29 November 2007

With little more than forty dollars and a dream

Woven throughout Toontown, in Disneyland, are windows very much like those that overlook the Main Streets of the world. Instead of Imagineers, administrators, and other prolific figures of the Disney Company, these windows onto the world are filled with famous toon citizens, and their respective jobs. Like the fictitious jobs of their true life counterparts, the occupations of the animated world are false, but not altogether unexpected. Catering is provided by the 3 Nephews, Construction from the 3 Little Pigs (demolition falls under the Big Bad Wolf’s domain), Jiminy Cricket is the Motivational Speaker, the 101 Dalmatians are the 101st Fire Company, as well as detectives, out door tours, prosthetics, and singing lessons, among others. Yet, the window that tops them all, the window that some might say started it all, is a window that is completely genuine. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Toontown, if their is sucha thing, is the window representing Walt Disney and his company, Laugh-O-gram.
Laugh-O-gram was started by Walt Disney in 1922 in Kansas City, when Walt was only 20. Walt, along with a few other young animators, including Ub Iwerks, began their work with a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. With their initial success they were able to find backing in a company named Pictorial Clubs, who immediately sent one-hundred dollars, with the promise of eleven thousand more for a set of six cartoons. With the assurance of a substantial income work began immediately on five other projects: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jack and the Beanstalk, Puss in Boots, The Four Musicians of Bremen, and perhaps the project gave the greatest indication of Walt Disney’s future, Cinderella.

Unfortunately, due to legal loopholes, no payment was compulsory until six months after the contracts had been signed. While the films were shipped as they were finished, by the time the six months elapsed, Pictorial Clubs had filed bankruptcy and Laugh-O-grams was left with only the original one-hundred dollar advance. On the brink of bankruptcy himself, Walt Disney attempted to find other projects for shrinking pool of animators, including films like a sing-a-long called Martha and a film about dental health titled Tommy Tucker’s Tooth.
By this time Walt Disney was living in the studio, using the funds he was receiving to begin another ambitious project. In Alice’s Wonderland, again perhaps foreshadowing Walt’s future, Walt would attempt to cohesively merge a human actor’s (or actress, as the case may be) performance with an animated world created later. Though the project, as well as a number of sequels, would eventually be completed, Walt’s time in Kansas City grew short. With Alice’s Wonderland only partially complete, Walt, following his brother Roy’s solemn advice, accepted that he had failed, filed bankruptcy, and headed west. The rest, as they say, is history.

These days, in the world that Walt Disney built, the Laugh-O-gram windows are one of the scant reminders of that time. The Alice shorts are currently available on the Walt Disney Treasure, Disney Rarities. As for the rest of the dreams created at Laugh-O-gram, well, all you have to do is look at your DVD collection, chances are you own a piece of Disney’s imagination and ingenuity, look in a scrapbook or on your wall, you probably have a photograph of a timeless vista he worked to create, or take a moment to think about something Disney, chances are it brings a smile to your face. You can thank Laugh-O-grams for instilling the sense of never give up, or at least a piece of it, that Walt worked so hard to perfect. After all, it was Walt Disney who once said, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

27 November 2007

Our first wandering steps

Sidewalks are everywhere. What, you don't believe me? Just look down.

Okay, what do you notice? Anything? Well you should. Even if it is just down the street from your office, or in front of your own home, sidewalks have character. Between the cracks, imprints, and patterns of the tools used to smooth them out, there is a lot to be noticed.

The sidewalks inside of Walt Disney World are no exception. The have paw and hoof prints, plant life, tire tracks, cracks, foundations, old trolley lines, and, in some cases, special effects. If there are things lacking in the theme parks, and there are certainly discrepancies, as noted in the Passport to Dreams’ current article, it certainly isn’t in the foundations. Below are a few of my favorite paths to tread. Asia in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, complete with leaf prints and bicycle tracks, Innoventions Plaza in Epcot, at night, complimented by its glowing pads, Sunset Blvd. in Disney-MGM Studios, broken pavement and old rails poking through, and the Magic Kingdom’s Bazaar in Adventureland, cracks, pieces of tiles, and jewelry all present in the design.

For a bonus, here is the sidewalk from the Condor Flats area of California Adventure. Notice the runway type mechanics, that are so easily disregarded by passersby, which enhance the overall aesthetics of the area.

26 November 2007

Your Mind Will Expand

George McGinnis’ beginning with Disney’s Imagineering, or more precisely WED Enterprises, as it was called when he began with the company, was like any storybook ending, a dream coming true. Sought out by Walt Disney, offered a position as an Imagineer, and given projects that would reshape the face of Tomorrowland and beyond, this was where George McGinnis’ journey began.

In 1966 George McGinnis was just completing his B.S. in Product Design at Art Center College of Design. His senior design project was an underground linear motor shuttle for the Northeast Corridor. Though the project came in a disheartening second in the Alcoa Project at the Art Center, an aluminum garden cart claimed first place, talk of the project reached Walt Disney’s ear. Linear motion was, after all, the method with which the PeopleMover was to be propelled. Walt decided to take a look at the project, bringing him a who’s who of Imagineering Legends: Dick Irvine, Bob Gurr, Roger Broggie, and John Hench. After inspecting the project, Walt Disney invited George McGinnis to come and examine the PeopleMover test track that WED Enterprises, specifically Bob Gurr, was working on. While returning to the Studios, Walt mentioned, “We can use another Industrial Designer at WED.”

During the first six months of George McGinnis’ work for WED Enterprises he met with Walt Disney six times. His work included concepts and renderings of transportation models, including models for the Progress City display, some of which gained infamy when included in The EPCOT Film. These tasks given to George McGinnis, if not daunting, were surely imperative to the future of Disney, given the significance that has been heaped upon The EPCOT Film. Near the end of those first six months, the guiding force behind WED Enterprises, and all things Disney, Walt Disney, passed away. While the company’s future seemed uncertain, there was no wavering inside of WED Enterprises, “We were finishing up Tomorrowland and WDW was under construction and there was an Epcot plan,” George McGinnis recalls.

The finishing up of Tomorrowland, in Disneyland, included the Mighty Microscope for Adventures Thru Inner Space and the winged rocket with boosters for the Tomorrowland Rocket Jets, both of which opened in 1967. The Mighty Microscope was an impressive thirty-seven feet wide by twelve feet tall, and was the focal point of the Adventures Thru Inner Space queue. Guests in the queue would see the omnimover vehicles, dubbed atomobiles, move into the microscope with a flash, a similar flash occurred in a clear section of the microscope where guests in the queue could see the atomobiles, or rather mini-atomobiles, shrinking as they approached the snowflake to begin their travels thru inner space. This simulated the action taking place to guests already on the ride. As for the Tomorrowland Rocket Jets, these successors to the Astro-Jets/Tomorrowland Jets were placed on top of the PeopleMover platform during Tomorrowland’s revitalization, as per Walt’s suggestion. The center rocket’s, or column’s, design, complete with rocket boosters and realistic N.A.S.A. rocket paint job, was left to George McGinnis. (A quick aside, it is this version of the Astro-Jets/Tomorrowland Jets/Rocket Jets/Astro-Orbiter, along with another of George McGinnis’ projects, Space Mountain, which is seen as part of Todayland in the flyby scene of Meet the Robinsons.)

In his first two years as an Imagineer, and even before, while attending the Art Center, George McGinnis already had his mind towards improving the future for everyone, a lofty goal that had weighed heavily on the mind of Walt Disney as well. These concepts would continue to show their merits through the work of George McGinnis. Yet, these were only his first steps, some would call them giant leaps, into Imagineering. The Magic Kingdom, alongside Walt Disney World itself, was awaiting his full attention, and, further on down the road to tomorrow, EPCOT was beckoning.

Growing Up Disney - Mickey Mouse Disco

How many of us grew up with this album? If you saw the pictures of my parents last week, I’m sure the fact that I owned this album is not coming as a shock. Growing up as a child of the 80s, I didn’t actually know anything about disco, or how to dance (actually I’m still grappling with figuring out this “dance” thing), but I knew this music made me want to move. I also knew that I had to get myself a flashy outfit, like the one Mickey was stylin’.

Everyone’s favorite, Macho Duck, which sounds suspiciously like an imitation Village People, is a perfect slice of Donald and his personality. Throughout the song he is boastful, prone to accepting flattery, and gets flustered when his flaws are called out. Songs like Disco Mickey Mouse, The Greatest Band, and Mousetrap all begged for choreographing, and I am willing to go out on a limb and bet my sister and I had set dance steps for some of these songs. Thankfully, after much searching, I could find no photographic evidence of these heinous incidents.

While most people who can remember Mickey Mouse Disco cling to Macho Duck, my fondest memories come from Watch Out for Goofy! Goofy was my favorite of the gang as a child, so that explains part of my fondness for the song. Otherwise, I can only say that, even at a very young age, I knew I was going to be a gangly white boy with two left feet.

Peeling back the layers of this album, renditions of Disney movie hits, Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (Song of the South), Welcome to Rio (Saludos Amigos), and Chim Chim Cher-ee (Mary Poppins), create a sense of fractured recognition for the album. I remember trying to sing along to Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah and failing miserably because the timing had changed, and I couldn’t quite get the new flow. I would cautiously compare these selections to Superman’s Bizarro World, they seem so familiar but you know that something isn’t right. Oh, and if you think it’s a small world is annoying in its regular form, try listening to the disco version presented here and not wish you were deaf.

I hadn’t listened to this album in years, but continually checked that it was well protected with my parents, until I stumbled upon it on iTunes earlier this year. Sure enough the catchy lyrics and upbeat rhythms got to me and I was up trying to convince my wife (then fiancée) to help me put together moves for The Greatest Band. For the record, she sighed, walked out of the room, and attempted to ignore me while I boomed out Macho Duck and worked at my Goofy impression, all while shaking my money maker. I found out that I was, indeed, just as bad a dancer as Goofy. It’s great to take a look back at your childhood, just so long as you don’t stare, it’s rude.

24 November 2007

Singing a happy song

Apparently, all the musical numbers in Disney films required a lot of work for the casts. Inhabitants of both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland have resident musical practitioners. Ichabod Crane takes up residence in Liberty Square at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, while Clara Cluck perches herself in an upper apartment in Disneyland’s Toontown.

23 November 2007

Today Holds the Challenge

Every year Disney installs a new group of Legends. The Legends come from actors, actresses, broadcasters, singers, songwriters, composers, administrators, and animators, among a myriad of other talents, but the one category that most theme park enthusiasts clamor over are the Imagineers. Every year, beginning in 1987, a new batch of Disney Legends are honored, and every year I find one name unceremoniously absent from the list, George McGinnis.

The Disney Legends are honored for their imagination and ideas, their skills and craftsmanship, and the magic created by combining these separate elements into one brilliant amalgamation. All of these attributes are, indeed, embodied by George McGinnis and his body of achievements.

George McGinnis’ history with Walt Disney Imagineering includes work on such marvels as the Magic Kingdom’s WEDway Peoplemover, both Space Mountains, various attractions within Communicore, various transportation elements in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure, among others. Yet, he is probably best known for his work on the most beloved extinct attraction of all time, EPCOT Center’s Horizons.

Over the next few months we are going to take a closer look at the life and creations of George McGinnis. There are fascinating stories to tell, full of wonderful challenges that were overcome, dreams of the future, and tantalizing glimpses into the past. Hopefully you will learn a thing or two about George McGinnis and his body of work, and maybe together, we can honor the Legend in our own right.

Save Our Swirl - Innovative Growing Techniques

Animals have always played an important part of all things Disney, from the True Life Adventures, to Discovery Island, to the now almost ten year old young Animal Kingdom. As far as the theme parks, audio-animatronic animals have been a staple since the Enchanted Tiki Room, as well as other animals animated through other techniques, such as the creatures of the Jungle Cruise. But what about completely inanimate animals throughout Walt Disney World? Oh, they are out there, albeit a slightly different forms than they have appeared in years past. What I am vaguely hinting at, or taking the labyrinth’s way to get to, are the topiaries.

This may not seem necessarily like a proper candidate for a Save Our Swirl, seeing how the topiaries all but have their own event in Epcot with the International Flower & Garden Festival, complete with displays on how the topiaries are formed, but take a moment to consider what type of topiaries are available there. A wide percentage of these topiaries are generally characters, usually dressed up in some sort of clever fashion, sometimes with a gimmick, like Cinderella and Prince Charming spinning, or rather “dancing,” on a pedestal. These are not your parents’ topiaries. To prove that fact, here are my parents, with topiaries in the background, hanging out at the Transportation and Ticket Center in 1980 (I apologize for their hair and clothes, they didn’t know any better, and they were fresh out of the 70s), as well as another topiary they felt inclined to snap a photograph of.

This form of topiary grew rampant all over the grounds of Walt Disney World in the 1970s and 1980s. It was not alarming to see a herd of pachyderms stomping their way from the Transportation and Ticket Center towards the Contemporary Resort, or to see other animals creeping along the perfectly trimmed grass along the banks around Cinderella Castle. But here is the difference, these were real life animals formed out of shrubbery. Very few, if any, were characters or had fake vegetation muddled in with true shrubbery.

These days you are lucky if the shrub you are looking at isn’t staring back at you with saucer like eyes. While that may be okay for a special event, say a festival that I am so excited about that I made sure my vacation was timed to see it next year, it does not create that smattering of fantasy, that taste of what was to come inside of Walt Disney World, any longer. Time to sound the S.O.S. for the topiaries., and while we’re at it, let’s not retroactively start a genocide on today’s topiaries either, but how about a happy balance of what created the buzz and what keeps them thriving today.

Paths to Adventure - Liberty Square

Upon crossing the mighty Mississippi, after such a crossing you will no doubt believe it is only a Little Mississippi, you enter a land of passions and politics of a more civilized age. Here a fife and drum play alongside the sleepy banjos of the Rivers of America, and a disturbingly quiet manor sits at the top of the hill. Stiffen up your back, and walk here with a sense of pride, as you meander through the streets of Liberty Square.

As you make your way by the wooden homes that live along the Rivers of America, and should you find your appetite unbearable, perhaps the hostesses at the Liberty Tree Tavern will assist you with enough food to quiet even the most raucous rumbling in your belly. From turkey to pork, green beans to mashed potatoes, and cherry cobbler to top it off, there isn’t anything more a hungry patriot, which can be found wandering through the Tavern from time to time, could ask for here. With your appetite satisfied, it is safe to continue out into the streets where America began.
Outside are plenty of tools to stir the spirit. As you make your way through the Square you will find a stockade, the perfect place for securing any disgruntled, or unpatriotic, member of your party. Here as well sit the Liberty Bell and the Liberty Tree. The Liberty Bell is encircled here by thirteen flags, one for each of the original colonies of America. Alongside the Liberty Bell, is the Liberty Tree, a gathering place for Liberty Square’s Sons of Liberty, a symbol of the town’s fight against the injustice of the British reign. Should you happen upon the Liberty Tree during twilight, or well into the night, you will find 13 lanterns hanging gracefully from it boughs. These lanterns serve the same function as the Liberty Bell’s flags, as symbols of the thirteen original colonies.

Here you reach an intersection, to your left you could hop aboard a steam engine, the glorious Liberty Belle, or, to your right, the quaint shops, some filled with Christmas goodies, and the Hall of Presidents await. With a brief pause, and the call of Belle’s whistle, you dash towards the riverboat, and the Rivers of America.

The gentle paddle turns, and as you reach mark twain, the leadsman call for two fathoms, the safe water depth for the Liberty Belle, before you are off around the bend. Between the leadsman and Beacon Joe, the river waters should treat you to a pleasant tour. Plenty of adventure awaits the young along the river. Echoes from your time in Frontierland our visible, as well as your exploits on Tom Sawyer’s Island, pass away with the flowing river. Settlers with log cabins, river pirate lairs, wilderness wildlife, and the native Algonquians all have been known to frequent these waters. Near the end of your voyage, an aged mansion appears back in the woods, piquing your interest. Perhaps a visit up the hill awaits you in your near future.

After the Liberty Belle has docked, you make your way back across the street towards the picturesque buildings to marvel at the modern wares they are trading, the funnel cakes available at Sleepy Hollow, lessons that are being offered, and quiet residences, before stepping across the way to the Hall of Presidents.

Once inside, your heart swells with pride. Lying before your eyes are the recreated triumphs of the American spirit, full of the sweat, tears, and grit that formed the country. When all the commander-in-chiefs have gathered, they pass on a few words on the nature and fortitude of the American Spirit, before releasing your patriotism filled heart, complete with boiling patriotic blood, back into Liberty Square’s lanes.

By now hunger may once again have you within its grip. For something to nibble on the Liberty Square Market offers up perfect snacks and delectable fruits. If that hunger becomes more of a hankering, just down the lane resides the Columbia Harbour House, where nautical artifacts and décor meet hearty home cooking. Views of the Rivers of America and the streets below intermingle with maps and charts and tasty chicken, fish, and chowder.

Back out on the road make your way over to the Yankee Trader, along the way stop and notice the imprints horse and carts made in the walkway. Should you come across this strange pattern, it is okay to chuckle and take note; even the proud citizens here occasionally stop to take a photograph of the design. It is almost as if someone went through a lot of work to hide the fellow.

Passing by the Yankee Trader, you are drawn towards the mansion on the hill. Mumblings about the house have become whole conversation pieces in Liberty Square lately, and the manor has even garnered a new name, the Haunted Mansion. Quietly and with much stealth you make your way around the front of the mansion, and then around to the side. There you find a family cemetery, where gruesome deaths seem commonplace. As you take notice that the graveyard has recently been visited, a rose sits perched upon the headstone of Master Gracey, a dog or wolf howls from the woods beyond. Suddenly, and shockingly, a servant of the house summons you inside, where you are met by an ominous and foreboding voice.

This voice, a self-appointed Ghost Host, conducts you through a disturbingly stretching room, and then into a doombuggy to tour the mansion. Through portrait galleries with shocking secrets, libraries and conservatories filled with unseen presences, and a never-ending series of stairways the Ghost Host beckons you to come further into the house, even though your common sense is nagging for you to find a way out. Residents attempt to contact you, some pleading for your assistance, as you make your way down endless hallways before interrupting a séance, presided over by the striking and foreseeing Madame Leota from inside of her crystal ball. Here the Ghost Host leaves you to discover a rowdy and uncivilized clan of ghost cavorting about in all sorts of party frivolities.

Hastening your way through the house, you stumble upon the attic, and the grim truths of the bride and her former husbands, before crashing through a window and into a much larger graveyard. If the ball room was filled with wild spirits, then the cemetery is filled with the truly disorderly phantoms, all in search of a good time. Ghost on bicycles, spirits using tombstones as a teeter-totter, even a phantom choir, in perfect harmony, crooning about Grim, Grinning, Ghosts. When the Ghost Host finally catches up to you in the mausoleum he offers you one final warning, that hitchhiking ghosts have been known to follow guests home.

As a hauntingly beautiful voice calls for you to hurry back, you follow the beating of your heart and race through the mausoleum, past the pet cemetery with an odd little toad at the rear, back into Liberty Square, and do not stop before you are safely beyond the Yankee Trader, and safely into an alcove.

As you attempt to gather your breath, and not peak around the corner to see if you have been followed, you here the faint, but joyous music and children’s laughter behind you. Turning around you see a land beyond full of magic and dreams, a Fantasyland. Seeing no reason to venture back towards the spook-filled house, you step under the charming second floor of the Columbia Harbour House, and into your favorite stories and dreams.

22 November 2007

This glorious figment of one man's imagination

It is a day to give thanks. But I am not going to bore you with everything that I am thankful for in my life, let’s face it, you don’t know me, personally, well enough to care. I do have to say though, I am extremely grateful for my wife, and for the fact that she actually believes in me, as well as the Main Street Gazette, and believes that I am worthy of her life. So, now, what am I thankful for in the arena of Walt Disney World today, let’s take a look.

I am thankful for a community that thrives on the fact that there are so many of us looking for new information, old information, details, photographs, stories, and histories. No one says, “Don’t read this blog or go to this site,” because everyone wants to build upon what everyone else is doing. We support each other, praise each other, offer advice to one another, and show one another off when they find, or come up with, something truly astounding. A few of the people who have helped me along the way, whether it was by feedback, assisting me in an article, or just by dropping my name onto their site so that others may find me, are George, Ray, Christine, Jeff, and Karen. Drop by their sites, and let them know that you are thankful for their contributions to the Disney community, and for their support of the Main Street Gazette.

I am also thankful for people like Eric Hoffman, who is working hard to make the Main Street Gazette a more beautiful place for you and me.

I am thankful for my family. They introduced me to the Magic in 1981, and have continued to feed my obsession since. Trips as a child were, almost, every single weekend. Even today, they send me articles and books, ask for help in planning their trips, ask me to come along with them on trips, or if they can tag along on mine. It takes a special kind of family to put up with these kinds of things, but it takes a miraculous one to nourish this kind of fascination.

I am thankful to Walt Disney, who created a world that is always changing, always exciting, always full of little stories, both created and organic, and that always feels like a second home. I am thankful that I finally was able to see the original, Disneyland, this year, and that I will return to my home, Walt Disney World, this coming year.

Finally, I am thankful for you. Yes, you, the ones who read this site everyday. There are not a ton of you, but you keep giving me the support to continue doing what I am doing. I hope you enjoy my rants, details, and love that I try to instill in each article. I hope you discover something new, something wonderful, that you had never known before that will make your trips a little more magical, because, each and every day that you stop by, you have made my day a little more magical. So, as long as you don’t stop visiting, I won’t stop writing. Deal?

Have a wonderful day, filled with all the many things you are thankful for.

21 November 2007

Haul out the holly

Thanksgiving, yet another pit stop along the way before we get to Paths to Adventure, Liberty Square Edition, or the beginning of the holiday season to the rest of the world, is finally here. Walt Disney World does holidays like no one else. I’d even dare say that every day feels like a holiday, to the general public, when you are at Walt Disney World.

With this in mind, I imagine that tomorrow after the families watch the President’s Pardoned Turkey grand marshal the parade, a good portion of these lucky families will be spending a piece of their holiday dining on the traditional fare provided at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Whether at lunch, or at dinner with Goofy and his liberating friends, the meal here is truly a family affair, no matter what time of year.

Starting with the Declaration Salad, before moving on to herb bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese (Stouffer’s is the sponsor of the Liberty Tree Tavern after all), paired perfectly with carved beef, smoked pork loin, and, of course, roasted turkey breast. As if this were not enough, the feast is crowned with cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream, it may not be as American as Apple Pie, but it certainly comes close. Seconds are always on hand and, if your family is like my family, the only thing you won’t require more of is the Mac and Cheese. It is not that it isn’t good, it is, nut you can tell it is Stouffer’s and the rest of the morsels you are cramming into your mouth, as if they are going out of style, taste fresh and homemade and absolutely delicious.
If you think I am just simply talking up Disney to talk up Disney I offer the evidence of my now wife, then fiancée, with Goofy. Yes, I almost always look happy when anywhere in Walt Disney World, but my wife doesn’t. When she is tired and hungry she dons face so sour that even Grumpy (the dwarf, not Ray) would seem happy-go-lucky. No, this photograph was taken just after she had dived into her fresh green beans and couldn’t stop raving about how good they were, and not what she had expected in the least.

I can, even now, envision the plethora of families visiting the Magic Kingdom tomorrow feeling right at home at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Amid the hustle and bustle and crowds and crying children and crying adults and smiles and laughter and stories to tell for years to come, after all isn’t that what holidays are like around your house, and isn’t that what is important? The memories we make with friends and families this, and every day, of the year? I hope you enjoy your holiday, I am eternally optimistic the some Magic will find it’s way into your day (whether over a meal at Liberty Tree Tavern, a game of touch-football on your front lawn, and a quiet moment with someone you are thankful for), and I feel we each deserve nothing but the brightest.

20 November 2007

This is a picture phone, we can see you

That watch I bought from Potts McNutty Corporation was, apparently, broken when I bought it, thus I have found no time to fix the Liberty Square article or to get real in depth on anything. This is partially because in the last forty-eight I have worked a grueling twenty-three and a half of them. I’m not a complainer, and this should not be taken as a gripe, but I wanted you all to know that I take this blog very seriously, and I want to not only provided some knowledge and some fun for all of you each and every day, but that I also want these articles to have a quality I am proud of. To tide you over for another day or so, here’s a favorite detail of mine. If Saturday’s article was a prelude to the Paths to Adventure, then this is a prelude to my Muppets comparison coming shortly.
That’s right, it is none other than our old friend, Rizzo the Rat, who has been around since episode 418 of The Muppet Show, and has been mugging for camera time ever since. What I love best about this sign, which can be found amongst a plethora of fascinating and hysterical signs in Muppet Stuff, is the fact that it can almost be seen as a blank check, or undeveloped photograph as it were, for those of us who want to try to find a way to capture every little nook and cranny of Walt Disney World that we can.

17 November 2007

Prelude: Path to Adventure – Liberty Square

That’s right, a new Path to Adventure is about to begin. Unfortunately, the current state of the article does not do the Square justice. I am going to give the article the T.L.C. it needs and it will be here tomorrow, just a dream away.
To get you into the spirit of Liberty Square, I pulled out my favorite Hidden Mickey in the entire Magic Kingdom, possibly in the entirety of Walt Disney World. This Hidden Mickey is found, obviously, in the pavement of Liberty Square (Sidewalk Appreciation Society anyone?), we’ll talk about where specifically to find it tomorrow when we start down the Path to Adventure.

So, get your most comfortable shoes on, and prepare to do some walking with me tomorrow!

16 November 2007

How we feed and care for them

This weekend, as well the next week up to Thanksgiving, look like they are going to be some tough ones. But have no fear, I have recently acquired a stopwatch from the Potts McNutty Corporation and will have more than enough time to get articles out for your enjoyment.

Food is once again on my mind, after I enjoyed some tasty ribs this evening, and it was then that I realized I haven’t ever really touched upon the dining available inside of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For the longest time the dining options inside the park were limited to Counter Service meals. Thankfully that is changing this year with the refurbishment of Tusker House and the addition of Yak and Yeti. For years this has left the only dining debate open to Disney community as to which restaurant was the best in Animal Kingdom. With these new openings we will be free to discuss the merits of the Counter and Table Service restaurants in their own separate forums.

But I digress, speaking of ribs, and I was originally speaking of ribs, some of the best ribs to be found on property can be found at Flame Tree Barbeque, alongside some scrumptious smoked chicken. I originally found Flame Tree through a special on the Travel Channel, and could feel my mouth watering, even though I was hundreds of miles away. The first chance I received to visit this appetite whetting shack was love at first bite.

Then I entered the dining area and the experience of the atmosphere enhanced the meal to no end. There were various huts scattered about a tangled web of pathways, surrounded on all sides by a lush landscape, with ambient music that echoed of the entrance to Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom. It is easy then, in the midst of these disorienting surroundings, to not pick up that you have become the predator to your prey, your prey which is otherwise known as lunch, which is otherwise known as ribs or chicken, and your surroundings reflect just this predicament. You see, each shelter is themed in the predator and prey relationship. Smaller creatures are always being sought and devoured by the local residents here. Even the tables display creatures on the verge of becoming a meal for the ambitious hunters embodied in the chairs.

All of this, just to get you in the spirit of the Circle of Life before you take-in the next showing of the Festival of the Lion King. Ah well, I think we know where my vote for best Quick Service restaurant in Animal Kingdom is going to fall in those upcoming discussions.

15 November 2007

Haven't I been here before?

Yesterday, I inadvertently submitted my application to the Crate Appreciation Society (or the C.A.S.), not that I wouldn’t love to be counted amongst their prestigious members. Thinking about it this morning though, I wasn’t positive that yesterday’s examples would be enough to sway the C.A.S. C.E.O.s, so I decided to beef up the resume a little this evening. Below are some of my favorite crates from Disneyland Park’s Toontown’s Gag Factory, and, as a bonus/extra credit, a MuppetVision 3-D Crate or two. I hope all of you are able to enjoy and take something from them, and I hope this solidifies my application for the Crate Appreciation Society.

I love this one for the reference on the Singing Harp. It is being shipped to W. Giant, a.k.a. Willie the Giant. Willie starred as the giant in the 1947 Mickey and the Beanstalk, part of Fun and Fancy Free. While a great piece itself, Willie is probably best known as the Ghost of Christmas Present in Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

After the C.A.S. I plan on going after, in no particular order, the Restroom, Trash Can, Twilight Zone, Barrel, Muppet, Windows, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Sidewalk Appreciation Societies, because I know they’re out there.

14 November 2007

We’ll be puttin’ into dock shortly

On the Mark Twain Riverboat docks, inside Disneyland Park, are a few crates worthy of recognition. One is outfitted for a mischievous scamp and his friend across the river, while the other is a mystery in the making.

This crate must be headed for Tom Sawyer and is knock around pal, Huck. Since they make it a habit of losing their paintbrushes it appears that Aunt Polly has fixed them a supply to last them into the next century. It’s a shame that these brushes haven’t made it down south to Florida where they could be of use, as I hear that Tom and Huck misplace several brushes every day.

The second crate presented me with a bit of a challenge. Francis H. McQuinn is a name that doesn’t appear on any search I have done, anywhere, entrepreneur or not, and I have been searching for a couple of weeks now. Knowing that this crate was placed here on purpose, I felt that the crate had to have a relevance to. However, after some digging, I found several possible leads that may or may not be the Francis McQuinn in question, and if neither is right, I enjoyed the search, and it gives the Disney Gurus of the world something to do some digging on as well.The most likely of these was the Francis McQuinn that is a cattle company in Stanberry, MO. While there seems to be no history available on the company, this option does provide a connection to the second piece of the box. An entrepreneur in Frontierland, or the American Frontier, would definitely dabble in cattle. Some other possibilities included tin smiths and housewives, but nothing that led me to believe that they were any more likely than the cattle company.

So, there you have it, some fresh from the docks, to your door, Disney Details.

13 November 2007

Update - Meet me tonight on Main Street

It appears that dreams really do come true. My request for someone to help with the Main Street Gazette logo yielded a catch. Eric Hoffman, a "graphic artist and web designer and semi-obsessed Disney head," has offered to help. I can't wait to see what he comes up with!

Everybody neat and pretty? Then on with the show!

Who remembers this little beauty:

This has been the face on the bath and facial soaps, as well as on the shampoo and condition inside of Walt Disney World since I can remember. The style of the packaging was just classic Disney to me, but it was the quote on the back of all of these toiletries, “Everybody neat and pretty? Then on with the show!,” that is the piece that I have always remembered, it seemed to be the perfect jolt to start a day of Walt Disney World adventures. I used to use this line in college when a group of us were going out for the evening, I have used it on my preschool class on occasion, and I still use it for myself on a regular basis when heading out for the day. It is just perky enough to be a pick-me-up when the day looks daunting, but not so overly cute that you want to strangle something, which is a feat in and of itself considering these are the immortal words of Mickey Mouse from 1955 and the Mickey Mouse Club television show.

Imagine my shock when I checked-in to Port Orleans: French Quarter for Epcot’s 25th only to find that my beloved bath items have been replaced by a more modern counterpart. I am not saying that I dislike the new versions, but the clear cellophane showcasing the Mickey profile on the back of the soap just doesn’t have the same umph that the older version had with the quote.

Take all these small, all be it important, emotions I have for my beloved soap and then imagine arriving at the Disneyland Hotel only one month later and finding my long lost love, the original black-wrapped, complete with Mickey Mouse Club quote, soap and other sundries awaiting my arrival. I figure it is only the fact that the Disneyland Resort had not depleted its stock of the older toiletries that allowed them to be there during my stay, but, none-the-less, I was thrilled and saved every last one I received. This, by the way, did not endear my new wife to me as I already have a collection of these soaps large enough to choke a horse, or maybe the entire field of the Kentucky Derby. However, I explained that they do wonders in dresser drawers and closets, not to mention when guests come to visit, and besides, it is a free Disney souvenir to take home with you.