29 February 2008

Together on a holiday - Part II

Continuing our tour of Epcot's World Showcase Kidcot Fun Stops. Today let's look at Morocco's Castanets, or qaraqib as they are called by the native Berbers. Children love to create anything that makes noise, and these music makers fit the bill. In fact, you may wish to construct them outside.


2 twist off lids (2 inches in diameter)
2 thick rubber bands (the type that holds broccoli together works best)
Tape (1 inch wide)
3 2-foot strips of ribbon (the type that you curl for presents)

Using the scissors edge (PARENT INVOLVMENT)curl the six pieces of ribbon
With a four inch section of tape, to secure rubber bands to the backs of both lids. This should also create a hinge between the two lids.
With a second strip of tape, again four inches in length, atach the pieces of ribbon at the hinge by placing the second piece of tape on top of the first piece of tape.
It is time to make some music!

28 February 2008

Time travel commencing

I know book reviews are George’s bread and butter, but this is one I have been using with my preschoolers, and think of it as the indispensable Disney dino guide for children, and wanted to share it with the rest of you.

First off, the basics, Disney’s Countdown to Extinction was written by A.J. Wood and illustrated by Chris Forsey, and was published by Disney Press in 1998, the same year Animal Kingdom opened, and is only available in hardcover. The book is presented as a mission for the reader to undertake. This mission, should they choose to accept it, is to board a Time Rover and book it back in time to check on seven dinosaurs in order to update the Dinosaur Institute’s records. Along the way, you are told, you may also spot sixteen other dinosaurs. Almost all of these dinosaurs are mentioned and seen in the Dinosaur (previously Countdown to Extinction) attraction.

Both the writing and the artwork of this book are in tune with their audience. The pictures are bright and full of action, as well as being, at least by my doctoral knowledge of dinosaurs’ standard, accurate in the details. The particulars of the writing are enough to engage a preschooler when the book is read to them, or to be used as a first reference book for early to intermediate readers. Obviously there are substantial amounts of vocabulary that children will not have, but with guidance, these are words children will begin to recognize in no time.

Each page, or record entry, includes the name of the dinosaur being observed, the time period, both as a name and time (i.e. Late Jurassic Period and 150 million years ago), the location the dinosaur could be found in, and the Dinofile, which gives more details about the dinosaur in question. Alongside all of this information is a historical narrative of the time, place, and other dinosaurs in the area. Within each page’s graphics is also included a hologram of the dinosaur this part of the mission has sent us in search of. The book is closed out with some final notes on the twenty-four dinosaurs encountered on the journey for the Dinosaur Institute.

If I have one criticism of the book it is that it presents an attraction to children in a thrilling way that entices them to want to experience the Dinosaur attraction. Yet, many of this book’s target audience are either unable to visit this attraction due to height requirements, or can become easily terrified of the attraction due to its ambience and effects. As we all know, even adults can sometimes have a problem with this attraction. But, taking the book on its own merits, I wouldn’t ever remove it from my collection.

As I said above, I use this book at least once a year in my own classroom when we are talking about dinosaurs (sometimes we talk about them several times a year, depending on the interests of my students), and this is always a popular book. I recommend it to my parents, as several copies are always available from sellers on Amazon, or to anyone with a Young Adventurer who is fascinated with the prehistoric pedigree. It also isn’t a bad book to have if you are looking for out of print Disney books.

27 February 2008


When Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 alert guests already had an idea of what they were in store for, or they at least had an idea of an idea. Today, take a look back at what we were looking forward to.

A model of Animal Kingdom, with the Tree of Life visible at the top.

Concept art for The Boneyard, which would come to mezmerize the very young and very young at hear.

And what look at the early concepts of Disney's Animal Kingdom would be complete with a brief pause to acknowledge the Animal Kingdom that never was, or at least the Animal Kingdom not yet discovered, Beastly Kingdom.

26 February 2008

Will the real Mr. Potato Head please stand up

On February 23, Don Rickles, the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story features, was given a sneak peak at what his alter-ego will look like in real life, or rather audio-animatronics life, when Toy Story Mania opens this summer at both Disneyland’s California Adventure and Walt Disney World’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It had been reported that Mr. Potato Head would be able to remove various parts of his body, just as both the toy and movie versions of Mr. Potato Head are able to do. From the above image it indeed appears that Mr. Potato Head will have no trouble getting a grip on himself.

Toy Story Mania will be an interactive style attraction which combines the elements of a video-game and 4-D technology, along with the ability to interact with Toy Story characters.

Photograph copyright Paul Hiffmeyer and Disneyland


I have to admit, I love to watch people practicing their craft. Especially crafts most of the world believes are dead. Living in Western North Carolina I am afford many opportunities to pause and observe woodcarvers, dye makers, weavers, cabin builders, and any number of other true abilities. There are also places where, if you take the time to really see what you are looking at, you can find this same type of craftsmanship in Walt Disney World and Disneyland. My favorite place to find people taking pride in there work is the Confectionary on Main Street U.S.A.

It is hard to pass the Confectionary without feeling a rumbly in your tumbly. This is in part due to the Smellitzer, a Disney patented machine from Bob McCarthy that releases scents into a given area. The burning city scent in the Rome scene of Spaceship Earth, honey in Winnie-the-Pooh, oranges in the desert of Horizons, and the smell of fresh baked goodies at the Main Street Bakery are all prime examples of the Smellitzer’s fine work. Coincidently, if you catch a scent of some sugary sweet near the Confectionary and walk inside, while there will also be sweet scents inside, I imagine that the scent you sniffed outside will be nowhere to be found.

The underappreciated joy of the Confectionary sits right in the front window (at Disneyland), and from panel windows inside the rear of the shop (at the Magic Kingdom). This is where real magic happens, where artists take basic ingredients and create some of the finest candy you have ever put in your mouth. Treats of yesterday like Pecan Rolls, Peanut Brittle, and Fudge can all be found beyond this glass. Once prepared, these treats make there way to the sales floor of the Confectionary to satisfy the sweet tooth of candy coinsurers.

This is an example of the candy craftsmen’s (and women’s) handiwork, the candy apple my wife purchased while on our honeymoon in Disneyland. It was half the size of her head and took her two and a half days to eat, but, since it was our honeymoon it was also “calorie free.” Near the end she was peeling pieces of candy off because we were afraid the apple was going to turn rotten, and she didn’t want to waste the delicious candy and nut coating.

25 February 2008

Toss down some of those cold pizza crusts

Dressed in the custodial garb of Future World, the JAMMitors are the original Stomp. Their instruments include Trash cans, dustpans, brooms, and other janitorial equipment, and their music is textbook drum corps, most likely due to the fact that every member (or substitute) of the group has extensive drum corps experience.

To trace the history, and/or lore, of the JAMMitors you have to work your way back to Disneyland in the 1970s and a man by the name of Tom Float. Tom Float has been the head drum instructor for Oakland Crusaders, Spirit of Atlanta, Blue Devils, and the Velvet Knights, among others. The story goes that while bored in a line at Disneyland he asked a janitor passing by if he could borrow his broom, and began beating away a tune. This impromptu performance would later turn into the Future Corps, Trash Can Trio, and the JAMMitors. Or so the story goes.

These days the JAMMitors are still performing and, while the do have a strict schedule to adhere to, it is not generally made public. So, if you hear some commotion while wandering around Epcot’s Future World, chances are it is these debris drummers, and they are definitely worth your time.

24 February 2008

Smile, hug, look at the camera

The last time I posted a few pictures of my parents at Walt Disney World, the responses were wonderfully hysterical. I have once again been perusing some of my parents’ older photographs and came across one I love.

Clearly my dad has lost the q-tip hairdo that he had been so famous for, but that is not the reason I love this image. No, I love this because it is my father in front of my favorite attraction, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Not only that but if you look closer you can see that the Rivers of America has been drained, and that the guiding rail that usually sits just beneath the water is visible.

When this photograph was taken (and I am guessing it is in the early 80s for the clothing choice and knowing what I know about the lifecycle of my father’s hair) most refurbishments took place in off season, back when the parks had an off season. Refurbishments happen continuously now, coupled with the ever watchful eye of the internet, everyone is able to keep up with renovations and restorations in real time. However, when I was a child, being afford the opportunity to see such sights meant, almost certainly, that you were a Floridian.

While going through some of these older photographs, looking for family in Walt Disney World, I remembered an article written by George a while back. It seems George is afflicted with a disorder in which he is compelled to look for himself in group/crowd/innocent bystander shots other people have taken. So below are a few crowded images I have taken over the past year, let me know if you spot yourself. And when you are done, be sure to check out George’s pictures as well, you might just find yourself making memories.

Oh, and George, I already squinted through all of the shots, sadly I couldn’t find you any where.

Were you at Epcot’s 25th Rededication Ceremony?

Perhaps you were an extra acting alongside me at Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

Perhaps you rode Space Mountain in Disneyland with my wife and I while we were on our honeymoon last October.

Or maybe you waited with us on Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A., waiting for the rope to drop on November 1, 2007.

If you found yourself, or someone you know, let us hear about it! And if you find George in one of your photographs, he was probably mugging for the camera hoping you would post them on the internet!

23 February 2008

Blame it on the Samba

To say I was excited when my wife presented me with a copy of The Aristocats a few weeks ago would be an understatement. I have, over the past few years, become a fan of Disney animated features that are not, shall we say, giants among men. Features like Fox and the Hound, The Rescuers, Sword and the Stone, and The Aristocats all fall into this category, and they all have perfect moments in them that are fun and worth savoring time and again. However, this was not the end to my surprise.

The little booklet of advertisements that seems to be a permanent installation in the Disney animated features these days held an even larger surprise, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros are coming to DVD on April 29, 2008. While I have seen these films before, it has been a number of years and I am excited to see what kind of treatment they are given for this release. While I could go on about these titles, I thought it would be best to give you some weekend reading and viewing that cover these topics far more extensively than I could ever do. Foxxfur, from Passport to Dreams, has delved deep into these films, and has come out the other side with some fascinating insights you should take notice of. As well, Rob Richards, of Animation Backgrounds, has a few gems from both Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros to sit in awe of.

Passport to Dreams:
Saludos Amigos
The Three Caballeros

Animation Backgrounds:
Saludos Amigos
The Three Caballeros

22 February 2008

Can you grab my black Les Paul

For all of you pop princesses out there, or for those of you who have daughters who wish they could rock out like Hannah Montana, your dream has finally come true. Beginning Sunday, February 24, 2008, there’s a new show in town at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Included in the $109.95 Disney’s Secret Star Makeover photo shoot package is a microphone headset, makeup, guitar purse, and, of course, a blonde wig. For those about to rock, call 407-WDW-STYLE (407-939-7895) for reservations. And, as Van would say, Rock On!

Photograph by Garth Vaughan

Nature's plan

Earlier in the week we touched on crafts for children from World Showcase’s Kidcot Fun Stops (a segment I am sure we will see more of), but what about crafts for adults, especially those we could we could do at home? Well, there is always horticulture.

Disney’s use of plants and gardens are staggering. To give you a sense of the width and breadth of plant use around Walt Disney World and Disneyland properties, it takes 650 professional horticulturalists to keep all of these plants neat and pretty. Provided that all of these cast members are full-time, working 40 hours a week, which amounts to 26,000 hours a week in the field. These are not gardens that you find around your neighborhood, or are they? Even the often photographed, ever-changing, Mickey Floral parterre* is achievable by the weekend weed warrior, with the right clues.

At Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the various segments (ears, nose, mouth, eyes, etc.) are outline with a fiberglass border. This form works well when a parterre is seen from a distance, but up close the effect could be compared to a coloring book. For a more intimate garden in your own yard, first sketch the design (Mickey or otherwise) that you are attempting to create. Use this design to consider not only the size and pattern of your garden, but also what types of plants, and colors, you will need.

Next, prepare your bed. The top six inches of earth and soil mix need to be turned over, before being leveled out with a rake. If you are looking for a soil mixture, may I recommend Walt Disney World's recipe.

The final step should be tracing your design into your prepared flower bed, and planting. Note that for a ten foot squared parterre the plants should be spaced six inches apart, and you should use approximately two hundred plants.

*A parterre is an ornamental garden with a formal pattern.

21 February 2008

Daily Dose of Disney News

There is a group, headed by mainstreetmom (no relation), that daily delivers Disney news, weather, trivia, and a smattering of insight into the world of the Disney Online Community. This group, DizNews, which highlighted a recent Main Street Gazette aricle today (which truly humbled me), does a great service to us all in the community, as well as those seeking a little more understanding of the world of Disney, and it's history. Be sure to check them out, and sign up for your daily dose!

19 February 2008

Together on a holiday

Let's be realistic World Showcase has never been a hot spot with children. Aside from offer some unique, and colorful architecture, a boat ride or two, and a few shows, the only thing children saw in World Showcase was a lot of walking, or boredom in a stroller. That is until the Kidcot Fun Stops began appearing.

Originally the activities presented to the children who visited the Fun Stops were generic activities that would interest children, but that had no real connection to the country they were presented in. The architecture for the Kidcot Fun Stops was authentic to the area, though on a smaller scale for the smaller guests, but the activities presented could have been from anyone’s backyard. As time went on, a shift began in the thematic elements of the Fun Stops’ activities. In Germany now children were found fashioning Edelweiss Hats, and in Italy they floated their own gondolas.

In the March 1999 issue of Family Fun, an article with six examples of the crafts found in the World Showcase Kidcot Fun Stops, which were, of course, sponsored by Family Fun. Today I present to you the Cork Trolls of Norway. Enjoy a piece of World Showcase in your home or classroom to get you through to your next trip around the World.


2 Corks
Fake Fur (Hair)
Felt, Cloth, Crepe Paper (Clothing/Hats)
Yarn, String (Belts)
4-5 Pom-Poms (Nose, Hands, Feet)
2 Googly Eyes
2 Small Bow-Tie Pasta (Ears)

Glue one cork on top of the second cork.
Glue hair, clothes, eyes, ears, belts, hands, feet, and nose in whatever style you wish with the materials listed above.
For hats, apply glue around the top half inch of the cork, affix crepe paper around cork, and twist the open end of the crepe paper. Glue a pom-pom on the top of the crepe paper.

17 February 2008

A beacon for the show business elite

The Earffel Tower began receiving a new paint job this week. This after the name of the park was changed earlier last month from Disney-MGM Studios to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Though never officially the park’s icon, the water tower has been a welcoming sight to many guests since the park opened in 1989. The eared tower has been one of the last reminders of the park’s original name, which is now slowly disappearing behind a new coat of paint.

Image copyright Disney, Garth Vaughan

A magnificent realm of exciting adventures

Disney’s Animal Kingdom was announced on June 20, 1995 by Michael Eisner, just as site preparation for the park was being completed. Continuing the long-standing tradition of edutainment, with truly unique experiences and wild encounters, Animal Kingdom promised to bring a new dimension to the Disney theme park collection.

When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened almost ten years ago, on April 22, 1998, it brought with it a message of conservation. This message was being implemented by the park’s Species Survival Plan, a program that is part of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, along with a world class advisory committee which included naturalists, professors, the Order of the Golden Ark recipients, and zoo directors. According to Michael Eisner, “Disney recognizes that the need for awareness of endangered animals and their environments never has been greater. We believe that, as storytellers and communicators, we are in a unique position to promote a deeper understanding and love for all animals. We hope that people will come here because they love animals and that, when they leave, they will have a new knowledge and respect for the beauty and complexity of the animal kingdom.”

Respecting the beauty and complexity of the animal kingdom is a lofty goal, but one I hope to explore with my preschoolers this year. While in Walt Disney World for Animal Kingdom’s 10th Anniversary, I hope to gather available resources to enhance the projects I am already planning for my class. My final goal is to not only have our playground certified as a par of the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program, but to also connect my students to the world around them a little more, and a little less to their television sets.

16 February 2008

In, through... and beyond

Though George McGinnis will always be best remembered for engineering and industrial designs inside the Disney theme parks, for a brief moment his attentions were diverted to another medium: film. In 1979 McGinnis received his one, and only, screen credit for the Disney film The Black Hole.

If The Black Hole is remembered for one thing it is the character that stole the show, V.I.N.CENT. (Vital Information Necessary CENTralized), hereafter refered to as Vincent. Vincent was the creation of George McGinnis, as were the rest of the robots used in the film, who ran away with the picture despite the best efforts of actors like Maximilian Schell and Anthony Perkins. Though McGinnis was hesitant at first, he grew to appreciate the experience. In the end, according to Roger Broggie, the robots were the best thing in the film, a sentiment I’m sure most of us are inclined to agree with.
We all know that Hollywood is not entirely glitz and glam, there is a lot of hard work and problems behind the scenes that must be completed and overcome before we are able to view the finished project. The work on Vincent the robot was no different, George McGinnis recalls one such problem he had when working on Vincent’s eyes, “With Vincent they wanted a robot whose eyes could be animated. So the eyes I came up with used a matrix of Ferrani-Packard discs, discs that flipped. You see them in these alpha-numeric readouts. They're small little discs that quiver when they flip. You could have created any pattern that you wanted with those eyes. But they had technical problems getting them animated when the principle actors were on the stage, and they didn't have the time to develop a solution to the problem. So they threw a couple of buttons on there, which bothered a lot of us. I wish the matrix of dots had worked initially, but I understand. They had the actors on stage. They had to do something."

Though this was his one and only foray into the world of movies, it must be looked upon as a success, even if the movie was anything but. Vincent may have been overshadowed by another little droid, R2-D2, but the fact that he is remember almost thirty years later stands as a true testament to the design work of George McGinnis. Just another reason that George McGinnis deserves the right to be a Disney Legend, not only for the recognition he truly deserves, but as a tribute to his remarkable, and far reaching, body of work.

Bibliography: Beyond Today Bibliography

Remember, we are fasting approaching the horizon, or rather the article on Horizons. I want to make this segment as much about all of you as it is about Horizons and George McGinnis’ work on it. If you have a story you would be willing to allow me to share with the Main Strret Gazette’s readers, by all means, please email me. I have received some wonderful stories already, but there is always room for your story.

15 February 2008

Young Adventurers – Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

A call has been sent out to young adventurers across globe to come and learn at the feet of the original adventurer, Indiana Jones. In your travels together you will visit the ruins of an ancient temple, where you will learn the price of buried treasure, how to avoid traps, and how to get yourself out of traps you have fallen into. Your journey will take you to a Cairo marketplace, where enemies wait to stop you and Indy, by any means necessary. Be mindful of your teacher in the marketplace, you just may learn how to fight, and how to end a fight quickly. Your final stop will be an airstrip in the desert, where you are vastly outnumbered. Keep your wits about you as you fight your way to freedom. Oh, and do be sure to watch out for any open flames, they have a way of causing large fireballs. By the end of your journey with Indiana Jones, there will be no adventure you cannot tame.

14 February 2008

Notes and a Retraction

Yesterday, when I spoke about my wife and her friends running, I upset the delicate fabric of some relationships that I hold dear. I know that all of the women I mentioned read the Main Street Gazette, and I wanted to rib them a little bit. However, some feelings I never meant to hurt were bruised, and for that I am sorry. They are all wonderfully dedicated women, both in their professional lives, as well as to their health, and to their significant others. To imply otherwise was, at best, unwise of me.

On the flip side, I want to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day! I wrote the following this morning over at DisFriends, and I thought it would also be appropriate for here.

I just wanted to wish each and every one of you a day filled with loved and magic! I hope your heart is filled with love for one another, for our friends and families, and for our fellow participants of the human condition, and I hope that feeling is returned to you throughout the day!

Lastly, Indiana Jones (I know, not exactly the most Disney of topics, but there are attractions, and I grew up idolizing the man) and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finally has a trailer.

13 February 2008

Sports and exercise in zero gravity

The 2009 Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World is rapidly approaching. Or rather, the ability to register is swiftly coming to a close. Though the Half and Full Marathons are not until January 9th and 10th, 2009, respectfully, registration is already starting to fill up. Goofy’s Challenge, those participant running in both the Half and Full Marathon, has already reached its capacity registration. And while there is still plenty of room for those wishing to run the full Marathon, the Half Marathon has already reached the 75 percent registration level. If you are looking for any further incentive, the price to register is currently discounted, and will go up at the end of the month.

Why do I know this? Well, because yesterday was the anniversary of the day my wife and I met. We decided that we would do gifts this year, small inexpensive gifts. Well, my wife broke the rules and went big. What did I get, you ask? An annual pass? No. Framed artwork from the Art of Disney store? No. Rare ticket booklets? No. A copy of Walt Disney’s Epcot Center? No. Instead of sweet gifts, my wife decided to give me a swift kick in the bum and sign us both up for next year’s Half Marathon.

Now, I have been a runner most of my life, sans the past few years, so getting back into shape shouldn’t be too big of an ordeal, but this wasn’t exactly on my agenda for this year. My wife took up running a few years ago as a social hobby. She first enlisted my cousin to run with her. These runs were filled with grips about my cousin’s boyfriend and me. Since my cousin has moved away, it has become a topic with a close friend of ours who runs marathons on a regular basis. These two, I might add, seem to spend a substantial part of their day talking, emailing, and texting one another, so I am not surprised that this marathon idea seems to have crept up on me.

Now I would love to run for a charity organization, say Lou’s Dream Team, but currently I am only running for myself. Aside from wanting some good to come of my race, besides getting healthier, I will also be running in the memory of my Aunt Keeni. For those of you who have followed the Main Street Gazette for a while, you know that my Aunt worked in security for Walt Disney World for twenty years before she was killed in a car accident on her way to work a year and a half ago. Several members of my family, including myself, have commented on the odd sensations we feel when at Walt Disney World now, as if she is still there, around the next corner, showing us all of the secrets. So I will run for Keeni and, perhaps, if the opportunity presents itself, I will be able to run for the good of those still with us as well.

If you would like to be part of the next marathon weekend, I suggest you register as soon as possible. You can find registration information at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. For those of you looking for a Valentine’s Gift for your special someone, the total to register as a couple is currently 214 dollars. 2 and 14, the date of Valentine’s Day, coincidence? I think not!

I hope to see you, and run with you, there!

11 February 2008

So this is love

Just a quick reminder to all of us who are madly in love with Walt Disney World, Valentine's Day is only three days away, so you had better make sure to show some love in the direction of your true loves! Mickey, Prince Charming, Donald, Beast, Aladdin, and Eric didn't forget their loved ones, so neither should you!
Photograph copyright Disney

09 February 2008

Save Our Swirl – Welcome to our living laboratories

My friend Doc and I were talking about how the senses affect your experience at Walt Disney World. Sights are the obvious main source of input, but the aromas and tastes also play an important part in the overall encounter. But the piece that really struck me was in talking about sound, specifically the sounds of the new recorded narration in Living with the Land. We all know that the sounds and music of the parks make these trips something truly unique, but what about the absence of sounds, or their replacement?

I went and listened to the new narration, and it has its benefits to be sure. No longer will boats be empty and drive by, while you stand patiently, and later impatiently, for a boat with a human reporter. I understand that this was due to the fact that to remove boats off of the loop required shutting the attraction down, but it doesn’t help when you see 10 empty boats float by uninhabited. As well, with the new narration you can ensure the quality of the show, whereas, occasionally in the past, pertinent information about the attraction could be conveyed by in a rather dull or lackluster manner. Adding the recorded narration even removed much of the need for Living with the Land to require Fastpass. But, like my friend Doc, I just can’t help but miss having a real person on the tour with me.

Living with the Land, to me, also means living with each other. Whether that means in providing for one another, taking care and interest in our fellow humankind, or coping with each of our flaws and praising our varied abilities, we are, after all, all in this together. Yet, in taking away the human element from the Living with the Land attraction, it now feels more like Living with Technology. Yes, there have always been, and always will be, innovative growing techniques, the partnership with NASA doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, and even the opening scenes have those new fangled audio-animatronics, but does that have to mean every aspect of the attraction has to be upgraded with new technologies the minute they become available? The idea of a recorded audio for Living with the Land is not a new one, but the technology to time everything just right was not available until just recently. When the solution to the “problem” became available, it was immediately thrown into practice.

I’ll admit it; the previous human narrators were, at best, spotty. These were not your Jungle Cruise Skippers. For every trip where I had a phenomenal edutainer, there were three other trips with so-so, or even downright deplorable, narrators. While this may have seemed excusable to the first time guests who were more captivated by the tremendous pumpkins and lemons, and really, who wouldn’t be, those of us who had grown up with this attraction yearned for something more. That is why we kept returning, the human element allowed for interaction and, in doing so, allowed for the possibility of a new kernel of knowledge to be passed on. Some of these storytellers were jokers or conversationalist, and these were the types of narrators guests loved to have ferry them through Living with the Land. For those who argue you couldn’t control the quality of these narrators, I disagree. After all, the level of quality storytelling has been kept extremely high over at the Jungle Cruise. These same practices could have been implemented within Living with the Land, rather than implementing innovative technologies.

Once again we sound off with our solemn S.O.S. Save Our Swirl, Save Our Skippers, give us back the human element that was so much a part of growing up Listening and Living with the Land. Sure there may be flaws, but there is nothing on this planet, animal of vegetable, that is truly perfect. Give stricter guidelines as they relate to the quality of the show, and let the peoples’ (in this case the narrators’) voices be heard once more. And thanks Doc, thanks for helping me catch the scent.

08 February 2008

Pixie Dust

Seems to me like my favorite attraction, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, has been getting some, well, big attention the past few weeks. First up, George threw down some skillet sign love over at Imaginerding. Then this week, Jessica, of If We Can Dream It…, found us some great, and crate, details. It got me all sentimental, and I went perusing my photos from my last few trips and dug up this beauty: The Hidden Tinkerbell near the exit. According to Steve Barrett, this pebbled pixie can be found by walking “to the exit from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Behind the fence (on the left side as you exit the ride), between two metal carts and behind a cactus is a cutout in the reddish rock that resembles a side profile of Tinker Bell.”

UPDATE: The Fearless Photographer, over at Photos from the Parks, has gotten in on the Big Time Big Thunder fun. Be sure to check it out, as well as all of his other fine work.

07 February 2008

Buzzing in the trees

The buzz is that the treehouses are being demolished. For those of you currently in panic mode, feeling the sudden urge to race down to Adventureland, I am not speaking about the Swiss Family Treehouse. No, I am speaking about the treehouse-style homes on Treehouse Ln., between Saratoga Springs and Old Key West, along the river between Port Orleans and Downtown Disney. For those of you who haven’t heard, they are slated for demolition. I suggest checking out the news and discussion over at Netcot for further information.

The treehouses were originally announced in May of 1974, as part of a larger development of residential property on Walt Disney World property. A year and a half later, in October of 1975, the sixty treehouses were completed. Originally intended as permanent residences, this idea, and further development of other permanent residences, was shelved. Due to the rights of residents (i.e. voting on any expansion of Walt Disney World and taxation), the idea of stable guests began to lose its luster, and was eventually forgotten completely.

Over the years guests were able to stay in the aptly named Treehouse Village, after all it does bear a remarkable resemblance to the Ewok Village (both of Return of the Jedi fame and Star Tours fame[nub nub Lou]), but the treehouses as a destination was never publicized like the other Walt Disney World Resorts. Some would argue proximity was a problem, but, Pop Century and the All-Star Resorts clearly contradict this logic. Eventually the treehouses were turned into housing for students working at Walt Disney World. The true reason for this demolition, and the future of this exquisitely prime parcel (again, between Old Key West and Saratoga Springs), remain to be seen.

As a child, we would occasionally drive by these treehouses and, growing up as a Fort Wilderness boy, I always thought these would be super cool to stay in. The seemed rustic, and wild, and secluded, everything that Fort Wilderness was, except taken up a notch. This, incidentally, also explains why I spent one night of my honeymoon in a yurt overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As an adult, I spent the occasional night at Port Orleans where, floating down the river, I rediscovered the Treehouse Village, and my lust for wanting to see what one was like. Unfortunately, my chance has now expired, but my dreams, this is Disney after all, have not. But perhaps, just perhaps, they were better suited to my dreams after all.

Got no strings

In 1940, Walt Disney released his second animated feature, Pinocchio. This feature was the first to explore all the possibilities of the multi-plane camera, and premiered today, February 7, at New York City’s Central Theater.

To see some of the amazing work from this film, I highly suggest checking out the backgrounds from Pinocchio over at Animation Backgrounds.

06 February 2008

Happy Birthday, Marty Sklar!

On this day, in 1934, a legend was born, a Disney Legend. February 6th, 1934 is Marty Sklar’s birthday. He wrote words for Walt Disney, built a form of his Epcot, and was called “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” because of the proximity his work kept him to Walt (Yensid was the orginal Sorcerer after all). His work in the field of Imagineering far surpasses what most of us could ever dare to dream.

I had the honor of hearing Marty Sklar speak at Epcot last year, as part of the 25th anniversary of Epcot, and it was truly a moment in time I shall not forget. Greatest care is given to his projects, ensuring a unique experience for all guests. But perhaps his tendencies towards guests should be left to Marty’s own words, “Today, every time I’m in Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom Park, I make sure to watch the faces of our guests as they exit Space Mountain.”

So thank you for all the dreams and adventures you have given us Marty, and Happy Birthday!