23 July 2014

Rain from the Past

Listen to the Land is a song that has stood the test of time with anyone who has ever heard it, regardless of whether or not you visited EPCOT Center prior to the attractions overhaul in 1993. For those that remember the original boat ride through the greenhouses of The Land, the opening segment known as Symphony of the Seed had lasting effects. From the oversized vines, fruits, and vegetables, to the lights that ran through them, Symphony of the Seed sought to simulate the life of the plants and how they grew.

1993 saw the removal of Symphony of the Seed and was replaced with Rain from the Past. While not as flashy or on the nose as Symphony of the Seed, the rain scene talks about how weather is a new beginning for plant life. With the rain washing away the loose dirt guests view the root systems of the trees and Living with the Land is able to discuss how those roots work to absorb nutrients and water to continue the growth cycle.

This concept art for Living with the Land shows the volatility of the storm. Exposed roots, rushing flood waters, and copious amount of rain being driven down by the winds are all present here. The rushing waters and exposed roots may have been built into the landscape of the attraction, but completing the torrential rains meant carefully placing and angling wires that could catch timed bursts of light. It’s a simple and time-tested effect, but it never ceases to impress me. If you ask me, Rain from the Past is simply the evolution of Symphony of the Seed.

21 July 2014

No Boots on the Table, Please

When you think of the Pioneer Hall area of Fort Wilderness, in particular the food that is available in the various restaurants, more often than not we all think of fried chicken. To be sure, this is the marquee attraction for Hoop Dee Doo and Trail’s End, but it also isn’t something that is easy to recreate at home. Today, let’s look at a recipe that allows you to bring a little bit of Pioneer Hall into your home, the Pork Rib Rub.

A couple of notes before we start, while Pioneer Hall utilizes this rub for ribs, it is also recommended for chicken, pork chops, and smoked pork butts. The Pork Rib Rub yields 3 cups of rub, or enough to cover 4 full racks of ribs.



1 ¾ Cups Granulated Sugar
½ Cup Paprika
¼ Cup Granulated Onion
2 Tablespoons Coarse Salt
2 Tablespoons Dried Marjoram
3 ½ Teaspoons Chili Powder
3 ½ Teaspoons Black Pepper
2 ½ Teaspoons Dried Thyme
2 ½ Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 ½ Teaspoons Cumin Powder
1 ½ Teaspoons Granulated Garlic
1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
¾ Teaspoon Dry Mustard
¾ Teaspoon Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon Celery Salt


Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix well
Store in airtight container for up to six weeks

To give the rub a taste test, I opted for a smoked pork butt that smoked with apple wood. I applied the rub the night before giving the pork time to absorb the flavors and then smoked it over a period of about 8 hours.

There is a definite heat present throughout the flavor of the meat from the Pork Rib Rub, but there are also some zinging flavors from the ginger and mustard, along with hints of sweet from the sugar that quickly forms a glaze on the meat. Overall, this rub gives an excellent range of flavors to the pork, really amps up the dish in a simple fashion.

While the rub is easy to put together, apply to meats, and adds a wealth of tastes to the meal, it does have one drawback, the ingredients. Nothing here is hard to find, in fact they should all be located in the spice section of your local grocery store, but the need for fifteen ingredients means that the rub is going to cost quite a bit up front. That said, as some of the portions are minor, repeated rub creation shouldn’t be as expensive as you will only need to purchase a couple of items.

Some of my fondest memories of Fort Wilderness had to do with sitting at my campsite around the charcoal grill, barbecuing something for dinner with my dad. The Pioneer Hall Pork Rib Rub reminds me of all of the simpler pleasures Fort Wilderness has presented us with over the past 40-plus years, and it also makes for one heck of a barbecue!

15 July 2014

The Wild Slide

Last week on the Disney Parks Blog, Nate Rasmussen had a great glimpse back looking at a pair of construction and attraction photos from Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach Water Parks. It got me thinking of the original Vacation Kingdom spot to cool down during the high heat of summer, River Country.

Here’s a great overhead shot of Whoop-‘N-Holler Hollow, River Country main attraction, with guests and Goofy twisting and turning their way down to the swimmin’ hole below. Of course, River Country was more than a one trick pony, and you can see lots of great moments further on back in this photograph. There’s volleyball taking place in the water, the Cypress Point Trail that ran along the shores of Bay Lake and through the willows and cypresses, the tire swing, rope climb, and, of course, picnic areas.  My personal favorite is also here, the Cable Ride, aka the zip line. How long were you able to hold on as you raced across the all-natural pool before you took a plunge into the cold water below?

There were a lot of great things happening at River Country that can’t be seen here. Attractions such as the Boom Swing, White Water Rapids, Kiddie Cove, Slippery Slide Falls, and Upstream Plunge each had their own fans that couldn’t wait to visit their favorite corner of the swimmin’ hole. I don’t know about you, but my favorite place to swim back home, never quite cut it once I had my first taste of Fort Wilderness’ version!

11 July 2014

Education Tools for Today's Teachers

I have been an educator in some form or fashion for my entire adult life, which is one of the reasons I’ve always talked about the ideals and principles that founded EPCOT Center in such passionate ways. But here’s a glimpse of something that I wish still existed at the Epcot of today.

Located in CommuniCore West, this is the EPCOT Teacher’s Center. To be more specific, this is actually the Teacher’s Center lounge. The EPCOT Teacher’s Center was a part of the EPCOT Outreach Library, which itself was where guest could ask questions and obtain more information on the various topics covered by EPCOT Center. The Teacher’s Center was exclusively open to educators and parents and provided them with educational materials, such as classroom guides and multimedia presentations they could view while at EPCOT Center, that they could in turn utilize in a classroom or home study setting.

The Outreach Library and Teacher’s Center only lasted until 1994, but it certainly represented a cornerstone of what EPCOT Center was all about.

Coincidentally, I would love to peruse and archive those classroom guides that used to be available! You know, in case anyone has any extras just laying around that you need to go a good home.

09 July 2014

Have You Ever Looked Beyond Today

A couple of nights ago I had a dream. I had arrived at Epcot early, waiting for rope drop. It was one of those dead times of year, late January or something along those lines, and crowds were extremely light. When the park opened I walked right through the park, took a left, and walk straight up the hill and into Horizons. I took my time, meandered amongst the mirrored travel posters, and then boarded my Horizons 1 shuttle to depart for the future. There were no lines, so I was able to stay on my ride vehicle and ride through a couple of times. I woke up as I exited the building. At first my heart was full, but then that fullness became a heaviness in my chest as I realized this was just a dream that could never be a reality.

But do you want to know something? I’m okay with that.

No, this isn’t a speech about how Walt Disney always wanted his parks to continually evolve, and how in support of that belief I like to see continual change in the parks. Instead, let’s talk about human nature for a few moments. It is, in the very fiber of our beings to fight change all the while searching for something better. In other words, if Epcot were to have never removed or refurbished old attractions, it would likely have fallen off of vacationers’ radars by now for someplace far more grand. So, it adapts to survive. Am I okay with all the changes I’ve seen in the park over the last 30 some-odd years? Well, we’ll get to that.

What I cherish about Horizons being closed and only able to visit it through videos and dreams is the fact that it is complete. What I mean is that there will never be another change to Horizons, and we can only examine it from a historical perspective and gleam bits of wisdom from what we find there. Seeing where scientists and storytellers thought we would be by now, and comparing the ‘what might have been’ against the ‘what really happened.’ But it doesn’t stop there. You can also explore the manner in which Imagineers put the attraction together, from track systems and layout to storytelling tools such as IMAX screens, scenes filled Audio-Animatronics, and previous videos from the futures of yesterday. There is a lot to explore and understand about Horizons, and that is never going to change, only our perception and understanding of what it was can.

I enjoy reading and viewing documentaries on the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. I was never able to visit, never able to set foot on the first Ferris Wheel, marvel at the White City, take in the overwhelming number of artifacts presented, or engage in the fun and debauchery of the Midway. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t lived it vicariously or stopped studying about it in the hopes that I will find or learn something new, and most of the time I do find something new to get excited about. Horizons, and EPCOT Center as a whole for that matter, can be see through very much the same lens.

Here’s where I get up on my high-horse a little bit though. Horizons didn’t have a post-show to speak of, but many of the attractions in Future World did. They weren’t the post-shows we have today, filled with new technologies, but ultimately just places to burn a little bit of time. They found ways to engage guests, young and old, and give them a glimpse of what was coming in the next few years. Even if the best guesses of Imagineers and scientist ended up being incorrect, they instilled in each of us with a sense of bigger changes that we could be a part of. EPCOT Center, and Horizons specifically, spoke to the history of the world and humankind, showing us where we had been and where we could be going. That feel, for me, is not present in the current incarnation of Epcot.

The two lone standouts against this plight are Spaceship Earth and Living With the Land. Of course, that means there is hope for tomorrow’s children. Eventually, I believe Epcot will return to its roots, and find a way to blend the very best tools available for storytelling and given each pavilion, whether focused on energy, transportation, space travel, imagination, or any other conceivable topic, a story worth getting excited about.

My children will never step foot inside the spacecraft looking building that housed Horizons. They will never smell the loranges of Mesa Verde. They will never choose their own flight path back to the FuturePort. They will, however, know about Horizons and hopefully dream of it the way I dream of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. As for me, I’ll never ride along those tracks again myself either, but as we are the collection of our own experiences, it will always be a part of me. However it has given me a dream, and my dream for my children is that Epcot will become a better version of itself, taking the best parts of its yesterdays and tomorrows, so that my children's experiences there will become a part of them and lead them to become better people in the world they inherit.

What was it that Horizons used to advocate to us, “If we can dream it, then we can do it…”