06 April 2015

When Great Reptiles Roamed the Land



I feel like there’s a joke in here somewhere. Like, “How many Imagineers does it take to measure a brachiosaurus’ neck?” or “Why did the Imagineer climb the Brachiosaurus? To get to his other eye!”

Okay, bad jokes aside, I love the real work being done here. Are they measuring the neck to see if it can fit through an opening straight up and down or if it has to be walked in longways? Are they trying to figure out the placement of the figures based off of the neck size? It’s hard to say, but these were the real world problems and solutions that went into to creating the magical scenes found throughout EPCOT Center.

Plus, I’d really love the opportunity to climb atop one of these creatures myself. What a cool job!

31 March 2015

For Their Heritage and Canada



Late last year we looked at the construction of EPCOT Center. One pavilion we spent a good deal of time tromped through was Canada construction site. Today we want to change our vantage point and take to the skies over the pavilion.

What I love about the boots on the ground glimpses we were able to peruse last year were the real world sense of time and place they gave us. You could see the men hard at work and you could almost feel the mountains rising up out of the ground. They also gave us a functional sense of how much forced perspective was at use throughout the pavilion. While the Hotel du Canada may have looked enormous, you could see the layers of scaffolding paired up next to the ever shrinking windows.

In this photograph, however, we get a much larger view of the world surrounding Canada. This photograph was taken early in the pavilion’s construction, and as such we are given great perspective on the size of the pavilion in comparison to other pavilions, how close the other pavilions actually are to one another, the footprint and foundation of Canada, and how the earth and waterways were shaped around and through the pavilion. The Circle-Vision 360° theater, which would soon be home to O Canada, hasn’t been obscured yet and you can see just how large the theater actually is.

It may be exploring the larger world of EPCOT Center, but we still get that sense of a real world place that evaporates once the park opens its gates. There are piles of concrete structures, wooden beams, rebar, girders, and dirt. There are trucks, and even a couple of buses, parked all throughout the site, delivering crew members to wherever they might be needed. There are clusters of porta potties and trailers scattered about as well. All of this just lends itself to the massive scope of the project. When we get down to it there may have been a small team working on the rockwork of Canada, but when taken into consideration with the rest of the project, or even just the small corner pictured here, you start to understand just what an undertaking EPCOT Center was.

Peering beyond the berm around Canada we can see the groundwork for The Land and Imagination pavilions in their very early stages. Maybe we’ll give them a little bit of time to develop and then come back to check on their progress a little later.

26 March 2015

To Preserve Beauty

In case you haven’t caught on over the years, I love stories. I love the true life stories about how things were created throughout Disney properties and films and I love the ways in which Disney utilize environments to tell stories. Sometimes it’s easy to see what the story is in front of you, while other times you need to story presented to you. In the latter instances Disney has a remarkable way of telling stories in their most localized form.

Look no further than The American Adventure to see what I’m talking about. Around the time of the Civil War, the presentation starts using photographs. Prior to this everything was done in paintings because that was the medium of the day. The same goes for color pictures or moving pictures, aka film. If that is how stories were told in those days, that is the medium we are presented with.

It should come as no surprise then that when the Wilderness Lodge opened its grand doors in May of 1994 that guests were give information that they’d want to know, such as dining options, a map, and recreational offerings, in the form of a newspaper. Known as The Silver Creek Star, the publication also featured tales of the valley’s occupants, legends associated with landmarks, accounts of local wildlife, and even some personal and help wanted ads! My favorite entry from the Star, however, is the tale of why the Wilderness Lodge was established. Go ahead and sit a spell while the Star tells the tale.

Western Wilderness, 1848 – 
Genevieve Moreland was a woman naturally inclined towards literature and the arts. This was not a common background for a person who would eventually come to establish a frontier outpost. Yet it was the combination of her artistic nature and her father’s love of the land that would create one of the first wilderness preservation areas in the West. 
Upon receiving her father’s request to meet him in the wilderness, the young art curator took a leave of absence and prepared to set off for the frontier. Being acquainted with a great many artists of that time, she was approached by Frederich Alonzo Gustaf, a peculiar young Austrian man who heard of her plans. A rather eccentric foreigner, he had been consumed with the passion to capture on canvas the romantic new land he had heard so much about. Unable to rebuff his persistent requests to join her, she finally agreed. Little did she know that he would become an asset in his own bizarre way. 
Jenny, as her traveling companion called her, and Gustaf reached St. Louis within two months. For the first time in many years, the Colonel and his daughter were reunited. Although taken aback by the strange young man, the Colonel was not opposed to bringing the artist along. He knew that the frontier would provide inspiration for great works of art. 
After an arduous trek, they reached the valley which the Colonel had so eloquently written about. Standing on a precipice overlooking the lake, Jenny and Gustaf gazed onto the natural wonder and knew their lives would be changed forever. 
Using the small fortune her father had raised from the fur trade, they brought out a crew of men from St. Louis and had a small lodge built near the fresh water spring. Jenny would remain in Silver Creek Springs for the remainder of her life. She established a preservation area in her father’s honor, where others could enjoy the natural beauty of the wilderness. The Wilderness Lodge welcomed artists, scientists and nature lovers of all kinds over the years. AS the number of visitors grew, the Lodge expanded to accommodate them. Eventually, they added rooms that grew around the springs, making it part of the Wilderness Lodge. 
Gustaf wasted no time in producing some of the most magnificent paintings of the West, both here and throughout the frontier. His works and those of others inspired the imagination of an entire nation. 
In a land he so loved, the Colonel saw his dream fulfilled.

24 March 2015

Topsy-Turvy Tropical Paradise



You’re on vacation. You’re soaking up some sun and fun at Typhoon Lagoon. Suddenly, it strikes! That insatiable hunger for something sweet and cold! This isn’t the typical craving that a puny Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar can handle, you need a Jaws-sized sundae in order to take care of this stomach grumble. Luckily for you, Typhoon Lagoon has the hook-up you are hunting for.

Swim on over to either Happy Landings or the Snack Shack and order up the Sand Pail Sundae. Served in a child’s sand pail, complete with attached shovel to get the ice cream into your gullet even faster, this sundae is the Typhoon Lagoon version of the Kitchen Sink. The pail is filled with chocolate and vanilla soft-serve, with layers of waffle cone and cookie pieces, hot fudge, and caramel sauce, and then is topped with a mountain of whipped cream, several handfuls of sprinkles, and a few cherries. I could be wrong, but I believe it constitutes an island unto itself.

Obviously, the Sand Pail Sundae should be consumed by more than one person, but don’t let that deter you from trying to polish one of these off all by yourself! The soft serve will start to melt quickly, so make sure to grab a straw. As the chocolate and vanilla mix in with the hot fudge and caramel sauce you end up with a doozy of a milkshake.

It will make the eyes of any child light up the minute they see it. Come to think of it, it’ll also put that dangerous, child-like gleam in the eyes of any grown men who even glance in the direction of the Sand Pail. No matter who consumes this mammoth ice-cream island, be sure that you stay clear of the Shark Reef for a few hours. You should be the only one enjoying a sweet treat that day!

23 March 2015

Beachcomber Shack

Sometimes you’re worth spending a little extra on, right? After all, what’s a vacation for if you don’t relax and splurge a little! Typhoon Lagoon has an option for guests who want to feel pampered in the heart of the water park. With Spring Break trips happening now, and the summer season just around the corner, let’s take a look at Typhoon Lagoon’s cabanas, affectionately known as Beachcomber Shacks.

Typhoon Lagoon has twelve cabanas clustered in two groups on either end of the park the park in private access areas. A set of six Beachcomber Shacks sit along the shore of Castaway Creek near Happy Landings and Leaning Palms, while another collection of six can be found overlooking the lagoon itself just over the bridge from Typhoon Tilly’s. The shacks’ proximity to the quick services eateries will be handy, but we’ll get to that in just a few minutes.

These aren’t your ordinary cabanas, however! The salvaged seascape inherent throughout Typhoon Lagoon runs through to the shacks as well. Mast timbers lashed to one another with ropes and shredded aluminum sheets form the basis of each shack. As far as amenities go, each Beachcomber Shack comes with seating for up to six, an in-shack locker, cooler, unlimited towels, and souvenir mugs for each member of your party. They’re also covered, which makes them a suitable shelter should an afternoon storm blow through.

Each shack also has an attendant who comes around and checks on your party at regular intervals. They will take your lunch, snack, or cocktail order and bring them back to you in a flash. I won’t lie, after 30-plus years of getting my own food in Disney theme and water parks, this was a little disorienting. That said, our attendant was so easy going and so genuine, and took such good care of us, I often wanted to ask her to take a seat and relax a little!

The main impetus for us renting one of the Beachcomber Shacks actually comes from the missus. The pale, Irish lass complexion she was born with can have a hard time standing up to the combination of sun and chlorine at a water park, but we didn’t want her to miss out on the joys of Typhoon Lagoon. These shacks give her the perfect place to get out of the sun and rest when she needs it. I can imagine the same benefits could be useful for parties with small children or active agers. Heck, they’re also just a great place to know your belongs of space and give you a little bit of room to spread out with.

Let me be upfront here, the cost for renting a Beachcomber Shack can be prohibitive. There is a reason, after all, that Typhoon Lagoon only has twelve of them scattered around the park. No question, you can absolutely have a wonderful time at Typhoon Lagoon without renting one of these shacks, but it is good to know that the option is always there. If you’re visiting for a special occasion such as a birthday or honeymoon, I highly recommend them. The cost also becomes less exorbitant the more people you bring with you, so for a group of three couples this could very well be a win-win-win.

Being able to relax is what vacations are all about, but often times, trips to Walt Disney World can be filled with more hustle and bustle than you typically have at home. It’s nice to know that places like Typhoon Lagoon’s Beachcomber Shacks exist for those times when you want to spend a bit more on yourself and loved ones and just let the rest of the world melt away as you drift away to the sounds of the Beach Boys and roaring typhoon waves in your own shack.