11 November 2014

1500 Feet in a JIM Suit



LEARNING WHAT IT’S LIKE -- Visitors to The Living Seas at Epcot Center learn what it would be like to work at an ocean depth of 1500 feet in a JIM Suit. Guest attempt experiments with counterbalanced (for weightlessness effect) manipulator hands: turn arrow, push lever, turn wheel and shift gear. The JIM Suit allows a diver to ascend from 1500 feet without decompressing. The Living Seas is presented at Walt Disney World Epcot Center by United Technologies Corporation. (WALT DISNEY PRODUCTIONS 1986)

28 October 2014

Towering New Terror



There are some great classic horror flicks that are lurking around Disney’s Hollywood Studios, especially if you know where to look. Take, for example, this figure lurking behind a camera reel and a bottle of potion tucked away on an upper shelf of Villains in Vogue. The movie is titled as The Brute Man, but the hulking creature is the Creeper.

Released in 1946, The Brute Man was actually completed in 1945 and told the tale of how the Creeper came to be and about the couple he blamed for his disfigurement. In fact, The Brute Man was actually a prequel to House of Horrors. Both films were filmed in 1945 and released in 1946, but House of Horrors was released in March while The Brute Man would be seen on the screen until October of that year. The filmed starred Rondo Hatton, Jan Wiley, and Tom Neal.

Rondo Hatton is the star of the pictures, the Creeper. In The Brute Man, the Creeper was a popular football star named Hal who was competing for the affections of Virginia (Jan Wiley) with Clifford (Tom Neal). After being set up to fail an exam, and being taunted by Clifford, Hal smashes equipment in the chemistry lab and sets off a chemical explosion that gives him acromegaly, a syndrome that creates enlarged cheek and jaw bones, a bulging forehead, and facial lines that are broader. Told through flashback, the rest of the silver screen feature follows Hal, now known as the Creeper, seeking to find a normal life, but time and time again using his brute strength to murder people in the town that he believes have wronged him one way or another.

In real life, Rondo Hatton was also a football star who became afflicted with acromegaly. Unlike The Brute Man, however, Hatton’s syndrome came from a gas attack while he was serving in the army during World War I. The acromegaly eventually claimed the life of Hatton in February of 1946, just after The Brute Man and House of Horrors had completed filming. Universal, who had produced the films, felt that releasing the B flick would look as if they had exploited Hatton’s disease and sold the rights to Producers Releasing Corporation instead.

The Brute Man was developed from a short story by Dwight V. Babcock, England created the rating of “H” for Horror just for this film, and it would be utilized for an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1996. Not bad for a cheaply produced prequel that was considered to be lost for several decades! Villains in Vogue’s spooky theater lobby, covered in cobwebs and B-movie horror goodness, is the perfect place to scare up some entertainment ideas for this week!

22 October 2014

Style Center of the World



The Hollywood Brown Derby is one of the marquee experiences of Walt Disney World’s theme park dining. Though there is not a dress code for the restaurant, I’ve always felt it deserved to be handled with a bit more reverence when it came to sitting down for a meal here. Now, in days past, the hands down best meal on the menu was the Sterling Silver Pork Chop followed by a slice of the world famous Grapefruit Cake for dessert. The days of the pork chop are behind us, but that doesn’t mean that another entrée hasn’t stepped up to fill the void in guests’ stomachs.

I typically tend to gravitate towards all things pork; whether that is bacon, tenderloin, bacon, chops, bacon, roasts, or bacon. However, I am never one to sneer at a sensational cut of beef and can, in fact list the best steaks I’ve ever had on one hand. At The Hollywood Brown Derby the current offering is a Charred-glazed Filet of Beef with a red wine reduction and a cabernet and roasted shallot butter. On the night I ordered the steak it was also served with a potato crisp and on a bed of sautéed vegetables, but the accompaniments are known to change from time to time and have also included mushrooms and mashed potatoes.

I order my steaks medium well, less for the color of the meat or amount of blood and more for the fact that I love my steaks to have their fair share of charred, crusty, burnt bits. The preparation of my filet was excellent, and our server even made sure to ask if I wanted to have the steak butterflied to ensure that it wouldn’t be dried out when I received it, a question that is often overlooked. The steak was tender enough that it could actually be cut through with a butter knife and, not to play with the tired cliché, it melted in my mouth. The wine reduction and cabernet of the butter gave the steak even more areas of my palate to play with.

I wouldn’t go as so far to say the Charred-glazed Filet of Beef is the best steak in Walt Disney World, but it is definitely has a place in the top steaks discussion. The Sterling Silver Pork Chop is definitely missed, but the filet is worth more than a second billing. Oh, and even though the Grapefruit Cake only appears on the menu as a part of the mini dessert trio offerings, fear not, you can still order a full-sized slice! The new best meal on The Hollywood Brown Derby’s menu may just be the Charred-glazed Filet of Beef and a slice of the world famous dessert!

20 October 2014

Map of the World



At the time of its inception Walt Disney World stretched out for approximately 30,000 acres. The comparison has always been that the resort is the same size as San Francisco or twice the size of the island of Manhattan, which much of this land still being undeveloped. Yet when the Vacation Kingdom opened it was not nearly as expansive as we currently think of the area, regardless of how much land Disney had at its disposal. In fact, in 1973, this was the entirety of Walt Disney World.

The iconography of those early years, stretching out into the early 1980s, has always spoken to me. The Osceola –class paddlewheel, Ports-O-Call, sitting out in Bay Lake and it’s home dock of World Cruise Landing set the stage of waterway adventures. Meanwhile the barn of Tri Circle-D, campers, and the inhabitants of Treasure Island complete the Bay Lake story and beckon in the eye and guests. Of course, the prominent feature of Cinderella Castle is front and center, but the inclusion of the Magic Kingdom monorail station is a great touch. Above all though, the single greatest element of this map is the Walt Disney World compass.

Keen eyes will also note that the map includes references to the Walt Disney World Golf Classic and a future hotel site, a dream for an Asian resort that was meant to be but never came to pass.

There’s so much that we learn from the early years of Walt Disney World, looking back often provides the best guide to what the future may look like. With the maps we get a chance to see just how spacious the entire resort was, even if the amount of land far surpassed that which guests could actually set foot upon. There are plenty of memories to take away from this map, the things that have changed and the adventures that are no longer available.