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September 8, 2014

Landscaping the World - Disney's Hollywood Studios

Jack Spence Masthead


Last week I discussed the landscaping found in Epcot. I pointed out how important this aspect of theme park design is when telling a story and creating a mood. Today I'm going to look at Disney's Hollywood Studios and discuss how plants and trees help this park become more than just a collection of rides and shops.

In reality, the Studio uses landscaping to a much lesser degree than the Magic Kingdom. This is because the Imagineers' initial plans for this park called for it to be a working film and television production center. Yes, there was Hollywood Boulevard and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, but much of the original Studio was nothing more than soundstages. Still, landscaping played a part in this park.

The first landscaping visitors usually notice when arriving at the Studio are the many assortment of palm trees. Since the Studio is supposed to be located in Hollywood (Los Angeles), it was only natural to include this ubiquitous plant everywhere. However, the true story of palm trees and Hollywood might surprise you.


Palm Trees

Palm Trees

Palm Trees

Palm Trees


There is only one palm tree native to Southern California (Washingtonia filifera) and it grows nowhere near Los Angeles. Palm trees didn't become a part of the Southern California scene until the turn-of-the-twentieth-century gardening craze prompted home owners to plant this ornamental tree in their front yards. It wasn't until the 1930's (the same era as Disney's Hollywood Studios) that we saw municipalities begin planting palm trees in earnest. In 1931 alone, the Los Angeles Forestry Division planted more than 25,000 palm trees, many of them still swaying above the city's boulevards today.

Southern California cities planted palm trees to help promote their communities as the ideal place to live and work. Civic leaders wanted those living on the East Coast to believe that Los Angeles was a tropical paradise, even though in actuality, it was a semi-arid desert. And their efforts paid off. People believed the hype and moved to the area by the thousands.

Today, many of these palms are approaching the end of their natural life spans. Because these trees require a large amount of water that the area simply doesn't have in abundance anymore, the L.A. Department of Water and Power has said that it will not replace most palms as they die. Instead, they will look for trees better suited to the dry climate, trees that require less water and offer more shade.

Out front of the Studio is a large planter featuring topiary Sorcerer Mickey and his brooms. For many years, this topiary sat out front of the Hollywood Brown Derby. This is a good example of how the Imagineers are forever changing and moving things to keep the parks fresh and new.


Mickey Topiary

Mickey Topiary

Mickey Topiary


Sid Cahuenga's One-of-a-Kind-Shop is named after the Cahuenga Pass which is located near the Hollywood Bowl. It represents the bungalow style of residential architecture that began in the 1920's. Since this is a house rather than a commercial building, it features a garden and white picket fence that was typical of the time, including animal statuary.


Sid Cahuenga's One-of-a-Kind-Shop

Sid Cahuenga's One-of-a-Kind-Shop


More palm trees are seen lining Hollywood Boulevard. These are Mexican Fan Palms.


Mexican Fan Palms


Southern Live Oak grow like weeds in Central Florida and Disney uses them frequently. One good example can be seen shading the Director's Statue found at the end of Hollywood Boulevard.


Southern Live Oak

Director's Statue


Before the addition of Sunset Boulevard and the Sorcerer's Hat, the plaza in front of the Chinese Theater created a giant Mickey by using Echo Lake and planters strategically placed. Remnants of this Mickey still exist today, but for the most part, he has been obliterated.


Mickey From the Air


Anchoring both sides of the Chinese Theater forecourt are two very unusual planters. Beside these planters are smaller pots holding oddly pruned bushes.


Chinese Theater Planter


On Sunset Boulevard, the landscapers have place flower pots atop stone fence posts. Additional pots flank the many openings leading into Sunset Market.


Sunset Blvd Planters

Sunset Blvd Planters


Behind Catalina Eddie's we find a Victory Garden.


Catalina Eddie's

Victory Garden

Victory Garden


During World Wars I & II, Victory Gardens (also known as War Gardens) were encouraged by various governments, including the United States. Citizens were asked to plant fruits and vegetables in their backyards, apartment terraces, and rooftops. This additional produce would help lower the price of food that the U.S. War Department needed to buy to feed the troops. The money saved could then be spent elsewhere in the military. It's estimated that these gardens produced up to 40 percent of all the fruits and vegetables consumed nationally during the war. And in addition to the tangible benefits, the gardens were considered a morale booster. Since Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at Disney's Hollywood Studios are set in the 1930's and '40's, it makes sense that you'd find a Victory Garden here.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is housed in a building that resembles a soundstage. To help disguise and soften this building, the Imagineers have planted more palm trees and shrubbery along the side of the structure.


Rock 'n' Roller Coaster


The Imagineers have kept the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in a state of arrested decay. In other words, the building has been neglected, but any further deterioration has not been allowed to continue. This can also be seen in the gardens that surround the hotel. The flower beds are overgrown and no longer manicured, yet they have not reached the point of total disarray.


Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


The grounds outside the Beauty and the Beast Theater are well maintained and layered.


Beauty and the Beast Theater


Over and over again, you will see simple flower beds at the Studio. Once again, this has to do with the fact that this park was supposed to be a working movie and television center and many of the structures were uninspired. The planters help reduce the harsh exteriors.


Wall Planter

Wall Planter

Wall Planter


Over in the Echo Lake area we find the Academy of Television Arts and Science Hall of Fame display. On the wall behind the awards is a beautiful example of climbing plants being trained to grow in a design. I thought you might enjoy seeing an early picture of this pattern and then the fully grown version.


Television Arts and Science Hall of Fame

Television Arts and Science Hall of Fame


The Fifties Prime Time Café is housed in an "office building" that uses the International Style of architecture. This motif came into being during the 1920s and 1930s and represents the beginnings of modern architectural design. Being an office building, the planters and plants here reflect a business-like decorum.


Fifties Prime Time Café

Fifties Prime Time Café

Fifties Prime Time Café


Just a few yards away from the Fifties Prime Time Café we find the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular attraction. Although most of the Raiders of the Lost Ark story takes place in the mountains of Nepal and the arid desert of Egypt, many viewers associate this movie with the film's thrilling beginning which took place in the jungles of Peru. To that end, the area surrounding this stunt show are thick with tropical growth. Not only does this growth set a mood, it also provides a natural barrier between the theater and the adjacent walkway.


 Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

 Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular


Outside the Star Tours attraction we find the home of the Ewoks. Here, the Imagineers have used real and prop trees to recreate the forest dwellings of these cute furry creatures. The Imagineers are also demonstrating that "only what the camera sees need be built." In the first picture below, the scene looks fake. But when you take the same exact photo and crop it correctly, our minds can believe these fake trees tower hundreds of feet into the air.


Star Tours

Star Tours


Across the walkway from Star Tours is a photo op where guests can pose sitting atop a sort of flying motorcycle. (Sorry Star Wars fans, I don't know the official name of this vehicle.) Once again, a distant camera shot looks fake while a cropped shot has realism. In addition, the plants give depth to the picture and help the backdrop look more real. (Okay, you have to use your imagination a little, but you get the point.)


Star Wars Photo Op

Star Wars Photo Op


The Streets of America are lined with a few trees, but for the most part, this section of the Studio is devoid of plants. One exception can be seen in front of the Plaza Hotel. Here, four potted plants add a touch of elegance to this fine establishment.


Plaza Hotel


I almost didn't mention this next attraction, but then I figured, why not.

The Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure is all about plant life. Sure it's fake, but it does immerse guests in greenery.


Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure

Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure

Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure

Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure


Another good example of how the landscapers are forever changing things can be seen with the "Splash" Fountain. Take a look at the plants that circle this water feature and how they have changed over the years.


Splash Fountain

Splash Fountain

Splash Fountain


Before Pixar Place took over much of Mickey Avenue, this thoroughfare had only a scattering of trees and bushes to soften its soundstage exteriors. Now that Toy Story Midway Mania has arrived, the walls feature brick facades and the street is lined with numerous shade trees.


Pixar Place

Pixar Place


Over at Voyage of the Little Mermaid we find a sculptured hedge separating the queue from the walkway. It's easy to miss the shapely bushes while only concentrating on the colorful fish, but without this greenery, these sea creatures would seem out of place.


Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid


Unremarkable greenery can also play an important role in the parks. It can hide sound speakers. Ever notice how the music just seems to be coming from nowhere? Well often it's coming from the bushes.


Hidden Speakers


Like the Magic Kingdom, the Studio uses lampposts to good advantage and we often see flowering baskets hanging from these decorative light fixtures.


Hanging Basket

Hanging Basket

Hanging Basket


I'm certain the fulltime landscapers stationed at the Studio could add volumes to what I have showcased here. But for the most part, I think I've hit the highlights. I hope you've enjoyed this green tour of this smallest of the Walt Disney World parks. I know I learned a few things while researching its plant life. Check back next week when I'll be discussing the Animal Kingdom.


April 7, 2014

Disney Hodgepodge Four

Jack Spence Masthead


Pacific Electric Pictures

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


L.A. Cinema Storage

L.A. Cinema Storage

L.A. Cinema Storage


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


Substation


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

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

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


P.E. Building

P.E. Building

P.E. Station


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


1928 Address


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

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


Pacific Electric Pictures

Pacific Electric Pictures


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

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


Pacific Electric Pictures


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

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


AMC Fork & Screen

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

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

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


Fork & Screen Logo


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


Fork & Screen Entrance


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

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


Seating Chart

Seating Chart

(Charts not to scale.)


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

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

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

Here are a few pictures of the seats and tables.


Fork & Screen

Fork & Screen

Fork & Screen


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

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

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

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



Mickey Transmission Tower

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


Mickey Mouse Transmission Tower


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

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


October 29, 2012

Studio Statues

jack-spence%27s-masthead4.jpg


Disney's Hollywood Studios is full of statues, but I suspect that most of you have only given these a cursory glance at most. And that's understandable. How can a statue compare to an AudioAnimatronics figure or a real person? But there is some value to examining these sculptures and I hope to offer a little more information than the plaques that accompany some of them provide. Let's start with the first one we encounter when entering the park, Mickey Mouse.

High above the Crossroads of the World building found on Hollywood Boulevard we find our intrepid leader of the club. Posed in a walking stance, Mickey welcomes everyone to Disney's Hollywood Studios.


Mickey Statue


I could bore you with a lot of "Mickey" facts - like Mickey popped into Walt's head while returning from New York on the train after losing his rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. How Ub Iwerks took Walt's ideas and turned them into reality in 1928. And how Walt wanted to name his new creation Mortimer but his wife Lillian nixed the idea and suggested Mickey. But you already know all that. So instead, I'm going to talk about the building Mickey uses as a base.


Crossroads of the World

Crossroads of the World


Most of the structures on Hollywood Boulevard are modeled after real buildings found in and around Los Angeles. (Technically, Hollywood is a district of LA, not its own city.) Some of the buildings at the Studio are almost carbon copies of the original, but you will always find differences as buildings can be copyrighted. Such is the case with the Crossroads of the World building.


Crossroads of the World


The original Crossroads of the World building is located at 6671 Sunset Boulevard. It opened to the public on October 29, 1936 and was typical of the imaginative architecture of the time.

Designed to resemble a ship, the Crossroads of the World building anchored LA's first outdoor shopping mall. Behind it was a "village" of buildings, each with a distinct international architectural style. Some of these included French, Italian, Spanish, Moorish, California Mediterranean, and Cape Cod/Early American. The first floor of this village housed retail shops while the second story was rented out as office space.

Today the mall houses mostly offices for the entertainment industry. The Crossroads of the World building was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1980.

Although I said I wouldn't be discussing this Mickey Mouse statue, I did want to add, the reproduction of him atop the Crossroads of the World building represents how he appeared in the 1930's, the era of Disney's Hollywood Boulevard.

Our second statue of an early movie director is accompanied by the Studio Dedication Plaque. It can be found at the end of Hollywood Boulevard. Let's start with the plaque.


Director's Statue


If you'll notice, a frame was placed around the plaque in January 2008 to reflect the park's new name (Disney's Hollywood Studios). However, the old name (Disney-MGM Studios) is still visible on the plaque itself. This is probably one of the very few places left where guests can still see the park's old logo.


Studio Dedication Plaque

Studio Dedication Plaque

Studio Dedication Plaque

Studio Dedication Plaque


Next to the dedication plaque is a statue of a 1930's movie director checking out his next scene through the viewing scope on his camera.


Movie Director


The camera depicted here is an early Technicolor 3-color machine first used in 1934. This camera used mirrors and a prism located behind the lens to reflect light onto three monochrome strips of film. Each strip was sensitive to one of the primary colors, red, green, and blue. Later, these exposed strips were merged to create a vibrant array of colors.


Statue of Camera

Technicolor Camera


In 1929, Walt Disney started producing his Silly Symphony series of animated short subjects. These stories did not usually feature a continuing character (like Mickey Mouse) from one story to the next. Instead, a new group of characters were introduced with each consecutive film and the weak plot revolved around a musical score. However, the Silly Symphonies did not achieve the success of the Mickey Mouse series of cartoons.

In 1932, Walt was introduced to the new Technicolor "three-strip" process. He was so impressed that he negotiated an exclusive contract with Technicolor as the only animation company who could use the process until 1935. This forced competitors like Ub Iwerks (who had left Disney) and Fleischer Studios to continue using the older 2-color process until 1935 and they could not release any 3-color films until 1936.

"Flowers and Trees" was already 60% complete as a black & white short when Walt halted production and had it reanimated in color. This did the trick and breathed new life into the Silly Symphonies series. The series even eclipsed the Mickey Mouse cartoons for a while. A total of 75 Silly Symphony shorts were produced between 1929 and 1939.


Flowers and Trees Poster


If you pay attention to Disney credits, the name "Technicolor" was always prominently displayed on older shorts and features.


Technicolor Credit


This next statue was always one of my Studio favorites. Not because it had any real significance, but because I would play "Where in the World" with this photo. When I would ask friends where at Walt Disney World this statue could be found, they invariably guessed the Italy Pavilion at Epcot.


Studio Statue


In reality, this statue is wedged in between the 50's Prime Time Café and the Hollywood & Vine Restaurant in the Echo Lake section of the park.

When I visited the Studio recently to take pictures for this article, I found my lovely lady was missing. Let's hope she's just backstage getting a facelift.


Missing Studio Statue


I will also use the statue to shamelessly plug another feature of AllEars.net. Each Sunday in the Photo Blog section, Erin Blackwell features a "Where in the World" photograph. I challenge you to try and figure out some of her brain teasers. I know the "World" pretty well and only get about 50% correct.

On the other side of Echo Lake is perhaps the largest collection of busts this side of the Haunted Mansion. Here we find the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza.


Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza

Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza


Each year the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences selects individuals to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. These industry leaders are recognized for their outstanding contributions to the arts, sciences, and management of television. The first awards were presented in 1984 and celebrated the careers of Lucille Ball, Milton Berle, Paddy Chayefsky, Norman Lear, Edward R. Murrow, William S. Paley, and David Sarnoff.

Disney has chosen to pay tribute to a number of the winners with bronze busts. These include:

Desi Arnaz
Bea Arthur
Diahann Carroll
Dick Clark
Bill Cosby
Walt Disney
Andy Griffith
Angela Lansbury
Mary Tyler Moore
Bob Newhart
Mike Wallace
Barbara Walters
Betty White
Oprah Winfrey


Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza

Walt Disney

Oprah Winfrey

Bill Cosby

Bea Arthur


Along the back wall of the plaza, plaques displaying a complete list of each year's winners can be found. Unfortunately, Disney has neglected to stay current and only presents the first 13 of the 20 award ceremonies conducted to date.


List of Winners

List of Winners

List of Winners


The centerpiece of this awards plaza is a statuette of the Emmy Award.


Emmy Award


The Television Academy rejected 47 proposals for the Emmy statuette before selecting a design by television engineer Louis McManus in 1948. McManus used his wife as a model. The wings represent the muse of art; the atom the electron of science.

Academy founder Syd Cassyd suggested the name "Ike" for the statuette. This was a term used by television insiders for an iconoscope tube. However, this name was rejected as most people associated "Ike" with General Eisenhower. Eventually, the third academy president, Harry Lubcke proposed the name "Immy." This was the term used for the image orthicon tube utilized in early television cameras. This name was selected, but later changed to "Emmy" to reflect the feminine nature of the statuette.

Each Primetime Emmy statuette weighs 6 pounds, 12½ ounces, and is made of nickel, silver, copper, and gold. Each takes 5½ hours to make and is handled with white gloves to prevent fingerprints.

Walt personally won 7 Emmy Awards.


Walt and an Emmy


To learn more about the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, click here.


Our next statue can be found in Animation Courtyard. Once again we find the leader of the club, only this time, he's posing as his most famous character, the Sorcerer's Apprentice from the movie "Fantasia." You can almost see the water splashing around him and hear Paul Dukas' music in your head.


Sorcerer Mickey

Sorcerer Mickey


Again, I could provide you with all sorts of facts about the movie Fantasia - like it was the first commercial film to be shown in stereophonic sound. How it was meant to be re-released every few years with several segments removed and new ones taking their place. And how the movie received mixed reviews and failed to make a profit during its initial release. But you already know all that. So instead, I'm going to talk about the passageway Mickey stands above and where this path led guests in the early years of the park.

What is now the entrance to the Animation Tour was once the walkway that brought guests to the loading area for the Backstage Studio Tour. This was where you boarded the trams for a lengthy sightseeing trip behind the scenes of a "real" working movie studio. The statue of Sorcerer Mickey was nowhere to be found in those early years.


Backstage Studio Tour Entrance

Backstage Studio Tour Tram Loading


The Imagineers were far from innovative or original when envisioning a tram tour for the Disney-MGM Studios. Universal Studios in Hollywood (actually, Universal City), had been giving tram tours since July 15, 1964. Guests would begin the tour at Universal by visiting a few of the dressing rooms used by actual movie stars before boarding the tram. Then they would proceed to the Universal backlot and travel through a multitude of real movie sets that had actually been used in hundreds of movies. After disembarking, guests could purchase a bite to eat and leave. Universal Studios Hollywood never set out to be a theme park with rides and attractions. This evolved over time.

The trams used by Disney were extremely similar to those used by Universal - as was the concept for the tour. In the early years of the Disney-MGM Studios, guests would visit Residential Street and see the Golden Girls house, the Empty Nest house, and Herbie the Love Bug before proceeding on to Catastrophe Canyon.


Golden Girls House

Empty Nest House

Love Bug


It's interesting to note, the Golden Girls premiered on September 14, 1985. The Disney-MGM Studios didn't open until May 1, 1989. Although Disney may have filmed one or two exterior shots of the house in Florida for the TV series, the home used in the vast majority of exterior shots was located in Brentwood, California and filmed in mass at the beginning of the series. The tram tour conveniently left this fact out and insinuated that this was THE Golden Girls house.

Another difference in the tram tour of the early years was New York Street (now Streets of America). This area of the park was not open to the public and the tram actually drove up and down this section of the back-lot.


Tram on New York Street

Studio-Statues-038.jpg


When Universal Studios Florida opened, they did not feature a tram tour. However, guests expected one as its sister park in California had a tram tour as did its Disney neighbor. So management threw together a tram tour that took guests up and down the same streets that were already open to the public. It was a lame attraction and didn't last long.

For you aficionados of Universal Studios Florida, I would like to make a recommendation. If you're ever in California to visit Disneyland, put aside a day to visit Universal Studios Hollywood. Although the Florida and Hollywood studios share a few attractions, the experience is entirely different. For one thing, it is a REAL working studio chalked full of REAL movie history.

When the Disney-MGM Studios was being planned and built, Disney truly intended that it too would be a real, working studio where movies and television shows could be filmed and taped. One small aspect of this can be seen on a building found on the Streets of America. The structure currently labeled "Public Library" is a very official looking edifice that could pass for any public, local, state, or federal building.


Public Library


When examining the two statues found on the upper story of this building, we see they have a very formal and dignified look. However, they lack any real topic or theme. This lack of purpose was created intentionally. This would allow set designers to alter the function of the building simply by changing the lettering on the structure. This "Public Library" could just as easily pass as a City Hall or University. But if the statues were given a real persona, like Lady Justice, the building would be locked into the function of law.


Building Statues

Building Statues


Probably everyone's favorite statue at Disney's Hollywood Studios can be found in front of Muppet*Vision 3D.


Muppet Statue


There really isn't a lot to say about this fountain/statue. It's pretty self-explanatory. In the center we have Miss Piggy in all her illustrious glory, recreating her role as Miss Liberty as seen in the nearby theater. To one side of the fountain we have Gonzo the Great directing the shot. On the other side we find Fozzie Bear as the cameraman. And finally, Animal working the plumbing. All of them are surrounded by spouting fish.


Miss Piggy

Gonzo the Great

Fozzie Bear

Animal

Spouting Fish


The Walt Disney Company bought the bulk of the Muppet characters and the Bear in the Big Blue House in 2004 for an undisclosed price. However, Disney does not own the characters appearing on Sesame Street or the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock.

The Muppet fountain is a fantastic photo op. During busier times, people must take turns capturing their friends and family posing with everyone's favorite swine.

The last statue I'll be discussing today can be found near the Studio Catering Co.


Studio Catering Co.

Mermaid Fountain


This sculpture was used in the movie "Splash" (1984) starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah and directed by Ron Howard. This Mermaid Fountain was Madison's gift to Allen. Although it appears to be made of brass and stone, it was fabricated entirely out of fiberglass at the Walt Disney Studios Scenic Shop. The molds used to produce the mermaid and dolphins were originally created for ice sculptures seen in the Disney movie, "Herbie Goes Bananas."


Mermaid Fountain


"Splash" contained language and brief nudity which was deemed inappropriate for a Disney movie at the time. This prompted the creation of Touchstone Pictures, a film label geared to a more mature audience. "Splash" also marked a milestone for Tom Hanks as this was the first movie in which he received top billing.

That's it for Studio Statues. I hope you enjoyed this look at these many sculptures and the side trips I took along the way.



November 18, 2010

Letter Perfect - Disney's Hollywood Studios - Part Four

Yesterday I discussed the fonts used at Epcot. Today I'll be looking at the typefaces used at Disney's Hollywood Studios. But first let's take a gander at the old logo for this park.

Three fonts were used for The Disney/MGM Studios. The names "Disney" and "MGM" used their official corporate typeface while "STUDIOS" used a font called Marquee.


Old Studio Logo


The new logo uses a typeface extremely similar to a font called Playwrite. These letters have an Art Deco feel which is consistent with the architecture found on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards.


New Studio Logo


The letters at the front of the park uses another Art Deco font.


Park Entrance Sign


For the most part, the signs on Hollywood Boulevard continue to use clean and stylish sans-serif fonts of the Art Deco style. But what sets this street apart from other locales is the illumination of the letters with neon tubing. The origin of tubular lighting is in dispute, but it is generally believed it came into existence at the end of the 19th century. Common use of the neon signs began in the early 1930's and caught on quickly.


Neon Signs

Neon Signs

Neon Signs


"Oscar's" is a fun sign. It's round like a wheel and uses a tire to make up the "O." And I also have to wonder if this designation was selected because the word "car" is contained in the name.


Oscar's Sign


Sunset Boulevard is lined with movie houses. Although neon lighting and Art Deco fonts are popular here, much of the signage is placed on the theaters' marquees. Simple black letters that can easily be changed from week to week look down on the guests from an illuminated white background.


Theater Marquees

Theater Marquees

Theater Marquees


The Sunset Ranch Market was once a working farm with horses and cattle. So it is befitting that the font used to designate this now open-air market is a rope that was once used to maintain the animals.


Sunset Ranch Market


Fonts come in many shapes and sizes, including nautical signal flags. Have you ever wondered what the pennants spell at Catalina Eddie's? CATEDDIES


Catalina Eddie's

Catalina Eddie's


The "Tower of Terror" uses two fonts. First, there is the stately serif font that represents the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Then there is the Twilight Zone font. This is the same typeface as used in the CBS television show by the same name at the beginning of each episode.


Tower of Terror


The font used on "Rock 'N' Roller Coaster" looks fast. The slanted letters and underlined words tell the guests they're in for a high-speed journey.


Rock 'N' Roller Coaster


An ingenious combination of two letters creates the logo for G-Force Records, the recording studio that houses "Rock 'N' Roller Coaster."


G-Force


The first Brown Derby Restaurant opened in 1926 and its whimsical architecture became synonymous with the Golden Age of Hollywood. Disney's version of this famous eatery is based on the second Brown Derby and is designed in the Spanish Mission style. However, the original eye-catching logo is still used.


Brown Derby


A number of street signs can be seen along Hollywood Boulevard, including one of the most famous of them all. So it's no wonder that a restaurant would borrow the name, look, and font to create a catchy sign.


Hollywood and Vine

Hollywood and Vine


The insignias over the S.S. Down the Hatch alternate between flags and pennants. The flags represent letters, the pennants represent numbers.

The flags spell out: D O C K S I D E D I N E R

The numbers are: 7 8 2 5 6 2 8 9 6 3 5 4

I have no idea the meaning of the numbers.


Dockside Diner

Dockside Diner


Everything about this next sign reeks 1950's America. The shape, the clock, and especially the fonts all recall a simpler time. If you'd like to add a font to your computer similar to "PRIME" as seen on this sign, Google "Cheap Motel Font."


'50's Prime Time Cafe


Both "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" and "Star Tours" use the same fonts that were seen on movie posters and theater marquees. This helps guests associate one to the other.


Indiana Jone

Star Tours


Near the "Indiana Jones" show is a quick service restaurant and a souvenir stand. These establishments use a military stencil on their signs to tie them into WWII, the era in which Indy was fighting the Nazis.


WWII Stencil


Other souvenir stands around the park promote a movie theme by cleverly placing letters on a film strip.


Film Strip Font


Tatooine is the home planet for Anakin and Luke Skywalker. It is a dry planet and moisture farming is a way of life here in order to survive. So it's fitting that the Tatooine Traders sign is etched into rock. Both English and Tatooine lettering is used.


Tatooine Traders


Although not advertising a place or product, these Muppet-painted signs effectively set a mood of zaniness and mischief.


Muppet Painting

Muppet Painting


Once again, continuity is extremely important. The lettering used for the Pizza Planet Restaurant is exactly the same as the pizzeria Buzz and Woody head off to in the movie "Toy Story."


Pizza Planet Restaurant


There is a wide assortment of signs and lettering on the "Streets of America." All are apropos of a big city.


Streets of America

Streets of America

Streets of America


This New York subway sign uses the same font and symbols as the actual transit signs in the Big Apple. And it's no accident that the "W" and "D" lines were depicted here.


Subway Sign


Sometimes the words overshadow any font used.


Funny Sign


As in a number of other attractions, slanted letters give us the illusion of speed on the "LIGHTS, MOTORS, ACTION, Extreme Stunt Show" sign. In addition, a tachometer has been substituted for the "O" in "MOTORS" to accent this point.


Lights Motors Action Sign


The font on this giant clapboard looks like it was handwritten in chalk.


Clapboard


What better typeface could there be than Alphabet Blocks and Scrabble Letters to create the signage for Toy Story Midway Mania.


Toy Story Minia


If you're going to tell the story of Walt Disney, what better lettering could you use than his own handwriting? By the way, if you'd like to download the Disney font to your computer, Google: Walt Disney Script


One Man's Dream


Both "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" and Playhouse Disney Live on Stage" use their theatrical and television fonts. Once again, continuity helps tell the story.


Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Playhouse Disney


Well, that's all I have for fonts at the four theme parks. In these four blogs I've posted over two hundred photographs, yet I've barely scratched the surface on this subject. Signage and lettering are extremely powerful storytelling tools and I hope my article has helped you realize this. As I've said so many times, Disney puts a tremendous amount of thought into everything they do. No detail is too small.



August 23, 2010

Window Artists

I was recently provided with an opportunity to learn a little about window design at Disney's Hollywood Studios. I'm talking about the art of displaying goods and merchandise in shop windows to entice you into the stores to part with your money. Like everything at Disney, a lot of thought and detail goes into all you see, and very often, the windows tell a story if you take the time to look.

One of the first things I learned was that for the most part, the store windows are divided into two categories, those belonging to Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) and those belonging to Merchandise Presentation, the local merchandising departments found within each park

The WDI windows, more often than not, deal with characters and portray an atmosphere or mood rather than trying to advertise a particular product. Good examples of WDI windows can be found in the "Beverly Sunset Sweet Spells" and the "Villains in Vogue" shops located on Sunset Boulevard. For the candy store we see Snow White's Queen as the Old Hag. She holds an apple over a cauldron, concocting her own "Sweet Spells." And who better to represent the scoundrels and rogues of "Villains in Vogue" than Maleficent.


Old Hag and Cauldron

Maleficent


Another "Villains in Vogue" window appears to be a part of the WDI collection, but in fact belongs to the Studio Merchandise Presentation team. You can tell because this window promotes a specific item, in this case, Vinylmation. (I know, you either "get" Vinylmation or you don't.).


Vinylmation Window


This is a very compelling window. But there is more to it than meets the eye. Take a look at the apple cores. They are Vinylmations. There are also several bottles of "ingredients" scattered around the scene. One contains "Black of Night," another "An Old Hag's Cackle" and a third "Mummy Dust." These elements were all used by the Queen to transform herself into the Witch. And finally, look at the oversized Vinylmation. The face contains the Magic Mirror and the mirror's spirit. It's details like this that make Disney so special.


Apple Core and Potion

Magic Mirror


Other window dressings offer unique challenges. Take "Celebrity 5 & 10" found on Hollywood Boulevard. This store represents a time when you could actually buy something for a nickel or a dime. Here, the window artists need to display inexpensive merchandise (by today's standards) yet not so inexpensive as to look cheap. For instance, Disney sells key chains and plastic snow globes, but these items could look tacky in a window display. A better idea would be to display Disney housewares items. Kitchen utensils were a common sight in a Woolworth's window during the '30s and '40s. By placing these modern items on chrome bar stools that look like they came out of a Woolworth's cafeteria, guests never notice the incongruity of the display.


Celebrity 5 & 10

Celebrity 5 & 10


Clothing stores also offer a challenge for the window artists, especially on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. Disney wants to showcase the actual merchandise that can be found inside a particular shop. But the stores that line these streets represent a bygone era. Although vintage clothing would fit the theme better, these garments are not for sale inside. So the window artists need to play tricks on us so we don't notice that they are selling styles that did not exist in 1940. This can be accomplished with props.

In the pictures below, notice the large, magazine covers that hang on the back wall. These props were created by a window artist to trick our minds. First, he found pictures featuring men and women wearing vintage clothing. Then he created magazine titles befitting of Tinseltown and added an era-appropriate price and date. Finally, he added art deco frames and presto, he has props that transport us back to the heyday of Hollywood. Now it's easy for us to accept contemporary clothing in an era-specific theme.


Window With Magazine Covers

Window With Magazine Covers

In these next two windows, the furniture surrounding the mannequins is from the 1930's and 1940's. Throw in some antique perfume bottles, antique jewelry, a few pieces of old luggage, and photographs of Hollywood legends and you've created a tableau frozen in time. You never really notice that the mannequins might be wearing a Disney World t-shirt. In addition, a subtle story is being told in these windows. Both of these characters represent young actors getting ready for an audition.


Window Props

Window Props


A new story may be emerging in the near future around a second story window found in the Aztec inspired building located on the corner of Echo Park Drive and Sunset Plaza. In this window is an advertisement for Marge, a palm reader.


Aztec Building

Marge's Window


To carry out the theme of this window, Marge will become the "Palm Reader to the Stars." To tell this story, the three windows on the first floor of this building will be converted to represent Marge's reception room, her reading room, and her private chambers. It's subtle details like this that most of us don't really notice on a conscious level, but if they weren't there, we'd feel something was amiss.

Disney has a number of locations where props are stored and the window artists can rummage through these items looking for ideas. In addition, they often have pieces custom made. Take for instance these cubes used as display stands. Here, the window artist wanted to hint at Mickey Mouse to create a Disney connection, yet you will not find a true "hidden Mickey" on any of these metal platforms. The circles never quite achieve the correct dimensions to form that famous silhouette. Yet this design forces guests to look at the merchandise while saying to themselves, "Mickey must be here someplace."


Mickey must be here someplace


I especially love the level of detail you'll find inside the Carthay Circle Theater on Sunset Boulevard.


Carthay Circle Theater


Located right inside the main entrance is a uniquely dressed mannequin. First, notice her skirt. Then take a look at her velvet blouse.


Uniquely Dressed Mannequin


Now take a look at the overhead light fixture and the drapes that line the wall. Coincidence? I don't think so.


Overhead Light Fixture

Drapes


Next take a look at the table our fashion plate sits on. Then take a look at the hand-painted ceiling. Notice a repeating pattern?


Hand Painted Table

Hand Painted Ceiling


I learned that window artists also do more than just create compelling displays to draw us into their stores. They are also responsible for the interior arrangement of merchandise. Although there are some guidelines that they follow, much of what you see is a result of their artistic ability. And the proper grouping of items is important. For instance, Disney clothing is now being branded into three categories, Classic, Vintage, and Graphic Edge. It's important when arranging racks and shelves of clothing to keep like type merchandise together. For example, you would want to keep Vintage hats close to Vintage shirts and Classic shorts next to Classic blouses.


Classic Tag

Vintage Tag

Graphic Edge


Each morning before the parks open, all of the window artists visit their respective shops to make sure other cast members haven't unwittingly rearranged the merchandise. They want to make sure everything is perfect for the guests when the day begins.

I've only begun to scratch the surface of what goes into the art of marketing merchandise, but I'm sure this sample gives you an idea that nothing is taken for granted at Disney. A great deal of thought goes into every nook and cranny and window of the parks.



February 11, 2010

Got A Light? - Part One - Disney's Hollywood Studios

In my never ending crusade to get people to notice the details at Walt Disney World, I recently wrote a series of blogs about the benches in the four theme parks. Although I thought the subject matter was interesting, I really wasn't sure if anyone else would find these articles worthy of note. Boy, was I surprised. I received over eighty comments thanking me for coming up with the idea.

One of my readers suggested I do a follow-up piece about the trashcans and how they are themed. With this in mind, I looked around at the waste receptacles with a critical eye. But to be honest, the trashcans really aren't that different between lands and parks. For the most part, the same style receptacle is used over and over again. The only real variation is a slightly different paint job as you transition from land to land. But I liked the idea of doing a second series so I kept an eye out for another concept. It wasn't long before I noticed the lampposts and how much they play a part in the theming of a given area. I also discovered that there is a tremendous amount of variation between posts, sometimes within the same land.

So for the next four days, I'm going to give you a sampling of these illuminating towers. For the most part, I will be concentrating on lamp"posts." There are so many other lighting fixtures that it would be impossible to cover them all. But for variety sake, I will throw in an occasional non-post just to make sure you're paying attention. Since the article is about the lampposts, not the light they emit, I took the pictures in the daytime so I could actually capture the "fixture" in my photograph.

I'm beginning this series at Disney's Hollywood Studios simply because that was the first park I photographed. Let's start in the parking lot. These lights are utilitarian. They serve their purpose and brightly light the cars below. Disney has tried to spruce these guys up by adding banners. Also, they serve a double function by displaying the parking section.


Parking Lot Lamp Post


Surrounding the small lake that connects with the waterway between the Studio and Epcot we find a rather modern looking fixture. Once again, banners have been added to liven things up.


Lake Lamp Posts


Near the ticket booths is this simple, double light fixture.


Entrance Area Lamp Posts


The lampposts on Hollywood Boulevard are far more elaborate than their counterparts outside the gate and are reminiscent of a bygone era. Similar posts can still be found in many cities and towns to this day. This same design extends into the courtyard in and around Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat.


Hollywood Blvd Lamp Post


Even though Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards have similar architecture, the streetlamps are different. The first half of Sunset sees intricate fixtures while further down the street we find a more utilitarian light. Notice that these simpler posts also do double duty with an armature to support the electric cable for the Red Car.


Ornate Sunset Blvd Lamp Post

Simple Sunset Blvd Lamp


Here we see a lamppost at Sunset Ranch Market. In Part 4 of this series you'll see this same fixture in Dinoland U.S.A.


Sunset Ranch Market Lamp Post


Although not streetlamps, this clock and old traffic signal can also be found on Sunset Boulevard. I selected these two fixtures because they are both tall and slender and light up.


Sunset Blvd Clock

Sunset Blvd Signal


There are two different, but similar lampposts near the Tower of Terror. The first can be found in the queue and the second near the exit.


Twilight Zone Lamp Post

Twilight Zone Lamp Post


A number of tall and slender street lamps are located in the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster courtyard.


Rock 'N' Roller Coaster Lamp Post


The Hollywood Brown Derby sports its own, unique lamps. These have a stylized Asian design to complement the nearby Chinese Theater. In addition, Chinese designs and styles were popular in the 20's through the 40's.


Brown Derby Lamp Post


The light posts in Animation Courtyard always display banners for a new or recent Disney animated feature. Here we see a banner for "The Princess and the Frog."


Animation Courtyard Lamp Post


As we know, Disney does a fantastic job at landscaping their parks. And their efforts don't stop at ground level. This next, art deco styled lamp, complete with hanging baskets, can be found outside the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" attraction.


Voyage of the Little Mermaid Lamp Post


Flanking both sides of Pixar Place is another art deco beauty. This lamppost was selected because it blends in well with the nearby soundstages.


Mickey Ave Lamp Post

Mickey Ave Lamp Post


Perhaps the most stark lamppost of all can be found within Pixar Place. It's simple design does not compete with the busy brickwork and array of toys strewn around the area.


Pixar Place Lamp Post


As we approach the "Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" streetlamps typical of a city park line the roadway.


Lights, Motors, Action! Lamp Post


At the end of New York Street is a traffic signal that might have been found in the Big Apple around the 1940's. Once again, I threw this fixture in because it was tall and lights up.


New York Street Signal


I was expecting the lampposts on New York Street to be elaborate like those found on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. But to my surprise, they were really quite simple.


New York Street Lamp Post


However, around the corner on San Francisco Street, the streetlamps are far more decorative. Also, take a look at the large backdrop. The artists were careful to recreate the same fixtures in their painting. While on the Streets of America, be sure to read the various signs attached to the posts. They help tell the story of your surroundings.


San Francisco Street Lamp Post

San Francisco Street Backdrop


In the plaza outside of "MuppetVision 3D" the lampposts are typical of those that would be found in any city park.


MuppetVision 3D Lamp Post


The areas around "Star Tours" and "Backlot Express" resemble a working outdoor movie set. Once again, the lamps found here are utilitarian and are typical of those found in many of the studios of the 30's and 40's.


Star Wars


Echo Lake is lined with another Asian-themed light fixture. Once again, this design helps tie the area in with the nearby Chinese Theater. Remember, in the early years, Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat was not there and there was a more cohesive feel between this famous landmark and the surrounding area.


Echo Lake Lamp Post


Finally, another park-like fixture can be found outside the Hollywood & Vine Restaurant.


Hollywood & Vine Lamp Post


Tomorrow we'll take a look at Epcot.

February 5, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror -- Part Two

Yesterday, I gave you a brief history of the Tower of Terror and walked you through the attraction up through the Lobby. Today we'll finish the tour.

From the hotel lobby we proceed to one of the two libraries. It's here that we're told that our rooms are not quite ready and to please enjoy the amenities until summoned. Then, with a crash of lightning, the room goes dark and the television set comes alive. For the next minute and a half, the fateful story of the hotel's demise is presented.

Rod Serling recounts the tale of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and how on Halloween night, October 31, 1939, a stylish young couple and a child actress with her stern governess, check into the hotel. An overworked bellman escorts them to an elevator and the doors close. On their ascent, lightning strikes the hotel and the building's two wings disappear, along with the inhabitants of the elevator.


Library

Library


The clip of Rod Serling was also taken from the episode titled "It's a Good Life." However, the voice used is that of Mark Silverman. Mr. Serling's widow made the final selection after the Imagineers narrowed down the field following hundreds of auditions.

Watch the television show carefully and you can see a Mickey Mouse plush toy in the young girl's hand right before she gets onto the elevator.


Rod Serling


A number of other details can be found in the libraries. The broken pair of glasses is from the episode titled "Time Enough at Last" starring Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis. He is a bookworm and the sole survivor of a nuclear war who drops and breaks his only pair of glasses.


Glasses from Time Enough at Last


The trumpet is from "Passage for Trumpet" starring Jack Klugman as Joey Crown, a down and out musician. While contemplating suicide, he is saved by another trumpet player, Gabriel. Beneath the trumpet is sheet music titled "What! No Mickey Mouse? What Kind Of Party Is This?" The song was written in 1932.


Trumpet from Passage for Trumpet


On the shelf above the books is a small spaceman. This creature was from "The Invaders" starring Agnes Moorhead who is terrorized by what turns out to be a space mission from earth.


Spaceman from The Invaders


Also on the overhead shelf is a fortune telling machine that tormented William Shatner in an episode titled "Nick of Time." All of these items are accurate reproductions of the actual props used in the television show.


Fortune Telling Machine from Nick of Time


When "Tonight's Episode" concludes in the Library, a hidden panel slides open and you proceed to the Boiler Room and the Service Elevators.


This Way to the Service Elevators


Pay attention to the noises in the Boiler Room. You can hear a number of sounds appropriate to your surroundings such as motors running and pipes banging. The first two brick structures you encounter when entering this room are the hotel's furnaces. One is still in service. If you look closely, you'll find several carloads of coal waiting to be stoked. Boiler tanks and electrical equipment can also be found down here.


Basement Walkway

Furnace

Coal Bin

Water Tank


Eventually you reach the Service Elevators. Between each set of elevators is a caged area. In this area is the electrical motor that lifts and lowers the cars (not really). Pay attention and you can hear the motor start and stop as the cars rise and lower. And occasionally you can see sparks within the machine. Also, if you watch the "floor indicator," you can tell when the elevator is arriving.


Service Elevator

Elevator Motor

Floor Indicator


I know there are a few of you who have absolutely no desire to ever ride on TOT. And that's totally understandable. But I would strongly suggest you accompany your friends and family to this point. The queue and preshow are an attraction in their own right and worth seeing. If you've made it this far, just tell the bell hop you don't wish to be taken to your room at the moment and you'll be allowed to bypass the elevator and meet your companions later.

Now it's time to board the 1917 caged service elevator for a quick trip to your room. If you look to the side of the car, outside the cage, you can see a "Permit to Operate" certificate dated October 31, 1939. The certificate was signed by Inspector Cadwallader. This is in reference to the Twilight Zone episode "Escape Clause" where Walter Bedeker (played by David Wayne) makes a deal with the devil -- a gentleman who calls himself Mr. Cadwallader (played by Thomas Gomez). In addition, the certificate also displays "STATE ID NUMBER 10259." This is a nod to the date The Twilight Zone premiered on CBS, October 25, 1959


Elevator Car

Permit to Operate Sign


After everyone has been secured in their seat, the elevator doors close and you're whisked up several stories. When the doors reopen, you're looking into one of the hotel's hallways. Shortly thereafter, the family that disappeared on that fateful night long ago, reappears for an instant, before lightning strikes once again and they vanish forever. The effect is wonderful and eerie. I'm not going to give away the secret here, but if you're curious as to how this trick is accomplished, look up "Pepper's Ghost" on the internet. Wikipedia has a good description and discusses several Disney attractions.


Hotel Hallway and Guests


The doors close once again and your elevator car continues its ascent. When the doors open this time, the elevator moves horizontally into the Fifth Dimension. This room was inspired in part by the "Little Girl Lost" episode of The Twilight Zone. In this show, the daughter of a young couple rolls under her bed and through the wall into another dimension.

In order to accomplish the elevator's forward motion, the cars needed to be motorized and on wheels. These "Autonomous Guided Vehicles" are powered by onboard electric motors and batteries. Improving on techniques developed for Epcot's Universe of Energy, the vehicles use fast charging batteries that can be recharged while in use.

One of the props in the Fifth Dimension Room is a giant eyeball that opens to reveal a passing elevator car. At one time, a picture of the actual car you were riding in was displayed and you could see yourself. But sadly, this effect was eliminated a number of years ago due to obscene gestures some guests made while having their picture taken.

At the end of the Fifth Dimension Room a star field gathers and suddenly, doors open to reveal an inky blackness. Your elevator proceeds into this abyss, then stops. For a moment, nothing happens"then your elevator goes wild. The drop sequence that you experience is selected by a computer and each ride is unique and random. You never know if your journey will start with a ride to the top or a drop to the bottom. Here are a couple of pictures taken from the top.


View from the Top

View from the Top


To accomplish a faster-than-gravity fall, the elevator car you are riding in actually enters a secondary elevator car located in the drop-shaft and locks into place. This secondary car has cables attached to both the top and bottom of the elevator, allowing a motor to pull you down faster than a natural freefall would generate. The motors used on these elevators are significantly more powerful than those used in modern skyscrapers.

Eventually, the elevator comes to a rest in the basement. If you look to the side of the car before it turns, other Twilight Zone props can be seen. The slot machine from the episode "The Fever" and the ventriloquist dummy from the show titled "Caesar and Me" are both in view. You will also notice a large "B" painted on the inside of the elevator doors, signifying "Basement." As the doors open, the "B" splits in half creating the number 13.


Basement 13


After exiting the elevator, you walk down a long hallway to find a hotel storage room. I've read that various other Twilight Zone props can be found on these shelves, but I couldn't identify any and the cast members I spoke with were unaware of them.


Hotel Store Room


It's at this storage facility that you can order a picture of yourself taken while riding on the elevator. Also notice the chalkboard that reads, "Picture If You Will"" a quote often used by Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone television show.


Picture if you Will Sign


Around the corner is a large desk where your photo can be purchased and picked up.


Photo Pick-up Desk


Just beyond this desk are three sets of doors labeled Sunset, Beverly, and Fountain Rooms. I mentioned these earlier when talking about the hotel Directory. In reality, these lead to backstage areas. But in the realm of the Hollywood Tower Hotel these are banquet rooms.


Sunset Banquet Room


If you check the menu next to the Sunset Room, you can see that a gala dinner was taking place here on October 31, 1939. As you can see, the guests were in for a sumptuous feast. Here's what was on the menu that night:


Menu


Hors D'oeurve
Grape Fruit Maraschino
Sweet Gherkins à la Moutarde
Bismark Herrings

Soups
Glear Turtle with Sherry
Potage Ecossaise
Cold Consommé

Fish
Grilled Bluefish
Dover Sole
Whitefish Matheson

Entrees
Mignon of Beef
Rack of Lamb Johnson
Tournedos Nicoise

Grill
Mutton Chops
Spring Chicken
Calf's Liver and Bacon
Deviled Quail on Toast

Vegetables
Fresh Green Peas
Cauliflower au Gratin
New Carrots

Salads
Autumn Salad
Belgian Endive
Polonaise Beaumont

Dessert
Peach Shortcake
Apple Pie and Cream
Gateau Chocolate au Rodman

Tea and coffee, Liqueurs, Cigars, Cigarettes

I want to thank my friend Kev for pointing out that some of the menu items contain the names of writers of the Twilight Zone TV show such as Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and George Clayton Johnson.

All good hotels have a gift shop and the Hollywood Tower Hotel is no exception. Here you can find HTH logo merchandise that is only available in this shop. Also, a number of books and pamphlets about The Twilight Zone television show are for sale.


Hotel Shop

Hotel Shop

Logo Merchandise


Outside the shop are three windows displaying elegant merchandise once for sale at the hotel. Pumpkins make up part of the window dressing in honor of Halloween. Also, a sign in the window mentions the upcoming Halloween Extravaganza, presumably being held in the Sunset Room.


Shop Window

Shop Window Sign


While researching this piece, I read of other attraction details, but I have chosen not to mention them for various reasons. But rest assured, there are more hidden treasures scattered around this outstanding attraction.

Restrictions: Guests must be at least 40" tall; cannot suffer from any neck, back, or heart problems; cannot suffer from motion sickness or claustrophobia; wheelchair guests must be able to walk in unassisted and possess full upper-body control; pregnant women may not ride.

Finally, I would like to answer a question I get time and time again: "Where are all the people?"

1. Whenever I do a photo-shoot, I arrive at opening (9am). This gives me roughly an hour to take unobstructed photos.

2. For this blog, I know that everyone rushes down Sunset Boulevard for Rock 'N' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror first thing in the morning. All I had to do was wait ten minutes for the morning onslaught to be absorbed by these two people-eaters. Then I had the street, queue, and much of the attraction to myself.

3. I made multiple trips to Disney's Hollywood Studios in order to take my pictures.

4. I'm very patient. I will wait, and wait, and wait for people to move out of my way before I snap a shot.

5. And finally, I'm very good with the computer and can remove a lot of unwanted objects from my pictures.

Because I waited patiently for everyone else to rush ahead of me, I got to ride in an elevator all by myself. Cool.


All by Myself in the Elevator


I have created a five-minute video of the Tower of Terror. I have tried to capture as much of the attraction as possible and hope that I can provide you with everything but the thrill of the drop. Enjoy!



Check back tomorrow when I present an overview of the Towers in California, Paris, and Tokyo.

February 4, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror -- Part One

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is my favorite attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In my opinion, it is one of Disney's crowning gems and an absolute "must see" on every visit. I'd be surprised if any other attraction has more details packed into it as Tower of Terror. I've been on this ride dozens of times and I'm still discovering new facts. What is to follow is a brief history of how this great "hotel" came into being and then a description of the experience.

When the Disney/MGM Studios was being planned and built, the intent was that it would function as a working studio and produce movies and television shows. At the same time, Disney would offer guests a half-day experience where they could learn about the film industry while being entertained. However, things did not work out as planned. For a number of reasons, this venue was never able to take off as a real production center. And since guests were paying the same ticket price to enter the Studios as they were for the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, they wanted more than a half-day experience. The park needed to be retooled and expanded.

Sunset Boulevard was the first major addition to come to the Studios. And with it came four attractions. In July, 1994, the "Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage" show was relocated from the Backlot Theater to a new 1,500-seat Theater of the Stars. At the same time, the "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" opened at the end of Sunset Blvd. On October 15, 1998 "Fantasmic" opened at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater. And finally, "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster" debuted on July 29, 1999.


Theater of the Stars

Tower of Terror

Hollywood Hills Amphitheater

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster


An interesting note: The Sunset Ranch Market, which features Catalina Eddie's and Rosie's All American Café, was built to be a place-holder for a future attraction. If you'll notice, the structures are all small and simple and could easily be removed.


Sunset Ranch Market


The Imagineers knew they needed a major ride at the end of the boulevard. To employ a word that Walt often used, they needed a "weenie" to draw the guests past the shops and down the street. This would require an attraction that was not only a show stopper, but visually appealing.

During the planning stages for Sunset Blvd, a number of attractions were considered. One, to be called "Crime Stoppers," was to be based on the Disney movie "Dick Tracy." But the film did not meet the financial and critical expectations Disney had hoped for. In addition, Michael Eisner didn't like the violent nature of the attraction so the idea was scrapped.

The Imagineers often say that no good idea ever goes unused. Keeping this in mind, one can't help but wonder if part of the American Waterfront at Tokyo DisneySea was based on Crime Stoppers. Take a look at the concept drawing for this discarded attraction, then look at the very similar street at DisneySea. Hmmm.


Crime Stoppers Concept Art

American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


Another early idea called for a scary, yet humorous attraction based on Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" that would be housed in an elaborate castle. Mr. Brooks even sat in on some of the early brainstorming sessions. As possibilities continued to be explored, the "Young Frankenstein" idea morphed into a haunted hotel concept. Soon after, the attraction took on a more serious tone and Mr. Brooks left the project.


Tower of Terror Concept Art

Tower of Terror Concept Art


A different idea centered around the popularity of murder mysteries in the 1930's, the same era as Sunset Blvd. In this scenario, the guests would be given a series of clues in order to solve a murder mystery. But management frowned on the idea of a ride based on homicide and nixed the idea. Another concept involved a mishap at a Hollywood wrap party. But once again, murder wasn't the story they wanted to tell at a Disney park. Eventually the Imagineers came up with the idea of movie stars being trapped in an out-of-control elevator. And in this case, the people just "disappeared" in a supernatural way, not at the hand of man.

The Imagineers believed that linking the attraction with a recognizable movie or television show would help guests grasp the storyline more quickly and a number of properties were explored. Eventually, The Twilight Zone was selected and the Imagineers viewed all 156 episodes at least twice to make sure they captured the essence of the show in both the design of the structure and the story they would tell. However, the story they created was unique and never was part of the series.

The design of the hotel needed to be appropriate to the era and blend in with the rest of Sunset Boulevard. The Imagineers decided on architecture that was inspired by the revival styles that were popular in California during the early 20th century. The hotel is modeled after such landmarks as the Mission Inn in Riverside, the Château Marmont in Hollywood, and the Biltmore Hotel located in Downtown Los Angeles. Its fictional construction date is 1917 which can be seen on a plaque while standing in line.


Construction Date 1917


But the building not only needed to blend with its immediate surroundings, it also needed to blend in with World Showcase in Epcot. You see, when crossing the bridge that leads from the Disney Traders Shop to Mexico, the hotel is clearly visible behind the Morocco pavilion. So the Tower was given a slightly Moorish feel and painted a color that was not completely accurate for its era just so it would blend into the background when viewed from Epcot.


Morocco Pavilion


The Imagineers made one mistake when designing the exterior of the building. The "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign was placed too low on the structure. In fact, the sign would have been underneath the two wings that were destroyed when hit by lightning. If you pay attention during the Library preshow, you can clearly see the sign is located above the destroyed wings, which would have been the correct placement. This mistake was corrected in the California and Paris versions of the ride. At Tokyo DisneySea the storyline is completely different and there are no wings. In fact, the hotel's name does not appear on the building as it does on its three cousins..


Tower of Terror Incorrect Sign Placement


Here are some basic construction facts about the Tower. The structure required 1,500 tons of steel, 145,800 cubic feet of concrete, and 27,000 roof tiles. The building is 199 feet tall as FAA requirements require that all structures 200 feet or more have a flashing red light on top. The Imagineers felt that this beacon would be distracting and opted to come in under this limit. A model of the Tower, used in the planning stages of the ride, can be seen in the "One Man's Dream" attraction on nearby Mickey Avenue.


Tower of Terror Construction Model


During construction, a billboard was strategically placed near the park's entrance, advertising the upcoming attraction. The three construction photos were taken by our own Deb Wills.


Tower of Terror Construction Billboard

Tower of Terror Construction Photo

Tower of Terror Construction Photo

Tower of Terror Construction Photo


The Tower of Terror (TOT) opened on July 22, 1994. It beckons guests from the parking lot and tram operators point it out as you make your way to the main gate. Later, when you turn onto Sunset Boulevard, you see it sitting majestically at the end of the street. And if that's not enough, a era-appropriate billboard can be found on the Boulevard advertising this great hotel.


Parking Lot View

Sunset Blvd. view of Tower

Tower of Terror Billboard


The stone sentries at the entrance to the attraction are close replicas of the gates found at the entrance of Hollywood's Beachwood Drive. In our case, they mark the beginning of the Sunset Hills Estates.


Stone Entrance

Stone Entrance

Sunset Hills Estates Plaque


The stone structure on the right houses restrooms and behind the one on the left, the FastPass dispensers can be found. If you look beyond the dispensers, you'll find a shed and gardening equipment once used by the hotel's landscapers.


FastPass Machines

Gardener's Shack and Tools


Perched on a hill is a sign displaying the wait time for standby riders. Although numbers less than 13 are often used, this superstitious numeral is frequently present. When it is, you know that the line is very short if not nonexistent. The TOT and the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom are the only two attractions to ever use this number. The nearby landscaping is reminiscent of Griffith and Elysian Parks found in the city of Los Angeles.


Standby Rider Time Estimate


Pay attention to the hotel's stone marquee. It eerily changes, helping set the mood for your journey into the Twilight Zone.


Tower Marquee


Next, you pass beneath an elaborate entryway where you're greeted by one of the hotel's staff. Make sure to notice the "Keep Out" sign posted on the left gate.


Hotel Entrance Gate

Keep Out Sign


Once past the gate look immediately to your right. A most unusual sundial can be found here. At one time, it was used as a wait-time indicator, but no more. Although difficult to make out in my picture, the words say, "YOUR NEXT STOP THE TWILIGHT ZONE 5 MINUTES FROM THIS POINT."


Sundial


From the gate, you wander through some of the long-neglected hotel grounds. More details abound such as a cracked wall from overgrown tree roots and signs marking the way to various recreational facilities. In the background, screams can be heard as you approach the building.


Hotel Pathway

Recreational Sign

Broken Wall and Tree Roots


As you continue your walk, you come to an arbor and a long-dry fountain. Notice the vines that have encased some of the pillars over the years. And the bottom of the fountain has accumulated numerous cracks as time has passed. At one time, the fountain had a water-ring visible on the tiles, but for some reason, this has been removed. To the left of the arbor are statues of two lovely ladies.


Arbor and Vines

Dry Fountain

Statues


As you approach the arbor, music can be heard in the background. If you listen closely, you'll notice it has a far-away, echoey quality. This was done intentionally to invoke a ghost-like feel of a bygone era. The songs played are as follows:

"Alabamy Home" By Gotham Stompers
"Another World" By Johnny Hodges
"Can't Get Started" By Benny Berigan
"Dear Old Southland" By Noble Sissle
"Deep Purple" By Turner Layton
"Delta Mood" By Cootie Williams
"Inside" By Fats Waller
"Jeep's Blues" By Johnny Hodges
"Jitterbug" By Johnny Hodges
"Jungle Drums" By Sidney Bechet
"Mood Indigo" By Duke Ellington
"Pyramid" By Johnny Hodges
"Remember" By Red Norvo
"Sleepy Time Gal" By Glenn Miller
"There's a House" By Henry Allen
"There's No Two" By Frankie Newton
"Uptown Blues" By Jimmy Lunceford
"We'll Meet Again" By Vera Lynn
"When the Sun Sets" By Nobles Singers
"Wishing" By Vera Lynn

At last you come to the main entrance of the hotel and step inside. It's here that the details become too numerous to count.


Hotel Entrance


To the left side of the lobby is a small table. On it we see a game a mahjong was in progress on that fateful Halloween night when disaster struck. The tiles are accurately placed so that guests who know the game will see that it is a faithful recreation. Alongside the table is a tea cart, which would be appropriate in any fine hotel of the era.


Mahjong Game

Tea Service


Further along the same wall is another table. Here, a young couple was celebrating their engagement with a glass of champagne when lightning struck the hotel. Lipstick can be seen on one of the glasses and a diamond ring can be found on a white glove sitting on the table.


Engagement Table


To the left side of the entrance is the concierge desk. Like everything else in the hotel, it has been left untouched since October 31, 1939. On the wall next to the desk is a plaque honoring the hotel with AAA's prestigious 13-diamond award. In reality, 5 diamonds is the maximum.


Concierge Desk

AAA Award


Beside the concierge desk is a poster advertising the Tip Top Club located on the top floor of the hotel. The orchestra leader is Anthony Fremont. If you remember your Twilight Zone episodes, you might recollect a show titled "It's a Good Life." In this story, a young boy, named Anthony Fremont, could make people disappear into the cornfield.


Tip Top Club Poster


The main lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel is stunning. Some of the chairs were secured from the exclusive Jonathan Club, a well-known Los Angeles landmark built in the 1920's. Other leather chairs are authentic Renaissance antiques. And a set of luggage near the front desk is made from genuine alligator skin, a popular fashion of the time. This same set of luggage can be seen later in the library TV presentation as the bellman carries them onto the doomed elevator.


Hotel Lobby

Luggage


Be sure to check out the ceiling and light fixtures. They are truly amazing works of art.


Ceiling

Light Fixture


A number of French and American bronze pieces are scattered around the hotel lobby. Some are recreations and others are real, crafted by the famous 19th century artist Moreau, whose work graced many of the best hotels of the era.


Bronze Bust


Located between the two guest elevators is the hotel's directory. Listed here are various facilities and their location. For example, the Tip Top Club, mentioned earlier, can be found on the TOP OF THE TOWER. Also mentioned are the Sunset, Beverly, and Fountain Rooms, which can be found on the LOWER LEVEL. I'll discuss these three rooms in more detail later.

At one time, the missing letters that had fallen from the directory spelled "EVIL TOWER U R DOOMED" at the bottom of the case. However, the letters were removed some time ago. Although I have never been given a reason for the disappearance, I suspect it was out of deference for the Twin Towers after the 9/11 tragedy.


Hotel Directory


Take a look at the two elevators to either side of the Directory. There are "Out of Order" signs in front of them and their doors have fallen off their tracks.


Out of Order Elevator


That's it for Part One. Check back tomorrow for Part Two and more interesting facts about The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

January 12, 2010

Have a Seat in Walt Disney World - Part 4

Like everything that Disney does, theming is paramount. In this multi-part blog I'll be touring all four parks and pointing out benches, chairs, and other seating options that have been themed specifically for a land or area. For the most part, I'll be concentrating on non-restaurant seating.

Part 1 covered the Magic Kingdom.
Part 2 covered Epcot.
Part 3 Animal Kingdom

The final park on our tour of the World brings us to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Like the other parks, there are few seating options near the entrance. The only place to sit here is on the planters located between security check and the ticket booths.


Studio Entrance Planter/Bench


Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards offer "anywhere U.S.A." city benches. It's interesting to note that Sunset Blvd. has one of the largest concentrations of benches anywhere. Almost the entire street is lined with these wood and concrete seats.


Anywhere USA Bench

Sunset Blvd. Benches


Characteristic of the real world, a number of these benches display advertisements. If you pay attention, you'll notice that the locales depicted on the ads all exist on the two streets. Take a look at the last picture. You can tell by the sagging slats that this bench is used frequently. There's a reason for this. It's near the restroom where guests wait for others to finish their business.


Bench with Advertisements

Bench with Advertisements

Bench with Advertisements

Bench with Advertisements

Bench with Advertisements


Near the Tip Board is an art deco style fountain. As the park gets busy, this area becomes a "meeting spot" an seating here is often at a premium.


Tip Board Fountain


Near the Tower of Terror, the seating is decidedly formal.


Tower of Terror Bench


The only seating you'll find in the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster courtyard is the planter ledge that lines the front of the building.


Rock 'N' Roller Coaster Planter Bench


On Mickey Avenue you'll discover the same benches as are used in Innoventions Courtyard at Epcot. And at Pixar Place the seating has a sort of futuristic/cartoon appearance.


Mickey Avenue Bench

Pixar Place Bench


You'll find a different version of the "anywhere U.S.A." city bench on the Streets of America.


Streets of America Bench


Near Pizza Planet there are a few simple benches and a number of tables and chairs.


Pizza Planet Bench

Pizza Planet Table and Chairs


Along Echo Lake are umbrella-covered tables and chairs. Buy an ice cream from nearby Dinosaur Gertie's and enjoy it here.


Echo Lake Table and Chairs


This concludes my tour of theme park benches. But the detailing doesn't stop here. The resorts are full of seating options as unique as the ones I've presented in this blog. As I always keep preaching, pay attention to the little things and your trips to Walt Disney World will be all that more rewarding

By the way, in order to get pictures of benches with nobody sitting on them, I had to arrive at each park at opening, then make a mad dash around the park before people started tiring out.

November 17, 2009

One Man's Dream

On October 1, 2001, the Disney Company kicked off a year-long celebration called 100 Years of Magic to honor Walt's birth a century earlier. The Disney/MGM Studio was selected to be the "official" park for this tribute and a Sorcerer's Hat was erected at the end of Hollywood Blvd in honor of the event.


Sorcerer's Hat


At that same time, a new attraction opened on Mickey Boulevard called "One Man's Dream." Here, the milestones and accomplishments of Walt Disney are displayed and discussed.


One Man's Dream

One Man's Dream


But this wasn't the first time Walt's life story had been presented at a theme park. On May 6, 1973, "The Walt Disney Story" officially opened in the Hospitality House (now Exhibition Hall) on Main Street and played until October 1992. This 23 minute film was shown in twin 300 seat theaters and told the life story of Walt, and to a much lesser extent, his brother Roy. Narrated by Walt, the movie was pieced together from numerous interviews he gave during his lifetime. The queue and waiting area for this movie was full of awards, models, and memorabilia pertaining to his accomplishments.

If you wander to the back portion of Exhibition Hall today, you can see the remnants of one of the theaters. This is a perfect spot to sit and relax and enjoy an old Disney cartoon on a hot day.


Walt Disney Story Theater


Housed in one of the soundstages of Disney's Hollywood Studios, One Man's Dream greets guests with classic and familiar pictures of Walt and Mickey. In many ways, this attraction is a reincarnation of "The Walt Disney Story" of earlier years.


Walt and Mickey

Walt and Mickey


Much of the first portion of this walking tour features old photographs of the Disney family. In this first picture we see Walt at ten months (born December 5, 1901) and his parents, Elias and Flora. The second picture is of Walt and his younger sister Ruth.


Walt, Elias, and Flora

Walt and his sister Ruth


As the tour continues, three-dimensional artifacts are added to the mix. Here we see Walt's second-grade school desk from Marceline, Missouri. In the photograph above the desk, his initials "WD" can be seen carved into the wood.


Walt's Second Grade Desk


Walt only lived in Marceline for four years. Yet, this small town had a large impact on his life. In this next exhibit we see a model of Disneyland's Main Street. Much of this thoroughfare was inspired by Walt's memories of his beloved childhood home.


Model of Disneyland's Main Street


This next exhibit is a reproduction of an early animator's desk. Cartoons like Plane Crazy, The Gallopin' Gaucho, and Steamboat Willie were created on tables similar to this.


Animator's Desk


When Walt began work on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," he knew he needed a new storytelling technique. So he and his team created the multiplane camera. This apparatus added depth-of-field to animated scenes and was first used on, "The Old Mill," one of the Silly Symphonies. "The Old Mill" went on to win an Academy Award for Best Short Subjects: Cartoons. This display and a nearby video provide an easy to understand explanation as to how this device works.


Multiplane Camera


One Man's Dream has several displays featuring vintage Disney toys. The plaques here describe the genius of Roy Disney, Walt's older brother.

"By the mid-1930's, Mickey Mouse had become the most popular entertainment figure in the world. Roy O. Disney negotiated dozens of agreements to produce Disney character merchandise of every imaginable sort, resulting in the creation of more than 10,000 depression-era jobs."

"A successful Disney film meant popular new characters, which almost invariably spawned new lines of themed merchandise. 'Three Little Pigs' made their way to such popular items as porcelain figurines, cups, mugs, and plates."


Early Disney Merchandise


Another storytelling technique rolling around in Walt's head was the idea of a mechanical figure that could reproduce the lifelike movements of a man. While on vacation in New Orleans, Walt found and purchased a mechanical bird that could sing while moving its beak, head, and wings. He took it home and gave it to a couple of his Imagineers so they could dissect it and discover what made it tick.

Soon after, Walt hired Buddy Ebsen to dance in front of a large grid and filmed the hoofer's movements. Walt himself directed the sequence. This footage was then studied and measurements were taken. With this information, combined with the knowledge gained from the mechanical bird, the Imagineers built a 1/8 scale model of Ebsen which perfectly reproduced his dance routine. Walt personally built a miniature stage to showcase his new figure.

These next two photographs show the mechanical man, stage, and the cams used to recreate the figure's lifelike movements.


Minature Dancing Man

Minature Dancing Man Cams


Behind a glass enclosure we see a recreation of the Studio office Walt used from 1940 to 1966. To the right side of the first picture you can see an aerial view of Disneyland and an early plot plan for Walt Disney World.


Walt's Office

Walt's Office


This next picture is a long shot looking down a corridor filled with fascinating bits of Disney trivia. For the most part, all of the displays are presented chronologically.


Mulitple Displays


If you love miniatures, you'll love "One Man's Dream." This attraction is filled with models the Imagineers created to help them plan and build the various Disney parks around the world.

This first model is of the loading dock at Disneyland's Jungle Cruise. The boats, patterned after the ones used in the movie "The African Queen," were made of fiberglass -- the first time this material was used for non-military purposes.


Disneyland's Jungle Cruise


In the foreground of this next picture we see a replica of the Moonliner rocket ship that stood in front of Disneyland's Rocket to the Moon attraction from 1955 to 1966. In the background are various drawings and photographs of Disneyland's original Tomorrowland.


Moonliner Rocket Ship


Here we see a recreation of Walt explaining to a TV audience his new project, Walt Disney World. If you listen closely, you can hear Walt misspeak when discussing EPCOT. The first time he expands the name, he says, "Experimental Prototype CITY of Tomorrow." The second time he says the name, he correctly uses the word COMMUNITY instead of CITY. This slip of the tongue caused the acronym to be incorrectly used many times in the future.


Walt Discribing Walt Disney World


In this next picture we see a model of Epcot's Spaceship Earth. At first glance, it might look like all the facets on the sphere are three-dimensional. But upon closer inspection you find that each triangle was painstakingly painted by hand.


Model of Spaceship Earth


Here we see an early Audio-Animatronics figure, minus its skin. There are several buttons attached to the lean-rail that when pushed, activate different movements.


Early Audio-Animatronics Figure

AA Activation Buttons


Architectural scale models allow Imagineers to see the "finished product" long before construction begins. Below are mock-ups of Cinderella Castle, Tower of Terror, and Typhoon Lagoon.


Cinderella Castle

Tower of Terror

Typhoon Lagoon


I have only presented a sampling of the items on display in the "museum" section of One Man's Dream. A person could easily spend thirty minutes or more looking at the material displayed here. And I urge you not to let the upcoming movie rush you along.

Located at the back of the attraction is the Walt Disney Theater. Approximately every twenty minutes, a wonderful film about Walt's life is shown. Although many of the same topics are discussed, the One Man's Dream film is completely different from its predecessor, The Walt Disney Story, although both use archival footage. When the movie debuted, Michael Eisner introduced the show. After he left the company, a voice-over by Julie Andrews replaced Michael's opening.

This is an engaging and interesting film. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Walt and how his company came into being. And I hate to admit it, but this is also a good place for a quick nap -- but it would be a shame to snooze through this biography.


Walt Disney Theater


One Man's Dream is often overlooked by guests in search of more exciting fare. If you haven't already experienced this attraction, I urge you to do so on your next trip to Disney's Hollywood Studios. You'll be glad you did.

October 2, 2009

More Disney's Hollywood Studios Details

During World Wars I & II, Victory Gardens (also known as War Gardens) were encouraged by various governments, including the United States. Citizens were asked to plant fruits and vegetables in their backyards and on apartment terraces and rooftops. This additional produce would help lower the price of food that the U.S. War Department needed to buy to feed the troops. The money saved could then be spent elsewhere in the military. It's estimated that these gardens produced up to 40 percent of all the fruits and vegetables consumed nationally during the war. And in addition to the tangible benefits, the gardens were considered a morale booster.

Since Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at Disney's Hollywood Studios are set in the 1930's and '40's, it makes sense that you'd find a Victory Garden here. Located behind Catalina Eddie's at the Sunset Ranch Market, is Disney's version of this civilian war effort. I especially like the scarecrow donning the oxygen mask.


Catalina Eddie's

Victory Garden

Gas Mask


And speaking of the military, over on Pixar Place, you can find the green army men hoisting a Scrabble board. If you look at the letters you'll find YOUVE GOT A FRIEND IN ME spelled out on (and off) the board. In case you don't catch the connection, this is the title song from the movie "Toy Story."


Scrabble Board


Moving over to the Echo Lake district, we find the Hollywood & Vine restaurant.


Hollywood & Vine Restaurant


If you look at the second story window to the left of the marquee, you see an ad for Eddie Valiant, Private Investigator.


Eddie Valiant


If you can't quite place this gentleman, he was the gumshoe in the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

Next to Eddie's window we see a silhouette of Roger. If you remember, while at Maroon Studios, Roger went berserk after drinking a shot of whiskey and crashed through the window in this manner.


Roger Rabbit Window


Also in this area is a billboard for Maroon Studios.


Maroon Studios Billboard


On the other side of Echo Lake is the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular attraction. To the right of the entrance you'll find an archeological dig in progress.


Archeological Dig


Next to this excavation site, is a sign that some joker has modified. Go ahead. Pull the rope. You know you want to.


Pull Rope Sign


Across from the dig, you'll find a table full of Indy's treasures. Beside the table is a box with his name and college stenciled on its side.


Artifacts on Table

Prof. H. Jones


That's all the details I have for today, but there willl be more to come.

September 4, 2009

Luxo Jr.

Now appearing at Disney's Hollywood Studios: Luxo Jr.

Every 15-20 minutes, Luxo Jr., the dancing lamp from the Pixar movies, makes an appearance across the street from Toy Story Mania. Perched on a stage above the crowd, this cute little fellow dances to a variety of tunes for about two and a half minutes. The passing crowd comes to a standstill as this new design in outdoor entertainment performs his act.

Is Luxo Jr. worth seeing? Sure, especially if you're in the area or standing in the outdoor queue for Toy Story Mania. He's charming and unique. But I'm not sure I'd make a special trip to Pixar Place just to see him. But since everyone passes this way at least once during their visit, why not take a break while you're in this area and kill a few minutes until he makes an appearance?

Luxo Jr. is another fine example of the many details that make Disney parks so wonderful.

By the way, Luxo Jr. is much taller in person than he is in the movies. ;-)

I shot a video of his performance. The sound is "live" so there is a lot of background noise, but I think you can still make out the music.

Enjoy.

August 28, 2009

Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride has been entertaining guests for over twenty years, allowing us to do more than just see some of the classics, but to be immersed in and surrounded by them. Fifty-nine Audio-Animatronics figures, recreating some of Hollywood's biggest stars, come to life as we travel from one cinemagraphic genre to the next. For almost nineteen minutes, we're lost in a world of make believe and illusion.

The Great Movie Ride was originally planned as an Epcot attraction in Future World. It was to be a part of an entertainment pavilion and was to be located between the Journey Into Imagination and The Land Pavilions. When Michael Eisner joined the company in 1984 with a mandate to develop more of Disney's Florida property, he decided to build a third park. Expanding on Walt's original idea to give tours of the Burbank Studio, the concept for the Disney/MGM Studios was born with the Great Movie Ride as its centerpiece.

Here is a picture of The Great Movie Ride taken in October, 1989.

The Great Movie Ride - 1989

Unfortunately, this view no longer exists. To help kick off the "100 Years of Magic Celebration" Mickey's Sorcerer Hat was constructed in 2001 at the end of Hollywood Blvd. This next picture was taken from approximately the same spot as the above photo.


Sorcerer's Hat


I have nothing against this hat. In fact, I think it's attractive. And I understand why the Imagineers placed it at the end of Hollywood Blvd. They wanted to utilize the "draw" concept. This icon will help draw guests into the park. But I think it's a shame that it blocks the beautiful Chinese Theater and I wish they could have come up with a different idea.

The exterior of Disney's Chinese Theater is an exact copy of the one located in Hollywood at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard. However, due to wear and tear on the Hollywood structure, some of the external décor has been removed. Disney's version was built from vintage reference material and still displays these missing details.


Great Movie Ride Plaque


The original theater opened on May 18, 1927 and premiered Cecil B. DeMille's film "The King of Kings." (I have no idea why the above plaque says 1928. All of my research indicates that the theater opened in 1927.)

There are a number of stories as to how the tradition of actors placing their footprints in the cement came about. The most famous tells that Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped in wet cement outside of the theater, giving Sid Grauman, part owner of the theater, the idea. This tradition has been kept alive at the Florida counterpart as can be seen in these next pictures.


Footprints in Cement


If you're a regular reader of my blogs, I'm constantly telling you to slow down and notice the details. The exterior of this theater is no exception. The center section (main entrance) of the building is designed to resemble a giant Chinese pagoda.


Great Movie Ride Main Entrance


Flanking the entrance of the theater are two Chinese lions. These figures are often placed in front of gates or doorways as they were believed to have mystic and protective powers. Although the lions look like they're both male due to their bushy manes, one is female. Look closely at their paws. The male has a ball underneath his right paw and the female has a lion cub under her left. The ball represents unity of the empire and the cub symbolizes prospering offspring.


Chinese Lion - Male

Chinese Lion - Female


Above the door is another Chinese symbol, the dragon. And if you look carefully at the roof, there are a number of these creatures climbing about.


Entrance Dragon

Roof Dragon


The typical Chinese courtyard is traditionally a place of tranquility and privacy. In almost all cases some sort of water feature and garden will be incorporated into the design. The Chinese Theater's courtyard is no exception. This is a lovely place to wander and relax. Although difficult to see in the second picture, the large sculpture is a water feature.


Chinese Theater Courtyard

Courtyard Garden & Water Feature


You can find a bit of Disney history inside the two windows located to each side of the outer courtyard wall.


Chinese Theater Window


Both Mary Poppins (1964) and The Jungle Book (1967) premiered at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Photographs, programs, and tickets are on display in these windows.


Mary Poppins premieres at the Chinese Theater

Mary Poppins Tickes

Jungle Book premiers at the Chinese Theater

Jungle Book Tickets


There are more details worth note on the exterior of this building - too many to list here. So next time you're heading for The Great Movie Ride, take a moment and look around.

Usually you enter The Great Movie Ride through the main entrance, but during busier times you may enter via a side door. When doing so, you walk through a lovely room featuring a panel-mural, vase, and intricate carpeting. All of the carpeting in the queue was custom made by a Japanese firm. Also, be sure to look at the ceiling. It is also stunning.


Lobby Art

Lobby Ceiling


Further on in the queue are three display cases. Two have temporary exhibits, but the carousel horse that Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) rode in the movie is on permanent display. If the line is short, you won't pass by this treasure, but the queue is open in this area so feel free to step out of line for a look-see.


Mary Poppins Carousel Horse


The next portion of the queue is housed in what would be the seating area of a real theater. Here, previews of eight movies are shown. These include Alien (1979), Casablanca (1942), Fantasia (1940), Footlight Parade, (1933), Mary Poppins (1964), The Public Enemy (1931), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Searchers (1956) and Singin' in the Rain (1952). It takes a little over nine minutes to see all of the clips.

All of these movies are recreated in The Great Movie Ride with the exception of The Searchers. Although John Wayne can be seen in the attraction, this section of the show was designed to represent films of the Western genre rather than one specific movie.

For those of you who have never ridden on this attraction, you will experience one of two different scenarios during your journey through the movies. You can either receive the gangster treatment or the western adventure. In the morning, before the crowds materialize, only the gangster treatment is used. Usually by 10am, both scenarios are available. The front two vehicles will see the western bank robbery while the last two will experience the gangster shootout. If it's important to you to see one or the other, just ask a cast member when you reach the turnstiles. The same holds true if you'd like to sit on one side or the other or request the front seat. However, you might have to wait for the next show sequence to begin in order to have your request granted.

The diorama behind the loading area is a composite of elements found in the Hollywood Hills of the 1920's to the 1940's. The Griffith Observatory and the Hollywoodland sign can both be seen.


Hollywood Hils Diorama

Hollywood Hills Diorama


The actual Hollywoodland sign was built in 1923 atop Mt. Lee as a promotional gimmick for a new housing development in the area. The sign soon became an icon and was used in many publicity photos and movies. By 1949, the sign was deteriorating badly. To its rescue came the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. They restored the sign, but in a desire to more accurately portray their city, they left off the "land" portion so it only read "Hollywood." Over the years the sign received several more restorations, but eventually it reached a point of no return. So once again the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce came to the sign's rescue, but this time rebuilt it from the ground up. In a nationally televised program, the new sign was unveiled on November 14, 1978.

The Great Movie Ride does not display an obvious track. The vehicles are guided by wires imbedded in the flooring. The steering wheels on the vehicles are not functional while in normal operation. However, they can be engaged for maintenance purposes.


Ride Vehicle Steering Wheel


Listed below are some bits of trivia contained within the attraction. I've only listed a sampling here. Believe me, there are many more.

When loading and unloading the ride vehicles, the "house lights" are on. But as the ride begins, you can hear a director yell out, "Quiet on the set." At this point, the house lights dim and stage lights come on. In addition, the lights within the various buildings on the diorama begin to illuminate. In other words, filming is about to begin.

The Busby Berkeley girls in the first scene sit upon several tiered turntables. When the attraction first opened, the different levels rotated in opposite directions. Due to continual maintenance problems, this area was redesigned and now the girls stand stationary. It's a shame a better solution couldn't be found as I feel this is the weakest set on the attraction.

When first entering Gangster Alley, look to the right of the hotel. You can see movement behind the curtains on the second floor.

Further on, Mickey Mouse's feet can be seen underneath a peeling poster.

The two Audio-Animatronics gangsters are named Squid and Beans. The live gangsters are named Mugsy (male) or Mugsi (female).

The license plate on the gangsters' car reads "021429." The St. Valentine's Day Massacre took place on this date, February 14, 1929.


Gangster Car License Plate


The horse that John Wayne sits on does not represent a particular horse from his movies. It's intended to represent a composite of his film steeds.

Across from John Wayne, there is a sign on the wall with the name Ransom Stoddard Attorney. In the movie "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Stewart played the part of Ransom Stoddard.

The Audio-Animatronics bank robber's name is Snake. The live bank robber is named Kate Durango (female) or Kid Carson (male).

After the bank is blown up, you can see smoke escaping from between the timbers of the barn.

Behind the Egyptian god Horus, a hieroglyphic Mickey and Donald can be found.


Mickey/Donald Hieroglyph


Contrary to some rumors, no real skeletons are used in this attraction.

Contrary to another persistent rumor, the Lockheed Electra 12A airplane seen in the Casablanca sequence was not the same plane used in the actual movie. However, the back half of this Great Movie Ride plane was removed and can be seen in the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom.

In the Fantasia section of the attraction we're told that the sorcerer (unseen on the ride) is named Yensid. This is Disney spelled backwards. Adding to this bit of trivia, Disneyland's steam trains and monorails were originally owned by the Disney family under the company name of Retlaw, Walter spelled backwards.

Due to legal restrictions, Disney cannot provide a list of the movies shown in the final sequence of the attraction. However, one movie is mentioned by name, "Good Morning, Vietnam."

I haven't included any "show" pictures of The Great Movie Ride. Instead, I've created an abbreviated video of the experience. I hope you enjoy it.

June 13, 2009

Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner – Disney's Hollywood Studios

"Min and Bill" was an MGM movie released in 1930. It starred Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery and tells the story of a dockside innkeeper (Min) who, while raising her adopted daughter, has an ongoing love/hate relationship with a boozy fisherman (Bill) who lives at the inn. Dressler won the Academy Award for her portrayal of Min in 1931.


Min and Bill Movie Poster


The tramp steamer, S.S. Down the Hatch, that houses Min and Bill's Dockside Diner represents the waterfront theme seen in the movie. The architectural style of the building is called "California Crazy." It became popular in the 1930's and the concept was to catch the eye of the consumer and create a lasting impression.


Min and Bill's Dockside Diner

Min and Bill's Dockside Diner

Min and Bill's Dockside Diner


Dinosaur Gertie's on the other side of Echo Lake is another good example of this style.


Dinosaur Gertie's


Min and Bill's Dockside Diner is a great place to stop and catch your breath. A number of umbrella-covered tables are nearby and offer excellent people-watching opportunities.


Min and Bill's Dockside Diner


Here is the current menu. As you can see, the offerings are simple, but I've got to tell you, the pretzels are pretty good.


Min and Bill's Dockside Diner Menu


But the real reason I'm writing about Min and Bill's Dockside Diner has nothing to do with the above. It has to do with more Disney trivia just waiting to be discovered.

This "building" is supposed to represent a cargo ship. If you look around, you can see freight ready to be loaded aboard.


Cargo


To the left side of the ship are a number of large crates.


Cargo


Take a look at who these wooden boxes are addressed to.


Citizen Kane Cargo

It's a Wonderful Life Cargo

Casablanca Cargo

Gone With The Wind Cargo

The Producers Cargo


For those of you who aren't movie buffs, these are characters from the films Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, and The Producers (respectively).

So there you have it, more details.


------------------------------------------------------------------

Addendum:

The insignias over the S.S. Down the Hatch alternate between flags and pennants. The flags represent letters, the pennants represent numbers.

The flags spell out: D O C K S I D E D I N E R

The numbers are: 7 8 2 5 6 2 8 9 6 3 5 4 (I think -- I was looking at a picture and the wind was blowing, making it difficult to read some of them.)

I'm no cryptographer. If someone else knows the significance of these numbers, please let me know.

May 22, 2009

Star Wars Weekends 2009

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Guide Map - Very large file

Star Wars Weekend Tips

Additional Star Wars Weekend Information


I went to Disney's Hollywood Studios today to check out the opening of Star Wars Weekends. I arrived at 8:30am and the lines to get into the park were already long. This picture was taken five minutes later. I was standing at the ticket booths and as you can see, the lines extend all the way to the security check point.


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To keep the crowd entertained, Storm Troopers were on hand taunting and threatening us.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


While waiting for the park to open, I struck up a conversation with some folks in line. I learned that if you want an autograph and/or photo opportunity with the "celebrity of the day," you need a FastPass. These are handed out on a first come, first issued basis at the far right side of the ticket booths (outside the park) starting at around 8:15am. The people I was speaking with told me they were in the FastPass line at 5:30am and they were definitely not the first to arrive.

A limited number of these "celebrity" FastPasses are available, but if you're lucky enough to secure one, you're guaranteed the opportunity to see your favorite Star Wars hero. Just show up at the designated location during your 15 minute window. After all of the initial FastPasses have been distributed, a limited number of Stand-by FastPasses will be handed out. However, these "secondary" tickets do not guarantee you an autograph or photo session - but it's worth a try.


Celebrity FastPass Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


The celebrity of the day will autograph their photograph and any merchandise you bring with you. A number of people brought in posters to be signed.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Also handed out early in the morning outside the park are color coded wrist bands. These allow shoppers priority entrance into Wicket's Warehouse where you can buy limited edition and collectable Star Wars merchandise.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Located through out the park are various Star Wars character meet-and-greet locations. Unlike the celebrity sessions, you do not need a FastPass for these photo ops. But be warned, within minutes of the park opening, every one of these venues had a long line.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Star Wars T-shirts are seen everywhere and some folks pull out all the stops and dressed to the nines.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Here is yours truly as a Storm Trooper. Not to menacing, am I?


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Always a favorite, but especially during Star Wars Weekend, is the Jedi Training Academy. Here kids can find out if they have what it takes to become a Jedi Warrior. Children are selected at random and it's best to arrive early (at least 30 minutes during Star Wars Weekend) if you want your little one selected.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Some of the other activities include the "Padawan Mind Challenge." Here, Younglings use their "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" knowledge to pass the trivia trials and become an official Padawan learner. This event is for children 11 and under and registration begins at the Star Wars Information Desk beginning at 9am.

At the Premiere Theater you can see host Ashley Eckstein in "Clone Wars: Behind the Force" - a show that explores the excitement of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" with a fascinating look behind the scenes led by the voice behind "Ahsoka" and other guest celebrities.


Since this blog is all about Star Wars, I thought I'd share some Star Tours trivia with you.

When you enter the building, the queue makes a switchback or backwards "S." You know why?


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Because this section of the queue was loosely based on the Star Tours attraction at Disneyland in California.

But do you know why the queue follows this configuration at Disneyland?

It's because the Disneyland building originally housed Adventures Thru Inner Space. When the attraction was retired to make room for Star Tours, there was no reason to rip out this perfectly good walkway so the Imagineers just did some retooling with the props that surrounded it.


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And while were on the subject of Adventures Thru Inner Space, did you know you can see a section of the Mighty Microscope from that attraction on Star Tours?


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When Disney replaces an older ride with a new attraction, they try to leave some sort of legacy behind. In other words, gone, but not forgotten. For example, in the Winnie the Pooh attraction at Walt Disney World, there is a picture of Mr. Toad handing over the deed to the property to Owl. And at Mission: Space in Epcot, the old Horizon logo can be seen on the rotating space station in the queue area. The same is true for Star Tours. This attraction pays homage to Adventures Thru Inner Space. Here's what to look for:

As you begin your Star Tours adventure, you unexpectedly take a wrong turn. Then your vehicle drops off the edge of a platform and plunges downward. As Captain Rex regains control of the craft, he pulls you out of your freefall. At that moment, if you look to the right-hand side of the screen, you can see the Mighty Microscope. You must look quickly, but once you know what you're looking for, there is no mistaking it.


Star%20Wars%20Weekend%202009%2022.jpg


And here's a bit of personal trivia for you. I went to school with Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) in Yokohama, Japan. We were even in a school play together. It's not a very good picture, but I'm on the left and Mark is on the right.


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Star Wars Weekend is very popular. If you're visiting Disney World over the next several weeks and you're a Star Wars fan, then you should definitely visit Disney's Hollywood Studios during one of these days. But if you're not a Star Wars fan, visit other parks on the weekend and save the Studio for a Monday through Thursday.

May the force be with you.

April 14, 2009

New Amsterdam Theatre

Signs abound at Walt Disney World. Many are informational or instructional, while others entertain and amuse us. And there are a few that have a story buried within them. One in particular comes to mind and that's what this blog is all about.

We're all familiar with the backdrop at the end of New York Street at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Here, artists try to fool our mind and eye into believing that an actual city exists when in reality, it's nothing more than a two-dimensional painting.


New Amsterdam


When the Disney/MGM Studios opened on May 1, 1989, a sign on one of the backdrop buildings read, Hotel Pouilly.


New Amsterdam


That's me in October, 1989.

A few years ago, this sign was changed and it now reads, New Amsterdam.


New Amsterdam


And the reason for that change can be found below.

The New Amsterdam Theatre opened in New York City on 42nd Street in November 1903. It was designed in the Art Nouveau style and for many years was home to the Ziegfeld Follies.

The depression hit Broadway hard and many of the theatres fell into disrepair during this period -- and the New Amsterdam was no exception. In 1937 the building was converted into a movie house. In the decades that followed, the deterioration continued.

In 1993, Disney Theatrical Productions signed a 99-year lease for the property and started an estimated $34 million renovation of the theater. When completed, critics and audiences applauded their efforts. Disney had brought this once grand venue back to its glory days.


New Amsterdam


In the spring of 1997, the New Amsterdam officially reopened. On November 13th of that same year, "The Lion King" premièred and went on to win a Tony Award for best musical in 1998.


New Amsterdam


In June 2006, "The Lion King" was moved to the Minskoff Theatre to make room for another of Disney's movie-to-Broadway shows. On October 16, 2006, Mary Poppins began previews at the New Amsterdam Theatre and officially opened one month later on November 16th.


New Amsterdam


The New Amsterdam Theatre has the distinction of being one of the oldest surviving legitimate theatres in New York City, sharing this honor with the Lyceum Theatre which was also built in 1903.

So the next time you're on New York Street at Disney's Hollywood Studios, you can see a little bit of history on the cityscape backdrop.

April 8, 2009

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

I'm going to assume that most of you have seen the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" show during one of your visits to Disney's Hollywood Studios. If you haven't, then you should. It's very cute.

I recently forced a friend of mine to experience this show for the first time. The exterior of the attraction hadn't impressed him and he thought it was just a "kiddy" show. Because of this, he ignored this wonderful bit of entertainment. Upon exiting the theater, he thanked me for making him see it and assured me it would be part of his agenda on future visits.

But my blog today isn't about the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show. It's about the holding area you wait in prior to the event.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area


I know that most of you are so happy to be in an air-conditioned space after enduring the heat and humidity that all you do is utter a collective sigh of relief upon entering this holding area. Then you spend the next few minutes relaxing and chatting until the theater doors open. But if you take the time to look around this unassuming room there are a number of treasures to be discovered.

Look closely and you'll find small signs attached to the wall at varying heights. These signs point out interesting bits of trivia - some of it very imaginative.

I think these signs speak for themselves and need no further narrative from me. But keep in mind, I'm not showing them all to you. There are more to be discovered.


Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Check out the AllEars® Photo Gallery for this Attraction.

January 20, 2009

Sunset Boulevard - Disney's Hollwood Studios

I ate lunch at Disney's Hollywood Studios last week with my friend Flo. During our meal, she asked me if I knew about the "Contractor's Signature" marker on Sunset Blvd. When I said no, it surprised her as she thought I knew everything about the Disney parks. (This couldn't be further from the truth.) Flo got all excited that she knew something that I didn't. When we finished eating, I followed behind her as she hurried off to the corner of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards.


Disney's Hollywood Studios Sunset Blvd


There, imbedded in the cement is a "Contractor's Signature" marker for Mortimer & Co. Contractor 1928. I know it's hard to read, but that's what it says.


Disney's Hollywood Studios Sunset Blvd Surveyor Marker


For those of you who don't understand the significance, Mortimer was the name Walt wanted to give his new little mouse in 1928. However, his wife Lillian wasn't to keen on the moniker and convinced him to change the name to Mickey.

Actor Mickey Rooney claims that while working at Warner Brothers on the "Mickey McGuire" movie series, he met Disney and inspired Walt to name his new mouse after himself. Walt always maintained that it was Lillian who named the little fellow, Mickey.


Disney's Hollywood Studios Sunset Blvd


I'm sure many of you have eaten at the Sunset Ranch Market at one time or another. On a nice day, this is a wonderful spot to enjoy an outdoor meal. But did you know that this area was inspired by a real Los Angeles location?

In 1934 a group of farmers brought their pick-up trucks to an empty piece of land at the corner of Third and Fairfax. They sold fruits, vegetables, and flowers from their vehicles' tailgates to the local residents. Word spread quickly and "Farmers Market" soon became an institution. As time progressed, wooden stalls were erected and merchants were charged 50¢ a day rent. In 1941 a clock tower was added and instantly became the landmark for the area. Today, Farmers Market has dozens of restaurants, shops, food vendors, and boutiques. It's considered one of Los Angeles' "must see" tourist attractions.

The next picture is a vintage postcard of Farmers Market. The following picture is of Sunset Ranch Market. The similarity of the two towers is striking and the covered food areas at the Sunset Ranch Market are reminiscent of the vendor stalls found at Farmers Market.


Disney's Hollywood Studios Sunset Blvd

Disney's Hollywood Studios Sunset Blvd


Also found at the Sunset Ranch Market is Fairfax Fries. This is in recognition that Farmers Market is located at the corner of Third and Fairfax.


Disney's Hollywood Studios Sunset Blvd


Another interesting feature of the Sunset Ranch Market is the Anaheim Produce stand. First, it's indicative of the food stalls found at the original Farmers Market. But also, Disneyland is located in Anaheim, which was a farming community before Walt arrived.


Disney's Hollywood Studios Sunset Blvd


At the other end of the Sunset Ranch Market is Toluca Legs Turkey Co.


Disney's Hollywood Studios Sunset Blvd


Whenever I see this quick service eatery I laugh at the humor hidden in the name. Then I have to ask myself, how many people, not familiar with Southern California, understand the joke.

For those of you who don't get it" Toluca "Lake" is an affluent suburb of Los Angeles. This community has been home to a number of famous stars including Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Ron Howard and many others.

So the next time you stroll down Sunset Blvd, you'll know just a little bit more about some of the details of this area.

December 8, 2008

Animation Academy - The Magic of Disney Animation

When the Disney/MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) opened, it featured a wonderful animation tour. Guests started the tour by viewing a short film, narrated by Walter Cronkite and with Robin Williams voicing one of the lost boys from Neverland. Together, they explained how an animated movie was created from concept to celluloid. After the film, you strolled by a working studio and could watch animators work while a prerecorded narrative explained what activity was taking place in each area. At the conclusion of the walking tour, you saw a second movie featuring clips from dozens of Disney animated classics. This film brought a tear to your eye and a smile to your face. This attraction was a true gem.

But as computers took over more and more of the animation process, this tour became increasingly out of date. Several attempts were made to keep the attraction current, but when Disney decided to remove all animation from Florida and consolidate it in California, this tour couldn't survive as is.

Today's attraction is called "The Magic of Disney Animation." The tour begins with an entertaining film starring Mushu from Mulan. Here, the mischievous dragon learns how a sidekick is selected for a movie. In addition, a few other animation techniques are explained. But over all, this film is more fluff than informative.


Animation%20Academy%20000.jpg


After the movie, you proceed to a computer game play room that is designed more for children than adults. There are also a couple of meet-and-greet areas where you can get your picture taken with Disney characters.

And finally, there is the Animation Academy tucked away in a corner. I'm writing this blog today because I think this wonderful segment of the attraction is overlooked by the vast majority of guests who take this tour. And for me, it's the best part.


Animation%20Academy%2000.jpg


Located near the exit of the computer game room, the Animation Academy has a small waiting area. Classes are conducted every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour. While in the waiting room, be sure to watch the "computer sketch boards" mounted on the wall. Every couple of minutes, a new drawing is started and a character begins to take shape. Try to be the first in your group to determine what character is being drawn.


Animation%20Academy%2001.jpg

Animation%20Academy%2001a.jpg

Guess%20the%20Character.gif


When the doors open, you proceed into the Animation Academy and find a seat at one of the Mickey Mouse desks. Each position is equipped with a sheet of drawing paper and a pencil - and NO erasers. As the doors close, a Disney animator/artist introduces himself and begins the class.


Animation%20Academy%2002.jpg

Animation%20Academy%2003.jpg


With the exception of Mickey Mouse, the same character is never drawn twice in a row. And if a drawing of Mickey is repeated, it will be a slightly different pose. Sometimes the animator will select the character to be drawn and sometimes he will open it up to the class to choose. Some of the other choices are Donald, Daisy, Minnie, and Pooh.

You start drawing all characters the same way, by creating a circle. The animator uses an overhead projector so you can see exactly what you're supposed to be doing. After you've got your circle on paper, you add guide lines. Then, step by step you are walked through the process of creating a Disney character. And before you know it, Mickey is jumping to life from your piece of paper - well, maybe not.


Animation%20Academy%2004.jpg

Animation%20Academy%2005.jpg

Animation%20Academy%2006.jpg


Obviously, some guests have more talent than others. But if you look around the room, you can see that everyone does a decent job at creating the character du jour. And even if your drawing isn't perfect, it's usually pretty obvious who you were trying to recreate.

Each class is approximately 20 minutes. You're not rushed, but the animator keeps the pace going in order to finish in time for the next class. When you're done with your drawing, it's yours to keep. Sometimes the animator will provide rubber bands so you can roll up your drawing for easier carrying.

I won't say these "works of art" are suitable for framing, but they're certainly suitable for the refrigerator door. Here's mine. Not great, but I'm not ashamed to post it online for thousands to see.


Animation%20Academy%2008.jpg


If you enjoyed the experience, there's nothing stopping you from exiting the class and getting back in line for the next show. In most cases, there will be room for you.

I believe that everyone should experience "The Magic of Disney Animation" at least once, but it is not necessary to experience the entire attraction in order to attend the Animation Academy. I asked a cast member if it was okay to enter this area via the "Animation Gallery" shop. I was told that it was. I also checked for myself and there are no "exit only" signs if you enter through the shop so you aren't breaking any rules by coming in the back door.

September 30, 2008

Tower of Terror

What's wrong with this picture?


Tower of Terror Disney's Hollywood Studios


Come on. Look closely. You can figure it out.

No? Then take a closer look - specifically, the Tower of Terror. What's wrong with it?


Tower of Terror Disney's Hollywood Studios


The Imagineers do an excellent job when detailing a restaurant, shop, or attraction. They never miss a trick. But this one slipped past them.

Take a look at this billboard located on Sunset Blvd. advertising the hotel and see if you can figure out the mistake.


Tower of Terror Billboard at Disney's Hollywood Studios


Where's the "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign? If you look VERY closely, you can see it perched ABOVE the hotel wings. The same is true in the preshow movie narrated by Rod Serling. But in reality, the sign is much lower on the building.

When you look at the actual building, the sign would have been destroyed along with the wings when the lightning struck. Not only that, the sign is placed almost against the building. If the wings were still intact, the sign would be buried within them.


Tower of Terror Disney's Hollywood Studios


I don't know at what point Disney realized their mistake, but they did correct it on the Tower of Terrors in California and Paris (identical buildings). On these structures the "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign is placed above the wings.


Tower of Terror


At Tokyo DisneySea the storyline is completely different and there are no wings. In fact, the hotel's name does not appear on the building as it does on its three cousins.


Tokyo DisneySea Tower of Terror


But let's not beat up on the Imagineers too much. They took great care when designing Disney World's Tower of Terror so it would fit into Epcot.

What does he mean, fit into Epcot?

When approaching the bridge that leads to Mexico in World Showcase, look across the lagoon toward Morocco. In the background, the Tower of Terror is plainly seen beside the minaret. It blends in quite nicely, thus not destroying the Moroccan theming (unlike the Swan and Dolphin behind Canada and the UK).


View of Tower of Terror from Epcot


Disney World's Tower was given a Moorish feel and painted a color that was not completely accurate to 1930's Hollywood just so it would blend into the background when viewed from Epcot.


September 9, 2008

Hollywood Studios Update

I stopped by Disney's Hollywood Studios today to do a little blog research. Before I got started I decided that I'd take a quick spin on Toy Story Mania and headed in that direction.

When I got there, Fastpasses were already longer than I cared to wait and the Standby Line was 50 minutes, so I started to look for the Single Rider Line.

Then I remembered the Single Rider line was removed about 2 weeks ago. Sigh"

Toy Story Mania


While I was at the Studios I also took a walk down the Streets of America. It seems that the nighttime crews are already hard at work installing the Christmas lights for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

Streets of America

Streets of America

January 21, 2008

Pacific Electric Railway & Disney

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

Over the years, the many communities of Southern California grew and became congested. This increase in traffic ultimately doomed the Big Red Cars as it became more and more difficult for the trolleys to maneuver on crowded city streets.

As driving a car became more economical and far more convenient a solution to the growing roadway congestion was needed. In 1937, the Automobile Club suggested building a freeway system between communities and eliminating cross-traffic congestion. And in 1940 the Pasadena Freeway was opened and the Los Angeles freeway system was born.

In the late 40's, General Motors, Standard Oil, and Firestone began buying up other electric trolley systems around the country and replacing them with buses - thus increasing their profits. This became known as the Great American Streetcar Scandal and in 1949 a Federal Grand Jury found the three companies guilty of conspiring to replace electric transit systems in 45 cities with buses. In the end, General Motors was fined $5,000, which was nothing more than a slap on the wrist. But the damage was done and street cars were doomed.

So, what does all of this have to do with Disney? Well, the answer is three-fold.

First, at Disney's Hollywood Studios you can find a billboard, perched high above Mickey's of Hollywood at the beginning of Hollywood Boulevard. Here you'll see and advertisement for the Big Red Car.

Big Red Car Billboard

At the other end of the street, behind the Tip Board, is a map of the Pacific Electric Railway.

Pacific Electric Railway Map


And on Sunset Boulevard you can find a scaled-down trolley parked on the street which sells merchandise.

Trolley Car

The tracks embedded in the street are all but paved over, signaling the end of an era.

Trolley Tracks in Street


Next, at Disney's California Adventure, Sunshine Plaza is being redesigned. The Sun Sculpture will be replaced with a reproduction of the Carthay Circle Theater and show an updated version of the Walt Disney Story.

In addition, this will be the starting point for a new attraction featuring the Big Red Car. Here guests can catch the trolley for a trip down Hollywood Boulevard, passing the Tower of Terror, and finally dropping them off at the entrance to the new Cars Land.

California Adventure

And finally, the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" was loosely based on the Great American Streetcar Scandal. In the film, Judge Doom, played by Christopher Lloyd, schemes to buy the trolley system and shut it down so he can build a network of freeways in Los Angeles.

Roger Rabbit

A bit of trivia" The trolleys used in the movie were actually buses that were modified to look like the Big Red Cars. At one time, you could see one of these props while riding the Back Stage Tour at the Disney/MGM Studios.

So, there you have it, the connection between the Pacific Electric Railway and Disney.


November 21, 2007

Jedi Training Academy

Once just a part of the Star Wars Weekends at the Disney/MGM Studios, the Jedi Training Academy was a small stage show where children could learn to use the lightsaber and battle Darth Vader. The show proved so popular that Disney built a permanent training academy next to the entrance of the Star Tours attraction.

Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction

Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction

The show begins with a Jedi Master performing a short routine of lightsaber moves.

Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction

He then selects around twelve children from the audience (ages 4 - 12). I would suggest arriving early if your children hope to be picked. Those chosen are presented with training lightsabers and brown Jedi robes. After donning their outfits and becoming familiar with their weapon, the Jedi Master demonstrates a combination of lightsaber tactics.


Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction


The children are then walked through these moves, one by one. After they have mastered their new skills, they are combined into a choreographed routine.


Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction


When their training is complete, two Stormtroopers arrive on the scene, preparing us for the arrival of Darth Vader.


Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction

Vader appears moments later through a thick mist. He struts menacingly around the stage then approaches the children, offering to teach them the Dark Side of the Force. The Jedi Master refuses.

Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction

Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction



Vader then accepts a challenge to fight each Jedi Trainee, one by one.

Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction


With the help of the Jedi Master, each child approaches Vader and uses their new fighting skills against evil. The audience is very supportive and cheers on every trainee.

Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction

Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction


After all of the children have battled Vader, he once again tries to seduce them to come over to the Dark Side.

Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction


But during his attempt, Yoda's voice magically echoes from the surrounding trees, telling Vader that he is outnumbered and doesn't stand a chance. Vader leaves, but vows to try again.


Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction

Jedi Training Academy - Disney's Star Tours Attraction


Even if you don't have children, this show is entertaining and will bring a smile to your face. It's very well done and a lot of fun.

Several shows are presented daily. Times can be found on the "Times Guide" handout available throughout the park. There is also a sign posted near the Star Wars attraction listing today's shows. Each training session lasts approximately twenty minutes.


November 19, 2007

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

The following is taken directly from a sign posted on the Streets of America in the Disney-MGM Studios.

In 1986 Jennings and Mitzi Osborne of Little Rock, Arkansas granted their daughter's Christmas dream by covering their home with sparkling red lights.
By 1993 the Osbornes had bought and decorated their neighbors' homes, too. The Christmas display had grown to three million lights and drew crowds from all of the state of Arkansas.

Some of the Osborne's neighbors were more frazzled than dazzled by the display as they endured nightly traffic jams. Citing the display as a public nuisance, the Arkansas Supreme Court pulled the plug.

The night the lights went out in Little Rock wasn't the end of the Osborne's Dream. It was only the beginning. In 1995 Mickey and Goofy came calling and invited Jennings, Mitzi and Breezy to bring their lights to the Disney-MGM Studios.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights opened on November 24, 1995 on the Residential Street Backlot at the Disney-MGM Studios. It became an instant Holiday tradition for countless families. Over the years, more than 1.5 million guests have experienced the display.

In November of 2004, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights moved to the Streets of America Backlot where it is bigger and better than ever.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights looks right at home here. As for the Osborne's, this is the fairytale ending to their Christmas dream. And since the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights first lit up the Studios, the Osborne's have sponsored over 32 Christmas lights displays throughout Arkansas. What began as a Christmas wish from a little girl has grown into holiday magic that has touched the lives of millions of people.

End Signage

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights begins each evening at 6pm and remains lit until one hour after the park closes. A giant light switch can be found about halfway down the Streets of America. Each night, a child is selected to "throw the switch" and turn on the lights.

Last year a new tradition was started with the beginning of Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Selected Christmas songs have been synchronized with the lights and the entire street "dances" as lights turn off and on in time with the music. If you haven't seen this new addition, you need to do so. It's an all new show!

As always, falling snow, hot chocolate and spiced nuts add to the wonderful Christmas atmosphere.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

More Osborne Light Photos from this year's display.

November 17, 2007

Disney MGM Studios Fun

While visiting the Disney/MGM Studios recently, I came upon the most interesting game being played by several young children. A custodial cast member had laid out two rows of artificial fruit in parallel lines. At one end of the fruit was a wicker basket. Each child was given a trash picker-upper - the kind that the janitorial staff uses to pick up rubbish. The kids would race back and forth, picking up the fruit and depositing it into the basket. The one who picked up the most fruit, won.

This event took place in front of the Sounds Dangerous attraction. As the park wasn't busy, the event had plenty of room. (I'm sure this could never take place during a busy time of year.) No one seemed to notice the goings on except the parents of the children and me. Most people just passed right by without giving a second glance. I realize that this isn't a big to-do, but I thought it was cute and yet another way that Disney adds magic even in very small ways.

Studio%20Game%201.jpg

Studio%20Game%202.jpg

October 26, 2007

Studio Bits & Pieces

Disney has constructed three billboards in the planters/dividers that separate the roadway that the parking lot tram uses to shuttle people to and from the main entrance. These billboards are two sided and advertise various Disney movies and television shows.

Studio%20Billboard%201.jpg

Studio%20Billboard%202.jpg

Construction walls have gone up around the A.B.C. Theater located alongside Echo Lake. A clapboard-sign says that the theater is gearing up for an all new production.


ABC%20Theater%201.jpg

ABC%20Theater%202.jpg


A temporary tent-theater has been erected out beyond the Rock-N-Roller Coaster. A banner across the theater sports the name Playhouse Disney In Concert. On the day I was there, a group called Dan Zanes was performing four shows during the day.

Playhouse%20Disney%20In%20Concert%201.jpg

Playhouse%20Disney%20In%20Concert%202.jpg

Playhouse%20Disney%20In%20Concert%203.jpg

Playhouse%20Disney%20In%20Concert%204.jpg

Playhouse%20Disney%20In%20Concert%205.jpg

Playhouse%20Disney%20In%20Concert%206.jpg

September 11, 2007

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

I visited the Disney/MGM Studios today. While walking along the Streets of America, I noticed that approximately one third of the the buildings have already been outfitted for the coming holiday Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights. Anywhere the lights have been added, rope cordons separate the building from the sidewalk.


Reader Reviews!

Putting up Osborne Lights

July 23, 2007

Studios Updates 7/23/07

A portion of Mickey Ave at the Disney/MGM Studios has been closed off while construction continues on the new "Toy Story Mania" attraction. You can still reach "One Man's Dream" and "Journey Into Narnia" at one end of the street and the "Backlot Tour" at the other end. Guide maps reflect the street closure.

Mickey Ave in Disney's MGM Studios is closed off.

June 22, 2007

Updates around the World 6/22/2007

AllEars Team Member Jack Spence files this report:

Toy Story Mania Construction
Here's a photo of the latest construction on Toy Story Mania at the Disney-MGM Studios. The attraction was officially announced at the January Press Event in Walt Disney World. This ride will also be opening in Disneyland's California Adventure next year as well.

Over in Animal Kingdom..... A CD of "Finding Nemo, The Musical" is now for sale at the Animal Kingdom for $12.98. This is a very nice recording of the entire show.

Construction on Yak and Yeti restaurant continues. To fit in with Anandapur, the fictional village that is home to Expedition Everest, the restaurant will be themed as a rural village in the Himalayan foothills. The pan-Asian establishment will house both a table service restaurant that seats 300 and a quick-service eatery that can hold 200 customers. The restaurant was announced in February 2006, and is set to open October 8, 2007. Yak and Yeti Construction

The "Leave A Legacy" purchasing area at Epcot is now all boarded up as is the "Leave A Legacy" display under Spaceship Earth. Speaking of Spaceship Earth the new rehab dates are July 9th through November 13th.

Below are a couple photos of the new Arcade on the 4th floor of the Contemporary. The operating hours are 8:00am to 11:30pm. Lots of other changes coming at the Comtemporary too. Big changes are coming to the dining options at the Contemporary Resort. The Food and Fun Center will close in July to be converted to a new table service restaurant. Beginning July 30, 2007, a temporary quick service restaurant called Tempo Grab and Go will operate near the Outer Rim lounge on the 4th Floor. It will be open through August 14, 2008. The new table service location will be called The Wave, and is tentatively set to open in late March or April 2008. Once The Wave opens, the Concourse Steakhouse will close and a new, permanent quick service restaurant will be constructed in that space, set to debut in mid-August 2008.


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About Disney's Hollywood Studios

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Disney's Hollywood Studios category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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