30 August 2007

Young Adventurers - Pirates of the Caribbean

Ahoy young landlubber! These be cursed pirate waters ye be takin’ on. Sail through uncharted waters and hidden caverns the hold secrets to the pirate days of old. Be ye warned, this cave’s curse may just sweep you over the falls to said pirate days of old! Here pirates be the sacking the town, torturing the mayor, and any other slack-jawed townsfolk fool enough to be caught, for information, and setting ablaze every livin’ thing in their path all in to quench the lust for treasure, rum, and women! Oh, an keep a weathered eye for me redheaded love, would ye. Now, beware that scurvy dog Barbosa as he scours the town for Jack Sparrow and the key to the treasury. Aye, an if ye see old Jack hisself, give ‘em a Yo-Ho Yo-Ho for me. So, if ye be brave and of stout heart, board your longboat, draw your sword, and cast off!

Go out and try your luck...

Orlando Sentinel

This breaking news just in, well, just in about 3 weeks ago. As I am sure most of you have heard by now Disney-MGM Studios will be changing its name to Disney’s Hollywood Studios this coming January. If you’ve been reading all the message boards and editorials about the change then you’ve heard a variety of opinions. From ‘I hate this idea, it was done at the last minute,’ ‘I’m indifferent to the change,’ ‘I want the name to stay the same,’ ‘Whatever happened to Disney-Pixar Studios,’ and even a few ‘Hooray for Hollywood;’ and since variety is the spice of life, I thought it about time to add my two cents to the discussion.

Disney-MGM Studios/Disney’s Hollywood Studios (from here on out referred to as the Studios) has changed over the years, and, if you are a fan of the parks, you’d have to have been living under a garbage heap in the Antarctic not to have seen it. The Golden Age of Hollywood that Disney sought to convey, the atmosphere that probably only truly lives in our hearts and minds as an amalgam of true memories and romanced ideas, is dead. To see this simply look down Hollywood Blvd. The great Chinese Theatre, the iconic memory everyone had of walking the street towards its grandiose pillars and doors is now blocked from view by a giant Sorcerer Mickey Hat, even PhotoPass photographers are given strict directions not to allow any part of the building show in any photograph they take. True this is mainly fall-out from legal skirmishes, but the argument suits the same purpose. Additions made to the park since its inception has slowly but surely chipped away at the old Hollywood feel. As you make your way down Hollywood make a right and stare down Sunset. You’ll see a luxuriously designed hotel that would have fit into the heart of Hollywood’s Golden Age. But, walk down the road and to your left you’ll see a modern Hollywood recording studio that is decidedly not part of the Golden Age persona.

While these two examples alone state a fair case against the original intent of the park, there are still others. The greatest of these is the fact that the park is no longer a working studio. The last animated feature that was worked on at the Studios in the Animation Tour was Brother Bear. There are no television shows or movies in production, post-production, or even pre-production. The Backlot Tour has become a farce of its former self. The house facades were removed in order to facilitate space for another stunt show, Lights, Motors, Action!, which, again, does not fit into the Golden Age theme. As well, the path through storehouses of various movie artifacts and technological “how they do that’s,” is gone. The water tank exhibit is still present, as is Catastrophe Canyon, but they only serve as grim reminders of what once was, and what could have been.

Sounds Dangerous, starring Drew Carey, is a nap’s dream come true, as it offers no true entertainment these days. That isn’t to say that the Haunted House movie with Martin Short and Chevy Chase for The Monster Sound Show was any better, but the feel that attraction had at least gave some credibility to the Golden Age idea. These, along with other empty spaces in the park, make me sad when I dream of what might have been.

If you’ve stopped reading by now, which clearly you haven’t as you are still reading this, you’d think that I was totally in love with the early days and hate what the Studios have become. However, you’d be wrong. I love Rock ‘n’ RollerCoaster, The Narnia walkthrough, One Man’s Dream, and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Toy Story Mania. I even believe that the High School Musical Pep Rally and Lights, Motors, Action! have their niche to fill in the overall park going experience for your typical family. But, it is not that I am indifferent to the idea of the name change either. I am, what they like to say, cautiously optimistic.

Do I miss the steamroller and Roger Rabbit’s sound crates that used to line the Backlot area? Yes. Do I miss the view up Hollywood Blvd., the true animation tour, and real working environments that the original created? Yes. Would I give up Rock ‘n’ RollerCoaster? Never. So I think there is room to find a perfect harmony. By Disney’s own admission the park now encompasses more than just that Golden Age. It has music, television, movies, and interactive and innovative technologies that make entertainment just that much more entertaining. If you look at Disney’s various film, television, and music properties (not to mention its friends like Mr. Lucas), it has a lot to work with, and all the time in the world to explore them. After all, the park isn’t going anywhere, it is just adapting a new name.

Is there a chance that this new park will forget where it came from? I don’t think so. After all, there are a multitude of examples for it to look at all over its grounds. In fact, I hope the exact opposite happens, I hope it finds a few more ways to include homages to where it came from as it begins to truly assimilate all that is today’s Hollywood. Since we were able to give the original incarnation time to find its feet, I anticipate, no I expect, that we will all give this new Studios all the support it needs, especially if it is given a much needed dose of TLC, as it finds its own way through the heartbreak/big break town of Hollywood.

28 August 2007

Young Adventurers – Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Another new segment, yeah! This one is something near and dear to my heart. As a preschool teacher and Disney fanatic I have found the lack of material for children going to the parks disheartening. Yes, there are guidebooks about Disney with Children, but those are mostly for the parents taking their children, not the kids themselves. The only real guides specifically for kids are the extraordinary set of Guide to the Magic books by Tim Foster.

This segment is my take on attraction synopsizes. It is not the typical “dark ride, may scare small children, omnimover, opened with Epcot on October 1, 1982, yadda, yadda, yadda.” No, it is specifically and exclusive a description of the attraction’s adventure that your children really want to know about. So without further ado, kids (and adult type kids) grab your gear and let’s find an adventure.

Alright Recruit, listen up! Emperor Zurg is stealing crystollic fusion cells (batteries) from the little green aliens in an attempt to power his ultimate weapon of destruction. You are being assigned a XP-37, fully equipped with the latest in laser cannon technology, which is being prepared for you as we speak. Your mission is to fly deep into enemy territory, infiltrate Zurg’s headquarters, and end his reign of terror. Zurg’s thugs have a single weak point, Zurg’s giant Z. Navigate smart, and take careful aim with your laser cannons, and, should you come face-to-face with Zurg himself, even he should be no match for you. And remember Recruit, how well you do on this mission, may very well make or break your career with Star Command, good luck. To Infinity and Beyond!

27 August 2007

Closed for Refurbishment

Exhibit Closed

I don’t know everything, or even most things, about Disneyland. In fact, I don’t rapidly seek out news, trivia, and rumors about Disneyland as I do about Walt Disney World. After all, I am a son of WDW. So this wasn’t something I had planned to write about. In fact, I didn’t even know about it until I was doing some digging yesterday about my honeymoon. My fiancĂ©e are heading west to Disneyland, a first for both of us, before heading north to Sonoma. I have been most excited about seeing things I never have, and being able to walk in the footsteps of Walt. Among the attractions that topped my list were Indiana Jones, a longer Pirates of the Caribbean, Sleeping Beauty Castle, New Orleans Square, the Matterhorn, the original Main Street U.S.A., and The Disney Gallery. To tell you the truth the Gallery was probably third on my list overall, falling just behind Club 33 (which I have no way on earth to get into, but wish terribly that I could find one, even if to just look around) and Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Imagine my surprise when trying to discover what exhibits were going to be showing in the Gallery during my trip, only to find that the Gallery had been closed for good on August 7th. After all, the Gallery was currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. I honestly felt like I had been struck in the stomach, and I couldn’t altogether tell you why I felt that way. This was not an E-Ticket attraction. It was not there on opening day. In fact, it hadn’t even opened until 11 July 1987 after being occupied by both the Insurance Company of North America and Disneyland International. My hero Walt had never hand picked the exhibits I would see; true some of the artwork had been seen by him before going on to find its legs as an attraction, book, or other entertainment enterprise, but his hand had never intentionally built this showcase for this purpose. No one but those deep within the Disney culture even paid it much attention. I myself had never even seen the place except in pictures. Yet, none-the-less, I was stunned.

They are gutting The Disney Gallery to make room for “an entirely new experience.” A little more digging and it appears to be another suite for the Year of A Million Dreams Redux. Details at this point are few and far between, some seem to think it will be a replica of the Cinderella’s Royal Suite from Walt Disney World, while others are under the impressions that it will be more along the lines of completing the original plans for Walt’s Apartment. Of the two I would rather see Walt’s Apartment, although the likelihood that I would ever be able to stay there is in the same vein of ever being let into Club 33, because it brings another piece of Walt back to us. Yes, I am positive that if this were to come to pass, that the Apartment would look almost nothing like what Walt intended, but it would most certainly bring back the charm of the Disney era and probably have substantial piece of Disney History somewhere within its walls.

This does create a problem for Disney Purist, because how do you argue against something Walt himself had planned, even if it was never fully realized in his time. To explore this argument you have to suspend, off the top of my head, at least two topics: Walt’s own belief that the parks would be ever changing and never finished and EPCOT.
From the perspective of the Purists the Gallery has long been a peaceful corner to escape the crowds and heat, and to find a bit of perspective on the world of Disney. It is a vital piece to the history of the park, if not the entirety of the company. On he other hand, this was an idea that Walt had, but never saw finished. By those standards alone, how do you get any closer to a pure Disney idea? These aren’t questions for me to answer, or the Disney fan community as a whole (though discussions on the topic are fabulous to read over), or even the company. The real answer will come with time, when the Disney History has rewritten itself, as it is continuously doing.

Whatever happens to the site formerly known as The Disney Gallery, I will be waiting, hoping, daring to dream that it contains a piece of the Disney History its processor was so proficient at showcasing.

26 August 2007


From time to time I’d like to give you some words that are uniquely Disney, or that Disney has made unique. Usually it will be two or three words, some of these words Disney enthusiasts will know by heart, while those of you new the to Disney scene will hopefully find these resourceful. We’ll call it Dis-tionary.

Tonight we’ll start with some basics, things you will see and hear used in a majority of Disney conversations.

Cast Member (CMs) – Disney does not have employees in its theme parks. Everyone who works there is onstage, so, by that rationale they are part of the show, or Cast Members.
Imagineers/Imagineering – Imagineering, or Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI for short), started out life as WED Enterprises, WED stands for Walter Elias Disney, on December 16, 1952. Imagineers are the heart and soul of Imagineering which designs and builds everything from park layouts, attractions, propping, costuming, shows, and down to signage and the cracks in the sidewalks (no, the really design the text of the sidewalks). In fact, they have even helped design and build ABC’s Time Square Studio and the town of Celebration, FL.
Audio-Animatronic (AAs) – Audio-Animatronics are the lifelike mechanical figures that inhabit many of the Walt Disney World and Disneyland attractions.

For more information on Imagineering in the parks, I suggest The Imagineering Field Guides (The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom, The Imagineering Field Guide to the Epcot, and The Imagineering Field Guide to the Disney’s Animal Kingdom).

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

I thought we’d start out today with a bit of trivia and history. And I though that there was no better way to start this segment than by exposing the truth behind the Main Street Gazette name.

The Main Street Gazette is the name of the newspaper that Main Street U.S.A. streetmosphere character Scoop Sanderson works for. Now, while there is no actual publication that you can pick up on Main Street with daily news and events, well, unless you count the Times Guide (available at all fine retailers on Main Street), Scoop is a joy to talk to and interact with. Besides being a reporter, Scoop is also a Town Councilman, and has an incomparable thirst for all things Disney Pins. In fact, he gives a talk every Sunday through Thursday at Exposition Hall on this precise topic. It is called the One O’Clock Pin Talk and happens at, well, one o’clock. Scoop loves to trade pins, especially with the younger crowd. Sometimes he will turn the pins so that only the back is showing and let a child, or a whole family for that matter, pick one of his pins without knowing what they are getting.

Recently I’ve been hearing that the One O’Clock Pin Talk has been cancelled, or on hiatus. I am trying to get some firm information about exactly what is going on with the Talk, and will update you as soon as I can.

If you are out and about and trying to find Scoop, good luck! The rest of his schedule is erratic at best, but here are a few ways to spot Scoop if you are looking for him. He has been known to walk his toy dogs, Butterscotch and Licorice, ham it up with the Dapper Dans or Rhythm Rascals, play marbles, fish down near the Crystal Palace, and ride along Main Street on a variety of the Main Street Vehicles. Also, as any good reporter sniffing out a story, if he spots something newsworthy (say a birthday, anniversary, or Honorary Parade Marshall) he likes to beat everyone to the story by giving a breaking news report for the Main Street Gazette right then and there.

One last scoop on Scoop for all of you, remember where you are. You are on a turn of the century (1900s not 2000s) main street. Scoops, and the rest of Main Street’s residents, don’t know anything about iPods, cell phones, or any number of technological advances we’ve had in the past 100 years. Likewise, common courtesy and manners will go far with Scoop and the rest of Main Street citizens.

23 August 2007

Hang on to them hats and glasses...

Greetings! If you are like myself, you love Disney; Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney films, anything and everything you can Disney. You may not always love their decisions, whether it means the removal of your favorite attraction, the addition of a gaudy icon (that’s right, I’m right there with the rest of you wand haters. Thank goodness it’s going the way of the dodo as we speak), or a movie that lacks the storytelling Walt instilled in his company, but you will always stick by Disney. If you are not like me, or the people I mentioned above, then you may be here looking for travel advice. I hope to reach both audiences, the casual Disney tourist and the Disney-ite gurus, with this blog.

We will talk about all the common topics here, news from the parks, films, and the company overall. My thoughts will be ever present in editorials on a variety of subject, up first Epcot’s 25th and Disney-MGM Studios, soon to be Disney’s Hollywood Studios. But I also hope to bring you some new ideas, something fresh, something with some, to use a phrase most of us will be familiar with, edutainment.

For those of you looking for travel advice, I hope to give you something new as well, especially if you are traveling with younger children. Instead of the same attraction synopsizes, you know the ones where they tell you that an attraction is a dark ride on a pirate ship flying over Neverland that may frighten some small children, I want to immerse you in the adventures, give you some scope on what you are walking, flying, sailing, or blasting off in to.

So, I suppose you probably want to know what makes me so seem so sure I can do this. Well, I don’t know if I can, but, as Walt said “You know better than to kill an idea without giving it a chance to live.” Now, what makes me feel equipped to handle such a daunting task as the one I set before me? Here are some credentials for you nay-sayers. I lived in Brandon/Plant City (approximately an hour from WDW) for a total of 19-20 years of my life, spending every weekend, and quite a few weekdays, in some section of the parks, resorts, or Downtown Disney. As a preschool teacher, a love, and knowledge, of all things Disney has come in handy. As well, for years I have been booking trips, making vacation guides, and pestering with trivia friends, family, and friends of twice-removed family members. Each and every time I do one of the things above I am always asked the same question, “Why don’t you try to make a living doing this?” Well, I don’t know that one can making a living doing what I love to do, but I certainly can share it with the rest of the World, and that’s exactly what I am doing here.

So, I have blathered on quite a bit tonight, haven’t I? I suppose that I have given you enough to chew on until I come back with some more wit. Until then, as we open this conversation I hope you’ll continue to join me for, let me just leave you with a few words from Roy O. Disney’s Dedication of the Magic Kingdom.

“Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney... and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true.

May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place... a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together. Dedicated this 25th day of October, 1971.”