06 December 2018

The Holly and the Ivy

Generally when we think of Ichabod Crane, our thoughts jump to a horseman with a flaming pumpkin head and the frantic chase the two had through Sleepy Hollow. That shiver inducing tale is wonderful when Halloween comes to Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, but what about Christmas? As it turns out there is a reason to consider Ichabod as Christmas rolls around.

Starting with the obvious, a musically inclined sign informs guests that Ichabod offers music and voice lessons in Liberty Square, by appointment only of course. This sign sets up the story that Ichabod’s studio is actually one of three distinct environments that makes up the various rooms of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, with the other two being for a colonial residence and a woodworker’s shop. Each room has a distinct feel and design to it, whether that feels like a well-worn and loved house that is clearly lived in or a woodcarver’s shop filled with hunks of wood, iron tools, and completed toys that are absolutely charming. When it comes to Ichabod’s music and voice lessons, however, you can definitely tell that music is serious business.

Ichabod’s corner of the shop is filled with instruments and musical notes everywhere you look. From the music stand with a copy of The Fly (no, not that The Fly) and a flute to the framed parchment paper filled with lyrics and notes hanging on the walls, music is all around. It is the framed sheet music that interests us at this joyous time of year. Considering that these pieces of music are framed and hung prominently, it is clear that they are some of Ichabod’s favorite carols to train his students with during Christmas time. The three songs in question are I Saw Three Ships, The Holly and the Ivy, and Joy to the World.

While Joy to the World would have become standard between the time it was first published in the late 1700s and when Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman burst onto the literary scene in 1820, The Holly and the Ivy would have been a more contemporary song having only been distributed since the mid-1810s. I Saw Three Ships is a bit stickier to get a date pinned down, while it wasn’t commonly published until 1833, there have been copies of the music dating back to the 1600s. It appears that Ichabod had a thing for contemporary classics, as well as deeper cuts.

The next time you think that the tales of Sleepy Hollow are best served up at Halloween, remember, that you’re absolutely right. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should complete cast off the memory of Ichabod when the calendar rolls around to the holiday season, he still has a song in his heart, and on his walls, that is worth taking note of.

04 December 2018

Full of Yuletide Cheer

December is here, which means you may be shopping for gifts for the Disney-phile in your life. Sure you have the limited release MagicBand for their stocking, or maybe even a phone call scheduled from Mickey Mouse if they’ve been very good this year and you’re surprising them with a trip. What about for that individual who just can’t get enough history of all things Disney? Lucky for you, there are a couple of volumes that are sure to be a hit this year!

Jeff Kurtti is arguably the name when it comes to Disney history, and he has proven it again and again with each book he publishes. This year he had three volumes that were released: Travels With Walt Disney, From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card, and Practically Poppins in Every Way. While I haven’t had the chance to pick up Practically Poppins yet, though it is on my list to read immediately after I catch a screening of Mary Poppins Returns, the other two have already become new classics on my bookshelf.

Travels With Walt Disney was released this spring and chronicles more than just Walt’s vacations. Each section tackles a different period of Walt Disney’s life, a different style of transportation, or a different focus in his life. The book is almost a scrapbook of Disney’s life, filled to the brim with photographs of places and people. Starting with his early life, to his time aboard a train, cruises, and even when he brought the world in his dream, Disneyland, each section includes an itinerary and is expertly navigated by Kurtti’s narrative and vignettes. From Disney’s time in Europe with the Red Cross Ambulance Corp during World War I to the saving grace of recreation with Lily, the impact of travel is not lost on a single page in the entire volume.

It is worth noting that Travels With Walt Disney, while mostly moving through Walt’s life in a linear fashion, does not run precisely in chronological order. For instance, the segment on railroads include comes in just after his formative years before jumping ahead to the 1956 feature film, The Great Locomotive Chase, and then transitioning back to his life in California in the 1930s. The jumps through Walt’s lifespan never seem out of place due to the sections having been deftly tied together. Honestly, it would be more jarring to constantly transition from a train trip, to a cruise, then to an airplane voyage, before back to another boat outing.

From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card is the more timely volume and, like many holiday spectacles, it opens with the curtains being pulled back from the middle. In this case, the centerline of the front cover. While an intriguing way to start a book, it sets the stage that this is no ordinary history text. For those who like their Christmas cards more tangible and less printed on the page, you are covered. Scattered throughout the book are 12 envelopes affixed to the pages, each holding a reproduction of a memorable greeting card.

Moving ahead to the text itself, the forward addresses the origins of Christmas Cards before plunging the reader headlong into the history of Disney’s versions of the holiday greeting. Starting with the 1930s and moving to the present day, Kurtti spin through the history of the Disney animation and storytelling come to life in annual cards like a hand-turned zoetrope. If you’re looking for a glimpse of artwork from a specific Disney legend, chances are you can find it in here as everyone from Mary Blair and John Hench to Kevin Kidney can be found in this massive archive of Christmases past.

I have been a fan of Jeff Kurtti’s work from the moments I flipped through the pages of Since the World Began many moons ago, and he continues to impress with each new book he releases. There are always details I’ve never heard before and layers I’ve not considered, even in something as simple as an archival look at Christmas cards. If you’re looking for a book to add to your Christmas list, or trying to find the perfect gift for the bookworm in your life, I cannot recommend Travels With Walt Disney and From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card enough.

30 November 2018

Market Development

There are many vignettes, or small stories scattered throughout Harambe in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Often times, the messaging of the land in shared through the art, postings, and signage of the found on the walls everywhere in Harambe. Today, let’s look quickly at one such message found on a wall in the Harambe Market. Like much of the graffiti found around Harambe, it is helpful if you know Swahili. Since I am not, I lean heavily on translation sites to get me close to the message and then begin the work of searching Swahili speeches and proverbs for keywords to get me to where I am going.

“Kila mango na ufunguwo wake,” is painted in bold black strokes of a sure hand with nothing fancy about it. The message is in, as stated above, Swahili and comes from Kenya. The proverb translates to, “Every door has its own key.” The breadth and width to which this proverb has been utilized is amazing, but in recent times it most often comes up in educational training. The proverb illustrates how every child, like a door, is unique and their potential will be unlocked in similarly unique ways. They may each learn differently or have different interests, much in the way keys have different notches for the lock pins, but they all have value and can be taught if a teacher is willing.

While the proverb most often ties in with education, I think it is easy to see its application across a broad spectrum of fields. As with most proverbs, you get out of it what you put into it. Is there a scenario you are facing right now, your own personal locked door, that you just haven’t found the right key for? If we are to heed the words in Harambe, your persistence will pay off in finding the key that opens your door.

27 November 2018

Disney Chefs are Sweet on Christmas

Gingerbread is as much a part of the holiday experience at Walt Disney World as Christmas trees, peppermint, wreaths, bows, or and bubbly snow. In fact, the spiced molasses treat has been around the parks and resorts for a long, long time. 25 years ago in 1993, the world of gingerbread was expanding and Eyes & Ears’ December 23, 1993 issue provided a complete rundown of what gingerbread (and other sugary) displays you could find throughout the Vacation Kingdom. Surprisingly, there was even more gingerbread to see and smell back than there is to be found in Walt Disney World these days. Let’s take a look at the list.

Magic Kingdom Park, Liberty Tree Tavern – a “traditional” gingerbread village, which began five years ago, has been enhanced and added to each season. This year, a country/western flavor brings new excitement, according to Area Chef Marianne Hunnel.
EPCOT Center, The Land – a competition between all of the World Showcase pavilions has produced an international village, with chefs through the Park participating.
Disney’s Polynesian Resort – an old-fashioned Christmas village, made of gingerbread and candy, is on display on the second floor lobby of this resort. 
Disney’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort – chefs have constructed an almost life-sized gingerbread playhouse. Again, candy and gingerbread (a lot of it) make up this house near 1900 Park Fare.
Disney Contemporary Resort – an “Early American” village made from rock sugar and gingerbread takes a place of prominence at the rear of the first floor lobby.
The Disney Inn – a piano and a storyteller add to the “Christmas-y” feel here. 
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort – an “old fashioned” Christmas village is on display at the Trail’s End Buffeteria.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – Caribbean houses made from gingerbread and candy highlight this display. The chefs’ work can be seen in front of each Old Port Royale food shop location.
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort – Belle and the Beast are part of this display “in person” and in food product at this main lobby display. Scenes from the movie have been recreated using almond paste, powdered sugar, candy and egg whites. Characters from Beauty and the Beast are on hand during the evening hours it is displayed.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort – Ariel stops by the main lobby at night (in person) to meet and greet Guests. The rest of the day, she can be seen here, along with the rest of the cast of Voyage of the Little Mermaid, in an exquisitely crafted diorama of sugar, candy, egg whites and almond paste.
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – scenes from Aladdin highlight this gingerbread, candy sugar and icing creation. “Marketplace” and “Castle” motifs from this smash hit have been recreated in the resort’s lobby.
Disney’s Dixie Landing Resort – a “Southern Bayou Christmas” comes to life in the form of gingerbread, icing, candy and sugar at Colonel’s Cotton Mill.
Disney Village Marketplace – a gingerbread contest too center stage at Chef Mickey’s Restaurant December 14. Winning entries are on display here and at the Empress Lilly Riverboat.
Disney Vacation Club Resort – a Key West Christmas village dominates the front lobby of Olivia’s restaurant. On display until December 29.

21 November 2018

Friendship Day Celebrashun

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what the year has given to us to be thankful for, a time to gather around the table with friends and families, and make new memories that we’ll cherish. This is not altogether unlike a meal at Walt Disney World, particularly one where friends come to visit your table, marvel at the good things piled high on your plate, and when they just so happen to be having a Friendship Day Celebration (or rather, Celebrashun). If you’re still lost, we’ve ventured over to the Crystal Palace to visit with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore, while enjoying a smorgasbord filled with all the best offerings from the Hundred-Acre Wood.

Since not all buffets are alike, let’s start with the setting at the Crystal Palace. Based upon the original Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park, you can see how the structure would have been a marvel during the Great Exhibition of 1851. Even the Magic Kingdom version is filled with ornate iron and glass which transports guests back in time and gives the whole restaurant a sense of elegance. Juxtaposed against this opulence are the childish qualities associated with Christopher Robin’s animated friends, a charmingly misspelled banner, and even topiaries of Pooh and company. It is altogether a wonderful mishmash of fun and sophistication.

This trend continues onto the menu, where just about any and everything you would want from a buffet is provided. In fact, playing into this week’s festivities, I was able to put together one plate that was all Thanksgiving and included turkey, stuffing, gravy, rolls, green beans, collard greens, carrots, and mashed potatoes. It may not be specifically what we’ll have at my house tomorrow, but it was a fine stand in. Other options include a wealth of salads, pastas, seafood, sausages, a ton of vegetable offerings, and several meat options from the carving station.

Beyond how vast the selection was, I was shocked by how many healthy options there were. Not only the quantity, but that the vegetable and salad options were things that I wanted to eat, and not just healthy options that had been thrown together for the sake of having healthier options. The cucumber salad and whole carrots were favorites of mine, while my wife gravitated more towards the couscous and other salads.

Of course, being with a bear with a rumbly in his tumbly, means that there are also going to be something sweet to eat as well. Ice cream with all the fixin’s is available, but don’t overlook the dessert spread. Small s’mores tarts, honey tarts (complete with candy bees), panna cotta, dirt mousse, and fruit filled domes are just a few of the offerings here that you’re going to want to save room for.

The last meal I had at the Crystal Palace was a little more than a decade ago, and at that time I swore off the place for good. However, giving it another chance recently was one of my better decisions. I went into this meal expecting to eat very little and come out hungry and looking for something else to eat, and I was entirely shocked by the wonderful meal I was able to have. Yes, it is a buffet, but there is a quality to the menu items that is a step above what the term buffet usually means to all of us that surprised me.

If you’re like me, I highly suggest you give the Crystal Palace another chance, or a first chance, if you’ve never tried it. The atmosphere is great, the food is delicious, and the friends are wonderfully warm. I guarantee you if the food doesn’t have you leaving the restaurant with a smile on your face, your interaction with the silly old bear will!

19 November 2018

Artifacts No Longer Taken as Payment

Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is a trove of artifacts and curiosities from his piloting days and his adventures with archaeological adventurers, namely Indiana Jones. To get more specific, there are many nods scattered throughout the hangar that are direct pulls from the original trilogy of Indiana Jones films. Over time it appears that Jock grew weary of accepting things that belong in museums as payment for his services, or drinks, and erected a sign that artifacts would no longer be considered a form of payment. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some wonderful pieces to ogle while you’re there. Today, however, let’s stick close to where it all began, and unearth some artifacts from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

We first come upon Indy in the jungles of Peru, where he using field notes from another archaeologist, Forrestal, he is seeking to locate the Chachapoyan fertility idol. The figure depicts Pacamama and is found by Jones in the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors. However, just as soon as he acquires to idol, Belloq steals it away from Jones. With the help of his trusty pilot, and our barkeep, Jock, Indy is able to fly away to adventure another day. The idol, meanwhile, has a story that continues on.

Belloq, on his way to uncover the Ark of the Covenant, sells the idol in Marrakesh to an antiquities dealer named Saad Hassim, the one place Jones knows Belloq can unburden himself of the idol. It is here that Dr. Jones is later able to acquire the fertility idol and present it to the National Museum. At a gala in the idol’s honor, a band of Hovitos, and possible decedents of the Chachapoyan, steal back the idol and head for Brazil. Jones gives chase and confronts the Hovitos, and their Nazi counterparts, and is able to once again obtain the idol.

It is clear that at some point after this adventure that Indiana turns the idol over the Jock. Whether it’s for safe keeping, because a hangar in central Florida is the last place you’d expect to find a Peruvian fertility idol, or to pay for safe passage to and from another adventure, the idol ends up in Jock’s hands. You can find it atop a trunk turned makeshift bookshelf in the very back, right corner of the Hangar Bar.

Before Indy was able to collect the idol, however, he had another adventure that was the main thrust of Raiders of the Ark. His quest to get to Tanis and locate the Ark of the Covenant takes him to Nepal in search of Abner Ravenwood. Instead, Jones finds Abner has passed away leaving the artifact he is looking for, the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra, has been passed to Abner’s daughter, and Indy’s estranged love interest, Marion.

Briefly in the hand of, and burned into the palm of, Arnold Toht, the headpiece contains instructions on the precise height for the staff of Ra. However, with only the information on one side, the Nazis end up with a staff that is too tall for the map in the Well of Souls and with a dig site in the wrong location. With the original headpiece in the possession of Indiana, he is able to locate the Ark first, only to have it, once again, swiped out from under him by Belloq and the Nazis. He and Marion are eventually able to attain the Ark again, only to have it spirited away by the American intelligence services.

Meanwhile, either Marion or Indy accidentally left the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra at Jock’s place after a night of frivolity, and maybe one or two too many Jocktails... If you’re looking to claim this artifact, or just admire its craftsmanship, then you should definitely look very closely at the Lost and Found case in the hangar. The case is along the walkway to the restrooms and, aside from the headpiece, it contains a wealth of wonderful items that are sure to interest you.

Jock Lindsey is in the conversation for one of Indiana Jones’ most stalwart companions, right up there with Sallah and Marcus Brody, and their years together show through the sheer amount of artifacts found throughout the Hangar Bar and notes from the flight log, aka menu. The fertility idol and Headpiece to the Staff of Ra from Raiders of the Lost Ark are only the beginning of the relics left behind from their adventures. This only means we’ll just have to keep visiting Jock’s in order to excavate new stories from the barkeep and pilot’s home.