31 January 2009

Every stride a victory

Tucked away behind, and to the left of, the stave church in Epcot’s Norway is a statue of a woman on the move. Her name is Grete Waitz, and she not only ran, but she moved, and continues to move, the world.

Waitz was born on 1 October 1953 in Oslo, Norway. At a time when women athletes were considered second class at best, she set out to be taken seriously as a professional athlete. She competed in the 1972, 1976, 1984, and 1988 Olympics, held in Munich, Montreal, Los Angeles, and Seoul, respectively. Though she competed with all of her heart, her only medal came in Los Angeles where Waitz produced a silver medal run in the Marathon. Remarkable in their own right, in Grete Waitz professional athletic career, the Olympics would take a back seat to the New York and London Marathons.

From 1978 through 1988, Waitz won the New York Marathon a total of nine times. In London, she won the Marathon twice, in 1983 and 1986. Through the combination of these two races Waitz took the woman’s marathon record, held by Christa Vahlensieck with a time of 2:34:47, down over nine minutes to 2:25:29 by the time she ran the London Marathon in 1983.

After retiring from professional running, Grete Waitz continued to break down barriers and build people up. She has worked with CARE International (an organization that seeks to address the underlying causes of poverty and empower women), JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge (a series of footraces meant to inspire fitness in the workplace), and the International Special Olympics.

Though Waitz has been honored with a half-marathon in New York, identified as Grete’s Great Gallop, a statue in front of Bislett Stadium in Oslo, immortalized on the face of a postage stamp, and has had the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, First Class, bestowed upon her, there is no recognition great enough to pay tribute to this woman who has worked so hard, for so long, so that the future would be brighter for so many. With her feet, spirit, and will she has given hope to those who had none and stood up for woman everywhere who wanted to feel the thrill of competition on a professional level.

30 January 2009

Growing up alongside the riverbanks

My aunt recently found these photographs among my grandmother's belongings and immediately sent them on to me. I estimate these pictures are from 1972 or early 1973 because, as you can see in the pictures, the construction of Tom Sawyer Island is not complete. The island itself would not open to the public until 20 May 1973. Another factor in my attempted estimation is the process of trying to approximate the age of my cousins who were captured in a couple of the photographs. Since I was not alive in the early 1970s, I inquired family members about the possible ages of the cousins pictured with little in the way of solid information.Though the photographs themselves can be grainy, blurry, or, in a couple of cases, damaged, they tell me quite a bit about my grandmother. One, Walt Disney World, and the traditions and feelings it invokes, is definitely a family trait. Two, like her grandson would years later, my grandmother was fascinated by the Liberty Square/Frontierland corner of the Magic Kingdom. Specifically, my grandmother seemed to love the sights surrounding the Liberty Square Riverboat.

I hope to examine my family's Walt Disney World's history more in future articles, and this set of the Magic Kingdom's beginnings seemed like a wonderful launching point. I hope you enjoyed the trip as much as I did.

29 January 2009

Harambe Conservation Code

At the edge of Harambe are the offices and loading dock of Kilimanjaro Safari, an official sanctioned safari of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. Harambe is not the only border for the reserve, however, privately owned and operated plantations, ranches, industrial headquarters, and even the Eastern Star Railroad all mark off the boundaries between the Harambe Wildlife Reserve and the outside world.

As its own entity the Harambe Wildlife Reserve has its own geography, culture, and rules. With locales given names such as Muiringo Salt Lick, Majani Plains, Kujikwaa Tembo Lodge, and Unkungu Forest, is it any wonder that people the world over flock to Harambe for a glimpse of the protected wildlife? Coincidentally, the Haramabe Wildlife Reserve receives a generous grant from the Main Street Gazette whenever we make our way to Africa, I guess that is why the reserve also includes an area referred to as Gazetted Territory. It is a lovely gesture, but it really is too much!

Clearly, due to its goals being consevational in nature, the Haramba Wildlife Reserve has some strictly enforced guidelines to ensure the survival and well-being of the endangered creatures. Though they number only five, the statutes of the Harambe Conservation Code send a powerful message.

No. 1 – Wild Animals always have the right of way.
No. 2 – Litter can seriously injure wildlife. Please do not drop camera cases, paper wrappings, or any rubbish from you vehicle.
No. 3 – Please do not make excessive noise. This causes unnecessary stress to the animals and makes them flee from vehicles.
No. 4 – Do not ask you driver to leave the motorable tracks, as this causes harm to the vegetation and scenery.
No. 5 – Never attempt to feed the animals. They are wild creatures with natural diets and should not be made dependent on handouts.

As well, as distinguished safari guests, Kilimanjaro Safaris itself, as if to reemphasize the reserve's standards, asks its patrons to, “not throw or drop anything from your vehicle as the animals might eat it.” All and all, these rules make for a more enjoyable interaction, not just for the wild creatures but for the guests on the safari as well.

28 January 2009

Forward marching

A lot has been said about, and reported on, the upcoming Space Mountain refurbishment, which begins on April 19 and runs until an as yet unannounced date. For a majority of this refurbishment, or perhaps all of it, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority will also be down. The fact that the TTA will be down for the lengthy refubishment period has brought pleas from the community to keep the Transit Authority from being on hiatus for the entire Space Mountain refurbishment. Other members of the Disney community offer reminders that the TTA encircles the perimeter of Space Mountain and its tracks and will of course need to be down for the duration. What has gone relatively unmentioned is that fact the the Tomorrowland Transit Authority is in desperate need of some attention, at least by the high standards that guests have come to expect from Disney.

I offer this photograph I took earlier this month as evidence.True, the Blue Line may not need the entirety of the time that Space Mountain will be closed to reupholster the seats and apply a fresh coat of paint, but the time frame offers a couple of interesting possibilities. While I have no inside insight to what is, or isn't, being worked on during this refurbishment (although if you do have some information, and would like an outlet to share it with, I have been told I have an excellent listening ear), the idea that the Tomorrowland Transit Authority could receive an upgrade to the audio systems, new soundtrack, and/or a new conveyor loading ramp all seem like possibilities. Beyond the basic upgrades and refreshing projects, the more blue sky ideas, such as the return to the WEDway PeopleMover name, are always the thoughts that cause the Disney faithful to hold their breath in anticipation.

The Tomorrowland Transit Authority has long been one of my favorite places to unwind, rest my feet, and take a couple of spins around the promises of tomorrow, and I look forward to seeing what the future of the Blue Line holds.

27 January 2009

A golfing fantasy

Fantasia Gardens physically sits between Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios and in the shadow of the Swan and Dolphin resorts. When it comes to attention, however, Fantasia Gardens rests in the middle of four of the world's most popular theme parks, two water parks, and a multitude of meticulously manicured and designed resorts. It is safe to say that, while offering an amazing golf experience, Fantasia Gardens is often overlooked due to the facts that there are countless other activities vying for guests' attention and a majority of guests have a miniature golf course near their own homes. Despite all of these preconceived notions, Fantasia Gardens offers an experience unlike any other on property.

Fantasia Gardens, A Golfing Fantasy, offers two courses, The Fairways Course and The Gardens Course. The Fairways Course is a standard golf course, complete with water hazards, sand traps, and impeding crests, that has been shrunk down to miniature golf size complete with a shrunken par of 61 for the course.

The Gardens Course, a 53 par course, “turns miniature golfing into a symphony of fun,” by including elements and characters from some of the major movements of Walt Disney's animated orchestral concert, Fantasia. Like most miniature golf courses, Fantasia Gardens' Gardens Course has trick pathways, obstacles, and holes that attempt to make the game a bit simpler for the novice golfer. Along the way, interactive elements, such as lighting, music, water effects, and animated statues make this a one-of-a-kind miniature golfing event.In addition to a unique miniature golfing experience, Fantasia Gardens offers something rare in the world of Walt Disney World, something for nothing. No, the round of golf is not free (18-holes for an adult currently runs $11.75, while children between ages 3 – 9 can putt around for $9.75), but you walk away with a free souvenir. All guests who complete their round, no matter their final score, will receive a Limited Edition golf ball. While the image printed on the golf balls change from time to time, in keeping with the tradition of 'Limited Edition,' it will always contain a Disney character posing somewhere along the course.Fantasia Gardens offers some great photographic opportunities. Even without a camera, the courses and their spirited figurines offer guests memories and laughs to last a lifetime.

26 January 2009

See things differently

There is a wonderful, innate, quality to murals and mosaics. More often than not, they are looked upon in awe for the ability of an artist to take a brush stroke, piece of tile, bead, or whatever medium they are using, and create a breathtaking image or sweeping vista. What is often missed by this fleeting glance are the layers of storytelling that are present. The secondary storylines, vignettes, and gags could all go unnoticed when glimpsed for only a moment.

Murals and mosaics can be found in a variety of places within Walt Disney World, from The Seas to Cinderella Castle, and beyond. Perhaps the most well known mural in all of Walt Disney World can be found surrounding the center column of The Contemporary. Created by Mary Blair, and completed before the 1971 opening, the piece carries with it not only a story told in brightly colored tiles, but also a sense of place and history. This tracking of a bear is, perhaps, my favorite element in the entire mural. It always brings a smile to my face and a slight chuckle to my lips.

Along The Land mosaic are stories of the land’s creation and its place in the history of our shared histories. I don’t know that there is a more poignant scene in any single work of art in all of Walt Disney World that this small scene. To me it depicts the rise and fall of civilizations, whether an earthquake or war, it serves as a reminder that we can always do more and that there are still forces beyond our control.

Remember to stop and take a moment to really see what you are looking at the next time you find a piece of art within Walt Disney World. You never know what secrets and stories in might share with you.

TV at your table

At the 50’s Prime Time Café you may feel like you are not only walking into an old television program, but a Coca-Cola advertisement. At the very least, it appears that the various dining room sets belong to a Coca-Cola memorabilia buff. Yet, the detail that stood out above all the rest, at least to this reporter’s eye, was this television set.A Disney model Videomatic television set, complete with a coat of arms emblazoned with the W and D of Walt Disney, though not actually the Disney family coat of arms.

25 January 2009

Guests Plunge 53 Feet - Wind Up in Briar Patch

Today's article is a little different. Not only is it a Back Issue, but it also comes from a Sister Paper. Rabbit Tales comes from Splash Mountain in Frontierland, and has been talked about extensively by the Main Street Gazette's good friend, Richard Harrison, at Photos From the Parks. Though we don't get the full article written by Jasper P. Woodchuck, Reporter at Large, with photographic evidence from Flashpowder Sam, the front page covers enough to gather a glimpse of what awaits us on Chick-A-Pin Hill, both in thrills and in the history of the hill. Be sure to check out Rabbit Tales the next time you are exiting the Walt Disney World Railroad at the Frontierland Station.

Towering up and above everything hereabouts is Splash Mountain. Used to be that once upon a time, when most of us were still critlins, Splash Mountain was called Chick-A-Pin Hill. But that was then and back before a moonshining raccoon named Rackety, made a slight, but potent error. While mixing an experimental batch of brew, his juice producing still ended up being blown sky high. Many who were there at the time speculated that it was an overabundance of blueberries that caused the disaster.

This was unfortunate, not only for Rackety, but for the industrious Beaver Brothers, who had only recently finished construction on their new dam. Unknown to the Beaver Brothers, Rackety had built his juice still in the woods that backed up to their dam at the high end of the foothills. When the still exploded, the beaver dam burst forth, and all the water is was holding back, flooded the thousands of burrows, holes and tunnels that crisscrossed the inside of Chick-A-Pin Hill. From that time on, all the critters round here couldn't help but call this place Splash Mountain.

Now days, Brer Rabbit's been living in a briar patch, deep in the heart of Splash Mountain. And not so long ago, old Brer Rabbit took it into his head, that if he'd just up and leave his prickly home in the briar pathc, then he'd be able to leave all his troubles behind, as well.

Mr. Bluebird, and all the other critters who inhabit Splash Mountain tried to warn the happy-go-lucky hare that moving away from home, didn't mean getting away from trouble.

And sure enough, as soon as Brer Fox and Brer Bear got wind that Brer Rabbit was leaving his briar patch and setting out for an adventure, they decided to set a trap and catch him. Luckily for Brer Rabbit, he was able to trick Brer Bear into springing Brer Fox's hastily devised rabbit trap. This made Brer Fox so furious that Brer Rabbit decided to play another trick on the two, and he began to tell them about a secret “laughing place” that only he knew about.

Sure enough, Brer Bear and Brer Fox followed that rabbit right to the foot of a twin oak tree. And with Brer Fox pushing and shoving, Brer Bear was able to climb all the way up and look down into the hollow of those two trees. But instead of finding a laughing place, all Brer Bear found was honey bees. Suddenly, the rotted old tree gave way with a snap and pitched Brer Fox and Brer Bear into a darkened, water-filled cavern, buzzing with hundreds of angry bees.

Brer Rabbit laughed and laughed at the joke he'd played on the two scoundrels. In fact, he laughed so hard that all the other critters started laughing and singing, and before long, that underground water cavern actually turned into Brer Rabbit's laughing place.

Unfortunately, for Brer Rabbit, however, he tended to laugh just a little too long at his own joke, and before he knew what has happening, Brer Fox snuck up behind him and plopped a sticky honey hive over his head.

Brer Rabbit was dragger by the ears, up to the top of Chick-A-Pin Hill, where Brer Fox's lair was hidden in a hollowed log, that jutted out over the mighty Splash Mountain waterfall. Brer Fox threatened to skin Brer Rabbit, and then to roast him, and eat him. But thinking quickly, Brer Rabbit told Brer Fox to go ahead and do anything with him he wanted, so long as he didn't throw him over the waterfall and into the briar patch.

Slow witted Brer Bear, liked the idea, and decided that flinging Brer Rabbit into the briar patch was the best thing to be done. Brer fox tried to prevent him, and in the struggle, all three went over the falls and into the briar patch.

The briar patch, is of course, Brer Rabbit's home sweet home. All the critters hereabouts turned out to congratulate clever Brer Rabbit on having gotten away once again. And while Brer Fox and Brer Bear tried unsuc-cessfully to untangle themselves for the sharp, prickly briars, Brer Rabbit promised his friends that once and for all he had learned his lesson about leaving home, and that he is now there to stay forever and ever – at least until the urge to go adventuring strikes him once again.

The unfortunate news we have to report today, however, is that human-type critters have now been seen using hollowed-out logs to plunge over Splash Mountains roaring waterfall, and then splashing uninvited into Brer Rabbit's briar patch homestead located far down below. So far as we know, the human critters have caused no more serious problems than disturbing the peace with their screams.

Our reporters will continue to keep an eagle eye on the situation and report any undue incidents in the next issue of Critter Tales.

Brer Owl has lived all his life in the vicinity of Splash Mountain. He was, in fact, born and bred in the heart of Splash Mountain. His home is located deep inside the mountain, in a place called Tall Tale Tunnel. In can be said of Brer Owl, as it can be said of many critters of his ilk, that he is partial to stretching the truth somewhat. Perhaps that, and not the cave's size, is why his home is called as it is. But if ever there's any one critter in all of this country, that knows the comings and goings of those who live in and about Splash Mountain, he's the one that knows what's what.

“Of course, this place wasn't always called Splash Mountain,” Brer Owl hastens to tell just about anyone who'll stop long enough to listen. “It used to go by the name of Chick-A-Pin Hill, and some of the folks still call it that... but then Rackety's raccoon still went and blew up. Since it (it being the still) was sitting in front of the Beaver Brother' dam, and the dam was sitting in front of Chick-A-Pin Hill... well, this place just sort of got itself flooded. So we critters, mostly Brer Rabbit, I guess, started calling it Splash Mountain. Because mostly, splashing around in a flume of water is what you end up doing once you're inside.”
Then, Brer Owl will ruffle his feathers about some, and if there's still one little critter left sitting in front of his hollowed out old root, the place he calls home, then Brer Owl will start in to spinning his favorite yarn about his most favorite character in the whole wide world. That being Brer Rabbit, of course.

“What you call this place don't make much never mind,” Brer Owl scoffs, sort of uppity-like, “because the point is, what's likely to happen if you go on down deep inside of Splash Mountain is to find Brer Rabbit having one of his typical zip-a-dee-do-dah adventures.”

Brer Owl likes to hear the...

24 January 2009

True people to people exchange

EPCOT Center was opened on October 1, 1982, three years to the day that ground had been broken on the project. EPCOT Center’s history, however, dated back to before the death of Walt Disney, when the project had known as EPCOT, or the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. When the venture was restructured as a theme park and announced in 1978 it was the largest development ever undertaken by Disney.Speaking on World Showcase, Card Walker, then President and Chief Executive Officer of Walt Disney Productions, told the 26th World Congress of the International Chamber of Commerce, “The World Showcase will be a community of nations, the only permanent international exposition of its kind anywhere, focusing on the culture, traditions, tourism and accomplishments of people around the world. A model for true people to people exchange, the World Showcase will offer participating nations an opportunity to send their outstanding young adults to operate attractions, shops, restaurants and exhibits of their pavilions. And these young people who will work, play and learn together for a period of up to one year will help to generate international understanding.”Though the park opened on October 1, 1982, only Spaceship Earth was dedicated on that day. The park itself was dedicated on the 24th of that opening October, with Future World being dedicated on the 22nd and World Showcase on the 23rd. The various pavilions of EPCOT Center were all dedicated separately as well. In World Showcase, China was the first pavilion to be dedicated on the 3rd, followed by the American Adventure on the 11th, Canada on the 13th, Italy a day later on the 14th, and Germany on the 15th. During the week prior to World Showcase’s dedication, the United Kingdom was dedicated on the 19th, Mexico on the 21st, and both France and Japan’s dedications were on the 20th.Today’s photographic accompaniment comes from April of 1982, during the construction of EPCOT Center. Specifically pictured are the construction projects of the China, Canada, and France pavilions.

23 January 2009

Disneyland Resort Insider's Guide

Last week, Zagat released its first ever Disneyland Resort Insider's Guide. While I have not spent near as much time in Disneyland as I would like, and perhaps because of this fact, I found the Insider's Guide to be a perfect planning tool.

The guide does not include a touring plan to follow, or a list of warnings and height requirements, but each description gives guests a way to gauge their own personal interest in any given attraction, restaurant, resort, or retail location. The Top Rated attractions list is broken down not only by top rated and thrills, but also by age bracket. Similarly, dining is broken down not only by top rated and type of cuisine, but also by type of dining experience, décor, and service level. The guide contains a lot of data, but is slim and light enough to carry anywhere.

Perhaps the most useful feature of the guide is the Park Maps & Photos section. Here, top ranked attractions, as well as both parks, the top shop and restaurant, and all three of the on-property resorts, are presented in color with pros and cons that come straight from the surveyed guests’ responses.

Zagat surveyed 3,122 Disneyland Resort guests. Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed were locals, with sixty-two percent of the total guests surveyed being annual passholders, making the Disneyland Resort Insider's Guide a true glimpse into the insight of the guests in the know, and giving those of us who only get to Disneyland Resort on a rare basis a fighting chance in planning a more magical trip.

22 January 2009

The Habitat Habit

In Disney's Animal Kingdom, Rodrigues fruitbats can be found on the Maharajah Jungle Trek. In general, bats are an excellent form of pest control, with some species dining on over 100 mosquitoes in one hour and rootworms, while fruitbats dispense seeds and pollinate flowers. Their assistance in agriculture is incalculable, and yet more than fifty percent of American bat species are endangered. One way to help these creatures is to construct a bat house for your backyard.

Unfortunately, I am not an expert at wildlife habitats or construction. Thankfully the resources at Conservation Station are innumerable. One resource rich area is Eco Web. Here guests can research habitats, local and national projects, and even speak with a Cast Member who can help you find information on what you are looking for. If you are not like me, you are not likely to carry a notebook and pen with you in the parks, and that is okay, because information at Eco Web can be printed. Eco Web provided me with a blueprint for a bat house, a backyard habitat that is easy enough for all of us to construct

You will need six feet of 1 x 12-inch board and ten feet of 1 x 10-inch board. BOARDS CANNOT BE CHEMICALLY TREATED

Segment Dimensions (in inches):
A (Roof) – One 16 ½ x 11 ¼
B (Front) – One 18 ¾ x 9 ¼
C (Back) – One 27 x 9 ¼
D (Interior Ceiling) – One 9 ¾ x 9 ¼
E (Interior Partitions) – Three 9 ¼ wide x 8 high
F (Interior Partitions) – Two 9 ¼ wide x 14 high
G (Sides) – Two 11 ¼ wide x 27 (at back)/18 ¾ (at front)

Spacing between the partitions should be constant throughout.

All inner surfaces of the bat house should allow bats to get a firm foothold. Face the rough side of the lumber inwards, and carve small horizontal grooves at ½ inch intervals on the partitions' smooth sides.

Apply a bead of silicone caulk along all exterior joints to prevent heat loss and increase the probability of occupancy.

Place the house 10 – 15 feet above the ground. On the side of a building or pole works bests, trees are poor places for bat houses due to the threat of predators.

Placement should allow the bat house to face east or southeast, in order for the house to catch the morning sun.

Placement near a natural water source will also improve the possibility of inhabitation.

21 January 2009

Safe Insect Control

Conservation Station may seem out of the way in Disney's Animal Kingdom, considering the only way to reach the area is by the Wildlife Express, but it is full of intriguing areas to explore, animals to interact with, and information on wildlife and wild places.

Tomorrow we're going to take a look at one of the places to find information at Conservation Station, alongside a D-I-Y project to help with pest protection. Today, however, as a prelude of sorts, we'll look at another form of pest control, whose recipe is available at Conservation Station, that is safe for backyard wildlife that can be applied to your own garden.


2 ½ Tbsp. Cooking Oil
2 ½ Tbsp. Shampoo or Mild Dish Soap
1 Gallon Water

Combine ingredients.
Shake mixture well before, and during, application to plants.

Amazing marvel of the midway

Mr. Potato Head has had many outfits, or ensemble elements, over the sixty years since it's created by George Lerner in 1949 (it would take until 1952 until Hasbro began selling the spud). From Darth Vader outfits, to Disney vacation-wear, to the classic cartoon eyes and mustaches, Mr. Potato Head must have a wardrobe that rivals most starlets for quantity.Recently, he has acquired a new outfit and job title, Boardwalk Barker. Like most toys with sound and action, Boardwalk Barker Mr. Potato Head's box comes complete with a TRY ME! feature, instructions for creative construction, and pictures of the included accessories. With a new microphone and hat, Mr. Potato Head is ready to call-in the passersby, or in this case the guests in the queue, to Toy Story Midway Mania. My only question is, why didn't Andy add on the bow tie included with the rest of the Boardwalk Barker accessories?

20 January 2009

The wait is over

There aren't many shows that I can say I have watched in their entirety since they began, but LOST is one of those shows. For those of you like me who have felt the summer and fall have been far too long to wait for the season premiere, the wait is over.

In twenty-four hours, at 8:00pm Eastern, LOST returns with a one-hour recap episode, followed by the first two episodes of the new season at 9:00pm (entitled: Because You Left) and 10:00pm (entitled: The Lie) Eastern, respectively.

So pull on your DHARMA Initiative jumpsuit, and I will see you on the island.

Under its branches

The Liberty Tree, situated between the Hall of Presidents and the Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square, carries with it a great deal of history. So much so, that the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Tree has become the symbol of Disney’s Horticulture. For the greatest source of information on the Liberty Tree, however, guests need look no further than the plaque and sign located near the tree itself.

“The original Liberty Tree, a stately elm, was a rallying point for pre-revolutionary activities. The open space under its branches was call ‘Liberty Hall’ and a flag pole was erected through its branches with a hoisted flag the symbol for action.

“Countless inflammatory cartoons and verses were nailed to its trunk and many Tories hung in effigy from its branches. Perhaps its proudest moment was the repeal of the Stamp Act when innumerable lanterns blazed among its branches for all to see.”

“Under the boughs of the original Liberty Tree in Boston in 1765, Patriots, calling themselves ‘The Sons of Liberty,’ gathered to protests the imposition of the stamp act. In the years that followed, almost every American town had a Liberty Tree -- a living symbol of the American freedom of speech and assembly.

“Our Liberty Tree is a Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana, more than 100 years old.”

19 January 2009

Going through some thick brush

Like Expedition Everest in Asia, Kilimanjaro Safaris’ queue creates vignettes that are reminiscent of experiences required for a true safari. From booking passage at the safari office, to being given instruction on the wildlife preserve, and even guidebook information that a guest would have looked up ahead of time, these mini-events literally, and figuratively, set the stage for what is ahead.

In Harambe the official language is Swahili. If someone were going on a safari, it would probably be prudent to learn the terms for animals you may see. After all, if an excited guide spots an animal after three days of not seeing anything, he may very well use his native tongue. Thankfully, like any good translation guide book, the Swahili term for many of the animals found within the Kilimanjaro Safaris are presented upon first entering the queue.

For those of you trying to get a jump start on your next safari, be sure to brush up on these terms:

Zebra - Punda Milia

18 January 2009

The Disneyland Hotel

Last year, when my wife and I visited Disneyland for our honeymoon, we had the great fortune to stay in The Disneyland Hotel. Though it hasn’t always been owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company, it has always been a part of the Disney story. In the summer of 1989, Joe Aguirre gave us a glimpse at the hotel’s history and future in the Disney News. It was also mentioned recently in an interesting article on the Queen Mary by Ken Pellman over at The Disney Blog.

Early last year, The Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California, officially became one of The Walt Disney Company’s growing number of fine resorts. Although one of the newest members of the Disney family, the 60-acre resort actually has a rich history that spans more than three decades – having opened in 1955, just three months after nearby Disneyland first opened its gates to a curious world.

During the past 34 years, the luxury hotel has been dramatically transformed from a hundred-room motel amidst orange groves o a beautifully landscaped, 1,174-room complex that has become a vacation destination in itself.

In 1954, when Walt Disney was building Disneyland and needed accommodations for the many guests he hoped would flock to his innovative Theme Park, he approached Jack Wrather, a Texas oilman and television pioneer. Wrather was the owner of several television stations and producer of “Lassie,” “The Lone Ranger,” and “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon,” among other popular programs of the 1950s.

At the time, Anaheim was a sleepy little town surrounded by orange groves and farmland. In the entire community, there were only seven motels, with a total of 87 guest rooms.

Dick Nunis, President of Walt Disney Attractions, remembers Walt’s early efforts to increase accommodations near Disneyland:

“Walt’s originally approached Hilton and others to build a hotel adjacent to Disneyland, but they felt the venture was too risky. Well,” he continues, “Walt then turned to his friend Jack Wrather, and, after some discussion, convinced him to build a hotel near the Park.”

Nunis also explains how the two men selected the Hotel’s site:

“Wrather wanted the Hotel to be located at the entrance to Disneyland, but Walt said, ‘Jack, our guests aren’t going to be thinking about a hotel when they begin their visit to Disneyland. They’ll start looking for a room when they leave the Park. The best place to build your hotel is near Disneyland’s exit.’”

Wrather, a man with a sense of adventure and a pioneering spirit, as well as sound business judgement, took Walt’s advice. He leased 60 acres along West Street, directly across from the Disneyland exit, and proceeded to build the “Official Hotel of the Magic Kingdom.”

The Disneyland Hotel opened with 104 guest rooms on October 5, 1955 – the first major resort hotel to be built in Southern California since the early forties. Even as these first rooms opened, construction was already underway on future additions to the Hotel, including the lobby, restaurants, shops and meeting rooms.

Despite skeptics’ early predictions, Disneyland proved an overwhelming success, and its phenomenal popularity influenced the development of The Disneyland Hotel as well as the surrounding community.

In just one year, the Hotel nearly doubled in size to 204 guest rooms and suites. As an interesting touch, each garden room patio had its own orange tree – part of the original orange grove carefully sidestepped when the Hotel was built.

Five years after its debut, the Hotel had grown to 300 guest rooms and added a 13,000-square-foot convention center.

The following year, 1961, The Disneyland Hotel became the only hotel to be linked to the Magic Kingdom via a 2-1/2-mile expansion of the Disneyland Monorail system. According to Nunis, “Walt saw the Monorail as ore than just an attraction, but as a future transportation system. He wanted to demonstrate its potential for rapid transit, and so he had the Monorail track extended to reach the Hotel.” Of course, the latest generation of the Monorail continues today to transport guests between the Park and the Hotel in streamlined comfort.

A leader in the hotel industry, The Disneyland Hotel erected Orange County’s first high-rise in 1961 – the 11-story Sierra Tower, which received a major addition five years later, doubling its room capacity. This tower complex was followed by two others – the 11-story Marina Tower, opened in 1970, and the 14 story Bonita Tower, built in 1979.

Today at the Disneyland Hotel, the three towers overlook a scenic inland marina, which since 1970 has been a bustling waterfront playland featuring recreation, shopping, dining and entertainment.

An immensely popular feature since its introduction in 1970 is the “Dancing Waters” show. The dazzling production of choreographed fountains, special lighting effects and music is presented twice nightly throughout the year at a crescent-shaped amphitheatre.

The entire Disney team is excited that the Southern California resort has rejoined the Disney family.

Bob Small, Executive Vice President of Resorts for the Walt Disney Company comments, “Now we can offer guests a complete vacation destination, combining Disneyland Park and the Disneyland Hotel.” He adds, “as a Disney resort, we can now ensure that our Hotel guests will experience the highest levels of quality, service and hospitality in the Disney tradition.”

Dotted with meticulously groomed gardens and landscaping, The Disneyland Hotel boasts 16 restaurants and lounges, and 35 specialty shops, many carrying Disney merchandise.

Highlighting the lounges is Sgt. Preston’s Yukon Saloon and Dancehall (remember Wrather’s TV show?), a fun-filled locale built to be reminiscent of the 1890’s Yukon Gold Rush era.

Among the Hotel’s recreational pleasures are a three-acre tennis club with ten championship courts lighted for night play, three swimming pools and a palm-laden sandy beach.

Michael Bullis, Vice President and General Manager of The Disneyland Hotel, ponders the most prominent features of the popular resort: “The Disney name, proximity to Disneyland, the Monorail service, fantastic entertainment and our unique man-made scenery.”

He points out what he feels is the Hotel’s most important asset, “It’s our friendly, helpful staff. Even with the unique facilities and the wonderful location, it is our courteous, helpful Cast Members who are the most important element.”

As it builds on a new era as one of the newest members of the Disney Resort family, The Disneyland Hotel will continue to exemplify the dreams of Walt Disney and Jack Wrather, two friends who had faith that their “risky venture” would succeed.

17 January 2009

For all mankind

There are stories about the Moon going back as far the oral traditions of ancestors will take us, yet, only a handful of people have ever been to the Moon. The preparations for going to, and coming back from, the Moon are a storied part of our history as the people of the world.

A lunar monument, tucked away in Mission: SPACE’s courtyard, showcases the impact and landing sites for the twenty-nine spacecraft that connected with the Moon during the space race. Though there is so much history to these programs, and so many spacecrafts that did not make it all the way to the Moon, today we will look at the interesting facts, stories, and historical milestones that these spacecraft have to offer.

The Luna Missions were the canopy under which a majority of the U.S.S.R.’s unmanned Moon missions took place. The historic in many ways, only 17 of the 45 Luna missions were considered a success.
Luna 2 – The first spacecraft landed on the Moon on 12 September 1959 when Luna 2 impacted.
Luna 5 – Though it had guidance and gyroscope malfunctions, Luna 5 would reach the Moon.
Luna 7 – A successful midcourse correction set Luna 7 for a soft landing on the Moon, unfortunately Luna 7 impacted into the Moon after its main engine was unable to fire.
Luna 8 – A plastic mounting bracket pierced one of Luna 8’s inflatable air cushions, the release of air caused Luna 8 to spin into its landing.
Luna 9 – The first survivable landing of a manmade object on the Moon, Luna 9 was also the first spacecraft constructed by the Lavochkin design bureau.
Luna 13 – Unlike Luna 9, Luna 13 carried with it scientific instruments designed for experimentation.
Luna 16 – Though Apollo 11 and 12 returned with lunar samples, Luna 16 was the first robotic spacecraft to complete this feat without human involvement.
Luna 17 – The first in a series of robotic lunar rovers, Lunokhod 1, was deployed by Luna 17.
Luna 18 – Though contact was lost, Luna 18 did impact with the Moon’s surface.
Luna 20 – Sent to complete the mission of Luna 18, Luna 20 returned samples of lunar material to Earth.
Luna 21 – Lunokhod 2, carried aboard Luna 21, was outfitted with a third camera, an 8-wheel traction system, and scientific equipment, all were improvements over the original Lunkokhod 1.
Luna 23 – Luna 16 and 20 had returned lunar samples, but Luna 23 would return a deep core sample from a depth of 2.5 meters.
Luna 24 – The last Soviet or Russian lunar spacecraft, Luna 24 returned a lunar sample from a mascon (a region of a planet or moon's crust that contains a large positive gravitational anomaly) in Mare Crisium.

The Ranger Missions were designed to photograph the Moon and send them back to Earth in real time. These pictures would not only assist in the scientific study of the Moon, but would help locate potential landing sites for the Apollo missions. The Ranger spacecrafts were each only a one-time use craft, as they would continue to photograph and send pictures of the Moon until they crashed on to its face.
Ranger 4 – Though it malfunctioned during its flight, Ranger 4 would become the first American spacecraft to reach another entity in outer space when it crashed.
Ranger 6 – With a flight and landing that went flawlessly, Ranger 6 appeared to be the first total success of the Ranger program, until it was unable to provide any pictures due to a short in the power supply for the camera.
Ranger 7 – Cameras began rolling 15 minutes before impact, and Ranger 7 sent back 4,316, with the last photograph taken only 2.3 seconds before its collision with the Moon.
Ranger 8 – Continuing on the success of Ranger 7, Ranger 8 returned 7,137 images during 23 minutes.
Ranger 9 – With 5,814 photographs taken in 19 minutes, Ranger 9 was able to give the world a better view of the moon, as the images were altered in order to be broadcast on television.

Picking up where the Ranger Missions left, the Surveyor Missions were designed with a slant towards the engineering that would be needed to complete a successful landing and take-off from the Moon. Through photography, they would also help isolate landing spots for the upcoming manned missions.
Surveyor 1 – A perfect landing, with 11,000 plus photographs taken. Surveyor 1 maintained contact with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory until 7 January 1967 (it landed on 30 May 1966).
Surveyor 3 – After landing, Surveyor 3 began digging on the surface of the Moon in view of its onboard camera.
Surveyor 5 – Landing with a helium regulator leak, Surveyor 5 would go on to outperform its ancestors.
Surveyor 6 – To better understand the reaction and traits of soil that is disturbed during a landing, Surveyor 6 moved 2.5 meters by performing a hopping maneuver after its initial landing and, by doing so, became the first spacecraft to lift-off from the Moon.
Surveyor 7 – A mostly scientific mission, Surveyor 7 investigated laser-pointing procedures by identifying lasers from Earth.

The goal of the Apollo Missions was to send humans to the Moon and return them home safely. The advancement of scientific knowledge during these missions was accomplished through various experiments including: soil mechanics, seismic, heat flow, lunar ranging, magnetic fields, and solar wind experiments. It should be noted that Apollo 13 was unable to complete its original mission of landing on the Moon due to an air canister explosion. However, the success of the mission to return the astronauts to Earth should also be considered.
Apollo 11 – The first human walked on the surface of the Moon. Apollo 11’s landing site was the Sea of Tranquility.
Apollo 12 – The second manned observation of the lunar surface. Apollo 12’s landing site was the Ocean of Storms.
Apollo 14 – Able to return a greater quantity of lunar material, Apollo 14’s mission objectives mirrored those of Apollo 13. Apollo 14’s landing site was the Fra Mauro highlands.
Apollo 15 – The lunar roving vehicle was first used. Apollo 15’s landing site was Hadley Rille.
Apollo 16 – Precise mapping photographs and the collections of lunar samples from 11 different sites marked the 71 hour lunar landing. Apollo 16’s landing site was Descartes.
Apollo 17 – The final mission of the Apollo program was also the longest with a 72 hour stay on the surface of the Moon. Apollo 17’s landing site was Taurus-Littrow.

16 January 2009

These industry leaders

In the Echo Lake section of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, on the far side of the lake from the 50’s Prime Time Café, sits the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. In this small out of the way courtyard are busts of fourteen of the most renowned leading lights of television. They have been honored for their, “outstanding contributions to the arts, sciences, and management of television,” each year since 1984.

Though the busts themselves are impressive, the back wall is lined with several plaques that include further lists of Hall of Fame inductees. Some of the more notable honorees not currently immortalized in bronze include: Lucille Ball, Rod Serling, Mary Tyler Moore, Johnny Carson, Jim Henson, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Barbara Walters, and Aaron Spelling, among others.

For their part, each of the members of the Hall of Fame, particularly the inductees celebrated in busts, are linked in one way or another to very special and specific memories in my life. For all of the members of the Hall of Fame that have touched my life, save Walt Disney, none have meant more to me than Alan Alda, whom I grew up watching with my father. The older I get, the more I wonder if my father, who spent time in Korea during Vietnam, saw, and still sees, a piece of himself in Alan Alda’s Hawkeye. Though I have admired the full body of his work, Alan Alda will forever be linked in my eyes to my father through Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce.