25 October 2007

Goodbye, farewell, aloha

So, this is it, the last entry before my wedding. Apparently, my fiancée doesn’t believe me when I say I wouldn’t be surfing Disney sites or posting to the Main Street Gazette while we are on our honeymoon and, to be honest, she’s probably right, so the computer is staying at home for the next two weeks boys and girls. But, I didn’t want to leave all of you high and dry on the blogging front while I was away, so I thought I would leave you with a few blogs and sites I like to follow, along with some notes about the site.

2719 Hyperion – If you are like me, you read this site everyday, so this one doesn’t come as a surprise. However, if you haven’t been following 2719 Hyperion since the beginning, I suggest going back and taking a look at articles you may have missed. There is a fountain of knowledge in those pages just waiting to be unlocked.

Imaginerding – The brothers George and Andrew have created a site so full of Disney history that it is definitely on my must reads everyday. Between the amazing details they find and the growing list of Disney books they report on (most of the books they reviewed that I didn’t already possess have been immediately added to wish lists available to family and friends who are already asking about birthdays and Christmas) these Disney Gurus keep us all in the know.

Netcot – This site is not a blog, but it is my most trusted site for news. Netcot also has an interesting download section, and a community forum that is second to none. Rock On!

If We Can Dream It... - A fabulous site for those of us in search of, or on a quest to find, little pieces of forgotten, or unseen, Disney Details.

that Disney girl – While not specifically tied to any theme park, that Disney girl, looks at what the daily lives of the Disney fanatical look like, what we think about, and how we handle the world.

Grumpy's Hollow – Remember all those things you’ve always thought, or you’ve ever wanted to say about Disney but were afraid to? Well, Grumpy’s Hollow pulls no punches and tells it like it is while giving some interesting tips, trivia, and great photographs.

So, there you have it, a look at some of my must views everyday. I know I am going to have a lot of reading to catch up on after I get back, but I will also have a lot to share with everyone too.

Just a few notes before I go. I have been asked if it is okay to use the photographs from Main Street Gazette for personal use. I have no problems if you want to use the pictures for guides you are putting together for your own personal trips, desktop backgrounds, or to just to hold onto to look at later. In fact, I don’t even mind you are would like to use them for your site, however, it would be much appreciated if, while using them for your site or anything else that people might see, if you would give credit where credit is due. After all, the World was created for all of us, and it is for all of us to share.

Also, I am pretty mechanically inclined, and understand computers remarkably well, but I have never been good at creating images/logos on the computer. I am looking for someone who would be willing to help me create a logo for the Main Street Gazette, as every place I have looked on the web costs money that I don’t have. I have some great ideas, but I have been unable to execute a workable copy. So if you are an art student looking for some practice, or a designer with a love of Disney, I would appreciate the help and I will shout your name from the top of my blog (giving credit where credit is due after all). You can email me while I am gone, and I will get in touch with you when I return.

Okay, my friends, that’s it for now. I hope you have a Magical two weeks, and I’ll see you on the other side, after my wedding, my honeymoon, and my very first visit to Disneyland.

24 October 2007

As long as we both shall live

The Disneyfication of my wedding started out small, in fact we tried excruciatingly hard in the beginning to keep all things Disney separate from our wedding weekend. Like I said, it started out small, with this cake topper we discussed earlier this week.

A quick aside: I had to order another cake topper yesterday after my fiancée decapitated Mickey. I am hoping it arrives tomorrow, as I paid half a fortune to have it shipped 2 day air, in time to save the cake. I told her that if my love of all things Disney was that much of a stressor on her she could have talked to me, not knocked Mickey’s block off.

The next piece of the Disney puzzle fell into place when we decide on California for our honeymoon. We reached the agreement that allowed me two and a half days in the house that Walt built before driving up the coast and spending a few days in Sonoma County. It was shortly after this that we decided to register our honeymoon, as our apartment is too small for the possessions we already have, and there was no way that we needed more “stuff.” This leads to step three.

I have been to quite a number of weddings in the past year, it is that vicious cycle I guess, in two years it will be all babies, and the one thing I never understood was the generic numbering of the tables at the reception. I was bound and determined to come up with a clever way to name the tables we were using. We went through naming them after types of apples that are harvested in the fall, autumn vegetables, and even tree names that have leaves that change color. It was then that I realized that, since we had registered our honeymoon, and not for anything else, why not name the tables after attractions in Disneyland? I picked out around fifteen attractions, found good pictures of the attractions, placed them on either side of a tri-fold picture frame, and printed the name in large fonts in the middle of frames. Perfect, table names set!

It seems amazing looking back now, but these events seemed to fall one after the other, the next wave of Disney intrusion crashing over the wedding just as the last was fading from memory. But sure enough, no sooner had we decided on table names than my cousin and fiancée came up with the brilliant idea of engraving a Hidden Mickey inside of my wedding band.

Then, as I began to put together the playlists for the reception, all of the reception music is coming to the guests live from my iPod so that I could control what played when and which artists and versions of songs we listened to. I decided that I love the old 20s – 40s juke joint type music, pulled together a list of songs from The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Sunset Blvd. in Disney-MGM Studios, and used them to cover the entire set of music needed for the cocktail hour.

About this time it began to seem that the Disneyfication was running out of steam, and would not turn another corner. Except that it was also around this time that my fiancée thought we should have a tagline for our wedding. You’ve seen these, the weddings that say things like Dave and Julia: Wedding of the Century or Mark and Lisa: Our Eternal Love. It is apparently hip and cool, of which I am neither, to have one of these. Immediately following her proclamation, I returned fire with “The Happiest Wedding On Earth.” She told me flat out that it was never going to happen, unfortunately for her, over the next week she could not come up with anything better and resigned herself to the fact that we were, indeed, having The Happiest Wedding On Earth.

And that is where the Disneyfication of my wedding weekend, which starts in just about two days, ends. It was a long and sordid road, but in the end I think it speaks volumes about who I truly am at my core. Trust me though; there is enough of her in the decorations and other pieces of the wedding that this is not a Disney exclusive event. And no matter what, the truly important piece of this weekend is the journey that we are beginning together, and I couldn’t be more excited about that. I feel if you were to roll every Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and birthday I have ever had into one day you still wouldn’t come close to the joy and magic I will feel on this Saturday, October 27th, my wedding day.

Okay, I think she probably stopped reading there. I may have left out one last little detail I neglected to mention. I had asked that anyone giving a speech, i.e. the best man, parents, my fiancée, our siblings, and myself, try to keep the easy punches and jokes at our expenses to a minimum. After all, we are celebrating our love, not attending a roast. But, being the kind of guy I am, I had to make an exception. As stated above, all of the music for our reception is coming straight from my iPod, and my fiancée got to approve every tracklisting. I “accidentally” forgot to write down that I had the Disneyland Band playing the Mickey Mouse March as the introduction to my speech. But, I had to show her that I could laugh at myself, and what better way than to put my love of Disney right out there in the open for all to see.

23 October 2007

Welcome on the same sign that says Come Back Again

Perhaps one of the more overlooked, or should I say underlooked, details within Walt Disney World are the road signs the pepper the street corners of Port Orleans: French Quarter.

French Quarter is a very quiet resort with well kept squares and a charm that is hypnotic. Since these signs are not within one of the four parks, and the fact that French Quarter is obviously not a resort that everyone stays at, it is only safe to assume these clever signs are indeed a unique feature lost to most. These street signs include names like Rue D’Baga, Rue D’Blues, and, my personal favorite, Cake Walk.

22 October 2007

We are rolling

I am a pretty shy guy by nature, not the type of guy to start a website dedicated to anything, but that’s a whole different story. Suffice it to say that when at Walt Disney World I do my best to avoid getting picked to be part of anything. I love watching Streetmosphere characters interact with guests, as long as they aren’t me, I don’t want to be part of the World Showcase Players, and I never tried out for Who Wants To Be A Million Play It! So it is a bit of a shock to anyone who knows me that I will make a fool of myself to get on stage at the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

It has to be the fact that I grew up idolizing Indiana Jones which, together with the Jedi and Ripley of Alien fame, occupied most of my daydreaming time throughout most of my youth. But, I’m sure I am not the only 20 to 40 year old male to fall into that category. I would have done anything to be alongside Indy on one of his adventures, and I couldn’t believe this was a possibility when Disney-MGM Studios opened. I tried for years to become an extra, long before I would have legally been allowed to participate, as I wasn’t yet eighteen.

M first break came a little more than a year ago when I was on a trip with my fiancée. I had explained my trials, how I had tried and tried with no luck, how I had even convinced friends of mine that were girls to pretend we were newlyweds to try and get picked, but that, sadly, I had never had any luck. The casting director came out then and said she was looking for extras and began scanning for volunteers. I stood up on my bench and, low and behold, I was the first one picked. It was bittersweet because, while I would be fulfilling a dream, I knew my fiancée was sitting in her seat think, “uh huh, real difficult to get picked, right?”

I got so wrapped up in the moments that followed, while still trying to take my queues from the casting director, that I forgot to cover my ears when they fire off the “handgun.” Just a word of advice to all of you who get chosen, when they tell you to cover your ears, they mean it. Boy, was that thing loud!

My second stint came just last month, both times I was picked in the first category of extras, the screamers. I was sitting in the exact same seat as the year before. I consider this seat very lucky, and I think it must be one of the places they look for extras, and no, I won’t tell you where it is. It is my own, my precious. Since I knew basically what was about to happen I wasn’t as prone to Indy-amnesia, and was actually able to take in more of the experience. I got into the fight scenes, pretending to cheer on Indy while throwing fake punches and telling him to uppercut the bad guys, I sheltered a girl extra, who had fallen into my shoulder, from the horrors before us as Indy and the ladder swayed to and fro, and I hit the deck with a vigor of man much younger than myself when the machine guns started to go off. It was fantastic!

So, here are a few little tidbits of trivia for those of you interested in signing on as an extra. Surprisingly, this experience does not constitute a Magical Moment, though anyone who has ever had the opportunity will tell you that it is, indeed, Magical. When they make the joke about signing the waiver, they mean it! You do have to sign stating that Disney is not at fault if you were to, say, try to jump on the exploding truck to save Marion. The costume that you wear over your regular clothing is extremely hot. You will sweat, and you will sweat a lot. You receive two things for being an extra in the Stunt Spectacular, an overwhelming joy about what you were just a part of (more on this one in a second) and all the free water you can drink from their water cooler.

I believe there was only one extra who enjoyed the experience more than I did last month. Another one of the screamers, the three of us were very “proud” of being picked for being loud and obnoxious, had his young daughter with him. As we were leaving I heard her asking him if he had just been in a movie, she was still a little too young to understand everything that had been happening. He told her that he had, and that he had helped Indiana Jones save the day. She beamed up at her dad as if he were a hero, bigger than any Jedi, any superhero, bigger than even Indiana Jones himself. Witnessing that moment was on of the moments in my extensive list of Disney memories that I will never forget.

As for my recurring role of extra, well, next time I get on stage I hope to be the guy who gets to act out his own horrible, terrible, excruciating death.

21 October 2007

Into an overwhelming nightmare

If you haven't heard, I am getting married next Saturday, and I cannot believe it has finally arrived. Later this week we’ll talk about how Disney-fied my wedding has become. Early on we made a conscious decision to keep my love of Disney under wraps during the course of our wedding weekend. However, like all good things, it couldn’t be kept down.

This is our cake topper. Every time I see it, I am reminded of the cartoon, Mickey’s Nightmare. After Mickey has fallen asleep in this cartoon he dreams that he and Minnie get married. The hilarity that ensues revolved around the twenty-plus children they have. This is, to my knowledge, the only time that Mickey and Minnie have actually been presented as married (as themselves) on film.

Here’s hoping that my cake topper isn’t a sign of things to come!

20 October 2007

Give that button a squeeze

There are those in the Disney community that no longer need guide maps to make their way through the parks. In fact, there are tons of us that no longer need the guides. Some put the amusement in amusement park by watching first time guests attempt to maneuver through the parks with these guides, while others attempt to help in whatever small way they can, while still others go on about their business taking little notice. Yet, we still pick up the guide maps on visits, out of compulsion, habit, or for collection purposes.

But have you ever stopped to take a look at the back of the guides? You can pause here and go grab yours if you like, but I’ll provide copies here for those of you who don’t have them at arms reach. Yes, they are only advertisements for Kodak film and camera products, but look at the how each is perfectly themed to the park it is attached to. I bet you don’t even need me to tell you which ad corresponds to which guide, but, for those of you that do, they are ordered as such: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
Kodak’s history with Disney goes back a long ways. How many of us have taken pictures at a Kodak PictureSpot? I know Van over at Netcot loves them, but the association dates back well before Walt Disney World. Since the release of the Disney Treasure’s Your Host, Walt Disney, most people have become familiar with the fact that Kodak sponsored Disneyland ’59, but the connection goes back even further than that. Even before the original Disneyland guide maps Kodak was a part of all things Disney. Kodak film could be found in the filming and production of the Saludos Amigos, True Life Adventures, and even so far back as Flowers and Trees, where the invention of three-strip Technicolor film stock made it possible for Flowers and Trees to see its true potential, rather than just black and white, as it went on to be the first cartoon to win an Academy Award.

Next time you are blazing a trail or meandering through a park, make sure to take a moment and realize just how good a job Kodak does setting up us amateurs for success. Whether it is getting us from one place to another, finding spots where we can take almost professional photographs, or just relish in the fact that Kodak has been with Disney almost as long as Mickey Mouse has.

19 October 2007

Paths to Adventure - Frontierland

Adventureland was just the beginning. As you stepped through the arch, leaving the pirates and jungles behind you, you entered the dusty realm of bandits, cowboys, and wilderness. Saddle up partners, we’ve entered Frontierland. Where the dirt roads are lined with opportunity and the sounds of the fiddle, guitar, and harmonica keep your feet tappin’ all the live long day.

As you make your way into the west, your first encounter will undoubtedly be with the Frontierland Fries. Travelers, passersby, and settlers alike have been known to frequent the covered wagon, seeking Cookie McDonald’s fine fried potatoes. Should you tummy be grumbling, there are more tasty places to rustle up some grub, but this should tied you over if you need it.

Venturing around the bend, you will find yourself face to face with the two tallest peaks of Frontierland. Chickapin Hill and Big Thunder Mountain tower over the land, and can be seen from all over. Passing between the two mountains is the world famous Walt Disney World Railroad. Once you’ve heard its whistle, and been carried upon its rails, you’ll never forget it. Should you find yourself on board, your stops will include Mickey’s Toontown Fair and Main Street U.S.A. with, of course, return passage to Frontierland. Along the way you will pass straight through an Algonquin camp.

The peak of Big Thunder Mountain has its own railroad that beacons adventurous cowpokes. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad runs along the tracks set down by the miners of Tumbleweed, the nearby town. The miners vanished years ago, after refusing to listen to warnings about digging for gold on ancient Indian burial grounds. The curse of Big Thunder caused an earthquake, which destroyed everything in its path. The train roars through the abandoned mines and the now flooded town of tumbleweed before taking sharp turns through dinosaur fossils and geysers. Heed the advice of the Indians, and leave their sacred burial grounds untouched. With engine names like I.B. Hearty, I.M. Brave, I.M. Fearless., U.B. Bold, U.R. Courageous, and U.R. Daring, one should always have their wits about them on this journey.

One peak over, Chickapin Hill is overrun with logs racing down its falls. Should you be so inclined to board one of these logs, you may find yourself in an awful mess. It seems that Chickapin Hill, sometimes called Splash Mountain, is home to the rowdy bunch of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear. Br’er Rabbit makes his way through the hills and woods surrounding his home in search of his Laughin’ Place, while Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear are in search of a way to catch and cook Br’er Rabbit. Watch the path your log flows through, if you find yourself climbing to the top of Chickapin Hill, watch out and hold on! That hill has been known throw plenty of logs straight into the briar patch below, drenching all the occupants of the log. I wouldn’t worry too much about Br’er Rabbit though, he’s a crafty rabbit to be sure.

Across the way, along the banks of the Rivers of America, sit rafts destined for Tom Sawyer’s Island. On the island you’ll find treats at Aunt Polly’s, caves and tunnels surrounding the Magnetic Mystery Mine and Injun Joe’s Cave, along with Fort Langhorn across the barrel bridge, complete with escape tunnel, should the need arise for a full retreat. In the old Harper’s Mill, be sure to watch for blue birds. They like to make their nest in the gears and cogs while singing their famous tune. As well, be on the look out for paint brushes. Tom and Huck hid their brushes to escape their chores and set out on their own boyhood adventures. Folks say finding these brushes will help you beat the other adventurers to the logs of Splash Mountain or the trains of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, or so the story goes.

After taking a raft back across to the mainland, take a stroll down Frontierland’s main thoroughfare. If you find your stomach growling after your rip-roarin’ travels through the peaks of Frontierland this trail offers an assortment of chow. Westward Ho offers up some tasty snacks. It once used to be a main staple shop along Frontierland, but has since been reduced to a single wagon selling bites to eat. Throughout the rest of Frontierland you may find vendors with turkey legs, fresh popped corn, and ice cream, but eat quickly, that blazing western sun is sure to melt your frozen treat in a hurry. Should need a more manly meal, stop in at Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn & Café. Here, not only will you find a meal for any appetite, but you can also inspect the cabinets full of memorabilia loaned to Pecos Bill by some of his heroic friends.

Down the way you can stop in and take a load off at Grizzly Hall. Here Henry leads a paw thumpin’ how down with some of the most talented bears this side of the Mississippi. They ask for no hibernatin’, but with the likes of Big Al, the Sun Bonnet Trio, Gomer, Liver Lips McGrowl, Trixie, and the Five Bear Rugs (Zeke, Zeb, Ted, Fred, Tennessee, and their little friend Baby Oscar) you know you couldn’t catch even a single wink.

Supply depots can be found all along the route. Big Al’s, Frontierland Trading Post, and Prairie Outpost and Supply should be able to assist you in stocking up on whatever it is your pack is lacking. And if you think your aim is getting a bit rusty, be sure to stop in at the Shootin’ Arcade. This “ghost town” is the ideal place to perfect your dead-eye aim.

As you come to the mighty Mississippi draining into the Rivers of America you realize that you are leaving the frontier for the more civilized realm of Liberty Square. Be sure to take note of the west’s last outpost. The militia here never abandons one of its own and, as a full fledged citizen of Frontierland now, the west will always have your back.

18 October 2007

Green summer hills, and rainbows play a part

In the original Journey Into Imagination, as you enter the Dream Port, passing by the Dream Vehicle being unloaded, you happen upon the Imaginometer. The Imaginometer measured things like Dreams (Daydreams or Night), Sounds, and Colors. Looking through the window into the Imaginometer you could see all sorts of colorful images flashing by.

These days the Imaginometer has gone the way of the Dream Port, and the Dream Vehicle, and, come to think of it, the Dreamfinder himself. However, careful inspection of a storage unit in the current Imagination queue, and you will find apiece of the Color gauge from the Imaginometer. If I am given free rein to decipher what this means (aside from the fact that Imagineers wanted to hide a piece of the original as homage), I have to believe that the Imaginometer was purchased by the Imagination Institute to try and uncover more about dreams than they could ever really understand. It was decided that dismantling the machine would, perhaps, give them more insight. After dismantling the contraption, they found they were no closer to discovering the true potential of Imagination, attempted to reconstruct the machine, and failed. They failed miserably because they forgot the key element in the Imaginometer’s, and the Journey Into Imagination's, original construction. That element? Why, Imagination, of course.

17 October 2007

The dream, the dream has always been here

In case you have been living on the dark side of the moon today, and yes, currently the Main Street Gazette resides on the dark side of the Disney moon, Disney’s California Adventure is getting a 1.1 billion dollar facelift. The most expensive facelift ever, and that includes any facelift any celebrity has ever purchased. You can read the article here, at the Wall Street Journal.

I for one think this is a fabulous idea, California Adventure is the red-headed stepchild of the Disney Parks, and it is in need of an upgrade. I find two pieces of this remodeling project truly inspiring. One, it is going to be a park based upon the footsteps of Walt Disney himself. And two, it is not setting out to dismantle everything, scrap it clean, and build a totally new park. No, the key pieces of the park, like Soarin’ Over California and the Tower of Terror, are staying put, aside from a icon replacement.

The new icon, Carthay Circle, isn’t actually new to the theme park scene, it isn’t even new to Disney theme parks. For the curious of you, and those of you seeking more of Sunset Blvd., as seen in articles earlier this week, a replica of Carthay Circle Theatre is located inside of Disney-MGM Studios, on Sunset Blvd. What place in Disney history does Carthay Circle hold? It was the location of the premier of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, almost 70 years ago now.

On a personal note, this probably means the only time I will see the “original” California Adventure will be in two weeks when I am there for my honeymoon. I can’t wait to see, and experience, my first new Disney theme park since Animal Kingdom, but I am equally excited to see what the future holds for the new Adventure.

Chit chat, yak yakin’, flim flam

Being different is okay. In fact, any person worth their salt would tell you that you should always be true to yourself, and not mindless follow a group. But it certainly is nice to find out that you are not alone sometimes. Say, when you’re getting looks for taking pictures of weird signs, lighting fixtures, ice cream, and the occasional sidewalk or two. For the longest time I thought I was the only one out there who did such things, but now I know that there is an actual community of people just as neurotic about details as I am.

On the topic of sidewalks, I don’t know that I have ever seen so inconspicuous a queue floor as that of Grizzly Hall, the home of the Country Bear Jamboree. It is a shame that those gorgeous hardwood floors have been scratched up by our furry friends, but I guess Henry isn’t that upset. From the photograph you can see that the Bears have always been a favorite of the hibernating set, both bear and human hibernators. But honestly, who could listen to Big Al and not get a little drowsy?

Mama don’t whip little Buford...

16 October 2007


In honor of Dictionary Day, a holiday I am sure George over at Imaginerding is fond of, I feel it’s time we get back to visiting the Dis-tionary.

Character Breakfast – Character Breakfasts are exactly what they sound like, they are breakfasts where Disney characters make their way around the restaurant stopping to mingle with guests, take pictures, and give autographs. Depending on the location, and type, of the breakfast characters can range from the classics, like Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, to princess, Winnie-the-Pooh, and even Lilo and Stitch. Aside from breakfast, there are also character meals for both lunch and dinner.

Blue Sky – An Imagineering term used to describe the early stage of development where anything is possible. Technology, time, space, and other constraints are not used to limit ideas during this stage. There is a quote from Walt Disney himself that I feel epitomizes the Blue Sky process, “You know better than to kill an idea without giving it a chance to live.”

Visual Intrusion – A visual intrusion is anything in a given line of sight that disrupts the presentation of the environment. Basically, if you are in Tomorrowland, you don’t want to be to see Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. There are a few examples, the views from Splash Mountain, Expedition Everest, and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, where Visual Intrusion are necessary evils.

Out among the stars I sail, way beyond the moon

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon,
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

This has to be one of my favorite nursery rhymes. I remember having this great nursery rhyme book as a child and the pictures from this one just stand out. When it came time to start teaching my preschool students poetry, by way of nursery rhymes, this was the first one I went to.

So, imagine my delight when I looked up outside of Al’s Toy Barn, where I was checking out Woody, Buzz, and the Green Army Man, only to see the cow making his famous jump. It brings home the point that Walt Disney World really is for the child in all of us.

15 October 2007

Outside it's sunny

Sunset Blvd., at Disney-MGM Studios/Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is full of fascinating little nooks and crannies. There are so many in fact, that if I were to try and cover them all in one article, you’d probably still be reading when I returned from my honeymoon. So, today we’re going to look at only two of my favorites, the address of 77 Sunset and my all-time favorite restroom in all of the Studios.

If you are walking down Sunset, towards The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, there is a cream colored building on your right, just before you reach the Carthay Circle Theatre. This is 77 Sunset. To uncover the significance of 77 Sunset, you have to dig a few years back in television history. 77 Sunset, and more specifically 77 Sunset Strip, was the address, as well as the title, of a quirky crime drama. The show, which ran from October 1958, until February 1964, centered on two private detectives and their cases. Ironically enough the show’s real life residence, which was shot at Dino’s Lodge, owned by Dean Martin, actually did live on Sunset Strip, but at the address of 8524 Sunset Strip.

This destination is special to me for the simple reason of I knew it meant something and couldn’t tell what. When my Uncle Gene asked me what I was taking a picture of it for, this, by the way, has become a very popular question over the past few trips, I said that it was because I was sure it meant something, and I planned on finding out what. He started to chuckle and asked if I really didn’t know about 77 Sunset Strip, before proceeding to tell me about the show. This was one of my first hooks. Prior to this everything I had taken a picture of I knew why, this was the first mystery photo I took and found out some interesting information on. Suffice it to say, 77 Sunset holds a special place in my heart.

The other, the tucked away restroom on Sunset Blvd., is my favorite restroom for two simple reasons. One, it is themed to the hilt. Two, it is a loading dock for Quilted Northern Tissue. Of course it is, why wouldn’t a toilet paper company's dock be analogous to a Walt Disney World restroom, it makes perfect sense.

So whether you are looking for a few good souvenirs or a good place for a pit stop, may I recommend taking a stroll down Sunset. I just don’t recommend the lodging. Between you and me, I heard it was falling into decline.

14 October 2007

Ideals, dreams, and hard facts

I attempt to keep the Main Street Gazette cheerful, full of optimism, with enough dissension to allow you the opportunity to take of those rose colored glasses from time to time. But today marks an anniversary of sorts for my family, and I felt it needed to be recognized here. So, this is my soapbox, and I am getting on it.

When you are driving to Walt Disney World, whether it is from your house hundreds of miles away, or from Orlando International Airport, or even just from your hotel to one of the theme parks, please make sure that each and every person in your car is wearing their seatbelt. In fact, they should be wearing them no matter where you are or where you are going.

My Aunt Keeni died one year ago today in a car crash on her way to work at Walt Disney World. She had traveled this same stretch of road to work everyday for the last 20 years. On this morning, another car clipped the front end of her car and sent her off the road, end over end, while he spun out and came to a halt without a scratch on him. He then lied to the officers on the scene, concocting a fantastic story and blaming the accident on a phantom car. He had a record of illegal lane changes that caused similar accidents, and had even left the scene of a hit and run before. However, my aunt was not wearing her seatbelt and was ejected from the car as it flipped. From the severity of the crash no one has been able to say if she would have survived even if she had been wearing the belt, but it might have helped. The other driver was ticketed for the accident, but no other charges were filed.

My Aunt Keeni was my family’s link to all that happened in Walt Disney World. She worked in security there, and always had a story to tell or a secret to share. I know she made many many many families’ vacation more magical because of some small thing she did for them. She would occasional get our family members into the parks, and we would always meet her at the front gates of Epcot, no matter what park we wanted to attend that day. When I was down at Walt Disney World for Epcot’s 25th, I remembered her standing there in her security uniform, and it was almost unbearable to walk through those gates with out her. This is one of the pictures I cling to, from left to right, that is my Aunt Keeni, myself, my cousin Tam, my Aunt Suzie, my cousins Maia and Billy, and my dad. I miss her everyday.

Today, on the anniversary of her untimely death, I ask two things of you. One, on your next trip tell a cast member that does something nice, something that is unexpected, for you just how much you appreciate what they do. And two, please wear your seatbelt. It shouldn’t even be a second thought, but I know there are those of you who don’t, and you should. If not for yourself, do it for your family.

I’m getting off of my soapbox now.

13 October 2007

Colorful ports of call

From the barnacles on the torii gate in Japan, to the crests in the windows above the United Kingdom shoppes, the subtle details of World Showcase are what give you that feeling that you have indeed stepped away from Walt Disney World and are on the cultural journey of a lifetime. And I needed to take a moment to step out this evening, something outside of programs, directions for guests, and wedding party gifts, and wandering through little seen pleasures in World Showcase seemed like a pleasant way to free my mind from thoughts of ball and chain ceremonies.

Since I have talked about various pieces of the pavilion before, it should come as no surprise that my favorite country in World Showcase is France. With it’s tasty pastry, beautiful fountains, wine, lavender, and street side art, it isn’t a wonder that I can spend hours just watching the world go by in France, as if I were a true Parisian.

To be fair, my grandmother was born and raised in France, so I am somewhat biased in my opinion. But with little niches like these, can you really blame me for wanting to stop my worldly wanderings back in this little corner of World Showcase?

12 October 2007

Drive away your worries and cares

A few weeks ago I talked about the sense of humor needed to dine inside 50’s Prime Time Café and Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Little did I know then that I was about to become my own guinea pig.

On our last trip my dad, Aunt Suzie, Uncle Gene, and myself decided to grab a late lunch at Sci-Fi. We sat at a table, or car if you are so inclined, near the back with a full view of the entire “audience.” I wasn’t feeling so great, I usually feel a little under the weather my second or third day into a trip as my body adjusts to the sudden hot and air conditioned environmental changes it is constantly going through, but was carrying on like a trooper. I order a Cherry Coke, because I cannot resist real Cherry Coke. Sure, I can drink it out of a bottle, or can, or even if it is Coke’s Cherry Coke from a fountain, but there is something about Coke with real fake cherry syrup added to it that gives it the perfect taste. It is a simple pleasure, but a pleasure to be sure.

The drinks arrived and I reached over for my drink, my hand slipped on the outside and, being under the weather with reflexes that were slower than dirt, I knocked the entire glass straight into my Aunt’s lap. Her reflexes were much better thank mine and it only caught her pants as she jumped up, pants which were, by the way, white. The heavy napkins we had, that the family next to us offered, and the stack that the waitress brought helped soak up all of the soda off of the table and floor while I felt utterly miserable, and not because of my cold-like symptoms. Comments were made by our waitress about how I, the driver, had had too much to drink, but that she would bring me another drink anyway. And so she did, a child’s cup, with a straw. Oh, and it had a lid too.
My aunt’s fast thinking got a majority of the soda out of her pants, and left her freezing cold and wet, I was able to enjoy my Cherry Coke in little sips, and I definitely had to laugh at myself all through lunch. Of course that was mostly because even had I wanted to let it go, the waitress wouldn’t have let me forget, and that is just the way it should be. I couldn’t have asked for a better example to prove how much fun you can have at these restaurants if you are just willing to let go and not take yourself so seriously!

11 October 2007

Happy Holidays to you, and you, and you!

I’m getting my holiday greetings out early this year, after all Christmas Cards are already filling store shelves, and nothing says Christmas like three weeks before Halloween! Also my wedding is a little over two weeks away, and apparently I am supposed to be spending more time on seating arrangements, play lists, and putting together gift baskets than I am digging deep into Disney details.

These hip holiday snowmen, or rather snow-mouse, -dogs, and -duck, look like something straight out of Blizzard Beach. Surprisingly, they are actually residents of Downtown Disney Marketplace. Behind Wolfgang Puck Express and Disney’s Days of Christmas, heading towards the resort bus stop, these guys hang out year round giving guests the opportunity to prepare their Christmas cards months in advance.

10 October 2007

Save Our Swirl - Now Departing

A few weeks ago a reader named Michael wrote a comment in response to my outrage about the changes to the Citrus Swirl. In his response he gave us the mantra Save Our Swirl. This got me thinking about all the little things that have changed inside of Walt Disney World, things that created Magic for us that are now gone, or are in some other form. I’m not talking 20,000 Leagues, Mr. Toad’s, or even Horizons. No, I am talking about things like the change in the Citrus Swirl’s recipe, or the fact that photos are no longer free at the hard ticket parties, or today’s topic, the inside joke that is now gone from the Frontierland Railroad Station. These all fall under the jurisdiction of S.O.S., Save Our Swirl.

The small piece of humor that I am referring to is the wooden leg named Smith. For those of you who are unaware, in the film Mary Poppins there is a scene where Bert and Uncle Albert are stuck on the ceiling because they cannot stop laughing. In this scene they amuse themselves with a joke in which Bert states, “I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith,” with Uncle Albert replying, “What’s the name of his other leg.”

In and of itself, this is a clever joke that you carry with you long after the film is over, and that’s exactly what the Imagineers in the Magic Kingdom did. On the luggage rack, in the ticket office of the Frontierland Railroad Station, there has long been a wooden leg perched on some luggage with the name printed on the side. I loved this little detail, and made a point of checking on it every trip. In all the times I had seen the leg I only ever snapped one, very blurry, image of the leg. Last week while wandering through Frontierland with my new camera I thought it would be the perfect time to take a new picture, and what do I find, the leg had up and walked away.

If I stop there, this is simply a personal travesty, something I am a few others may miss, but there is a deeper story here. The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom talks about the wooden leg named Smith in the section on the Frontierland Station. The Magic Kingdom Field Guide was only published in 2005, so I have to believe that there are guests out there, who love Walt Disney World, picked up the book, found this interesting nugget, and planned to try to spot it on their next trip. However, they will find nothing, no matter how intense their search may be. Will this make or break their trip? Most assuredly not. Yet, I can’t help but add it to the list of small pieces of Magic that are disappearing, and not being replaced.

So, I am sounding the alarm, this is the S.O.S. for Frontierland Railroad Station’s wooden leg named Smith.

09 October 2007

Settler’s cabin aflame, deck one stand alert

Should there ever be a fire in Liberty Square, it is good to know the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire (let’s just refer to it as the Contributionship from here on out) will be there to help pick up the pieces.

The Contributionship was created by Benjamin Franklin in 1752. The Contributionship’s firemark, the hand-in-hand symbol seen above, was placed on buildings, usually between two second story windows, as a sign that they were protected by a certain company should a fire wreak havoc on their household. Dues are generally based upon risk estimates for the year, but the Contributionship was unique in that they were the first company to insure against fire, and had no real way to estimate fire damages for the upcoming year. Therefore, Franklin greatly overestimated what damages could be for the year. Consequently, to not scare away clients, he also marked the agreements that if there were any residuals left over from that year could be applied to the next year. As time went on this process created excesses that were used to pay out dividends, in addition to being able to return whole investments if you moved. This became known as perpetual fire insurance. Not a bad way to protect your house, huh?

It’s good to know that Walt Disney World took the time to insure these buildings. After all, fires aren’t new to the area, just ask the Settler’s cabin that burned for all those years along the starboard bow of the Liberty Square Riverboat.

08 October 2007

Hand and hand we'll be walking down Main Street

Notice how happy we both look here, especially my fiancée? This was one of those rare days I didn’t spend obsessing of obscure Walt Disney World trivia, or what the best touring plan is for afternoons in Animal Kingdom. The WDW Today podcast has a few episodes where they interview the wives of Disney gurus in which they coin the term Disney Widow. My fiancée, Aileen, is only about 18 days away from widowhood, well 18 days and 1 minute after our wedding ceremony.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be doing this without her. It was her support that really brought me to this point, that and the fact that I was under the impression she would have killed me had I not found another outlet for my thirst and knowledge of all things Disney, aside from her ear that is. My most minor of breakthroughs, like the first time I had over ten visitors in a day, or the first time a series of articles actually finds its rhythm, she celebrates as if I had received some great promotion. She supports my endless hours of research, sometimes far later into the night than is wise, going to bed on her own, and she hates going to bed by herself.

That isn’t to say that she doesn’t like Walt Disney World, she does, in fact, enjoy her time there. She enjoys not having to worry about anything, the fact that everything you could really want to do on a vacation is there waiting for you is right up her alley. She has her favorite attractions at each park, her favorite resorts, and her favorite meals (Splash Mountain, Soarin’, Tower of Terror, Dinosaur, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Le Cellier for those of you keeping score at home). But she could do with skipping a trip every now and then and making my annual vacations bi-annual trips, as opposed to my continual prodding for several research trips and my requests for semi-annual vacations. Taking pictures of the sidewalks or a cool address marker is beyond her, but it gives me something to do, so she lets it go.

As much as I love Walt Disney World, I would give all of it up in a second for her, but, being the woman she is, she would never ask such a thing of me. Balancing our new family and my Disney mania is work, just like any relationship, but with Aileen by my side I can climb any mountain Disney can lay before me. I couldn’t do any of it without her, and I couldn’t dream of a world without her.

By the way, the WDW Today’s Disney Widows episodes are Episode 129 and Episode 282, and I highly recommend them both.

07 October 2007

Yeti Is Real!

I found this little notice posted on the walls surrounding the Yak and Yeti restaurant construction. Apparently refurb walls aren’t just for “pardoning our pixie dust anymore,” just ask those ornate gates that were added to The Haunted Mansion during its recent closure.

It’s a shame that, generally, Animal Kingdom isn’t open late enough, for those of us who might be interested, to venture back into Serka Zong for this lecture. Ah well, maybe the video will appear on You Tube.

Paths to Adventure - Adventureland

As promised, it is time to begin our new series, the Paths to Adventure. These are mostly designed for children going to Walt Disney World, giving them a heads-up about all the different stories, and adventures, and little treasures that await them. But, since these guides are set up to walk you through a particular land, pavilion, or street, I think that they will work well for adults, especially those of us going through withdrawals between trips home.

Now, where should we start? Norway, in Epcot, with Vikings and trolls? No. Asia, in Animal Kingdom, filled with dangerous rapids and deadly animals, like the Yeti? No, not today. Of course, there is only one place to start down our Paths to Adventure, Adventureland!

As you cross the old wooden bridge into Adventureland, you see the shields, and hear to tribal drums, of the local natives. To any other visitor these might sound alarming, as if they were being warned not to enter, but an experienced adventurer like yourself knows better, these drums are welcoming you to their land.

Once over the bridge you find a run down shack on your right. This has been known to hide the best pirate you have seen, Captain Jack Sparrow, and his treasure. He cannot be found here often, but, when he has filled the hull of his ship, this is where he makes port to stash his booty. Jack is a very sociable host; he loves to entertain, though he can become easily distracted. Weather the storm with Jack, err, sorry, Captain Sparrow and he will get you back to the streets of Adventureland in no time.

Continuing on down the right side of the street, you shall find Aloha Isle, a pleasant little outpost that serves all manner of pineapple cuisine. You can find pineapple spears, juice, and even a concoction of pineapple and soft ice cream here. Now, it may be a while before you are able to find more provisions in the darkest corners of Adventureland, so it is best to take a moment here to stock up before going in further.

Across the way from Aloha Isle is the Treehouse of the old Swiss Family Robinson’s. They were once abandoned here and, without food, water, or shelter, they survived and built this glorious Treehouse. The Robinsons have since left these lands, but their Treehouse remains, abandoned as they once were. Take a moment and explore, you may find clues to life here in Adventureland, as well as some gadgets you could make use of in your own home.

Here comes a crossroad in our journey. Down the path to our left is the Jungle Cruise, across the trail lies the Agrabah Bazaar and the Flying Carpets of Aladdin. Since we just stuffed ourselves on pineapple treats, perhaps it is best to take on flight carpets later.

As you travel toward the Jungle Cruise Expeditions, it calms your nerves to read that they have never lost a party yet. And as you find your way to your boat, you realize that they are even giving away free kittens, this is definitely a top notch group. However, if you look towards the left of the building, you will find a sign filled with missing persons and boats. The river guides are quick to explain that they have not lost these people or boats, they are simply missing, soon to be found for sure. Once on your boat, your skipper attempts to ease your fears with a few corny jokes. If you aren’t laughing immediately, you soon will be, as these corny jokes will be crammed into every part of your journey. Wandering down rivers from all corners of the world you will see fantastic creatures, mysterious natives, and extraordinary sights. If you are lucky, you will have the very rare opportunity to see the back side of water. Oh, and while on the cruise, give that old crocodile Smiley a wave for me, from inside the boat of course. Once back on dry land, it is your turn to pilot one of Shrunken Ned’s boats around a tiny lagoon, right next to the launches of the Jungle Cruise.

As we make our way back across the path, make sure to notice the tribal tikis. But be warned, while they may seem impressive in stature, the tiki spirits here are mischievous and like to spit at explorers who venture too close.

Upon entering the marketplace of Agrabah’s Bazaar, be sure to mind your surroundings. You can see remnants of goods that were once sold here, as well as tiles from buildings that once stood on these very grounds. This may also be the place to find Aladdin or Jasmine wandering through and shopping. Should you see them, I am quite certain that they will be happy to stop and chat with you. While you are looking down and around, however, make sure to keep an eye on the golden camels, they have taken a hint from the tikis across the road, and they like to spit at travelers as well. Nevertheless, this is the place to find the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Once onboard your carpet will fly you high over the Bazaar, you will feel the wind in your face and a joyful freedom in your heart.

Also in the Bazaar, you will find the Sunshine Tree Terrace where, once again, fruity delights can be found, this time in citrus, or orange, flavors. While next door, in the Enchanted Tiki Room, the birds that sing words, and the flowers that croon, have made some new friends. Zazu and Iago have flown in to help the show get back in the air. By the end you will be singing and dancing your way through the streets of Adventureland, but beware, up ahead there be pirates.

Enter the old fortress Castillo del Morro, now taken over by the Pirates of the Caribbean, by where the old pirate carcass still keeps watch from the crow’s nest. As you make your way through the fortress, the keen-eyed explorer in you notices the shackles once used to hold pirates after they had been caught and the cannons, now silent, that used to boom like thunder as they attempted to keep the scurvy pirates at bay. In the bowels of one of the deeper cells you may even find two old seadogs, who spent their final days locked in a never-ending battle of chess.

When you reach the dock you board a longboat and set sail through the uncharted waters of deserted pirate caves, coves, and caverns. Davy Jones is said to issue warnings to those who prowl these cursed waters, warnings of dead men and waterfalls. Should you be swept over the falls, you may find buccaneers sacking the town, torturing the mayor, or any other slack-jawed townsfolk fool enough to be caught, for information, and setting everything in their path on fire, all in an attempt to quench the lust for treasure, rum, and women! Now, heed these words, beware that scurvy dog, Captain Barbosa, as he scours the town for Captain Jack Sparrow and the key to the treasury.

Should you return to Adventureland, through the cases of loot in the Castillo del Morro, you shall find yourself in a Spanish square, with barrel tiled roofs, and a compassed laid in the walkway. Through the archway to your left, your adventure through Adventureland is done. But there is no time to be sad, for there are plenty more adventures to be had as you enter Frontierland.

A quote from Walt, that has been used a lot lately, is that you can teach them, but don’t tell them that you are teaching them. I tried to be true to that idea here. If you are a parent reading this article, I am almost certain that you noticed that some of my word choices may be difficult for children, the target audience of the Paths to Adventure series. I included words like hull, provisions, expeditions, citrus, fortress, and buccaneers to inspire children to ask questions. I am hoping that this will give inquisitive children tastes of history, language, and may even spark their interest in other subjects that they never thought of. I will continue to do this in future articles as I think the greatest gift, or souvenir if you will, we can take from Walt Disney World is what we make of the adventures, stories, and dreams we find there once we have left.

I also welcome any comments, questions, or ideas you have, either through comments here or through my email. If you want more detail of the educational element of these articles (i.e. a vocabulary list, or a list of topic ideas to expand upon with your child(ren), or even some comprehension questions), just let me know. I am just starting this series, and I would love to know what you think, or want to see. After all, I only have my one perspective here, and there is a great big World out there filled with all of you, and you are the ones I am here for.

06 October 2007

Orange Sheriff's Office buys 14 elephant guns

This article from the Orlando Sentinel really sparked my interest. In the first half of the article, where they talk about the elephant guns, not the section on the ‘matching firepower’ of pistols, does not specifically point out Animal Kingdom, but the animals listed there are, for the most part, obviously Animal Kingdom residents.

After reading through the article, I had mixed feelings. Obviously I am glad that they are taking precautions to ensure public safety, and that the weapons would only be used as a last resort. After all, the animals that live and play in the Animal Kingdom are wild animals, no matter how tame and cuddly we think some of them are. Still though, I got a pang in my heart when I thought about one of those creatures being gunned down, especially by one of the people who reviewed the weapon from gunblast.com and was grinning like an idiot, mumbling about getting one of these guns.

Then I remembered just how much precaution Disney has implemented, as well as state of the art technologies, to ensure that the animals and their guests stay separated, not to mention the creature comforts like air-conditioned rocks. Just think about the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a moment, they have cameras aimed towards the guest balconies, and they are there for more than just your safety.

So it looks like those shiny new guns won’t be used around Walt Disney World for a long long time, and that the animals will be remembered from photo-safaris, not as a headline blurb after they take an illegal field trip.