24 January 2020

Bright Suns

It seems that just about everywhere there has been cold, blustery, and downright gross weather to start the day off recently. With that in mind, we’ve been transforming our kitchen into the breakfast nook of Batuu to whip up a pair of warm beverages that are sure to make you forget about the dreariness right outside your door and transport you to a distant system where the suns are rising.

The first drink we’re whipping up is the Bantha Chai, a specialty for all of those who are looking for a new way to enjoy blue milk and need something a little warm to start their days off right.



2 Cups Rice Milk (or milk of your choice)
1 Blue Butterfly Pea Tea Bag
1 Inch Fresh Ginger Root (thinly sliced)
2 Tsps. Arrowroot Powder
1 Pinch Ground Cardamom
1 Pinch Ground Mace
Sugar (to taste)


Whisk together the milk and arrowroot powder in a small saucepan.
Place over medium-low heat.
Add remaining ingredients and allow to heat until steaming, whisking occasionally.
Let the mixture steep for 5 minutes. Look for blue coloring and the strong smell of spices.
Remove from heat.
Remove tea bag from mixture.
Strain into a clean mug.

This one is fairly straightforward, although the critical step is in removing the tea bag before straining. I, and my kitchen, learned that lesson the hard way. This has a strong taste of ginger, with the cardamom and mace coming in mostly as an aftertaste. I would definitely make this again, as it has a wonderful warming quality the comes not only from being a hot beverage, but also the spices that make it a perfect addition to a fall or winter line-up. The only thing I may change would be the rice milk, which I would consider replacing with regular milk (2%), as the rice milk has a thinner feel in my mouth than I would like. If you can’t find blue butterfly pea tea bags or arrowroot powder from your local grocery store, both are easy to find on Amazon.

Moving on to something a bit more high-octane, the Sunrise Caf is the Batuu version of an amped up latte.



1 Cup Prepared Black Coffee
1/2 Cup Milk
1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tbsps. Coconut Oil
2 Tsps. Turmeric Powder
½ Tsps. Five-Spice Powder
Brown Sugar or Other Sweetener (to taste)


Combine coffee, milk, coconut oil, five-spice powder, and 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in a small saucepan.
Place over medium heat.
Heat until steaming, but not bubbling, then remove from heat.
Let mixture infuse for about 5 minutes.
In a small jar or cocktail shaker, combine the heavy cream and the remaining teaspoon of turmeric powder.
Shake the heavy cream and turmeric for approximately 30 seconds, until somewhat thickened.
Pour coffee mixture into a mug, sweeten to taste, and top with thickened turmeric cream.

This has a great flavor to it, but the coconut oil always seemed to be leaving a layer of oil atop of the concoction. With some trial and error, we found that blending together the mixture ever so briefly in a blender before topping with the cream helps to alleviate some of that separation. The turmeric gives it a strong curry-like taste, so if this isn't a flavor spectrum that you enjoy, this may not be the hot beverage for you. For us though, it was delicious. Also, you should use whatever coffee tastes best to you for this recipe, although I would hesitate to utilize anything that is flavored. For our take on this classic from Batuu, we opted to use Joffrey’s Organic Peru Alto Mayo coffee.

While Batuu may be known for its cocktails and novel approach to blue and green milk, these two recipes from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook are welcoming in an entirely different way. Neither is overly complicated to prepare and both have something to offer when there is dreary or chilly weather outside, no matter what corner of the galaxy you reside in! I hope you’ll give them a try and let us know what you think.

16 January 2020

Who Says We're Not Going Anywhere

Let’s get off of our high horse and share a little knowledge when it comes to the carousels of the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. The Prince Charming Regal Carousel, at the Magic Kingdom, and the King Arthur Carousel, in Disneyland, both feature a wide array of beautiful crafted and uniquely decorated and named horses. Yet, one horse on each carousel has a special story to tell.

At Disneyland, that horse is Jingles. Jingles can be found quite easily as it sits on the outer ring of horses and is covered by a copious number of jingle bell straps, a blanket with Mary Poppins’ umbrella on it, and a shield that includes the number 50 and a silhouette of Mary Poppins herself, amongst other icons. Jingles has always been considered the lead horse, but in April of 2008 it was officially dedicated in honor of Julie Andrews. The horse was also featured in Saving Mr. Banks as the horse that P.L. Travers, portrayed by Emma Thompson, rode when she visited Disneyland with Walt Disney, aka Tom Hanks.

Meanwhile, a coast over at the Magic Kingdom, a horse with a laurel of roses with a golden ribbon trussed up in its tail is the horse of Cinderella. It sits in the second row of horses, near the carousel’s traveling bench, so its presence isn’t as pronounced as Jingles. All of which only makes it that much more special to find and take a ride with.

Here is where I’ll make a personal plea, whether you’re visiting Disneyland or Walt Disney World, search out these special horses and take a spin around the carousel, however, when you’re done find a small child in the next group and share the secret with them. My wife and I did this very thing last year, and while a trip on the carousel is always a nostalgic good time, it was the light in the young girl’s eyes when we told her the story and showed her where the horse was that made that morning truly magical for us. I can almost certainly guarantee that it will do the same for you.

13 January 2020

Elegant Yet Unpretentious

When I’m at Walt Disney World, I tend to shy away from sit-down breakfasts. I’m much more of a get up and crash the gates, get as much done as I can, and then relax someplace cool once the heat of the day rises up, which leave little time to sit down and enjoy the most important meal of the day properly. Typically, we reserve sit down breakfasts for the morning we arrive or the morning we are departing. The tradition has served us well, but there’s a meal at the Grand Floridian Café that may cause me to reconsider my time-honored by pass of breakfast.

Chicken and waffles are nothing new to most diners, heck even Walt Disney World has been serving up the southern favorite in some form or fashion for the better part of a decade. The history of the dish goes back even further, taking root in the 1800s in Philadelphia, before moving south and west by the early 1900s. The finer points of its history, and where the best version of the dish can be found, is altogether another topic, but suffice it to say that the Grand Floridian Café has found a way to put their own spin on this classic meal.

The Grand Floridian Café’s version is listed simply as Buttermilk-Fried Chicken and Waffle, and comes with a hand-breaded, boneless chicken breast, a malted waffle with cherrywood-smoked bacon, and is covered with a sriracha-honey drizzle. The portion size is ridiculous. The waffle is larger around than my face. The chicken breast is larger around than my face. Together, the main components are almost the size of my head. The chicken and waffles are definitely large enough to share, and yet everyone who tries it intentionally tries to hoard it for themselves, because it is just that tasty.

The waffle is wonderful, with a crispy outside and fluffy inside that neither burnt, nor doughy. The bacon in the waffle tends to slip by my palate, particularly when I have a bite that also includes chicken, which why wouldn’t a bite have both waffle and chicken, but the smoked flavor from the cherrywood comes through. The chicken is juicy, with a breading that is crispy and well-seasoned. While pieces of it may slide off due to the inclusion of the drizzle, or as you saw your way through the breast, the breading does a nice job of maintaining its consistency. Last, but certainly not least, the sriracha-honey drizzle provides a back of your through tickle heat, while also being sweet enough to make you forget all about wanting to add maple syrup to the mix.

If there is a secret to the Grand Floridian Café’s Buttermilk-Fried Chicken and Waffle, it is that you aren’t just resigned to ordering it for breakfast, as it is also served up during the restaurant’s lunch time. The chicken and waffles are large and will definitely put you in a food coma, making it a hearty way to start your day or the perfect pre-nap meal. No matter when you seek out this dish, just be sure that you do!

18 November 2019

Riding the Maelstrom

This week we venture back to Arendelle when Frozen 2 is released, but let’s venture further back, back, over the falls!

Before there was Frozen Ever After, there was The Maelstrom, a water adventure through Norway’s Viking and troll-filled past from 1988 to 2014. This image is probably one of the most recognizable publicity images ever released for The Maelstrom attraction. It comes from the attraction’s final plunge from the idyllic countryside, replete with hikers and mountain troll, into the turbulent North Sea’s host of oil rigs. Aside from the rockwork that calls back to that scene in the attraction, what I love most here is the reaction on the guests face who definitely know there being photographed. From the two guys at the very back who are too cool for this attraction to the gentleman in the front who is pleading with the camera for his life, as if this is his audition to be in a slasher film. Whatever your thoughts are of Frozen Ever After’s inclusion in Norway or its predecessor, The Maelstrom, at least the attractions watercraft have remained consistent.

14 November 2019

Hang Your Tricorn Hat

Thanksgiving is two weeks away, but there is a place where the holiday lives on all year long inside the Magic Kingdom, Liberty Tree Tavern. We talked about this meal, briefly, when speaking about how the holidays of fall and winter are represented throughout Liberty Square. However, the Patriot’s Platter dinner, which is also available a la cart at lunch, has so much food on it that it definitely deserves its time in the spotlight.

First and foremost, though, let’s start by talking about the restaurant itself. The Liberty Tree Tavern looks like a colonial style inn, with a fireplace for cooking that is complete with all of the appropriate kitchen accoutrements. The lobby or parlor area is spacious, but definitely gets crowded during peak meal times. One of my fondest childhood memories included coming here for a meal around Christmas to see the waiting area almost completely taken over by a small winter train set, but I digress. The dining rooms of the restaurant are dedicated to Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, and George Washington, though I suspect any future refurbishment may introduce an Alexander Hamilton room as well. Each room includes artifacts that could have been used by the room’s namesake, as well as artwork of each individual. But let’s move on to what really matters, the food.

The meal starts with the Declaration Salad, rolls, and butter. The salad is comprised of mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, and is tossed with the house-made Honey Shallot Vinaigrette dressing. It will be worth noting how many times I used the phrase house-made in this review, because there are a number of items on the menu that are made from scratch at Liberty Tree Tavern. The rolls and butter are no frills, but the dinner rolls are soft with a hint of sweetness. They’re good enough that you’re going to want to keep eating them, but I promise you that you don’t want to fill up on bread here.

The main course arrives with little in the way of fanfare, but the bounty is overflowing. While typically served family-style, for parties of two or fewer (such as when the missus and I dined there recently) the restaurant plates the meal for you. Don’t worry though, if there’s something you want more of they are happy to bring it to you. The main entrees of the Patriot’s Platter include roasted turkey breast, pot roast, topped with brown gravy, and oven-roasted pork, smothered with mushroom herb gravy. While billed as a Thanksgiving meal, and turkey is traditional with a side of ham, I’d argue the Patriot’s Platter is really more a slice of a little bit of everything when it comes to Thanksgiving, seasonal meals, and Christmas. Sides include mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, typically green beans, herb stuffing, house-made macaroni and cheese, house-made cranberry relish, and turkey gravy in a gravy boat suitable for covering your turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and anything else you so please. I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot of gravy here, both in terms of variety and quantity, but I loved it all!

A smorgasbord is the only way to describe the copious amounts of food you’re presented with. The pot roast is fork tender, and the oven-roasted pork is the savoriest dish on the plate. The turkey is wonderful, but is mostly a vehicle for gravy, cranberry relish, mac and cheese, or whatever you choose to pile atop it, and the same can be said for the mashed potatoes. The stuffing is dense a bit mushy, which is right in my comfort zone. The macaroni and cheese is firm and gooey in the best possible way. Meanwhile, the green beans seem to be some of the freshest vegetables I’ve had a buffet or family-style restaurant in Walt Disney World. Lastly, the certainly not least, the cranberry relish is tangy, full of wonderful fall and winter spices, and a hint of citrus that just makes the whole thing come together.

Don’t get lulled into a sense of accomplishment, or defeat, once the platters are cleared though, dessert is still on its way. It comes in the form of the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake. This vanilla toffee cake, filled with candy bits baked in, is topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and toffee crumbles. It is nothing by a pile of warm, crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside, caramelly, chocolatey goodness! Oh, and ice cream! I was devasted that I was so full I couldn’t stuff myself more than with just a couple of bites.

There are plenty of beverages here, for children and the child inside us all, as well as adult beverages, but I want to take a moment to implore you to try the Warm Washington Cider. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, Washington cider that is served warm, but it is topped with Baker’s crème, and is basically autumn in a tall glass.

Liberty Tree Tavern isn’t just the sum of its parts. Certainly the atmosphere and the ridiculous amounts of food and beverages feel like you’ve just landed back in your childhood kitchen at Thanksgiving, but there is something intangibly wonderful about this old inn that resides in the middle of Liberty Square. The quality of food has come up considerably in the past several years and, at least for my family, this will definitely become a dinner we work into our regular rotation.

22 October 2019

Home for the Holidays

Holidays and celebrations are a big part of Walt Disney World. There are buttons for first visits, anniversaries, weddings, engagements, birthdays, or a celebration of your own making. Festivals and special events highlight the rebirth of spring, our artistic natures, food from around the globe, Christmas, and Halloween. It can be seen all year round, covering all of Walt Disney World or just peppered about in various corners. Most of it, however, comes and goes with the changing of the calendar. Yet, if there is a land that personifies the end of the year spirit all year round more than Liberty Square, I’m certain that I am not aware of it.

Let’s start with the autumnal carnival known as Halloween. Whether you celebrate only in October, start as early as August, or just never let that spooky spirit leave you, Liberty Square has you covered. The land’s marquee attraction is the masterpiece known as The Haunted Mansion. If you don’t know about the labyrinth of ghoulish chambers occupied by spirits and spectres, then I’m not sure what to do for you. The Haunted Mansion may be the most well-known haunt for, well, haunts, but it isn’t the only corner of Liberty Square dedicated to the macabre.

Tucked just inside the entrance to Liberty Square, as you enter through the hub of the Magic Kingdom, is Sleepy Hollow. As the name suggests, it is tied to Washington Irving’s wonderful tale of teacher meets terror, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This story gains a bit of steam at this time every year as the Headless Horseman makes his way along the parade route ahead of Mickey’s Boo to You Halloween Parade. This year, in particular, Ichabod Crane and his pumpkin-skulled nemesis are enjoying a resurgence as they celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Disney package film, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Back at Sleepy Hollow, you won’t find Ichabod around this waffle emporium, but the Headless Horseman does adorn the sign and the building itself is a replica of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside home. It is worth mentioning that Ichabod can be found across the way, but we’ll get to that more in a moment.

Moving right along the calendar, Christmas may start in the Magic Kingdom in early November, but we still have the day of appreciation known as Thanksgiving to attend to. Over at Liberty Tree Tavern, the traditional spread of Thanksgiving is alive and well, and done with a patriot’s flare. The meal, known as the Patriot’s Platter, is served at lunch alongside a smorgasbord of a la carte entrées, but is the only thing on the bill of fare for dinner every day of the year.

Now we come to Christmas, the biggest holiday of them all to close out the calendar each year. In Liberty Square, however, the home for the holidays is Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. Comprised of three distinct homes or businesses; the woodwright’s shop, who is creating toys for good girls and boys, the Kepple family residence and quilt maker’s shop, a nod to Walt Disney’s grandfather, Kepple Disney, and the studio for music lessons presided over by our good friend Ichabod Crane. In this instance, Ichabod has his walls adorned in pages of music for Christmas carols and is keeping his distance from the scary story that he was made famous with. Outside of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, the windows are decked with garlands and wreaths covered in clove-lined oranges and other festive fruits and a sled is perched in a courtyard perfect for your family Christmas photo, regardless of when you happen to be visiting the Magic Kingdom.

Liberty Square has often been thought of as the place for patriotism, the home of Independence Day, and there is truth to that line of thinking. Yet, there is a part of me that wonders if Liberty Square is more at home nestled into the back quarter of the year. Regardless, if you find yourself drawn to Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas as your favorite holiday, there is a way to celebrate it every single day when you’re visiting Walt Disney World.

26 September 2019

Star Cruiser Crash Crash

This year has seen the opening of Galaxy’s Edge in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World and the end of the year will see the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga. For all the Star Wars comics, books, movies, toys, and experiences in the world, there are a few items from the vault far, far away that aren’t discussed very often. I have many guilty pleasures, more than I would like to admit, but among these weaknesses is a made for television Star Wars production. No, I’m not talking about the Star Wars Holiday Special or even Droids, I’m speaking specifically about Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.

Ewoks: The Battle for Endor was a made for television movie was released in 1985 and was actually a sequel to the 1984 television movie, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. Both had been brought to the screen with George Lucas’ vision as a part of The ABC Sunday Night Movie. Keep in mind this is long before Disney controlled ABC and certainly further back than when Star Wars would come under their banner. The film centers around a little girl named Cindel Towani, portrayed by Aubree Miller, and her Ewok companion, Wicket, depicted by Return of the Jedi alum Warrick Davis. Rounding out the main cast we have King Terak, played by Carel Struycken, leader of the villainous Marauders, and his sorceress counterpart, Charal, portrayed by the recent transplant from Dune, Siân Phillips. Last, but certainly not least, is the crusty curmudgeon, Noa Briqualon, who could be played by no one other than Wilford Brimley.

The story follows Cindel and her best friend, Wicket, who escape from a Marauder attack, only to meet a small, furry speedster named Teek. Teek takes the pair to meet the reclusive Noa, who wants nothing to do with their troubles. Slowly, and not surprisingly, he takes a shine to Cindel and agrees to help them. Meanwhile, Terak and Charal are trying to figure out how to harness the power of the fuel cell his Marauders took from the Towani family starspeeder, after they had wiped out the rest of the family. It is their belief that Cindel knows how to unlock the magic of the cell and they are trying to find her. Cindel is kidnapped, a massive battle ensues, evil is defeated, and Noa is able to power cell to restore his own ship and leave Endor, with Cindel deciding to go with him. It’s rather simplistic, but it’s also a fun and bizarre expansion of the Endor story.

While not coming up to the level of The Empire Strikes Back, there are a ton of interesting details from this production. The sorceress Charal is the first representation of the Sith-aligned Nightsisters, and while not identical in depiction to the Nightsisters we would see later in books or the Clone Wars animated series, it is fascinating to see the roots of this mythology going back so far. The Marauders use a pack animal known as blurrgs, which have their roots in Phil Tippett’s designs for tauntauns in The Empire Strikes Back, and can be seen in Clone Wars, Rebels, and coming back to the screen again in The Mandalorian. Perhaps most intriguing to me, however, is the fact that Brimley didn’t get along with the directors, Jim and Ken Wheat, any scene that featured him was actually directed by the film’s production designer, and renowned director in his own right, Joe Johnston.

It’s almost hard to remember at this point how much Endor became a center of the Star Wars universe after Return of the Jedi concluded the original trilogy of the Star Wars saga. In less than a decade it would have two television movies, the animated Ewoks series, and was the destination never to be reached as a part of the original Star Tours. Heck, one of the only Halloween costumes I remember from my childhood was my vinyl with a plastic mask Wicket. Is it any wonder that so many of us, while being able to admit that Return of the Jedi isn’t the gold standard of Star Wars films, hold the forest moon so fondly in our hearts? My guilty pleasure may be out of the bag, but you can bet your sweet starspeeder I won’t be giving up my Ewoks: The Battle for Endor anytime soon!

25 September 2019

Playfully Presented Food

There are a lot of fun places to eat inside of Disney’s California Adventure, and there also happen to be a number of places to get some incredible meals around the park. There are a few locations, however, the combine the fun and amazing quality to deliver something new that is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the mouth. One such location, and where I happened to grab a couple of bites and beverages recently, is the Lamplight Lounge on Pixar Pier.

For starters, our party had a reservation for Lamplight Lounge, meaning we had a table on the water downstairs and a larger menu to choose from than the bar upstairs. That said, apart from the entrée, everything I sampled is available at both locations. There’s also a secret menu, or some cocktails that we’ll call off script, that one of our party enjoyed, but we’ll let you discover that for yourself!

Lamplight Lounge has a fine selection of “Shorts,” or bites, or appetizers, or whatever you’d like to call them, to choose from. After hearing about them for so long, I absolutely had to try the Potato Skins. I was a bit skeptical when they arrived, simply because they looked like fried green tomatoes, which I was fairly certain I hadn’t seen on the menu. Turns out, these are not your typical pub potatoes. The crispy Yukon gold potatoes are lightly smashed, seasoned, and fried, served with a fair sprinkling of Manchego cheese. There are two sauces smeared around the outside of the plate, a brown-butter caper yogurt and a smoked paprika aioli. The potatoes themselves have a wonderfully crispy crust with the meat of the potato skins being tender, almost to the point that it melts in your mouth. As for the sauces, you can tell just from their descriptions that one would be a bit sourer and the other with a hint more of spiciness. My recommendation? Apply both liberally to your potato skin, you won’t be sorry.

Let’s talk a little about cocktails now, since I had one with our appetizer and another with my meal. If you’ve followed the Gazette long enough, you know that I tend to lean heavily towards whiskey or bourbon cocktails most of the time, and if there are juices in the drink, I am inclined towards those with citrus juices. The pair of beverages I sampled at Lamplight Lounge, the Six Tentacles and the Sunrise Spectacular, both include nods to some of my favorite types of ingredients, but mixed in with some new things to try.

The Six Tentacles has a base of Kikori Japanese Whiskey, with Yuzuri Yuzu, Liquid Alchemist passion fruit, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar. I’ve wanted to try Japanese whiskey for some time now, and I was not disappointed. The Yuzuri Yuzu is a citrus liqueur that utilizes the yuzu fruit that, when paired with the passion fruit and lime juices gives me the distinct feeling of being back in the orange groves of my youth, but with something just a bit different. This was an absolute win for me.

Meanwhile, the Sunrise Spectacular, made with Maker’s Mark Bourbon, tropical juices, a dash of Angostura Bitters, and agave nectar, felt more like a cocktail I would have at brunch instead of a mimosa. At its most basic, this cocktail is the traditional POG juice with bourbon. Not a bad way to start a day, a definitely something I would order again, but it also wasn’t anything special.

On this trip to Lamplight Lounge, the feature presentation was the Cheddar Burger. The patty is a custom meat blend that is served on an Amish bun with cheddar cheese, red onion, avocado ranch spread, and a roasted plum tomato. On the side are malted fries and picked vegetables. This burger has that right balance of fresh flavors from the tomato, onion, and avocado, mixed in with the right amount of fatty richness from the burger patty, cheddar, and avocado spread. It may not be the best thing you’ve ever put in your mouth, but it is a mighty fine burger that hits all of the right notes. The fries are done well, and the pickled vegetables are definitely a scene stealing addition.

The views, as seen above, are killer from Lamplight Lounge. The kinetic energy of The Incredicoaster and Pixar Pal-A-Round add to the atmosphere, while the shade paired with breeze coming off of Paradise Bay makes for a lovely dining experience. Add in a few ducks looking for a handout, some great food and cocktails, and special memorabilia from Pixar productions throughout the restaurant, and you have a meal worth remembering. Lamplight Lounge is definitely a place and a menu I’ll be looking to revisit on future trips to Disney’s California Adventure.

23 September 2019

Little Girl Lost

There are tons of Easter eggs scattered throughout the Hollywood Tower Hotel, also known as the Tower of Terror, to the spookiest show, and attraction inspiration, The Twilight Zone. The hidden nods are tucked away on bookshelves, in the audio of the attraction, and permeate almost every area of the hotel’s grounds. If there is one tribute I am drawn to more than any other, however, it is the chalk outlined bricks that reside along the wall as you make your way from your service elevator over to on-ride photo viewing area.

In the 26th episode of The Twilight Zone’s third season we are introduced to a family desperately seeking their daughter in Little Girl Lost, based upon the short story by Richard Matheson. The little girl in question, Tina, is missing, but can be heard crying and calling to her parents from multiple places within their house. Their family friend, and local physicist, arrives and find a space between worlds is imbedded in Tina’s bedroom wall. The friend, Bill, explains that a parallel dimension has butted up against our own and has created a portal where it intersects with the wall. Bill outlines the portal that leads to the fourth dimension, Tina’s father ends up in the fourth dimension, and returns with his daughter just as the portal shrinks and disappears, leaving only the chalk outline.

It is this outline, surrounding red bricks in the exit to the Tower of Terror, which exists as a clever homage to the 1962 episode. Little Girl Lost, with its limited cast, small set, and minute effects is a great example of how The Twilight Zone emphasized story over jump scares to create truly eerie view experiences. It is this dedication to storytelling, a passion shared by Imagineering and Rod Serling, which sets the attraction and show intangibly above many of their peers. Or, as it is put in Serling’s closing of the episode, “Despite a battery of research physicists equipped with every device known to man, electronic and otherwise, no result was ever achieved, except perhaps a little more respect for and uncertainty about the mechanisms of the Twilight Zone.

12 September 2019

Fiber Optic Information Superhighway

There are a lot of changes coming to Epcot in the next few years, many of which are already underway. As a part of the revitalization project, Spaceship Earth will be getting a refresh of the attraction’s script, narrative through line that emphasizes storytelling through the inclusion of the Story Light, and a new post show experience. One could make the argument that of all the changes that occurred within Spaceship Earth since 1982, the post show area has seen some of the more dramatic changes throughout that time. From Earth Station, to the Global Neighborhood, then the New Global Neighborhood, and currently Project Tomorrow, this area has always highlighted the time’s modern communication and innovations with fun and fanciful twists. Even if some of these experiences were almost immediately dated and, at times, left as husks of their former selves.

While the interactive kiosks of WorldKey brought me hours of untold joy in my childhood, including one or two prank calls to the reservation video line (i.e. pressing the reservation button and then ducking below the camera’s lens), one of my fondest memories from Spaceship Earth’s post show area will always be Global Neighborhood’s Ride the AT&T Network experience that came in as a part of Epcot ’95. A quick aside for those questioning some of the naming choices coming with the current refurbishment and expansion of Epcot, the park has an almost heritage-like dedication to simple, weird, or bad name choices.

In the attraction you step onboard a platform inside a tube, or let’s just call it a cut cable, with a video screen in front of you. Placing your hand on the handprint on the handrail activated the experience, while removing it at any point during the ride would stop the attraction as it was assumed you would have lost your balance. Balance was a key to Ride the AT&T Network because you would literally be surfing through cables and bouncing off of satellites as you made your way from a school tour of AT&T’s network to literally jumping into the network and piggybacking off of conference calls, on demand videos, faxes and other communication forms to reach Hawaii.

Ride the AT&T Network follows a young girl named Cassie on a school trip who is bemoaning missing the world surfing championships for a boring class outing. She quickly darts into the AT&T network and with the help of a friendly bit of technology she is off to surf the fiber optic information superhighway and get to Hawaii, we’re along for the ride as the platform simulator we’re on curls from side to side as we encounter sharks, television signals, and cut cables. Cassie finally returns to her group, having only been away for a few moments, to excitedly tout the benefits of AT&T’s network.

It was a pretty on the nose marketing experience, but for those children more in search of thrills than edutainment, Ride the AT&T Network may have landed better with them than the Spaceship Earth attraction they had just experienced. From my memories, I loved both Spaceship Earth and Ride the AT&T Network. The attraction was short-lived, however, coming in during the fall of 1994 and making an exit in 1999 when the post show area was revamped to become the New Global Neighborhood in time for the park’s Millennium Celebration. Also, like most technology exhibits, the changing telecommunications landscape meant that some of the up and coming technology seen during the attraction had already become old news by the turn of the century.

Epcot has always been, and I suspect it always will be, a place that is in constant flux, and Spaceship Earth is no different. Whatever new stories, experiences, or technology spring to life with the next incarnation, there is sure to be something to put a smile on your face. Of course, it’s always fun looking back at the tomorrow’s of yesterday too!