could record their own music videos. But once again, lack of interest forced the closing of this attraction within its second year.


AMC Fork & Screen

In the late 1940’s and 1950’s, the owners of movie theaters were worried that the relatively new invention of television would cut into their business. They believed if folks opted to stay home and watch free TV, it would hurt profits. But for the most part, their fears were unwarranted. Going to the movies remained a special treat and people enjoyed the sound and picture quality that home entertainment could not offer.

However, things changed in the 2000’s. Now it is possible to get the “theater” experience at home. Big screen high-definition televisions, surround sound, Blu-ray, Netflix, 3D, cable and satellite offer the film enthusiasts a real alternative to a night out at the movies.

To combat this new competition, theater chains have had to come up with creative ways to lure customers back into their establishments. One idea is to offer more than the traditional concession fare to their patrons. Hot dogs, nachos, and popcorn are good, but they don’t really take the place of a real meal. So several theater chains have converted some of their multiplexes into combination dining room/movie houses. Now, patrons can enjoy a real meal in comfort while watching the latest blockbuster. The AMC Theater at Downtown Disney West side is one of these establishments. They call this new service Fork & Screen.


Fork & Screen Logo


Although you can enter the Downtown Disney AMC Theater at two locations, the main entrance for Fork & Screen is located across from Planet Hollywood.


Fork & Screen Entrance


You can purchase tickets at the theater, but I suggest buying them online for the best seat selection. Once you pay for your admission, a chart will appear that allows you to select the seats you want.

The theaters have two seating configurations, 4-4-4 and 2-4-2. Since the theater is relatively small, all of the seats are good. However, I would avoid the seats against the wall in the 4-4-4 configuration.


Seating Chart

Seating Chart

(Charts not to scale.)


The system does have intelligence built into it. For example, a party of two cannot pick the two middle seats in a row of four, leaving a single seat on either side. The system does this to avoid “stray” seats. However, this isn’t a problem. The seats are so large and roomy that it really isn’t an annoyance to have someone sitting next to you.

When you arrive at the theater, you present the box office personnel with the credit card you used to pay with online. You will then be given your tickets with your seat numbers printed on them.

The theater opens 30 minutes before the stated show time (when previews begin). Although you can arrive one minute before the movie, I would suggest at least 20 minutes before the previews start. This gives you time to get settled and read the menu with overhead lights. Shortly after getting seated, your waiter will arrive and take your drink order. When he returns, it’s hoped that you’ll be ready to place your meal order. Note, the food is charged separately from your admission ticket. About halfway through the movie, your waiter will bring you the bill. In addition, each set of seats has a “call button” to summon your waiter if you need refills, extra catsup, or whatever.

Here are a few pictures of the seats and tables.


Fork & Screen

Fork & Screen

Fork & Screen


For those of you who have eaten at the Sci Fi Dine In at Disney's Hollywood Studios, you might notice a similarity in table/chair configuration. However, at the Fork & Screen, the table is significantly further away from your chair " especially if you lean back. Because of this, most meals are served in large, square bowls. This allows you to lean back, hold the bowl in your lap, and forgo the table. If you opt for this style of eating, I have two suggestions. First, order finger food. It’s easier to eat. For instance, their juicy hamburgers are good, but they are also messy. And with the overhead lights out, navigating a burger in the dark can be difficult. Second, tuck the provided cloth napkin into your shirt.

There is no minimum order. And in addition to full meals and desserts, your waiter can also bring you traditional snacks from the concession stand and cocktails from the bar.

The price of a seat is more at Fork and Screen than at the traditional theaters next door, but it’s worth it. They’re very comfortable and roomy. I don’t even mind a stranger sitting directly next to me here as the seats are so big.

Fork & Screen is available to those 18 and over. Children must be accompanied by an adult.



Mickey Transmission Tower

I’m sure many of you have viewed pictures of this Disney World oddity, but I’m guessing that most of you have never seen it in person " a high voltage transmission tower in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Located in Celebration just off of Interstate 4, this tower receives power from an adjacent substation.


Mickey Mouse Transmission Tower


I really can’t tell you much about this tower other than it exists. After scouring the internet, I came up with nothing I could substantiate. One excerpt I found says the creation of this icon was a collaboration between Tampa Electric and Reedy Creek. Another says that the same company that created this tower also made the Olympic Rings for the Atlanta Olympics. I also read that normally a “Y” tower is called for in situations like this but the designers were able to use Mickey to get the job done. (I don’t even know what a “Y” tower is.) I also read the tower is 80 feet tall. However, I can’t corroborate any of this. So this Hodgepodge entry is here only to tell you a Mickey Mouse transmission tower exists. Shocking!

That’s it for this week. Check back next Monday when I revisit Coronado Springs.


April 1, 2014

March Madness Quiz -- Answers

Jack Spence Masthead.jpg


Here are the answers to yesterday's quiz. Let me know if you got all 20 correct.



1. Since its opening on October 1, 1971, the Magic Kingdom has always been open seven days a week. Disney planners knew that their audience would be driving and flying in from great distances and they understood that the park needed to be open every day to accommodate visitors' vacation plans. But that wasn't the case with Disneyland when it first opened on July 17, 1955. Most guests would be making day trips as they lived in the Southern California area. Because of this, Disneyland was closed for two days each week during off season. What two days were they closed?

A. Monday & Tuesday
B. Tuesday & Wednesday
C. Wednesday & Thursday
D. Thursday & Friday
E. The above statement is untrue. Disneyland was always open seven days a week.

A. Disneyland was closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.

In the early years, attendance did not demand seven-day operation. Closing the park for two days each week helped keep costs down and allowed maintenance workers to complete many on-stage tasks out of sight from guests. In addition, nearby Knott's Berry Farm was closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. This gave vacationers and day visitors a theme park to visit every day. Disneyland did not begin seven day operation until February 6, 1985.


Disneyland Marquee



2. Where would you find Devil's Elbow at Walt Disney World?

A. Haunted Mansion
B. Tower of Terror
C. Rivers of America
D. Rafiki's Planet Watch
E. None of the above

C. Rivers of America

Along the banks of the Rivers of America are a number of river markers such as Tree Snag Reef, Crawdad Shoals, and Howling Dog Bend. At the north end of Tom Sawyer Island is Devil's Elbow. This is the spot where the Lilly Belle Riverboat makes a sharp turn to return to Liberty Square.


Devil's Elbow

Devil's Elbow



3. Who narrates the Hall of Presidents attraction at the Magic Kingdom?

A. Maya Angelou
B. J.D. Hall
C. Morgan Freeman
D. An uncredited Disney Imagineer
E. None of the above

C. Morgan Freeman

When Bill Clinton was added to the presidential lineup, Maya Angelou narrated the presentation. When George W. Bush was added, J.D. Hall was called upon to tell the story of the chief executives. And when Barack Obama joined this elite club, Morgan Freeman took over the job of narrator.


Hall of Presidents

Hall of Presidents

Morgan Freeman



4. What company was the original sponsor of the Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain?

A. FedEx
B. RCA
C. General Electric
D. Monsanto
E. None of the above

B. RCA

RCA was the original sponsor of Space Mountain and helped fund the attraction's construction. Its logo could be seen on the marquee from January 15, 1975 until sponsorship ended in 1994. FedEx took over sponsorship in 1994 and ended its Disney alliance in 2004. Currently, Space Mountain has no corporate affiliation.


RCA Space Mountain Logo

Space Mountain Attraction Poster



5. Tower of Terror sits at the end of Sunset Boulevard at Disney's Hollywood Studios. What other idea did the Imagineers seriously consider for this spot?

A. Mary Poppin's Jolly Holliday
B. The Rocketeer's Flight
C. Cruella de Vil and the 101 Dalmatians
D. Dick Tracy's Crime Stoppers
E. None of the above

D. Dick Tracy's Crime Stoppers

Disney had very high expectations for their movie “Dick Tracy” starring Warren Beatty. So much so that they put their Imagineers to work planning a new attraction to be titled “Dick Tracy's Crime Stoppers.” Designers envisioned guests riding in 1920-style vehicles that would use the same Enhanced Motion Vehicle technology that is now seen on the Indiana Jones Adventure and Dinosaur attractions. Each rider would be equipped with a Tommy gun that used the laser technology found in Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. As riders careened through the streets of Chicago, they would aim at a number of “bad guy” targets along the route. Unfortunately, the movie did not live up to expectations and the attraction was shelved.


Dick Tracy's Crime Stoppers



6. During the preshow of “Dinosaur” at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Dr. Marsh introduces the audience to the Time Rover, a vehicle that will take us to the early Cretaceous period. However, one of her colleagues has different ideas and reprograms the Time Rover to take us to the late Cretaceous period so we can bring back an iguanodon. What is the name of this second doctor?

A. Dr. Clarence P. Wilkerson
B. Dr. Harry F. Sinclair
C. Dr. Bernard Dunn
D. Dr. Grant Seeker
E. None of the above

D. Dr. Grant Seeker

Phylicia Rashad plays Dr. Helen Marsh and Wallace Langham plays Dr. Grant Seeker. Although neither character's first name is mentioned in the attraction, Dr. Marsh's first name can be found in newspaper clippings posted in Restaurantosaurus. The only first name reference I could find for Dr. Seeker was in Wallace Langham's IMDB webpage.

Grant Seeker… The name is a joke. Think about it.


Dinosaur Attraction

Doctors March and Seeker



7. Who created the voice of Madame Leota in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom?

A. Marni Nixon
B. Eleanor Audley
C. Barbara Billingsley
D. Natalie Schafer
E. None of the above

B. Eleanor Audley

Eleanor Audley voiced Madame Leota in the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom Haunted Mansions. However it is Imagineer Leota Toombs' face guests see floating in the crystal ball. Besides Ms. Audley's numerous television appearances, she also voiced Lady Tremaine in the Disney animated film “Cinderella” and Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty.”


Madame Leota

Eleanor Audley

Maleficent

Eleanor Audley

Lady Tremaine


Regarding option “A”… For those of you not familiar with Marni Nixon, she is known for her “behind-the-curtain” singing voice and has lent her talents to some of Hollywood's greatest stars. She dubbed for Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady,” Natalie Wood in “West Side Story,” and Deborah Kerr in “The King and I.” All of these accomplishments were uncredited and kept secret for many years.

Marni Nixon also has a Disney connection. She was the soloist in the opening sequence of “Cinderella.” The singing flowers in “Alice in Wonderland” owe their vocal talents to her as well as the geese in “Mary Poppins.” And finally, the singing voice of Grandmother Fa in “Mulan” was Marni. Of these, “Mulan” is the only movie in which she received on-screen credit.


Marni Nixon



8. Where in the Magic Kingdom is Mr. Dinglinger referenced?

A. Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland
B. The Chapeau shop on Main Street
C. Prairie Outpost & Supply in Frontierland
D. Big Top Souvenirs in Storybook Circus
E. None of the above

B. The Chapeau shop on Main Street

On the wall in The Chapeau, a small shop located across the street from Tony's Town Square Café, is an old-fashioned telephone. If you lift the receiver and listen, you can hear momma calling Dinglinger's Store to talk to her daughter Annie. This 3½ minute conversation is very amusing. If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend listening in on your next visit. I think you'll enjoy it.

This conversation was one of two originally recorded for the Market House at Disneyland and one version or another has been playing there since the park opened in 1955.

This was a difficult question. Give yourself a bonus point if you got it correct. That is, if you actually knew the answer and you weren't just guessing.


The Chapeau

old-fashioned telephone



9. Who dedicated the Disneyland monorail in June, 1959?

A. Actor Ronald Reagan and family
B. Television Personality Art Linkletter and family
C. California Governor Pat Brown and family
D. Walt's wife Lillian and his two daughters Diane and Sharon
E. None of the above

E. None of the above


Then Vice President Richard Nixon and his family dedicated Walt's newest toy, the Disneyland-Alweg monorail.

At the event, a large pair of scissors were handed to Nixon's two daughters Tricia and Julie to cut the ceremonial ribbon. However, the scissors were made out of wood and would not slice through the ribbon. After several attempts, Walt reached down and tore the ribbon in half by hand.

With the monorail now officially open, Walt and the Nixon family climbed into the monorail cab. At the same time, Art Linkletter, Fred MacMurray, Bob Cummings, and their families climbed into the passenger compartments. Once everyone was onboard, Walt throttled up and the monorail took off, leaving the horrified Secret Service on the boarding platform. After successfully circling Tomorrowland, the monorail returned to the station and was about to stop. The Secret Service took a collective sigh of relief, that is until Tricia and Julie yelled out “Again!” This excited Walt and he took everyone on another trip, leaving Nixon's protection on the station platform for a second time.


Monorail, Walt, and the Nixons

Monorail, Walt, and the Nixons


Below is a Disney created video showing the monorail dedication. Interestingly, the part of Walt ripping the ribbon in two has conveniently been edited out.




10. Who narrated the World of Motion attraction at Epcot?

A. Gary Owens
B. Dick Martin
C. Dan Rowan
D. Arte Johnson
E. None of the above

A. Gary Owens

Gary Owens' career included disc jockey, voice actor, comedian, performer, and writer. But he is probably best remembered as the announcer on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. He was also selected by the Imagineers to give a tongue-in-cheek narration of the World of Motion attraction at Epcot which ran from October 1, 1982 until the ride closed on January 2, 1996. The theme song for the ride was “It's Fun to be Free.” This catchy number was written by X Atencio (also composed "Yo Ho” from Pirates of the Caribbean) and Buddy Baker, another legendary Disney composer.


World of Motion

Gary Owens



11. Who was the original voice of Figment, the iconic character found at the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot?

A. Mel Blanc
B. Tim Curry
C. Billy Barty
D. Kurt Russell
E. None of the above

C. Billy Barty

Film actor and television star Billy Barty had a long and successful career. Although much of his work consisted of bit parts, gag roles, and children's television shows, he was still a recognizable celebrity. People knew the name, Billy Barty. Barty's gravelly voice was perfect for Figment and he lent his talents to this beloved character from 1981 until 1998. Dave Goelz took over the role in 2002.

When EPCOT Center opened, it was Figment's role to be the “cute and lovable” character of the park. The Imagineers wanted to distance EPCOT Center from Mickey and the gang and did not include them in the park's roster of personalities. However, guests complained loudly and it wasn't long before the other Disney characters began appearing in the park.

In 1998, the original “Journey into Imagination” attraction was closed for a major reworking. In 1999, “Journey into YOUR Imagination” opened. However, Figment's role had been reduced to a few cameo appearances and Dreamfinder was absent altogether. Once again, guests complained loudly and the attraction was shuttered once more. In 2002, the ride reopened as “Journey into Imagination with Figment.” This time, Figment is prominently featured, however Dreamfinder is still someplace in oblivion.


Billy Barty

Figment, Dreamfinder, and Eddie



12. What would you find inside the Metropolitan Department of Water and Power building found at Disney's Hollywood Studios?

A. Pizza Planet
B. Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano
C. Restrooms
D. Muppet*Vision 3D
E. None of the above

A. Pizza Planet

This restaurant's interior was inspired by its namesake as seen in the 1995 Disney/Pixar movie “Toy Story.” Although the menu is limited, this counter service restaurant is a good child-pleaser as it has lots of arcade games to keep them entertained before, during, and after their meal. To see the full menu, click here.


Pizza Planet

Pizza Planet

Pizza Planet



13. Before Sunset Blvd was added to the Disney/MGM Studios, what could be found where the entrance to this street now begins?

A. A plywood wall with a plaque reading “DREAM BUILDERS ‘There's enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine'”
B. The original entrance to the Backstage Studio Tour attraction before it was moved to Mickey Avenue
C. A Disney Vacation Club kiosk
D. A scaled down version of the Hollywood Bowl
E. None of the above

D. A scaled down version of the Hollywood Bowl

Original plans for the Disney/MGM Studios called for it to be a “half-day” park. It wasn't intended to be a real competitor to the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT Center. However, from day one, Disney charged the same one-day admission fee for the Studio as they did for their other parks and guests expected more than there was.

Since the Studio was envisioned to be a small park, the Imagineers did not create a grand stage for elaborate shows. Instead, a scaled down replica of the Hollywood Bowl was built were smaller productions could be performed. Notice, there is no overhead canopy to shield guests from the sun and rain.


Hollywood Bowl Replica


Regarding option “B”… When the Disney/MGM Studios opened on May 1, 1989, the original Backstage Studio Tour loaded from Animation Courtyard -- the same place that is now the beginning of the Animation Tour.


Animation Tour


Regarding option “C”… The first Disney Vacation Club did not open until December 20, 1991, over two years after the Studio. At that time, DVC informational kiosks did not appear in the theme parks.



14. What is the name of the fort on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland?

A. Fort Sam Clemens
B. Fort Wilderness
C. Fort Langhorn
D. Fort Outpost
E. None of the above

B. Fort Wilderness

In an effort to capitalize on the success of the Pirate movies, Disney reimagined and renamed Tom Sawyer Island to Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island in 2007. This refurbishment added many new swashbuckling elements to this isolated section of Disneyland. As part of the effort, long-neglected Fort Wilderness was razed and rebuilt. However, it is no longer open to the public and now serves as a break area for cast members.


Fort Wilderness


Regarding answers “A” and “C”…

When Tom Sawyer Island first opened in the Magic Kingdom, the fort was named Fort Sam Clemens (Mark Twain's real name). In later years, it was renamed Fort Langhorn, the middle name of Sam Clemens. It's interesting to note, his actual middle name is spelled with an “e” at the end Langhorne.


Fort Langhorn



15. What is the name of the clock tower that stands beside the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance in the Magic Kingdom?

A. Torre del Sol
B. Torre del Cielo
C. Torre de los Amigos
D. Torre del los Piratas
E. None of the above

B. Torre del Cielo

You should have all gotten this question correct since I gave you the answer in last week's article about Adventureland. Torre del Cielo means Tower of the Sky. It is fashioned after a Caribbean-style watchtower that guarded many island harbors.


Torre del Cielo

Torre del Cielo



16. Speaking of Pirates of the Caribbean… What is the name of the town that the pirates pillage and plunder and rifle and loot?

A. Castillo del Morro
B. Puerto Dorado
C. Puerto de Tesoro
D. Ciudad Tranquila
E. None of the above

B. Puerto Dorado

This was a very difficult question as the answer cannot be found within the attraction. It can only be found in books and archives. Puerto Dorado means Golden Port.


Puerto Dorado


Regarding answer “A”… Castillo del Morro is the name of the fortress that houses the attraction at the Magic Kingdom.


Castillo del Morro



17. What is the name of the backup group that accompanies Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom?

A. The Astro Girls
B. The Space Angels
C. The Cosmic Gals
D. The Mars Maidens
E. None of the above

B. The Space Angels.

Although invisible, Sonny Eclipse references the Space Angels several times during his 25-minute routine.


Sonny Eclipse



18. Electric Umbrella is a counter service restaurant located in Innoventions East at Epcot. What was the original name of this dining establishment?

A. Stargate
B. Sunshine Terrace
C. Future World Foods (or FWF)
D. CommuniCore Verandah
E. It was always called Electric Umbrella

A. Stargate

Stargate was the original counter service restaurant in CommuniCore East. It closed on April 10, 1994 as part of the transition from CommuniCore to Innoventions. Electric Umbrella opened in this same location on June 24 of the same year.


Stargate Restaurant


Regarding option “B”… Sunshine Terrace was another EPCOT Center counter service restaurant and was located in CommuniCore West. It also changed its name and theming around this same time as Stargate and became Pasta Piazza Ristorante. However, this spot closed on April 22, 2001 and this space is now used as a character meet-&-greet area.



19. The California Grill is one of Disney World's most popular restaurants. What originally occupied this spot when the Contemporary Resort first opened?

A. Contemporary Grill
B. Restaurant 15
C. Top of the World
D. Gulf Coast Room
E. This spot has always been the California Grill

C. Top of the World

When the Contemporary Resort opened in 1971, the fifteenth floor of this A-frame building housed the Top of the World restaurant. For the first ten years of operation, named entertainers performed on a stage located in the southwest corner of the restaurant. A full orchestra backed them up and provided music for dancing. This arrangement continued until June 29, 1981 when it was replaced by a permanent show called “Broadway at the Top.” This production featured two men and three women performing a medley of Broadway show tunes. The Top of the World restaurant closed on September 30, 1993 and officially opened as the California Grill on May 15, 1995. To pay tribute to this original name, the lounge at the top of Bay Lake Tower was named Top of the World.


Top of the World

Top of the World

Top of the World

Broadway at the Top


Regarding option “D”… The Gulf Coast Room was a restaurant located on the Contemporary's fourth floor. This establishment closed in 1988.



20. On what date did Roy E. Disney dedicate Walt Disney World?

A. October 1, 1971
B. October 2, 1971
C. October 25, 1971
D. November 1, 1971
E. None of the above

E. None of the above

Roy Edward Disney never dedicated any Disney park. However, his father Roy Oliver Disney dedicated Walt Disney World on October 25, 1971.


Roy Oliver Disney and Mickey Mouse


March 31, 2014

March Madness Quiz -- Questions

Jack Spence Masthead.jpg


It's quiz time again. Below are 20 questions to test your Disney knowledge. Some are easy. Some are difficult. And a few are darn near impossible. Check back tomorrow for the answers.

As with all of my quizzes, it is just for fun. No winners will be announced and no prizes awarded.



1. Since its opening on October 1, 1971, the Magic Kingdom has always been open seven days a week. Disney planners knew that their audience would be driving and flying in from great distances and they understood that the park needed to be open every day to accommodate visitors' vacation plans. But that wasn't the case with Disneyland when it first opened on July 17, 1955. Most guests would be making day trips as they lived in the Southern California area. Because of this, Disneyland was closed for two days each week during off season. What two days were they closed?

A. Monday & Tuesday
B. Tuesday & Wednesday
C. Wednesday & Thursday
D. Thursday & Friday
E. The above statement is untrue. Disneyland was always open seven days a week.



2. Where would you find Devil's Elbow at Walt Disney World?

A. Haunted Mansion
B. Tower of Terror
C. Rivers of America
D. Rafiki's Planet Watch
E. None of the above



3. Who narrates the Hall of Presidents attraction at the Magic Kingdom?

A. Maya Angelou
B. J.D. Hall
C. Morgan Freeman
D. An uncredited Disney Imagineer
E. None of the above



4. What company was the original sponsor of the Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain?

A. FedEx
B. RCA
C. General Electric
D. Monsanto
E. None of the above



5. Tower of Terror sits at the end of Sunset Boulevard at Disney's Hollywood Studios. What other idea did the Imagineers seriously consider for this spot?

A. Mary Poppin's Jolly Holliday
B. The Rocketeer's Flight
C. Cruella de Vil and the 101 Dalmatians
D. Dick Tracy's Crime Stoppers
E. None of the above


6. During the preshow of “Dinosaur” at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Dr. Marsh introduces the audience to the Time Rover, a vehicle that will take us to the early Cretaceous period. However, one of her colleagues has different ideas and reprograms the Time Rover to take us to the late Cretaceous period so we can bring back an iguanodon. What is the name of this second doctor?

A. Dr. Clarence P. Wilkerson
B. Dr. Harry F. Sinclair
C. Dr. Bernard Dunn
D. Dr. Grant Seeker
E. None of the above



7. Who created the voice of Madame Leota in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom?

A. Marni Nixon
B. Eleanor Audley
C. Barbara Billingsley
D. Natalie Schafer
E. None of the above



8. Where in the Magic Kingdom is Mr. Dinglinger referenced?

A. Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland
B. The Chapeau shop on Main Street
C. Prairie Outpost & Supply in Frontierland
D. Big Top Souvenirs in Storybook Circus
E. None of the above



9. Who dedicated the Disneyland monorail in June, 1959?

A. Actor Ronald Reagan and family
B. Television Personality Art Linkletter and family
C. California Governor Pat Brown and family
D. Walt's wife Lillian and his two daughters Diane and Sharon
E. None of the above



10. Who narrated the World of Motion attraction at Epcot?

A. Gary Owens
B. Dick Martin
C. Dan Rowan
D. Arte Johnson
E. None of the above



11. Who was the original voice of Figment, the iconic character found at the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot?

A. Mel Blanc
B. Tim Curry
C. Billy Barty
D. Kurt Russell
E. None of the above



12. What would you find inside the Metropolitan Department of Water and Power building found at Disney's Hollywood Studios?

A. Pizza Planet
B. Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano
C. Restrooms
D. Muppet*Vision 3D
E. None of the above



13. Before Sunset Blvd was added to the Disney/MGM Studios, what could be found where the entrance to this street now begins?

A. A plywood wall with a plaque reading “DREAM BUILDERS ‘There's enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine.'”
B. The original entrance to the Backstage Studio Tour attraction before it was moved to Mickey Avenue.
C. A Disney Vacation Club kiosk.
D. A scaled down version of the Hollywood Bowl.
E. None of the above.



14. What is the name of the fort on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland?

A. Fort Sam Clemens
B. Fort Wilderness
C. Fort Langhorn
D. Fort Outpost
E. None of the above



15. What is the name of the clock tower that stands beside the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance in the Magic Kingdom?

A. Torre del Sol
B. Torre del Cielo
C. Torre de los Amigos
D. Torre del los Piratas
E. None of the above



16. Speaking of Pirates of the Caribbean… What is the name of the town that the pirates pillage and plunder and rifle and loot?

A. Castillo del Morro
B. Puerto Dorado
C. Puerto de Tesoro
D. Ciudad Tranquila
E. None of the above



17. What is the name of the backup group that accompanies Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom?


A. The Astro Girls
B. The Space Angels
C. The Cosmic Gals
D. The Mars Maidens
E. None of the above



18. Electric Umbrella is a counter service restaurant located in Innoventions East at Epcot. What was the original name of this dining establishment?

A. Stargate
B. Sunshine Terrace
C. Future World Foods (or FWF)
D. CommuniCore Verandah
E. It was always called Electric Umbrella



19. The California Grill is one of Disney World's most popular restaurants. What originally occupied this spot when the Contemporary Resort first opened?

A. Contemporary Grill
B. Restaurant 15
C. Top of the World
D. Gulf Coast Room
E. This spot has always been the California Grill



20. On what date did Roy E. Disney dedicate Walt Disney World?

A. October 1, 1971
B. October 2, 1971
C. October 25, 1971
D. November 1, 1971
E. None of the above



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