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June 16, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Four

Jack Spence Masthead


Welcome back to my Tomorrowland series. Today I’ll cover Carousel of Progress.

In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 - Tomorrowland An Overview - Flight to the Moon - Mission to Mars
Part 2 - Circle-Vision movies - If You Had Wings - Dream Flight
Part 3 - Skyway - Star Jets - WEDWay PeopleMover


Many people believe that the Carousel of Progress had its beginnings at the New York World’s Fair. But that’s not the case. Years before the fair, the General Electric Company’s Lamp-Division approached Walt about building an attraction at Disneyland that showcased electricity. Imagineers proposed Edison Square, an offshoot of Main Street. Here, guests would be treated to several tableaus highlighting the advantages of electricity and electric appliances, much like the show today. However, guests would walk from theater to theater. In addition, an "electro-mechanical" man to be named Wilbur K. Watt would host each segment. Unfortunately, technology had not yet caught up with Walt’s dreams and the early AudioAnimatronics man did not live up to expectations.

In this next picture you can see an artist’s rendering of Edison Square as it was displayed on souvenir maps of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Although you can’t make out the text, it reads:

Diorama of Inventions
American Home Pre-Electricity
American Home Advent of Electricity
Contemporary Living
The Electric Age


Edison Square


In the end, Edison Square was never realized. However, Imagineers are fond of saying “No good idea ever goes unused.”

The 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair was envisioned by several businessmen who fondly remembered their experiences years earlier at the first New York World’s Fair which ran from 1939 to 1940. They wanted to recreate this exhibition on a much grander scale for their children and grandchildren. However, an undertaking of this magnitude required someone experienced at raising large amounts of money and getting things done on schedule, so they turned to Robert Moses. Moses was an influential player in the growth of New York City from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. He was responsible for the construction of much of the city's highway infrastructure and, as Parks Commissioner, the creation of many of the city's parks.

It’s interesting to note, the 1964 New York World’s Fair was never sanctioned by the Bureau of International Expositions. Because of this, major governments such as France, Germany, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada chose not to be represented. Most of the nations that did participate did so under tourism and industrial sponsorship.

Since the fair would not benefit from governmental financing, Moses needed to find other sources to fill his pavilions. Having heard glowing reports about Disneyland, he flew to California to meet with Walt. Upon his arrival, Walt asked Moses if he’d like to be introduced to Mr. Lincoln. After shaking hands with an early AudioAnimatronics figure of the sixteenth president, Moses insisted that Walt and Abe be a part of the fair.

The idea for Edison Square resurfaced with the impending fair. The concept was reexamined and possibilities explored. Eventually, the attraction was renamed “Progressland” to coincide with GE’s current marketing slogan, “Progress is our most important product.” In addition, Walt insisted that his Imagineers figure out a way to incorporate his new AudioAnimatronics into the attraction.


Progressland


At the fair, Progressland was housed in a large, three-story domed structure. The dome was made up of crisscrossing tubular steel girders. Not only did this design facilitate relatively quick construction, it would also be easy to dismantle after the fair for salvage.


New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair


Guests entered Progressland on the first floor and rode an escalator to the second. Here they arrived at one of six theaters that revolved around a central core of six stages. After getting settled and the overture played, the theater rotated 60 degrees to view the first of four vignettes. This stop brought us to a typical American household of the late 1890’s (if you were rich). A gentleman (Father) is sitting comfortably in the kitchen, pipe and newspaper in hand. It’s springtime and life is good. For the next four and a half minutes, Father introduces us to his family (wife Sara, daughter Jane, his son, grandma and grandpa, and cousin Orville) and tells us all about the marvels of the age. At the conclusion, the theater once again rotates and brings us to the 1920’s. Once again, Father is sitting in the kitchen and explains to the audience how wonderful life is, much of it due to electricity. “General Electric” is mentioned in each vignette and the name is prominently displayed on the appliances. After the 20’s we visit the 40’s, then the 60’s where Father continues to educate us about life in each era. Every rotation advanced us 20 years. This unique theater could accommodate 3,600 guests per hour.

To help the transition between sets, a song was needed. Walt turned to Richard and Robert Sherman and presented them with the task. He told them that he needed a tune that was essentially a commercial jingle. It needed to be short, catchy, and upbeat. And it also needed to lend itself to various styles such as ragtime and swing to blend with the various eras depicted in the show. It took the brothers a couple of weeks and when they thought they had what Walt was looking for, they invited him to their office to hear their new song. When they were done, Walt said, “That will work fine.” From Walt, this was high praise.


Richard and Roger Sherman


After viewing the last vignette of the show, the theater rotated once again. Guests left their seats and took an escalator to the third floor and the Sky-Dome Spectacular. This show, projected on a 200-foot-wide overhead screen, chronicled man’s struggle to harness nature and discover new forms of energy. At the films conclusion, guests moved to a new location where they were treated to a demonstration all about the creation of nuclear fusion " “The greatest science display at the fare.”


New York World's Fair

New York World's Fair


From the Sky-Dome, guests returned to the first floor and were free to tour the all-electric wonders of Medallion City. Here, they continued to witness the advancements electricity had brought to their lives and communities.

New York World's Fair


At the fair’s conclusion on October 17th, 1965, 51 million people had visited. This figure is considered respectable for an exhibition of this nature, but attendance was actually 20% lower than projected. During the fair’s two year run, Progressland was one of the most visited pavilions (up to 45,000 per day). In the end, the fair lost large amounts of money and allegations of gross mismanagement were levied. Today, because of its “unofficial” nature, the fair is often overlooked by historians when the subject of World Fairs is bantered about. However, the fair greatly benefitted Walt Disney.

From the very beginning, Walt planned on bringing Progressland and his other World’s Fair exhibits back to Disneyland. In essence, he was able to get outside organizations to fund the research, development, and construction of his attractions. But the fair helped Walt in other ways. In the early years, Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was lacking. But with the addition of Progressland, now to be called Carousel of Progress (CoP), Walt could persuade other companies to sponsor attractions in his Anaheim park. Goodyear signed on to sponsor the PeopleMover and both McDonnell-Douglas and Monsanto agreed to greatly upgrade their existing attractions.

In 1967, an all-new Tomorrowland debuted at Disneyland. For the first time, this land truly demonstrated Walt’s vision of the future and attendance soared. Unfortunately, Walt never saw this wonderful expansion completed as he died on December 15, 1966.


New Tomorrowland


Although a new building was needed at Disneyland to house CoP, the props and AA figures arrived from New York virtually intact. However, the show would be tweaked slightly. First, all references to GE’s now defunct “Medallion Home” advertising campaign were discarded. Mother’s voice was rerecorded. Father moved from a bench to a barstool in the 1940’s kitchen. The final, Christmas scene was updated slightly. And the Sky-Dome Spectacular became history. The attraction opened at Disneyland on July 2, 1967.


Carousel of Progress Poster

Carousel of Progress Building


Father, the star of the show, was voiced by Rex Allen at the World’s Fair and Disneyland. Allen was a western film actor, singer, and songwriter. In his later years, he narrated a number of Disney nature films and television shows.

Since CoP was a blatant advertisement for General Electric, it was decided that guests shouldn’t be required to relinquish a ticket (what would have been an “E” ticket) to see the show. This added greatly to its popularity. Other free attractions at the time were Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (presented by Lincoln Savings and Loan), Adventures thru Inner Space (presented by Monsanto), and America the Beautiful (in Circle-Vision) presented by AT&T.

After getting settled in the first theater of CoP, an on-stage curtain rose to reveal a wall of textured plastic called “Kaleidophonic Screens.” As Father voice welcomed us aboard, colored lights, behind the plastic, blinked and changed with his narrative. In the 1960’s, this was an impressive sight.

The story began in the late 1890’s. Father opens Act 1 by saying “Well, the robins are back. That’s a sure sign of spring.” In this version of CoP, each act represented a different season, spring, summer, autumn, and winter.


CoP Act 1


In Act 1, Father tells us of the modern conveniences they enjoy such as gas lamps, telephones, and the latest design in cast iron stoves. Their ice box holds 50 pounds of ice and Rover keeps the drip pan from overflowing. It’s interesting to note, the dog had a different name in each scene, Rover, Buster, and Sport.

In a segment of Act 1, mother Sara can be seen ironing. Next to her is a young girl operating the “wash day marvel.” This character is not part of the family nor is she ever introduced or mentioned. Over the years, many have speculated as to her identity, but a positive answer eludes us.

“Hottest summer we’ve had in years,” was how Father opened Act 2. This line was keeping in the theme of “seasons.”


CoP Act 2


Cousin Orville is also introduced in Act 2. Orville’s only line, “No privacy at all around this place,” was voiced by Mel Blanc. Blanc is most remembered for voicing many of the Warner Brothers’ characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam.

Walt was extremely involved with the design of CoP. Originally, the Imagineers had Orville’s back facing the audience. When Walt saw this, he knew better. He turned the tub around, took off his shoes and socks, and jumped into the tub. Then he said to the Imagineers, “He’d wiggle his toes, don’t you think?”


Cousin Orville


Father opens Act 3 by saying, “Well, it’s autumn again and the kids are back in school.”


CoP Act 3


Act 4 begins with Jingle Bells playing in the background and Mother and Father wishing us merry Christmas.

In Acts 1, 2, and 3, Mother was portrayed as the typical American, hardworking housewife. Her sole lot in life was to take care of the home which required copious amounts of effort. In Act 4, the Imagineers wanted to show how electricity and modern appliances had liberated the “little woman.” To demonstrate her new found freedom, she talks incessantly, barely allowing Father a word in edgewise. However, it’s very clear that she’s still the “typical American housewife.” The appliances are hers, not Fathers. And it’s Mother, not Father, who is cooking Christmas dinner. And with her new-found liberation from drudgery she has time for activities like the gardening club, the literary society, and the ladies bowling league. The idea of Mother getting a job in the 1960’s was unheard of.

If you looked out the window in Act 4, you could see a familiar sight, Progress City. This would be given greater attention in Act 5.


CoP Act 4


As Act 4 concluded, the theater rotated once again. When it came to a stop, a speed-ramp, not a stage, lay before us. Guests were asked to get out of their seats and proceed to the second floor to be reunited with Mother and Father and view Progress City.


Progress City


Progress City was a grand model. It was built to 1/8 scale and was 160 feet wide. It had 22,000 scale shrubs and trees, 4,500 structures (lit from within), and 1,400 working streetlights. Many of the trains, PeopleMovers, and automobiles actually moved. This was an impressive sight. Progress City was Walt’s model for EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).

While viewing Progress City, Father and Mother highlighted some of its virtues, including the new GE nuclear power plant located nearby. Father also mentions their local amusement park to which mother says, “It’s not exactly Disneyland, but it is clean and bright and lots of fun.”

Guests exited CoP on the second floor and traveled down a long ramp to ground level.


Disneyland CoP


Carousel of Progress attendance began to wane at Disneyland in the early 70’s. General Electric believed that 80% of the people who saw the show were from California and felt their advertising dollars could be better spent elsewhere. They asked Disney if they’d be willing to move the show to Florida and the company agreed. CoP closed at Disneyland on September 9, 1973. Today, the Disneyland Carousel Theater is home to Innoventions and uses a stylized rendition of “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” as its theme song.

When CoP moved from New York to California, only minor changes were made to the attraction. That would not be the case for the move to Florida. For the most part, the sets and AudioAnimatronics figures remained the same, but other changes would be more significant. The first noticeable difference was the building. At the World’s Fair it was three stories high. At Disneyland, it was two stories. But at the Magic Kingdom it would only be one story with a loft large enough for the PeopleMover to pass by comfortably. In addition, the carousel now rotated counterclockwise rather than clockwise. Guests would also enter and exit on the first floor. Here is an early picture of CoP at the Magic Kingdom. Notice the blue and white stripes on the building.


Magic Kingdom CoP


General Electric had also tired of the song “There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” They didn’t want to encourage their customers to “wait” for the future before they bought their appliances. They wanted them to buy them “now.” So the Sherman brothers were brought back on board and they composed “The Best Time of Your Life” or as it is also known, “Now is the Time.”

CoP opened at the Magic Kingdom on January 15, 1975. Space Mountain also opened on this same day. The sets for the first three acts closely resembled the original, but an all-new fourth act displayed an updated Christmas scene. In addition, Andrew Duggan now voiced Father. In 1981, the fourth act was updated once again to reflect a 1980’s home.

Horizons, opened at Epcot on October 1, 1983 and was sponsored by General Electric. GE also was sponsoring the nighttime spectacular Illuminations. So when their ten year contract for CoP expired on March 10, 1985, they chose not to renew. The attraction closed briefly so all references to General Electric could be removed. The GE logo was replaced with a logo that showed a stylized blueprint of the six carousel theaters surrounding the six fixed stages.


New CoP Marquee

New CoP Logo


It’s interesting to note, references to “General Electric” and “Hotpoint” can still be seen on several of the appliances today.

That’s it for Part Four of my Tomorrowland series. Check back next week when I’ll be discussing Space Mountain and the Grand Prix Raceway.



June 9, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Three

Jack Spence Masthead


Today I’ll be looking at the Skyway, Star Jets, and the WEDWay PeopleMover.

In case you missed the previous parts:

Part 1 - Tomorrowland An Overview - Flight to the Moon - Mission to Mars
Part 2 - Circle-Vision movies - If You Had Wings - Dream Flight


As I mentioned in Part One of my series about Tomorrowland, this futuristic land was far from complete when the Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971. The Circle-Vision 360 movie America the Beautiful didn’t premier until November 25, 1971 and Flight to the Moon opened a month later on December 24. If You Had Wings was a real latecomer debuting on June 5, 1972. In fact, the only Tomorrowland attractions up and running when the Magic Kingdom initially opened were the Gran Prix Raceway and the Skyway.


Gran Prix Raceway Poster

Skyway Poster


The first Disney Skyway opened at Disneyland on June 23, 1956. Walt was so taken by this mode of transportation that he signed an agreement to purchase this attraction from the Von Roll, Ltd. Company without giving any consideration as to where this ride would be located in his park.

Walt thought of the Skyway as more than just a ride. He thought of it as another mode of transportation that could be used to carry people across large parking lots and shopping centers. He wanted to use Disneyland to showcase this idea.

There is a legend that says that part of Walt’s inspiration for Disney World came to him while riding the Disneyland Skyway. From the lofty height of sixty feet, he could see outside the park and onto the rush-hour traffic of the Santa Ana Freeway that skirted his property. He knew then that he needed more land so he could shield any future project from the outside world.

There were three Disney Skyways in total, the second opening at the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971 (opening day) and the third at Tokyo Disneyland on April 15, 1983 (also on opening day). All three offered one-way rides between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The Magic Kingdom’s version had the distinction of being the only one that made a turn in the middle of the journey.

It is often reported, incorrectly, that the Magic Kingdom closed the Skyway due to the death of a custodial cast member working on the attraction. Although it is true that Raymond Barlow was accidentally killed while cleaning a narrow Skyway platform, this had nothing to do with the decision to shutter the ride. Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland had both closed their versions of this attraction before this death occurred. The decision to close all of the Skyways was strictly economical. These attractions were old and expensive to run and maintain. Also, they had low capacities. This made it harder and harder to justify on a “dollar spent per guest ride” basis. Combine this with the constant problem of teenagers spitting and throwing things on the guests below and it’s not hard to understand why Disney said “Enough.” The Magic Kingdom Skyway closed on November 9, 1999.

The Skyway was a perennial favorite of many people. Even though the line was often long, it was worth the wait once we were airborne and looking down on the many sights below. As you passed other gondolas, you would smile and wave to its passengers. And when you could see the terminus station come into view, you grew sad because you knew your flight was almost over.


Tomorrowland Skyway

Tomorrowland Skyway


Although the overall concept for Tomorrowland was pretty much set in concrete from the beginning, it wasn’t until sometime in early 1973 that the plans were finalized and this land began to see real growth. For the next two years, construction was an ongoing presence here.


Tomorrowland Concept Drawing

Tomorrowland Under Construction


Walt believed in weenies. A weenie (hotdog) was the “item of interest” that would entice a crowd to move in a certain direction. For example, Cinderella’s Golden Carousel was purposely placed directly behind Cinderella Castle to help draw guests into Fantasyland. And the Liberty Square Riverboat Landing was placed directly in line with this land’s entrance to help lure people in. Interestingly, Adventureland intentionally did not have a weenie. It was omitted to help make this exotic land more mysterious.

Keeping the weenie concept in mind, the Imagineers knew Tomorrowland would also need something interesting to draw guests into this land of the future -- and the Star Jets filled this bill perfectly. Between this attraction’s soaring height and spinning movement, it was precisely what was required to draw guests down the Tomorrowland concourse.


Star Jets


But before we discuss the Magic Kingdom’s Star Jets, let’s take a look at this attraction’s predecessors at Disneyland.

The first space-aged aerial carousel-style ride at Disneyland were the Astro Jets. They officially opened on March 24, 1956. These puppies climbed to the staggering height of 36 feet and traveled in a circle with a 50 foot diameter.


Astro Jets

Astro Jets Poster


Because money was short and Imagineers were busy working on other projects, Walt decided to buy an off-the-shelf carnival ride and have his people spruce it up later. This task fell to Imagineer John Hench. Besides giving the attraction its now familiar red and white checkered pattern, he also decided that each rocket be given a name. These were, Altair, Antares, Arcturus, Canopus, Capella, Castor, Pica, Procyon, Regulus, Rigel, Sirius, Spica, and Vega.


Astro Jets

Astro Jets


If you counted, you found thirteen names. Although no official reason was given as to why there was one more name than needed, Disney historians speculate that the thirteenth name was a “spare” that could be used if one of the rockets needed to be removed and repaired. Those that pay close attention to such things have never found the name “Pica” on an Astro Jet photograph.

When United Airlines began sponsoring The Enchanted Tiki Room, they complained that the name Astro Jets was giving free advertisement to their competitor, American Airlines who offered coast-to-coast Astrojet service to their customers. In order to keep United happy, the attraction’s name was changed to Tomorrowland Jets. This designation lasted until September 1966 when the ride was closed to make room for the new and improved Tomorrowland.

The attraction returned to Disneyland on July 2, 1967 with an all-new look. Now called Rocket Jets, this new design in theme park space flight now sat atop the Goodyear PeopleMover and was serviced by two gantry-style elevators. The center pylon no longer had a carnival look, but was instead a stylized replica of a Saturn V rocket. And the ride vehicles were sleek and modern. Rocket Jets remained open until 1997 when they were removed to make ready for another Tomorrowland makeover.


Rocket Jets Poster

Rocket Jets

Rocket Jets

Rocket Jets


Original makeover plans called for this attraction to once again sit atop the PeopleMover, now Rocket Rods Station, but the new design proved too heavy for the structure. The new Astro Orbitor would end up sitting at ground level near the entrance to Tomorrowland.


Astro Orbitor


Okay, now let’s get back to the Magic Kingdom of the early 1970’s.

As I mentioned before, the Star Jets would be the weenie that drew people into Tomorrowland. But this attraction was just one part of a “triple whammy.” Copying Disneyland’s successful design, the Imagineers placed a quick-service food stand, the Space Bar, at ground level. The PeopleMover station would sit above the Space Bar. And perched on top of it all would be the Star Jets. This multi-layer designed was created for Disneyland because of space constraints, but it worked so well and fitted the Tomorrowland concept so perfectly, it was repeated in the Magic Kingdom. The Star Jets opened on November 28, 1974.


People Mover and Star Jets

People Mover and Star Jets


Like Disneyland, the Star Jets center pylon resembled a Saturn V rocket. However, the ride vehicles had a completely different design. At Disneyland, guests rode in mini-rockets. But at the Magic Kingdom, guests were seated in a vehicle that more resembled a hovercraft which featured a broader and flatter design, not to mention the sporty back fins.


Astro Orbitor

Star Jets


The Star Jets were suspended approximately 80 feet above the ground and were attached to the center pylon by a 20 foot arm. Each of the 12 vehicles held two passengers with up and down flight controlled by a control stick located near the front of the craft. Riders were treated to 11 rotations per minute and the attraction averaged 1.2 million miles a year. Star Jets required a “D” ticket to ride.


Star Jets and Space Mountain

D Ticket


Sitting directly below Star Jets was the WEDWay PeopleMover. Just like I did with the Star Jets, I need to go back in history and take a look at Disneyland’s PeopleMover before discussing the Magic Kingdom’s version.


Disneyland PeopleMover Poster


The Disneyland PeopleMover was part of the 1966/67 Tomorrowland makeover. It opened on July 2, 1967. Sponsored by Goodyear, this elevated highway gave guests an overhead preview of all the wonderful adventures that were just waiting to be experienced in the new and old Tomorrowland.


Disneyland PeopleMover

Disneyland PeopleMover


In its day, the PeopleMover was innovative and Walt thought of it as more than just a ride. He felt that the PeopleMover, along with the monorail, could help cities solve problems of congestion and overcrowding. In fact, he was so taken with both of these modes of transportation that they were incorporated into the plans for his future city of EPCOT. In this 1967 concept drawing of EPCOT, you can see both the PeopleMover (left) and the monorail (right).


Epcot Concept Drawing


The queuing process for Disneyland’s PeopleMover was unique and innovative. First, guests boarded a speed-ramp (an inclined conveyor belt) for transport to a second level boarding area. At the end of the ramp they were deposited onto a stationary platform, surrounded by a large rotating turntable. Since the inside of a disk moves slower than the outside, it allowed guests an easy transition from the stationary platform to the moving turntable. As they walked to the outer edges of the turntable, their speed gradually increased. This arrangement allowed for better guest safety and improved ride capacity since the cars didn’t need to slow down as much in order to be boarded.


Disneyland PeopleMover Queue


The PeopleMover was powered by small rubber tires (made by Goodyear) embedded along the track. Spaced about every nine feet, hundreds of electric motors powered these tiny tires as they pressed against fiberglass epoxy plates positioned on the bottom of the cars. Top speed: six miles per hour. Each train consisted of four cars, holding four passengers each. They were equipped with power doors and an automated roof that tilted out of the way for easier loading and unloading (see above picture). The PeopleMover had an astonishing capacity of 4,600 guests an hour.

Along the nearly one mile route, a cheery narrative was piped into each car, describing the sights along the way while occasionally praising Goodyear. Unlike its future Florida cousin, Disneyland’s PeopleMover changed elevation as it circled Tomorrowland. It traveled over the Autopia, through shops, and above the submarine lagoon. It even paralleled the monorail for a short distance.


Disneyland PeopleMover

Disneyland PeopleMover

Disneyland PeopleMover


Now back to the Magic Kingdom.

The WEDWay PeopleMover did not open in Tomorrowland until July 1, 1975, almost four years after the Magic Kingdom had opened. However, it was always intended to be included in this land as can be seen in the picture below taken in January 1972. Even though Tomorrowland is far from complete, the PeopleMover right-of-way is clearly visible on the left and right sides of the picture.


Unfinished Tomorrowland

Magic Kingdom PeopleMover Poster


There were several changes made to the Florida version of this ride from its California counterpart. First, it would not be powered by moving wheels embedded in the track, but rather by linear induction motors. This made for a much smoother ride than at Disneyland. It also allowed for better operation during rainy weather. Second, due to Florida’s weather, it was decided that individual roofs over each car would not be sufficient protection from the elements, so the entire track was covered. Another change would be the addition of a fifth car to each train. And as I mentioned earlier, the Magic Kingdom’s version traveled at the same elevation throughout its entire journey.

Another change would come with the attraction’s name, it would now be called the WEDWay PeopleMover. WED are Walt’s initials (Walter Elias Disney). WED Enterprises, or more commonly called “WED,” was the creative branch of the Disney Company. This was where all of the Imagineers worked (and played). Eventually, WED was renamed Walt Disney Imagineering (also known as WDI or simply Imagineering).


WEDWay PeopleMover Sign


The original sponsor of the WEDWay PeopleMover was the Edison Electric Institute. This association represents all investor-owned electric companies in the United States. Its members provide electricity for 220 million Americans, operates in 49 states and the District of Columbia, and directly employs more than 500,000 workers today.

Back at Disneyland, the Carousel of Progress was being dismantled so it could be shipped to Florida. On the second floor of the COP building was a large model of Progress City " the prototype for the city of EPCOT. The Imagineers didn’t want to destroy this beautiful work of art, yet they had no place to store or display it at Disneyland. It was eventually decided to make it one of the sights seen while riding the new WEDWay PeopleMover in Florida; however, it was much too large in its current state and would need to be cut down dramatically in order to fit into the space available. Believe me, anyone who saw the original model at Disneyland, knows that this resized version pales by comparison.


Progress City

Progress City


Like Disneyland, The WEDWay PeopleMover gave guests a preview of many of the shops and attractions found in Tomorrowland. Along the way, Jack Wagner (the “Voice of Disneyland”) provided an ongoing commentary. In June 1985, his narration was replaced by the voice of ORAC One - "The Commuter Computer".

At Disneyland, the PeopleMover just skirted the inside edge of Space Mountain, offering very little to see due to the dark nature of this ride. At the Magic Kingdom, things would be quite different. The WEDWay PeopleMover traveled through the middle of the attraction, giving passengers a fantastic view of astronauts repairing a giant spacecraft.


Space Mountain Interior


The WEDWay PeopleMover traveled just shy of a mile in 10 minutes time at a speed of 6.84 mph. It required a “D” ticket to ride.

That’s it for Part Three. Check back next week when I’ll be discussing the Carousel of Progress.



June 2, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Last week I told you how the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland was far from complete on opening day. I also discussed the Flight to the Moon and the Mission to Mars attractions. Today I will continue my tour of Tomorrowland with a look at the Circle-Vision movies that were shown here along with If You Had Wings and three of its predecessors.

Directly across the concourse from the Flight to the Moon/Mission to Mars ride was the America the Beautiful attraction. Like so many other rides, this presentation could trace its roots back to Disneyland.

The first Disneyland 360 film was titled “A Tour of the West.” It was shot on 16mm film and used eleven cameras and eleven screens to completely surround guests with images of Southern California, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Monument Valley. It was an opening day attraction and one of just a handful that survived the day without a mishap. It was shown in the Circarama Theater and was eleven minutes in length. The name Circarama was a takeoff of the recently coined term Cinerama, the new theater process in which movies such as “How the West Was Won” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” were shown on three synchronized screens.

Most people know that Walt was associated with the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair, but most do not know that he was also associated with the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.

After the opening of Disneyland, Walt was approached by Howard S. Cullman, U.S. Commissioner General in charge of the fair’s American exhibit. He asked Walt to create a Circarama movie showcasing the United States. Cullman wanted to show Europe the beauty and majesty of our fine country. The movie would be shot using 35mm film and would ultimately end up being 18 minutes in length. The movie was titled “America the Beautiful.” The Ford Motor Company would sponsor the attraction. After the fair closed, the movie was moved to Disneyland and opened in June, 1960, replacing A Tour of the West.


1958 Brussels World’s Fair

1958 Brussels World’s Fair

Circarama

America the Beautiful Poster


When Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was remodeled in 1966 and 1967, a new 360 movie was filmed. In addition, the number of cameras and screens were reduced from eleven to nine as it was discovered that fewer screens made viewing more palatable for guests prone to motion sickness. The new movie was still titled “America the Beautiful,” but the theater was now called Circle-Vision 360.


America the Beautiful Movie

America the Beautiful Movie


The film began with a view of Mount Rushmore and a rousing chorus of “America the Beautiful” being sung in the background. It then took audiences on a stirring 18½ minute journey across America. During production, the camera was mounted atop a car, a hook & ladder fire truck, and several water craft. It was also suspended from a B-25 bomber. To create an unobstructed view while in flight, the camera was attached to a specially designed hydraulic device contained within the plane’s bomb-bay. When flying over desired locales, the camera could be lowered for filming.


CircleVision Camera

CircleVision Camera


This second version of America the Beautiful opened in the Magic Kingdom on November 25, 1971 and was sponsored by Monsanto. It was a free attraction in the day of ticket books. It entertained audiences for a mere 28 months when its run ended on March 15, 1974. However, this abrupt withdrawal wasn’t due to a lack of popularity, but rather a hiatus in which the movie could be modified for the upcoming American Bicentennial. During its absence, a new film, Magic Carpet ‘Round the World took its place.


CircleVision Theater


Magic Carpet ‘Round the World took guests on a 21-minute journey through more than 20 countries. To enhance the experience, a 24-voice chorus and 56-piece orchestra was used as accompaniment. According to a Disney press release, more than 37 hours of film were edited to create the movie. And some of this cut footage was later reused in the Timekeeper attraction that would play in this same space many years later. This film closed sometime in 1975 and once again, America the Beautiful began showing here, this time with added footage of Philadelphia.

The newly edited version of America the Beautiful only played in Tomorrowland until 1979 when it was once again replaced by Magic Carpet ‘Round the World. This second showing of Magic Carpet ‘Round the World was featured here for another five years when it was ultimately replaced with an all new movie, American Journeys which opened on September 15, 1984. (Confused? I know I am. Try this. It might help.)

America the Beautiful
Magic Carpet ‘Round the World
America the Beautiful (revised)
Magic Carpet ‘Round the World
American Journeys

American Journeys was similar in concept to America the Beautiful in that it toured our great nation from sea to shining sea. But along the way, it tried to present a more realistic view of America. Depictions of the land and its people were far more diverse and “colorful” than its “predominately white” predecessor. During a portion of its run, American Journeys was sponsored by Black and Decker. It was last shown in the Magic Kingdom on January 9, 1994.

In 1980, the second version of America the Beautiful was released on 16mm film for educational use. However, it was not in 360 Circle-Vision. Only the front-facing screen was shown. Anyone who has ever seen this movie would know, without the other eight screens, the viewer is missing a lot. This single-screen version can be seen on YouTube if you’re curious.

I had the privilege of watching the second version of America the Beautiful once with a cast member working the attraction at Disneyland. As he was required to be in the theater while the movie was shown to audiences, he had become very familiar with it. In fact, he had watched the movie so many times he decided that he would start watching only one screen for an entire showing just to see what he could discover. And it turns out his efforts were not wasted as he found that not all the scenes used in the movie were entirely family friendly. Fortunately, most of the objectionable scenes were not noticeable to the audience as they were not the focus of attention at that particular moment in the film or were “blurred” out by Disney. But since AllEars is a family-friendly site, I can’t share these images with you now. However, if you ever run into me while I’m out and about in the parks, feel free to ask me.

When discussing the original Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland, there is one attraction that stirs people’s interests more than any other, If You Had Wings. This Florida original had a loyal following and many still lament its passing into obscurity.

You will see the attraction’s name written in three different ways on official Disney brochures and plaques: If You Had Wings (all words capitalized), If you had wings (only “If” being capitalized), and if you had wings (no capitalization). For ease of reading, I will use traditional “title” convention.

If You Had Wings was sponsored by Eastern Airlines, a major player in the airline industry at that time and the official airlines of Walt Disney World. In 1971, Eastern provided flight service to Orlando from 60 different cities. It is estimated that the airline paid $10M to sponsor the attraction.

In reality, If You Had Wings was nothing more than an amusing 4½ minute advertisement for Eastern. To that end, it did not require a ticket to ride. If You Had Wings opened on June 5, 1972.


If You Had Wings Poster

If You Had Wings Poster Theater


Some suggest that If You Had Wings was inspired by Disneyland’s Adventure’s Thru Inner Space which had opened four years earlier. After all, they both used the new Omnimover ride system. Both could be viewed from the PeopleMover. Both saw the ride vehicles disappear into large structures (a microscope or globe). They both used a similar track layout. And most importantly, both were designed by Disney Legend Claude Coats who was known for his dark ride designs.

Guests walked through an unassuming doorway to enter If You Had Wings. Once inside they found themselves in a large room that was designed to resemble a modern airport passenger terminal. Overhead were arrival and departure boards listing exotic locales that Eastern serviced. Here is a list of the pending departures:

Caribbean and Island Ports of Call
Su Casa Service to Old San Juan
The Pyramids of Ancient Mexico
The New Orleans Jazz Flight
Bermuda's Underwater Reefs
The Adventure Specials
Bahamas 700 Islands.


Departure Board


As guests continued through the queue, they eventually came to a speed-ramp which would carry them to one of the 102 continually moving 2-3 passenger vehicles. Once seated, guests entered a giant, stylized globe.


If You Had Wings Globe

If You Had Wings Globe


The ride began with the vehicle gently tilting back. This was to impart the feeling of an airplane takeoff. Projected on a blank wall were animated silhouettes of seagulls in flight. These were soon replaced with animated silhouettes of airplanes racing across the sky. In the background, the haunting tune “If You Had Wings” began to play. The music for this ditty was written by Buddy Baker and the lyrics by X Atencio.

A few moments later, guests found themselves in the thick of things. All around them were colorful props that featured windows, arches, and any number of openings in which a transparent screen could be placed. Behind these screens there were a number of projectors churning out continuous loops of movies depicting some of the many locales Eastern Airlines flew. These included Mexico, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and New Orleans.


If You Had Wings Attraction

If You Had Wings Attraction


In all, the attraction had forty-one 16mm projectors, three 70mm projectors, forty special lighting effects projectors, and one 35mm projector. Unfortunately, all of these projectors made a lot of noise. And no matter how loud Disney turned up the music, it couldn’t drown out the rhythmic clicking these machines made.

After visiting the many exotic locations presented at the beginning of the attraction, guests entered the SuperSpeed Tunnel. This was an elongated room with an arched ceiling. Here, racing dune buggies, speeding motorcycles, dare-devil water-skiers, hurtling airboats, acrobatic planes, and other assorted vehicles were seamlessly projected onto the walls and overhead. At the same time, your Omnimover vehicle tilted back and fans blew cool breezes onto your face. All of this combined to give the rider a sense of extreme motion even though you never exceeded the speed of two miles an hour. It was the virtual reality of its day. Unfortunately, technology really hadn’t caught up with execution and the images were pretty blurry. Nonetheless, most folks thought this was the best part of the ride.

The SuperSpeed Tunnel was followed by the Mirror Room. In this space, floor to ceiling mirrors reflected images of snow-covered mountains and other serene landscapes.

The final scene brought us back to more projected seagulls and an occasional Eastern aircraft passing by. An announcer would leave us with these parting words: "You do have wings, you can do all these things, you can widen your world, Eastern...we'll be your wings."

Due to financial troubles, Eastern ended its sponsorship of If You Had Wings on June 1, 1987. Four years later, Eastern would be out of business. Despite Eastern’s problems, the attraction was extremely popular and racked up over 40 million visitors in just six years.

After Eastern pulled its sponsorship, the Imagineers did a quick makeover of the attraction. In just five days, all references to Eastern Airlines were removed, the theme music and recordings swapped out, and signage changed. The attraction reopened on June 6, 1987 as If You Could Fly.

Although in most ways, If You Could Fly was identical to its predecessor, however it never caught on with the public. Some claim that the attraction had lost its heart and soul when Eastern left. But in reality, this attraction had become tired and out of date. Audiences wanted something more exciting. If You Could Fly closed permanently on January 4, 1989, less than two years after its debut. All of the sets were hastily destroyed in an effort to get ready for the next attraction that would be housed here soon.

Always on the lookout for a corporate sponsor, Disney found a new ally with Delta Air Lines who was eager to take over this outdated attraction and advertise its own product. The new ride would be officially named Delta Dreamflight, but most everyone just called it Dreamflight. Delta would also become the official airlines of Walt Disney World.


Delta Dreamflight Coming Soon


In an effort to save money, the existing Omnimover, track layout, and floor plan were reused, but everything else about this attraction would be new. In just a little over five months after the closing of If You Could Fly, Dreamflight began entertaining guests on June 23, 1989.


Dreamflight Entrance


The first changes guests saw in the new attraction was in the queue. Immediately after entering the building they encountered the nose of Delta 767 plane, complete with jet ramp. The jet was named "The Spirit of Delta"


The Spirit of Delta


The name of this aircraft, “The Spirit of Delta,” was more than just a cute designation the Imagineers picked for this plane. It actually had a special meaning for Delta.

Due to a weak economy, high fuel prices, and deregulation, Delta posted its first yearly loss in the spring of 1982 after 35 years of consecutive profits. To show their support for the company, three flight attendants spearheaded “Project 767.” Their mission was to rouse support among Delta’s employees, retirees, and friends and raise $30million in donations to buy Delta its first Boeing 767. On December 15, 1982, they achieved their goal and the company’s first 767 was named “The Spirit of Delta.”

Further along in the queue guests entered a newly themed terminal lined with travel posters advertising exotic destinations from around the world. Finally, they would enter the jet via a neon and mirrored jet ramp and loaded an Omnimover vehicle.


Delta Dreamflight Attraction

Delta Dreamflight Attraction

Delta Dreamflight Attraction


The basic premise of Dreamflight was to give riders a lighthearted history of flight. This was achieved by using pop-up book style sets, projection techniques, a few AA figures, and realistic tableaus.

Shortly after the ride begins, riders pass by a large rotating turntable. Here they were treated to simple pop-up book depictions of early flight. These included a hot air balloon, a giant wing, and a dirigible type device. In the background, “The Dreamflight Song” by Edo Guidotti is played.

As we entered the next room, we found ourselves in the barnstormer era. On both sides of our vehicle are fairgrounds, farmland, tents, daredevils, and spectators. Overhead, biplanes circled. Once again, the images were simple, pop-up book caricatures.


Dreamflight Attraction


As we moved forward, we entered a barn which some poor pilot had crashed into. Once inside, we could see him hanging from the rafters.


Dreamflight Attraction


On the other side of the barn was a large room with a massive screen on a side wall. As we entered, our vehicle pivoted to face the ever-looping movie and for the next 58 seconds we saw acts of daring do as a biplane and stuntman performed aerial tricks.


Dreamflight Attraction


As we entered the next phase of the ride, things took a slightly more serious look at air travel. We were now at the beginning of the passenger service era as we boarded a seaplane sitting in San Francisco Harbor. Once inside the plane, we saw how First Class was treated.


San Francisco

Plane Interior


Next we passed by a home in Tokyo and finally traveled along the rooftops of Paris.


Tokyo

After our globe-trotting experience of the 1930’s and 40’s, we entered the Jet Age. To help us make the transition, an overhead voice asked us to prepare for supersonic flight. As we continued forward, we faced a giant spinning light (think Maelstrom from the Norway Pavilion). Add some fog effects and a couple of fans and it gave the impression we were about to actually enter the inside of a turbo jet engine. All around us were the sounds of jet engines revving up and taking off.


SuperSpeed Tunnel


In the SuperSpeed Tunnel left over from If You Had Wings, guests traveled down a runway and took flight into the clouds. And in what was once the Mirror Room, a computer-generated movie had guests flying above the earth, in a canyon above water, and eventually flying into a futuristic city.

In the final scene, guests were treated to one last pop-up book effect in which a giant page flipped between New York and London. On a nearby wall, a projection of a Delta plane flies by.

Delta Dreamflight was a success and generally well received by guests. However, Delta ended its sponsorship at the end of 1995. But unlike Eastern ending its funding of If You Had Wings, Disney did not immediately remove all references to the carrier. The only noticeable change was in the name. It was now called Dreamflight instead of Delta Dreamflight. This name lasted until early June of 1996. At that time, Delta’s moniker was finally erased from the attraction and it reopened as Take Flight on June 5 of that same year. Take Flight lasted until January 1998 when it was shuttered for good.

Many people wax nostalgic at the passing of If You Had Wings and Dreamflight. Both were quintessential Disney attractions and harkened back to a slower period in theme park history. But for the most part, that’s not what younger audiences want today. Both of these attractions were wonderful for what they were, but they had seen their day and now it was time for more exciting fare to take their place.

That’s it for Part Two. Check back next week when I’ll continue my look at Tomorrowland with a look at the Skyway, Star Jets, and the WEDWay PeopleMover.



May 26, 2014

Tomorrowland - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


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

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

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


Tomorrowland


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


House of the Future

Autopia


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


Submarine Voyage

Disneyland Alweg Monorail


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


Adventures Thru Inner Space Poster

America the Beautiful

Flight to the Moon

People Mover

Carousel of Progress


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

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

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

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


Unfinished Tomorrowland


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


Unfinished Tomorrowland


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

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

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


Tomorrowland Entrance

Tomorrowland Entrance


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


Popcorn Vendor


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

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


Mission Control


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


Albatross

Albatross


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

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


Rocket Ship Cabin


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mission to Mars


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tom Morrow 2.


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

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



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.



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