27 January 2015

Our Home Port



We all have bucket lists that we hope and dream to check items off of throughout our lives. Many of these lists revolve around themes, and even those could have subcategories. For instance, I’m willing to bet that many of us have travel bucket lists, and within those lists I know there are Disney travel dream items, and I’m willing to bet that we could break that down even further to dining experiences. I, myself, would love to dine at Club 33, Victoria & Albert’s, sit back and enjoy a bottle of wine from John Lasseter, and the list goes on and on.

Then there are the items, from days-gone-by souvenirs to long cherished attractions that we would love to hold grab a piece of and place it in a position of honor in our households. Fruit from Horizons? Definitely. Signage from Fort Wilderness? You know it. A panel from the original Star Tours? Why not? But if there is one area that holds a near and dear place in my heart and that I would love to hold on to, it’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage.

The voyage, launching from Fantasyland, sent guests aboard a Nautilus for a journey into the wondrous worlds lying beneath the cashing ocean waves. Aquafarming, polar ice caps, and even the lost city of Atlantis were not beyond the reach of this miraculous voyage. There are likely two reasons this attraction has stuck with me for so long, one from the experience itself and another from an experience I had just a couple of years back.

I was a child who adored all things science fiction, in particular the works of Jules Verne, which meant that the Submarine Voyage was the stuff my wildest dreams were made of. There was just one problem, my father has always been extremely claustrophobic. I can remember going into caverns as a child on a guided tour, when the guide began shutting off lights behind us as we went, my father had to rush back down the path and leave, waiting for us at the exit. He never wanted his feeling of dread to stop us from taking part in exploring our world, real or imagined. I can remember him sitting on the fold out chair next to me on the sub, and staring out the window. As the Nautilus pulled away from the dock he kept chiming in about all the things we were looking at. He was right there with me, but he never took his eyes off of the porthole. Looking back I realized that was his way of coping, he was able to ride the submarines so long as he felt that there was a way out and that he wasn’t trapped, and that porthole was his way to connect with me and to give himself some breathing room.

As I grew older and the concept and history of Imagineering began to take ahold of my interest, there were many names that fascinated me. Broggie, Gurr, Crump, Blair, Coats, etc. Yet, the one name that I was continually drawn to was McGinnis. For those of you who have been reading the Gazette since the early years, you’re no doubt familiar with my fondness for George McGinnis and my belief that he is truly a Disney Legend. A couple of years back, while working on an article for Celebrations Magazine, I had the great pleasure to speak with George McGinnis. Speak is a relative term here as, knowing this was a hero of mine and not wanting to sound like a complete stammering fool, I utilized email to ask him questions and gather stories.

I’ll tell you this, that article is one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever created (Issue #22 of Celebrations for the intrigued), and it taught me that I could sit and listen to stories from George McGinnis for days. Maybe I should follow in the footsteps of our good friend Jeff Heimbuch and see if George is looking for someone to pen his memoir…

I’ve gotten a bit off track, haven’t I?

The long and short of the matter is that the Nautilus submarines from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage have a special place in my heart for a multitude of reasons. I would love to visit Castaway Cay at some point in my life and touch the subs one last time. The pictures here remind that many of the submarines didn’t receive a resting place at the bottom of the sea, but rather a swallow, earthen grave. They’ve been gone for a long time, but I would love to clean up and take a small piece of one Nautilus and position it in a place of honor. Perhaps one day I will.

We all have our bucket lists, and we all have those items on there that we never think could come true, but that doesn’t mean that we should ever stop dreaming. The great part about crossing items off of your list is that means you have another line to add more dreams too, and that may be the greatest gift of all.

Oh, and for those of you wondering what items could possibly be on the non-Disney side of my list? Well, if anyone could ever get Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo to drop in a reporter for the Main Street Gazette, or hook me and Josh Gates up for an expedition, some major dream items would be checked off!

14 January 2015

Ask the Dishes



Let’s keep this short and simple. Follow the advice of Lumiere, “Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious!”

What, you need something more? Okay then…

There are a plethora of desserts at Be Our Guest, eclairs, cream puffs, cupcakes, and sorbets and any one of them will satisfy your sweet tooth. So, you’re asking what makes The Master’s Cupcake so special?

The base of the cupcake is a chocolate sponge cake with the crown of the dessert being a heaping helping of the Grey Stuff. It is garnished with some chocolate pearls and a script covered piece of chocolate fondant. While the specifics aren’t entirely known, the Grey Stuff is a scrumptious bit of cookies and cream pastry genius. It is incredibly delicious from top to bottom, especially if you work your cupcake correctly to ensure that you get a bit of cake and Grey Stuff in each bite.

I can’t lie and tell you that it is any better or worse than the other desserts at Be Our Guest, though I can let you know that it is only served during lunch. Which again begs the question, what make The Master’s Cupcake so special? It is being able to live through a moment of a Disney animated feature for yourself. It is the undeniable moment when your child, or spouse’s, or even your own face lights up with the realization that you get to try the Grey Stuff and it is, in fact, delicious. It is being able to believe in the fairy tales, not just Beauty and the Beast, but all of the fairy tales, for just one moment.

I don’t know that it is the dessert you need to order over and over again, but it is certainly a must eat for a first visit to Be Our Guest for lunch. I’m willing to bet you’ll love it, and that you’ll even hum a few bars of the song for which the restaurant is named. And if you still don’t believe me that the Grey Stuff is delicious after this review, you don’t have to. Go ahead and ask the dishes!

12 January 2015

Exquisite Aerial Sensation



Hyacinth Hippo is quite the celebrity around Walt Disney World. Over at Fantasia Garden she is prominently feature on the miniature golf course’s sign as well as their event pavilion in addition to being the subject of sculptures on holes of 12 and 13 of The Gardens Course. Apparently she has been booked for an extended stay with Fantasyland Storybook Circus and, being a ballerina who works with elephants, she logically packed her trunk.

Hyacinth first appeared in 1940’s Fantasia in the Dance of the Hours section of the film. Here she leads a troupe of hippopotamus and elephant ballerinas. From her divan she sleepily oversees the elephant ballerinas’ dance that includes creating their own bubbles for ambiance. She is jolted into action when Ben Ali Gator, and the dozen other alligators that he brings with him, swoop into the scene. At first a pas de duex between only Hyacinth and Ben, soon all the hippos and gators are involved, with the latter not having much luck in their romantic pursuits of the light on their toes hippopotamuses.

Recognized by her golden yellow ballet slippers and frilly pink tutu, Hyacinth was actually modelled after Tatiana Riabouchinska of the Ballet Russe. However, animators in the studio relied heavily on the modeling of the dancer Marjorie Belcher, whom had also been the live action model for Snow White. Though they divorced in 1940, she was also the wife of Disney animator Art Babbitt, who worked on The Three Little Pigs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, and is credited as the creator of Goofy.

Fantasia was not the only time Hyacinth graced the silver screen, however. She once again shined, if briefly, in a scene from the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. She appears towards the beginning of the film on the lot of Maroon Cartoons, and sends another member of the studio’s staff sky-high. According to studio head, R.K. Maroon, Hyacinth, Dumbo, and a host of other Disney stalwarts are on loan to him from Walt Disney.

In total, Hyacinth Hippo’s screen time only equals around 10 minutes, but she is always a beloved and well-recognized member of the Disney cartoon ensemble. Storybook Circus is a treasure trove to those seeking to dig a little deeper into the animated history of Disney and find new characters to know and love!

06 January 2015

The Cup That Will Transport You - Part III



Aileen Sheehan-Wilson, our resident coffee aficionado and my better half, is through her third batch of Joffrey’s Disney Parks Blends. The fourth and fifth sets of reviews will be in shortly, but for now let’s check in with what she had to say about this batch of medium roasts blends! As always, we purchased a pound of whole beans and ground them fresh ourselves for her multi-cup, multi-pot taste test.


Flavors of Africa (Medium)Our imaginations are as vast as the Maasai Mara Reserve, but we couldn’t imagine another coffee for Boma than this full-bodied Kenya AA. Grown in the volcanic soil on the northern slopes of Mt. Kenya, it’s brisk and snappy in the cup, with a high level of acidity and a splash of fruitiness; a wonderful way to greet both the day and Flavors of Africa’s bountiful breakfast buffet and beef bobotie—a delicious South African quiche. And its dry, winey aftertaste is a welcomed dinner guest for the grilled seafood, roasted meats and house-baked pastries. Flavors of Africa brings you the flavors of over 50 African countries. We picked a 100% Specialty Grade coffee to complement each and every one.

What Aileen Tastes:
I enjoyed this roast but would not put it at the top of my list. This is a situation where my love of dark roasts leaves me wishing this coffee offered more to the palette. The flavor is bright and there is a higher level of acidity than some of the other roasts. However, do not shy away when you hear the word acidity. The overall flavor of this coffee absolutely compliments African flavors. I may not order it for use at home again, but I would absolutely have a cup when visiting Boma in the Animal Kindgom Lodge.


Hollywood Blend (Medium)We knew this blend had to have wall-to-wall character. After all, the walls of this Tinseltown replica are adorned with caricatures of the famous faces that made the original Brown Derby legendary. Just like the Brown Derby Cobb salad, it doesn’t disappoint. The 100% Specialty Grade Arabica Beans we source from Africa, Indonesia and Central America has a wonderful aroma even the framed Bob Hope could smell. And the rich, full-bodied flavor has a lingering finish ready for its close-up with the caramelized apple cheesecake.

What Aileen Tastes:
This coffee was perfectly drinkable, but I didn’t feel it had a lot to offer in the flavor category. It smelled wonderful (rich and full-bodied) and I had high hopes for my first sip, but it fell a little flat on the tongue. This coffee is fine to enjoy at the end of a meal but do not it does not hold up to the amazing desserts you can have at the Hollywood Brown Derby, in my opinion.  The Hollywood Blend is not on my re-order list.


Kona Blend (Medium)Travel bloggers are buzzing about this one. “Discerning coffee drinkers, delight! There is authentic Kona coffee to be discovered here.” Well, to be fair, the banana stuffed French toast is pretty spectacular as well. It’s fantastic with the smooth and buttery mouth-feel of the coffee. We blend it with mild Central American beans—just enough to enhance the naturally fruity nuances always present in the Kona. It’s 100% Specialty Grade and also 1000% perfect with the Polynesian’s famous pineapple upside-down cake.

What Aileen Tastes:
Kona coffee, which is created in Hawaii, is on its own, quite expensive. Therefore, it is often combined with other beans in order to make it more affordable. Joffery’s has created a blend that is a combination of Kona coffee and mild Central American beans. As I have stated in past articles, I normally love dark roasts, but Kona coffee is an exception to this rule.  I had the pleasure of drinking this while at Kona CafĂ© in September and I can say, the home version and what I had there were extremely similar. The description of this coffee references a smooth and buttery mouth-feel and I have to agree.  This is a roast that lacks bitterness and could entice at least a few non-coffee drinkers. Overall, it pairs well with all breakfast foods, but I have to say, I prefer to enjoy it with pineapple macadamia nut pancakes! This coffee will definitely be in the cupboard again.


Today’s Cup of Disney Rankings:
1 – Kona Blend
2 – Hollywood Blend
3 – Flavors of Africa

Overall Cup of Disney Rankings:
1 – French Bistro
2 – California Grill
3 – Flying Fish Espresso
4 – Kona Blend
5 – Tusker House
6 – Artist Point
7 – Flavors of Africa
8 – Hollywood Blend
9 – The Wave

Previous Reviews: 

31 December 2014

Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand



15 years ago, when we all rang in the new millennium, Walt Disney World jumped the dropping ball a little bit and began its 15-month celebration in October of 1999 and scheduled it to end on January 1 of 2001. Let’s look over the Fast Facts that were provided to the press and see just what was in store for guests that year (or 15 months…)!

Dates, Location, and Theme are all pretty much what you would expect. What I love is that there is actually a section that lists the celebration’s icon. We all remember that, don’t we? It’s listed here as, “Mickey’s gloved hand raises a 116-foot-tall, star-topped wand which supports a glittering ‘2000’ atop Spaceship Earth, 25 stories above the ground.”

The two big pieces of entertainment were Tapestry of Nations and IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth, but we’ll talk more about these in a few minutes.

Other highlights included Millennium Village, companies like Motorola, Honeywell, IBM and AT&T placing exhibits in Innoventions, 30 sculpted granite monoliths that will house etched memories known as Leave a Legacy, and limited-edition Millennium Celebration tradable pins. Oh, and if you wanted more information, guests were directed to the new Walt Disney World, part of the GO Network.

Now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way, let’s peruse the photos of the Millennium Celebration’s press kit, and see what other interesting tidbits we can discover!


Cultural representatives and thousands of Disney Cast Members gathered in front of Spaceship Earth to kick-off the fifteen month celebration on September 27, 1999.


Guests explore the newly unveiled Innoventions. Highlighting how technological advancements are making lives easier, Innoventions held tight to its theme of following the “Road to Tomorrow.”


Though it would be short lived, Journey Into Your Imagination opened its doors as part of the Millennium Celebration. Featured here is the “topsy-turvy tour through the Imagination Institute’s Gravity Lab, a heels-over-head world where everything is upside-down.”


The Leave a Legacy sculpture garden and the 2000 wand that stands at 25-stories tall. I actually had two Leave a Legacy tiles created, one for my family and one for the missus and I. In the end, only one was ever created and placed on the wall, but I still check in on it during each visit to Walt Disney World.


Cultural representatives stand in front of the Millennium Village. The village was a 65,000 square-foot showplace where hundreds of entertainers, artisans, storytellers could work at and show off their skills and crafts.


Tapestry of Nations featured over 120 puppets that stood 20 to 30 feet above their performers. These puppets each received one-of-a-kind ensembles from designer Michael Curry, who had also worked on the Broadway rendition of The Lion King.


In addition to the puppets, Tapestry of Nations also included 30 drummers and 720 drums stationed aboard 15 rolling percussion stages. The score for Tapestry of Nations was crafted by Gavin Greenaway and supervised by Hans Zimmer, and were recorded with a 71-piece philharmonic orchestra and 30-person choir.


Last, but certainly not least, IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth. The show, or a variation of, is still going strong at Epcot, but it was a sight to behold that first year. The Earth Globe featured 15,000 LED lights ad was the world’s first spherical video display system. The score was also created by Gavin Greenaway to give the celebration a connectedness. IllumiNations 2000 used 2,800 firework shells per performance, a fountain barge that pumped 5,000 gallons of water per minute, and utilized a full spectrum of laser lights (including four custom Disney colors: lagoon blue, mint green, pumpkin orange, and lavender). The inferno barge weighed in at a whopping 150,000 pounds and utilized 37 nozzles to create the memorable propane flames. The giant torch, lit from within the Earth Globe reaches 40 feet above World Showcase. This show is still, fifteen years later, a must do on each and every trip to Walt Disney World.

The Millennium Celebration brought a lot of new features to Epcot that we now consider old favorites, a few that last longer than their expiration dates should have allowed, and a couple that were gone in the blink of an eye and we wish could return. No matter your thoughts on the individual pieces, the overall look, feel, and message of the Millennium Celebration went a long way in defining Epcot for a new century and gave us hope for the future of all mankind.