20 August 2014

Dignity of Man

What does it take to dress a president? One doesn’t have to seek out the presidential tailor to find out, merely talk to some Imagineers.

When The Hall of Presidents is refurbished the wardrobe of the entire congregation of Presidents is examined. Typically the Audio-Animatronics wear through their clothing in the same places we do, and for the same reasons. The elbows, knees, and other joints are inspected closely for wear and tear from the figures’ movements, and new clothing is selected. Of course, these being the Presidents of the United States, no detail is too small. Imagineers scour through paintings and photographs to make sure that the wardrobe selection for each president is as close to the clothing that they would have worn as President, both in terms of style and era.

This photo from 1988 shows President Jimmy Carter being sized up for a new outfit. Coincidentally, that same year, Jimmy Carter would receive a bronzed bust of himself from The Hall of Presidents. The bust, sculpted by the renowned artist Blaine Gibson, was presented to President Carter by Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney Company for the Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

18 August 2014

The True Discovery of America

There is something to the use of words in speeches and in written form that I have always found fascinating. Why does a simple turn of the phrase catch us and send our minds reeling, but with a change of even a single word the same phrase can be considered commonplace? The same theory applies to the quotes we choose as our own personal mantras or as the personification of some event or place. There are an abundance of quotes that are suspended upon the walls of The American Adventure, and while they may stir feelings of patriotism in us, we tend to not delve any deeper into their place in history and what they truly mean.

Being a native Floridian who became enamored with Asheville, NC and that Blue Ridge Mountains half a lifetime ago, I developed a fondness for Thomas Wolfe in my formative years. It always pleases me to see Wolfe recognized in the grand vestibule of The American Adventure. But where does this quote come from and what does it mean?

The quote comes from his 1940 novel, You Can’t Go Home Again. In the story George Webber returns to his hometown of Libya Hall. His first novel has been published and everyone in town feels as if he has laid their personal secrets bare for all the world to see. George is shocked at the response and by the fact that he receives threats of physical violence, all of which causes him to leave home a travel the world in an attempt to discover himself. While not completely autobiographical, the novel holds close to the true life experiences that Thomas Wolfe encountered after writing Look Homeward, Angel.

The quote at The American Adventure comes from the last chapter of You Can’t Go Home Again. George Webber has returned to America and has fallen in love with it all over again. The full quote from Chapter 48, Credo, reads:

“I think the true discovery of America is before us. I think the true fulfillment of our spirit, of our people, of our mighty and immortal land, is yet to come. I think the true discovery of our own democracy is still before us. And I think that all these things are certain as the morning, as inevitable as noon. I think I speak for most men living when I say that our America is Here, is Now, and beckons on before us, and that this glorious assurance is not only our living hope, but our dream to be accomplished.”

So imbued with the sense that we are meant to create our own future, making it brighter than the world we live in today, that it has been used time and again to inspire. In fact, so powerful were the words of Wolfe that the same two lines that are recognized in The American Adventure were also utilized by John F. Kennedy to close out a campaign speech in Raleigh, North Carolina on September 17, 1960.

Words are powerful when we make the best use of them and not only take them as a momentary inspiration, but when we allow them to drive us forward. Which begs the question, which quote from the atrium of The American Adventure do you find speaks to you most often?

13 August 2014

14-Story A-frame Tower

There are images that have become so iconic that they are tough to explore with any sense of rational thought. The silhouette of the Contemporary Resort, day or night, rain or shine, cuts such a striking picture that any photograph taken of it immediately becomes iconic.

On the flip side of things, we have all seen the grand miniatures of Walt Disney World. We’re talking Progress City, U.S.A. and the model of the Vacation Kingdom that could be seen in the years leading up to the 1971 opening. Both are just as awe-inspiring, and create such an overwhelming response, that they are hard to define.

What if we get down to the finer details though? Look at the Contemporary not as a towering icon, but as a single stop through the whirlwind miniature of Walt Disney World? Well then, we’d get this.

The wings jut out to both sides. The water looks almost like a dried up sandbar. The Contemporary itself stands high above the trees, ant-like figurines of guests, and even the monorail beams, making sure that its presence is known and place on the horizon assured.

It would appear that even in isolated miniaturization The Contemporary is nothing short of iconic.

05 August 2014

How Our Minds Create Creations

Future World has always been filled with iconic structures. Starting from the moment you see Spaceship Earth from the road leading up to the park to the last glint from the polished steel of World of Motion/Test Track, the angles and architecture are as much a part of the story as the attractions themselves. While Spaceship Earth may tower above the rest, there is one building that actually stands above the rest, the Imagination Pavilion.

If you think about it, the hardest pavilion to create in concept and construct had to be the building that would house all things imagination. Disney is built on all things imagination, including the systems in place to ferry guest through attractions all the way back to the company’s formative years and the characters they developed for their animated shorts and feature films. Imagination is a tall order, and not something that is easily defined, which is what makes the Imagination pavilion even more startling to take in.

We have come to revere the way the light of a sunset glints off of the glass pyramids and look on in bemusement at the backwards waterfall and jumping drops of water in the pavilion’s courtyard. The nuts and bolts of the building may comprise a 128,000 square foot building that houses a ride-through attraction, 3D film, and an exhibit of interactive elements, but Imagination is so much more than that. How many of us have gotten the creative juices going or a jolt of inspiration just by sitting and admiring the pavilion?

This construction photo, taken in 1982, looks a bit like a model of the current waterfall sculpture, but is obviously the building blocks of what is to come. You can see the waterfall’s basic outline just beneath the monorail beams, and the blocked out splashing fountains. The tunnel windows that would flow into the Magic Eye Theater are framed out but not complete. Most striking is there is no reflection or shimmer coming from the glass pyramids as the metal framework has been constructed and is awaiting the triangular panels.

I imagine we all have projects, deep in our imaginations, that are at this level of completion, don’t we? What stopping you from completing your figment of Imagination?

30 July 2014

A Forest Oasis

By this point in the vast knowledgebase that contains the history of Walt Disney World, we have all heard of the railroad that ran through Fort Wilderness once upon a time. The railroad, which ran regularly from 1973 through 1977, has been a memory of the bygone days for several decades. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t enough photographs and postcards out there to keep our appetite for the stream train through the wilderness satiated.

One thing that we don’t see very often is the tickets that booked a guest’s passage aboard the train. Mickey conducting the train in his Davy Crockett outfit is the perfect symbol of all things Fort Wilderness in the 1970’s. And that price? .50 cents for the round trip! What wouldn’t we pay in this day and age to have that opportunity one last time.

29 July 2014

No. 92

When you venture on down the Sassagoula River, you’ll pass the stately manor houses of Magnolia Bend and get swampy area known as Alligator Bayou. The manicured lawns give way to drooping moss hanging from timeworn pines. This is where the earthy homes of Port Orleans – Riverside have long resided. Inside each room the accommodations are furnished with some of the findings they have acquired from up the river. Everything from crates to washboards adorn the rooms.

The washboard, utilized as part of the d├ęcor of the hand-washing basin, has a lot to say about the area’s history.

The quickest reference to catch is the washboard being known as No. 92. This is a direct reference to the year in which Port Orleans – Riverside, then known as Dixie Landings, opened, 1992.

The Acadian Company listing on the washboard is a nod to the much richer history of Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend. As the story goes, two brothers came down from Port Orleans seeking to make their own ways in the world. Everette, the more solitary of the two brothers, made his home in Alligator Bayou. Meanwhile Colonel J.C. Pearce, Everette’s brother, constructed the mill that brought industrial life to the area. Once he had amassed an impressive fortune, the Colonel decided he needed an antebellum home that matched his stature in the community. Nestled among one of the many crooks in the Sassagoula, the collection of estates would commonly be referred to as Magnolia Bend, with the Colonel’s manor being named Acadian House.

All that history crammed into just two little lines on a washboard. It’s amazing where you’ll find your Disney history!