26 July 2017

What a Deal

When we think of entertainment productions that came out of the early years of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then Disney-MGM Studios, we most often think of animated features or New York Street and its uses in various feature films. We think of The All New Mickey Mouse Club and the number of pop stars it launched. We may even think about Residential Street and the famous house facades, not the least of which was that of the house belonging to The Golden Girls, or the way guests could be implanted into other sitcoms. There was a time, however, long before the American Idol Experience came to the park, when game shows were regularly filmed throughout Disney-MGM Studios. Everything from Hollywood Squares to Star Search could be seen filming at the park.

One such show to jump on the game show revival train and to film at Disney-MGM Studios was Let’s Make a Deal. The show premiered in 1990 with host Bob Hilton. While most people remember the original host of Let’s Make a Deal, Monty Hall, Bob had his own game show pedigree that included announcing for Win, Lose, or Draw, The $25,000 Pyramid, and The Price Is Right, as well as hosting the 1977 reboot of The New Truth and Consequences. Let’s Make a Deal’s original host, Monty Hall, didn’t totally leave the show, however, instead he took on a producer role alongside Dick Clark.

The show, which saw contestants dressed in outlandish getups wheeling and dealing with Hilton in the hopes of taking home cash and prizes. Sometimes a junk item in a purse could be worth a car, but there was also the chance that behind those big doors or under than giant box was a great big goose egg. It was the ultimate game show of chance.

Guests of Disney-MGM Studios could watch the show being taped in Studio 1 according to the opening announcement of the show, which was likely Stage 1 where sets from The All New Mickey Mouse Club also resided, but could be switched out for the various productions. Let’s Make a Deal began shooting in July of 1990 and filmed every other week on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, with the production wrapping by the end of September that same year.

Sadly, the show would only make it through that first season and was not renewed. Eventually game shows at Disney-MGM Studios would become more a guest attractions, such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire – Play It, than actual broadcast productions. For those of us who were able to see Star Search, Let’s Make a Deal, or Hollywood Squares, it was a real treat to behold!

24 July 2017

The Blizzard Beach Legend

When guests get into Blizzard Beach they are wowed by the glistening snow, chairlift, and ridiculous water slides. They scramble to find a locker, grab the best spot and lounge chairs, and to be the first in line of their favorite attraction. While the story of Blizzard Beach may seem fairly laid out based on the visuals, when guests are taking part in this flurry of activity they pass right by the well-crafted story of the park, and its mascot, itself. For those of you planning a trip, or those that just don’t want to take the time to slow down and take in this snow-story, may we present, in its entirety, the legend of Blizzard Beach.
“It was meteorological phenomenon of the strangest order. One balmy day, a freak winter storm developed over the western end of Walt Disney World Resort and covered the area with a thick blanket of powdery white snow. Before you could say ‘hot cocoa,’ plans were underway for Florida’s first ski resort.
“Ski lifts were put up, toboggan runs were laid down and an entire resort area blossomed around the mountain of snow. Yet before the first skier could strap on a pair of boots and stick their poles into the snow, the temperatures returned to their normal Florida levels and the powdery snow quickly turned into slippery slush.
“The ski resort operators saw their dream melting down the hillside. Yet, that’s not all they saw. As the slush began cascading down and pools of water began to form, an echoing ‘yahoo’ was heard from the summit of the mountain. Everyone looked up to see a playful alligator careening down the melting hillside. He slid to the base of the mountain and landed in a pool of water with a thunderous splash. They knew at once that they were back in business.
“Slalom courses, bobsled and toboggan runs became downhill waterslides. The creek of melted snow that formed at the base of the mountain became a relaxing tube ride. The chairlift carried swimmers instead of skiers. The ski jump became the tallest and fastest water slide in the world.
"The ski resort became known as Disney’s Blizzard Beach, the most slushy, slippery, exhilarating water park anywhere!”

21 July 2017

Gentle Waves Become Big Kahunas

Typhoon Lagoon is not Walt Disney World’s original water park, but it definitely upped the stakes in the water park game. Since the park’s opening in 1989, one of the marquee attractions at Typhoon Lagoon is its namesake experience, the Typhoon Lagoon. This wave maker is a work of art, but so is the environment it was built into.

Here in the earliest days of the construction process we can see quite a bit of detail on the rockwork at the of Mount Mayday, the beginnings of Humunga Kowabunga, the Storm Slides, and even the dig-out of Typhoon Lagoon itself. It also offers a nice shot of 1980s EPCOT Center in the distance, but that’s beside the point. That sheer point not quite in the lagoon is going to be critical to the design of the attraction, but let’s jump ahead about a year to see some progress.

Landscaping is coming along, the mountain’s rockwork is almost complete, the Storm Slides, Humunga Kowabunga, and Castaway Creek are coming along nicely, and the Miss Tilly has replaced the flag atop Mount Mayday. In terms of the wave lagoon, all of the main walls are up and you can see the chambered heart of the attraction. Should we talk about what makes Typhoon Lagoon tick now?

Water park attraction designers at Barr and Wray were tasked with the job of coming up with the greatest wave machine ever, and they came up with the Surfking Wave Machine. It can create five to six foot waves, perfect for body surfing, every minute and a half seconds, or eight foot surfing waves in approximate two minutes. There are four pumps that fill the 12 funnel-shaped tanks in that brief amount of time. Each tank has a door at its bottom that weighs one ton and they are pulled down to empty the reservoirs in a matter of seconds. The opening of these doors are so precise that they are actually timed to create break right and break left waves.

The Typhoon Lagoon is 12,500 cubic feet, which equates to about 2,750,000 gallons of water. However, for those of you looking to simply bob around in the surf and not feel the full effect of all that water, you know that Typhoon Lagoon has you covered there as well. The Bobbing Wave as it is called on information boards throughout the park doesn’t actually use this state of the art system. Instead, the Surfking Wave Machine was outfitted with a standard pneumatic machine that can churn out constant four foot diamond pattern waves. Perfect for splashing, playing, or relaxing.

It may not be the king of the water parks any longer, but there is an argument to be made for Typhoon Lagoon to retain its thrown, and it still offers up plenty to draw guests in. The Typhoon Lagoon wave pool is one of the highlights of any visit to this tropical paradise on the mend. It is willing to be exactly what guests need, whether they're looking to hang ten or just hang out!

19 July 2017

Fill the Hollow in Your Belly

Hot dogs are a summertime staple. Rarely does a summer go by that we don’t grill off a bunch of hot dogs at least four or five times, and that’s a low estimate. In fact, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (yes, there is such an organization) estimates that the average American consume approximately 70 hot dogs per year. I think one of the things that make hot dogs so sought after is their versatility. Honestly, if you can think of topping, the chances are someone has found a way to put it on a hot dog. They’re also flexible in how they can be consumed, from the conventional bun to being chopped up and mixed in with some baked beans. Of course, Sleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom has another twist as to how you can enjoy your hot dog.

It’s a simple menu listing, Pretzel Dog with House-made Chips. Nothing fancy, but this pretzel dog isn’t your typical pretzel roll replacing the bun. Instead, it is a pretzel wrapped around the hot dog. Again, nothing to write home about, we’ve all seen this delivery style of hot dog before. However, what did impress me about the Sleepy Hollow version was the fact that when I bit into my pretzel dog, the whole hot dog didn’t come sliding out of one end or the other. It stayed in place remarkably well throughout my entire meal. A word of warning, however, my Pretzel Dog arrived incredibly hot, so I had to wait several minutes until it was cool enough to eat. Please don’t burn your mouth on this one!

The pretzel wrap was good, topped with some large salt and sesame seeds, just to mix things up a bit. It had a thin layer of crispiness that became chewy just beneath the surface. It was salty and that hint of sour that makes your salivary glands do a little dance. The hot dog itself is your typical Walt Disney World hot dog and played well with the pretzel wrapped around it. While I did take a bite or two without anything else on it, to give the Pretzel Dog its fair shake, I did end up putting yellow mustard on the rest of the roll. I mean, mustard is my go to for hot dogs and pretzels alike, so this was a win-win, right?

The Sleepy Hollow Pretzel Dog comes with a side of house-made chips. These are the same chips that you can find throughout many of the quick service dining locations these days. Mine seemed a little more broken and were definitely colder than I was used to. On this day, however, I had opted to grab a baked potato as well, so the chips went relatively uneaten. As for the baked potato that is also available at Sleepy Hollow, what can I say about it? It was hot and not under-cooked. The skin wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked, but the salt, butter, sour cream, and cheese helped me forget about any gripes I might have had. The baked potato and Pretzel Dog are definitely a great pairing that I’d recommend to anyone.

If you’re looking for new way to wrap your mouth around a hot dog this summer, Sleepy Hollow has you covered with its Pretzel Dog. It may not be reinventing any hot dog wheels, it also doesn’t seem to be breaking any cardinal rules of hot dogs, but it sure is a tasty lunch to grab while you’re on the go. Plus, Sleepy Hollow has one of the best views on property!

18 July 2017

Guaranteed to Amaze & Delight

The Storybook Circus in the Magic Kingdom is a land that can easily be overlooked as the kiddie corner of the park. It features two pint-sized attractions, a pair of meet and greet character opportunities, a splash and play zone, a train station, and a shop. Yet, scattered throughout this corner of Fantasyland, are layers upon layers of details. From the animal prints in the dusty sidewalk that match-up to whether a creature came in on the railroad or via wagons, posters and equipment from some of the Great Goofini’s more dazzling, if failed, feats, to train cars that know a thing or two about Disney animated history.

Speaking of animated history, there are a lot more characters present throughout Storybook Circus than one can actually meet and interact with, and each of them comes complete with a fanciful act perfect for a traditional big top setting. As you make your way between the Fantasyland station of the Walt Disney World Railroad and the main shop of the area, Big Top Souvenirs, you come across a series of five banners, the central of which is proclaiming this to be the world’s only all animal circus! Included alongside this banner are four other, double-sided banners featuring some of the acts and their practitioners. You may have to make a loop around them to catch all of the characters, but it is a regular who’s who of Disney animated animals. The animal stars and their acts are: Salty the Seal and his Symphony of the Seas, Humprey the Unicycling Bear, Lambert the Man-Eater, Hyacinth Hippo – Ballerina of the Big Top, Strongman Pete – Lifter of All Things Heavy, Pluto the Wonder Pup, Clara Cluck – Pitch Perfect Prima Donna, and Horace the Rubber-Hose Horse.

Some of these acts, such as Pluto, are well-known and beloved characters, whilst others are pulled from deep in the vault of Disney animated shorts. What’s more, some of the acts play up things we already know about the characters, Hyacinth being a ballerina for instance, while others play against type, including Lambert who is known as a sheepish lion, but here is a man-eater. The banners also take to some visual gags to clue us in on some of the character’s true intentions. Take, for example, Pete – Lifter of All Heavy Things. We know him as a cheat and, sure enough, the 1,000 pound weights he is lifting are in reality balloons that he has painted numbers onto.

These are the only references to these, and other, characters in Storybook Circus however. Once you make your way inside Big Top Souvenirs, be sure to make note of the freestanding displays. Sure, the pins, plushes, pinwheels, treats, and other souvenirs may be tempting to your eye, but stay focused! Each of this stands are built atop a metal feeding tub belonging to one of the star acts. Wandering around the shop you can find repurposed feeding bins belonging to Horace, Clara, the Big Bad Wolf, Salty, Lambert, Pluto, and Hyacinth. While it begs the question as to whether these are extra tubs or if the shop has to get broken down to feed our animal friends each night, it’s a nice way to keep the feeling that is a living, breathing circus at the forefront of guests’ minds.

Storybook Circus is much more than just a corner of Fantasyland to pass through on your way to the train station or to only stop in for a quick flight with Dumbo. There is a lot of history presented throughout the area from a plethora of animated points in Disney’s history. Some are immediately recognizable, some you’ll feel like you know, but you may not be sure from where, while others will certainly take some digging to find their original screen debuts. If this is a circus run entirely by animals, then they certain have an eye for the details!

13 July 2017

Do You Want Ice Cream?

July is National Ice Cream Month and this upcoming Sunday is National Ice Cream Day, which makes it the perfect time to stop by the Ample Hills Creamery located along Disney’s BoardWalk. Ample Hills offers up a ton of variations on traditional and off the beaten path ice cream flavors. If you’re looking for something truly unique to Walt Disney World, however, may I recommend Sally Sells Seashells, which is only available at the BoardWalk ice cream parlor?

I’ll tell you right now, this flavor won’t be for everyone, but for those willing to be a bit adventurous, Sally Sells Seashells will deliver. It is described as a “fresh and fluffy orange marshmallow ice cream with housemade salty chocolate seashells.” Orange and marshmallow, sweet and salty, like I said it won’t be for all tastes. If you think there’s even a chance you’ll enjoy it, go ahead and ask for a sample, the friendly folks at Ample Hills will be happy to oblige and make other recommendations for you.

Back to the flavor at hand, Sally Sells Seashells is the ice cream equivalent of a Citrus Swirl, with chocolate pieces thrown into the mix. The ice cream is smooth and creamy, which one would expect from an establishment with the word “creamery” in its title. With the heat and humidity in Florida, the zestiness of the citrus is refreshing, but it is softened by the sweetness of the marshmallow.

The chocolate seashells are more chocolate than salty, but the hint of salt helps it from becoming too sweet. As a die-hard mint chocolate chip lover, I like a little something extra in my ice cream, but the shells are bulky. In small doses they work just fine, but the scoops I had were filled with too many chocolate seashells for my liking. I don’t know if I’d prefer fewer shells, or the chocolate in a different form, such as a swirl, but I’d love a small tweak. That said, the combination of orange, marshmallow, and chocolate flavors are a winning combination.

Give the Sally Sells Seashells a chance, or find something else to make your sundae perfect. Ample Hills Creamery has something for every taste, from ice cream purists, to topping over indulgers, and even cone enthusiasts. No matter what you’re looking for in terms of flavors or vehicles, Ample Hills has you covered. After all, they say it’s always ice cream weather there, although National Ice Cream Day does seem like the perfect fit!

12 July 2017

Massive Spray of Whitewater

Several weeks ago we talked about the top ways to relax at a Disney’s brand of water parks. I hope that rest gave you time to gather up your nerves, because today we’re setting off to explore some of Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach’s best thrills. Actually, you may want to look back at those ways to relax, because once we’re done here, you’re definitely going to need some recovery time!

Storm Slides – These three twisting and turning slides at Typhoon Lagoon give three very different experiences for guests looking to slip and slide their way down Mount Mayday. The Storm Slides are known individually as the Jib Jammer, Rudder Buster, and Stern Burner, and each make a nice way to ease yourself into the thrills side of Typhoon Lagoon. You may not notice all of the lovely scenery you speed by, but you’ll definitely know when you splashdown! The walk up to the Storm Slides also includes my favorite vignette and gag from either water park!

Toboggan Racers – Eight lanes, careening down the speed slopes of Mount Gushmore, with nothing but a foam toboggan between you and the slick slide. Oh, and there’s likely to be some smack talk amongst others in your group as you try to outdo one another in a race to the bottom of the hill. It is one of the only thrill attractions in Disney’s water park repertoire that allow you do go down the attraction head first.

Downhill Double Dipper – You may not be first, but you also won’t be last, when it comes to the Toboggan Racers at Blizzard Beach, but with the Downhill Double Dipper you’ll either be the winner or the loser. Tubes plummet through identical tunnels after the gates drop and you’re off to the races. This attraction is one of those blink and it’s over attractions, but it also brings with it the thrill of competition!

Crush ‘n’ Gusher – A set of three water coaster slides at Typhoon Lagoon, tucked away in Hideaway Bay, send you and a friend or two up, down, and around through the abandoned TropicalAmity fruit warehouse. As a nod to the former fruit exporters, the slides are named Banana Blaster, Coconut Crusher, and Pineapple Plunger. For those on a solo mission, the Banana Blaster is the only way to go, and it will sending you skipping like a stone across the bay.

Humunga Kowabunga – Typhoon Lagoon’s five story marquee thrill attraction. Triple enclosed body slides, send you screaming down the side of Mount Mayday. It will be over before you know it, but that first push-off is where it’ll take all of your nerves. You’re not quite parallel to the slide, but with a 60-degree angle, you’ll definitely feel a little lighter coming down.

Summit Plummet – If the five stories of Humunga Kowabunga makes you cringe with fear, then the idea of Summit Plummet’s 12 stories ski-jumpesque will likely make your knees turn to jelly. Over double the length of Humunga Kowabunga, quite a bit in the slow down lane at the bottom of Mount Gushmore, you will definitely have time to regret your decision on the way down.

Slush Gusher – This is seemingly the second largest thrill at Blizzard Beach, considering the facts that its starting point is lower than Summit Plummet and that it isn’t a straight down drop, but this one offers something a bit more terrifying to me, air time! With a steep slope into double hills, you will come off of your slide and catch some air, something that still takes my breath away every time it happens.

10 July 2017

Notice for Visitors

The theater that hosts Rivers of Lights guests is divided into two distinct section, one on the DinoLand U.S.A. bank and the other on the Asia (Serka Zong) bank. The structure in Serka Zong is considered a sacred monument and has rules that are attached to it. Looking at the theater itself, and all of the various elements that comprise it, tells the observant guest much about the place and time in which it was constructed, what is important to the people of Serka Zong, and where they are going.

Over the years many postings, advertisements, and signs have been affixed to the structure. These postings tell us as much about Serka Zong as the design of the actual structures do. They tell the tale of local businesses, many of them stemming from the local tea trade. Folks in the region believe in the yeti, but also believe that the stories of the creature are marketing fodder. We can see that the area also thrives on tourism and the backpacking industry, but that they’ve had problems with hikers sleeping in non-approved places. Perhaps most importantly, however, it is easy to see that art, religion, culture, business, and many facets of life are seemingly so intertwined it is hard to tell where one ends and another begins.

Scrolling through the postings below, what else can we learn from the people of Serka Zong?