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August 26, 2014

Landscaping the World - Magic Kingdom - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Yesterday, I provided you with some staggering statistics relating to the landscaping of Walt Disney World. Then I continued with a closer look at the Magic Kingdom's Main Street and Adventureland. Today I'll finish examining the growth at the Most Magical Place on Earth.

As we move from Adventureland to Frontierland, the foliage changes from tropical to arid. In Adventureland, bare earth is difficult to find as every square inch of soil has profuse growth. But in Frontierland, dry sandy dirt is abundant.


Frontierland Landscaping

Frontierland Landscaping


I doubt that Dodge City and Tombstone of yesteryear had barrels overflowing with flowers lining their boardwalks, but this incongruity seems to work here in Frontierland. These rustic containers filled with greenery help make this western town more inviting and friendly.


Barrel Landscaping

Barrel Landscaping


The town of Frontierland was built along the banks of the Rivers of America. In the early years of this community, trees almost completely obscured the view of the water. But as the town grew and more lumber was needed for construction, this grove was thinned by the local settlers.


River of America

As you venture deep into the frontier backwoods aboard the Liberty Belle, the growth is thick with many varieties of tree, bush, and grass. Although this forest may look unmanaged, the Imagineers gave careful consideration to every planting. In some cases, the vegetation extends out over the water to give an overgrown look. At other times, the plants appear to have been cleared by animals and man.


River of America

River of America

River of America

River of America

River of America


Thematically, Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain should switch positions. Thunder Mountain was inspired by Monument Valley located in the arid climes of Arizona and Utah. It should sit adjacent to the dry Southwestern adobe construction of Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café.


Thunder Mountain

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café


On the other hand, Splash Mountain was based on the movie "Song of the South" where the story unfolds in Reconstruction-Era Georgia. This attraction would be better situated next to the lush pine forest that sits just beyond the train trestle.


Splash Mountain

Rivers of America.jpg


But of course, it didn't turn out that way. Thunder Mountain was built long before Splash Mountain was ever even conceived. So how did the Imagineers ease this "error" in geography? With landscaping.

Being located in the "Deep South," Splash Mountain cannot have too many trees surrounding the attraction. This can especially be seen at the outside queue. Not only does this mini-forest add atmosphere to the area, it provides shade for the waiting guests. In addition to these nearby trees, the actual attraction contains more greenery as it is peppered with bushes and patches of grass.


Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain


If you look closely at Thunder Mountain, you will notice that it is surrounded by cactus, succulents, prairie grass, and other scraggily growth. There are also a handful of trees in the area. However if you pay attention to the actual attraction, you'll discover that it is practically devoid of any plants.


Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain


To bring these two areas together seamlessly, the Imagineers used landscaping. As you walk by Splash Mountain, you pass beneath a small stand of trees. As you near Thunder Mountain, the forest thins and the trees become more lithe.


Transition Area

Transition Area


Gardens also help make the transition. Near the Briar Patch, azaleas grow in abundance. But just a few yards away, a similar wooden fence contains cactus. This fence connects the two areas.


Transition Fence

Transition Fence


Over in Liberty Square, many of the flower beds have red, white, and almost-blue flowers. (The blue flowers are actually purple, but it is as close as the horticulturists can find.) These are wild flowers as you didn't find too many formal gardens in Colonial America.


Red, White, and Blue Flowers


In front of Liberty Tree Tavern, old kettles are used as flower pots.


Flowers in Kettles


Across from Hall of Presidents is Disney's version of a Liberty Tree. This species is a Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) and was found growing on the southern edge of their Florida property. Determining that it would be perfect for the Magic Kingdom, the Imagineers decided to dig it up and move it. However, this would be no small undertaking. It's estimated that the tree weighed more than 35 tons and its root-ball measured 18'x16'x4' around.

The tree could not be lifted by placing cables around its trunk. Its weight would cause the cables to slice through the bark and into the soft cambium layer. This would seriously damage or possibly kill the tree. Instead, two holes were drilled horizontally through the trunk. Metal rods were then inserted into these bores and cables attached to the ends. Lifted by a large crane, the tree was transferred to a flatbed truck for transportation to the park. Once at the Magic Kingdom, the cables were reattached and the crane lowered the tree into place. The rods were then removed and replaced with the original plugs.

Unfortunately, these plugs had become contaminated during the move and caused an infection to grow within the trunk and eat away a portion of its interior. To remedy the problem, the plugs were removed and the diseased sections of the tree were cleaned out. This time, the holes were filled with cement. In addition, a young Southern Live Oak was grafted to the base of the tree. At one time, you could see these scars, but the bushes have grown up around the tree and they are now hidden. Take a look at the Liberty Tree as seen in 1972 and then again today.


Liberty Tree

Liberty Tree


The facade of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion was completed in 1963, three years before Walt's death. The Imagineers wanted the exterior of this building to be rundown and dilapidated, but Walt had other ideas. He told them "We'll let the ghosts take care of the inside. We'll take care of the outside." Thus, the Haunted Mansion was meticulously maintained and its surrounding grounds manicured to perfection.


Disneyland Haunted Mansion


From opening day, the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom was also fastidiously maintained, but a few years ago, things began to change. Although the mansion itself shows no signs of neglect, the Imagineers have begun to let the grounds run down just a bit. The first signs of this can be seen near the entrance to the attraction. A toppled fountain and wild roses has been here for years, but recently, weeds have begun to grow and the once carefully pruned hedge has been left to grow naturally. Even more recently, the hedge has been removed completely.


Haunted Mansion Flowerbed

Haunted Mansion Flowerbed

Haunted Mansion Flowerbed


The next sign of disregard can be seen on the lawn. At one time, this grassy slope was mown on a regular basis and a weed growing here would be unthinkable. Today, the grass is uneven and weeds have found a cozy home.


Haunted Mansion Lawn

Haunted Mansion Lawn


When you look at Cinderella Castle from The Hub, it is flanked by shrubs and trees. This might make you believe that Fantasyland will be lush and verdant once you enter this magical land. But you'd be wrong.


Cinderella Castle

Cinderella Castle


The "old" Fantasyland has vast expanses of concrete with no shade trees. What growth there is can be found in the flowerbeds that hug the shops and attractions.


Old Fantasyland

Old Fantasyland

Old Fantasyland

Old Fantasyland

Old Fantasyland


Fortunately, the Imagineers are beginning to correct this lack of foliage in old Fantasyland. Let's take a look a Pinocchio Village Haus. The first picture below was taken a few years ago. The second and third pictures were taken just recently. You can see that planters have been added near the outdoor seating area that are large enough to hold trees. In no time at all, these will grow and someday provide much needed shade.


Pinocchio Village Haus

Pinocchio Village Haus

Pinocchio Village Haus


While we're visiting Pinocchio's, let's take a look at some Disney trickery found here. On the upper windows are small flower boxes filled with colorful blooms. They're beautiful" And they're also all fake. Just like the plastic topiary that the Imagineers once used when Walt Disney World first opened, they figure that no one will ever get close enough or pay enough attention to notice these flowers are not real. You can see fake flowers on almost every upper story in the Magic Kingdom. Take a look.


Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers

Fake Flowers


The Imagineers have also corrected this lack of Fantasyland foliage in the new sections of this land. Near the "Tangled" restrooms, a wonderful park was created, complete with a waterfall, babbling brook, and small stand of trees. Although Disney tries to use somewhat mature trees when creating a new area, there are limitations as to what they can practically plant. So if you think this area is nice now, come back in ten years and it will be a knockout.


Tangles Area

Tangles Area

Tangles Area

Tangles Area


On the other side of Fantasyland, Belle's cottage is nestled in the woods, not far from that "poor provincial town." The growth here is a hodgepodge of untended deciduous trees and shrubbery. This is exactly what you'd expect to see surrounding the home of an absent minded inventor and his independent-thinking daughter.


Belle's Cottage

Belle's Cottage

Belle's Cottage


Next to Belle's cottage is the entrance to the Be Our Guest Restaurant and the Beast's castle beyond. As his home is set deep in the forest, the trees in this mountainous region are a combination of both evergreen and deciduous trees.


Be Our Guest Restaurant

Be Our Guest Restaurant

Be Our Guest Restaurant


The Imagineers took some liberties when building Prince Eric's castle. Although they recreated his palace flawlessly, the topography in which they placed his home is somewhat different than depicted in the "Little Mermaid" movie.


Eric's Castle

Eric's Castle


In the movie, Eric's home appears to be in a temperate zone of the world as there are deciduous trees on the hills beyond and the beach is devoid of any plant life. However, in the Magic Kingdom, Eric's castle is most definitely located in a tropical region of the world. This is evident by the many palm trees and other warm-weather plants seen here.


Eric's Castle

Eric's Castle

Eric's Castle


The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is an interesting attraction in that guests can walk completely around it. Because of this, the landscaping needed to change from one area of this attraction to the next.

Across from the Be Our Guest Restaurant we find the Seven Dwarfs' Mine Train. In this section of the attraction, evergreen trees are abundant. This is appropriate as the Beast Castle area is also thick with conifers.


Seven Dwarfs' Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs' Mine Train


As you move around the Mine Train, the pines start to mix with other varieties of leaf-dropping trees. Among these are birch trees.


Birch Trees


The addition of birch trees to the mix is important as we approach The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction. These trees were depicted in the E. H. Shepard illustrations found in the A.A. Milne books and line the entrance to this cute little bear's home in the Magic Kingdom. Also notice the wildflowers that help set the tone for the 100 Acre Woods.


The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh


Storybook Circus really doesn't have any outstanding landscaping features that you'd single out as being special. However, the Imagineers did learn from their mistakes made in the old Fantasyland. Instead of broad expanses of concrete, they added a number of planters that separate one section of this area from another. Once again, when the numerous trees that were planted here grow to maturity, this area will be even more magical than it is today.


Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus


Oddly shaped rock formations grace the entrance to Tomorrowland and give this area and otherworldly look and feel. To compliment this alien landscape, the Imagineers used plants that looked unearthly. And even though these are quite common species, they take on an eerie feel when seen in this environment.


Tomorrowland Entrance

Tomorrowland Entrance


As I mentioned in my recent Tomorrowland articles, the Imagineers original concept for this land of the future was vast expanses of concrete. Because of this, even the remodeling of this area in 1995 left very few opportunities for flora. Most of the landscaping here is contained in small beds lining the buildings or surrounding pylons.


Tomorrowland Planters

Tomorrowland Planters

Tomorrowland Planters

Tomorrowland Planters


In my opinion, the only really imaginative landscaping found in Tomorrowland is located along the concourse that runs from Merchant of Venus to the Tea Cups. The first is the "topiary trees." I think these really encapsulate a futuristic look.


Topiary Trees


The other artistic bit of landscaping can be found in the planters that run up the middle of this wide thoroughfare. Here, the Imagineers have used colorful foliage to create orderly designs.


Tomorrowland Flowers

Tomorrowland Flowers


Well that's my look at the landscaping found in the Magic Kingdom. Check back next week when I'll be discussing Epcot.


August 25, 2014

Landscaping the World - Magic Kingdom - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


Over the past several years, I have taken a singular topic and discussed its theming from park to park and land to land. Some of these subjects have been lampposts, benches, water, and restrooms. Today I'm going to tackle the subject of landscaping and how plants helps set a mood and tell a story.

Vegetation is something we take for granted. It exist everywhere, yet we rarely pay any attention to it unless we're visiting an arboretum or park. The same is true at Disney World. Foliage is everywhere, but we give it little notice. But I can assure you, if the Imagineers didn't pay a lot of attention to plants, Disney parks would not be the inviting and beautiful places they are. Instead, they would be more akin to the old seaside amusement parks that once dotted the eastern and western seaboards. If it weren't for landscaping, rides, food stands, and shops would be crammed in next to each other with no greenery buffering their harsh lines.


Old Amusement Park


To give you an idea of how important the Imagineers think landscaping is to the "story," here are a few staggering statistics pertaining to Walt Disney World.

The total property of Walt Disney World contains seven million trees, shrubs, and flowers.

Nearly 12 percent of the Walt Disney World Resort property, an area equivalent to nearly 3,000 football fields, is devoted to gardens and maintained landscapes. That's 4,000 acres worth of beauty.

Three million bedding plants and annuals are planted each year at Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts.

More than 4,000 hanging baskets are planned and produced each year. These are created in advance so they may be themed with seasonal flowering trees, bedding plants, and surrounding architecture. Most baskets take three months to produce. Hangings can grow to three feet in diameter and may weigh more than 65 pounds. Some 800 baskets are displayed at one time.

Nearly 13,000 roses (100 varieties) are shown throughout the Disney property. Removing spent blooms in the rose gardens of Epcot requires a good day's work each week. That equates to more than 400 hours per year.

More than 3,000 plant species are displayed at Walt Disney World. They represent flora from all over the United States and 50 other nations on every continent except Antarctica.

Topiaries number more than 200. These are composed of shrub or sphagnum moss planted with "creeping fig" and English ivy vine material. As many as 20 different plants and flowers are used to create various topiaries.

To maintain the vast greenbelts of Walt Disney World, gardeners mow the equivalent of 18 trips around the Earth at the equator each year.

All this landscaping requires 65,000 sprinkler heads on 2,000 miles of water pipes.

The waterways of Walt Disney World are monitored routinely by the Reedy Creek Improvement District for insecticide and fertilizer contaminants. At the first sign of any imbalance in the system, steps are taken to locate and eliminate the cause.

To cut down on man-made chemicals, an army of 10.5 million beneficial insects are released each year to control plant pests. A single adult predatory beetle can eat up to 500 white fly eggs a day.

A diverse group of over 600 horticulture professionals (gardeners, arborists, irrigation specialists, and pest management specialists) join the bugs in keeping the flora beautiful.

So now that you know the facts, let's take a look at the landscaping found in the parks.

Perhaps the most famous garden at Walt Disney World is the Mickey floral found at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. This always impeccably manicured piece of land is a major photo op for guests. In fact, so many people want their picture taken here that Disney has stationed a fulltime photographer nearby to snap your photo.


Mickey Floral


Mickey has changed over the years. Take a look at this next picture which was taken in 1986. Notice how Mickey's features are outlined in concrete. Today these borders are gone and flowering plants make up the total design.


Old Mickey Floral


Before I go any further, I must explain that Disney has had to make one concession in their efforts to authentically landscape their parks. They have had to include waist-high fences around many lawns and gardens, even when they don't logically belong. The Imagineers learned early on at Disneyland that guests did not respect obvious boundaries and would trample flowerbeds without a second thought.

Take a look at this early picture of Disneyland. Notice there are no fences around the lawns of Town Square.


Disneyland's Town Square


When guests do venture where they don't belong and damage plants, the landscaping crews come to the rescue. Each night, all flowerbeds are inspected and the trampled growth is replaced with new. In the morning, everything looks fresh and perfect.

When cities began to grow in America, landscaping took a backseat to commerce and greenery was all but neglected. But it didn't take long before city planners discovered that people longed for plant life. To that end, the designers started to line boulevards with trees and include parks and squares in their city plans.

Main Street is an idealized representation of a medium-size town somewhere in the Eastern United States. No town ever really looked this good, but it's how we like to imagine people lived during the turn of 19th to 20th century. And to help this fantasy along, the Imagineers did their part by including a lovely square at the beginning of Main Street. Here you will find an ever-changing array of flowers and the seasonal decorations of Halloween and Christmas.


Plaza on Main Street

Plaza on Main Street

Plaza on Main Street

Plaza on Main Street


In an effort to "soften" the look of Main Street even more, the Imagineers recently added new permanent flowerbeds to the steps of City Hall.


City Hall

City Hall


The main thoroughfare of Main Street is dotted with a number of trees. These are continually pruned so they don't grow too large for their surroundings. At Disneyland, the trees along Main Street are sprayed with a growth retardant so they don't dwarf the scaled-down buildings of this roadway.


Trees on Main Street

Trees on Main Street


Down Center Street, a graceful bottlebrush tree can be found. In addition, a number of potted plants line the buildings. These containers would never do on Main Street proper as this is a high trafficked area and guest would continually trip over them.


Bottle Brush Tree


The lampposts of Main Street also offer guests a splash of color. Some of the 4,000 hanging baskets of Disney World can be found hanging from these light fixtures.


Lamppost

Lamppost


The left side of the Crystal Palace borders Main Street. Here we find a formal Victorian garden. However, the right side of this building sits adjacent to Adventureland. To help create a seamless transition, the foliage here is tropical and scruffy.


Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace


The Hub is currently undergoing a major refurbishment. The pedestrian areas are being enlarged for better firework viewing and traffic control. Because of this, I will not be discussing the gardens in this area today. But judging by the concept art I've found, it looks like this space will continue to be filled with beautiful patches of ever changing colors.


The Hub

The Hub


For those of you who love the dragon topiary found along the banks of the Swan Boat Waterway, it appears that Disney is leaving it intact. I took this construction picture a few weeks ago and it is obvious that the Imagineers are saving this opening day piece of living art for future generations.


Dragon Topiary

Dragon Topiary


When looking through my January 1972 Disney World pictures, I found this old photo of the dragon. If you notice, he used to face the opposite direction.


Dragon Topiary


The dragon is what I refer to as "traditional" topiary. It consists of one or two plants that have a rudimentary metal structure beneath to give it a basic form. It is grown over years and is cut and pruned into a shape. By contrast, the many character topiaries created today for the Flower and Garden Show at Epcot use and elaborate wire mesh body that already resembles the character being created. On top of this mesh are multiple "creeping" plants, flowers, and spray-painted dead moss. These can be fashioned in months, rather than years.


Old Topiary

New Topiary


Because of time constraints, the Imagineers used fake, plastic topiary along their roadways when Walt Disney World first opened. It was reasoned that guests would never get close enough to these "plants" to be able to tell the difference.


Fake Topiary


The mood for Adventureland is set before you ever step foot into this land. This is accomplished by the positioning of a large volcanic rock planter near the entrance of this area. Here, towering palms suggest the tropical climes of the world. Behind these palms is a lush jungle not yet explored by man.


Adventureland Entrance


Just inside Adventureland are three more planters. If you look closely, you will discover the volcanic rock is peppered with flotsam and jetsam from the Robinson's ill-fated ship, the Swallow.


Adventureland Planters

Adventureland Planters


To the south of these planters is more jungle. At certain times of the year you can discover some beautiful and unusual flowers in this area.


Adventureland Flowers

Adventureland Flowers


Although the Swiss Family Robinson banyan tree is not real, the growth around it most certainly is. Take a look at these next two pictures. The first was taken in January, 1972, three months after the Magic Kingdom opened. The second picture was taken in July, 2014. The first picture was taken from approximately where Aladdin's Flying Carpets sits today. The second picture was taken from roughly the same angle, but a little closer to the tree. You can see the same bridge in the lower left hand side of each picture. I think you'll agree, the plants of Adventureland have grown significantly over the years.


Swiss Family Treehouse

Swiss Family Treehouse


Take a look at this fountain/planter found in Caribbean Plaza. These next three pictures will give you a good idea of how the gardeners at Walt Disney World are constantly tending to and rearranging their plantings.


Adventureland Fountain

Adventureland Fountain

Adventureland Fountain


That's it for today. Check back tomorrow when I'll cover the rest of the Magic Kingdom's landscaping.


March 17, 2014

Magic Kingdom's Adventureland - Part One of Three

Jack Spence Masthead


Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Adventureland had been located on the east side of the Magic Kingdom? To walk the length of Main Street and then turn right if you wanted to ride on the Jungle Cruise. There was no reason the Imagineers couldn't have done this. After all, the Walt Disney World property was all virgin land. The planners could have arranged things pretty much anyway they wanted. Given this scenario, perhaps the Polynesian Resort would sit where the Contemporary now stands to add a tropical background to this exotic land. Well, this possibility isn't as farfetched as you might think. It could have happened. As we know, the Imagineers used Disneyland's basic layout when planning the Magic Kingdom.

But you're saying to yourself, Disneyland's Adventureland is located in approximately the same vicinity to the Hub as the Magic Kingdom's version of this land - on the west side of the park. But this almost wasn't the case. The concepts for Disneyland's Adventureland began their existence on the east side of the park. This can be seen in an early Herb Ryman sketch and a Marvin Davis map. If you could actually read these maps, you would see that "True Life Adventures" (what would become Adventureland) is to the right of the Hub, approximately where Space Mountain and the Autopia sit today. Circus Land was slotted to be where the Jungle Cruise would eventually be located.


Disneyland Concept Map

Disneyland Concept Map


So why did the Imagineers change their minds and move this land? Two reasons: space and a stand of eucalyptus trees.

As ideas for "True Life Adventures" increased, it was realized that Adventureland would need more space to hold all of Walt's ideas. The Ryman sketch had this exotic land squeezed between "World of Tomorrow" and Main Street. This area was far too confining.

After the property for Disneyland was purchased, planners found a windbreak of giant eucalyptus trees that had been planted around the turn of the century. Ironically, these trees helped determine the location of Main Street as it was decided that they would make a nice backdrop behind City Hall and help delineate between "civilization" and the "jungles of the world." Thus, Adventureland was moved to its current location on the west side of the park.


Disneyland City Hall


These eucalyptus trees still stand today.


Disneyland City Hall


One of the original ideas for the Jungle Cruise had guests traveling down only one river, the Suwannee if Africa. But Harper Goff knew that the attraction needed more variety and pitched the idea of a skipper taking guests down a collection of exotic rivers found all over the globe. The working name for this attraction was "Tropical Rivers of the World." This proposal transformed Adventureland into a non-specific location. During the design phase of Adventureland, Walt said:

"The spirit of adventure is often linked with exotic tropic places. To create a land which would make this dream reality, we pictured ourselves far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa. The result is Adventureland, 'the wonderland of nature's own design.'"

The vast majority of the land set aside for Adventureland was taken up by a single attraction, the Jungle Cruise. This left very little pedestrian space to convey the vast exotic locales Walt wanted guests to experience. All Adventureland really consisted of was a narrow walkway that led from the Hub to Frontierland (now New Orleans Square). There was very little space in which to excite your senses. The Swiss Family Treehouse and the Safari Shooting Gallery didn't' open until 1962 and Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room didn't debut until the following year. Even today, Adventureland's main thoroughfare is a very confining area.


Disneyland's Adventureland

Disneyland's Adventureland


When planning the Magic Kingdom's version of Adventureland, the Imagineers wanted to correct this shortcoming and create an area that allowed guests to be immersed in the faraway lands that most of us only dream of experiencing. To that end, they created a much larger pedestrian expanse where visitors can be totally immersed in their surroundings.

The Crystal Palace acts as the transition piece that ties Main Street and Adventureland together. Based on the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, New York's Crystal Palace, and Kew Gardens in England, this Victorian structure helps visitors prepare for the colonial architecture they're about to experience around the next corner.


Crystal Palace


The main entrance into Adventureland is via a wooden bridge radiating off of the Hub. Up until a few years ago, this bridge was arched to allow the Swan Boats (1972-1983) to pass beneath. The bridge's wooden planks were also ribbed to reduce guests slipping when the walkway was wet. This made for a noisy and difficult journey for those in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller. However, when age dictated that the bridge be completely rebuilt, this arch was removed and the ribbing eliminated. This created a level walking surface with no annoying obstructions. Now it is a much easier journey into Adventureland.

If you look at these next two pictures carefully, you can see the rise in the bridge in the first picture and the flattened surface in the second. It's more obvious if you look at the railing.


Adventureland Entrance

Adventureland Entrance


But before you get to this bridge, the entrance to Adventureland has another welcoming landmark. To the right of the pathway is a planter made out of volcanic rock. This is a wonderful spot to pose group pictures. And just like the bridge, this planter has gone through a few changes over the years.

When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the planter sported a prominent "Adventureland" sign. In subsequent years, the sign was moved to a less obvious position at the back of the planter and several tiki poles were added. Today, the sign is gone completely.


Adventureland Entrance Planter

Adventureland Entrance Planter

Adventureland Entrance Planter


The Adventureland entrance arch has also undergone a few changes. The current incarnation (third picture) features a more sinister look with a large collection of spears and the addition of human skulls.


Adventureland Entrance Arch

Adventureland Entrance Arch

Adventureland Entrance Arch


As you enter Adventureland, you'll find Bwana Bob's to the left. This outdoor shop sells a few Adventureland-themed items, but mostly generic Disney souvenirs. Bottled water is also available.


Bwana Bob's


Across from Bwana Bob's is a lovely covered patio. This area has been used as a meet-&-greet area in the past, but currently this space offers a FastPast+ distribution point.


FastPast+ distribution point

FastPast+ distribution point

FastPast+ distribution point


Next to this patio is "Tinker Bell's Magical Nook." This is the spot to meet Tink and some of her fairy friends.


Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook


Inside these doors guests wait in a switchback line until it's their turn to enter the magical world of fairies. Usually on hand are two of these enchanted creatures and families are given ample time with both to pose for photos. As always, a Disney photographer is on hand and can take pictures with either their camera or your own. This meet-&-greet area often has a long line. If this venue is on your kids' bucket list, arrive early.


Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook


Thematically, Tinker Bell's Magical Nook has no business being in Adventureland. What do fairies have to do with the "adventurous" climes of the world? This attraction belongs in Fantasyland. However, Disney had an unused building going to waste and decided to fill it with a popular commodity.

So why is this building hear? In the early years, this space was occupied by a counter-service restaurant called Adventureland Verandah. It featured indoor and outdoor seating, the outdoor being on a "verandah" that overlooked the Swan Boats as they passed by. Much of this verandah has since been boarded up (decoratively).


Adventureland Verandah

Adventureland Verandah


Adventureland Verandah was an opening-day restaurant that served fried chicken and hot sandwiches. In 1977, Kikkoman took over sponsorship and the food took on a Polynesian/Asian-ish flavor offering items such as teriyaki hamburgers topped with pineapple slices.

In 1993, the Adventureland Verandah began closing two days a week. Soon after, it was open only seasonally. And in 1994, it closed for good - almost. In 1998, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café closed for an extensive refurbishment and the Adventureland Verandah opened for a few months to fill this void with a limited menu.

I miss the Adventureland Verandah. It was perhaps the most relaxing spot in the Magic Kingdom to enjoy a meal. The energy level was subdued here. When sitting on the verandah, I felt miles away from the hustle and bustle of the throngs rushing around just beyond the Swan Boat canal. The only other spot in the Magic Kingdom that came close to this relaxed atmosphere was Aunt Polly's on Tom Sawyer Island, and sadly, it is gone too.

Across from Tinker Bell's Magical Nook is the smoking area for Adventureland. It is positioned behind planters to create a wide separation from those that partake and those that don't.


Smoking Area


This is a good time to start appreciating the architecture found in the area. It would be difficult to pinpoint any one locale or nationality's influence on these structures for these buildings represent the colonization of Africa and Asia by many European nations.


Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture


Having grown up with Disneyland's rather simple Adventureland, I was always impressed with this next structure. Its intricate detailing always amazes me. If I ever were to move to a Caribbean island, I would want my house to look like this. Notice if you will, this structure has seen several different color schemes over the years.


Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture


Tucked in amongst all of these buildings is one of the Magic Kingdom's best resting places. Covered, protected from winds, and fan cooled, this hideaway offers guests a wonderful spot to get off your feet and give your aching dogs a rest. Disney tour guides also use this spot to stop and explain Adventureland to their followers. If you time your respite right, you can listen in on some of their interesting facts.


Resting Spot


Of course, no discussion of this area would be complete without mentioning Aloha Isle, home of the famous Dole Whip. Loved by many, detested by some, this spot always has a long line. Personally, I don't think they're worth the wait, but I know many, many people would disagree with me. For those few of you unfamiliar with this taste treat, it is soft-serve pineapple sorbet. It can be served float-style, with pineapple juice, or all alone. To see their full menu, click here.


Aloha Isle

Aloha Isle


That's it for Part One. Check back Thursday for Part Two.



February 10, 2014

Restroom Evolution

Jack Spence Masthead


We all know that much of Disneyland's success was due to its innovative theming and storytelling. No other amusement park before Disneyland featured the attention to detail that this new Anaheim park offered. But that was only part of the formula to success. Cleanliness was another major component to the "Disney Difference." Walt wanted his park to be spotless, and this included the restrooms.

If you're like me, you hate to use a public restroom. But of course, spending eight or more hours in a theme park necessitates stops to answer the call of nature. Thankfully, Disney restrooms are usually immaculate. And on the rare occasions when you do find a problem, all you have to do is mention it to any cast member and they will see to it that the issue is taken care of.

In the early years, the exterior of the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom restrooms were themed, but their interiors were still very basic. They were clean, but contained nothing except the bare necessities to get the job done. But to Walt's credit, he was innovative in one aspect of restroom design. He insisted that his restrooms be free of charge and he would not install pay toilets which were common in the 1950's.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of an early Disneyland restroom to share with you. Who takes pictures inside lavatories? That would be creepy (and use expensive film). But in order to write this article, I had to be a little creepy and do just that. So I arrived at the Magic Kingdom at opening and dashed from restroom to restroom and snapped some photos before guests needed a health break. I always made sure that no one was inside as I knew it would be disturbing to someone to hear the click of a camera and see a flash of light while they were doing their business. Because of this limitation, I was not able to take as many pictures as I might have liked in some facilities.

Over the years, as wear and tear dictated, Disney restrooms have been remodeled. Gradually, the theming that Disney is known for has made its way inside these facilities - and that's what I'm going to be showing you today.

The most basic and uninspired restroom I could find is located at the Transportation and Ticket Center. Even the exterior here is lacking.


TTC Restroom

TTC Restroom


However, compared to the 1950's, this uninspiring restroom is fantastic. To begin with, the sinks are contained within a counter. This looks nice and gives you space to set your belongings while washing your hands. In the early years, each sink was a separate basin. As for appearance, the floor tile is decorative and the listello adds a nice accent near the ceiling. In the "old days," all restroom floor tile was somewhat industrial and the wall tiles were always white with no accent.

The first restroom many of us use in the Magic Kingdom is located between City Hall and the Fire Station. The exterior of this lavatory has always been beautiful.


Main Street Restroom

Main Street Restroom


Upon first glance, you might not appreciate this restroom, but if you look closely, you'll see that it is themed appropriately. First, notice the light fixtures. They are keeping with the Main Street theme. Next, take a look at the red, accent tile walls. These coordinate with the real red brick found on the building's exterior. And finally, see the intricate tile molding along the ceiling. This hints at crown molding and is keeping with the Victorian theming of Main Street.

One of the largest restrooms in the Magic Kingdom is located in the breezeway that connects Adventureland with Frontierland.


Adventureland Restrooms

Adventureland Restrooms


This recently refurbished facility is beautiful. Besides the impressive tile work on the wall, the floor also is extraordinary as it uses large tiles around the exterior of the room and smaller tiles that create a mosaic in the center of the room.

One of the most hidden restroom facilities of the Magic Kingdom can be found off of the shop adjacent to Pirates of the Caribbean. I also think this is perhaps the most elaborate of any the Magic Kingdom lavatories. The tile work in here is magnificent!


Pirate Restrooms

Pirate Restrooms

Pirate Restrooms


The "Pirate" restrooms also are some that use clever signage to indicate "Men," and "Women." But for those of you who don't read Spanish and are uncertain which to use, don't worry, there are also male and female stick-figures to help you out.


Restroom Sign

Restroom Sign


In the 1950's, 60's, and 70's, the Imagineers hid many of the restrooms in less trafficked areas of the park - like the "Pirates" restroom mentioned above. I'm not sure why. I guess they thought that restrooms were one of those "unmentionable" topics that should be tucked away in some obscure corner of the park. It's interesting to note, one of the most often asked questions of cast members is, "Where are the restrooms?" But things are different in the 21st century. Take for instance the newest restrooms to find their way into Fantasyland. Here, the Imagineers have built an entire mini-land around going to the bathroom.


Tangled Area


Located between "it's a small world" and the Haunted Mansion, this area is based on the Disney animated film, "Tangled" and reproduces a small section of the Kingdom of Corona. Here the Imagineers have created a park-like setting with benches, tables and chairs, charging stations for your electronics, overhead lanterns, and of course, bathrooms. In the distance is Rapunzel's tower. But the detailing doesn't stop on the outside. The restroom interiors are also nicely detailed.

The men's room is located inside one of Corona's local diners (which I think is an odd choice in which to house a restroom). Just inside the door we see wanted posters of some of the characters we're familiar with from the movie. Above the sinks are pans used in the establishment's food preparations. Even the stall doors were given an extra dash of detailing with simulated wood planks and hinges.


Tangled Men's Room

Tangled Men's Room

Tangled Men's Room

Tangled Men's Room


Another thing we're seeing in more and more reimagined Disney restrooms is the latest in hand blowers. These work much better than the old models that hung on the wall.


Hand Dryer


The lady's room can be found next door and is housed in a Corona shop. Since I could not enter this facility, I have borrowed some of AllEars blogger Kristin Ford's photos.


Tangled Women's Restroom

Tangled Women's Restroom

Tangled Women's Restroom

Tangled Women's Restroom

Tangled Women's Restroom


Disney did make a few mistakes when building the Magic Kingdom and the restrooms located in Liberty Tree Tavern are a good example. Here, the facilities are located up a narrow stairway on the second floor of the restaurant - with no elevator. You see, back in the late 1960's when Walt Disney World was being planned, no one gave much thought to those guests with mobility issues. Unfortunately, there is nothing the Imagineers can do to rectify this problem today. If you're in a wheelchair and need to use the restroom while eating at Liberty Tree Tavern, the closest facilities are the ones found in the breezeway connecting Adventureland and Frontierland.

A reader has informed me that Liberty Tree Tavern now has a handicapped restroom under the stairs.


Liberty Tree Tavern


However, the Imagineers have also corrected some oversights of the early years. Today, almost every restroom is equipped with a baby-changing table. This even applies to the men's rooms. At least one sink has been lowered for children and for those in wheelchairs. And Companion Restrooms are available to those guest who need assistance from a friend or relative. This is a godsend for single parents who have young children of the opposite sex that cannot go into a restroom alone.


Baby Changing Table

Lower Sink

Companion Restrooms


The restrooms near the exit of Splash Mountain are pretty basic when compared to others in the Magic Kingdom. They are definitely a bit stark.


Splash Mountain Restroom

Splash Mountain Restroom


The restrooms next to Pinocchio Village Haus are also rather plain when compared to the Pirate or Tangled restrooms. But notice how a little color and wall molding warms up this facility when looked at side-by-side with the Splash Mountain bathrooms.


Pinocchio Restroom

Pinocchio Restroom


I love the exterior of the restrooms found behind Gaston's Tavern. And the inside is pretty nice as well. Here the Imagineers used dark tile on the walls and tile-wood planks on the floor. This room's beauty is deceptively simple.


Gaston Restrooms

Gaston Restrooms


I've reported on this next restroom in a previous blog. Over at Storybook Circus we find a train turntable and tracks radiating from this central location. Some of the train tracks aim toward the roundhouse, were the restrooms are located. If you pay attention to the floor inside the restrooms, you'll see that the track is continued and reproduced with tile.


Storybook Circus Restrooms

Storybook Circus Restrooms

Storybook Circus Restrooms


Over in Tomorrowland, we find a rather unimpressive exterior hides a beautifully detailed interior. This "restroom of tomorrow" uses multiple shades of blue and space aged light fixtures to give guests the feeling of the future. I especially like the brushed metal look found on the towel dispensers.


Tomorrowland Restrooms

Tomorrowland Restrooms


There were always restrooms beneath the Tomorrowland Skyway Station, but when this attraction was retired, these facilities were neglected as the building sat for several years before this structure was reimagined. When construction was complete, guests found that these restrooms had been enlarged and given a nice, futuristic design.


Skyway Restrooms

Skyway Restrooms

Skyway Restrooms


The last restroom I will mention in the Magic Kingdom is located between the Plaza Restaurant and Tomorrowland Terrace. Once again, by today's standards, the exterior is somewhat uninspired for a facility with such a prominent exposure. The inside is nice, but nothing to write home about.


Plaza Restrooms

Plaza Restrooms


Although this article is about Magic Kingdom restrooms, I have to mention one recently refurbished facility at Disneyland. Next to the Alice in Wonderland attraction were the old "Prince" and "Princess" restrooms. These have been given a makeover and now offer an "Alice" theme with "King" and "Queen" designations. Notice how the tile work incorporates the colors of black, red, and white - the colors of playing cards. Also look at the stall doors that resemble playing cards. (My thanks to AllEars blogger Jason for the pictures.)


Alice Restrooms

Alice Restrooms

Alice Restrooms

Alice Restrooms


Over the years, two changes have come to all Disney restrooms. The first because of technology. In the late 1980's, the automatic flushing toilet was invented. It wasn't long after that these wonders started appearing at Disney parks and hotels. Now we don't have to touch the toilets with our hands - thank you very much! Not that I've kept track, but to my knowledge there are no hand-flush toilets to be found in public restrooms at the Disneyland or Disney World Resorts anymore. And we're also starting to see more and more automatic paper towel dispensers. Hurray!

Unfortunately, the other significant change to Disney restrooms came in 2001 during the anthrax scare. At that time, Disney immediately eliminated all powdered hand soap in favor of liquid. This required temporary bottles of soap be left out on counters until each restroom could be retrofitted.

Although there are interesting restroom decors in the other Disney World parks, none have gone through as many transformations as those at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. Believe me when I say, even the most dull and unimaginative restroom today is a lot better than the originals of 1955 and 1971.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to go off topic for a moment. But I promise to tie it back into Disney if you'll just bear with me.

Trivia buffs will often tell you that the first toilet ever seen on network TV was on the "Leave it to Beaver" show. Well, this fact is only partially true. In the episode titled "Captain Jack" (October 11, 1957), Beaver sends away for and receives a baby Florida alligator. Knowing his mother June would not approve, he and Wally search for a place to hide it. Since the gator needs water, the first thought was to hide the critter in a sink or bathtub. But this wouldn't do as June would be certain to find it. So they settle on the toilet tank.

When the episode was filmed, the scene depicted the entire toilet, tank and bowl. But the censors of the day and CBS would have nothing to do with this offending porcelain necessity. In fact, they didn't even want a bathroom shown at all. Remember, people of the 1950's never spoke of such topics (or so the censors thought). The censors insisted that the episode be shelved until a solution could be found. After much wrangling, a compromise was reached and the scene reshot with only the toilet tank being shown -- not the "offending" bowl.


Leave it to Beaver


The next time a toilet was referenced on TV was during the run of All in the Family (1971 to 1979) when Archie flushes his offstage commode.

Now I'll bring this back to Disney"

As we know, Walt was often ahead of his time. And this was also the case with bathrooms, at least when the subject was relevant to his attractions. Even though the censors of the day didn't want the public to see a bathroom or toilet on TV, Walt was more than willing to feature these facilities at Disneyland if it educated and/or entertained.

On April 5, 1956, the Crane Company began sponsoring the Bathroom of Tomorrow attraction located in Disneyland's Tomorrowland. Even though the majority of the exhibit featured a collection of valves and clear pipes that guests could open and close to control the flow of water, there was a display of a modern bathroom, complete with a lemon yellow tub and toilet.


Bathroom of Tomorrow

Bathroom of Tomorrow


A little over a year later on June 12, 1957, Disney and Monsanto opened the House of the Future. This dwelling constructed of plastic featured two bathrooms, complete with toilets for all the world to see. It's estimated that during its ten year run, 20 million people toured this home of "1986."


House of the Future

House of the Future


But it's one thing to display a toilet in an exhibition/advertisement. It's quite another to display a toilet in an honest-to-goodness attraction. Enter the Carousel of Progress which debuted at the New York World's Fair in 1964. In Act Two of the show, we're introduced to Cousin Orville soaking in the tub. Also in this room was a toilet. Now the Imagineers could have easily omitted the commode or hidden it from view if they had wished, but instead, used it conspicuously for humor. If you look closely, you can see that Orville uses it as a table to hold his cooling beverage. And in Act Four, we hear from Cousin Orville a second time as he flushes an offstage toilet. Did the writers of All in the Family steal this joke from Disney?


Cousin Orville

Cousin Orville Flushes


Once again, it demonstrates that Walt knew the public better than the so called experts - the censors. Audiences were not shocked by the sight of a bathroom or a toilet. Instead, they were entertained by it. But then, Disneyland was completely under his control and he called all the shots. On the other hand, Walt did have to deal with censors and ABC when making the Disneyland TV show and the Mickey Mouse Club. I don't ever recall Annette excusing herself to go to the bathroom.

Well, that's it for my rundown of the evolution of Magic Kingdom restrooms. I know I always tell you to slow down and smell the roses. But maybe on this occasion, we should just "look" and not "smell." LOL



November 11, 2013

Magic Kingdom Skyway

Jack Spence is on a leave of absence until 2014. This is a reprint of a blog he wrote several years ago. This blog originally ran in 2009 and was accurate at the time of publication.

The first Disney Skyway opened at Disneyland on June 23, 1956. Walt was so taken by this mode of transportation that he signed an agreement to purchase this attraction from the Von Roll, Ltd. Company without giving any consideration as to where this ride would be located in his park. But Walt thought of the Skyway as more than just a ride. He thought of it as another mode of transportation that could be used to carry people across large parking lots and shopping centers. He wanted to use Disneyland to showcase this idea.

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

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

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

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

I have dug through my photo collection and pulled out my Skyway pictures. Please note, some of these pictures are old and of dubious quality. I have also included a video I took in October, 1986. It was shot using one of those old, large, "carry-on-your-shoulder" video cameras of the early 1980's. For many years, this film sat deteriorating on VHS tape until I finally copied it to a DVD. When I electronically extracted it from the DVD so I could share it with you, I lost additional quality. So please forgive this video.


The Fantasyland Station had a Swiss chalet design and yodeling could often be heard in the queue. (1983)


Fantasyland Skyway Station


Leaving the station. (1972)


Fantasyland Skyway

Fantasyland Skyway


Here we see the Columbia Harbour House. (1989)


Fantasyland Skyway


The Mad Tea Party is the the lower left of the picture. (1972)


Fantasyland Skyway


Cinderella's Golden Carousel is dead ahead. (1983)


Fantasyland Skyway

Fantasyland Skyway


Looking back at the Peter Pan attraction. (1989)


Fantasyland Skyway


Down below is Pinocchio Village Haus. (1975)


Fantasyland Skyway


Here is a very old Dumbo attraction -- before a major refurbishment. (1983)


Fantasyland Skyway


An newer Dumbo and the 20,000 Leagues Lagoon. (1989)


Fantasyland Skyway


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea loading area. (1989)


Fantasyland Skyway


The Nautilus. (1983)


Fantasyland Skyway


Tomorrowland Terrace. (1972)


Tomorrowland Skyway


Tomorrowland Terrace and Cinderella Castle. (1972)


Tomorrowland Skyway


Grand Prix Raceway. (1975)


Tomorrowland Skyway

Tomorrowland Skyway


WEDway People Mover and Contemporary Hotel. (1983)


Tomorrowland Skyway


Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA) and the Skyway. (1994-95)


Tomorrowland Skyway


Space Mountain and the Contemporary Hotel. (1975)


Tomorrowland Skyway


TTA and Astro Orbiter. (1994-95)


Tomorrowland Skyway


Tomorrowland Skyway Station. (1989)


Tomorrowland Skyway Station


Here's my video of the Skyway shot in October, 1986.


June 24, 2013

Main Street Train Station Bulletin Board

Jack Spence is on a leave of absence until 2014. This is a reprint of a blog he wrote several years ago. This blog originally ran in 2008 and was accurate at the time of publication.


There is an "Arrival and Departure" bulletin board on the ground floor of the Main Street Train Station.


Main Street Train Station Magic Kingdom


The locations depicted are not just random names, but have meaning.

Here they are:


Main Street Train Station Magic Kingdom


Grizzle Bear Flats:

The Grizzly Flats Railroad was the name of Ward Kimball's backyard railroad.

Kimball Canyon:

Animator Ward Kimball was one of the "Nine Old Men" and worked on such classics as "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and the "Three Caballeros."

Hickory:

Hickory is the town depicted in the Disney movie, "Follow Me Boys" released in theaters on December 1, 1966.

Siddons City:

Lemuel Siddons was the character played by Fred MacMurray in the movie "Follow Me Boys."

Medfield:

Medfield College was the setting for a number of Disney movies including "The Absent Minded Professor," "Son of Flubber," and "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes."

Rutledge:

Rutledge College was the rival school of Medfield College.

Harrington Hills:

Harrington was the town depicted in the Disney movie "Pollyanna," released in theaters on May 19, 1960.

Pendergast Plains:

Adolphe Menjou played the villain, Mr. Pendergast in the movie "Pollyanna."

Bullwhip:

From the Disney movie, "The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin" starring Bryan Russell, Roddy McDowall, Suzanne Pleshette, and Karl Malden. It was released on March 3, 1967.

Griffin Gulch:

See above.

I was able to figure out most of these entries on my own, but Harrington Hills and Pendergast Plains had me stumped.

March 18, 2013

Where Does the Music Come From? (Repeat)

Jack Spence Masthead


Today's article was first posted on August 17, 2009. This was a fun blog to research and was well received.

If all goes well, next week's blog will be an original. Thank you for your patience as I get settled into my temporary quarters.



Most people pay very little attention to the music being played in the background while visiting a Disney theme park. Our eyes are much too busy taking in all of the sights to consciously pay any attention to the melodies filling the air. The songs are simply there. But if the music wasn't surrounding us at every turn, we'd notice. Our stroll down Main Street would seem flat and wanting.

Disney puts a lot of thought into the music they select for each land or area of their parks. First, it has to be appropriate. Obviously, they're not going to play German music at the Japan Pavilion in Epcot. But you will find 1930's and 40's big band music on Sunset Blvd. at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Next, the music is usually somewhat upbeat. Disney wants their guests to be happy and a jaunty melody can affect our mood. I'm not saying that every tune played is a toe-tapper, but you won't find many dirges, either.

Disney also wants the music to be recognizable when possible. If we can hum along with a tune, we'll feel at home and comfortable.

But have you ever paid any attention as to where this music comes from? I mean, when you walk through a Disney park, the tunes are just there, as if by magic. The sounds don't come from any one direction, they surround you.

In this article, I'm going to show you how this magic happens. In reality, I'm not going to provide you with any information you couldn't garner for yourself if you were so inclined. In this blog I'll cover the Magic Kingdom and leave the other parks to your own discoveries.

Let's start with Main Street. The most commonly used technique along this thoroughfare is to hide speakers behind vents. Since many structures have openings to allow for air circulation, this is the perfect spot to place a speaker.


Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker


Another common practice is to design the speaker into the structure.


Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker


Out on The Hub we see the vent method used again as well as hiding a speaker in a lamp pole.


Hub Speakers

Hub Speakers

Hub Speakers

Hub Speakers


Many of the melodies played on Main Street are old standards that hearken back to a simpler time. A number of these songs, like "In the Hills of Old Kentucky" and "Kentucky Home" are performed by the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and are available for sale on Amazon. Disney's 1963 movie "Summer Magic" and his 1967 film "The Happiest Millionaire" both provide music for Main Street. The stories in both of these movies took place around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century so the theming is correct. The same can be said for the three Broadway musicals represented. Oklahoma, The Music Man, and Hello Dolly were all set in this same era.

Tomorrowland doesn't bother with trying to hide their speakers. Here the Imagineers placed them in plain site. They just disguised them to look like futuristic objects. See for yourself.


Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers


The music of Tomorrowland was performed with the use of synthesizers. Very few (if any) "traditional" instruments were used in the making of these recordings. The music also has a strong beat to emphasize energy. A sharp ear can make out "Strange Things" from the Disney/Pixar 1995 movie Toy Story. "A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" and "Now is the Time," both from the Carousel of Progress, can also be heard. And for you old timers, "If You Had Wings" is also played.

I have to say, I was disappointed with the speakers in Mickey's Toontown Fair. All of them that I could find were out in the open. Many times, outdoor speakers are hidden beneath bushes, but not here. The Imagineers didn't even bother. Take a look.


Toontown Speakers

Toontown Speakers


Most of the songs played in Mickey's Toontown Fair are from the cartoons Disney produced during the '30's to the '50's. "Minnie's Yoo Hoo," "The Country Cousin," and "The Three Little Pigs" are just a few of the selections in store for you here.

In Fantasyland the Imagineers did a fine job of hiding the speakers.


Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speaker

Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speakers


As you might expect, the music played in Fantasyland is from the many animated movies Disney produced over the years. These are the songs that we all know by heart and we could probably even sing the words. However, near Pinocchio Village Haus the music has a different theme and is Bavarian in nature.

Many of the speakers in Liberty Square are hidden in vents (like Main Street) so I didn't take many pictures in this area. However, I do like the bird house disguise.


Liberty Square Speakers

Liberty Square Speakers

Liberty Square Speakers

Liberty Square Speakers


The music in Liberty Square is patriotic and homespun. Violins, the fife, and the dulcimer are the instruments of choice for most of these renditions. A Disney connection is also present. The song "The Sons of Liberty" from the 1957 movie Johnny Tremain is played.

This quiet music was replaced several years ago with lively marches. Sigh.

Where Main Street uses vents to hide speakers, Frontierland uses boxes. On many of the balconies and porch tops, rustic crates that blend into their surroundings can be seen.


Frontierland Speakers

Frontierland Speakers


A variation on the box theme is the barrel.


Frontierland Speakers

Frontierland Speakers


And on Splash Mountain speakers are encased in make-believe rocks.


Frontierland Speakers

Frontierland Speakers


"Oh My Darling Clementine," "Home on the Range," and "Happy Trails," among a dozen other western favorites, are all on tap. Fiddles, banjos, guitars, and harmonicas make up the orchestra in Frontierland. The Disney song heard in this area is "Davy Crockett" from the 1950's TV series.

Last, but not least we come to Adventureland. Next to the entrance sign is a drum. But upon closer examination we find that it's actually a piece of metal normally used as a vent or filter. Its multiple holes allow sound to pass right through.


Adventureland Speakers

Adventureland Speakers


On a balcony we find a lovely wicker planter. Once again, this "open" material provides the perfect place to hide a speaker. Music can easily flow through its openings.


Adventureland Speakers

Adventureland Speakers


This final picture is of the Pirate's Stage near Pirates of the Caribbean. In this case a speaker is hidden in a birdcage.


Adventureland Speakers

Adventureland Speakers


When entering Adventureland, much of the music heard is played on the marimba with a tribal African beat. In many ways, it sounds similar to the music heard in the Animal Kingdom.

As you move further into Adventureland the music takes on a Middle Eastern theme.

And finally, the music from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies can be heard in Caribbean Plaza.

I didn't want to take away all of your fun, so I've only covered the Magic Kingdom in this blog. I'll let you discover your own musical moments in the other parks. But before I go, I'd like to share one of my favorite bits of Disney trivia.

In the attraction "it's a small world" we all know that there are two counter melodies that play against each other. But in reality, there is a third melody heard on this ride. As you pass the Switzerland section, a young boy, perched high and to the right, yodels this other tune. But there's more to the story. Let's travel to Blizzard Beach. Among the many songs played here is this same young boy yodeling the third part to "it's a small world."



May 22, 2012

New Fantasyland Model

Jack Spence Masthead


As reported last week in a blog under Disney and Central Florida News, a model of the new Fantasyland expansion is now on Display at Disney's Hollywood Studios in the One Man's Dream exhibit. Since I promised you that I'd keep you posted on any new happenings for this much anticipated development, I stopped by and snapped a few pictures. Most of these are close-ups in an effort to give you a better idea of what this new area will look like when completed.

This first picture is of the entire model. The second is the gateway that will greet guest as they leave the older section of Fantasyland for the new and expanded area.


Model of the New Fantasyland


Entrance to New Fantasyland


This next picture is of Belle's cottage and will house the "Enchanted Tales with Belle" story area.


Belle's Cottage


Although somewhat difficult to make out, you can see the pathway leading up to doors that will enter Beast's Castle and the "Be Our Guest Restaurant."


Beast's Castle


In this next picture we see Belle's village. On the left side will be "Gaston's Tavern" and on the right "Bonjour! Village Gifts."


Belle's Village


To the east of "Bonjour! Village Gifts" is Prince Eric's Castle and the entrance to "Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid."


Prince Eric's Castle


These next several pictures are of "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train."


Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train


Here we have the entrance to Storybook Circus.


Storybook Circus Entrance


In these next to pictures we see "Dumbo the Flying Elephant" and "The Barnstormer."


Dumbo

The Barnstormer


"Casey Jr. Splash 'n' Soak Station" can be seen in the following photo. This is located just beyond the roundhouse (restrooms).


Casey Jr. Splash 'n' Soak Station


The blue tent will house "Big Top Souvenirs" and the orange tent will be the home of "Pete's Silly Sideshow."


Circus Tents


In a separate display, a detailed model of "Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid" is presented.


Journey of the Little Mermaid Model

Journey of the Little Mermaid Model


After seeing these models, I'm all the more excited about the New Fantasyland. Disney has said that the rest of Storybook Circus will be opening sometime in July. The moment I hear the plywood walls have come down, I'll try to be there and snap more pictures for you all.

If you're visiting Disney World this coming summer, be sure to stop by "One Man's Dream" to check out this wonderful model.


March 26, 2012

Slow Down and Smell the Roses

Jack Spence Masthead


Where in the Magic Kingdom can you find a reference to former First Lady Barbara Bush?


Barbara Bush


If you answered "Hall of Presidents," you'd be wrong. However, the title of this blog should have been a clue. You see, a rose has been named for Barbara Bush and it can be found in the Plaza Rose Garden located on The Hub of the Magic Kingdom.


Plaza Rose Garden Entrance

Barbara Bush Rose Plaque

Barbara Bush Rose


The Plaza Rose Garden is an often overlooked spot by guests, and this is a shame. There are few areas at Walt Disney World as lovely. Located on a winding pathway that meanders between the Tomorrowland entrance and a walkway leading to Fantasyland, this area is filled with hundreds of rose bushes and dozens of varieties. So beautiful is this spot that the All-American Rose Selections group awarded this park the Public Rose Garden Award in 1985.


Plaza Rose Garden

Plaza Rose Garden

Plaza Rose Garden

Plaza Rose Garden

Public Rose Garden Award


Here are few pictures I snapped in February (2012).


Roses

Roses

Roses

Roses

Roses

Roses

Roses

Roses


Some very artistic photographs of roses and Cinderella Castle can be taken from the pathway. Try crouching down to maximize your shot.


Artistic Rose & Castle Photograph

Artistic Rose & Castle Photograph

Artistic Rose & Castle Photograph

Artistic Rose & Castle Photograph


At the entrance to the Plaza Rose Garden, a Disney photographer is usually on hand to take your picture. He will be more than happy to snap a photo using his professional equipment or your own camera. Here is a shot of me posing with Cinderella Castle in the background.


Jack Having His Picture Taken


In this same area is perhaps the most famous topiaries of all. This is another fantastic photo op.


Mickey and Minnie Topiaries


The pavilion, located along the path, is the former queue and boarding area for the Swan Boats. This is a perfect spot to sit, relax, and unwind.


Rose Garden Pavilion

Rose Garden Pavilion

Rose Garden Pavilion

Swan Boats


The Plaza Swan Boats operated seasonally from May 20, 1974 to August 1983. The attraction required a D ticket. The ride lasted 17 minutes and each vessel held 26 passengers. The boats took guests on a leisurely trip around The Hub and even circled Swiss Family Treehouse. The attraction was discontinued for a variety of reasons - money, upkeep, and a changing public attitude. As other Disney attractions were added to the Magic Kingdom, "modern" guests found the Swan Boats to be a little too slow paced for their taste.

A similar attitude killed the Discovery River Boats (April 22, 1998 to August 21, 1999) that once circled Safari Village (now Discovery Island) at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Disney made several attempts to spice up this relaxed ride, but guests complained there was nothing to see along the way and they were bored.


Discovery River Boats


The Plaza Rose Garden will never compete with the likes of Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion, but it is a wonderful escape from the frenzied atmosphere of the rest of the Magic Kingdom. On your next trip, take 10 minutes and stroll through this garden. Take the time to stop and smell the roses. You'll be glad you did.

I once heard a proverb which said, "You can be sad that rose bushes have thorns, or you can be happy that thorn bushes have roses."


January 2, 2012

Christmas Week

Now that the busy holiday season is over, I have a question for all of you who visited Disneyland and Walt Disney World the week between Christmas and New Year's. Why?

When I applied to work at Disneyland, the interviewer made it very clear - I would work while others played. This meant weekends, nights, and especially holidays. I started as a Miscellaneous Kitchen Helper at the Blue Bayou Restaurant in May, 1971. After my initial training, I began my regular duties. I caught on quickly and survived the hordes during Easter week, the mobs of summer vacation, and the masses over the long Thanksgiving weekend. But nothing prepared me for Christmas week and I was taken by surprise at just how busy the park can be at this time of year. I had never experienced such a work load before that. For seven days straight, the Blue Bayou Restaurant had an hour-long line from the time we opened at 11:30am until closing at midnight. (This was in the days before reservations.) Mandatory overtime was instituted and many of us worked six or seven, 10-12 hour days. It was hell.

In the picture below, imagine the inside lobby of the Blue Bayou Restaurant completely filled with a zigzagging line that exits the door then snakes out of sight along the side of the building. And this was just to eat at a restaurant. The really long lines were for the attractions. Most of you who visit Walt Disney World have never had to experience long lines to eat at a table service restaurant.


Blue Bayou Restaurant


I have often asked myself, "Why would anyone visit Disneyland or Walt Disney World the week between Christmas and New Year's?" This is hands down the busiest week of the year. Park closings due to capacity issues are a daily experience. Of course, the answer to this question is simple. The kids are out of school this week and very often mom and dad have coordinated their vacation to coincide with this. But I'm here to tell you, a trip to a Disney park over Christmas week just might not be worth it.

Living in Orlando, I can go to Disney World anytime I like. And writing for AllEars requires that I visit here 3 to 5 times a week. But I avoid Disney World like the plague between Christmas and New Year's. It' simply isn't worth it. It's too darn crowded. Even Interstate 4, Highway 192, and the streets near Disney become a clogged mess during this time of year.

But the question "Why do people visit during this week" kept nagging at me. I know not everyone was doing so because of school schedules. There must be something I'm missing about this week that attracts so many of you. So I decided to take a drive down to the Magic Kingdom on December 29th (2011) to see if things are as horrible as I remember.

First, I knew I needed to arrive before 10am. The Magic Kingdom is the busiest of the four parks and is always the first to close due to capacity issues. I wanted to make sure I arrived before this happened. A complete description detailing Disney park closing policies can be found at the bottom of this blog.

When a park is reaching capacity, Disney will post signs around property, informing guests that a particular park is closed. However, these signs are easily missed. Once you reach a "point of no return" on the roadway, you are committed to drive all the way to the toll booth where you'll be asked to make a U-turn. This can take a lot of time as the cast members must explain the disappointing news to each and every car ahead of you.

If a park is open, you will still have many vehicles ahead of you at the toll plaza when it's busy. I must admit, Disney is magnificent at parking cars efficiently, but it can still take a lot of time to pay the attendant and be directed to a space.

If you're staying at a Disney resort, by all means, use Disney transportation during Christmas week. It's easier and will save you a lot of time and hassle.

I parked my car in the Magic Kingdom lot at 9:30am. I had to wait for three trams before I could board for my trip to the TTC. Once there, the lines to catch the monorail and ferry boat were incredible. I opted for the ferry and was able to catch the second boat to pull in. Once at the Magic Kingdom, the lines for bag check were humungous, as were the lines to pass through the turnstiles. In all, it took me a full hour to get from my car to the tunnel under the train tracks.


Waiting for the Tram

Waiting for the Monorail

Waiting for the Ferry Boat

Waiting for the Monorail and Ferry Boat

Waiting at the Turnstiles

Waiting at the Turnstiles


Since my objective was to blog about the day, not experience the park, I did not ride any attractions. I simply circled the park and took pictures and shot videos. Here are few photos of Main Street and The Hub.


Crowds on Main Street

Crowds on Main Street

Crowds on The Hub

Crowds on The Hub


Take a look at Tomorrowland.


Crowds in Tomorrowland

Crowds in Tomorrowland

Crowds in Tomorrowland


If you want to avoid lines at counter service restaurants, eating at off times is absolutely necessary. These next pictures were taken at Cosmic Rays Starlight Café at 11:30am. As you can see, it's already pretty busy. But this is nothing compared to what it will look like at noon. Even at 11:30, cast members were guarding every doorway leading into the restaurant. All were designated as "exit only" with the exception of one which was designated "entrance only." Disney does this to facilitate better crowd control. In addition, cast members had the entrance to the main dining room barricaded. You were required to have trays of food before being allowed to find a table. Past experience has shown that people will save tables, thus taking up this precious space for twice as long as necessary.


Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe


By the way, did you know that Disney raises the prices on counter-service food over this week - just because they can?

This is Fantasyland around noon. There were still some open spaces, but you had to use your best maneuvering skills to negotiate the walkways.


Crowds in Fantasyland

Crowds in Fantasyland

Crowds in Fantasyland


In Liberty Square, the line for the Haunted Mansion began near the entrance to the Liberty Belle.


Crowds in Liberty Square

Haunted Mansion Line


In Frontierland, the wooden walkway that skirts the edge of the Rivers of America was designated as a two-way street. Masking tape had been placed on the ground with arrows indicating direction. Cast members were stationed along the route about every 15 feet to keep things moving. There was no stopping allowed. Traffic was so regimented in this area, I was not able to stop and get a picture. This next shot was taken In Liberty Square as you approach the Frontierland walkway.


Walkway Leading to Frontierland


The area in front of Thunder and Splash Mountains was a mob scene. There must have been a couple hundred people in line just to get FastPasses for TM, which was already stating a comeback time of 2:45-3:45. And remember, with crowds like these, returning to this area when your FastPass comes due is going to take additional time.


Crowds in Frontierland

Crowds in Frontierland


As you can imagine, Adventureland was as crowded as the rest of the park.


Adventurland Crowds

Adventurland Crowds


The shortest stated attraction line I ever saw was in Tomorrowland. Shortly after I arrived at 10:30 the line for Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor was 20 minutes. However, before I left the area, it was 30 minutes. The sign posted for Snow White was 40 minutes, Dumbo 60 minutes, Small World 75 minutes, and Space Mountain 2 hours. But mind you, all of these signs said "From this point" and the lines extended well past the signs, which could add another 10-20 minutes to your wait. Even the People Mover and Swiss Family Treehouse had lines - attractions that never see people waiting. Carousel of Progress was playing to almost full theaters.

As I circled the park, I kept saying to myself, "I'm glad I'm here just to document the crowds and I'm not trying to get my money's worth."

I have created a humorous 3 minute video to better illustrate just how crowded things were that day. Check it out.



People often ask me how I can take pictures and videos at Walt Disney World with few or no people in the shot. Well one thing is certain, I don't attempt this the week between Christmas and New Year's.

After spending three hours at the Magic Kingdom, I'm still shaking my head. It is beyond me why anyone would spend their hard-earned money to visit Walt Disney World during Christmas week (other than it coincides with school vacation). If you want to see the holiday decorations, you can do that with manageable crowds from December 1st to around the 18th. The only thing you'd miss out on seeing during the early weeks of December is the Christmas parade. However, this is available if you attend one of the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parties.

If you're thinking that you'll get to see the filming of the Christmas Parade and special entertainment broadcast every Christmas morning on ABC, think again. This was filmed weeks earlier at both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland when the crowds were manageable.

So folks, help me understand. Send me your reasons for visiting during the busiest week of the year (besides school vacation). Tell me why you'll pay top dollar to stand in hour-long lines day after day when you could experience the parks at slower, less expensive times during other parts of the year. Would you do it again? I'd also like to hear some of your experiences, both good and bad, that occurred over Christmas week. I know I'd enjoy reading them and I think my readers would as well. (Try not to write a book. LOL)

When I worked at Disneyland in the 1970's, the projected attendance for the day was posted backstage for the cast members to see. Christmas week regularly attracted 60 to 70 thousand people per day. Disney now guards this information judiciously. So don't ask me how many people visit. I don't know.

Below are the official Disney guidelines in regards to park closings at Walt Disney World. Note, it is common for the parks to reopen later in the afternoon as guests begin to leave.

Alternate Parking:

All Walt Disney World parks are open, but due to parking limitations, guests will be requested to park their vehicle at a different theme park and use Disney transportation to their ultimate destination. For example, guests wishing to visit the Magic Kingdom may be directed to park at Epcot and use the monorail.

Phase 1:

The following guests will be turned away at the Auto Plaza:

" Day guests with Magic Your Way Base Tickets
" One-Day/One-Park Tickets
" Guests without theme park admission
" Cast members using Main Gate & Silver Passes.

Phase 2:

Only the following guests will be allowed entrance:

" Disney Resort guests*
" Annual and Premium Annual Passholders
" Guests with Park Hopper tickets coming from another park visited earlier in the day
" Guests re-entering the same park
" Guests with dining reservations
" Guests with reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, The Pirates League, or Harmony Barber Shop (Magic Kingdom)
" Guests with reservations for Wild Africa Trek (Animal Kingdom)

Phase 3:

At this phase, park admission is limited to:

" Disney Resort Guests*
" Annual and Premium Annual Passholders,
" Guests with dining reservations
" Guests with reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, The Pirates League, or Harmony Barber Shop (Magic Kingdom)
" Guests with reservations for Wild Africa Trek (Animal Kingdom)

Phase 4:

Closed to all guests as the park has reached total capacity

* The following non-Walt Disney World hotels are considered part of the Disney Resort:

Swan and Dolphin
Shades of Green
The hotels along Hotel Plaza Blvd (provided guests arrive via their hotel shuttle bus)



September 26, 2011

Magic Kingdom Parking Lot

The next time you park your car at the Magic Kingdom, you might notice a few differences - not physical differences, but naming conventions and tram operations.

First, the parking lot has been divided into two sections. The western half (formerly containing lots named for Minnie, Chip & Dale, Pluto, Goofy, Daisy, and Donald) has been designated as the "Heroes" section. The eastern half of the parking lot (formerly containing lots named after six of the Seven Dwarfs) has been designated as the "Villains" section.

Within the Heroes half of the lot you'll find new section names. Peter Pan, Rapunzel, Aladdin, Woody, Mulan, and Simba now designate the various sections.


Hero Names


The Villains half contains the Cruella, Ursula, Jafar, Hook, Zurg, and Scar sections.


Villain Names


At the TTC, guests will now board a designated tram when returning to their cars (either Heroes or Villains). No longer will you have to travel through the western portion of the lot before doubling back to find your car in the eastern half. This will ease crowding on the trams and be far more convenient.


Heroed Loading Area

Villains Loading Area


As the tram spieler said on my visit yesterday, at least now if you forget where you park, you've narrowed the possibilities in half if you can just remember Heroes or Villains. LOL

As always, it's important to remember where you park. Write it down. Commit it to memory. If you have a phone with a camera, take a picture of the row number. There are 11,000 spaces in this lot.


August 15, 2011

The Enchanted Tiki Room - A look back

With the official reopening of the Tiki Room, I thought I'd use this opportunity to give you a history of this groundbreaking attraction. In many ways, "The Enchanted Tiki Room" opened the door to other Disney classics like "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," "Carousel of Progress," and "Pirates of the Caribbean" as the Imagineers were able to use what they had learned with the Tiki birds to build on their success.

Long before Disneyland opened, Walt dreamed of animating figures using cables and cams. He even went so far as to contact a patent attorney in 1949 and proposed dimensional animation. The idea would unite three-dimensional figures that could move to synchronized audio tracks. But his idea was far ahead of its time and was limited by the technology of the day. When Disneyland opened in 1955, the park featured crude versions of AudioAnimatronics (AA) figures. These figures had limited movements and were unreliable. This is best illustrated by the simplistic animals seen on the Jungle Cruise.


Disneyland's Jungle Cruise


The exploration of space brought a number of technological advancements to the world in the late 1950's and early 1960's. The Imagineers were able to capitalize on these inventions and apply them to their crude figures. With the use of rudimentary computers and new hydraulic and pneumatic hardware, their animals began to move less like robots and more like the real thing.

The first attempt by Disney to create a lifelike AA human was undertaken by Roger Broggie and Wathel Rogers. Walt wanted to have them create a likeness of Confucius who could interact with guests dining in a Chinese restaurant to be located on Main Street. The pair succeeded to a point, but ultimately, limitations in technology would stymie the project. The required electronics would fill a room and Confucius was extremely fragile. He was continually ripping his rubber face.

Walt next directed his team to create a likeness of Abraham Lincoln. Since 1956, a spur off of Main Street to be called Liberty Square had been under development. Walt felt that an AA figure could tell the story of freedom better than the static display currently under consideration. 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, the Imagineers built a 1/8 scale model of Ebsen which perfectly reproduced his dance routine. Walt even had a miniature stage built to showcase his new figure.


Mechanical Man


While on vacation in New Orleans (or Europe, depending on which version of the story you hear), Walt found and purchased a mechanical bird that could sing while moving its beak, head, and wings. He thought to himself, if toymakers can do this well, my Imagineers can do better. He took the bird home and gave it to his team so they could dissect it and discover what made it tick.

Walt put his Lincoln idea on hold and concentrated all of his efforts on this new project. In the months that followed, his Imagineers built life-sized cockatoos, toucans, macaws, and other tropical birds. Walt wanted to resurrect the Chinese restaurant idea, but instead of Confucius entertaining guests, birds would take center stage. Walt also reasoned that guests would be more accepting of the limitations of AA mechanics when applied to non-human figures.

The restaurant, to be called "The Tiki Hut," was to be located in Adventureland and would have a Polynesian theme. The eatery would share the kitchen used by the Plaza Pavilion and the Tahitian Terrace. A press release issued by the company read, "Walt Disney is creating a restaurant. And just as his full-length animated films, True-Life Adventures, and Disneyland pioneered in their fields, Walt's creation may alter the course of many full-course meals." However, as the idea for a restaurant progressed and logistics considered, it was realized that the average meal would take between 45-60 minutes. This would greatly limit how many guests could see this new marvel. Add this to space limitations in Adventureland, and the restaurant idea was eventually abandoned in favor of a 17 minute show only. "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" opened on June 23, 1963. The show contained 225 AA performers directed by a fourteen-channel magnetic tape feeding 100 speakers and controlling 438 separate actions.


Tiki Room Poster

Walt Inside the Tiki Room


Although difficult to conceive today, in 1963, the public could not begin to fathom what the "Enchanted Tiki Room" was all about. Cast members would try to explain that there were singing birds and flowers inside the building, but guests just didn't "get it" and would bypass this attraction for other adventures. Even the Disneyland TV show failed to convey the magic awaiting guests inside this unassuming structure. A solution was needed to promote the show appropriately.

Enter Barker Bird. Situated on a perch above the Enchanted Tiki Room turnstiles, a new AA bird was added to the show. From high above, Barker Bird (a copy of Jose who performs in the show) would call to the guests below and extoll the virtues of the performance inside. The solution worked. For the first time, guests could experience a sophisticated AudioAnimatronics figure and were intrigued enough to venture inside to see the entire show.


Barker Bird


However, there was a drawback to Barker Bird. He became an attraction in his own right. The entrance into Adventureland was very narrow in the early years. So many people would stop to listen to Barker Bird that the walkway became impassable. Eventually, after the show became well established, Barker Bird was retired.

Once guests were persuaded to see the show, they were blown away by it. Remember, this was 1963 and nothing like this had ever been seen before.

The adventure began with guests entering a dimly lit, quiet room. Once everyone was seated, a host or hostess used a cane to wake up Jose. The show was carefully orchestrated to "build" upon itself. First the four hosts spoke to the audience. Then a background chorus of birds chimed in and an elaborate bird-mobile descended from the ceiling. After we thought we'd seen "everything," the various tropical flowers scattered around the room came to life and serenaded us. And finally, the Tiki gods began to recite Polynesian chants. In the end, so much celebration was taking place that the gods were awakened and angered. Guests left the "Enchanted Tiki Room" awe-struck. They couldn't believe what they had just seen.

When the "Enchanted Tiki Room" first opened, it was not owned by the Walt Disney Company (then Walt Disney Productions), but rather by Walt's private company, WED Enterprises. Because of this, guests were required to purchase a separate ticket for the staggering amount of 75¢ if they wanted to see the show.


Tiki Room Ticket


Since the show was 17 minutes in length, it was realized that some sort of diversion would be required to keep guest entertained while waiting for the next presentation to begin. To accomplish this, a number of Polynesian gods were situated around the perimeter of the holding area. Shortly before entering the building, each god spoke to the audience and provided a brief explanation as to his or her importance and function. Note, these were not AA figures. Their lips did not move or their eyes open. Some figures rocked back and forth and others dropped flowers from their branches, but there was nothing sophisticated about these Tiki gods.


Disneyland Preshow Tiki Gods

Disneyland Preshow Tiki Gods


In the 1960's, United Airlines was the premier carrier of passengers to and from the Hawaiian Islands. They were the perfect company to sponsor the "Enchanted Tiki Room" and held that honor for twelve years. In 1976, the Dole Food Company replaced United Airlines and continues sponsorship to this day.

While there may be 225 AA figures, the show revolves around four wise-cracking macaws, Jose, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz. It's interesting to note, in the early years, their feather's colors represented their nationalities. Jose (voiced by Wally Boag) was covered in red, white, and green feathers, the colors on the Mexican flag. Michael (voiced by Fulton Burley) donned green and white feathers to represent his Irish background. Pierre (voiced by Ernie Newton) sported blue, white, and red for his French nationality. And Fritz (voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft) was covered in red, white, and gold feathers for his German heritage.

The Sherman Brothers wrote "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room." Robert Hargreaves, Stanley J. Damerell and Tolchard Evans wrote "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing." For you true lovers of Disney trivia, a version of "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" can be heard in the Pizzafari Restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

In late 2004, the "Enchanted Tiki Room" closed for an extensive refurbishment. The exterior of the building was in sad shape and inside, the bird's feathers were routinely falling from their bodies and you could hear their hydraulics sputtering as they sang. Disneyland's 50th birthday was rapidly approaching and this attraction needed some serious attention if it was to be presentable for the park's big celebration. When the show reopened seven months later, it had been restored to its former glory. The score had been digitally remastered and a new sound system had been installed. In addition, many of the birds and flowers had been replaced with state-of-the-art AA figures. The show's length was also shortened somewhat. This will be noticeable to anyone who bought the LP in the early years or has found a full-length version of the show on the internet. But to the vast majority of visitors, the deletions are inconspicuous.

Since the "Enchanted Tiki Room" had been so successful at Disneyland, it was a given that it would be an opening day attraction at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. In 1967, Walt Disney Productions entered into an agreement with the Florida Citrus Growers to sponsor this attraction for a cost of $3 million.

When the Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971, a copy of Disneyland's "Enchanted Tiki Room" was on hand to greet guests. Renamed "Tropical Serenade," this attraction was an immediate success and required an "D" coupon to enter. Guests familiar with the Disneyland version would notice that the Magic Kingdom's theater was considerably larger.


Tropical Serenade Poster


Although the main presentation was the same, the waiting area and preshow was all new at the Magic Kingdom. At Disneyland, guests waited on a large lanai and wandered about until the show began. At which time, they all converged into a single door with occasional pushing and shoving. Wanting to better control people at the Magic Kingdom, the Imagineers created three, terraced lines where guests could wait in a more orderly fashion. While waiting to enter the theater, guests faced a shrine and waterfall that eventually parted to reveal two AA birds perched atop a Tiki god.


Preshow Tiki God Shrine


Other changes could be seen in the building's exterior. At Disneyland, the "Enchanted Tiki Room" had been squeezed into a tight space and could easily be missed as you walked by. But at the Magic Kingdom, the Imagineers gave the "Tropical Serenade" a place of prominence with a large pagoda that could be seen throughout much of Adventureland.


Tropical Serenade Pagoda


In 1970, WED Enterprises created the Orange Bird character to serve as the sponsor's (Florida Citrus Growers) mascot at the park and in other promotional advertisements. The Orange Bird could often be seen at the Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland greeting guests and posing for pictures. The Sherman Brothers wrote a song about our feathered friend and Anita Bryant recorded it.


Orange Bird

Orange Bird


Florida Citrus Growers ended their sponsorship in 1986 and the Orange Bird slipped into Disney history. However, this character had a resurgence at Tokyo Disneyland in 2004 to coincide with Japan's annual Orange Day celebration held on April 14th. Back in the States, new Orange Bird merchandise can be found today in Magic Kingdom shops in honor of Walt Disney World's upcoming 40th anniversary.

As the years marched on, guests became bored with the slow-moving "Tropical Serenade." Having become accustomed to more thrilling fare like Splash and Space Mountains, it was a common occurrence to see guests walk out in the middle of the show. Something needed to be done.

"Tropical Serenade" closed on September 1, 1997 for an extensive rehab. When it reopened in April 1998, a new show awaited guests, "The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management." The show still starred Jose, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz, but two new additions were added to the festivities, Iago from "Aladdin" and Zazu from "The Lion King." In this version of the show, Iago and Zazu are the new owners of the Tiki Room and want to make some changes to the act. They even poked fun at the previous, slow moving show. A new preshow also featured moving AA figures, William and Morris, who set up the storyline before guests ventured inside.


Zazu and Iago

William and Morris


Unfortunately, "Under New Management" never lived up to Disney's expectations. Iago may have worked well as a villain in "Aladdin," but as the host of a fun-loving show, he was obnoxious. After the initial surge of first time visitors saw the new show, crowds quickly dissipated.

In 2011, "Under New Management" was 13 years old. It was time for a change. Then in January of this year, a small fire broke out in the attic of the attraction. The sprinkler system was activated and guests were evacuated. No one was hurt and the blaze was quickly brought under control by the Reedy Creek Fire Department. However, the Iago AudioAnimatronics figure was badly damaged by the fire and other portions of the attraction sustained water damage. This fire and ensuing damage gave Disney the impetus it needed to retire this unpopular show. But what to replace it with?

The Imagineers didn't have to look too far for a new idea - or should I say, an old idea. At Disneyland, the "Enchanted Tiki Room" had experienced increased attendance after it was upgraded for the park's 50th anniversary. Why not do the same thing for the Magic Kingdom's upcoming 40th anniversary and bring back the original. The Magic Kingdom's new show is called "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" (the original name at Disneyland). Due to the ever shrinking attention span of the public, the new show is 11 minutes in length rather than the original 17. In this revised production, the slow moving Offenbach musical number was cut. This alone removed two and a half minutes from the show. In addition, the column of water rising up to meet the Bird-Mobile was eliminated and superfluous dialogue was removed.

The Enchanted Tiki Room is also a staple at Tokyo Disneyland. The original show (presented mostly in Japanese) ran from opening day (April 15, 1983) to 1999 when it became "The Enchanted Tiki Room: "Get the Fever!" This second version of the show featured a zany Las Vegas-style nightclub review as it might be staged in the middle of the jungle. Jose, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz were replace by lounge hosts, Danno, Scats, Buddy, and Lava (the first female host bird). The show was presented in a combination of English and Japanese. I saw "Get the Fever!" in 2000 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember thinking to myself, "Why did the Imagineers choose to put "Under New Management" into the Magic Kingdom when they already had such a good show they could have used."


Enchanted Tiki Room:


"Get the Fever!" closed in January 2008 and was replaced by "The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai!" which opened on July 25th, 2008. To see my review of this show, click here.


Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai!


The "Enchanted Tiki Room" is not nearly as exciting as many other Disney attractions, but it is a classic and it's historic. Its AA figures were the beginning of so many other wonderful attractions to follow. It's a charming show that Walt personally supervised its creation. Only the most jaded guest would not be captivated by its simple humor, wonderful melodies, and fantastic characters.



August 14, 2011

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room

In January of this year, a small fire broke out in the attic of "Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management". The sprinkler system was activated and guests were evacuated. No one was hurt and the blaze was quickly brought under control by the Reedy Creek Fire Department. However, the Iago AudioAnimatronics figure was badly damaged by the fire and other portions of the attraction sustained water damage. The show had to be closed indefinitely until repairs could be made.


Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management


The attraction officially reopens on Monday, August 15, 2011, but today (August 14), the attraction held a soft-opening - in other words, a dress rehearsal. As you might expect, I was the first person in line to see the show. However, "Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management" has been retired. It has been replaced by "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room." This show is a close approximation the original "Tropical Serenade" as seen on opening day of the Magic Kingdom.

I thoroughly enjoyed the revival of this classic, even if it is an abridged version of the original. At 11 minutes, I think it's the right length to entertain, but not bore guests. The sound and acoustics are great and gone are the clicking noises made by some of the older AA figures. Disney has even restored the original "nationality" feather colors. Here are a few pictures I snapped today.


Entrance

Preshow

Preshow

Jose

Tiki Bird

Bird-Mobile

Singing Flowers

Drummer Tikis

Flowers and Chanters


For all of you who are only familiar with "Under New Management," I strongly encourage you to see this new/old version of "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room." It's not nearly as exciting as many other Disney attractions, but it is a classic and it's historic. Its AA figures were the beginning of so many other wonderful attractions to follow. It's a charming show that Walt personally supervised its creation. Only the most jaded guest would not be captivated by its simple humor, wonderful melodies, and fantastic characters.

If you are familiar with the original show, please come back and see it again. You'll be glad you did - and you'll be singing "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" song all day - which really isn't a bad thing.

In many ways, "The Enchanted Tiki Room" opened the door to other Disney classics like "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," "Carousel of Progress," and "Pirates of the Caribbean" as the Imagineers were able to use what they had learned with the Tiki birds to build on their success.

In my next blog, I share with you the history of the Enchanted Tiki Room!


November 15, 2010

Letter Perfect - Magic Kingdom - Part 1

Without signs, we'd be lost. We need them to navigate through life. They give us directions. They label places and things. They educate. They are a necessity.

We also take signs for granted. We use them all the time. However, the moment we understand the message, we move on without a second thought. But signs can do more than just impart a particular piece of information. They can help tell a story if designed correctly. And who tells a story better than Disney?

Today's blog will not focus on the signs at Disney World as much as the lettering used on them. The Imagineers could use "Courier" or "Arial" fonts on everything, but this would be boring and unrealistic. For centuries, new typefaces have been created to grab our attention. And as time passed, these typefaces became associated with the era in which they were created. Other fonts are not as time-driven as they are object driven. For example, a font that is trying to invoke the feel of Hollywood might form the letters out of filmstrips. Without even realizing it, the "letters" as much as the "words" convey an atmosphere. Let me give you two examples of how the wrong font and colors send our brains mixed signals. Take a look at this first picture. The moment you see these familiar names, you know something is wrong.


The Wrong Font


Now let's try the same thing again, only this time, I'll use the same fonts and colors, but put them with the appropriate name. Better?


The Right Font


In this blog series, I'm going to tour the four theme parks at Walt Disney World and showcase some of the fonts used in various areas. But before I do, let's start with the name of the resort, Walt Disney World. It has seen two (and a half) designs since its inception.

The first font used had a clean, forward-thinking feel about it. When you compare this to the font used at Disneyland in 1971, you'll see a stark difference.


Old WDW Logo

Disneyland Logo


There is a reason for this difference. If you remember your Disney history, the Magic Kingdom was to be just one component of Walt Disney World. Plans called for additional hotels, an airport, and eventually EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. EPCOT was to be a futuristic city, so the name "Walt Disney World" needed to convey this characteristic from the beginning. Take a look at how similar a font was used when EPCOT Center opened (as a theme park) in 1982.


Epcot Center Font


As the years progressed, the Mickey Mouse in the middle of the "D" was dropped.


WDW Logo

For Disney's 25th anniversary, the Imagineers decided the resort name/logo needed a new look. In an effort to remember the company's founder, "Walt Disney" was written in a script that resembled his handwriting. "World" was written in "Times New Roman" to set it apart from Walt's name.


New WDW Logo


We'll start our tour of the parks in the Magic Kingdom. Used on printed material, this name has also seen two fonts. However, the lettering that graces the Train Station has remained constant for 39 years.


Old Magic Kingdom Logo

Current Magic Kingdom Logo

Magic Kingdom Sign


Like all guests who visit the Magic Kingdom, let's start on Main Street. The fonts used here are fancy and elegant. America was prospering in the 1890s/1900s and the typefaces used in this era had a rich feel about them. Almost without exception, the lettering used on Main Street are serif fonts.

For the most part, text-type fonts can be divided into two categories, serif and sans-serif. A "serif" is a detail that is added to the ends of the strokes that make up the letter. "Sans" means "without" in French, so a sans-serif font lacks these details.


Sarif and Sans-Serif


Here are few pictures of Main Street Signs. Look how elegant they all are. Also, notice the use of gold lettering.


Main Street Fonts

Main Street Fonts

Main Street Fonts

Main Street Fonts

Main Street Fonts


Tomorrowland was planned in the mid to late 1960's. At that time, our concept of the future featured clean lines and an abundance of concrete. There was almost a sterile quality about it. So the lettering on some of the original and early attractions carries on this feel, even if the font for the given attraction has changed over the years. Take a look at these examples - all using sans-serif fonts. Also notice the choice of color. All are "cool" featuring blues and greens.


Space Mountain Font

Carousel of Progress Font

People Mover Font


But Tomorrowland has evolved over the years. Several of the new attractions have taken on a playful feel. For the most part, sans-serif fonts are still used, but the straight lines seen on the older rides have given way to slight curves and thicker letters on the newer additions, giving the words a playful characteristic. Cool colors are still predominant, but "warm" colors play a bigger part of the design.


Buzz Lightyear Font

Laught Floor Font

Stitch Encounter Font


It was also important to coordinate the signs for "Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor" and "Stitch's Great Escape." Since they are located across the walkway from one another, they must blend with and complement each other.


Signs in Tomorrowland


Disney even created a font specifically for Stitch called "Space Encounter." An example of it can be seen in the "Stitch's Great Escape" attraction. You can search for it on the internet and download it to your computer.


Space Encounter Font


But not all fonts used in Tomorrowland have been sans-serif. When Delta Airlines sponsored "Dreamflight," it was decided that a script typeface would better represent the attraction. After all, dreams should be "soft" not futuristic.


Dreamflight Font


Fantasyland was designed with a medieval European atmosphere. Sans-serif fonts would definitely be out of place here. This was a time when monks labored for years copying books by hand in elegant calligraphy. So it's only fitting that the typefaces found in this enchanted land mimic this ancient art form.


Peter Pan Font

PhilharMagic Font

Snow White Font


Sometimes, one font isn't enough to tell the story. In the following picture we see an ancient typeface combined with a hand-painted sign. We have to assume one of the seven dwarfs added this piece of timber as an afterthought.


Snow White Font


But not all of Fantasyland is medieval. As we head toward Mickey's Toontown Fair, the attractions take on a more playful tone, as do the fonts.


Mad Tea Party Font

Winnie the Pooh Font


Take a look at the typeface in the following picture.


'it's a small world' Font


This is the same font that was used when this attraction played at the New York World's Fair from 1964-65. By the way, the correct way to write this attraction's name is in all lowercase (small) letters with quotes. "it's a small world"

Formality reigns in Liberty Square. This land calls for dignity and decorum. The entrance sign is stately and contains a flourish reminiscent of John Hancock's signature.


Liberty Square Entrance Font

John Hancock Signature


The Hall of Presidents attraction features a simple serif font with "The" and "of" in a semi-script typeface. The gilded letters against a blue background make the words stand out in an impressive manner, befitting of the presentation seen inside.


Hall of Presidents Font


Disney created a special typeface for the Haunted Mansion. These letters portray a stately, yet somewhat sinister message. The font is called "Ravenscroft" and was named after Disney Legend, Thurl Ravenscroft (Tony the Tiger). If you like this font, it can be downloaded from the internet (Google: Ravenscroft font).


Haunted Mansion Font


Thurl Ravenscroft provides the voice of the lead bust in the graveyard scene. However, I've always wondered why the font wasn't named "Frees." Paul Frees provided the voice for the Ghost Host and has a much more prominent presence throughout the attraction. Maybe the Imagineers were playing on the fact that "raven" is contained in the name "Ravenscroft."

At a first glance, the "Sleepy Hollow Refreshments" sign is unremarkable. But if you look closely, you see that the scroll and letters have ragged edges. This is subtle, but it still imparts a message of spookiness.


Sleepy Hollow Font

Sleepy Hollow Font


The font for Liberty Tree Tavern is also rather basic. But by painting the letters in two colors, a three dimensional quality is achieved. This adds a more formal feel to the sign.


Liberty Tree Tavern Font


The Old West was rustic and many of the fonts used in Frontierland are simple and crude. However, the good citizens of this area wanted to make a positive impression on visitors and created a welcoming sign using a typeface that was popular during this era.


Frontierland Entrance Font


The "Frontierland Shootin' Arcade" uses a similar font.


Frontierland Shootin' Arcade Font


The "Frontier Trading Post" and "Country Bear Jamboree" have taken this basic western font and added some flourishes and curves to liven things up.


Frontier Trading Post Font

Country Bear Jamboree Font

"Big Thunder Mountain Railway" reverts back to the basics, but color and shadow effects make this sign come alive.


Big Thunder Mountain Railway Font


There are a number of wooden crates scattered around the queue of "Thunder Mountain." As you would expect, stencils and cheap paint were used to identify their contents.


Wooden Crate


It's obvious this next sign was created by one of the prospectors in the area. Whitewash paint and an old board were all that was needed to convey his message.


Prospector Font


The font used for "Splash Mountain" is ideal for this attraction. Look at the "S." It looks like splashing water. And the line between the "M" and "N" suggests a flowing river. Then of course there is the critter paw print in the "O." This simple sign provides the reader with a good idea of what's in store for them if they continue in this direction.


Splash Mountain Font


Exotic and tropical locales can be found in Adventureland. And this mood is instantly conveyed to the guests as they pass under a sign made of woven matting and bamboo letters.


Adventureland Entrance Font

Adventureland Entrance Font


The first attraction you come to in Adventureland is "Swiss Family Treehouse." But you won't find a tropical font here. The Imagineers wanted there to be no doubt that the inhabitants of this home were from Europe and used an Old World typeface to convey this message.


Swiss Family Treehouse Font


The story of Aladdin takes place in medieval Arabia. On this next sign the Imagineers used a font that ever so slightly hints at the Arabic alphabet. In addition, this is the same font used in the "Aladdin" movie. This provides us with continuity between the story being told on screen and the one being told in the Magic Kingdom.


Aladdin Font


A different, but equally exotic font can be seen nearby at the Agrabah Bazaar. Here too a Middle Eastern feel is captured in the lettering.


Agrabah Bazaar Font


Both the "Sunshine Tree Terrace" and the "Enchanted Tiki Room" use fonts that we associate with Polynesia. But a rascally element has been introduced by Iago with his hand painted sign. This addition tells the guest that mischief is in store inside the attraction.


Sunshine Tree Terrace Font

Enchanted Tiki Room Font


The "Jungle Cruise" presented a problem in that the attraction simulates travels through three continents, South America, Asia, and Africa. What typeface would represent all three? In the end, a font that could be either tribal African or South American was selected. In this case, the mask helps set the locale.


Jungle Cruise Font


The final font we'll talk about in the Magic Kingdom is at the "Pirates of the Caribbean" attraction. This typeface takes broad strokes. It's unafraid. It's in your face. Much like the swashbucklers found inside.


Pirates of the Caribbean Font


That's it for Part One of this series. Check back tomorrow when I discuss the fonts of the Animal Kingdom.


October 16, 2010

Flag Retreat

I'm a patriotic sap. Whenever Old Glory passes by, I unapologetically tear up and get a lump in my throat. And I'm sure I'm not alone.


American Flag


Disney World plays on this emotion with several attractions. First, there is Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom. This stirring presentation introduces us to all 44 Chief Executives and includes words from Washington, Lincoln, and Obama. Nearby, a replica of the Liberty Bell reminds us of the freedom we enjoy.


Hall of Presidents

Liberty Bell


Over at Epcot, Ben Franklin and Mark Twain present us with a 30 minute history of our country in the American Adventure. Before each show, the Voices of Liberty inspire us with a stirring selection of all-American favorites.


American Adventure

Ben Franklin and Mark Twain

Voices of Liberty


But there is another, lesser known celebration of America that happens each evening in Town Square at the Magic Kingdom. At 5pm, Flag Retreat takes place with ample pomp and pageantry. If you haven't already witnessed this event, I strongly urge you to do so.

Around 4:45 each evening, the area surrounding the flag pole in Town Square is cordoned off by Disney security guards and Main Street cast members. At promptly 5pm, the Walt Disney World Band strikes up a lively medley of American patriotic favorites. When the music concludes, they march from the Train Station into Town Square followed by several security guards and the pre-selected Veteran of the Day.


Town Square

Walt Disney World Band

Band Marching

Security Guards and Veteran of the Day


The band forms a semicircle around the flag pole and begins to play the Star Spangled Banner. As they do, the Stars and Stripes are slowly lowered. It is then retrieved by the guards and properly folded.


Band Around the Flagpole

Flag Folding


Once the flag is folded, it is handed to the Veteran of the Day and a brief tribute is read detailing his or her military service. A Disney photographer is on hand to capture all of the festivities. In addition, the friends and family of the Veteran of the Day are given a special place to stand so they may capture the moment on film.


Veteran Tribute


The band then plays the anthem for each of the U.S. branches of the military, Coast Guard, Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force. When complete, the band, security guards, and the Veteran of the Day march off toward Tony's Town Square Café. The entire ceremony takes less than ten minutes.


Marching to Tony's Town Square Cafe


The Veteran of the Day is then given a certificate indicating that he or she took part in the event. They are also given a special Flag Retreat pin and asked not to trade it or sell it, but keep it as a remembrance of this wonderful ceremony. The Veteran of the Day may select (free of charge) one of the photos taken by the Disney photographer and may purchase others. The Veteran of the Day does NOT get to keep the flag.


Veteran of the Day


For many years, doves were released during the ceremony. They flew from the Train Station, down Main Street, past the Castle, to their backstage cages. Unfortunately, birds of prey caught on to the timing of their release and were snatching dinner in midair, much to the horror of guests (and the doves). This practice was discontinued a number of years ago.

So, how do you become a Veteran of the Day?

Before the Magic Kingdom opens, cast members may be mingling with the crowd waiting to get in. If in their conversation, the cast member discovers someone is a veteran, they may ask them if they would like to participate in this ceremony. But this certainly isn't always the case. More often than not, it's the first person to arrive at City Hall and ask for the honor. If you have any desire to be selected, you must make City Hall your first stop immediately after the park opens. Although this procedure does change occasionally, at the moment, you must apply on the day of the event. No advance reservations are taken.

The veteran does not need to apply in person. A friend or family member can do it for them, but it will be helpful if you know their branch of service and rank. Also, no proof of service is required. Disney hopes that in this case, honesty will prevail.

Just in case you're wondering who the veteran is in my pictures, it's my older brother, Dale. After much cajoling on my part, I finally convinced him and his wife Pat to visit Disney World for the first time in 2007. Since they did this more to please me than themselves, I wanted to make sure I provided them with a vacation they would never forget. On the morning we visited the Magic Kingdom, I made sure we were at the gates well before opening. As soon as we passed beneath the Train Station, I excused myself for a moment and dashed into City Hall. Luckily, I was the first to request this special honor. I told my brother nothing about this. Later in the day, I made sure we were at the designated spot at 4:45pm. When the security guard approached us and asked if one of us was the Veteran of the Day, I told my brother, "Don't ask any questions. Just go with this gentleman and do what he tells you."

That night, when I dropped Dale and Pat off at their hotel my brother said to me, "You might as well cancel tomorrow because nothing you can do will top today."

Below is a video of the entire Flag Retreat Ceremony. Enjoy.

Reminder: If you send a comment, you must type "blog" in the appropriate field or your comment will end up in the Junk Folder.




September 15, 2010

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2010

Hi all,

Before I discuss Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, I need to let you know of a change in the way you will be posting comments. Because we have been getting a lot of junk email, we have had to implement a new procedure. After sharing your thoughts, there is one more box that needs to be completed before you press "Post." At the moment, you need to write the word "blog" (without quotes) in this field (this word could change periodically). This will let the computer know that a real person is writing us and not some automated program that generates spam. If you don't complete this field correctly, your comment will end up in a "junk" folder.

Thanks for your help and understanding.

Jack



This is my third year in a row to blog about Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). I always attend on the first night (this year, September 14) so I can let you know what's new and what's changed. But the reality of the situation is this; MNSSHP does not vary too much from year to year. This makes it difficult for me to present you with new, earth-shattering information. It's always my objective to make my blogs as entertaining as possible - and hopefully you will find this article enjoyable. But if you're a regular reader of mine, you might notice that much of what I present here is very similar to my previous year's posts. So if you've been to this event before and are familiar with my work, think of this blog as a walk down memory lane. However, if you've never been to MNSSHP, then this blog will be chock-full of useful information.

For many years, Universal Studios featured Halloween Horror Nights. This was a separate, ticketed event and the park was transformed each evening from its regular theming into a frightening ghost town. It was marketed toward teenagers and young adults and the idea was to truly scare their guests with monsters, vampires, werewolves, and other terrifying surprises.


Universal Advertisement


In response, Disney started their own Halloween party. But since they cater to a more diverse age group, Disney realized that their gathering would need to be more tame than Universal's. Thus was born, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. All you have to do is look at Universal's advertisement (above) and compare it to Disney's (below) to realize these two very popular events are marketed toward different audiences.


Disney Advertisement


On given nights during the months of September and October, extra theming is added to the Magic Kingdom and it is transformed into a playful Halloween experience, suitable for ALL ages. This is a separate, ticketed event and admission can be purchased at any of the Guest Relations windows, theme park ticket booths, or online.


Mickey as a Ghost


Here are the dates for this year's event:

September 14, 18, 21, 23, 25, 28, 30
October 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, and 31
November 1

Note, these parties have a cap on how many people may attend each night. On most evenings, you'll be able to experience a relatively hassle free party. However, the closer you get to Halloween, and especially on the big night itself, the park can be busier than you might expect for a "private party."

Prices for MNSSHP are as follows (all prices listed include tax):

Advance Purchase: $57.46 for adults 10 and older / $51.07 for ages 3-9*

Passholder and DVC Member Discounts: $53.20 / $46.81*

Day of Event (if still available): $63.85 /$57.46

*Not available October 29 and 31. Those two dates are priced at a premium: $69.17 (ages 10 and up) and $62.78 (ages 3-9), tax included.


Party Sign at the TTC


This year, the monorails get into the spirit with new holiday decorations.


Monorail


The party officially runs from 7pm - 12 midnight, however, guests can enter the Magic Kingdom at 4pm with their MNSSHP ticket. Upon entering, you will be given a wrist band and a trick-or-treat bag.


Wrist Band

Trick-Or-Treat Bag


If for some reason you didn't receive a wristband and/or trick-or-treat bag when you entered the park, these can be picked up at Stitch's Great Escape located in Tomorrowland. Here, a number of Halloween clad cast members will be happy to help you.


Stitch's Great Escape

Halloween Clad Cast Members


At precisely 7pm, cast members make a sweep of the entire park and politely, but firmly ask anyone not wearing a wrist band to leave the park.

For the last two years, I have received a number of letters from readers complaining that Disney does not remove all of the "day" guests from the park -- and I'm at a loss on how to respond to your comments. All I can tell you is that Disney does the best they can. If people want to cheat the system, they're going to cheat the system. My only suggestion is to complain at City Hall if this is truly interfering with your enjoyment of the events. I cannot help you with is situation. Please note, if you send me a comment that contains references to this situation, I will either delete the reference or not publish your comment at all.

If you find you're in the park on a party night and don't have a ticket to MNSSHP, but want to honestly partake in the events, you can buy a ticket at City Hall if the party is not sold out.


City Hall


Although some decorations and exhibits are not displayed until the party begins, others are on exhibit for all of September and October. In Town Square you'll find some of your old friends waiting to delight you.


Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow


In years past, I have highlighted some of the theme-specific pumpkins associated with shops like Casey's Corner and the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. And you should definitely check these out. But this year I'm going to show you some of the silly and scary pumpkins that line the balconies and window sills of Main Street.


Carved Pumpkins

Carved Pumpkins

Carved Pumpkins

Carved Pumpkins


Don't forget to check out the Mickey adorned light posts.


Mickey Lamppost


During the first few hours after 4pm, a number of cast members line Main Street with clever signs, welcoming you to the night.


Welcome Signs


Around the Hub are a few more Halloween favorites and after the sun sets, lights may play tricks on your eyes.


2010MNSSHP19.jpg

The Hub Decorations

The Hub Decorations

The Hub Decorations

Lights

Lights


Normally, guests over the age of nine are not allowed to wear costumes in the Magic Kingdom, but this rule is waved for this event. Many children and a fair number of adults dress for the occasion. Here are a few simple rules to follow when designing your costume:

Costumes should be child-friendly and not obtrusive or offensive.

Adult guests may wear masks, but the masks must not obstruct vision (you need to be able to see where you're going).

Guest who dress like Disney characters are not to pose for pictures or sign autographs for other guests.

Do not bring large or dangerous props with you.


Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume


This fan of Disney and Halloween decorated her ECV as her favorite Magic Kingdom attraction, a Jungle Cruise boat.


Jungle Cruise EVC


Since dressing in costume is a big part of the event, you might want to consider making reservations at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or The Pirates League for a child makeover. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique accepts their last reservation at 7:30pm and The Pirates League is open until 8pm. However, I would suggest making an earlier reservation so your child can thoroughly enjoy the party in princess or pirate garb.


Pirates League

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique


Halloween merchandise is readily available at many stores.


Halloween merchandise


Candy is generously distributed at a number of locations throughout the park. Just look for the Goofy's Candy Co. sign. Besides some inexpensive lollypops, name-brand treats are also dispensed like, Oh Henry, Snickers, Tootsie Roll, Skittles, and SweetTarts. Note, these are the miniature versions, like the ones you'd buy to give out from your own home. The selection of candy is similar at all locations.


Goofy's Candy Company

Candy Distribution

Halloween Candy


The cast members working the Haunted Mansion also get a makeover. Besides their regular, somber costume, their faces are made up to look ghoulish. Also, a "spirit from beyond" takes center stage on the lawn of the mansion and entertains guests with wonderful stories of her life, both living and dead. Many let others pass them in line so they can stand longer and listen to her tales. To add to the creepiness, the gravestones are given a spooky look with the addition of low lying fog.


Haunted Mansion Costume

Haunted Mansion Spirit


There are a couple of Character Dance Parties held during MNSSHP. One at the Diamond Horseshoe in Frontierland and another at Stitch's Club 626 in Tomorrowland. These venues do not offer the standard photo op. Here, the kids can actually dance and mingle with some of their favorite characters.


Stitch

Pluto

Jessie

Woody


Character Meet-and-Greets are numerous so it's easy to get pictures with some of your favorite Disney friends as you've never seen them before. In Fantasyland, you can have your picture taken in front of Cinderella's glass coach. I even succumbed to the festivities and allowed myself to be photographed with Alice.


Alice and Jack

Donald and Daisy

Baloo and Guest

Timon

Wicked Witch

Seven Dwarfs

Cinderella's Coach


Presented on the Castle stage is the Villain's Mix and Mingle show. Here, some of Disney's greatest bad-guys and gals dance and rant and try to impress you with their evilness. This show is presented at 7:45, 8:50, 10:05, and 11:15. I shot a seven minute video of a portion of this show.



I think most people would agree that Mickey's "Boo-to-You" Halloween Parade is the highlight of the evening. Shown twice each night (8:15 & 10:30), this spectacle is a hoot. Be sure to find your viewing spot by the announced beginning time as the Headless Horseman makes a mad dash along the parade route to the cheers of the crowd. If you're not there in time, you miss him. Also note, the second parade is significantly less crowded. If you're planning on staying late, skip the first parade and enjoy the park.

The beginning of the parade starts off tame enough with some of the not-so-scary characters, but then the villains take over for a haunting good time. Toward the end of the parade, several Goofy's Candy Company carts stroll by and a number of his minions pass out treats to the crowd. I filmed the entire parade and it can be seen here.



At 9:30, a special fireworks show called Happy HalloWishes is presented. A Ghost Host introduces villain after villain and the castle is illuminated appropriately while color coordinated fireworks burst overhead. Once again, I filmed the entire show for your enjoyment.



Not all of the rides and restaurants are open for this event. But since Disney caps the attendance at a reasonable number, it is rarely crowded and lines are usually short to non-existent. Here is a list of the OPEN rides and attractions for MNSSHP:

Swiss Family Treehouse
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Splash Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
The Haunted Mansion
Hall of Presidents
Peter Pan's Flight
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Mickey's PhilharMagic
Snow White's Scary Adventures
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Tomorrowland Speedway
Astro Orbiter
Space Mountain
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
Stitch's Great Escape
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor (closes at 10pm)
The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm

To see the MNSSHP handout front cover, click here.
To see the MNSSHP handout back cover, click here.
To see the MNSSHP map, click here.

I enjoyed MNSSHP. However, I am an annual pass-holder and visit the Magic Kingdom often. Before I purchased my ticket, I had to ask myself if I really wanted to spend $50+ to see a special parade and fireworks show, because that's what it really boils down to. Yes, Disney has added some holiday theming, candy, and special entertainment, but is that really enough to justify the money. Obviously, many people think so as this event is extremely popular. But you need to consider this before you attend so you won't be disappointed.

Addendum:

For some reason, Disney is telling people that they cannot enter the Magic Kingdom using their MNSSHP ticket until the official opening time of 7pm.

I entered the Magic Kingdom yesterday using my MNSSHP at 4:02pm and the park was already set up to accommodate early arrivals. The east tunnel under the train station was for "party" guests entering the park and the west tunnel was for "day" guests leaving the park.

Technically, Disney doesn't have to let anyone in until the official time, but it's in their best interest to accommodate early arrivals. They couldn't handle the crowds if all 10,000 party goers arrived at the same time.

I cannot definitively tell you that you'll be granted early entrance, but I seriously doubt that Disney will keep you out without extenuating circumstances.


Addendum 2:

One of my readers wrote with the following message:

I just spoke with member services, the first person was adamant that the MNSSHP tickets would not be honored until 7pm, then I asked to speak to someone else. That person called Magic Kingdom and confirmed that they would allow MNSSHP ticket holders in after 4 like you observed. I then had him call Magic Kingdom back and check on the status of Space Mountain for the MNSSHP. They said it will be open! I'll still ride it with my family as soon as we enter the park that day just in case.


Remember to share YOUR experience at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party too!


September 11, 2010

Pecos Bill – Tall Tale Inn and Café

Hi all,

Before I discuss Pecos Bill - Tall Tale Inn and Café, I need to let you know of a change in the way you will be posting comments. Because we have been getting a lot of junk email, we have had to implement a new procedure. After sharing your thoughts, there is one more box that needs to be completed before you press "Post." At the moment, you need to write the word "blog" (without quotes) in this field (this word could change periodically). This will let the computer know that a real person is writing us and not some automated program that generates spam. If you don't complete this field correctly, your comment will end up in a "junk" folder.

Thanks for your help and understanding.

Jack


Many fairytales have become so associated with Disney that it's hard to imagine that they ever existed before the animators brought them to life. Ask anyone the names of the seven dwarfs and they'll struggle to recall Grumpy, Dopey, Doc, Sleepy, and forget the other three. But as we know, it was the Grimm Brothers that first took this folktale and publicize the story of Snow White back in 1812. It's interesting to note, Walt was not the first to give the dwarfs names. This actually occurred in a 1912 Broadway play when author Jessie Graham White came up with his own set of monikers for this band of men. And Walt was not the first to make a movie about this sweet heroine and her protectors. This occurred in 1902 when a silent film was produced by Siegmund Lubin. And other Snow White films were made before and after Disney's 1937 masterpiece debuted. Yet it's Disney's version that we remember.

Pecos Bill has a similar history. Folktales circulated for years about the roughest, toughest cowboy that ever lived. It was Edward O'Reilly who first published an adventure of Bill's in a 1916 edition of "The Century Magazine." Later, a number of his exploits were collected and reprinted in a 1923 book titled "Saga of Pecos Bill." As time went by, other writers added new feats of daring-do to Bill's credit. Between 1929 and 1938, Edward "Tex" O'Reilly and Jack A Warren co-authored a cartoon strip about Bill that was published in "The Sun." But it was Walt who created the character of Pecos Bill that sticks in our brains.

On May 27, 1948, "Melody Time" opened in theaters. This collection of seven "shorts" contained a number of stories including the legend of Johnny Appleseed and the tale of Little Toot. The movie ended with a rip-snorting finale of Pecos Bill's adventures sung to us by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.


Melody Time Poster


It's interesting to note, when the DVD of "Melody Time" was released on June 6, 2000, the cigarette that Bill smoked throughout the segment, and an entire verse from the song which talks about smoking, had been electronically removed.


Pecos Bill with Cigarette

Pecos Bill without Cigareet


Pecos Bill is remembered at the Magic Kingdom with his own restaurant in Frontierland, Pecos Bill - Tall Tale Inn and Café. Its main entrance is located at the far end of town and is housed within a saloon facade. However, this restaurant uses several styles of architecture as the building rounds the corner. Classic Western clapboard construction gives way to that of adobe used in the American Southwest. This was necessary so that the transition between Frontierland and Adventureland would be seamless to the guests as they pass from one land to the next.


Tall Tale Inn and Café Front Entrance

Tall Tale Inn and Café Side Entrance

Tall Tale Inn and Café Back Entrance


Tall Tale Inn and Café is a counter service establishment that serves burgers, wraps, salads, and BBQ sandwiches. This eatery opens at 10:30am and becomes very busy by 11:30am. If you want to avoid crowds, it's best to arrive early. This is also one of the few counter service restaurants that allows guests to place their order with a cast member or via a computer terminal.


Counter Area

Computer Ordering Station


I actually have a love-hate relationship with one of the features in this restaurant, the topping bar. My "love" is generated by the fact that I can garnish my burger, sandwich, and taco salad with all the lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, cheese, and peppers that I like. And I especially like the freshly sautéed onions and mushrooms that are cooked right before my eyes. But I "hate" the crowds this station generates. It can become maddening, jockeying for position as I move from topping to topping - which is why I always arrive early if I'm planning on making Pecos Bill's my lunchtime destination. But in the end, it's worth the hassle.


Topping Bar

Toppings

Grill


There are several seating areas in the restaurant. One section is themed like the old west while another is modeled after a Mexican patio. Outdoor tables are also available and a pleasant place to dine when the weather is good.


Western Seating

Western Seating

Mexican Seating

Outdoor Seating


If all of the indoor tables are occupied at Pecos Bill's, there is a hallway that leads to the dining rooms of El Pirata y el Perico located in Adventureland. You can usually find empty tables in this area.


El Pirata y el Perico Seating


The restaurant's namesake is prominently displayed above a rock fireplace and the legend of this establishment can be found written on a nearby piece of rawhide.


Fireplace with Bill's Picture

Rawhide Legend


Since I'm pretty sure none of you have ever taken the time to read it, I'll present it for you here. And if you're not in the mood to read the entire tale, then just read the second paragraph.

Considered by many as the meanest, toughest, roughest cowboy of them all, Pecos Bill has been credited for inventing all things western, from rodeos to cowboy dancing, to spurs, hats and lassos. He can draw faster, shoot straighter and ride a horse harder than any man alive. Unfortunately, we don't know when and where he was born, just that he was raised by coyotes and that his name comes from the river in Texas. Over the years, Pecos Bill along with his trusty horse, Widowmaker, have made quite a name for themselves forging new trails and taming others. Legend tells us several tall tales, like the time Pecos Bill jumped on a powerful twister and road it like a bucking bronco. Then there was the time when Pecos Bill dug out a path to create the Rio Grande river during a severe drought that hit his beloved Texas. And then there was the day Pecos Bill was so bored he took his handy six-shooter and shot out all of the stars in the sky except for one. That's why they call Texas the "Lone Star State."

In 1878, with the encouragement of his friends, Pecos Bill decided to open his own watering hole, a restaurant whose motto very much reflects its one-of-a-kind owner. "The tastiest eats and treats this side of the Rio Grande." Pecos Bill called it the Tall Tale Inn and Café and it quickly became a popular hangout for some of his legendary friends. As time went by, it became a tradition when each friend paid a visit they would leave something behind for Pecos Bill to remember them by. As you can see from the articles and artifacts that don the walls, many of which carry inscriptions, Pecos Bill had some mighty impressive friends. Seems that every trail eventually led to the Tall Tale Inn and Café.

If you pay attention, you'll notice the building is dated 1878, the year Bill opened Tall Tale Inn and Café.


Building Date


Also, if you check the restaurant walls, you discover the objects left behind by Bill's many friends. Each artifact has been carefully displayed and is accompanied with the donor's name engraved on a nameplate. Pictured here are Johnny Appleseed's pot-hat, Kit Carson's scouting tools, and Davy Crocket's satchel and powder horn.


Johnny Appleseed's Pot-Hat

Kit Carson's Scouting Tools

Davy Crocket's Satchel and Powder Keg


I especially like the artifacts displayed in the next picture. If you notice, the nameplate is intentionally left blank. If you don't get the joke, think about it.


Mystery Friend


While you're in the neighborhood, be sure to check out some of the signs that are posted on the outside walls of the Frontierland buildings. Some are quite clever. I especially like this one.


Frontierland Sign


So there you have the story of Pecos Bill - Tall Tale Inn and Café. Like everything at Disney, it's teeming with details if you take the time to look.


September 1, 2010

New Space Mountain Sound System

Any of you who read my blogs on a regular basis know that I'm generally pretty positive when it comes to Disney. I have my occasional complaint, but overall, I'm generous with my praise. But today I cannot give Disney glowing accolades for the new sound system they installed on Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.

Before I go any further, let me give you a little background. Last year, Space Mountain was closed for an extensive refurbishment. During this time, there were a lot of rumors and speculation that Disney would be modifying the mountain's ride vehicles by adding speakers to each car. People were hoping that the Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain would offer the same audio experience as can be had at Disneyland's Space Mountain and Rock 'N' Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios. However, this did not come to pass. When the Magic Kingdom's version of this perennial favorite reopened, it was music-less. This disappointed many fans and they let their dissatisfaction be known on a number of websites.

Two days ago (August 30, 2010), Disney unexpectedly announced that they had added a new sound system to Space Mountain. In a general announcement they said it wasn't added during the extensive rehab in order to bring the ride back on line as quickly as possible. They also said they did not retrofit the ride vehicles because they wanted the experience to be different than that of Disneyland's Space Mountain. Instead, they strategically placed 60 speakers throughout the mountain. So today I headed to the Magic Kingdom to experience this new addition.


Space Mountain


I'm sorry to say, I was not impressed. Unlike Disneyland's version and Rock 'N' Roller coaster where each car hears a complete piece of music from beginning to end during the ride, at the Magic Kingdom, the music is just piped into the entire structure. And the volume grew and decreased as I road closer and further from the various speakers. And to be honest, if I wasn't specifically listening for the music, I probably would never have noticed it. And I suspect this will be the case with most visitors. The music is more of a mood enhancer than a special effect. If I had to grade this new feature, I'd give it a C- because I'm generous when it comes to Disney.

Bottom line" The ride is better with the music than without, but I doubt that most people will ever notice it's been added.



July 24, 2010

Tom Sawyer Island

I suspect that when most of you are planning your vacation to Walt Disney World, Tom Sawyer Island isn't high on your "must see" list. More likely, you're thinking about which resort to stay at, where to eat, character meet-and-greets, and possibly a ride on Space Mountain and Kilimanjaro Safaris. But you probably won't even think about Tom Sawyer Island until you're in Frontierland and you see one of the rafts transiting the Rivers of America. And that's okay; because Tom Sawyer Island doesn't require any advance planning. It only requires a willingness to experience a low-tech adventure that pays homage to a vanishing part of the American landscape.

Many people think that Tom Sawyer Island was an opening day attraction. But that's not the case. This section of Frontierland didn't open to the public until May 20, 1973. At that time it took a "D" coupon to ride the rafts to the island. Here are three pictures taken of the island, or should I say landfill, in January 1972. The first picture was taken in Frontierland, somewhat in front of Country Bear Jamboree, looking at the south tip of the island. Harper's Mill now sits on this spot.


Before Tom Sawyer Island


This next picture was taken from the Haunted Mansion. As you can see, there was nothing on the island except scrub brush.


Before Tom Sawyer Island


This last picture was taken from the Walt Disney World Railroad looking across what will someday be Thunder Mountain.

Before Tom Sawyer Island


Our journey begins in the far reaches of Frontierland. Here, on the banks of the Rivers of America is a landing where four rafts, the Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, Injun Joe, and Huck Finn, are boarded for a short voyage across the water. Tom Sawyer Island is generally open from 10am until dusk.


Frontierland Landing

Raft on Rivers of America


If you're ever near the loading dock around 9:45, you might notice guests are already lining up to be aboard the first raft of the day. That's because they probably know something you don't. Each day, four to six paint brushes are hidden (in plain sight) in various places around the island. Those lucky enough to find one are rewarded with FastPasses to either Splash Mountain or Thunder Mountain when it's returned to a cast member. Note, the cast members change the hiding places daily so even if you've found a paint brush in the past, you'll have to search the next time you visit. Here are pictures of some lucky hunters.


Paint Brush

Paint Brush


Although there are several spots on the island where rafts can come ashore, generally, "Tom's Landing" is your point of entry. And just in case the long crossing put a strain on your bladder, restrooms are conveniently located here. Nearby is an amusing sign that sets the tone for your visit.


Tom's Landing

Welcum Sign


Also near Tom's Landing is a map of the island. If you take the time to read it, you'll find that every nook and cranny of the island has a name which can be traced back to Mark Twain's novel "Huckleberry Finn."


Map of Tom Sawyer Island


Although the entire island was planted by Disney horticulturists, it has a natural feel about it. You can truly forget you're in the middle of a bustling theme park and pretend you're somewhere along the Mississippi River. Here you'll find oaks, pine, sycamores, red maples and elms. Growing beneath their limbs are dwarf azaleas, firethorn and a dozen other species of bush. An occasional stream can also be encountered as you explore the various trails.

If we start out traveling counterclockwise from Tom's Landing the first point of interest we come to is Harper's Mill. The mill's namesake is Harper Goff, a longtime Imagineer who helped plan and design Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. In addition, the mill's name can be traced back to Joe Harper who joins Tom and Huck when they ran away from home to Jacksons Island.

The grain mill is typical of those found along many of the rivers in the U.S. during the 19th century. It's interesting to note that the structure once sported a more weathered look than it does today. After years of operation, the mill required a major rehab and the water wheel needed to be replaced. The new wheel was constructed using modern bearings and spindles and when reattached, spun unrealistically fast. Imagineers needed to come up with a dampening system to slow the wheel down and make it appear as if it were built using period materials.


Harper's Mill

Harper's Mill


Harper's Mill also pays homage to one of Walt's early animation triumphs. In 1937, Walt Disney produced "The Old Mill," one of the Silly Symphonies. This was the first film to use the multiplane camera, a device that added depth of field to animation. This film also depicted realistic animal behavior, wind and rain effects, and new lighting techniques. So innovative was this film that it won the 1937 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Cartoon.


Multiplane Camera


In one scene of the film, we see a bird that has made her nest inside a gear socket located within the old mill. As a storm outside starts to rage, the gears start to move, threatening to crush the mother and her eggs as the gears join together. But fate is with the bird and the opposing gear is missing one of its teeth, thus, the bird is never crushed.


The Old Mill

Bird and Gears


Inside Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island is a complex set of gears used to grind grain. Within one of these gears you can see a small bird sitting on her nest. She too spins around as the waterwheel outside turns. But this bird is also spared a disastrous ending as the gears never quite crush her.


Bird and Gears


Now it's obvious that the old mill in the animated film looks nothing like Harper's Mill. And the gear configuration is not the same. But there can be no mistake that this is a tribute to one of Walt Disney's early masterpieces.

Around the bend from Harper's Mill we come to the spot where Tom Sawyer convinced his friends Ben Rogers, Johnny Miller, and Billy Fisher to do his chores and whitewash Aunt Polly's fence.


Whitwashed Fence


Nearby is Aunt Polly's cottage, surrounded by one of the most charming porches you'll ever hope to find. This is the perfect spot to sit and relax while the kids explore the rest of the island. This used to be my favorite spot in the Magic Kingdom to have lunch. A small selection of sandwiches, fried chicken, chips, and brownies used to be sold here. It was the ideal "picnic" meal that felt miles away from the hubbub of the other counter service restaurants. But due to budget cuts, the food selections were discontinued. All that is available here now are two vending machines that sell Coke products and bottled water. Sigh"


Aunt Polly's

Aunt Polly's

Aunt Polly's


Around the corner and up a hill from Aunt Polly's is a clearing in the forest. Benches and a picnic table are available for a pleasurable moment with nature. A little further along the trail is "Scavage Fort." This play spot of Tom's was built out of old doors, barrels, and odd pieces of wood. If you look closely you'll notice the roof is actually an old rowboat turned upside-down.


Clearing and Benches

Scavage Fort


Since Tom Sawyer Island is crisscrossed with trails, it's difficult to explore it logically. It's also difficult to describe it in a methodical order. Because of this, we're going to jump back to Tom's Landing (where we began) and start moving clockwise where we run into Old Scratch's Mystery Mine. Old Scratch (or Mr. Scratch) is a pre-civil war folk name for the devil.

This is a mine, not a cave. Timbers can be seen throughout holding up the precarious tunnels. Howling wind, water dripping, and bats' chirps can be heard as you make your way through this very dark passageway. About midway through you discover a beautiful collection of glowing gems. Note, this is a one-way tunnel that will deposit you on the other side of the island.


Old Scratch's Mystery Mine

Old Scratch's Mystery Mine

Old Scratch's Mystery Mine

Old Scratch's Mystery Mine


Not far from the entrance of Old Scratch's Mystery Mine is the opening to Injun Joe's Cave. If you remember, Tom witnessed Injun Joe murdering Doc Robinson and is later trapped in the cave with him. Inside the cavern you'll discover an eerie face and walk across an old bridge that spans a seemingly bottomless pit. Once again, this is a one-way passageway that exits on the other side of the island.


Injun Joe's Cave

Injun Joe's Cave


Both Injun Joe's Cave and Old Scratch's Mystery Mine are very dark and contain numerous twists and turns. It would be almost impossible for an adult to become disoriented but a small child could get turned around. And if your little one is afraid of the dark and creepy noises, you better skip these attractions. Also note, for those of you who would classify yourself as extra-large, some of the passageways will be tight for you.

When you exit the cave or mine, you'll be in the proximity of Poor Ole Jim's Shack and the Barrel Bridge. If you remember, Jim was a slave who flees from his master along with Huck, who is running away from his drunken father.


Poor Ole Jim's Shack


The Barrel Bridge is perhaps one of the most entertaining activities on the island. A dozen or so barrels have been lashed together and covered with planks of wood to create a floating bridge across Smuggler's Cove. Transiting this bridge is no easy task as each barrel bobs up and down as you put your weight on it. And it's just as much fun to watch others as it is to experience it for yourself.


Barrel Bridge

Barrel Bridge


Back near the entrance to Injun Joe's Cave is Potter's Mill. The mill is lovely to look at close up and from afar. You can also explore the inner workings of the mill via a stairwell that circles the driveshaft. The mill's namesake, Muff Potter, was a drunken fisherman and good friends with Tom and Huck. He was also framed for the murder of Doc Robinson by Injun Joe.


Potter's Mill

Potter's Mill


Near Potter's Mill is Huck's Landing. This dock is used during busier times when more than two rafts are transiting the river.


Huck's Landing


A unique feature of the Magic Kingdom's Tom Sawyer Island is that it is actually two islands. At Disneyland, it's only one. Connecting the two is a suspension bridge that bounces and sways as you journey across it. The more people, the more it bounces.


Suspension Bridge


Across the bridge and to the left is Pappy's Fishing Pier. This is a great place to sit for a spell and watch the trains careen around the curve on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.


Pappy's Fishing Pier

Big Thunder Mountain


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


Fort Langhorn

Fort Langhorn

Fort Langhorn

Fort Langhorn


The fort is a lot of fun to explore. There is a blacksmith's shop complete with some simple AudioAnimatronics figures, rifles that can be aimed at the passing riverboat (no bullets), and a simple checker board to be enjoyed.


Blacksmith

Rifle Roost

Checker Board


At one time, you could also purchase snacks and soft drinks at the fort, but this was discontinued years ago.

At the back of the fort is an escape tunnel. This leads to another dark cave that deposits guests along the riverbank and below the fort.


Escape Tunnel


That's pretty much the entire tour of Tom Sawyer Island. This attraction is low-tech all the way and if you're looking for a thrill a minute, then look someplace else. But if you're willing to invest about 30-40 minutes of your time, with realistic expectations, I think you'll find the island has a lot to offer.

Here is a video I shot of Tom Sawyer Island. Enjoy.




July 1, 2010

Splash Mountain Part Two

We all know that Song of the South and Splash Mountain were based on the characters of Joel Chandler Harris. But most of us don't know the background story that the Imagineers gave this fabled mountain.

Legend has it that deep in the "New-nited States of Georgia," live critters that walk and talk in the same manner as human folk. At the center of this magical land is Chick-A-Pin Hill and it's here that the Beaver Brothers had built their sturdy new dam. But unbeknownst to them, Rackety Raccoon had also constructed a juice producing still in the same area. And it seems that while Rackety was concocting a new, experimental brew, he used a few too many blueberries with disastrous results. When his still exploded, it took the Beaver Brothers' dam with it and water began to rush downhill and through the many caves, burrows, holes, and tunnels that crisscrossed the mountain. From that moment on, the local critters started calling their home Splash Mountain and the name stuck.

The lighthearted mood of the attraction is set near the entrance. Here we see a statue of the not-so-bright Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear looking for Br'er Rabbit who is hiding from them in plain sight atop Br'er Bear's club. Under the train trestle are the FastPass machines. These were once crates used to haul cargo on the nearby railroad. Also in this area is one of Br'er Rabbit's Laughing Places intended for critters under 40 inches tall.


Statue of of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear

Splash Mountain FastPass Machine

Laughing Place for Children


The story of Splash Mountain is set in the Deep South shortly after the American Civil War. The background music heard in the outdoor queue sets the mood for this bygone era by playing tunes such as "Polly Wolly Doodle" and "Froggy Comes A'Courtin'." These songs are played on era appropriate instruments like the harmonica, banjo, and mouth harp, all of which were popular in the 19th century. Much of the outdoor queue winds through a wooded area inhabited by many of the local critters. A number of their homes can be seen as you wander about.

Critter Home in Outdoor Queue


The entrance to Splash Mountain is through an old barn used by the critters. Tacked onto the door is the front page of the critter's local newspaper, the Rabbit Tales, sounding a warning. Many farm implements can be found inside the barn, but it's obvious that the main purpose for this structure is to grind wheat and grain into flour. Also, once inside, the music changes to the tunes heard in the Song of the South movie.


Splash Mountain Entrance

Rabbit Tales Newspaper

Barn Interior


In Tall Tale Tunnel we discover clues about the adventure we're about to experience. Here we see a sampler with a wise message and portraits of some of the characters we're about to meet. This is also where we're introduced to Br'er Frog. Here we see his shadow cast against his cave home, spinning bodacious yarns about Br'er Rabbit.


Sampler

Picture of Brer Rabbit

Brer Frog


The main transportation in and around Splash Mountain is via logs, hollowed out by sharp toothed beavers. Our journey begins as we leave the loading dock and make a sudden right turn and begin a climb up a sharp incline. Along the way we see Br'er Frog again, this time in the flesh, lamenting that Br'er Rabbit is in for trouble if he doesn't mend his ways.


Brer Frog


At the top of the incline we sail past Br'er Rabbit's home in the briar patch and head toward the Log Lifter. The Log Lifter is an ingenious device created by the Beaver Brothers to haul logs to the top of Chick-A-Pin Hill. It's also near the entrance to the Log Lifter that folks may get wet. In fact, if the timing is right, you'll get wetter here than on the big plunge later on. You see, as the logs slide down Chick-A-Pin Hill they create a tremendous splash that aims right for the Log Lifter.


Briar Patch

Log Lifter


At the top of this next incline we find a number of indications that critters inhabit the mountain. First we happen upon a charlatan's wagon selling Critter Elixir. This potent brew guarantees to cure fleas, flat feet, and fur balls. Next is a small garden tended to by some unseen creature. Carrots, turnips, lettuce and cabbage are all ripe for the picking. Further on we find a still, presumably not Rackety Raccoon's which blew up earlier. Also dotting the landscape are numerous critter homes.


Critter Elixir

Critter Garden

Muskrat Still

Critter Homes

Critter Homes


Around the next bend we discover the home of Br'er Bear, and just beyond, Slippin' Falls. It's here that our log takes a sudden dip and enters the interior of Splash Mountain and we come face to face with the critters themselves.


Brer Bear's House

Slippin' Falls


Inside the cave we're greeted by a number of geese and frogs, welcoming us to their home with a lively rendition of "How Do You Do?" Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft, who voice characters in the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean (among others), lends his voice to one of the croakers.


Singing Frog

Singing Geese


In the next scene we see Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear eavesdropping on Br'er Rabbit as he tells Mr. Bluebird he's packing up his things and leaving his troubles behind in the briar patch. The nefarious duo start to plot just how they will capture this happy-go-lucky fellow.


Brer Fox and Brer Bear

Brer Rabbit and Mr. Bluebird


As we travel deeper into Splash Mountain, we come across Br'er Raccoon and Br'er Porkypine. They, along with the Baby Bunny twins try to warn Br'er Rabbit that while looking for new adventures he might find new troubles. In the distant background we see Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear chasing after Br'er Rabbit.


Br'er Raccoon and Br'er Porkypine

Baby Bunny


In an effort to snare Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox sets a trap. But the dim-witted Br'er Bear stumbles into it and is caught instead, infuriating his short-tempered cohort. Safe on the other side of the river, Br'er Rabbit laughs and taunts the two and tells them he has a special "laughing place" that only he knows about.


Brer Bear Caught in a Trap

Brer Rabbit Escapes


We run into Br'er Frog again, enjoying the Old Swimming Hole with his friend Br'er Gator. Beyond their fishin' spot are a number of critter homes and we can hear several of the inhabitants singing about Br'er Rabbit's laughing place.


Brer Frog and Brer Gator

Critter Homes


For you trivia buffs, the three possums hanging overhead in this area are named Pansy, Poppy, and Petunia.


Pansy, Poppy, and Petunia


Br'er Rabbit paints a sign saying, "To the Laughing Place" on an old tree branch. Believing what he reads, the doltish Br'er Bear plunges head first into an opening and stirs up a hive of bees. Moments later, a loud crack can be heard as the rotting tree trunk gives way and they fall into a cave below, taking us along with them.


Looking for the Laughing Place


At the beginning of our adventure, the colors used in the attraction are bright and well saturated. But when we fall into the cave the colors become darker, signifying danger ahead for Br'er Rabbit and us.

As we enter the cave, we see a number of beehives hanging from the ceiling and their angry inhabitants buzzing around. Further on we find Br'er Bear has landed on his back and has a beehive stuck on his nose. Br'er Rabbit is also on his back, laughing hysterically. He says to Br'er Bear, "I didn't say this was you're laughing place. I said it was MY laughing place." But unbeknownst to Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox has snuck up behind him with a "beehive honey-trap surprise" of his own.


Brer Bear and the Bees

Brer Rabbit about to be Caught


It turns out that Br'er Rabbit's laughing place is actually a flooded mine that is enjoyed by a number of critters. As we pass through this area, we see several of his friends having a rollicking good time.

A note of clarification. Many people think that the weasel that pokes his head out from the ceiling is saying "FSU" (Florida State University) as an inside joke the Imagineers added to the attraction. This is not true. The weasel is sneezing and says "Ah ah choo!"


Critter Friends

Gopher


Further into the cave we discover that Br'er Fox has finally succeeded in capturing Br'er Rabbit. He has encased our frightened hero in a beehive he secured earlier.


Captured Brer Rabbit


As we start our ascent out of the cave two buzzards pontificate on the sad fate about to befall Br'er Rabbit. Along the rocky walls, strange eyes peer out from the darkness.


Vultures


Near the top of the mine shaft we find Br'er Fox's lair and Br'er Rabbit tied to a spit, waiting to be roasted. In the background we hear Br'er Fox taunting him with a variety of threats. But the quick thinking Br'er Rabbit responds, "That's okay Br'er Fox. Hangs me if you gotta. But please, PLEASE don't fling me into that briar patch." Once again, the feebleminded Br'er Bear doesn't realize that he's being tricked and does just that -tosses Br'er Rabbit into the briar patch and the safety of his home. Of course, all of us in the log come along for the ride.


Brer Fox's Lair


Realizing the error of his ways, Br'er Rabbit decides that home is the best place to be and his Splash Mountain friends all welcome him back with a rousing rendition of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. We also find that Br'er Bear never learns and has become entangled in the briar patch while looking for Br'er Rabbit. While Br'er Fox tries to disengage him from the thorns, Br'er Gator has chomped onto his tale.


Showboat

Brer Bear Caught in the Briar Patch


In the last scene we find Br'er Rabbit comfortably back at his house with his friend Mr. Bluebird. The two of them sing of their good fortune.


Brer Rabbit Back Home


Like many other Disney attractions, your picture is taken on Splash Mountain. Be ready to smile as you careen over the top of Chick-A-Pin Hill. These photos are sold in the shop that you exit through after the ride. In addition, Disney has created two excellent spots for capturing friends and family as they plunge into the briar patch.


Photo Purchasing

Splash Down

Splash Down


The plunge down Chick-A-Pin Hill is 52 ½ feet long on a 45 degree incline. Guests descend at a speed of approximately 40 miles per hour. The ride is approximately eleven minutes in duration. Riders must be at least 40 inches tall to ride. Expectant mothers and those with health problems should avoid this attraction.

I have created a video of this wonderful attraction from start to finish. For those of you who haven't yet worked up the courage to ride, this is a great way to experience Splash Mountain. Enjoy.




June 30, 2010

Splash Mountain Part One

As I so often do, I must start today's blog back at Disneyland. And to begin the story of Splash Mountain, I must first discuss the Carousel of Progress. By 1970, this transplant from the New York World's Fair was experiencing a decline in attendance. General Electric, the attraction's sponsor, felt that the majority of Disneyland's visitors had seen the show multiple times and asked Disney if they would be willing to move it to their new park being built in Florida so it could play to new audiences. So on September 9, 1973, Carousel of Progress gave its final California performance.

To celebrate America's Bicentennial, a new show was designed to fit into the existing Carousel Theater and on June 29, 1974, America Sings officially opened. Like Carousel of Progress, which chronicled the advancements in electricity over the decades, America Sings featured a cast of Audio-Animatronics animals and presented a history of music as you rotated from theater to theater and era to era.

In the early years, this show experienced limited popularity, but it was never as well received as its predecessor. And not long after the Bicentennial festivities died down, attendance began to wane. In addition, the show's "hip" finale had become dated in very short order as music styles are constantly changing. At just three years old, America Sings was already playing to half empty theaters, yet Disney still needed to recoup the money spent on this attraction. In the end, America Sings played for just shy of 14 years and closed on April 10, 1988.


America Sings

America Sings

America Sings


It's interesting to note that several months before America Sings closed, two of the Audio-Animatronics geese were removed from the attraction and their feathers and skin stripped from their frames, leaving a robotic skeleton. With new heads attached, these frames were placed in the queue for the soon to open Star Tours attraction at Disneyland as G2 droids. And to add to the irony, one of the geese/droids now sang a modified version of "I've Been Working on the Railroad" (which he sang in America Sings). The new song being titled "I've Been Working on the Same Droid."


Star Tours and Geese-Droid


During the summer of 1983, Imagineer Tony Baxter was trying to devise a way to draw guests into the often deserted Bear Country. You see, Country Bear Jamboree never achieved the same level of popularity at Disneyland that it enjoyed in the Magic Kingdom and this remote land was often void of guests. What this area needed was an "E" attraction.


Bear Country Sign


At the same time, Dick Nunis, President of Walt Disney Attractions, was pressuring Imagineers to come up with some sort of a water-ride to help guests stay cool during the hot summer months. He argued that "All the other parks have a flume ride." To which the Imagineers countered, "That's exactly why Disneyland should not - we need to be unique."

One day, while making his hour-long drive to work, Tony Baxter was struck with an idea. Why not use the characters from "Song of the South" in some sort of a water ride. Br'er Fox, Br'er Bear, and Br'er Rabbit were well known to the general public yet this movie had not yet been developed into an attraction like so many of Disney's other films. When he arrived at his office Tony got together with coworkers Bruce Gordon and John Stone and started brainstorming. After several days of work, the three men came up with a fairly complete concept for an attraction to be called Zip-A-Dee River Run.

Further development moved swiftly and soon a model of the attraction and more detailed storyboards were complete. Now it was time to pitch the concept to newly installed CEO Michael Eisner and President Frank Wells. Overall, it was an easy sell, but Eisner didn't like the name Zip-A-Dee River Run. He suggested that the Imagineers add a mermaid to the attraction so they could tie it into the recent Disney hit "Splash" that had starred Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks. The Imagineers convinced Eisner that this wasn't a good idea, but he was still insistent that the attraction's name be changed. He just didn't think Zip-A-Dee River Run would appeal to the teenage audience, the target group for this ride. When someone suggested they add the word "Mountain" after "Splash" everyone knew they had hit upon the perfect name as this would add a new peak to the Disney chain that already included the Matterhorn, Space Mountain, and Thunder Mountain.


Splash Mountain Artist Concept Drawing


Splash Mountain marked the first time that an attraction based on an animated film would be built outside of Fantasyland. To that end, it was important that the exterior structure blend in with its surroundings such as the Haunted Mansion and Bear Country. Guests would only see the "cartoon world" inside the attraction's interior. In addition, the foundation for the ride was sunk deep in the ground so the mountain did not overpower its neighbors.


Disneyland Splash Mountain Under Construction


And with so many new animals taking up residence in Bear Country, this land was renamed Critter Country.


Construction Sign

Bear Country Sign

Critter Country Sign


Splash Mountain opened on Disneyland's 34th birthday, July 17, 1989. It's estimated that the attraction cost $75M, an extraordinary amount of money for that time. Although a number of new Audio-Animatronics figures were created for the ride, the vast majority came from America Sings.


Disneyland Splash Mountain


The "official" story of the creation of Splash Mountain maintains that the inclusion of the America Sings Audio-Animatronics figures was part of the initial plans. As the story goes, Marc Davis had created characters and designs for Song of the South that were never used in the film. Then, almost 30 years later, they were reborn in the America Sings attraction, a project Marc Davis also worked on. Moving the AA figures to the new Splash Mountain attraction would be a perfect fit as they were already themed appropriately. In addition, closing America Sings would free up the Carousel Theater for a new, more popular attraction in Tomorrowland. However, according to Alice Davis (Marc Davis' wife), it was the out of control budget, not some grand plan, that necessitated the scavenging of one attraction for another. Reusing the America Sings AA figures was a way to rein in costs. It is interesting to note, the Carousel Theater sat empty for ten years after America Sings closed. It finally reopened in 1998 with a West Coast version of Innoventions.

To give you an idea of how little some of the characters changed when they were moved from America Sings to Splash Mountain, take a look at the next two pictures. The first shot was taken in Act Two of America Sings (Headin' West segment) and features The Boothill Boys singing The End of Billy the Kid. The next picture was taken on Disneyland's Splash Mountain as you begin your assent up Chick-A-Pin Hill and shows the same two vultures dressed identically.


Vultures in America Sings

Vultures in Splash Mountain Disneyland


Attendance soared at Disneyland with the addition of Splash Mountain and soon after its opening, Michael Eisner okayed the construction of similar attractions at the Magic Kingdom in Florida and Tokyo Disneyland. However, these would not be carbon copies of the Disneyland version as the parks were too dissimilar.

At Tokyo Disneyland, the Imagineers created a brand new Critter Country for the park. Here it would be a sort of sub-land to Westernland. This would allow the attraction to fit in better with its surroundings. Although the exterior of this Splash Mountain would be similar to the one in California with its towering Chick-A-Pin Hill, the actual track layout would be somewhat different. Also, the loading and unloading of the logs would take place in two different locations (similar to the Haunted Mansion) and these activities would be located inside the mountain. In addition, the logs were reengineered to create less of a splash due to the harsher winters and cultural differences. The Tokyo version also contained a two-story, counter-service restaurant, Grandma Sara's Kitchen, deep within the mountain.


Tokyo Disneyland Splash Mountain

Grandma Sara's Kitchen

Grandma Sara's Kitchen


Bringing Splash Mountain to Florida would present other challenges as it too had no Bear/Critter Country, but in this case, no area to create a new land either. Here, Splash Mountain would need to be a part of Frontierland and the only available location was next to Thunder Mountain. This would require relocating the Frontierland Train Station. These next two pictures were taken in 1983. As you can see, the approach to Thunder Mountain was vastly different than it is today.


Old Magic Kingdom Frontierland Train Station

Magic Kingdom Thunder Mountain 1983


Another problem the Imagineers faced in Florida was how do you seamlessly blend the American Southwest represented by Thunder Mountain with the Old South of Splash Mountain? These areas are several thousand miles apart in the real world and their topography is vastly different. One way to achieve harmony was through the use of color. Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom would use deeper oranges and reds than its California counterpart in an effort to complement the nearby desert terrain. In addition, the newly moved train station would act as a transition between the two attractions as its architecture blends well with both.


Splash Mountain Under Construction

Splash Mountain Under Construction

New Train Station


Splash Mountain opened to the public three years to the day (July 17, 1992) after its California cousin. This eleven minute ride follows the misadventures of Br'er Rabbit with a thrilling plunge down a 52 1/2-foot waterfall.


Completed Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom)


That's it for today. Check back tomorrow when I'll discuss the story of Splash Mountain and Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox, and Br'er Bear.



June 18, 2010

Main Street Trolley Show

I have to believe that the vast majority of you have seen the Main Street Trolley Show that is presented several times each morning in the Magic Kingdom. But for those of you who arrive at opening and dash off to the Disney Mountains, never to return to Main Street until you're ready to leave the park, you're missing a great "impromptu" show.

The Main Street Trolley Show is rarely listed on the Times Guide, but most Main Street cast members can tell you when it will be performed that day. Also, if you notice the trolley proceeding up Main Street with passengers in the morning, you'll know the show is soon to follow. After depositing its riders at The Hub, twelve performers, dressed in shades of red, white, and blue, hop onboard for a trip down Main Street. Along the way they stop three times to present a lively show to whoever might be wandering the street at that time. On most days, the trolley makes this lively trip three times - usually before noon. The Main Street Trolley Show was first presented on December 1, 2004 and has been delighting guests ever since.

Three songs are sung (and danced) during the show. The first number, "The Most Magical Place on Earth" is also used to help open the Magic Kingdom each morning in front of the train station. In addition, these performers that help kick off our day are the same folk that entertain us on the trolley.

The second song, "Walkin' Right Down the Middle of Main Street, U.S.A." was written by Stu Nunnery in 1978. The song was purchased by Disney and was intended to be used to help roll out Disneyland's 25th anniversary in 1980. However, it did not debut publicly until 1985 to celebrate Disneyland's 30th anniversary when it was sung on a television special by Marie Osmond. And finally, "The Trolley Song" was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and made famous by Judy Garland in the 1944 film "Meet Me in St. Louis."

I have filmed the show and it is presented below. A number of you have commented that your videos of Walt Disney World don't compare to mine. There is a reason for this. When you visit the Magic Kingdom, your purpose is to experience the rides and attractions. Photography is usually an afterthought and is squeezed in when you can. When I visit the Magic Kingdom, my purpose is to create a blog. In this case, I filmed the show four times from four different vantage points. And this required advance planning so I could make sure I found the perfect spot well in advance so no one would block my view. I also found an out-of-the-way speaker so I could record the music with as little ambient noise as possible. In all, I experienced this presentation five times in order to create this three and a half minute video. When I got home, I spent several hours editing the film. The average Disney World guest does not have this amount of time or inclination. But I'm glad I do have the time and inclination because I take great pleasure in bringing Disney magic to all of you when you're at home - wishing you were here.

Enjoy.




June 6, 2010

Main Street Electrical Parade - Walt Disney World

Tonight (June 6, 2010), Summer Nightastic! at the Magic Kingdom officially gets underway with an slightly updated version of the Main Street Electrical Parade. But last night Disney held a special sneak-peak for Annual Passholders (and anyone else who happened to be in the park). I was on hand so I could bring you the magic as soon as possible.

I filmed the show twice (once at 9pm and once at 11pm) from different sides of the street. I have edited these clips together to bring you a good representation of what's in store for you this summer. However, I did not have the most current version of the music so I applied some creative editing to an old copy of the Disneyland version of this score. But what you'll hear is a fairly accurate representation of what is played today.

When the lights dimmed and the familiar "Baroque Hoedown" began to play, the crowd went wild, even though the first float was still several minutes away. People have been anxiously awaiting the return of this perennial favorite. This show only plays until August 14th of this year so plan accordingly.

For more information about this new production, check out Deb Koma's "Sneak Peak" and the "Official Disney Announcement."

Enjoy.




April 29, 2010

Castle Couture - Fantasyland - Magic Kingdom

A new shop has opened in Fantasyland. Replacing Tinker Bell's Treasures is Castle Couture.


Castle Couture


Located across the courtyard from Cinderella Castle, this new shop allows Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique guests to have their royal portrait taken in regal style. But the experience is not limited to just the young princess as family-style portraits are also available here. A studio has been set up and offers a formal setting in which to capture the moment.


Castle Couture


In addition, guests no longer need to pick up their portraits at Exposition Hall on Main Street as they can be purchased and printed at Castle Couture.

Even though the theme of the shop has been altered, the merchandise has not changed significantly with the makeover. For the most part, princess costumes and accessories make up the bulk of the offerings.


Castle Couture

TIP: Be sure to check out Sleeping Beauty's dress as Flora and Meriweather repeatedly change it from pink to blue.


Castle Couture


For more information about PhotoPass and packages available, click here.


April 27, 2010

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Dumbo the Flying Elephant


Lately, my attraction blogs have been lengthy affairs about "E" ticket rides. These have been two-part articles that explore the history and details of some of our favorite attractions at Disney World.

Today's blog will be no different, except there isn't nearly as much to talk about when discussing Dumbo. You see, the beauty of this ride is in its simplicity. If you're young, you really believe you're flying with your elephant-friend above the clouds. And if you're an adult, a smile will find its way to your face and your inner child will escape for a few moments. And there probably isn't anything grander at the Magic Kingdom than taking your child on their very first Dumbo ride and watching their excitement.

I know I usually start these history lessons at Disneyland. And I will get there eventually. But before I do, we must travel back to 1940 and take a look at the movie Fantasia. You see, as much as we think of this film as a classic today, it wasn't all that well received during its first release. The critics gave it mixed reviews and audiences were looking for another Snow White and Pinocchio. Fantasia, having no storyline or real dialogue, left moviegoers confused and it failed to make a profit during its initial distribution. Couple this with the fact that the Studio was still reeling from an earlier strike and a World War on the other side of the Atlantic was cutting into the company's foreign profits, it's easy to understand why Disney was strapped for money after Fantasia's failure. But if it wasn't for this failure, we might not have a Dumbo attraction today.


Fantasia Movie Poster


In order to recoup his loses, Walt desperately needed to make a cheap movie and Dumbo was the ticket. Based on a recently published book, the story was uncomplicated and its circus theme lent itself to simple animation. In the end, the movie was only 63½ minutes long and cost $812,000. When you compare this to Snow White at $1,488,423, Pinocchio at $2,289,247 and Fantasia at $2,280,000, Dumbo was a real bargain. And luckily for Walt and his company, the movie was a huge success. Today, Dumbo is considered one of Walt Disney's finest films.


Dumbo Movie Poster


Flash forward to Disneyland, 1954/5. As wonderful and innovative as Walt's new park was, most of the Fantasyland attractions were simple carnival rides. Dark rides had been around for years and there was nothing new about a merry-go-round. But the Imagineers brought these tired rides to life by theming them to Walt's classic films. And Dumbo was another good example of taking a simple spinning ride and making it magical.

Originally, the ride was to be called "Ten Pink Elephants on Parade." Taking its cue from the inebriated and somewhat hallucinatory segment of the movie, the ride was originally installed with ten pink elephants. In addition, their ears were supposed to flap - an effect that was never realized. But given the no-alcohol policy in the park, it was decided that recreating visions brought on by a drinking binge was inappropriate and the pachyderms were given a new coat of gray paint and Dumbo debuted almost a full month after Disneyland's initial opening.

Dumbo was an instant success at Disneyland and it was an easy choice to be included in the new park that Disney would be building in Florida. However, in the early years, the attraction was far less elaborate and the pistons that raised and lowered Dumbo were plainly visible. In addition, the attraction only had ten elephants compared to the sixteen that fly today.


Dumbo in the Early Years

Dumbo Today


The queue for Dumbo uses a simple switchback design. Fortunately, much of it is covered to protect guests from the sun and rain. Within the queue are several simple diversions. A clown-face mirror and a mix-and-match clown body can help little ones pass the time in what can be a very long line.


Dumbo Entrance Sign

Clown Mirror

Clown Body Mix & Match


As always, I will ask you to pay attention to the details of this ride. Although all the elephants are gray, their hats, collars, and saddle blankets come in a rainbow of colors. Also pay attention to the ride mechanism. Gone are the pistons to be replaced with intricate gears and spinning pinwheels and chipmunks. Overhead, Mr. Stork can be seen delivering Dumbo to Mrs. Jumbo.


Dumbo with Orange Trimmings

Chipmunk

Pinwheel

Gears

Mr. Stork


Surrounding the attraction are elephant topiary and lampposts featuring the matronly pachyderms performing a circus stunt.


Topiary

Lamppost


Keeping everything running smoothly is Timothy the Mouse who stands above it all and choreographs the merriment. It's interesting to note that at the Magic Kingdom in Florida, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland, Timothy carries Dumbo's magic feather. But at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland he holds a whip.


Timothy with the Magic Feather

Timothy with a Whip


Of all the rides at the Magic Kingdom, I think Dumbo offers some of the best opportunities to capture some artistic photographs.


Artistic Dumbo

Artistic Dumbo

Artistic Dumbo

Artistic Dumbo


Pictures of your little ones aren't always easy to achieve from the ground so Disney has set up a photo opportunity nearby where you can take all the time you need to pose the perfect picture.


Dumbo Photo Op


Here are a couple of shots of me getting ready for takeoff and soaring over Fantasyland.


Jack Getting Ready For Takeoff

Jack Riding Dumbo

Jack Riding Dumbo


As you may have heard, Fantasyland is receiving a major expansion. Mickey's Toontown Fair will be razed next year and the land that once was occupied by the "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" attraction will be used to add a new Little Mermaid attraction, create princess meet-and-greet locations, and build a new restaurant based on "Beauty and the Beast." As part of this expansion, two Dumbo rides will be built in what is now Toontown Fair. In addition, the queue will be housed in a big-top tent and will feature interactive entertainment to keep the kids occupied. Disney has said that the current Dumbo attraction will remain open until this newer version is complete.

Also, the "Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm" is rumored to be receiving a new circus theme, linking it to Dumbo. No firm dates have been announced, but individual sections of this expansion are slated to open in 2012 and 2013. Here are a few concept pictures for the new Dumbo attraction.


Dumbo Concept Art

Dumbo Concept Art

Dumbo Concept Art

Dumbo Concept Art


If you have little ones, Dumbo is a must-see attraction. I strongly suggest making Dumbo (and Peter Pan) one of your first stops in the morning. Long lines ensue shortly after opening and 40 minutes is a long time to wait for a minute and a half ride. There is no age limit for Dumbo, but younger children must be seated on the inside of the vehicle.

And don't bypass this ride just because you don't have kids with you. I don't have any children yet I have ridden this attraction at all five Magic Kingdoms around the world - and will continue to do so in the future. As I said at the beginning of this article, the beauty of this ride is in its simplicity.

I have created a short video of Dumbo the Flying Elephant for enjoyment. Have fun!




March 13, 2010

Simple Pleasures at the Magic Kingdom

Okay. Here's the thing. You've been to the Magic Kingdom more times than you can count. You still love riding Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion, the characters continue to charm you, and an ice cream cone tastes as yummy as ever. But you long for something new. What I'm going to offer here are some simple pleasures to experience if you've reached the point where you don't need to get "your money's worth" when you visit. These will be experiences that if Disney still used ticket books, might not even garner an "A" coupon. We'll start in the Main Street Train Station.

Years ago, before Disney merchandise filled every nook and cranny of Main Street, there was a Penny Arcade along this thoroughfare. Here, old time machines like a Kiss-O-Meter and Electric Handshake lined the walls. Sadly, this wonderful spot was removed to make room for more plush characters. But luckily, some of the old paraphernalia that once brought a smile to our faces was moved to the Main Street Train Station.

The first item of interest is a nickelodeon made by the J.P. Seeburg Company in 1927. The instrument contains a piano, mandolin, triangle, xylophone, and castanets which are activated by a paper roll. The machine no longer accepts coins, but there is a switch on the back that you can flip to start the music playing.


Nickelodeon


Also in the Train Station are several Mute-O-Scopes. These predecessors to the movie projector were first introduced in the early 1900's. They contained several hundred picture-cards attached to a wheel. Using a crank, a person can spin the wheel causing the cards to flip one by one and create the illusion of a moving picture.


Mute-O-Scopes


Need a little rest from a strenuous day in the Magic Kingdom? Then buy a box of popcorn and head over to Exposition Hall. At the back of the building you'll find that the old "Walt Disney Story" theater has been remodeled and now shows "Steamboat Willie" and "The Band Concert" cartoons. This is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a few simple laughs. Also in this area are several "cut out" photo opportunities.


Exposition Hall Theatre

Photo Op


Across the street from Exposition Hall is The Chapeau Shop. Here you'll find one of the old time telephones that used to be located at the Market House. Lift the receiver and take a listen and you can eavesdrop on Mama, Anna, Mr. Dinglinger and Miss Flump as they carry on a three and a half minute conversation. The routine is corny by today's standards, but still worth your time.


Old Time Phone


Further down Main Street is the Crystal Arts Shop presented by Arribas Brothers. At the back of the store are several ovens, workbenches and tools. Each afternoon, a craftsman works magic with molten glass and creates pieces of art before your eyes. While doing this, he explains each step of the process, all of which is very interesting.


Glass Blower


Here is a sample of some of the wonderful Mickey pieces created in this shop. Prices range from $50 and up.


Mickey Glassware


Unfortunately, the Main Street Vehicles don't run as often as they once did. But if you ever see the jitney, fire engine or trolley stopped in The Plaza or on The Hub picking up passengers, be sure to hop aboard. The one-way trip is far from exciting, but it's worth every minute of your time. Somehow you feel special when riding in these old-fashioned vehicles.


Horse and Trolley

Jitney


A perennial favorite ever since the Magic Kingdom opened is the piano player at Casey's Corner. Ragtime and oldies are the melodies du jour, sprinkled with some corny jokes and jovial banter. Grab a hotdog and Coke, take a seat nearby, and enjoy some great, live music.


Casey's Corner Piano Player


Over in Adventureland you'll find Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats. This so called "attraction" is intended for kids. But hey, isn't that why you're visiting the Magic Kingdom - to feel like a kid again? So go for it. Spend a couple of bucks and pilot your own radio-controlled boat for a few of minutes. And if you can persuade someone else to join you, you can have sea battles as you ram each other's craft.


Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats

Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats


In Frontierland you'll find my all-time favorite people-watching spot at Walt Disney World, Splash Mountain. Position yourself on the outer bridge and watch the folks as they "splash down." As we all know, smiles and laughter are infectious and you'll see and hear plenty of both here. You can't leave this spot without feeling happier. I've been known to spend ten to fifteen minutes standing at this spot watching excited and often wet people having a good time.


Splash Mountain


This next Simple Pleasure is one of my secrets that I hesitate to tell, but being the great guy that I am, I'll share with you. At the Pinocchio Village Haus Restaurant you'll find one of the greatest spots to grab a bite, relax, and people watch. Few know that there is a second-story balcony that overlooks Fantasyland at this eatery. There are two staircases leading to this spot, one indoors and one out. There are only four tables up here, but you can usually secure one as most people haven't a clue this wonderful locale exists (well, until now).


Pinocchio Village Haus Balcony

Pinocchio Village Haus Balcony

View of Fantasyland


My final suggestion for an uncomplicated moment is to head over to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café in Tomorrowland. Here you'll find Sonny Eclipse performing a 25 minute show. Sonny is a lounge-lizard, literally. He's meant to be background entertainment. But if you take the time to actually listen to his routine, you'll be delighted. He's funny and his show is definitely out of this world.


Sonny Eclipse


Disney parks have so much to offer besides rides. I've given you some of my Simple Pleasures, but I'm sure you have a few of your own. If you do, I'll be happy to print them in the Comments Section following this blog.

As nice as pictures are, they can't always tell the complete story. I've put together a six-minute video that gives you a sample of much of what I've talked about. I hope you enjoy it.



March 5, 2010

Liberty Belle Riverboat - Part 2

Yesterday I discussed the history of The Liberty Belle Riverboat. Now it's time to take a ride on this wonderful vessel. It's okay if you have a large group as the boat holds 450 people. This is also the only ride in the Magic Kingdom that allows guests to get up and walk around while their vehicle is in motion. The Liberty Belle begins operation each day at 10am or 11am and departs on the hour and half-hour. If you find you've arrived right after the Liberty Belle has left port, don't hang around waiting for it to return. The ship rarely fills to capacity and you can usually dash aboard at the last minute. Limited seating is available in the queue and on all decks. However, even on busy days it's easy to find a bench.


Liberty Belle Wating Area

Onboard Seating


Before we set sail, let's take a quick tour of the Liberty Belle. The boat has three decks. As I mentioned earlier, guests enter on the middle deck. Most people head to the upper deck for what they perceive to be the best view. However, if you choose to ride topside, you will be in the sun for thirteen minutes. Others head for the lower deck to find a spot at the very front of the ship. Personally, I like the middle deck best. It's high enough to afford a good view, there are good locations at the front, middle, and stern, and it's usually the least crowded.

On occasion, a family is selected to ride in the wheelhouse. If you're the first to arrive in the waiting area, ask a cast member if you can join the captain.


Liberty Belle Wheelhouse

Liberty Belle Wheelhouse


Just outside the wheelhouse is the captain's quarters. It's fun to take a moment and browse this "luxurious" room.


Captain's Quarters

Captain's Quarters


On the middle deck is a lovely sitting room. However, I can't really recommend using this compartment. You can't see any of the sights from here. The third picture is of me holding a recording device to a speaker. For thirteen minutes I stood there, arm extended, so I could get a good copy of the narration for my video. Several people walked by during the voyage and gave me strange looks.


Sitting Room

Sitting Room

Jack Making a Recording


On the lower deck you'll find the boiler (mid-deck) and pistons (stern) that drive the paddlewheel.


Boiler Room

Piston


A relatively new addition to the front of the ship is this raised platform. Standing here provides a great view off the bow of the ship in all directions.


Observation Platform


As I always tell you, pay attention to the details. Look at the intricate woodwork, the riggings, the lanterns. The Liberty Belle is a beautiful vessel, worthy of your attention.


Woodwork

Rigging and Lantern

Rigging

Lantern

Paddlewheel


As our journey begins, our captain, Horace Bixby introduces Sam Clemmons (Mark Twain) to us over the PA. Knowing that Disney never misses a trick, I knew that name Horace Bixby was selected for a reason so I looked him up and discovered he was a real person, perhaps one of the greatest steamboat pilots of his day. He met Clemens in 1857 aboard the steamer PAUL JONES and later agreed to take him on as an apprentice.


Horace Bixby


One of the first points of interests is the wilderness town that grew up alongside the river. In the early years, there was no walkway skirting Frontierland. This was added years later to facilitate traffic flow during parades.


Frontierland Before the Walkway

Frontierland After the Walkway


Along the banks of the river, we see cargo stacked on various piers. As with everything, details are important. The number "71" is obvious. This is the year the Magic Kingdom opened. The Tell City Tool Co. is a little more obscure.

Located along the Ohio River in Indiana, this real town began in 1857 and was carefully planned by a group of Swiss people looking for a better life. In many respects, this was one of the United State's first planned communities. Three square miles of land was purchased and streets were laid out in a north-south, east-west grid. Settlers could buy tracts of land, but were required to build a two room home to be worth not less than $125.00 within one year of purchase. Factories, schools, and churches were all planned in advance and locations determined. In the early years, riverboats were the only means of transportation in and out of Tell City - which is why the Imagineers selected this town to be represented on the Rivers of America.


71 and Tell City


Another name seen on multiple crates along the river is Russel's Falls. This is in reference to Davy Crockett's sidekick, George E. Russel played by Buddy Ebsen.


Russel's Falls Crate

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To the right we see Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island. After years of operation, the mill required a major rehab and the water wheel needed to be replaced. The new wheel was constructed using modern bearings and spindles and when reattached, spun unrealistically fast. Imagineers needed to come up with a dampening system to slow the wheel down and make it appear as if it were built using period materials.


Harper's Mill


As we travel further, Splash Mountain comes into view. This attraction opened in 1992 and is based on characters created by Joel Chandler Harris. Logs drop 52 ½ feet down Chickapin Hill at a speed of 40 miles per hour - faster than Space Mountain.


Splash Mountain


The next sight is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Modeled after Monument Valley in Utah, this attraction debuted in 1980. The story of BTMR goes something like this. During the late 1800's, gold was discovered deep within Big Thunder Mountain. Overnight, prospectors started mining the ore and soon the town of Tumbleweed sprang up on the mountain's slope. Everything was going well until a flash flood ravaged the mountain and town, ruining any future mining operations. The Liberty Belle offers some wonderful picture opportunities for this attraction that cannot be taken elsewhere.


Big Thunder Mountain Railway

Big Thunder Mountain Railway

Big Thunder Mountain Railway

Big Thunder Mountain Railway


Over on Tom Sawyer Island we see Tom's Landing, Potter's Windmill (named after Muff Potter, a friend of Injun Joe), Superstition Bridge, and Fort Langhorn. From 1973 to 1997 this outpost was named Fort Sam Clemens - both in reference to Mark Twain whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. It's interesting to note, the Imagineers misspelled his middle name on the fort, dropping the "E."


Tom's Landing

Potter's Windmill

Superstition Bridge

Fort Langhorn

Fort Langhorn Entrance


Just beyond Fort Langhorn is an abandoned cabin. For many years, real flames could be seen lapping at the logs and a settler was lying on his back out front with an arrow piercing his chest. Guests were told he was the victim of an unfriendly Indian attack. As sensibilities began to change toward Native Americans, the story was rewritten and we were told that the settler had passed out from his moonshine and his cabin was ablaze due to his still exploding.

Today, the cabin sits deserted and the fire extinguished. Neither Captain Bixby nor Sam Clemmons even mention its existence as you pass by. I've read that the flames were turned off during the Liberty Belle's extensive rehab in 2005. By the time the ship was back in service, the gas pipes, originally installed in the early 70's, had deteriorated badly and it was decided not to replace them. Too bad. However, if you visit Tokyo Disneyland, their cabin still excites guests with real flames as they pass by on the Mark Twain.


Settler's Cabin


The next sight along the ride is an old gentleman sitting on the dock of his riverside shanty. This is Beacon Joe and he keeps track of the river's occasional course changes and marks the river accordingly. Pay attention to Beacon's dog. His head turns from left to right as a fish jumps out of the water.


Beacon Joe

Beacon Joe's Dog

The river also has a number of buoys marking various locations along the journey.


River Bouy


Shortly after passing Beacon Joe's bait shop, we come to a Powhatan Indian settlement. When the movie Pocahontas was released, Disney wanted to add a "tie-in" for the Liberty Belle and the WDW Railroad. However, the Powhatans were primarily found in Virginia, not as far west as the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers. Captain Bixby explains this incongruity by mentioning that they must be following the abundance of wildlife found in this vicinity.


Powhatan Camp

Wildlife

Wildlife


I have to admit, the "wildlife" along the Rivers of America does not represent some of Disney's better effects. Yet somehow these statuesque animals always bring a smile to my face.

Further down the river we find another tribe of Native Americans. However, this time, the tribe is not identified as belonging to any particular group. Next time you ride the Liberty Belle, rather than taking in the entire scene at once, pay attention to the various activities being performed by this close-knit group. You'll be amazed at how many daily chores are taking place here.


Indian Village

Indian Village

Indian Village

Indian Village

Indian Village

Indian Village


Just past the Indian Village are their sacred burial grounds. Those who fall in battle are placed upon the traditional "bed of death" and after nightfall, the tribesmen will return to mourn the great warriors who brought honor to their families.


Sacred Burial Grounds


A rather peaceful section of the river lies ahead until we come to Cut-Throat Corner and Wilson's Cave Inn. Here, river pirates hide away, waiting to attack a passing riverboat. But during our journey, it's apparent that the scoundrels are celebrating and in no condition to ambush the Liberty Belle.


Wilson's Cave Inn


Knowing Disney as I do, I knew there had to be a reason the name "Wilson" was selected, so I did a little research. I found that on the Ohio River in Illinois, a real location called Cave-In-Rock exists. After the Revolutionary War, this hideout became a lair for river pirates who attacked passing vessels. During the 1790's, Jim Wilson became synonymous with the cave, calling it home and stocking it with provisions and opening a business called Wilson's Liquor Vault and House of Entertainment. He would entice unsuspecting river travelers to his establishment, then rob them of their goods and usually kill them. This true story inspired an episode of the TV show Disneyland titled "Davy Crockett and the River Pirates."

As we return to civilization, our boat once again passes Fort Langhorn and Superstition Bridge. Further on, it's fun to watch guests crossing Barrel Bridge on Tom Sawyer Island.


Barrel Bridge


The last major sight we see along our passage is the Haunted Mansion. Sam Clemens tells us that this house was built on sacred Indian burial grounds and is filled with spirits. But he doubts this story and thinks the folks that told him the tale might be filled with 100-proof spirits.


Haunted Mansion


This brings us back to Liberty Square and the end of our journey. I have created a six-minute video of the experience. I know that some of you skip these videos because you're used to seeing some of the schlock presented on YouTube. May I ask that you give my video a chance? I do not just shoot some footage then slap it onto YouTube. I have filmed the Liberty Belle from multiple angles and edited it accordingly. I have removed all the original sound and added clean copies without any background noises. I have also added appropriate sound effects when needed. I think my video gives a good feel of what the attraction is all about.

As I said at the beginning of my blog, there are no surprises to be had on the Liberty Belle. This is a quiet, relaxing journey that transports you to another era. It is definitely low-tech, but I think it's worth every minute of your time.


If you plan to be at Walt Disney World on March 9th, join Allears team members Deb Wills, Deb Koma, Mike Bachand and me at the Liberty Belle at 9:45. After some conversation about this attraction, we're heading over to the Haunted Mansion for a ride. (The Libery Belle doesn't open until 11am.)



March 4, 2010

Liberty Belle Riverboat - Part 1

There are no surprises to be had when riding the Liberty Belle Riverboat. What you see is what you get - a relaxing thirteen minute journey around Tom Sawyer Island as you ply the Rivers of America. Even on the busiest days, this excursion offers a few tranquil moments where you can forget about the rest of the world and actually believe you've traveled back in time to the era of frontier America.

Like so many of my other attraction blogs, I must start the story at Disneyland in California. From the very beginning, Walt knew he wanted a boat ride at his theme park. This can be seen in early sketches of the park he hoped to build on the backlot of his Burbank Studios. Although impossible to be seen on this small picture, the readout connected to the vessel in the water reads "Mississippi Steamboat."


Early Theme Park Plans


But Walt's dreams were bigger than this small plot of land could hold and eventually the project moved to Anaheim. Walt knew he needed to hire someone who could oversee this vast undertaking and remembered meeting retired Admiral Joe Fowler through a mutual friend.


Admiral Joe Fowler

"Can do" Fowler spent 35 years in the navy and retired as a Rear Admiral at age sixty. Walt, being the persuasive person that he was, convinced Joe to join the Disney team where he oversaw the construction of Disneyland and later, the building of Walt Disney World. In all, he spent twenty-five years with the company. But besides his overall skill as a project manager, Fowler's knowledge of ships was extremely useful when it came to the building of Disneyland's paddle wheeler.

The Mark Twain, as the ship would eventually be named, was the first paddle wheeler to be built in the United States in fifty years. The designers at WED conducted in-depth research on the subject and drew up plans for a vessel that resembled the riverboats that sailed the Mississippi during the heyday of steam powered ships. The 105-foot hull was built at the Todd Shipyards in San Pedro, California and the ship's decks were built at the Disney Studios in Burbank. The decks and hull were then shipped to Disneyland for final construction. Walt felt so strongly about this craft that when corporate funding fell short, he used his own money to finish building the vessel. He was reimbursed after the park opened and began making money.


Mark Twain Riverboat Disneyland

Mark Twain Riverboat Disneyland


When the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World was being planned, many of the attractions at Disneyland were considered for the new park and the riverboat was a given to be included. However, in Florida, the ship's name would be the Admiral Joe Fowler in honor of the man who helped build two Magic Kingdoms. Much of this ship was built at the Tampa Ship Repairs and Dry Dock Company, the same location where the park's four steam trains were refurbished.


Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat

Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat

Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat


The Adm. Joe Fowler and the next two Mark Twains to be built and located at Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris are all extremely similar to the original at Disneyland. In Paris, another riverboat also cruises the Rivers of the Far West. This second ship is a side-wheeler and named the Molly Brown after that "unsinkable" American legend. With the exception of the Molly Brown, all are real steamboats and pump water from the river that is then heated to create steam to drive the paddlewheels. The first picture is of Tokyo, the second and third of Paris.


Mark Twain - Tokyo

Mark Twain - Paris

Molly Brown - Paris


The Adm. Joe Fowler began service on October 2, 1971, one day after the opening of the Magic Kingdom. During the first few years of operation, there was very little to see along the route. Tom Sawyer Island had yet to be built and there were no Thunder or Splash Mountains to enjoy as you sailed by. In an effort to make the voyage more enjoyable, musicians could often be found on deck entertaining guests.


Before Tom Sawyer Island

Before Big Thunder Mountain

Onboard entertainment


One of the biggest differences between Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom is the loading dock. At Disneyland, all loading and unloading of guests takes place on the lower deck. Thus, everyone onboard must disembark before new riders can come aboard. The Imagineers wanted to speed things up for a faster turnaround at the Magic Kingdom and devised a two-level system. Disembarking passengers leave from the lower deck while new arrivals enter the ship on the middle level. However, as the popularity of this attraction waned, this more efficient method of loading and unloading was modified and today, no one boards until the last guest from the previous journey has exited. This multi-level system was not duplicated at Tokyo or Paris.


Riverboat Landing


Soon after opening the Magic Kingdom, attraction demand outweighed capacity. The park needed more rides. One quick and relatively inexpensive solution was to build a second boat for the Rivers of America. This time however, the entire craft would be built at Disney World at the various shops located behind the Magic Kingdom. Construction took about six months and on May 20, 1973, less than two years after opening, the Richard F. Irvine joined the fleet and for the next seven years, two riverboats plied the Rivers of America. While one was unloading and loading passengers, the other was sailing around Tom Sawyer Island.

To the layman's eye, the ships look identical with one exception. The Adm. Joe Fowler has two smokestacks while the Richard F. Irvine only has one. It's interesting to note, in some older Disney publications, the Fowler is pictured while the caption reads Irvine (you can tell by the smokestacks).


Richard F. Irvine Riverboat

Richard F. Irvine Wheelhouse


The ship's namesake, Richard (Dick) F. Irvine was a set designer with a degree in architecture. He started working at the Disney Studios in 1942 and in 1953, Walt asked him to join the Disneyland team. Dick would act as the liaison between the Imagineers and outside architectural firms that were hired to design the buildings of the Anaheim park. In the years that followed, he helped design the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. He also oversaw the planning and design of Walt Disney World.


Richard (Dick) F. Irvine


It's interesting to note, Irvine's daughter-in-law, Imagineer Kim (Thomas) Irvine is the daughter of Leota Toombs, the face in the crystal ball at the Haunted Mansion.

In 1980, the Adm. Joe Fowler needed some routine maintenance. But unlike Disneyland, that has a drydock (named Fowler's Harbor) connected to the Rivers of America, the Magic Kingdom has no such facility. In Florida, the drydock is located northeast of the Magic Kingdom and the boat needed to be sailed to this location. Have you ever wondered what the iron-truss bridge is for located just beyond Thunder Mountain? The train tracks sits on a turntable and can pivot out of the way so watercraft can gain access to Seven Seas Lagoon, Bay Lake, and eventually the backstage drydock.


Truss Bridge


What happened next is somewhat of a mystery. Like all big companies, Disney is somewhat reluctant to share the details of its failures - and the Adm. Joe Fowler would become one of Disney's disappointments.

While entering drydock, the riverboat's hull was damaged extensively. One account claims that it cracked while being lifted by a crane. Another says the boat was positioned incorrectly on its supports when water was being drained from the drydock and split. However, by this time, two riverboats were no longer necessary. Space and Thunder Mountains had opened in the interim and the extra capacity two boats offered was no longer needed. The decision was made to scuttle the Adm. Joe Fowler. Some accounts claim that the hull was buried somewhere on property. Others say it was sunk in Bay Lake. I could find no definitive proof of either.

But parts of the Adm. Joe Fowler live on to this day. The ship's machinery was shipped to the then under construction Tokyo Disneyland to become the workings of that park's Mark Twain. And the boat's whistle was added to the #4 engine, the Roy O. Disney at the Magic Kingdom.

In 1996, the Richard F. Irvine was in need of an extensive refurbishment and was floated back to drydock. Luckily, it fared better than the Adm. Joe Fowler and when it reemerged, it was rechristened the Liberty Belle. The Imagineers felt that this new name would be easier for guests to remember and it fit better with the riverboat's home port, Liberty Square. However, the two gentlemen whose names once graced these stately vessels have not been forgotten. In 1999, two of the Staten Island-style ferries that transport guests between the TTC and the Magic Kingdom were renamed in honor of these two men. The third ferry was renamed the General Joe Potter. This gentleman headed many of the early construction projects at Walt Disney World.


Joe Fowler Ferry Boat

Richard Irvine Ferry Boat


I have to admit, I've always been a little curious as to why the Imagineers decided to place the Riverboat Landing in Liberty Square and not Frontierland. I realize that in regards to Disneyland, the dock is in the same spot. But riverboats of this nature were found on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri rivers in the early 19th century, not colonial New England of the late 18th century which Liberty Square represents. But further investigation uncovered the following. Without the Liberty Square Riverboat, Liberty Square would only have two attractions, the Haunted Mansion and Hall of Presidents. The ride was placed here to help round out this land. Also, the "draw concept" comes into play here. When standing in The Hub and looking into Liberty Square, the Riverboat Landing entices you to enter. And finally, the riverboat and landing serves as a transitional element linking Liberty Square to Frontierland.


Riverboat Landing


That's it for Part 1. Check back tomorrow for a trip around Tom Sawyer Island while riding this lovely vessel.

If you plan to be at Walt Disney World on March 9th, join Allears team members Deb Wills, Deb Koma, Mike Bachand and me at the Liberty Belle at 9:45. After some conversation about this attraction, we're heading over to the Haunted Mansion for a ride. (The Libery Belle doesn't open until 11am.)


February 13, 2010

Got A Light? - Part Three - Magic Kingdom

In this third installment of my Lamppost blog series I'm going to discuss the Magic Kingdom. This first of the Disney World parks has a lot of diversity with its many lands and adventures so let's get started.

Out in the parking lot we find extremely tall light towers. They're not particularly attractive, but they do their job.


Parking Lot Lamppost


The Transportation and Ticket Center has similar, yet slightly different light fixtures than the parking lot. Take a look at the actual lights and you can see the difference. Thank goodness the lighting options within the Magic Kingdom show more imagination than these peripheral fixtures.


TTC Lamppost


The lampposts around the monorail station and adjacent area has a simplified "Main Street" look about them. This helps set the mood for your adventure to come.


Monorail Lamppost


A description often used when describing the era of Main Street is, "It's a time when gas lamps were giving way to the electric light bulb." How fitting since street lighting is the subject of this blog. The first fixtures we come to on Main Street are on Town Square and the Train Station. Here, multi-globed electric lights sit atop ornate poles. The lamps at street level are painted in a drab shade of green whereas the fixtures located on the upper levels of the Train Station have a bronze texture.


Town Square Lamppost

Train Station Lamppost


As we leave Town Square and walk down Main Street, we find that gas lamps are still king.


Main Street Lamppost


As I've done in the two previous Lamppost blogs, I've included a few non-lights simply because they cry out to be a part of this article. In this next picture we see a stately clock proudly displaying the current time. And in a way, it is a lamp as it does light up.


Main Street Clock


On The Hub, we find the same glass globes that are used in Town Square, but here the posts take on a simpler, less ornate design. In the second picture the light fixture sits atop a speaker.


The Hub Lamppost

The Hub Lamppost and Speaker


Let's turn our attention next to Tomorrowland. Although there is lighting between The Hub and the entrance of this futuristic land, none of it is in the form of lampposts. The first such fixtures don't show up until you reach Rockettower Plaza and you find them encircling this structure. It would be difficult to find a more simplified design than this.


Rockettower Plaza Lamppost


I applaud the Imagineer that thought up the idea of metal palm trees. These offer a whimsical touch to this concrete expanse and provide accent lighting when "up lights" illuminate the fronds in the evening. .


Palm Tree Lamppost


Along the route of the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, lighting typical of any highway can be found.


Tomorrowland Indy Speedway Lamppost


The rest of the lamppost lighting in Tomorrowland is uninspired. The poles look like the type you might find in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I think this is a throwback to the early visions of Tomorrowland when everything was designed to look stark and sterile.


Tomorrowland Lamppost


Let's move next to Mickey's Toontown Fair. But first, let's take a look at the lampposts positioned just outside this land's entrance (located in Fantasyland).


Fantasyland/Toontown Lamppost


Now let's look at the lamps within Mickey's Toontown Fair. Notice how similar, yet slightly different they are. This similarity helps create a smooth transition between the two lands.


Toontown Lamppost


Next to The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm, the lamps are utilitarian, as might be found on a rural structure, and attach to no-nonsense 4x4s. And at Donald's Boat, nautical lanterns sit atop similar posts.


Barnstormer Lamppost

Donald's Boat Lamppost


There is a walkway that connects Mickey's Toontown Fare with Tomorrowland. The first picture shows the lamps lining the initial half of the path, while the second photo displays the lights closer to Tomorrowland. Notice again how similar, yet different they are, providing a smooth transition between lands. Also notice that the Tomorrowland globes have a ring around them, suggesting the planet Saturn.


Toontown/Tomorrowland Walkway Lamppost

Toontown/Tomorrowland Walkway Lamppost


My final mention in Mickey's Toontown Fair is not a lamppost, but I felt it qualified for an honorable mention since it's tall, slender, and lights up at the top.


Train Signal


In Fantasyland there are a number of lovely lanterns located in and around Cinderella Castle. The colored glass used in these fixtures provides atmospheric enhancement more than useful lighting


Castle Lamppost


Playful lampposts surround Dumbo. Pay special attention to the decorative tops. A scene from the movie is recreated here.


Dumbo Lamppost

Dumbo Lamppost Top


One of the most unusual lighting creations was designed for Ariel's Grotto. This seaweed and shell lamp fits right in "under the sea."


Ariel's Grotto Lamppost


Another bit of unusual lamppost design can be found near the Mad Tea Party. In this case, fanciful leaves and flowers create whimsical illumination for the area.


Mad Tea Party Lamppost


The lampposts near Pooh's Playful Spot are rustic and are just what you'd expect to find in the 100 Acre Wood.


Pooh's Playful Spot Lamppost


The majority of the lampposts scattered around Fantasyland are black wrought iron and typical of what might have been found in a European village of long ago.


Fantasyland Lamppost

Fantasyland Lamppost

Fantasyland Lamppost


As we travel into Liberty Square, we see lighting fixtures lining the bridge. These posts are actually part of the structure's design.


Liberty Square Entrance Lamppost


There are two lampposts in front of Hall of Presidents. These simple, colonial fixtures would be inconsequential if not for the eagles perched on the top of each.


Hall of Presidents Lamppost

Hall of Presidents Lamppost Top


As you might expect, the Haunted Mansion has its own unique lampposts. Years of neglect have allowed a green patina to form on the metal's surface and the lamps themselves have a spooky look about them.


Hall of Presidents Lamppost


The rest of the lighting in Liberty Square fits right in with the Federal and Georgian architecture of the area. These lanterns, in days gone by, would have been lit each evening by a lamplighter.


Liberty Square Lamppost


My final non-light for this blog is one of the birdhouses found near Hall of Presidents. In reality, no birds live here as this is just a hiding place for a speaker.


Liberty Square Birdhouse


Now let's jump over to the entrance of Adventureland. Several years ago, a bridge was built linking this area with Liberty Square. The lamppost that guards this passageway is another good example of transition. The ropes binding the beams together have more of an Adventureland feel while the lanterns would be more at home in Liberty Square.


Adventureland/Liberty Square Lamppost


This next photo is of the lamppost that illuminates the entrance walkway into Adventureland.


Adventureland Entrance Lamppost


The basic lamppost used in the first half of Adventureland has a colonial feel about it -- as if it was transported here by Europeans as they discovered new territories.


Adventureland Lamppost


Near Swiss Family Treehouse, the lampposts are makeshift. The family used salvaged goods from the shipwreck to fashion lighting fixtures.


Swiss Family Treehouse Lamppost


The lampposts that surround Magic Carpets of Aladdin are ornate and suggest a locale somewhere in the Middle East. Once again, the colored glass allows these lights to function more as a decorative enhancement than a functional bit of lighting.


Magic Carpets of Aladdin Lamppost


In Caribbean Plaza, the lampposts are very elaborate and fit nicely with the Spanish colonial architecture.


Caribbean Plaza Lamppost


The final section of the Magic Kingdom I'll be discussing is Frontierland. Here, almost all of the lighting is in the form of kerosene lanterns (electrified) hung or mounted on a rustic pole.


Frontierland Lamppost

Frontierland Lamppost

Frontierland Lamppost

Frontierland Lamppost

Frontierland Lamppost


It's interesting to note that the wooden walkway that skirts the Rivers of America has two different lanterns. The first picture shows the lights closer to Liberty Square and the second displays the fixtures closer to Splash Mountain. Once again, the use of different light helps with the transition between the two lands.


Frontierland Walkway Lamppost

Frontierland Walkway Lamppost


Well that's it for the Magic Kingdom. Tomorrow I'll post the final blog in this series all about Disney's Animal Kingdom.

January 29, 2010

Cinderella Castle Mosaic Murals

I'm going to make the assumption that all of you have at least noticed the five mosaic murals that line the wall along the corridor that passes through Cinderella Castle. These magnificent works of art were designed by Disney Legend Dorthea Redmond and tell an abridged version of the classic story "Cinderella."

Artisan Hanns-Joachim Scharff took Dorthea's drawings and enlarged them to full-scale, each measuring fifteen feet high and ten feet wide. Sections of these enlarged drawings were then covered with fabric netting. With the help of his wife and daughter, Scharff hand cut and shaped over one million pieces of glass, bits of gold and silver, and numerous "jewels." More than 500 colors were employed. Using the pattern beneath the netting, the mosaic pieces were meticulously glued, one by one, face down onto the fabric. The assembled sections were then transported to Cinderella Castle where a team of six craftsmen pressed them into wet cement that had been applied to the walls.


Installing the Tiles

Installing the Tiles


After the cement had dried, the fabric netting was carefully removed. Then a coating of special mortar was applied and worked into the gaps between the tiles to ensure that each tiny mosaic would stay in place and could withstand the touch of millions of hands. The entire process took two years to complete.


Castle Walkway and Murals


While taking the pictures for this blog, I spent a fair amount of time in the castle's archway. This was necessary since I had to patiently wait for people to pass by in order to get unobstructed shots of the murals. I soon became aware at how quickly guests breeze through this area on their way to Fantasyland. Most people never gave these murals even a passing glance. And those that did, only slowed down slightly. I heard one mother say to her daughter, "Look honey. It's Cinderella" as she tugged on the child's hand so as not to slow down their forward momentum.

I totally understand the need to get to Dumbo and Peter Pan before long lines ensue. But I really hope that some of these hurried souls might return later in the day to study this beautiful masterpiece in a little more detail.

Let's start with the first mural. Here we see Lady Tremaine reading the invitation to the upcoming ball. Standing next to her are her two, spoiled daughters Drizella and Anastasia. Mistreated Cinderella is nearby, slaving away. Also in the scene are Bruno the dog and Lucifer the cat.


Mural One

Mural One


The story-telling portion of the next mural is high above a doorway. Here we see Cinderella's fairy godmother transforming her rag-dress into a beautiful gown. Her pumpkin coach can be seen in the background. It's interesting to note, some of the characters depicted on these murals bear a resemblance to their movie counterpart -- but the fairy godmother does not.


Mural Two

Mural Two


Next we find our heroine at the ball. The court is assembled in the foreground and at the top of the stairs we see Cinderella dashing off, leaving a glass slipper behind. A full moon, that looks very much like the bright sun, is shining in the sky.


Mural Three

Mural Three


The fourth mural brings us to that fateful moment when Cinderella tries on the slipper. Special care was given to the stepsister's faces in this scene. Anastasia is colored red to signify anger and Drizella is green with envy. The footman's face is that of Herb Ryman and the gentleman behind him bears the countenance of John Hench. Both men started their Disney careers as animators and went on to have significant input in the building of the New York World's Fair, Disneyland, and Walt Disney World.


Mural Four

Mural Four


In the final scene we see Prince Charming taking Cinderella away from her misery to live happily ever after.


Mural Five


While studying the murals, also pay attention to the carvings atop each column. Cinderella's mice and feathered friends are exquisitely carved into the stone.


Column Capital


And while you're in the area, pay attention to some of the other nearby details. First, take a look at the large castle doors. Study the right one closely and you can see a door-within-a-door. This feature was used in medieval structures. When the large doors are closed, this smaller door allowed individuals access into the castle without opening up the entire fortress to possible danger.


Large Castle Doors


Just inside the castle is another doorway. Notice the detailed carvings and the fanciful metal pieces that fasten the door together. And a nearby lamp also displays intricate metalwork.


Small Castle Door

Castle Light Fixture


Behind the castle is a lovely courtyard with a beautiful fountain. Here we find a bronze statue of Cinderella and some of her creature friends. Cinderella's fairy godmother can often be found in this area ready to pose for pictures.


Cinderella Fountain

Cinderella Fountain

Fairy Godmother


I really encourage you to stroll, not run, through the castle one day and take a look at the murals. This really won't take you more than five minutes, but it's well worth your time. Note, during the Castle Forecourt show, this section of the castle is closed to guests so plan accordingly.

January 9, 2010

Have a Seat in Walt Disney World - Part 1

Anyone who has ever visited a theme park knows that it doesn't take very long before your feet begin to hurt and your back begins to ache. Most of us just don't spend that much time walking -- and standing -- anymore. We often tucker out quickly. So it's no surprise that Disney has placed seating options just about everywhere. It doesn't take a genius to know that sore bodies make grumpy guests.

But 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.

Let's start in the Magic Kingdom.

Main Street doesn't have much general seating. This is because this thoroughfare is primarily used to enter and exit the park. Most guests have little need to sit down here as they're too busy getting to where they're going. However, if you do decide you need to rest your weary bones, the porch outside of Exhibition Hall has a number of nifty rocking chairs to relax on.


Exhibition Hall Rocking Chair


Also in front of Exhibition Hall you can find Goofy taking a rest from the park. Although folks should remember, this bench is more of a photo-op than a place to spend any significant amount of time.


Goofy on a Bench


Across the Plaza near Package Pick-up is a beautiful turn-of-the-century wrought iron bench.


Package Pick-up Bench


Halfway down Main Street, toward the back of Center Street you can find a number of tables and chairs. If you want to escape the crowds, this is one of the best spots in the Magic Kingdom as this area is seldom busy. The furniture here has an old-time, ice cream parlor design.


Center Street Table and Chairs


In The Hub we find what I call the "basic-green-Disney-bench." This design and color has been around since the early Disneyland days and can be found in all five Magic Kingdoms around the world.


Basic Green Hub Bench


The old Swan Boat landing offers another tranquil spot to spend some time away from the hordes. Once again, a turn-of-the-nineteenth-century theme is used for the tables and chairs.


Swan Boat Landing

Swan Boat Seating


And for you smokers, Disney has set aside one of the most beautiful spots in the park to relax and unwind.


Smoking Section

Smoking Section


In Tomorrowland we find a trick that Disney uses time and time again -- turn a retaining wall into additional seating. Here we see a planter, designed with a ledge at the perfect height to accommodate our bottoms.


Tomorrowland Planter Seating


Around many of the PeopleMover (TTA) pylons, the Imagineers have created sculpture-like benches. Artistic? Yes. Comfortable? No. But when you need to rest, "hard" is better than nothing.


PeopleMover Pylon Seating


In keeping with the futuristic theme of Tomorrowland, this next bench has a streamlined appearance.


Tomorrowland Bench


Near the Indy Speedway are a number of sleek and modern tables and chairs.


Tomorrowland Tables and Chairs


In Fantasyland we find more ornate benches, befitting of the old-world charm of the area.


Ornate Fantasyland Seating


Near Ariel's Grotto the tables and chairs are painted in festive colors. Also notice, another planter has been used to create additional seating.


Colorful Fantasyland Seating

Colorful Fantasyland Seating and Wall/Bench


Since Winnie the Pooh lives in the Hundred Acre Wood, it makes sense that the benches and chairs located here take on a more outdoorsy look.


Hundred Acre Wood Seating

Hundred Acre Wood Seating


The seating in Liberty Square reflects its colonial roots. The second bench is rather austere.


Liberty Square Bench

Liberty Square Bench


Liberty Square also offers two places in which you can find rocking chairs. One is on the porch to the right side of Hall of Presidents and the other is just outside the Yankee Trader Shop. Both of these spots are popular with guests and it's often difficult to secure a seat here.


Hall of Presidents Rocking Chair

Yankee Trader Rocking Chair


As you would expect, Frontierland offers rustic seating. The support for this next bench was fashioned out of wagon wheels.


Wagon Wheel Bench


A log cabin design can be found on this next resting spot.


Log Cabin Bench


In the mood for a game of checkers? This table and chairs is located out front of the Shootin' Arcade.


Checkers Table and Stools


And finally in Frontierland, more rocking chairs are on hand along the boardwalk. If you look closely, you'll notice these are the exact same chairs as on Main Street and in Liberty Square, only with a different finish.


Frontierland Rocking Chair


Our final stop in the Magic Kingdom is Adventureland. Near the entrance to this exotic land is a large planter made of volcanic rocks. Once again, seating has been designed into the structure.


Adventureland Entrance Planter Bench


Another planter/bench can be found near the Swiss Family Treehouse. If you look closely, you'll see some of the wrecked ship's flotsam incorporated into the design.


Swiss Family Planter/Bench


Across from the Treehouse is a covered porch. Here, a number of tables and chairs provide the perfect escape from the sun. Their color and design suggest a tropical feel.


Adventureland Tables and Chairs


Near the Enchanted Tiki Room simple slat benches can be found. This open-air design is perfect for a hot and humid climate.


Adventureland Benches


Our next stop on this seating tour is Epcot. Come back tomorrow for Part 2!

December 27, 2009

“it’s a small world” - The Happiest Cruise that Ever Sailed Around the World

This article recently appeared in the weekly newsletter. But due to the hectic holidays, I'm reprinting it as a blog to give myself a break. For those of you who have already read it, there are pictures included here that were not printed in the newsletter. Thanks for understanding that I need a week off.

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The idea for "it's a small world" (IASW) had played in Walt's mind for many years. He wanted to create some sort of show that featured the children of the world singing in harmony and peace. But when an opportunity for his dream presented itself, the idea was almost snuffed out before it began.

In February 1963, representatives of Pepsi-Cola spoke with Admiral Joe Fowler, the man who's will, determination, and fortitude helped Walt build Disneyland. Pepsi explained that they wanted to sponsor a pavilion at the upcoming New York World's Fair in conjunction with UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund. With the fair's opening date only a year away, "can do" Fowler turned them down. He told them that there simply wasn't enough time to undertake such an enormous project, especially since the company was already committed to three other fair projects, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Progressland (Carousel of Progress), and Magic Skyway (Primeval World). When Walt learned that Fowler had sent Pepsi away empty handed, he was furious. He let Fowler know of his displeasure in no uncertain words and told Pepsi that Disney was up to the challenge.

One month later, in March 1963, construction began in New York on the building that would house IASW, even though the Imagineers still only had vague concepts as to what would be built in its interior. Back in California, a studio soundstage was converted into a mock-up area for the new attraction. With precious little time left, the ideas and concepts of Mary Blair, Marc & Alice Davis, and Joyce Carlson were turned into showpieces and animated dolls. As soon as a doll was completed, it was set in place along the "canal" that Claude Coats had devised. By constructing a trough/river, with pumps forcing jets of water into the channel, Coats found that he could propel flat bottomed boats at a rate of just shy of one and a half miles per hour - the perfect speed for viewing an attraction of this nature. Another benefit of this system was the large amount of people it could handle as each boat could hold approximately twenty guests. Also, boats are smooth and quite, whereas tracks and wheels are jerky and noisy.

The original idea for the attraction called for about 25 national anthems to be sung by the various dolls. In very short order it was discovered that these anthems did not harmonize and a discordant cacophony emerged. Songwriters Robert & Richard Sherman were working on the score of Mary Poppins at the time, but the urgency of IASW prompted Walt to temporarily pull them off of that project. Walt told them, "I need something and I need it right away. It should talk about unity and understanding and brotherly love, but don't get preachy. And I need it yesterday because it has to be translated into a whole lot of different languages." Of course, we all know that the team came up with one of the catchiest songs ever written - a song that plays in your head for days after visiting a Disney park. In the end, the song was only sung in five languages, English, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Swedish.

The original name of the attraction was to be "The Children of the World," but after the Sherman brothers wrote their immortal song, the name was changed to "it's a small world." Also note, the name is always seen in quotes and all of the letters are lowercase.

On a side note, the Sherman brothers told Walt that they wanted to donate their royalties to UNICEF. Walt told them that UNICEF would make plenty of money at the fair and to keep their percentage to send their kids to college.

The fair opened on April 22, 1964 and IASW was an immediate success. Over the next two years, over ten million guests visited this pavilion. Below is a postcard of IASW.


Small World at the NY World's Fair


The large kinetic sculpture to the right side of the picture is called "The Tower of the Four Winds." Designed by Rolly Crump, this 120 foot high steel mobile had over fifty moving object that turned and rotated in the wind. Its endless movement represented the constant energy of young children and this piece of art became one of the fair's landmarks.


Tower of the Four Winds


Walt knew all along that once the fair closed, he would move his four attractions to Disneyland. Construction started in June, 1965 on what would eventually become IASW's new home in Anaheim. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was the first east coast attraction to open at Disneyland in July 1965, followed by IASW in June, 1966. Unfortunately, the expense of moving "The Tower of the Four Winds" proved to be prohibitive and the sculpture was cut into pieces and hauled away as junk. But the tower hasn't been completely forgotten. A stylized representation of "The Tower of the Four Winds" can be seen across from the elevators on the fourth floor of the Contemporary Resort.


Contemporary Model of Tower of the Four Winds


Whereas the exterior of the attraction was uninspired in New York, California would be a different story. A large façade featuring landmarks of the world was built. Painted white with gold accents, this new exterior was impressive, especially when the Disneyland Railroad passed through this elaborate backdrop.


Disneyland Small World

Disneyland Small World and Train


A large decorative clock would become the centerpiece of this new structure. Every fifteen minutes, gadgets spun, numbers pulsated, and dolls of the world paraded beneath the giant doors that opened to reveal the time. This was also the first time that topiary was use to any extent at Disneyland.


Small World Clock

Small World Topiary


For the grand opening celebration, children from around the world were invited to Disneyland and asked to pour water from their native land into the canal. And just like at the World's Fair, the Disneyland version of IASW, now 33% larger than its predecessor, was an immediate crowd pleaser.

When the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World was in the planning stages, it was a given that IASW would be one of the opening day attractions. Knowing that the heat and rain in Florida can be more severe than in California, the Imagineers decided to enclose the queue area. In addition, the exterior of the attraction would be given a "castle/tournament/medieval fair" style that blended with the other Fantasyland rides.


Magic Kingdom Small World 1970's


For the most part, guests who had seen the New York version of IASW thought the Florida exterior was a nice improvement. But for those guests that were familiar with the Disneyland version, disappointment ensued. The Magic Kingdom's entrance lacked the magic of its California counterpart. And the interior portion of the queue was little better - a dark room with multicolored cutouts adorning the walls.


Magic Kingdom Small World Queue

Magic Kingdom Small World Queue


This was a mistake that the Imagineers would not repeat. When IASW was built in Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong, the exteriors more resembled Disneyland than the Magic Kingdom.

One of the unique features of Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean is the Blue Bayou Restaurant - an eatery inside the attraction. Here guests can enjoy a meal while watching the boats sail by. The Imagineers wanted to duplicate this effect in Florida, but since Pirates of the Caribbean was not planned for the Magic Kingdom, some other attraction was needed to recreate this effect. Since both IASW and POTC both use similar boats, the decision was not difficult as to which Florida attraction to incorporate with a restaurant. The Imagineers placed Pinocchio Village Haus, the counter service restaurant in Fantasyland, adjacent to IASW so they could unite these two locations. Unfortunately, after all the plans were drawn and construction complete, only seven tables actually overlook the attraction.


Pinocchio Village Haus/Small World

Pinocchio Village Haus/Small World

Pinocchio Village Haus/Small World


The effect is nice, but it isn't anywhere near as charming as the Blue Bayou Restaurant. It wouldn't be until the San Angel Inn located next to the El Rio del Tiempo in the Mexico Pavilion opened at Epcot that this wonderful design would be executed properly at Walt Disney World.


San Angel Inn


Another change made at the Magic Kingdom was the elimination of the "trough" that the boats sailed through at Disneyland. In the Florida version, a sea of water covers the entire attraction floor with hidden guide rails beneath the surface.


Small World Boats


On May 1, 2004, IASW closed for a major renovation. Over the next year, a digitally enhanced soundtrack was added, the dolls costumes were refurbished, and the entire attraction received a fresh coat of paint. But the most obvious change came to the queue. First, the main entrance was moved from the right side of the attraction to the left. But more importantly, the loading and unloading area was given a complete make over. Now it resembles its Disneyland counterpart, although on a smaller scale, with multiple world landmarks painted white and accented in gold. In addition, a giant whimsical clock was added. The reborn attraction reopened on March 18, 2005.

I mentioned earlier that the exterior of IASW was designed to resemble a medieval fair. If you look closely at the portico, the roof is held up by jousting poles. Also on the exterior of the attraction are generic coats-of-arms to represent royal lineage.


Jousting Poles

Coat's-of-Arms


IASW has seven scenes, Europe, Asia, Africa, Central/South America, the South Pacific, the Finale, and the Good-Bye Scene. Within these scenes, over one hundred different areas of the world are represented using 289 dolls, 147 toys, and 36 animated props. The attraction holds 500,000 gallons of water and the canal length is 1,085 feet. The voyage around the world takes ten and a half minutes.

Mary Blair, the art director for the project, used colors effectively to help tell the story of IASW. Since Europe was the first room guests would encounter, she wanted to create a "big splash" and used a multitude of color to represent the various countries. In Asia and the Middle East, yellow was the primary hue used to convey a warm climate. In Africa, blues and greens were used to suggest a nighttime environment. Yellow, orange, and rust painted the scenes in Central and South America while greens and oranges were selected for the rainforest. The South Pacific used a pallet of greens and purples to set a tropical tone. And of course the finale is all in white.

Although a cowboy and Native American are among the dolls in the Finale Room (representing the U.S.), North America does not have a room of its own. Not until IASW was built at Disneyland Paris would this continent be represented.

There are two primary types of dolls used in IASW. The first and most prevalent is the AudioAnimatronics, round-faced girls and boys. Upon closer examination, they all look pretty similar to one another. Unlike sophisticated AA figures, these dolls display a minimal amount of movement that might include eyes blinking, lips moving, and arms and legs extending. The secondary figures are rough textured children, animals, and toys decorated primarily in paint and glitter.


Small World Dolls

Small World Dolls


Some of you might remember a frowning clown hanging from a hot-air balloon in the Finale Room. Alas, this lone unhappy fellow was given a smile during the refurbishment and his "Help" sign was replaced with a balloon. I miss him.

I have prepared a short video of the attraction. WARNING! If you choose to watch this video, you will have this infernal song stuck in your head for hours, possibly days.

Enjoy.



November 24, 2009

Space Mountain Reopens

On Sunday, November 22, Space Mountain reopened after a seven-month rehab -- just in time for the holidays.


Space Mountain


One of the first things you might notice is the old, adjacent Tomorrowland Skyway Terminal has been razed, save the restrooms. In its place, the Imagineers added a nice plaza. This is a welcome change and adds an open feeling to this area. Other than that, the exterior and entrance is pretty much as it was.


Skyway Demolition

Space Mountain Plaza

Space Mountain Entrance


The queue area is where you'll find some of the most obvious changes. When you first enter the mountain, you come face-to-face with a large advertisement for space travel. The sign reads, "Welcome Space Travelers - STARPORT SEVEN-FIVE - Your Gateway to the Galaxy." The "SEVEN-FIVE" is in reference to the year Space Mountain opened, 1975. On the side panel you'll find references to all the Active Earth Stations, each with a nod to the five mountains around the world.


Starport Sign


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


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


Space Maps


The biggest change to the queue is the addition of 87 video-game stations along the path. These were added to help occupy your time while waiting in line. I rode Space Mountain first thing in the morning and none of the terminals were activated. I don't know if this is because at this time of day, there is no time to play, or if this is because these games are still being fine tuned and not ready yet. In any case, there are four games for guests to play and they will help further the story of interstellar vacation travel. This could include clearing a runway of asteroids or moving cargo from one location to another.


Video Games


The final queue areas have been covered with a dome. You can no longer see the overhead star fields while waiting in line. Blue neon lights illuminate the area.


Covered Queue


For months, rumors have been rampant that a sound system, similar to Rock 'N' Roller Coaster would be added to the ride vehicles. I'm sorry to report, this did not happen. For the most part, the rockets look pretty much as they did before the rehab except that they no longer have the glow-in-the-dark strip along the sides. Your ride through space is quiet except for the occasional scream.

The Imagineers darkened the ride so it is more difficult to see the track ahead. Also, your picture is taken at the beginning of the journey. The flashing strobe used to illuminate you also dilates your eyes, making it more difficult to see in the dark.

The track was recalibrated for a smoother and quieter experience, however the basic layout is identical to before. To be honest, I didn't notice any improvement in the ride. To me, it was as jerky and rough as always. But it did seem quieter.

At the end of the ride, you can view your on-board picture which can be purchased in the adjacent Tomorrowland Video Arcade.


On-board Pictures


The long exit through the mountain has seen a few minor changes. The first is a baggage claim area and a revamped Command Center.


Baggage Claim

Command Center


As you ride the moving sidewalk, you'll notice TV monitors have been added to the various space-age scenes. These display advertisements for the many far off and exotic places you can visit leaving from the Starports.


Space Advertisement

Space Home


The Tomorrowland Transit Authority still runs through the middle of Space Mountain. But since the queue areas have been covered by a dome, there is less to see. The Space Station remains the major sight during this portion of the ride.


Space Station as seen from TTA


Space Mountain does use FastPass and I strongly recommend using this tool. I arrived at opening today and made Space Mountain my first attraction. By the time I exited at 9:30, it already had a 45-minute line.


Line for Space Mountain


If you were expecting major changes to Space Mountain, you're going to be disappointed. But Disney has created a new storyline and tweaked several of the areas. Bottom line, if you liked Space Mountain before, you're going to like it now -- and the opposite is also true.



November 22, 2009

Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise

The Jungle Cruise has been a perennial favorite ever since it opened at Disneyland in 1955. Even though many of us have ridden this attraction so many times that we could probably skipper the boat ourselves, we still laugh at the corny jokes we've heard dozens of times. Why? Because sometimes it's fun to be silly rather than sophisticated -- and the Jungle Cruise excels at being silly. But it wasn't always that way. In the early years at Disneyland, this was a serious attraction with little or no humor. What is to follow is a brief story of how this wonderful ride came into being and evolved into what it is today.

Between the years of 1948 and 1960, the Disney Company produced a series of short subject documentaries called the True-Life Adventures. These films dealt with nature and animals in an educational yet entertaining way. Over the run of the series, Disney won numerous Academy Awards for these films. One show in particular, "The African Lion," would serve as an inspiration for the Jungle Cruise.


The African Lion


Storyman Harper Goff had been instrumental in the designs used for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). So when production completed, Walt recruited him to design the Jungle Cruise for his new park. Being a big fan of the movie "The African Queen," Goff expanded on the film's storyline and had the tramp steamer plying not only a river in Africa, but other continents as well. In fact, the Jungle Cruise boats were patterned after the vessel used in this picture and were made of fiberglass -- the first time this material was used for non-military purposes


The African Queen


Walt originally wanted live animals to line the banks of his rivers, but this just wasn't feasible. First, many of the creatures that he wanted to include were nocturnal and would be sleeping as the boats passed by. In addition, real animals require a tremendous amount of upkeep and space, something that just wasn't practical for a fledgling theme park. So it was decided that mechanical animals could tell a better story. However, for a short time, Disneyland featured live alligators for guests to view in the waiting area. It wouldn't be until the Animal Kingdom and Kilimanjaro Safaris opened in 1998 that Walt's dream would be completely realized.

The Jungle Cruise was to be an opening day attraction at Disneyland, and in fact, the only attraction in Adventureland to begin with. One of the first tasks was to landscape this small patch of arid Southern California to look tropical -- and to do this on a tight budget. In the early 1950's, Bill Evans had landscaped Walt's Holmby Hills home. Walt was so impressed with his work that he hired him to design the gardens of Disneyland.

The Santa Ana Freeway began construction in 1947 and was completed in 1956. In its path were enormous amounts of foliage that were being bulldozed under. In order to save money, Evans made arrangements to rescue many of these plants and palm trees and they eventually found their way to Disneyland and the Jungle Cruise. This allowed the new park to have some established growth come opening day.

The picture below shows Disneyland and the Santa Ana Freeway under construction.


Disneyland and Freeway Under Construction


Another inexpensive trick used to make the jungle look lush on opening day was to take some of the orange and walnut trees that had been removed during Disneyland's construction and plant them upside down. This allowed their gnarly roots to look like dead jungle branches.

But even with these free plants, Evans still needed a tremendous amount of greenery to populate not only Adventureland, but Frontierland, Main Street, and Fantasyland. Fortunately, Tomorrowland didn't require as much growth. Hedda Hopper complained in her column, "Walt Disney has depleted our nurseries from Santa Barbara to San Diego."

Most of the animals for the Jungle Cruise were built at the Studio in Burbank, but some of the larger creatures were constructed onsite to facilitate easy transportation. One 900 pound elephant was delivered to the Jungle Cruise the night before the park opened and was installed in the dark as a night-watchman had unwittingly turned off the work lights.


Jungle Cruise Attraction Poster


For much of Disneyland's first decade, the Jungle Cruise was a serious ride. Guests boarded the attraction from a dock located next to a small trader's village. Nearby shops sold shrunken heads, rubber snakes, and pith helmets. The trip through Africa, Asia, and South America was reminiscent of watching a "True Life Adventure" with facts and dangers brought to the guest's attention by the ever-watchful boat captain.


Jungle Cruise Loading Dock 1950's


One day, Walt overheard a guest say in reference to the Jungle Cruise, "We don't need to go on that ride, we've already seen it." Taken aback by this comment, Walt knew he needed to keep Disneyland fresh so the customers would return again and again. To that end, he asked Marc Davis, a longtime animator, to rethink the attraction. After much thought, Marc decided the attraction needed to evolve from a danger-filled adventure to a humorous journey and new scenes needed to be added. So in 1962 the Indian Elephant pool opened and in 1964 the African Veldt and Lost Safari scenes joined the tour. In addition, a bevy of corny jokes and puns replaced the once serious spiel.


Lost Safari


As is always the case, change never comes easy and there were those who complained loudly that the ride had been compromised. But in the end, the Jungle Cruise continued to be a crowd pleaser and is still one of the most beloved attractions at Disneyland.

Some of you might remember that the attacking hippopotamus was once shot at by the boat captain. But as times and sensibilities changed, this practice was retired. Now the skippers use less extreme, and more humorous methods of discouraging the beast.


Shooting a Hippopotamus


The popularity of Disneyland's Jungle Cruise prompted the Imagineers to slate this attraction to be an opening day ride at Walt Disney World. And from day one, the Florida version has been just as popular as it's California counterpart.


Magic Kingdom Jungle Cruise Sign

Jungle Cruise Entrance


Like so many attractions that were to be recreated in the Magic Kingdom, the Jungle Cruise would be improved upon. Although many of the scenes are direct copies of Disneyland's, the addition of the indoor Cambodian Temple gives the Magic Kingdom's version an edge.

Building the Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise presented some unique challenges. Much of Adventureland sits upon an extensive clay landfill. In order for the plants and trees to receive proper nutrients and drainage, large holes needed to be bored into unforgiving soil and filled with sand and potting mix. It took more than a year to landscape this attraction with more than 500 varieties of tropical foliage. The river(s) of the Jungle Cruise contains over 1,750,000 gallons of water, which has been died brown to hide the tracks and other mechanisms.

Like Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise required an "E" ticket up until the time these coupons were retired.


E Ticket


Here is a list of names for the sixteen boats that ply the waters at the Jungle Cruise. Notice the alliteration.

Amazon Annie
Bomokandi Bertha
Congo Connie
Ganges Gertie
Irrawaddy Irma
Kwango Kate
Mongala Millie
Nile Nelly
Orinoco Ida
Rutshuru Ruby
Sankuru Sadie
Senegal Sal
Ucyali Lolly
Volta Val
Wamba Wanda
Zambesi Zelda

Located on the loading platform is one of my all time favorite Disney Worlds signs.


Jungle Cruise Sign


The airplane fuselage you pass by on the Jungle Cruise is actually the back half of the Lockheed Electra 12A airplane seen in the Casablanca sequence of the Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


Airplane Fuselage


When exiting the Jungle Cruise, pay attention to some of the details. For instance, you better keep a watchful eye out for the escaped orangutan.


Orangutan Cage


Check out the names of some of the Missing Persons and Missing Boats on a nearby chalkboard.


Chalkboard


And I pity the poor animal that was shipped in this crate, now a drinking fountain. If you look closely, the small prints says "FEEDING HOLE."


Animal Crate


Near the drinking fountain are several crated trees. If you look at the stenciled writing on the boxes you'll see "EVANS EXOTIC PLANT EXPORTERS LTD." This pays homage to Bill Evans who landscaped the original Jungle Cruise and went on to landscape the Magic Kingdom.


Bill Evans Crate


Tokyo Disneyland also was given a Jungle Cruise on its opening day (April 15, 1983). This attraction borrows elements from both U.S. parks, however, the entire attraction runs backwards to its stateside cousins.


Jungle Cruise at Tokyo Disneyland


It was decided to omit the Jungle Cruise from Disneyland Paris. Other European parks, having seen the success of the ride at Disneyland, had already built similar attractions. Disney felt that their version of the ride really wouldn't offer anything new to entice visitors to their park.

At Hong Kong Disneyland, the Imagineers completely reinvented the ride. Picture Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom. Now picture the Jungle Cruise boats circling this island, except with a tropical theme. There you have it - a new Jungle Cruise ride.


Hong Kong Jungle Cruise


Language also plays a part in the Hong Kong attraction. There are three lines for boarding, one for speakers of Mandarin, one for Cantonese, and one for English. A sign states that one line may look longer than another, but they all move at the same speed. For the most part, this is true. If the queue for a particular language (say English) starts to get longer than the others, they simply assign an English speaking skipper to the next couple of boats until the lines even out.

The Hong Kong Jungle River Cruise has many of the same props and scenes as its American counterparts. The notable exception are the missing Switzer Falls and the indoor temple. But this attraction does have a finale that the other Jungle Cruises do not.

The boat navigates down a narrow passageway, when all of a sudden the route is blocked by an erupting geyser. Just in the nick of time, the vessel makes a sudden turn to the right and is confronted with another geyser blocking its path and an evil-looking, monster-like rock formation. Smoke and steam start to spew from the crevices and then flames explode from the rock's mouth. Just when it seems all is lost, the boat escapes in the nick of time. Whew.


Erupting Geyser

Rock Formation and Flames


Another difference with this Jungle Cruise is that you get wet. Those elephants that just miss you in the American versions are a little more devilish here and seem to hit their mark. Don't worry, it's only a sprinkle.

In closing, I give you a video of the Jungle Cruise and a few of the corny jokes.


November 8, 2009

Cinderella Wishing Well - Magic Kingdom

Like so many other articles I write, I can't talk about Disney World without first mentioning Disneyland. The first Disney wishing well appeared on March 27, 1961. As the story goes, Walt received an anonymous gift postmark from Italy. In the package were figurines of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, meticulously carved of Carrera marble. It is speculated that the artist modeled the characters from hand soaps licensed at the time.

The gift touched Walt greatly and he handed the bundle over to John Hench and told him to find a place for them in the park. However, Hench was dismayed. Snow White was the same height as the dwarfs, and this would create a challenge as to how to display the characters without the artist's oversight being obvious. In the end, he happened upon an ingenious idea. By placing Snow White high above the dwarfs, he used forced-perspective to achieve a sense of distance, thus making her appear taller than she actually is.


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs


However, a new story has emerged. After Hench's death (February 5, 2004), his secretary cleaned out his desk. In it, she came across paperwork and invoices showing that John actually commissioned the statues himself. And being the showman/prankster that he was, wove an elaborate tale of their origin.

Snow White and the dwarfs were placed to the right side of Sleeping Beauty Castle. At the same time, a wishing well was added, creating Snow White Grotto. Being true to the movie, you can hear our young heroine singing and her voice echoing from within the well.


Snow White Wishing Well


When the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World was being planned, it was a given that a wishing well would be part of Fantasyland. But unlike Disneyland, where Sleeping Beauty Castle and Snow White Grotto are from two different movies, the Florida park would have a wishing well themed appropriately to Cinderella Castle.

Positioned in an alcove along a pathway that leads from Tomorrowland to the right side of the castle, Cinderella Wishing Well is a wonderful retreat from the often hectic Magic Kingdom.


Cinderella Wishing Well

Cinderella Wishing Well


This area is rarely crowded and is the perfect spot to take a break and relax on one of the benches. It's also a great photo op for romantic couples. And while you're there, why not make a wish.


Bench


Like so many other things at Disney parks, the wishing well tells a story. If you look closely at the sides of the well, you can see the mice and birds, trying to make a dress for Cinderella while eluding the evil Lucifer. These characters were sculpted by Disney Legend Blaine Gibson.


Birds and Ribbon

Mice

Mice

Lucifer


Wishing wells originated in Europe. It was believed that deities lived in water and a spoken wish would be granted if a token gift was left for them. This tradition has lived on through the ages. Just take a look at almost any body of water in a Disney park and you'll see coins resting on the bottom. In most cases, it is time consuming and expensive to retrieve this money, so it usually sits here for long periods of time. When it is eventually collected, much of it has corroded so badly that the entire lot is sold as scrap metal. However, Cinderella Wishing Well is an exception. Collected at regular intervals, this money is donated to children's charities.


Children's Charities Plaque


So next time you're on a commando-style tour of the Magic Kingdom, why not wander over to the Cinderella Wishing Well and take a break. You'll be glad you did. And remember, Disney parks are where wishes come true.

October 26, 2009

Tiana's Showboat Jubilee

Today, October 26, 2009, Princess Tiana was formally welcomed into the Disney family. As with any royal ceremony, Disney pulled out all the stops to receive their ninth and newest princess. Many of our favorite characters were on hand at Cinderella Castle to greet this lovely lady. With the help of Mickey Mouse, a town crier announced the arrival of Princess Tiana.


Tiana Procession

Disney Characters

Mickey & Town Crier


Soon after, a lively Mardi Gras procession danced their way to the castle forecourt, followed by a regal coach and the beautiful Princess Tiana. After much pomp and ceremony, and a few fireworks, Tiana left the area to get ready for the Magic Kingdom's newest show, Tiana's Showboat Jubilee.


Princess Procession

Royal Coach

Princess Tiana


Princess Tiana is the heroine of Disney's newest animated movie, "The Princess and the Frog." Opening on November 25th, this musical marks the return to 2D hand-drawn animation from the team of John Musker and Ron Clements (Little Mermaid and Aladdin), with music by Oscar-winning composer Randy Newman. In development since 2006, this classic story is set in the great city of New Orleans and the surrounding bayou area.

Although the welcoming ceremony was only for the fortunate few who happened to be visiting the Magic Kingdom today, a larger, more spectacular event is planned for the remainder of the year. Between now and January 3, 2010, a rousing show starring Princess Tiana will be presented three times daily aboard the Liberty Belle (check your Times Guide). Joined by a six-member jazz band, two dozen Disney Dancers, and thirty randomly picked guests, a jazz themed spectacular is staged. Several of the songs from The Princess and the Frog are performed and a number of the movie's other characters are on board for the fun.
The festivities begin at the Diamond Horseshoe where a procession dances across Liberty Square to board the Liberty Belle. Although this is great fun to watch, the real event takes place further down the river. Soon after setting sail, the Liberty Belle stops near the bridge that crosses between Pecos Bill Café and Thunder/Splash Mountains. Ask a nearby cast member for the best place to stand. Then for the next fifteen minutes a lively performance is staged. If you have plans to visit Walt Disney World during the next couple of months, I highly recommend this show.

I've put together an edited version of Tiana's Showboat Jubilee. The first thirty seconds of the video were taken as Princess Tiana is leaving Cinderella Castle, but the remaining is of Tiana's Showboat Jubilee.



Currently, the Lilly Belle is closed to guests. And during the performance, the Tom Sawyer Island rafts use the island's north dock so as not to distract from the festivities.

As you would expect, a new line of merchandise has been created and is already available at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the Disney Stores. At the moment, only children's sizes are available, but who knows what the future might bring.


Princess Tiana Merchandise


Also new is the Princess Tiana makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at both the World of Disney at Downtown Disney and the Magic Kingdom. Here, Fairy Godmothers-in-training sprinkle pixie dust on aspiring princesses with three makeover packages. Different options are available that will transform your little girl into a regal young lady.


Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Princess Tiana Makeover

Princess Tiana Makeover


I'm anxiously looking forward to "The Princess and the Frog" and Tiana's Showboat Jubilee added to my anticipation. While I love 3D computer animation. It's magnificent and allows a level of creation that Walt could never have imagined. But I'm glad to see a return to the 2D hand-drawn movies as well. Not all stories need elaborate canvases. Sometimes, less is more and I hope Disney's latest movie proves that once again, that simple can also be fantastic.

October 4, 2009

TTA – Tomorrowland Transit Authority - Update

Update: October 3, 2009

Yesterday, I rode the TTA. I was surprised to hear a new audio track had replaced the old narrative. A cast member told me this change took place on Thursday, October 2nd - the day I was riding.

Gone are the old jokes about keeping your forward facing tentacles inside your vehicle. And Mr. Tom Morrow is no longer paged or asked to give his party on Saturn a ring. The narrative is now in a young man's voice and he points out the various sights along the way. For example, as you pass the Carousel of Progress, a brief description of this attraction is presented. This is in keeping with the original PeopleMover at Disneyland. On that now defunct ride, the many sights of Tomorrowland were pointed out as you passed by.

I have mixed emotions about the new recording. While it's sad when something we like is discontinued, updates are necessary to keep things fresh. I was told the Imagineers will monitor guest reaction to gauge how this change is received.

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


As you may know, Space Mountain is currently closed for an extensive refurbishment and is scheduled to reopen in November of this year. Since the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA) travels through Space Mountain, it was necessary to close this attraction as well. But the mountain's refurbishment has reached a point that the TTA could reopen and did so today (September 12th). I decided to take this opportunity to give you a little history of this sedate, yet very popular ride. But like so many other Magic Kingdom attractions, we must step back in time and across the continent to Disneyland in order to get a better understanding of the TTA, or WEDway PeopleMover as it was originally named.

When Walt was building Disneyland, money was extremely tight. Tomorrowland was practically an afterthought and during the early years, lacked greatly in attractions and ambiance. In 1959, Tomorrowland saw its first real improvement with the addition of the Submarine Voyage and the Disney/Alwig Monorail. But the biggest change came to this area in July 1967, when Tomorrowland was reborn (at a staggering cost of $23-million). Adventures Thru Inner Space, an all new CircleVision movie presented in an enlarged theater, elevated Rocket Jets, an improved Flight to the Moon, and the Carousel of Progress were all added to the land of the future. And tying them and the existing Tomorrowland attractions together was the PeopleMover sponsored by Goodyear. This elevated highway gave guests an overhead preview of all the wonderful new adventures that were just waiting to be experienced.


Disneyland PeopleMover

Disneyland PeopleMover


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


EPCOT Concept Drawing


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


Disneyland PeopleMover


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

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


Disneyland PeopleMover

Disneyland PeopleMover

Disneyland PeopleMover


When the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World was in the planning stages, the PeopleMover (to be known as the WEDway PeopleMover) was an obvious choice to be included in the new park. However, it was not an opening day attraction. You see, just like at Disneyland sixteen years earlier, Tomorrowland would have to wait until after the park opened before it took on its full potential. The WEDway PeopleMover did not open until July 1, 1975, six months after Space Mountain. Here are two pictures taken in January 1972. As you can see, the WEDway PeopleMover is far from operational status.


Tomorrowland Under Construction

Tomorrowland Under Construction


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


Tomorrowland Concept Drawing


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


EPCOT Model


The WEDway PeopleMover has changed little over the years. However, some of the sights along the way have evolved. For example, in the beginning, guests looked into the "If You Had Wings" attraction, then came "Dreamflight," and finally "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin."

As part of the Tomorrowland makeover, the attraction closed for five months in 1994. During this time it received cosmetic changes, giving the front section of the attraction a retro-futuristic look, leaving the back half virtually unchanged. The ride was also given a new name, the "Tomorrowland Transit Authority" or TTA. The backstory being that this is a future mode of transportation in the metropolis of Tomorrowland and the "Blue Line" services this area.


TTA Blue Line


I have ridden the TTA more than any other attraction at Disney World. Why? First, it rarely has a line, and if it does, it's never more than a five minute wait. Next, the TTA offers a ten minute relaxing ride - allowing me to sit down in relative comfort. This is the perfect way to unwind for a few moments after being on my feet for hours. And finally, I like this attraction. It's enjoyable to people-watch from high above the crowd. In addition, I get to take in some great Disney architecture and detailing along the way. Also, if the ride doesn't have a line, you can ask the cast member if you can stay on for a second go-round.

Is this ride as thrilling or as engaging as other attractions at Disney World? Nope. Far from it. But it is a favorite of many people. I mourn the passing of the PeopleMover at Disneyland especially since the Rocket Rods attraction failed to run satisfactorily. I only hope that Disney does something with this eyesore of empty track sometime soon. I also hope that the Magic Kingdom version keeps running for many years to come.

To my knowledge, only one change of any note has been made to the TTA. A new LED lighting system has been installed and the track route changes colors every several seconds during the evening. Sorry, I do not have any pictures of this.

Here is a video I created of the TTA to help you relive the simple pleasures this ride has to offer. Note, it was a rainy day so occasionally you'll see a drop of water on my lens. Sorry.


September 15, 2009

Tomorrowland Skyway Station

On November 10, 1999, a favorite ride for many of us closed. The Skyway that once carried guests over Tomorrowland and Fantasyland stopped running. It was a sad day. The towers and cables were removed soon after, but both stations have remained - until now. Today, backhoes and bulldozers are busy in Tomorrowland, eating away at this opening day attraction. I have no idea what, if anything, will be replacing this structure.

Update:

While riding the TTA yesterday I could see that the demolition portion of the project is complete. It appears that Disney is keeping (and remodeling) the restrooms that were located under the station.

Tomorrowland Skyway Station

Tomorrowland Skyway Station

Tomorrowland Skyway Station

August 17, 2009

Where Does the Music Come From?

Most people pay very little attention to the music being played in the background while visiting a Disney theme park. Our eyes are much too busy taking in all of the sights to consciously pay any attention to the melodies filling the air. The songs are simply there. But if the music wasn't surrounding us at every turn, we'd notice. Our stroll down Main Street would seem flat and wanting.

Disney puts a lot of thought into the music they select for each land or area of their parks. First, it has to be appropriate. Obviously, they're not going to play German music at the Japan Pavilion in Epcot. But you will find 1930's and 40's big band music on Sunset Blvd. at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Next, the music is usually somewhat upbeat. Disney wants their guests to be happy and a jaunty melody can affect our mood. I'm not saying that every tune played is a toe-tapper, but you won't find many dirges, either.

Disney also wants the music to be recognizable when possible. If we can hum along with a tune, we'll feel at home and comfortable.

But have you ever paid any attention as to where this music comes from? I mean, when you walk through a Disney park, the tunes are just there, as if by magic. The sounds don't come from any one direction, they surround you.

In this article, I'm going to show you how this magic happens. In reality, I'm not going to provide you with any information you couldn't garner for yourself if you were so inclined. In this blog I'll cover the Magic Kingdom and leave the other parks to your own discoveries.

Let's start with Main Street. The most commonly used technique along this thoroughfare is to hide speakers behind vents. Since many structures have openings to allow for air circulation, this is the perfect spot to place a speaker.

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker


Another common practice is to design the speaker into the structure.


Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker

Main Street Speaker


Out on The Hub we see the vent method used again as well as hiding a speaker in a lamp pole.


Hub Speakers

Hub Speakers

Hub Speakers

Hub Speakers


Many of the melodies played on Main Street are old standards that hearken back to a simpler time. A number of these songs, like "In the Hills of Old Kentucky" and "Kentucky Home" are performed by the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and are available for sale on Amazon. Disney's 1963 movie "Summer Magic" and his 1967 film "The Happiest Millionaire" both provide music for Main Street. The stories in both of these movies took place around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century so the theming is correct. The same can be said for the three Broadway musicals represented. Oklahoma, The Music Man, and Hello Dolly were all set in this same era.

Tomorrowland doesn't bother with trying to hide their speakers. Here the Imagineers placed them in plain site. They just disguised them to look like futuristic objects. See for yourself.


Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers

Tomorrowland Speakers


The music of Tomorrowland was performed with the use of synthesizers. Very few (if any) "traditional" instruments were used in the making of these recordings. The music also has a strong beat to emphasize energy. A sharp ear can make out "Strange Things" from the Disney/Pixar 1995 movie Toy Story. "A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" and "Now is the Time," both from the Carousel of Progress, can also be heard. And for you old timers, "If You Had Wings" is also played.

I have to say, I was disappointed with the speakers in Mickey's Toontown Fair. All of them that I could find were out in the open. Many times, outdoor speakers are hidden beneath bushes, but not here. The Imagineers didn't even bother. Take a look.


Toontown Speakers

Toontown Speakers


Most of the songs played in Mickey's Toontown Fair are from the cartoons Disney produced during the '30's to the '50's. "Minnie's Yoo Hoo," "The Country Cousin," and "The Three Little Pigs" are just a few of the selections in store for you here.

In Fantasyland the Imagineers did a fine job of hiding the speakers.


Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speaker

Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speakers

Fantasyland Speakers


As you might expect, the music played in Fantasyland is from the many animated movies Disney produced over the years. These are the songs that we all know by heart and we could probably even sing the words. However, near Pinocchio Village Haus the music has a different theme and is Bavarian in nature.

Many of the speakers in Liberty Square are hidden in vents (like Main Street) so I didn't take many pictures in this area. However, I do like the bird house disguise.


Liberty Square Speakers

Liberty Square Speakers

Liberty Square Speakers

Liberty Square Speakers


The music in Liberty Square is patriotic and homespun. Violins, the fife, and the dulcimer are the instruments of choice for most of these renditions. A Disney connection is also present. The song "The Sons of Liberty" from the 1957 movie Johnny Tremain is played.

Where Main Street uses vents to hide speakers, Frontierland uses boxes. On many of the balconies and porch tops, rustic crates that blend into their surroundings can be seen.


Frontierland Speakers

Frontierland Speakers


A variation on the box theme is the barrel.


Frontierland Speakers

Frontierland Speakers


And on Splash Mountain speakers are encased in make-believe rocks.


Frontierland Speakers

Frontierland Speakers


"Oh My Darling Clementine," "Home on the Range," and "Happy Trails," among a dozen other western favorites, are all on tap. Fiddles, banjos, guitars, and harmonicas make up the orchestra in Frontierland. The Disney song heard in this area is "Davy Crockett" from the 1950's TV series.

Last, but not least we come to Adventureland. Next to the entrance sign is a drum. But upon closer examination we find that it's actually a piece of metal normally used as a vent or filter. Its multiple holes allow sound to pass right through.


Adventureland Speakers

Adventureland Speakers


On a balcony we find a lovely wicker planter. Once again, this "open" material provides the perfect place to hide a speaker. Music can easily flow through its openings.


Adventureland Speakers

Adventureland Speakers


This final picture is of the Pirate's Stage near Pirates of the Caribbean. In this case a speaker is hidden in a birdcage.


Adventureland Speakers

Adventureland Speakers


When entering Adventureland, much of the music heard is played on the marimba with a tribal African beat. In many ways, it sounds similar to the music heard in the Animal Kingdom.

As you move further into Adventureland the music takes on a Middle Eastern theme.

And finally, the music from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies can be heard in Caribbean Plaza.

I didn't want to take away all of your fun, so I've only covered the Magic Kingdom in this blog. I'll let you discover your own musical moments in the other parks. But before I go, I'd like to share one of my favorite bits of Disney trivia.

In the attraction "it's a small world" we all know that there are two counter melodies that play against each other. But in reality, there is a third melody heard on this ride. As you pass the Switzerland section, a young boy, perched high and to the right, yodels this other tune. But there's more to the story. Let's travel to Blizzard Beach. Among the many songs played here is this same young boy yodeling the third part to "it's a small world."

May 30, 2009

Magic Kingdom Opening Show

"Good morning. Good morning. It's great to stay up late. Good morning. Good morning to you, and you and you and you."

Anyone who has made the effort to be at the Magic Kingdom before opening will have this song stuck in their head all day long - or at least until they ride "it's a small world."

I've always advocated being at the parks as early as possible if it's your desire to experience the rides with as little wait as possible. But there is an extra added bonus for you early birds - a show. All four theme parks present a short opening performance before rope drop. All are entertaining, but I think the Magic Kingdom's is the best.

If you want to see this show, I suggest you arrive at the Magic Kingdom (not the TTC) at 8:30. On slow days this might be a little early, but on busier days, you'll be glad you arrived at this time. Once there, proceed through the turnstiles. The show takes place up in front of the train station so anywhere in the courtyard offers good viewing. However, if you plan to take pictures, you might want to move to the right side of this area so the sun is at your back.

To keep the little ones entertained before the show, Disney provides a number of hula-hoops for their enjoyment.


Children with hula-hoops


At about 8:50, a citizen of Main Street appears and welcomes everyone to the Most Magical Place on Earth. By the way, Disneyland in California is the "Happiest Place on Earth." The Magic Kingdom is the "Most Magical Place on Earth."


Citizen of Main Street


After a short introduction, the Main Street Singers appear and present a lively rendition of "Good Morning." Written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, most of us are familiar with this song from the 1952 movie "Singin' in the Rain," but in reality, it first appeared in the 1939 movie "Babes in Arms."


Main Street Singers

Main Street Singers

Main Street Singers

Main Street Singers


When their number completes, we hear a whistle in the distance. A few moments later a steam train chugs into view to the tune of "Casey Jr." and "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." Onboard we see Mickey Mouse and a number of his friends waving to the crowd below. Also onboard is the "family of the day."


WDW Steam Train

WDW Steam Train

Mickey Mouse and Citizen of Main Street

Snow White & Alice in Wonderland


After the guest family is introduced, a backwards countdown from ten proceeds to officially open the park. At zero, the guest family throws pixie dust onto the crowd and canons erupt, sending streamers flying.


Family of the Day

Family of the Day


The entire show lasts less than ten minutes, but it's a lot of fun. It also allows your children the opportunity to see some Disney characters first thing which might pacify their urgent need for a few moments.

This show sets the mood for your day to come. If you haven't already seen it, I strongly suggest dragging yourself out of bed a little early one morning and make the effort. You'll be glad you did.


May 10, 2009

Magic Kingdom Odds & Ends

I have a few more bits of trivia to share with you, so sit back and enjoy.

Let's start at City Hall.


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2006.jpg


Inside this building are two paintings hanging on the wall behind the receptionist desk. (I only have a picture of one.)


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2004.jpg

MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2005.jpg


Did you know, these paintings appeared in the "movie" section of the Hall of the Presidents attraction?

Currently, the Hall of the Presidents is undergoing and extensive rehab. I do not know if these paintings will be part of the show in the future. But for 37 years these works of art could be seen at two locations in the Magic Kingdom.

Speaking of the Hall of the Presidents"


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2014.jpg


This next tidbit was brought to my attention by my good friend Anita Answer. On the side of the building, in a second story window, are two lit lanterns. You remember the old warning, "One if by land. Two if by sea."


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2011.jpg


Now let's venture to Fantasyland. I shared this next bit of trivia in my Disneyland Paris series, but just in case you missed it, I think it bears repeating.

Timothy the Mouse holds a whip at the Dumbo attractions in Tokyo and California. In Florida, Hong Kong, and Paris he holds Dumbo's magic feather.


MK%20Dumbo%20%26%20Timothy%2001.gif


Now let's visit Mickey's Toontown Fair and Minnie's house.


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2010.jpg


It seems that this talented mouse is quite an artist. She has set aside one room in her home as an art studio.


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2007.jpg


If you look closely at the paining on the easel, it seems that Minnie captured a pivotal moment in Goofy's aerial career.


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2008.jpg


And if you look out the window, you'll see the actual view Minnie had while painting this masterpiece.


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2009.jpg


Now let's move next door to Mickey's house - specifically, his garage.


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2001.jpg

MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2002.jpg


It seems that our industrious friend has quite a workshop here.


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2015.jpg

MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2003.jpg


If you look closely behind the books and containers on the shelf, you'll find three cans of Mojave Oil.


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2013.jpg


If you're thinking to yourself, "I've heard that name before," you're right. You probably have. Mojave is the oil company whose tanker truck is washed away at Catastrophe Canyon at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


MK%20Odds%20%26%20Ends%2012.gif


That's it for this time. But don't worry. I'll be out there searching for more interesting bits of trivia to share with you.

May 6, 2009

Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration

Ah, the sacrifices I make for you all. Today (May 6) was the official opening of a new Tomorrowland show in the Magic Kingdom called Stitch's Supersonic Celebration. It takes place in a new venue that was especially built for this event. And to make sure you read about it on Allears®.net and not some other website, I made sure I was in the Magic Kingdom at opening today so I could cover the show and blog it. It's a tough job" ;-)

The first showing was at 10am, but I was there a little after nine (I wanted to be in the front row). The first thing you'll notice about the theater is that there are no seats. However, cast members were busy laying out mats on the ground directly in front of the stage so a small number of children (and some of their parents) could sit. Arrive early as this space is VERY limited.


Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration


In reality, I was glad I got there when I did. About 30 minutes before the show started, the large monitor positioned over the stage began a slide-show presentation - a very clever presentation if I do say so. I'm not sure it's worth going out of your way to see, but if you're a true Disney geek like me, then you'll want to watch the entire set of slides. The complete cycle took about ten minutes and played twice.


Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration


Ten minutes before the show, the Tomorrowland News Network began broadcasting. A number of topics are discussed, among them a piece about the supersonic sensation Tip Trendo and the Galactic Girls who will be performing at Tomorrowland in honor of "Galaxy Day."


Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration


The cosmic weather and traffic are also discussed. Look closely and you can see that two of the Astro Orbiter rockets were involved in a head-on collision.


Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration


When the news completes, Tip Trendo and the Galactic Girls appear on stage. Tip is a true lounge-lizard. Don't believe me, look at his suit. The material looks like scales. And the Galactic Girls are a combination go-go dancer and extraterrestrial hybrid. They spend the first several minutes with introductions and a high-energy song and dance number.


Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration


After their first song, Stitch appears on the monitor overhead. You soon learn that he can interact with the audience like Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot. In fact, if you've seen the Stitch show at Hong Kong or Paris Disneyland, you'll recognize the set and some of his pranks.


Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration


Stitch, being Stitch, soon grows bored and wants presents to cheer himself up. He goes online to Robo-Mart and orders a custom made robot. If you've watched the preshow that I mentioned earlier, you're already familiar with Robo-Mart - and their dubious quality. A few moments later, two "mechanical men" are transported to the stage and begin a great dance number.


Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration


Eventually Stitch wants to join the Galaxy Day festivities and he too beams to the stage - resembling his Elvis persona.


Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration

Stitch's Supersonic Celebration


This show is a lot of fun. It is every bit as much for adults as it is for kids. The Galactic Girls rendition of "These Boots Were Made for Walkin'" is worth the wait alone.

The show runs for 25 minutes and is presented multiple times a day. Check your Times Guide on the day you visit.

April 11, 2009

Fantasyland – Old and New

The information in this next blog has been presented before - some of it on this website, some of it on others. But since I've started blogging about Disney World trivia, I thought these tidbits were worth repeating.

Often, when Disney replaces an attraction with a new ride or show, the Imagineers like to pay tribute to the previous occupant of the space. To do this, they create some sort of remembrance to remind us of what used to delight us in years past. This blog is going to discuss three cases in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom.

The first example is probably one of the most famous and centers around "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" being replaced with "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh."


Toad-Pooh


Shortly after leaving the Blustery Day room, you enter a hallway of sorts. Once you clear the doors, you must immediately turn to your left and look at the wall behind you. Here you'll discover a picture of Toad handing over the property deed to Owl.


Toad-Pooh

Toad-Pooh


Now here's a little extra trivia regarding this picture. It is also included on the Hong Kong Disneyland version of this ride - which makes absolutely no sense, since Mr. Toad never existed there. Go figure.

One of the original attractions at the Magic Kingdom was "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Sadly, on September 5th 1994, this ride was closed. The lagoon sat unused for a number of years until 2004 when the area was razed to make room for "Pooh's Playful Spot," a children's play area.


Sub-Pooh


The centerpiece of "Pooh's Playful Spot" is a large tree.


Sub-Pooh


I would venture to say that the vast majority of adults who visit this area with their children never make it inside this tree. After all, it's meant for kids and the doorway is somewhat small. But for those of you who do, you can find the 20,000 Leagues legacy.

Once through the doorway, turn around and look at the beam above the door. Mixed in with the wood grain is an impression of the Nautilus.


Sub-Pooh


The last attraction I'm going to talk about is the "Mickey Mouse Review," another Magic Kingdom original. Several attractions have graced this building over the years, but it now houses "Mickey's Philharmagic."


MMR-Philharmagic


Two of the musical numbers performed in the "Mickey Mouse Review" were "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" and "The Three Caballeros."


Old%20Attractions%2003.jpg

Old%20Attractions%2004.jpg


Today, while in line for "Mickey's Philharmagic," you can see a number of posters advertising various acts starring Disney characters. For example, one poster features Hades (from "Hercules") singing torch songs and another shows Willie the Whale (from "Make Mine Music") singing in clown make-up.

So then, it's no accident that two of the posters pay homage to the "Mickey Mouse Review."


Old%20Attractions%2002.jpg

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March 11, 2009

Tinker Bell’s Fairy Treasures

This next Disney detail is aimed more at the little ones - or at least the parents of little ones.

Check out Tinker Bell's Fairy Treasures shop in Fantasyland of the Magic Kingdom.


Tinker Bell's Fairy Treasures shop


On the sales counter near the entrance is a bell. Children are encouraged to ring this bell and loudly call out Tinkerbell's name.


Tinker Bell's Fairy Treasures shop


When they do, a tinkling sound can be heard and tiny lights dance in the overhead plants and flowers. (My camera didn't capture the lights.)


Tinker Bell's Fairy Treasures shop


A moment later, Tinkerbell flies into view within a storage cabinet located behind the counter. Her appearance is brief, but it brings excitement to children.


Tinker Bell's Fairy Treasures shop

Tinker Bell's Fairy Treasures shop


This isn't one of Disney's most elaborate effects or shows, but it's cute. And I'm sure the younger set will believe in fairies after seeing Tink appear.

Remember - you can see Tinker Bell and other fairies in Pixie Hallow in the Magic Kingdom.

March 7, 2009

Mr. Toad and the Haunted Mansion

After publishing my Everest Shrine and Cool Wash blogs, I received a number of requests for similar bits of information. It seems you all love this type of Disney trivia. I'm not sure I can deliver, but I'll do my best. This next item isn't so much a "hidden but obvious" detail. It's just sort of a "hidden" detail.

When the Mr. Toad attraction closed to make room for the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Imagineers wanted to give J. Thaddeus a proper burial. They thought, "What better place than the pet cemetery perched on the hill next to the exit of the Haunted Mansion." (If I had to guess, I bet many of you didn't even know there was a pet cemetery here.)


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Anyway, if you look all the way to the back left corner of the burial ground you can see a grave marker in the shape of this famous croaker.


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While we're in the general area, let's take a look at the benches that line this brick wall. These seats are unique to the Haunted Mansion and if you look closely, you can see menacing hound's heads on the arms and legs. Look even closer and you can see that their eyes are red. Spooky.


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Legend has it that a number of years ago, a teenage girl was sitting on one of these benches painting her fingernails. She noticed the hounds and decided to paint their eyes red, the color of the polish she was using. Months later, when it came time for the benches to be repainted, the Imagineers liked the red eyes and decided to keep them.

Now I want to tell you, this is a legend. I have absolutely no proof to back up this story. Also, I'm not giving anyone permission to deface Disney property. But it does make for a good tale.

And now for the sad news" While talking with a Haunted Mansion cast member I was informed that these benches are being retired. In fact, two have already been removed and it's only a matter of time before the others are gone too.

February 13, 2009

Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It!

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In keeping with this year's new "Celebrate Today" theme, the Magic Kingdom kicks off a new show/parade on February 13 titled "Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It!" This high energy event starts near the Fire Station on Main Street and moves its way up to The Hub. Five brightly colored floats adorned with your favorite characters and dozens of dancers enthusiastically sing and dance while encouraging those lining the street to get involved. Even the "crowd control" cast members clap their hands and promote a festive atmosphere.


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When the procession reaches The Hub, it encircles this area and comes to a stop. It's then that the merriment really begins. A DJ on the first float introduces the featured characters on the other four floats. In turn, each pops up from a gift-wrapped present and says a few words. When the introductions are over, a number of dancers and characters take to the street and party up a storm.


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Eventually, the audience is invited to join in the fun and encouraged to come out into the street and kick up their heels. At first the crowd is hesitant, but by the time the conga line begins, the street is full of dancing fools.


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The "dance party" takes between 10-15 minutes. When it's done, the procession moves back down Main Street and disappears backstage. Although a good time can be had by watching the parade along Main Street, the real fun takes place at The Hub. And if you're goal is to see the characters, the 3 o'clock parade is a better bet. But if you like to dance and party, this show is for you. Check your information guide for times.

January 29, 2009

Golden Oak Outpost and Button Cart

It pays to read the AllEars Newsletter. I was unaware that the Golden Oak Outpost, which replaced the McDonald's Fry Cart in Frontierland, had opened until I read Kitty Smith's blurb. I figured that I'd better get some pictures to share with you all so I headed to the Magic Kingdom today.


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This new location serves Chicken Nuggets, a Fried Chicken Breast Sandwich, and a Vegetarian Flatbread Wrap. Fries (not McDonald's) and Coke products are also available. A much needed seating area has also been added.


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While leaving the park, I noticed a nice young lady standing next to a cart outside of City Hall on Main Street.


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In the past, if guests wanted to get a "Happy Birthday" or "1st Time Visitor" button, they had to request them inside City Hall. Now, a good selection of buttons are easily available to anyone passing by.


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January 23, 2009

Magic Kingdom - Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade

Today (January 23, 2009) a "new" parade kicked off at the Magic Kingdom. I was on hand to snap a few photos so I could share them with you. Since I rarely watch the daytime parades, I really can't tell you what's changed and what's new with this parade, that's different from the previous Disney Dreams Come True Parade. But here are pictures of all of the floats of the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade, and you tried-and-true parade-watchers can judge for yourselves. Have fun!


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November 8, 2008

Disneyland vs Magic Kingdom Part 2

In my last blog I wrote about the attractions that Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom share and offered comparisons. In this blog, I'm going to list all of the attractions that exist only at Disneyland any then only at the Magic Kingdom. Of course, I'll be keeping score and each attraction will receive a point.

MAIN STREET

Disneyland: The First 50 Years: This film replaced Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and presents guests with an entertaining history of the park.

Main Street Cinema: That's right folks. This area of Main Street has not been converted into another shop like at the Magic Kingdom. You can still view old Mickey Mouse cartoons here. Yea!


Main Street Cinema


Penny Arcade & Magic Shop: Although much of the Penny Arcade has been converted into a shop, there are still a number of old time machines to amuse the curious - far more than at Casey's Corner at the Magic Kingdom. Also, the Magic Shop still exists on Main Street. Unlike the Magic Kingdom, it hasn't been converted to yet another Disney-only merchandising area. These two factors are enough to garner another point.

ADVENTURELAND

Indiana Jones Adventure: This is a fantastic ride. Even though it uses the same type vehicle and track layout as Dinosaur in the Animal Kingdom, there is no comparison. This ride is sheer genius.


Indiana Jones


FRONTIERLAND

Sailing Ship Columbia: I realize that the sights and sounds you encounter around the Rivers of America are the same as those on the Mark Twain, but this is a different attraction and a different experience can be had on this ride. First, the ship is very interesting to explore, both above and below deck. But also, two cast members (not a recording) narrate the trip with a humorous spiel.


Columbia Sailing Ship


Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes: Why did Disney remove this attraction from the Magic Kingdom? Even if you weren't paddling your way around the Rivers of America, they were still visually appealing to see plying the waterways. I'm so glad they're still available at Disneyland.


Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes


Big Thunder Ranch: This area is used and reused for a number of special events. A petting farm can also be found here.

FANTASYLAND

Alice In Wonderland: A great dark ride that follows Alice into the rabbit hole.

Storybook Land Canal Boats: Here you sail past the miniature world of some of Disney's beloved fairytale characters.


Storybook Land Canal Boats


Casey Jr. Circus Train: A great favorite of children and adults that takes another look at Storybook Land.


Casey Jr. Circus Train


Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: Unlike many, I didn't have a problem with the removal of this attraction from the Magic Kingdom to make room for the more contemporary Winnie the Pooh. But I'm very glad it can still be experienced at Disneyland.

Pinocchio's Daring Journey: Another great dark ride that follows Pinocchio and his conscience to Pleasure Island and beyond.

Matterhorn Bobsleds: The first thrill ride at Disneyland and the first coaster to use tubular steel for tracks. This is a perennial favorite.


Matterhorn Bobsleds:


Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough: Currently under an extensive rehab, this quaint attraction allows guests to venture into Sleeping Beauty Castle and view vignettes of the princess' life.

Snow White's Grotto: A magical spot next to Sleeping Beauty Castle. Many a marriage proposal has taken place here.


Snow White's Grotto


MICKEY'S TOONTOWN

Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin: In this dark ride guests ride in Benny the Cab and turn the vehicle in circles with the steering wheel (similar to the Mad Tea Party) as they ride along a track while retreating from the weasels.


Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin


Goofy's Playhouse: Only children are allowed in Goofy's house where they can literally bounce off the cushioned walls.

Chip 'n Dale Treehouse: Although adults are welcome, children will feel more at home in the chipmunk's home.

TOMOROWLAND

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage: Although some of the sights are similar to Epcot's "The Seas with Nemo and Friends," I don't feel it's fair to compare the two. The experience is completely different when climbing into a submarine rather than riding in a clamshell. It's a shame Disney retired the submarines at the Magic Kingdom. Nemo would have fit much better into Fantasyland than it does in Tomorrowland or Epcot.


Submarine


Now it's time to list the attractions found only at the Magic Kingdom. Since most of my readers are more familiar with Disney World, I'll skip any explanation of the attractions. Once again, each attraction gets a point.

Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Country Bear Jamboree

Hall of the Presidents

Mickey's PhilharMagic

Fairytale Garden

Ariel's Grotto

Pooh's Playful Spot

Tomorrowland Transit Authority

Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress

Stitch's Great Escape

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

I have to give the Magic Kingdom a point simply because it is larger and handles crowds better than Disneyland.

However, I also have to give Disneyland a point because it is smaller, giving the guest a more intimate (magical) feel.

So, here's the final tally:

Disneyland 29

Magic Kingdom 17

So there you have it, absolute, mathematical proof that Disneyland is far superior to the Magic Kingdom by twelve points.

October 9, 2008

Main Street Train Station Bulletin Board


There is an "Arrival and Departure" bulletin board on the ground floor of the Main Street Train Station.


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The locations depicted are not just random names, but have meaning.

Here they are:


Main Street Train Station Magic Kingdom


Grizzle Bear Flats:

The Grizzly Flats Railroad was the name of Ward Kimball's backyard railroad.

Kimball Canyon:

Animator Ward Kimball was one of the "Nine Old Men" and worked on such classics as "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and the "Three Caballeros."

Hickory:

Hickory is the town depicted in the Disney movie, "Follow Me Boys" released in theaters on December 1, 1966.

Siddons City:

Lemuel Siddons was the character played by Fred MacMurray in the movie "Follow Me Boys."

Medfield:

Medfield College was the setting for a number of Disney movies including "The Absent Minded Professor," "Son of Flubber," and "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes."

Rutledge:

Rutledge College was the rival school of Medfield College.

Harrington Hills:

Harrington was the town depicted in the Disney movie "Pollyanna," released in theaters on May 19, 1960.

Pendergast Plains:

Adolphe Menjou played the villain, Mr. Pendergast in the movie "Pollyanna."

Bullwhip:

From the Disney movie, "The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin" starring Bryan Russell, Roddy McDowall, Suzanne Pleshette, and Karl Malden. It was released on March 3, 1967.

Griffin Gulch:

See above.

I was able to figure out most of these entries on my own, but Harrington Hills and Pendergast Plains had me stumped. While researching these names, I came across the following web-site:

http://www.2719hyperion.com/2006/11/deciphering-train-bulletin.html

I found that someone had already beaten me to the punch on this blog, but I felt it could be recycled.


September 13, 2008

Haunted Mansion Attic

In mid-September of last year, the Haunted Mansion reopened at Disney World after a lengthy rehab.

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A number of effects were either enhanced or added. The Attic Room is one such example. Gone are the carnival-like pop-up heads to be replaced with state-of-the-art effects.

This blog is going to discuss some of the nuances of this room that are easily missed when traveling through. Since flash photography is not allowed in the Haunted Mansion, I do not have any pictures of the attic to share with you.

Note: Spoilers ahead!

One of the first things you'll notice as you enter the attic is a portrait of a bride and groom. This "happy" couple is Ambrose Harper and Constance Hatchaway.

Near this portrait are a number of modest wedding gifts such as a music box, china, crystal, and various household goods. A nearby wedding album reads:

OUR WEDDING DAY
Ambrose and Constance 1869

Ambrose is the son of successful farmers. For this particular occasion he wears a sensible woolen suit and bowler hat. Constance's past is murky and suspect. For her special day she wears a stylish wedding gown and a single strand of pearls. As you pass their portrait, Ambrose's face fades into nothingness and then reappears - signifying that Constance has outlived him for some reason.

You soon come to a second portrait, this time featuring Constance and her new partner, Frank Banks. Frank is an Eastern banker and well placed in his community. He proudly dons a stovepipe hat. Constance, being practical, chose to wear the same wedding dress as before, but this time proudly displays two strands of pearls around her neck.

Look closely at the cabinet in the foreground. On it you'll see a porcelain figurine of a well-to-do French woman looking down at a second, toppled figurine of a gentleman, who apparently lost his head in the fall. On the shelf below you can see a broken ceramic heart-shaped box.

There are more wedding gifts in this area and they seem to be of better quality than those given to Constance on her first marriage. A nearby banner reads:

Constance and Frank
TRUE LOVE FOREVER

Constance chose for her next spouse a foreign diplomat known as the Marquis De Doom. In their wedding portrait, The Marquis wears a military uniform, complete with sash, assorted medals and a formal hat with plume. The ever sensible Constance once again chose to wear the same dress; however three strands of pearls are now evident. There wedding album reads:

The Marquis Constance
1874

Continuing her social climb, Constance's next husband is Reginald Caine. He was a railroad baron and dressed the part. For his wedding he sports a brocade vest, fancy shirt, and costly jacket. And like her previous husbands, he too dons a fine hat. Being ostentatious, Reginald also wears a large ring on his little finger and a sizable stone in his lapel.

Constance, as usual, chose the same wedding dress. It has served her well so far and she sees no reason to tamper with things. The only change, a fourth strand of pearls has been added to her ensemble.

A nearby frame says:

Reginald & Constance
1875

Constance's last husband was George Hightower. He should look familiar to you as you have seen his countenance for many years on the gravestone in the stretching room. Before his demise, George owned the stately mansion you are now visiting.

The gifts for this final wedding are by far the most expensive. In keeping with her growing wealth, their wedding portrait is displayed in an ornate frame. An inset reads:

George & Constance
1877

As you might have guessed, Constance now wears five strands of pearls.

As with Ambrose, Constance's first husband, each successive spouse fades from view as you pass their portraits. All the while, a melancholy rendition of "Hear Comes the Bride" can be heard in the background.

In this same area is a hat rack. Hanging on it are all five of the hats worn by Constance's dead husbands.

Just before you exit the attic, we finally get to meet the ghost of Constance.

She stands in peaceful serenity as her hands move from her side toward her chest and an axe materializes in her grasp. All the while, she utters a number of well known, albeit telling, wedding phrases, each with a slightly different expression. With a twinkle in her eye she calmly says:

"'Till Death". Do Us Part""

"Here comes the bride!"

"As long as we both shall live""

"For better or for".WORSE."

"I do. I did!"

"In sickness and in ".wealth!"

"You may now kiss the bride."

"We'll live happily ever"after!"

Many of the sights I've described are difficult to see. EXTREMELY difficult to see. I rode the Mansion five times in a row last week, looking for them and it took a quick eye. Good luck!

Interested in learning more about Disney's Haunted Mansions? Check out Imagineer Jason Surrell's book The Haunted Mansion: From Magic Kingdom to the Movies!

September 8, 2008

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

For many years, Universal Studios featured Halloween Horror Nights. This was a separate, ticketed event and the park was transformed at night from its regular theming into a frightening ghost town. It was marketed toward teenagers and young adults and the idea was to truly scare their guests with monsters, vampires, werewolves, and other terrifying surprises.

In response, Disney started their own Halloween party. But since they cater to a more diverse age group, Disney realized that their gathering would need to be more tame than Universal's. Thus was born, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP).

On given nights during the months of September and October, extra theming is added to the Magic Kingdom and it is transformed into a playful Halloween experience, suitable for ALL ages. This is a separate, ticketed event and admission can be purchased at any of the "Guest Relations" desks at Walt Disney World.


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I attended this year's first event on September 5th. The party officially runs from 7pm - 12 midnight, however, guests can enter the Magic Kingdom at 4pm with their MNSSHP ticket. Upon entering, you will be given a wrist band and a trick-or-treat bag. At precisely 7pm, cast members make a sweep of the entire park and politely, but firmly make anyone not wearing a wrist band leave the park.

Although some decorations and exhibits are not displayed until the party begins, others are on display for all of September and October.


Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations


Pay special attention to many of the carved pumpkins above the shops on Main Street. Pictured below are a few found above Casey's Corner and the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.


Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations


Here are a few more pictures of the special theming that is added for the event.


Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Magic Kingdom Halloween Themeing and Decorations

Normally, guests over the age of nine are not allowed to wear costumes in the Magic Kingdom, but this rule is waved for this event. Many children and a fair number of adults dress for the occasion.

Free face painting is also available so those of you who forgot your costumes can also get into the spirit.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


Opportunities to trick-or-treat are everywhere and are clearly marked by signs.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


Candy is generously distributed at each location. Cast members dressed in special Halloween garb give out 2-4 pieces to each guest as they pass through the line.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


Besides some inexpensive lollypops a chocolates, name-brand treats are also dispensed like, Oh Henry, Snickers, Tootsie Roll, Skittles, and SweetTarts. Note, these are the miniature versions, like the ones you'd buy to give out from your own home.

Beginning at the back of Mickey's Toontown Fair, you can stroll through Alice and Mad Hatter's Treat Party.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


As guests walk the trail to Tomorrowland, they encounter a number of props and characters, and photo opportunities abound. And as you might guess, more candy is available.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


The cast members working the Haunted Mansion also get a makeover. Besides their regular, somber costume, their faces are made up to look ghoulish. Also, a "spirit from beyond" takes center stage on the lawn of the mansion and entertains guests with wonderful stories of her life, both living and dead. Many let others pass them in line so they can stand longer and listen to her tales. To add to the creepiness, the gravestones are given a spooky look with the addition of low lying fog.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


There are a couple of Dance Parties held during MNSSHP. One at Ariel's Grotto in Fantasyland and another at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café in Tomorrowland. I snapped this picture of Stitch impersonating Elvis at Cosmic Rays.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


Presented on the Castle stage is the Villain's Mix and Mingle show. Here, some of Disney's greatest bad-guys and gals dance and rant and try to impress you with their evilness.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


Character Meet-and-Greets are numerous so it's easy to get pictures with some of your favorite Disney friends as you've never seen them before. In Fantasyland, you can have your picture taken in front of Cinderella's glass coach.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


I think most people would agree that Mickey's "Boo-to-You" Halloween Parade is the highlight of the evening. Shown twice each night (8:15 & 10:30), this spectacle is a hoot. Be sure to find your viewing spot by the announced beginning time as the Headless Horseman makes a mad dash along the parade route to the cheers of the crowd. If you're not there in time, you miss him.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


The beginning of the parade starts off tame enough with some of the not-so-scary characters, but then the villains take over for a haunting good time.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade


Toward the end of the parade, several Goofy's Candy Company carts. stroll by and a number of his minions pass out treats to the crowd.


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Boo to You Parade


At 9:30, a special fireworks show called Happy HalloWishes is presented. A Ghost Host introduces villain after villain and the castle is illuminated appropriately while color coordinated fireworks burst over head.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Happy HalloWishes Fireworks

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Happy HalloWishes Fireworks

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Happy HalloWishes Fireworks

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Happy HalloWishes Fireworks


Not all of the rides and restaurants are open for this event. But since Disney caps the attendance at a reasonable number, it is never crowded and lines are usually short to non-existent.

Here is a list of the OPEN rides and attractions for MNSSHP:
Swiss Family Treehouse
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Splash Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
The Haunted Mansion
Peter Pan's Flight
Cinderella's Colden Carrousel
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Mickey's PhilharMagic
Snow White's Scary Adventures
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Mad Tea Party
"it's a small world"
Tomorrowland Indy Speedway
Space Mountain
Astro Orbiter
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Tomorrowland Transit Authority
Stitch's Great Escape
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm

Stitch's Cosmic Dance Party at Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe:
7:00pm, 8:00pm, 9:00pm, 10:00pm, and 11:00pm

Ariel's Grotto Dance Party:
7:00pm, 8:00pm, 9:00pm, 10:00pm, and 11:00pm

Villain's Mix and Mingle shows at the Castle Stage:
7:45, 9:00, 10:05, and 11:15

Character Greetings take place from 7 - 11:30.

Hallowishes Fireworks at 9:30pm.

Here's the special map provided for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party!

There is only one table-service restaurant open during MNSSHP, Tony's Town Square Restaurant. Personally, I think it might be a mistake to eat here during this event. MNSSHP is only five hours in length. Do you really want to spend almost an hour of your time eating a meal? I would suggest eating before you arrive or take advantage of one of the many counter service restaurants available.

Note, the official handout that Disney gives to guests states that Tony's is the only full-service restaurant open for these events. However, one of my readers has informed me that the Liberty Tree Tavern is open on selected nights as she has a reservation and confirmed this with Disney.

I enjoyed MNSSHP. However, I am an annual pass-holder and visit the Magic Kingdom often. Before I purchased my ticket, I had to ask myself if I really wanted to spend $50+ to see a special parade and fireworks show, because that's what it really boils down to. Yes, Disney has added some special theming, candy, and limited entertainment, but is that really enough to justify the money. Obviously, many people think so as this event is very popular. But you need to consider this before you attend so you won't be disappointed.

Remaining 2008 dates are:

September 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 28, 30
October 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, 31 (31st SOLDOUT)

Disney's Official Press Release: New Character Costumes at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party!

For prices and more information, click here.

May 22, 2008

1972 Magic Kingdom Walt Disney World Pictures - Part 2

This is my last set of January, 1972 pictures. I do have others, but they are of things that have changed very little over the years, such as Main Street and portions of Fantasyland, and really aren't of any historical interest. Enjoy!

This first picture is of the Haunted Mansion. The first interesting detail is the lack of trees. Although you can't see it in this picture, in the early years, the building that actually houses the attraction was visible from inside the park. Also notice that the queue doesn't have an awning over it. Remember, Walt Disney World was designed by people who lived in California. They hadn't yet learned that the sun is brutal in Florida, as are the rainstorms.

Haunted Mansion Magic Kingdom 1973

This next picture was taken from the Skyway of the Mad Tea Party. Notice that the teacups do not yet have a roof overhead. Same California designers.

Mad Tea Party Magic Kingdom 1973

The third picture is of the "Pearly Band." These entertainers were a regular fixture at Disneyland and then the Magic Kingdom after Mary Poppins debuted. If you remember, a "pearly band" played in the animated portion of the movie. I can't remember the last time I saw this group. They are playing in front of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in Fantasyland, the current home of the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction.

Pearly Band

This fourth picture, also taken from the Skyway, is of Tomorrowland under construction. The Carousel of Progress would eventually be built here. Like Disneyland in 1955, when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, Tomorrowland was just a shell of what it would finally become.


Future Home of the Carousel of Progress Magic Kingdom 1973

I took this final picture of a popcorn vendor because of the costume he was wearing. I had never seen this outfit as the Disneyland vendors wore different apparel. Eventually, this look would find its way to California. Like the pearly band, this costume is now just a memory.

Also notice the spires that marked the entrance to Tomorrowland. The design called for columns of water to cascade from these towers. However, even a slight breeze would send droplets all over the walkway and they were often turned off to save giving the guests a shower.

Tomorrowland Popcorn Vender Magic Kingdom 1973

May 11, 2008

Adventureland - Magic Kingdom - History Lesson

Q: Do you know why Adventureland is located on the west side of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World?

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A: It's because Adventureland is located on the west side of Disneyland in Anaheim. When planning the Magic Kingdom, Imagineers used Disneyland's layout as a starting point when designing their new park.

Q: Do you know why Adventureland is located on the west side of Disneyland?

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A: Original plans called for the "True Life Adventures" (later to become the Adventureland) to be located on the east side of the park between Main Street and "World of Tomorrow" (later to become Tomorrowland). This can be seen in an early concept drawing by Herb Ryman.

Herb Ryman Concept Drawing Disneyland

But while surveying the orange groves that would eventually become Disneyland, planners found a windbreak of giant eucalyptus trees that had been planted around the turn of the century. Ironically, these trees helped determine the location of Main Street as it was decided that they would make a nice backdrop behind City Hall and help delineate between "civilization" and the "jungles of the world." Thus, Adventureland was moved to its current location on the west side of the park.

These trees, now over a hundred years old, are clearly visible in an early Disneyland postcard and are still visible today.


Disneyland%20Postcard.jpg

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April 17, 2008

Harper's Mill, Old Time Telephone, and Kingdom Tower - Walt Disney World

I recently wrote a blog about the bird's nest hidden in Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom. One of my readers, Chris, wrote to tell me that if you listen carefully, the creaking gears inside the mill play "Down By The Old Mill Stream." I checked it out today and sure enough, if you know what you're listening for, there's no mistaking this tune. Thanks Chris.

Harpers Mill Tom Sawyer Island

In another blog I wrote that when Arribas Brothers took over the Market House on Main Street, the old-time telephone was removed. Another reader, Shorty, wrote to tell me that the old telephone now has a new home in the Chapeau Shop on Town Square. Yea! Thanks Shorty.

Chapeau Shop Main Street USA

Telephone in Chapeau Shop

Telephone in Chapeau Shop


As I keep saying, it's these little details that make Disney special. Now, if I could just convince Disney to bring back Jennifer, the ticket seller that used to sit in the entrance area of the Main Street Cinema"

While riding the monorail to the Magic Kingdom today, I snapped a couple of pictures of the "Kingdom Tower" (the yet to be announced DVC) under construction. As you can see by the pictures, the structure is coming right along and it appears they're currently working on the twelfth floor. Also, new construction has commenced on the walkway that will connect the new resort with the fourth floor of the Contemporary.

Kingdom Tower

Kingdom Tower

March 24, 2008

Old Walt Disney World Pictures

A couple of months ago, I published some old pictures I had taken at Walt Disney World. I received several letters asking that I publish more, so here goes. All of these were taken in January, 1972, just a little over three months after Disney World opened.

The first picture is of the Toll Plaza. Notice it says "Parking Entrance." It doesn't even say "Walt Disney World" yet.

Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza 1972

This next photo is of the Contemporary Resort taken from the Skyway in Tomorrowland. Notice the lack of vegetation. Also, notice the crane. By this date, all of the modular rooms had been hoisted into place, but the suites, which were NOT modular, were still under construction.

Contemporary Resort taken from the Skyway in Tomorrowland 1972

This third picture is of a room in the Contemporary. So this is what the Imagineers thought the future would look like during their planning sessions in the late 60's.

Contemporary Room 1972

This next shot was taken from inside the Contemporary, looking south from the middle of the building. Notice how this area hasn't yet been expanded out beyond the windows which would eventually become Chef Mickey's. Also notice the orange and yellow plastic trees.

Contemporary Resort 4th Floor - 1972


And finally, this last picture was taken from one of the balcony rooms of the Contemporary looking west. Once again, notice the lack of vegetation and a missing Grand Floridian Resort.

By the way, a Tower Room in the Contemporary cost $35 per night back then!

View from the Contemporary 1972

March 10, 2008

Main Street USA City Hall Steeple

When I was in the Magic Kingdom over the weekend, I did a double-take when I looked at City Hall which is currently undergoing rehab. It's missing its steeple. And not only is the steeple missing, but so is the printed upper canvas designed to lessen the impact of the rehab is gone.

City%20Hall.jpg

March 4, 2008

The Old Mill

In 1937, Walt Disney produced "The Old Mill," one of the Silly Symphonies. This was the first film to use the multiplane camera, a device that added depth of field to animation.

multiplane camera

This film also depicted realistic animal behavior, wind and rain effects, and new lighting techniques. So innovative was this film that it won the 1937 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Cartoon.

The Old Mill

In one scene of the film, we see a bird that has made her nest inside a gear socket located within the old mill. As a storm outside starts to rage, the gears start to move, threatening to crush the mother and her eggs as the gears join together. But fate is with the bird and the opposing gear is missing one of its teeth, thus, the bird is never crushed.

The%20Old%20Mill%201.jpg


Disney has paid homage to this film at Walt Disney World. Inside Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom is a complex set of gears used to grind grain. Within one of these gears you can see a small bird sitting on her nest. She too spins around as the waterwheel outside turns. But this bird is also spared a disastrous ending as the gears never quite crush her.

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Now it's obvious that the old mill in the animated film looks nothing like Harper's Mill. And the gear configuration is not the same. But there can be no mistake that this is a tribute to one of Walt Disney's early masterpieces.

The%20Old%20Mill%203.jpg

February 24, 2008

Liberty Tree Tavern Pagers

A very old tradition has died at the Liberty Tree Tavern at the Magic Kingdom. In the past, when guests checked in at the podium, they were asked what state they were from. Then, when it was time to be seated, the host or hostess would call out in town-crier fashion, "Hear ye! Hear ye! Now seating the Spence party (family) from the great state of Florida. But those days are gone.

Now when guests check in at the podium, they are given a pager with no question about their home state. On the plus side, the pagers do allow guests more freedom of movement as they are now allowed to wonder outside while waiting for their table. But on the downside, the restaurant has lost some of its charm with this new system.

And if my experience today is any indication, their system needs some work. After my pager was activated and I handed it back to a hostess, I was all but forgotten. Other parties were being seated while I was left standing there. After I brought this to their attention, I still waited several minutes while they tried to figure out what had happened to my reservation. When they finally found it, a new hostess asked me for my pager - which I had to explain had already been given to someone else several minutes earlier.

Bottom line" Pagers are now the norm in restaurants - which is probably a good thing. But isn't there someway to do this without giving up the charm of old traditions?

February 21, 2008

Diamond Horseshoe

The Diamond Horseshoe in the Magic Kingdom is currently serving lunch from 11am to 4pm during the busy President's week. Premade sandwiches, a Caesar Salad, and drinks are available. I asked a cast member if this was a permanent arrangement and I was told that this venue would be used occasionally throughout the year during busy times. The Disney Dining Plan is accepted here.

Diamond%20Horseshoe%201.jpg

Diamond%20Horseshoe%202.jpg

Diamond%20Horseshoe%203.jpg

February 11, 2008

Pirate Tutorial

The "Pirate Tutorial" show at the Magic Kingdom has been moved to a new location.

Once performed in a make-shift area next to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" attraction, the "Pirate Tutorial" show has now found a permanent, more substantial home.

The small stage next to the "El Pirata y el Perico" restaurant that was often used for steel band performances has been made over and expanded to accommodate the "Pirate Tutorial" show.

Pirate Tutorial Stage

This is a much better location as it is on a major thoroughfare and not hidden in a back corner. The only problem I foresee is the crowds. The day I saw the show, guests watching the performance almost completely blocked this walkway. Still, I think this is a small price to pay for a vastly better location.

Pirate Tutorial Show

February 7, 2008

Step Back in Time - Magic Kingdom

I first visited Disney World in January 1972.

Over the years, I took a number of pictures while vacationing here. Looking back, I wish I had taken more, but then I have to remind myself, film was expensive and having the photos developed added to the cost.

So I cherish the pictures I did take and smile nostalgically when I look at them. That being said, I thought I'd share a few "golden oldies" with you and show you how much things have changed over the years.

This first picture is of Tomorrowland as it appeared in 1972. Notice that the Astro Orbiter and Space Mountain have not yet been build. Also missing, but out of view, is the Carousel of Progress.

Tomorrowland 1972

This next picture was taken in March of 1975. Big Thunder Mountain eventually rose on this vacant piece of land.

Big Thunder Mountain


This picture of the original Frontierland Train Station was taken in October 1983. This building was razed to make room for Splash Mountain.

Frontierland Train Station circa 1983


Long before International Gateway was built at Epcot, a peaceful canal meandered between the UK and France Pavilions. This picture was also taken in October, 1983.

International Gateway

And finally we have the Hollywood Bowl at the then Disney/MGM Studios. This structure was removed as it stood at the entrance to what is now Sunset Boulevard. This shot was taken in October 1989.

Hollywood Bowl

January 17, 2008

Main Street's City Hall Gets a Face Lift!

In order to keep Walt Disney World looking as good as it looks, attractions and buildings must be occasionally closed for refurbishment.

In years past, plywood panels would be erected around the building so workmen could clean, repair, and paint the building out of sight of the guests.

But a couple of years ago, Disney came up with a great idea. They decided to print a picture of the building being rehabbed on a large canvas and position it in front of the structure. This was far and away more attractive than plywood panels and the intrusion on the guest was minimal.

Currently, City Hall in the Magic Kingdom is undergoing rehab. These pictures show how well this new technique works.

City Hall on Main Street

City Hall Rehab

December 13, 2007

Crystal Arts - Main Street Magic Kingdom

Earlier this year (or maybe even last year), the Bakery on Main Street needed to expand its seating area. To do this, Disney displaced the Arribas Brothers glass shop that shared this area.

Shortly after the expansion was complete, the Market House next door was closed and remodeled. It reopened several months later and was renamed Crystal Arts. Arribas Brothers has moved into this location and the shop is substantially bigger than their previous home. But more changes were on the way.

Crystal Arts Store Main Street Magic Kingdom

Adjacent to the Crystal Arts store, facing onto Center Street, were two other shops. These formally sold children's items and other Disney merchandise. These two shops have also been closed for a number of months. Last week, they reopened and are now a part of the Crystal Arts shop. This has almost tripled the amount of merchandise Arribas Brothers sells. In essence, all of their goods that were once sold in Cinderella Castle (now Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique) and their former shop next to the Bakery have been rolled into one.

Crystal Arts Store Main Street Magic Kingdom

Crystal Arts Store Main Street Magic Kingdom

Crystal Arts Store Main Street Magic Kingdom

In the back of the store is a special area featuring a new highlight. Although not quite complete, soon an artisan will be stationed here. Like the glass-blowing area in the front of the shop, here another artist will fashion larger pieces of art while guests look on. Three large kilns are clearly visible in this area and it should be interesting to see the items before and after their baking.

Crystal Arts Store Main Street Magic Kingdom

Crystal Arts Store Main Street Magic Kingdom

Crystal Arts Store Main Street Magic Kingdom

A cast member told me that the new creations would be similar to the vases pictured here.

Crystal Arts Store Main Street Magic Kingdom

Crystal Arts Store Main Street Magic Kingdom


My only regret" There once was an old-fashioned telephone in the Market House. You could pick up the receiver and hear a mock 1890's party-line conversation between a mother and daughter. It was very amusing and always brought a smile to my face. Sadly, this phone was removed during the remodel - another Disney detail has died. I know this was a very small attraction - very few people were even aware it was here. But it's these small details that make Disney parks so special. Luckily, you can still find these old phones in the Market House store at Disneyland in California. Let's keep our fingers crossed that they aren't removed too.


November 30, 2007

Exposition Hall in the Magic Kingdom

Where do you go at the Magic Kingdom when you're hot and tired and want to escape the unmanageable crowds and cool down? Try Exposition Hall located on the Plaza at the beginning of Main Street.

The front half of this building houses a shop and Photo Pickup.

But if you wander to the rear of the building, you'll find a delightful spot that very few people ever go. This area was once the home of the "Walt Disney Story," a 23 minute film that ran from 1973 to 1992. Now, only a small portion of the original theater remains, but what's left is a delight. Approximately thirty seats face a small screen that continually plays vintage Mickey Mouse cartoons. This is a wonderful place to relax, chat, and forget the throngs of people outside.

Exposition%20Hall%201.jpg


Also in this back area are several picture opportunities. Four two-dimensional vignettes featuring Steamboat Willie, 101 Dalmatians, Snow White, and Buzz Lightyear are available to pose one or several of your party in. Note, these are not the "real" characters you see out in the parks, but simply cut-outs that allow guests to place their face or body into a scene. Since this area is never crowded, you'll have plenty of time to compose your picture and the finished product can be quite cute.


Exposition%20Hall%202.jpg

Exposition%20Hall%203.jpg


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Exposition%20Hall%205.jpg


November 28, 2007

Art of Disney store in Magic Kingdom

The Art of Disney, or as I like to call it, the "good" store, has opened in the Main Street Cinema building in the Magic Kingdom.

Exterior of the Art of Disney Store in Magic Kingdom


This store sells upscale merchandise. Lenox, Armani, the Disney Classic Collection, and original and limited edition paintings by featured artist can be found here.

Compared to its sister stores in Epcot, Downtown Disney, and the Disney/MGM Studios, this store is small. So small in fact that some of its merchandise spills over into the adjoining store, the Uptown Jewelers.

The redesign is nice and I'm glad Disney has found a new home for this store as it seems to have bounced around from one location to the next over the past several years.

One sad note" For many years, a ticket booth sat just inside the entrance of the Main Street Cinema - back when old Mickey Mouse cartoons were actually shown here. Inside the ticket booth was a mannequin of a young lady, the ticket seller. She wore a Disney name tag and if memory serves, her name was Jennifer from Marceline (Walt's home town). A couple of years ago the ticket booth disappeared. I asked a cast member what had happened to it and I was told that it was being refurbished and would return soon. Alas, it never did.

I realize that in the scheme of things, the disappearance of Jennifer is insignificant. But her demise scares me. Every time the powers-that-be removes one of the little details that make Disney parks so special, I have to ask myself "Where will it end?" For that matter, I miss the "old" Main Street Cinema (when it showed movies), the Magic Shop, and the Penny Arcade. These were special locations. Now these spots sell the same merchandise you can find everywhere else on property. Sigh.

Art of Disney Store in Magic Kingdom

Art of Disney Store in Magic Kingdom

Art of Disney Store in Magic Kingdom

Art of Disney Store in Magic Kingdom

Art of Disney Store in Magic Kingdom

Art of Disney Store in Magic Kingdom

November 14, 2007

Monsters Inc., Laugh Floor

My good friend Anita Answer suggested I check out the changes made to the Monsters Inc., Laugh Floor attraction in the Magic Kingdom.

First, the lobby, or initial waiting room, has been redone. When the Laugh Floor first opened, a number of canvas banners were hung from the walls and ceiling. These banners provided comedy relief and gave guests instructions on how to text message jokes for the upcoming show. To me, these banners always looked cheap and reminded me that this use to be the Timekeeper attraction rather than an all new show. I'm happy to report that these banners have been replaced with permanent signs. The room now has a much more professional look about it.

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Laugh%20Floor%20Lobby%202.jpg

Laugh%20Floor%20Lobby%203.jpg

Laugh%20Floor%20Lobby%204.jpg

The second change has to do with the preshow in the second waiting room. In addition to continued instructions on how to text message jokes, Roz and Mike Wazowski do a little routine. Roz shows the audience various "out takes" that Mike has been involved with while performing past shows. This is also a nice addition. Besides filling "dead" time, the skit is cute and brings more than a few chuckles to the room. In other words, Roz and Mike are warming up the audience for the show to come.

Laugh%20Floor%20Preshow.jpg

November 12, 2007

Updates Around Walt Disney World

The day after Halloween, Disney went to work decorating for Christmas. The transformation takes weeks as Santa's Helpers move from park to park and resort to resort, stringing garland and decorating trees. I visited the Magic Kingdom and Main Street is all decked out. Once again, the big Christmas tree is temporarily located in the Hub. If tradition holds, after the annual Christmas Day television show is filmed (several weeks before Christmas), the tree will be moved to Town Square.

Christmas Decorations in the Magic Kingdom


Christmas Decorations in the Magic Kingdom

Christmas Decorations in the Magic Kingdom

MK%20Christmas%20Tree.jpg


Haunted Mansion Tip:
I had read this on another Disney webpage, but wanted to check it out for myself before I wrote about it. As you may have read, the Haunted Mansion underwent a wonderful refurbishment. Enhancements were made throughout the attraction. One small, almost completely unnoticeable enhancement is in the stretch room. If you linger behind the crowd as they are exiting this room, pay attention to the gargoyles. They speak and chatter and laugh. It's difficult to hear, you need to pay attention, but they are definitely making noise. This is a VERY minor effect. Only a true Disneyphile would even care. But if you're like me and want to experience everything, then don't rush out of the Stretch Room. Linger.


For the past several years, Disney has offered for sale miniature Magic Kingdom buildings so that guests can create their own Christmas Village back home. Past years included several Main Street buildings and Cinderella Castle. This year the Haunted Mansion was introduced. The piece measures 10" x 8" x 6" and sells for $60. Currently, I have only seen this item for sale at the Christmas Shops in the Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney.


Haunted%20Mansion.jpg



When the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique opened in Cinderella Castle, the Art of Disney shop was displaced. Currently, the Main Street Cinema is being refurbished. When it reopens on November 21st, it will be the new home of the

Main Street Cinema to become Art of Disney Shop

Main Street Cinema to become Art of Disney Shop


As construction continues on the rumored DVC north of the Contemporary Resort, a second floor is clearly visible. In addition, the foundation for the bridge/walkway between the fourth floor (Grand Canyon Concourse) of the Contemporary and the new DVC is noticeable.

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Contemporary%20DVC%202.jpg

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Contemporary%20DVC%20Walkway.jpg


New drinking fountains have started appearing in and around the TTC.

Drinking%20Fountain.jpg


Those of you who choose not to use Disney to ship your packages home need to know that the Lake Buena Vista Post Office has moved. It is now located in the Shoppes at Vista Center. The address is: 8536 Palm Parkway, Orlando, FL. Phone: 407-248-1153. Hours: M-F 9:00am - 4:00pm, Sat 9:00am - 12:00pm, Closed Sundays and Holidays.

Post%20Office%201.jpg

October 9, 2007

Haunted Mansion Update

I rode the Haunted Mansion today and I'm happy to report that the Attic Room is now working properly.

CAUTION Spoiler ahead"
CAUTION Spoiler ahead"

CAUTION Spoiler ahead"

CAUTION Spoiler ahead"

CAUTION Spoiler ahead"

CAUTION Spoiler ahead"

CAUTION Spoiler ahead"

CAUTION Spoiler ahead"

CAUTION Spoiler ahead"

CAUTION Spoiler ahead"

CAUTION Spoiler ahead"

When the HM reopened, the Attic Room had been completely redesigned. Instead of the carnival-like "pop-up" heads, various portraits of a bride and her numerous, headless husbands were scattered around the attic. However, the pictures were stagnant and contained no special effects. Now, as you pass by each portrait, the husbands' faces fade in and out as guests pass by while the bride's face remains constant.

Now that the effect is working properly it is consistent with its Disneyland, California counterpart.

September 15, 2007

Haunted Mansion Comes Alive

All Ears® Team Member Jack Spence (accompanied by Anita Answer and friends) files this report:

The good news: it's still the Haunted Mansion. It has been improved. Some changes are obvious, others would hardly be noticed. They come together to update a wonderful attraction. Somebody who had never been on the attraction wouldn't have a clue of which effects are new, and which are the originals from 1969 / 1971. Even people familiar with the attraction might have trouble.

First, what hasn't changed:

It's still the Haunted Mansion.

The feeling of the attraction is the same.

The entire graveyard scene is the same.

The busts that turn to watch you pass are the same.

The hitchhiking ghosts still join you on the way out.

The ballroom dancers are still backwards.


Rumors that weren't true:

There are no live bats

There is no new shop at the exit.

What is different outside:

Outside, the queue begins near the old fastpass structure. The line has a couple of switchbacks in this area before proceeding under the "13 minute" sign. (The line was long this morning, so all the queue was in use.) The awning over the queue area next to the Rivers of America is wider than it used to be. This provides enough space that they can divide it into thirds - so one line goes in front of the mansion toward the attraction entrance, then it switches back toward the 13-minute sign, then switches back toward the attraction entrance again. The line is narrower than it used to be, so people more naturally fill the available space without worrying about passing (or being passed by) somebody else.

The color of the building is subtly different.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT AHEAD. DO NOT LOOK/READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED AT THE HAUNTED MANSION CHANGES. DETAILS OF THE CHANGES INSIDE OF THE ATTRACTION ARE BELOW THIS WARNING.


WARNING: SPOILER ALERT AHEAD. DO NOT LOOK/READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED AT THE HAUNTED MANSION CHANGES. DETAILS OF THE CHANGES INSIDE OF THE ATTRACTION ARE BELOW THIS WARNING.


WARNING: SPOILER ALERT AHEAD. DO NOT LOOK/READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED AT THE HAUNTED MANSION CHANGES. DETAILS OF THE CHANGES INSIDE OF THE ATTRACTION ARE BELOW THIS WARNING.


WARNING: SPOILER ALERT AHEAD. DO NOT LOOK/READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED AT THE HAUNTED MANSION CHANGES. DETAILS OF THE CHANGES INSIDE OF THE ATTRACTION ARE BELOW THIS WARNING.


WARNING: SPOILER ALERT AHEAD. DO NOT LOOK/READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED AT THE HAUNTED MANSION CHANGES. DETAILS OF THE CHANGES INSIDE OF THE ATTRACTION ARE BELOW THIS WARNING.


WARNING: SPOILER ALERT AHEAD. DO NOT LOOK/READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED AT THE HAUNTED MANSION CHANGES. DETAILS OF THE CHANGES INSIDE OF THE ATTRACTION ARE BELOW THIS WARNING.


What is different inside

The first improvement I noticed was the sound. In the stretch room, the ghost host doesn't bounce from one location to another. Rather the voice moves smoothly around the room. Also, some new sounds have been added to improve effects - when the room stretches, it creaks.

The interior of the attraction has been spruced up. For example, the wallpaper in the stretch room is new. The old was looking rather shabby. The frames on the stretch pictures look better.

The lighting throughout has been improved. While the ambient lighting isn't brighter, most anything of interest is better lit. The hanging body above the ceiling is more visible; the ballroom characters are brighter.

Some of the pictures with the eyes that follow you have been moved to the loading area. The hallway where these pictures used to be now has windows on the left side, with lightning outside and the appropriate thunder. On the other side, there are still pictures, some with the eyes that follow you, and some not. But all of the pictures change appearance with the flashes of lightning.

One of the most obvious changes is the area where giant spiders used to be on giant webs. Those are completely gone, replaced by stairways going up, down, and around at odd angles. Some room décor around the area (such as candelabra and small rugs) are also at odd angles, even upside down. You can even see the foot falls as a ghost is walking on the steps. I always thought the spider webs were put in because there just wasn't enough space in this area for anything more. The Imagineers certainly overcame that limitation.

The séance room has more items floating around the outer edges (or are they just better lit?) Madame Leota's crystal ball floats and moves above the table.

The other most obvious changes are in the attic room. The pop-up heads are gone. Similar to the Disneyland HM, there are several pictures, each with the same bride, but each with a different groom. At Disneyland, the faces of the grooms fade out. I believe the effect is supposed to be the same here, but it wasn't working. Finally, you see the bride, holding an ax which appears and disappears.

One of the best effects is that there are eyes (bats' eyes, I think) which watch you from the darkness. Some of the eyes even move. As you move along, the eyes transform into the wallpaper - the same wallpaper with eyes that has been on the walls since opening day.

If you're looking for more information on the Haunted Mansion, Jason Surrell has written a great book on this attraction. The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies fleshes out how the Mansion's 999 grim grinning ghosts were brought to life. Rare early sketches and story concepts, and stunning architectural drawings illustrate the Mansion's evolution as it was constructed at each Magic Kingdom Park around the globe.
The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies

September 14, 2007

Magic Kingdom Decks out for Halloween

Jack Spence Reports.....

Town Square in the Magic Kingdom is all decked out for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Here are a few of the scarecrows that welcome guests.
Pumpkin Scarecrows in Magic Kingdom

Pumpkin Scarecrows in Magic Kingdom

Pumpkin Scarecrows in Magic Kingdom

Pumpkin Scarecrows in Magic Kingdom

Pumpkin Scarecrows in Magic Kingdom

September 12, 2007

Patriot's Day Flag Retreat

A special Flag Retreat was held at Town Square in the Magic Kingdom Tuesday in honor of Patriots Day (9/11).

The Voices of Liberty were on hand as well as the Disney Philharmonic. Several of the numbers performed were, Proud To Be An American, This Land Is Your Land, and an audience participation of God Bless America.

A Marine Chaplin was the Veteran of the Day and a special Navy Color Guard was also in attendance.

A moment of silence was observed in honor of the victims and families of the 9/11 tragedy.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Voices of Liberty

Guest of Honer

Guest Speaker

Small Flag

September 3, 2007

Haunted Mansion Update

I visited the Magic Kingdom today and took a couple of pictures of the Haunted Mansion. As you can see, it is encased in scaffolding.

Haunted Mansion.jpg


Haunted Mansion

August 7, 2007

Pecos Bills - Magic Kingdom

Pecos Bill's  Express Ordering Menu

Several years ago, the Pecos Bill Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom tested a couple of automated "ordering" stations where guests could place their meal order via touch-sensitive screens instead of interacting with a cast member. For whatever reason, these stations were removed after a month-long test period.

Pecos Bill's Ordering Station Kiosks

Last month, they appeared again, this time with a more user-friendly design. On the previous version, it was almost impossible to find the slot to slide your credit card through. On the new models, it's very obvious how to pay. The sign above the machines says that you can only pay using a credit card or the Disney Dining Plan. It does indicated that you can use your Disney hotel room key. Cash transactions mush be made with a cast member.

Pecos Bill's  Touch Screen


After you order, a receipt will print out which you take to the counter and wait for your food to be delivered.

Pecos Bill's Ordering Screens

Pecos Bill's Ordering Screens

July 5, 2007

July 4th, 2007 Walt Disney World Naturalization Ceremony Part 2

July 4th, 2007 Walt Disney World Naturalization Ceremony

Yesterday, I had the honor and privilege to witness more than one thousand immigrants become United States citizens. The event took place in the Magic Kingdom in front of Cinderella Castle, where people from more than a hundred nations raised their right hand and swore allegiance to this great country.

The event started with Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney World, welcoming guests. During her comments she remarked how wonderful it was that one of these peoples' greatest dreams was coming true during Disney's "Year of a Million Dreams" celebration.

Following her welcoming speech, the 6th Air Mobility Wing Honor Guard appeared on stage and raised the Stars and Stripes with all the pomp and spender one would expect. A slight breeze caught the flag and it bellowed beautifully in the wind. With the flag flying high, Gloria Estefan sang the Star Spangled Banner.

A loud speaker announcement followed and a roll call of all the nations being represented by this group of people was read. I wasn't amazed to hear nations like Cuba, Bangladesh, and Haiti mentioned. These are poor or oppressed countries. It's easy for me to understand why someone would want to leave these places for a better life. But when I heard names like Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany mentioned, I was surprised. These countries enjoy prosperity and freedom. I realized that America still holds a strong allure to people all over the world.

Dr. Emilio Gonzales, Director of the USCIS and also a naturalized citizen gave the Oath of Allegiance. With a thousand right hands raised high in the air, strong voices pledged to support and defend the Constitution. It was at this point I became a little teary myself.

With an audience of new citizens watching, Senator Mel Martinez (Fl) took the stage. Like his onlookers, he too is a naturalized citizen. It was at this time the Florida skies could hold back no longer and it began to rain. Disney, being Disney, had thought of everything and everyone had been given a poncho in advance. Interrupting his prepared speech, Senator Martinez remarked that after all these years of work to become a U.S. citizen they weren't going to let a little rain dampen their spirits. The crowd cheered enthusiastically.

The Pledge of Allegiance was then said by all and then a pre-recorded message from President Bush was played. The Voices of Liberty appeared soon after with umbrellas in hand and sang "Golden Dream."

When Dr. Gonzales returned to the podium the rain began to let up. He was joined by Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio. The famous couple was presented with the "American By Choice" award for their contribution to others less fortunate and for the restoration work they are doing in south Florida to bring back neglected neighborhoods.

Lee Greenwood was next to take the stage and he sang "God Bless the U.S.A." while everyone waved small American flags.

With the conclusion of his song, Meg Crofton thanked everyone for participating is this historic event and then asked that the new citizens fall in behind the Walt Disney World Marching Band. A group of flag waving smiling faces then proceeded down Main Street to the cheers of onlookers along the way. The event was topped off by two F-15 jets streaking across the sky above Main Street. U.S.A.

I would like to offer my special thanks to Deb Wills. Disney had invited her to cover this event as part of the official press corps. Unable to make it, she asked me to fill in for her. I was honored that she trusted me with the responsibility and excited that an old, patriotic softy like myself would get to witness this event from such a prime viewing vantage that the press is provided. Thanks a million, Deb!

Jack's Photos of the Event

July 4, 2007

July 4th, 2007 Walt Disney World Naturalization Ceremony Part 1

AllEars® Team Member Jack Spence attended the special ceremony and sends these photos. His writeup will follow later.

Naturalization Ceremony Program

Complete Program

Welcome Remarks - Meg Crofton, President Walt Disney World

Meg Crofton

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I Do Solemnly Swear

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Celebratory Fireworks

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Key Note Address

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National Anthem - Gloria Estefan

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Presentation of Outstanding American by Choice Certificates

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God Bless the USA

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Parade of New Citizens

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Jack's written report filed 7/5/07

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