22 July 2016

Attractions and Entertainment

Often times we talk about taking time to stop and take in the story around you. The details that are up down and all around which lead to guests experiencing a more cohesive story. However, that’s not the only reason to stop rushing from place to place. Sometimes there are other things to enjoy in between the rush to see all of the restaurants and attractions that a well worth the investment of time, you simply have to stop and enjoy them. We not even talking about the resorts, we’re going to keep ourselves solely contained to the parks. So, here are a few of our favorite ways to spend time in the parks.

World Showcase – We’re starting big, huh? Seriously though aside from The American Adventure and Frozen Ever After, or La Cava del Tequila and L’Artisan des Glace (not that we don’t love all of these things!), there is a whole lot of the world to be discovered in World Showcase. Think of the variety of musical, comedy, or street performance acts that populate almost every single pavilion around the lagoon. From the drums in Japan, the mariachi in Mexico, the acrobatics present in China and France, and these are just the tip of the ice. Consider also that there are galleries in a majority of the country pavilions, and now you’ve put two pieces together that are critical for the success of World Showcase: edutainment and air conditioning. For my part, I could and have spent hours in the back corner of Japan or France, tucked away in the shade, relaxing, taking in the ambient music, and watching the World Showcase go by. There are a lot worse ways to spend an afternoon, I guarantee you that!

Animal Watching – Is there nything better than taking a seat and watching some of the most interesting or majestic creatures in the world meander through their day. Okay, so they don’t put a bench right in front of the tigers on the Maharajah Jungle Trek or by the lowland gorillas of the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. There are, however, places within Disney’s Animal Kingdom where you can take a seat and get in some quality time with the animals. In fact, it is the reason that many of the animal habitats are placed near or along thoroughfares, walking an animal trail is great, but that means you have to actively seek them out. In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, many times you will happen upon them in between attractions. Even if you are on the trail, don’t rush from enclosure to enclosure. Stop and observe, ask questions if an expert happens to be there. I promise you, short of hogging an entire window to see the tigers all to yourself, if you sit back and remain in one place for a little while you will see and learn more than you ever thought you could, and no one will ask you to move or become perturbed.

The Neon Hour – There is something to be said for World Showcase, Tomorrowland, or the whole of Disney’s Animal Kingdom at night. They are spectacular, but that’s not the time I’m looking for right now. The hour I’m thinking of is that perfect twilight time, between the sun setting and night falling. It is the absolute perfect time to stake out a bench on Hollywood Boulevard and watch the neon of the signs begin to glow. I don’t know what it is about that time, but it is the perfect time to take in the atmosphere of old Hollywood.

Checkers – I’m going to play it straight with you, this photograph right here was the inspiration for writing this article. Checkers can be found in a multitude of locations around the Magic Kingdom. It is present on Main Street, U.S.A. in front of The Chapeau, and over in Frontierland by the Shootin’ Arcade, down by the Rivers of America in Miner’s Cove, and on Tom Sawyer’s Island at Huck’s Landing. Heck, it can even be found over at Fort Wilderness, but we’re not talking about resorts today, right? Seriously, is there any activity that is more reminiscent of our youths, more likely to bring on that competitive spirit and sense of fun, than a game of checkers? You can even use it to your itinerary’s advantage, pick two people in your party and let the game decide who gets to pick what the group does next. Or just relax and have a round robin tournament with your whole group!

This is a topic we’ve revisited once or twice, but it is worth remembering. When you come to Walt Disney World there is a lot to do. So much so, that many people never actually get to do even half of the options that are available to them. Taking the time to enjoy where you are and the world around you is a big part of why people choose to vacation at Walt Disney World. It’s up to you how you spend your time, but remember that you are on vacation, so take some time to smell the rose! Or watch the neon! Or play a game of checkers! I’m certain you’ll be happy that you did.

20 July 2016

Air Tours

When Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar landed at Disney’s Springs a generation of Indiana Jones and Adventurers Club enthusiasts rejoiced! There was something here for everyone, from great cocktails to top notch noshes. The venue itself offered innumerable hints of Indiana Jones’, or more importantly Jock’s, story, real life adventurers and pilots, and even ties to the Adventurers Club, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, and other Disney created tales. One of the early storytelling standouts came not from the artifacts scattered about the Hangar Bar, but from the coasters themselves. Today, let’s take a moment to follow the threads of each of the coasters from some of Jock’s favorite watering holes around the globe.

Located in Caracas, Venezuela, and more precisely named La Cantina de Pitón, this was the first coaster to make an appearance at Jock’s place. It was relayed by crew that it was one of his favorite hang-outs, and it also happens to be the only real mention of the place. Indiana Jones did visit Caracas in the West End Games’ roleplaying escapade known as Indiana Jones and the Lands of Adventure, so perhaps this is how he and Jock found this bar.

This has nothing to do with Indiana Jones, but it does have to do with another hero, the Rocketeer. The South Seas Club is a Hollywood nightclub for the glamourous stars of the golden age of Hollywood. The gorgeous art deco club was the site of Jenny Blake’s date with the dastardly Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer, and also the spot where Cliff Secord had promised repeatedly to take Jenny on a date.

The Shanghai, China restaurant and dinner show takes its name from one of the greatest Jedi of all time, Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is owned by Lao Che, whom Indiana has an encounter with at the club where he attempts to exchange Nurhachi’s remains for a spectacular diamond known as the Peacock’s Eye. During the ensuring confrontation, Indiana’s friend, Wu Han, is killed, Jones is poisoned, he meets and escapes with Willie Scott, and we are introduced to Short Round and his amazing driving abilities.

Located in Paris, France, La Lapin Agile can be seen in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. It is here where a young Indiana meets Norman Rockwell, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Fernande Olivier, Gertrude Stein, Helen Seymour, Georges Braque, and others. Forgeries, one-upmanship, and grudges permeate the encounters, but in the end everyone learns a valuable lesson about pride, and go on about their merry way.

Café Noir was the home to some of the French Secret Service in Brussels, Belgium, during World War I according to another episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. It was where a spy that Jones had had been on several adventures with, Remy Baudouin, had been undercover as the establishment’s proprietor named Albert.

In the book, Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone, Indy is on the trail of the stone after an adversary has discussed his plans for capturing enteral life. He meets a librarian from the British Museum, Alecia Dunstin, and he pair share a meal at the London, England pub. A raucous fight ensures with a local blacksmith, whom does not look upon Americans kindly, and several pursuing villains before the pair escape to continue their search.

Located off a remote highway in Nevada, the Atomic Cafe was situated near Area 51, the military complex where artifacts, such as the Ark of the Covenant, are stored in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. A fight and flight scenario with Russian military personnel follows, and Indiana manages to escape via a rocket sled and later a lead-lined refrigerator during a nuclear test. No word on whether or not the Atomic Cafe was still serving a mean cup of joe, but it appears to have won the heart of Jock.

This Patan, Napal establishment is well-known by all as the home of Marion Ravenwood and her father Abner, prior to his death, in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is here where Indiana once again meets Marion after some period of time, and recovers the headpiece of the Staff of Ra from her. Major Arnold Toht, a member of the Nazi contingent also searching for the headpiece, and his men engaged in an altercation with Jones and Marion at The Raven, resulting in the saloon being burned to the ground.

While the coasters of Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar are said to be from some of Jock’s favorite bars and restaurants from around the world, they appear to have more in common with the stories of Indiana Jones. Quick aside, as much as I love The Raven, I’m kind of shocked that the place had coasters! All of that said, there is an amazing amount of story to be unearthed around the Hangar Bar, with the coasters being only one avenue of stories to pursue. Which of the stories and coasters is your personal favorite? Or, better yet, what other renowned establishment would you like to see from the world of Jones and Jock, or the larger stories create by Disney?

18 July 2016

Now Casting

Yesterday, Disneyland celebrated its 61st birthday. It is truly a place of wonder, but it’s most critical component are the wonderful Cast Members that make the experiences there memories that we treasure. Today, in honor of those Cast Members (and Cast Members everywhere), we’re checking in on the Disneyland Casting Agency to see what they’re casting for. I’m certain we’ll be sure to find some humor or clever historical nods throughout these postings. As they say right up front, “It Takes People to Make the Dream a Reality.”

A Jewel of a Role
7 openings for Miner roles. Must work well with animals, princesses and whistle while you work. Short hours.

Frontier River Guides
Call time: 6 a.m. Athletic abilities required. Guides will be selected from winners of Canoe Racers.

Adventurous heroic role as a jungle guide and skipper. Must demonstrate bravado, comedic timing and nor fear of snakes. For auditions, contact T. Sam.

Now Casting: Space Station X1
A “starring” astronaut role in an out of this world science fiction adventure.

Ghosts and Restless Spirits Wanted
Seeking ghosts and goblins to perform with ghoulish delight in haunted house musical. Spirited performers only. Auditions at Ghost Relations.

A Great Sea Adventure
Now casting crew members for submarine adventure.

Are you a Mermaid?
Mermaids needed for exotic location shoot. Swimming ability suggested. Must provide own sunscreen.

Openings for Talented Bears
Sought for Country Western Musical. Must play an instrument. Singing experience preferred. Trainers contact Big Al at C.B. Playhouse.

Mountain Climbers
Sought for alpine-themed production. Auditions First Snowfall, Matterhorn Mountain Features.

Train Conductors
Now casting: turn-of-the-century crew of an authentic period steam train. Contact Carolwood Pacific R.R.

Ragtime Piano Player
Needed for key musical role in turn-of-the-century production. No moustaches please!

Wanted: One Airborne Pixie
Aerial artist to fly in nighttime Extravaganza! See T. Kline for further info.

Now Casting: A Two Story Tall Sandwich
Must be able to pass the mustard. American Parade Productions, rooms 1975-76.

Dixieland Musicians
Experienced players only. Auditions at Café Orleans, 15 Orleans Street.

Tahitian Dancers
Polynesian dinner show coming soon! Auditions at Enchanted Tiki Room.

Now Casting: Pirate Crew
A rogues gallery of pirates sought for Caribbean adventure. Some swordplay required. Eye patches optional.

18th Century Sailors
Now casting crew of 18th century sailing vessel. Must be able to climb rigging, shoot a cannon and circumnavigate the globe. Three year contract. Ask for Hawkeye.

Riverboat Pilots
Cast sought for classic Mark Twain costume adventure, B. thatcher Productions.

Plains Indians
To perform traditional dances for daily live show. Must provide own costumes and headdresses.

Can-Can Dancers, Comedians
Old west revue requires energetic dancers and slapstick comedians. 25 year commitment. Apply Golden Horseshoe. Ask for Miss Slue Foot Sue.

Extras Needed
Childrens fantasy film needs extras to play Playing Cards, Singing Flowers, and a Doorknob. Singing, dancing and shrinking abilities a plus. Wonderland Featurettes, Room 10/6. Don’t be late.

Harbor House Casting Agency: Attractions
1313 Harbor Boulevard. “We found roles for thousands… How about you?” Open daily.

Harbor House Casting Agency: Restaurants
1313 Harbor Boulevard. “We found rolls for thousands… How about you?” Open daily.

Miniaturization Technician
Can you operate the mighty microscope? An inner space adventure needs you. Hurry! Opportunities are shrinking! Snowflake EFX Ltd.

Ground Control
Rocket to the Moon (and back). No experience necessary. Report to Mr. Morrow, Moonliner Flight Systems.

Elephant Trainer
Must work with flying elephants. Trained in the magic feather technique. Send resume to: T.M. at our Florida office.

Head Electrician
Oversee hundreds of thousands of sparkling lights and electro-syntho-magnetic musical sounds. Apply: Entertainment Offices, Basement.

Seamstresses and Tailors
Needed for largest working wardrobe east of Main Street. See Quinn, 2nd floor.

Canal Boat Pilots & Guides
To ferry passengers through miniature enchanted realms. Must be comfortable speaking to small groups in tiny settings.

Horse Wranglers, Trainers
To work with the “Happiest Horses on Earth.” Apply at the Pony Far. Ask for Owen.

Experienced Bird Trainer
To work with Macaws, Toucans, Cockatoos in new tropical musical comedy revue. Contact Jose, Enchanted Tiki Room.

Pyrotechnics Team: “Celebrate the Fourth of July Everyday!”
Team needed for fireworks spectacular. Shows 7 evenings per week in summer. Skyrocketing benefits; booming opportunities.

Sweepers Maintenance Staff
Enjoy the “sweep” smell of success! Experienced crew needed for world-famous entertainment production. If no mess too small for you, send resume now! New hires guaranteed to clean up!

Stagecoach & Wagon Drivers
Seeking experienced drivers to carry passengers through Nature’s Wonderland and the Painted Desert. Apply Rainbow Ridge.


Basketball Club

Sign-ups tomorrow. No. 5 Matterhorn Court.

Club 55
Meeting at 7pm where the old Red Wagon Inn used to be. You know where that is.

Annual Canoe Races
6am Friday. Riverfront area. Bring paddles or substitute.

14 July 2016


Six years ago, in the summer of 2010, Disney’s Animal Kingdom held an event in Africa for three weeks in July. Known as the Taste of Africa, the festival was billed as a street party taking place in Harambe. The main focus of the event was on food and beverage offerings, along with cultural elements, from Africa. You could think of it as a miniature version, or a test run, of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in another park.

This was before Harambe was expanded and more of the village was accessible to guests, before there were a variety of food items available at the Harambe Market, and before music and dance permeated Harambe daily. Each of the food and beverage stations included tangible, real world examples of how items were prepared. Occasionally, these demonstrations were even hands-on! It was, by all accounts, a huge success, but for whatever reason the event never saw the longevity of Epcot’s festival.

The attention to detail within the various stations was matched only by the takeaways from the Taste of Africa. For starters there were recipe sheets, which covered everything from curry and baba ghanoush, to chutney, hummus, bobotie, tabbouleh and even banana bread pudding and baklava. Just thinking about these recipes makes me want to rush to the kitchen and start cooking! But the real prize here, in terms of takeaways, was the festival guide.

It was created to give the Taste of Africa a sense of place, firmly rooted in the people and industries of Harambe. For starters, it was put together by the Harambe Merchants Council. There were featured items to look out for which appear to have been photocopied into the pamphlet, and each represented a different restaurant or business. The whole thing was put together and printed by the local printers, Karatasi & Co. Karatasi, in Swahili, means paper for what it’s worth. Twiga Travel Agency, a popular travel agency whose products and postings can be seen all throughout Harambe, helped fund the guide and its distribution. Even the map was created by a local artist or cartographer named Erevu.

Yes, there were a lot of tasty dishes and delicious beverages to be sampled during the Taste of Africa, many of which have made their way to either the Harambe Market or Dawa Bar. The cultural aspects that truly made this a street party have lived on in the form of Burudika to the Tam Tam Durmmers in Harambe, but even beyond Africa into other areas of the park, including DJ Anaan and Chakranadi in Asia and the recently unveiled Carnivale of Discovery Island. It’s a shame that the event never gain any momentum, however, I’m happy (at least the ephemera geek in me is) we have these incredible guides to look back on!

13 July 2016

Room 371

There are a lot of details and nods to The Twilight Zone scattered throughout the Hollywood Tower Hotel, aka The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Some of them require an astute knowledge of the tales that permeated the show, while others are more direct in their relationship to what lies beyond the fifth dimension. There are also a number of pieces simply meant to set the time and place of a hotel that was abandoned on the dark side of Hollywood in the fall of 1939.

Then there are those pieces, much like the one we’re examining today, that could be an innocuous piece of set dressing or something a bit more sinister. They don’t have any direct correlation to The Twilight Zone, but they seemingly tell a story, or preface a story, that could live within that world. Take this notecard for example. It can be found on a bulletin in the maintenance area at the end of the attraction, where guests can view their ride photos.

The handwriting can be a bit tricky to make out. For those of you who can’t read the note it states:
“We have a very nice Ford Model T for sale, it runs great. 6 spare tires and almost enough spare parts for a complete engine rebuild. Will sell for $360.00. Please pay in silver coin. The Jorgensen Family, room 371”

Nothing out of the ordinary here, right? A family is simply selling their old car. But why?

They’re in a hotel, possibly on vacation or there on business. Do they live in the hotel? Did they decide to stay in the area and realized that they didn’t need a car? Even if they were staying in Hollywood, given the day and age, they would surely need some means of getting around aside from trolleys and transit. Did they run up an incredible bill from room service and have to find a way to pay for it? Why did they have six spare tires? Is something enticing them to stay in the hotel, even though they know it’s time to leave? Model T’s had stopped being created in 1927, even twelve years on might be a stretch to see one of these on the road, much less someone purchasing a used vehicle for $360, when that was the brand new price in 1927. Are the Jorgensens a step removed from their own time?

The answer to any one of these questions could lead us down a rabbit hole that was so often the hallmark of The Twilight Zone, where everything is just an inch off of center. Perhaps there is nothing to this note, and we may never truly know one way or another. In fact, it’s best left to our individual imaginations. For my part, however, I’d like to think it was left here as a way to connect the Hollywood Tower Hotel to whole host of stories it contains. Some of them we’ve heard of, some of them we haven’t, but one thing is certain, there is always room for more stories in The Twilight Zone.

11 July 2016

Croque Glace

Ice cream has always been a staple of summer. Cones, cups, floats, and sundaes, you name it, and it has staked its claim to the longest and hottest days of the year. It should come as no surprise then that in 1984 President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday in July, this year it falls on Sunday, July 17, as National Ice Cream Day. While it feels like every single day is a national day of recognition for something, I think we can all agree that ice cream definitely deserves its day in the sun.

Walt Disney World is filled with tons of ice cream dishes to satisfy your need for treats, but today we’re looking for the one ice cream delight that gussied up ice cream and made it a truly fanciful dessert. There’s no other place to look for the best in Walt Disney World ice cream than L’Artisan des Glaces. And there’s no other dish quite as extraordinary as the Croque Glace.

What is the Corque Glace? It is the fanciest ice cream sandwich you’ve ever had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into. You take your favorite flavoring of ice cream, topped with chocolate or raspberry sauce, and then placed inside a brioche that is then pressed and warmed. We’ll get back to the ice cream in just a moment, but, the brioche is worth talking about on its own for a minute. The rolls or buns, however you’d like to distinguish them, are freshly baked throughout the day. Each on is extremely light and airy, the equivalent of a bread pillow as it were. The outside is crisp and flaky, and each bite is perfectly chewy. Let’s be honest, the French have been doing bread for a long time, and they are the experts here, so this is an excellent example of what brioche should be.

Now, back to the ice cream! As you get to choose between the two sauces and you get your own choice of ice cream, you really are one of the chefs responsible for making sure that the right flavor combination comes through. Of course, with the variety of ice creams changing regularly at L’Artisan des Glace, the possible combinations could potentially be overwhelming. One of my favorite combinations, however, is the Cinnamon with Caramelized Pecans ice cream and top it with the chocolate sauce. While I found this arrangement in late spring, it tastes just like Christmas. You have the chocolate sauce mixing with the cinnamon and the rich creaminess of the ice cream to create a flavor that is close to a perfect cup of hot cocoa. Throw in the caramelized pecans, which have softened to a tender state from the caramelization, and you can have Christmas in July, or all year round, if you like!

Ice cream has long been a staple of the Walt Disney World diet. From Citrus Swirls and Dole Whips, to Mickey Bars, or sundaes on Main Street, U.S.A., ice cream is included in some of our fondest memories. Like all kinds of cuisine, ice cream has been stepping up in a big way around Walt Disney World to offer up unique and innovative options for those seeking something new and high quality. Should you find yourself in Epcot roaming through World Showcase on one of these hot July afternoons, especially if it happens to be on National Ice Cream Day, I guarantee you’ll find a new go-to ice cream sandwich if you stop by L’Artisan des Glace for a Croque Glace.

05 July 2016

We're Pollinators

There is so much more to the Tree of Life than it is given credit for, but sometimes you have to have a sense of wonder in order to see it all. Take, for instance, the sculptures. We’ve marveled at them for almost 20 years now, and with the new Awakening affects, each carving truly takes on a life of its own and shares its story with guests. But what about the carvings that are as apparent or appealing to the naked eye?

Have you ever ventured up to the border between the Tree of Life and the rest of Discovery Island? While in that spot, likely getting a photograph of your friends or family, did you happen to notice this log? 

At first glance it could simply be a part of the tree that has become infested with insects. After all, It’s Tough to be a Bug is a key attraction of the Tree of Life. And if that was you’re thought, you’d be very close to correct. This section of the tree is to remind guests that all creatures, great or small, are critical to the ecology of any given environment. They are the pollinators and the fertilizers, and they do amazing things to help the natural world carry on. We may call them pests, but they have specific jobs to do, and more often than not, they carry on invisibly to larger creatures, including us humans.

However, a log filled with holes isn’t very good at provoking thought or storytelling on its own is it? It would need inhabitants, some of those insects we spoke of, to help further the tale, wouldn’t it? Go ahead; pick out any one of the holes to peek into and you’ll find a scene very much like this one.

The log is the perfect size for those younger guests who are constantly exploring their world. In fact, if you have seen these bugs before, chances are it is because a toddler or small child look in here first and got excited for that they saw. The insects are crucial to our way of life, which means that they are an integral part of the stories being told at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and, rightfully so, they are given some prime real estate right front. Of course, it’s still up to us to seek them out and notice them.