28 February 2009

Dead Eye Ledge

Last August, I was able to showcase a diagram of the Hawken, The Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade’s weapon of choice. Included with the Hawken document was a map of the proposed territory the Arcade would cover. At the time, I did not have the technical knowhow to be able to properly present the map on the Main Street Gazette. Today, with a little elbow grease, I am able to complete the set of documents.

The map included potential targets in addition to labeling the geographic features. Like the Hawken advertisement, this map was presented to park management by WED Florida in 1982 in order to encourage the redesign of the older, and potential harmful, Frontierland Shooting Gallery. While not all of the design elements featured here would be established in the final presentation of the Arcade, the spirit of the West was, and is, still invoked in the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade.

27 February 2009

C'mon 'n canoe...

Often, when the history of Fort Wilderness is discussed the longtime friends of the campground lament the loss of River Country, Discovery Island, and, of course, the Fort Wilderness Railroad. What is less often remembered or grieved for is the Marshmallow Marsh Canoe Excursion. Perhaps this amnesia is due to the presence of another, more central-located, campfire sing-a-long. It couldn’t hurt that this other production also included a classic Disney film.

The Marshmallow Marsh Canoe Excursion set out from the Meadow Trading Post Dock in canoes through Fort Wilderness’ meandering waterways, eventually pulling up to a campfire setting at the edge of Bay Lake. Along the way, like all gifted Disney host and hostesses, the canoe guide would offer little known facts about Walt Disney World, trivia questions, jokes, and a few well placed songs (such as the rarely remembered “Marshmallow Marsh Song,” which was easy to pick up as you went along as it was sung to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”). Once at the Marshmallow Marsh, guests were not only treated to a sing-a-long, but they also had an excellent viewing location for the Electrical Water Pageant and were able to view the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks (the predecessor to Wishes) before beginning the paddle home to the Meadow Trading Post Dock.

For a better idea of just where the canoes would lead you, here is a section of Fort Wilderness Resort map from 1978:Whether for drawing crowds away from the Meadow’s area sing-a-long and film, or because guests no longer wished to indulge in the physical activity of paddling to and from a sing-a-long, the Marshmallow Marsh Canoe Excursion was discontinued in the 1980s.

For a while, the area could still be seen from the Wilderness Swamp Trail which has, alas, also been mostly swallowed back up by the swamp and the wilderness. In what could be one of the last acknowledgments of this area, an event taking place at Fort Wilderness as part of the Disney Girl Scout Spirit Days is listed as the “Mystery of Marshmallow Marsh,” though the specific location(s) for this event are unknown.

As much as I would love to ride the rails around Fort Wilderness once, take a launch out to wildlife refuge, or visit the old swimmin’hole, I would be just as likely to jump at the chance to paddle down the river with a merry bunch of campfire enthusiasts.

26 February 2009


In April of 1989, Disney released the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park News, a publication aimed at making media outlets aware of the third gate that was opening at Walt Disney World on May 1. Inside the newspaper were articles on the attractions and experiences guest could encounter while on a real working studio lot. Articles included an annotated aerial photograph of the site still under construction, the Official Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Television Broadcasting in the United States, Mickey’s LiMOUSEine, Catastrophe Canyon, the Great Movie Ride, and plenty more.

With all of the content crammed into this twelve page broadsheet, one of the items that would be easy to overlook is the CelEARbrities. While in the modern era celebrity and character interactions are everyday occurrences and easily available on the internet for the curious, in 1989 locating an oft mentioned photo opportunity could mean scouring endless stacks of periodicals in search of the captured moment. In the bottom corner of one of the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park News pages sit photos of Mary Steenburgen, Julio Iglesias, George Michael, Robert Vaughn, and Patrick Duffy in the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, and Disney-MGM Studios with a veritable who’s who of Disney celebrity. Perhaps the most historical significant, or maybe just fondly remembered, is the image of Patrick Duffy with Future World Mickey and Goofy.We'll be taking a closer look at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park News throughout this spring as Disney-MGM Studios/Disney’s Hollywood Studios approaches the celebration of its two decades of Hollywood magic.

25 February 2009

My countrymen

In late 2007 when I was able to spend a few days in Disneyland as part of my honeymoon, my first and only trip to date to the original park, I was disheartened by the number of attractions I had been anticipating that were either down for refurbishment (Alice in Wonderland and it’s a small world), totally redone (Tom Sawyer Island), or had been “temporarily” displaced. The latter category relates an attraction that is near to my heart for a myriad of reasons, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

Today, however, we get word that Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln will be returning to Disneyland. To buy-in to this year’s theme, this is indeed cause for celebration. Read the entire press release over at The Disney Blog.

The building blocks for the future up ahead

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about where I want the Main Street Gazette to go, how I’ve gotten to where I’ve gotten, and where I started from (For those of you who know my narratives’ lengths can know no bounds, don’t worry, this isn’t that article). I’ve done a lot of reading, writing, questioning, and conversing since this all started. I’ve also taken more than my fair share of photographs.

Today, I thought it would be nice to take a step back, in time and in seriousness, and look at some of the pictures from the Main Street Gazette’s first “research trip.” This trip happened in September/October of 2007 and was also the last trip before my wedding with my dad.

24 February 2009

Cultural studies

Something has been weighing heavily on my mind since my trip to Walt Disney World in January. I have avoided discussing it because I couldn’t offer a feasible solution to the problem I encountered. When I stumbled upon one, I thought I would share some discomfort with you, the readers, and present an idea (blue sky as it may be) whose time I believe has come.The event in question started rather innocuously, as I made a mental note that I wanted to attend one of the Cultural Studies sessions of Harambe School that morning. For those of you who are unaware of Harambe School, it is a small stand with several benches in a shaded area between Kilimanjaro Safaris and the Wildlife Express in Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Africa. Harambe School offers several presentations (such as those on the schedule below) throughout the day. These classes are comprised of relatively small gatherings which can lead to very impactful exchanges between the Cast Members and Guests.

On this particular morning, a young woman was presenting a dialogue on her home country of Botswana. Aside from myself, there were only five people at this particular class. I should mention that sitting in on an early session was originally part of my strategy, as I figured I would be able to really become part of an in depth discussion since most Guests were still occupied with Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, Finding Nemo the Musical, and Dinosaur. Of the other five people, three sat in the front row bench constructing sandwiches as the Cast Member prepared, the other two sat near a speaker and were sipping their hot beverages. Coming prepared with food, I thought, was an excellent idea that I hadn’t thought of and began to feel pangs of hunger. This is, of course, where things went sideways.

As the presentation began the group at the front carried on their conversation with one another as if the young woman was not even there. The pair by the speaker suddenly seemed disgruntled about the fact that they were having to sit so near a speaker and carried on drinking their drinks and ignoring the session in a rather annoyed manner. Both parties carried on like this for the duration of the program.

I cannot begin to express just how gut-wrenching it was to try and watch this woman speak about her homeland with such a disregard for her story and presence happening all around her. It took everything I had to not speak up and tell these Guests that they needed to quiet down or move along. Mostly, I believe that I just didn’t want to add to the disruption. But it left a knot in my stomach that hasn’t left yet, it creeps in every time I think about that morning.

I understand the problem, this small courtyard classroom provides a few shade-covered benches and Disney’s Animal Kingdom does not offer a vast variety of creature comforts, such as air-conditioned places to rest. This makes these benches a prime target for overheated Guests. The program, I feel, needs a new venue, because it is simply too valuable a resource to lose.

Where and how it could go forward in a productive manner was a thought that plagued me. The answer as it turned out was right in front of me. A couple of weeks ago Lou Mongello and I discussed the World Showcase That Never Was on the WDW Radio Show. We spent a good deal of time discussing the Equatorial Africa pavilion that never saw the light of day. In the end, we reasoned we would presumably never see this pavilion built in Epcot because of Africa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. A light should have gone off then, but I stumbled right on by my answer only to come back around to it this weekend while relating details of my last trip to some family members last week.EPCOT Center’s Equatorial Africa would have created two new shows, “Africa Revisited” and “The Heartbeat of Africa.” “Africa Revisited” would, “tell the story of the various kingdoms and civilizations of Equatorial Africa.” Meanwhile “The Heartbeat of Africa” would, “trace the history of Equatorial Africa… through the eyes of a traditional griot, or storyteller.” With a little editing, these two concepts could easily be brought together to tell a single cohesive narrative of Equatorial Africa and placed within the borders of Harambe. While Harambe is never hurting for traffic, it is hurting for attraction. Currently Kilimanjaro Safaris, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, and the Wildlife Express are the only active attraction in Africa.

Circling back around to Harambe School, a program such as “The Heartbeat of Africa Revisited” would require a substantive preshow. Harambe School would be able to keep a schedule similar to the one presented now by posting it in a fashion not unlike The Seas’ Duty Roster. This would not only allow a more responsive audience access to this wonderful underappreciated exhibition, but it would also allow Africa a quiet place in the shade for rest and rebooting.

Though I am fully aware that a project like this is extremely unlikely, especially in the current economical climate, I feel that ideas like these, projects that inject not only new attractions but new interactions, are the cornerstones by which Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been most successful at spreading its message. As the park continues to grow and thrive, it will be developments such as these that will flourish and continue to make Disney’s Animal Kingdom a worthwhile destination.

23 February 2009

No refunds, exchanges or returns

It has been a very long weekend here at the Gazette offices. I imagine for some of you out there, like myself, are finding it difficult to get going this morning. Whether you had an amazing weekend or a rough weekend, coffee just isn’t going to cut it this morning. So, let’s do something creative this morning to get those juices flowing.I have recently been stricken by the Vinylmation Park Series 1 bug and I am currently seeking to piece together a collection. For more information on what in the world I am talking about, check out this Vinylmation page.

As I look at the patterns and figures created by artists such as Celeste Cronrath, Kyle Price, and Lisa Badeen I began thinking of what I would like to see in a Vinylmation Park Series 2. I sketched out a few things and then remembered I lost what little art skill I had years ago, but with a few descriptive words (of which I am not at a loss for) I thought I give you my ideas of a series design.

Kitchen Kabaret Broccoli
Tower of Terror Bellhop
Mr. Toad
Spaceship Earth Pattern
Maleficent Dragon from Fantasmic!
Pixie Dust in a Night Sky
Norway Troll
Tree of Life carvings
Skyway Bucket (Blue)
PUSH (The mobile talking trash can)
Chaser: Window from Sleeping Beauty Castle (Front)/Window from Cinderella Castle (Back)

These are my ideas, now, to get going on a Monday morning, I’d like to see some of the ideas some of you have for a Vinylmation figure. Make it one figure or an entire series, put create something and add it to the comments section. But remember, the Series 1 figures included designs from past and present attractions, characters, motifs, artist interpretations, and figures that reached across from Walt Disney World and Disneyland to the Disney Cruise Line.

For those of you still fighting off the grogginess of a Monday, this should spark those synapses. As for those of you out there who woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, well, this should be simple for you, shouldn’t it?

22 February 2009

The Tastiest Eats and Treats This Side of the Rio Grande

As you read this, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe should be working its way through its first weekend of operation after a month long refurbishment. In honor of Pecos Bill, and the best fixins bar on property, today’s Back Issues takes a look at the story of Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. Located just inside one of the many entrances to the restaurant are two documents, the Code of the West and The Tastiest Eats and Treats This Side of the Rio Grande, the latter of which we bring to you here today.

Considered by many as the meanest, toughest, roughest cowboy of them all, Pecos Bill has been credited for inventing all things Western, from rodeos to cowboy dancing, to spurs, hats and lassoes. He can draw faster, shoot straighter and ride a horse harder than any man alive. Unfortunately, we don’t know when and where he was born, just that he was raised by coyotes and that his name covers from the river in Texas. Over the years Pecos Bill along with his trusty horse, Widowmaker, have made quite a name for themselves forging new trails and taming others. Legend tells us several tall tales like the time Pecos Bill jumped on a powerful twister and rode it like a bucking bronco. Then there was the time when Pecos Bill dug out a path to create the Rio Grande river during a severe drought that hit his beloved Texas. And then there was the day Pecos Bill was so bored he took his handy six-shooter and shot out all of the stars in the sky except for one. That’s why they call Texas the “Lone Star State.” In 1878, with the encouragement of his friends, Pecos Bill decided to open his own restaurant whose motto very much reflects its one-of-a-kind owner. “The tastiest eats and treats this side of the Rio Grande.” Pecos Bill called it the Tall Tale Inn and Cafe and it quickly became a popular hangout for some of his legendary friends. As time went by, it became a tradition when each friend paid a visit they would leave something behind for Pecos Bill to remember them by. As you can see from the articles and artifacts that don the walls, many of which carry inscriptions, Pecos Bill had some mighty impressive friends. Seems that every trail eventually led to the Tall Tale Inn and Cafe.

21 February 2009

Sortie vers

Off to the right on France’s La Promenade is a small arcade. Passing through the arcade, which is flanked on either side by boutiques, a quiet park offers a chance to partake in one of France’s most essential activities, stopping to soak in the place and people. Though this park looks very little like a typical quay, a riverside platform for loading and unloading of docks, this is how the area is identified. Although, living in the French life for a moment, if the long way round is taken, it will eventually lead to the International Gateway complete with its own quay.Back in the arcade, however, we are offered two paths, “Sortie vers le Quai” and “Sortie vers la Promenade.” In English these translate to “Exit towards the Quay” and “Exit towards Promenade” (Sortie vers la Promenade more accurately translates to Exit towards the Way, but is ignored because of the proper street name). From an architectural standpoint, these exits offer a beautiful insight into a particular view and period in French architecture. Designed to emulate the Paris Metropolitain, or subway, entrances created by Hector Guimard in the late nineteenth-century, are a perfect example of the French Art Nouveau style of architecture. These porticos blend iron and glass into a single monument dedicated to the elegance of a bygone era.Take a moment to examine the delicate detailing created in these arches the next time you are wondering slowly through France in the way of the French, living life with a measured and deliberate pace.

20 February 2009

The world you create

I am a firm believer in finding a way to share or create a little magic every day. This is not specific to Disney. That is to say that simply making a co-worker smile with a well-placed compliment is more than enough to consider yourself a good person or magic-maker. However, where Disney is concerned, I think there is always some way of sharing that magic with someone on a daily basis, or finding a shelter in the storm for yourself by adding something Disney related to your day.

Here is today’s entry:

Using the often underappreciated form of blocks, this is my Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Now some might argue that adding a bit of Disney to a preschool teacher’s day is easy, there is a catalogue of music to pull from, I can create 2-D magnetic representations of Spaceship Earth, and every child knows Cinderella, Nemo, and Lightning. These criticisms are all true enough, but what about the background loops from the parks and resorts? How many people tuck themselves away in their offices a play the Frontierland loop as they work on a report? Perhaps the more appropriate question is how many of us could be listening who aren’t?

All it takes is thinking outside of the box a little. Have a meeting coming up and have to send out the usual memo? Instead, grab a handful of Pirates of the Caribbean party invitations and send them in the memos’ stead. Lou Mongello’s Walt Disney World Trivia Calendar is also a way to put a little Disney into your day. On your next trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, pick up some extra postcards and bring them home with you. Then, when you are going to have a particularly long week at work, send a postcard to yourself. Trust me, if you are as busy as I am at work, you’ll forget that you sent it to yourself before it arrives. Better yet, give them to a friend/co-worker/family member and ask them to send them to your office randomly with notes of encouragement. Put on a stylized Mickey Mouse tie, wear a pin somewhere discreet, or whistle while you work.

Work is not, by its very nature, supposed to be fun. But who is to say that by choosing your attitude everyday you can’t have fun at work, can’t make work fun for others, and can’t bring a bit of your passion with you to work?

Scream escaping

I have been known from time to time to bask in the ever-present glow of Monsters Inc. and their collective comedy stylings. In fact, my favorite Princess pointed my Monster mania out this week over at her terrific site,DF’82, while sharing her own fantastic Monsters Inc. detail from the West Coast.

Perhaps it is time to take another look at the monster world. This time, we’ll take our cue from the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor queue. Containing a monster vending machine as well as various bulletin boards and posters, the employee area of the Laugh Floor seems very much like any workplace, only slightly skewed.Here, what appears to be a standard OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is actually a safety poster from MOSHA (Monster Occupational Safety and Health Concerns). While SCREAM ESCAPING may seem a bit out of place, concerns over radiation, poison, heat, electric, and fire could all appear on posters on our side of the door too. However, upon further inspection, the Monster Occupational Safety & Hazard Poster offers up some terrifyingly terrific insights into the mindset of Mostropolis:
POISON - …Not to be enjoyed as a beverage.
FIRE - …Use extreme caution if covered with over 40% body hair; hair loss may occur.
MAXIMUM LABOR/MINIMUM WAGE - …with additional scaring encouraged as required…

19 February 2009

Tusk marks and footprints

My first experience with elephants was in a small compound at a local zoo when I was about five or six. In this setting I was able to ride the elephant in a brief circle for a couple of dollars. Since that time, I have grown to have a profound respect for the animal and have reached the conclusion that I would never allow myself, or a member of my family, to ride on an elephant. This may seem like splitting hairs since, in the long and storied history of the elephant, certain species have been used as pack animals. Yet, in my view of the world, using an elephant for a purpose such as transportation through a dense jungle is as far from giving preschoolers a ride around a circle day-in and day-out as going 200 mph on the interstate in your car is from closed course NASCAR racecar drivers.At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, African Elephants can come so close to your safari vehicle that you could smell the earth on their skin. While they are in their natural environment, these creatures are free to wander about their spacious savannah home. In addition to their habitat, Disney’s Animal Programs have been instrumental in research and raising awareness about elephants, their gifts, their dilemmas, and their lifestyles. From communication among the females, to the four African Elephants born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and even their work in the field of population growth and control of the elephants in North America and Africa, Disney’s Animal Programs have worked tirelessly for the cares and causes of these creatures.The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the organization through which Disney’s Animal Kingdom is accredited, maintains a Standard for Elephant Management and Care. Detailed in this fourteen page document is everything from minimum space requirements, group requirements, diet, to staff training. Under the Safety section, the AZA makes the following distinction, “In the interest of safety, AZA strongly encourages members to discontinue public elephant rides.” Going one step further, a 2008 St. Petersburg Times article, in response to elephant rides, stated, “The AZA strongly discourages elephant rides for safety reasons and because they detract from the dignity of the animal.”At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests can experience as close to a living safari as one will receive outside of a true African veldt. The majesty of the animals found within the borders of Kilimanjaro Safaris is preserved because of Disney’s commitment to the animals it serves. A commitment that brings new life into the world and new life into the causes of the animals, like the African Elephant.

18 February 2009

Passamaquoddy: The tribes have spoken

In case you haven’t been following the events of Survivor: Passamaquoddy, the first rounds of eliminations were this weekend, and this intrepid reporter was one of the three castaways to have their flames extinguished. It is okay though, I enjoy having time to wander around in Passamaquoddy. Not being particularly prone to seafood, I found a great hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant where I picked up not only some juicy carnitas, but a juicy story from the set that I cannot wait to share with the readers, but deadlines being what they are, that will have to wait…

Just about ready to hit the track

When World of Motion closed officially in January of 1996, the general public was told that the General Motors sponsored attraction was gone for good, but that within 19 months, a brand new thrill attraction would be coming to Epcot. Yet, when August of 1997 rolled around, the doors were still shuttered to the new Test Track. After all of the testing and track building of Test Track was completed, the attraction was finally opened to the public in December of 1998, more than a year behind schedule.

Perhaps to playfully acknowledge the delay in opening or as a marker to the attractions storied history, support beams such as the one pictured on the right stand along Test Track's exterior. Broken down, the serial number stands for Test Track (TT), 1997 (97), Walt Disney World (WDW), and the designated position of the pole (48).

17 February 2009

We're gonna take you flying

In May Disney’s Hollywood Studios will celebrate its twentieth birthday. Though, to be fair, for a majority of its life the park was known as Disney-MGM Studios (Due to the timeframe in which this article is set the park will be addressed as Disney-MGM Studios for the remainder of the article). An often lamented characteristic of the park was the fact that for so many years the park was an actual working studio. Films, feature animation, television shows, commercials, and even radio programming were all produced at the Studios beginning in 1988, a full year before the park would open.One of the most interesting set pieces that was located at Disney-MGM Studios during the park’s early life was Delta Air Lines’ aircraft motion picture set. The set began life as a test plane of the Lockheed L-1011 aircraft. Delta’s search for the perfect plane for their set ran from Southern California to Oklahoma, where the plane was found on an abandoned military airstrip. At the time, the plane was owned by an aviation salvage dealer who had planned to sell the aircraft off in pieces. Delta purchased the front 65 feet section of fuselage, a section that covered the nose cone all the way to where the wings should begin, and transported the section in three parts to Atlanta. After an extensive refurbishment in Atlanta, which included paint, chairs, electrical systems, and a frame to support the three separate pieces of the fuselage, the completed set was moved to its soundstage home at Disney-MGM Studios.

At this point, it wouldn’t be a far-fetched idea to ask why Delta would have wanted to create such a set when they had plenty of planes at their disposal. The set allowed the two cabin sections to be pulled apart, allowing access to angles that were never before obtainable due to the constraints a normal plane presents. The available space created by the fuselage separation also relieved the cramped factor of normal aircraft filming. Additionally, aside from the cost associated with filming any type of advertisement or film sequence, Delta also incurred the cost and hassle of removing an operational airplane from an active flight schedule.

This new set, aside from actually being able to fly, was authentic in every detail. Seats could recline (weather the cabin was set for coach, first class, or both), the gallery was fully operational, tray tables could be returned to their upright position, audio headsets were functioning, the cockpit’s gauges, switches, and instrumentation all functioned and could be made to simulate actual flying conditions, and the set even had an Air Fone telephone. Another plus to the filming community, the windows of the aircraft were only seven feet off of the ground, as opposed to the thirty feet mark an airplane’s windows usually sat off of the ground. With all of these details included, Delta could use the set for promotional images, instructional films, and commercials. When not in use by Delta, the airline set could be use rented by the day, week, or month for filming purposes.

Delta loves to fly and it shows, but they also loved to film, and their dedication to providing such a quality set showed off that love as well.

16 February 2009

Human-Cyborg relations

Like every child who hoped to find that shiny new speeder bike under the Christmas tree, I was a child of the Star Wars, and as immediately in love with the Star Tours attraction when it opened at Disney-MGM Studios in December of 1989.Originally named Endor Vendors, with an exterior that resembled the bunker form Return of the Jedi, the Star Wars shop was renamed Tatooine Traders and opened with a new façade in 1999. The store was now able to visually bridge the gap not only between the original Star Wars Trilogy (AT-AT from The Empire Strikes Back, Ewok Village from Return of the Jedi, and Tatooine from A New Hope) but also between the two trilogies, as the set piece indicate this Tatooine set is from Mos Espa, Anakin Skywalker’s boyhood home. The new exterior also featured the name ‘Tatooine Traders,’ in not only standard English but also in Aurebesh, a font/language commonly used in the Star Wars Universe.

For those of you wishing to create and send your own messages via droids about the impending ambush at the moon of Endor, the Main Street Gazette is proud to provide you with this translation sheet. We look forward to translating whatever surveillance intelligence you can send our way!

Happy painting

Bob Ross was born 29 October 1942 in Daytona Beach, Florida. While he was best known for his snow-covered mountains, cabins, and happy trees, his roots would occasional show through.

When speaking about his paintings, Bob Ross generally spoke about the mountains in the west and the time he spent in Alaska. Yet, during the thirteenth series of The Joy of Painting, he put together a gorgeous swamp scene entitled “Emerald Waters.” During the piece’s creation, he stated, “I was born in Daytona Beach, and lived around Orlando most of my life. And back in those days people thought Orlando would never amount to anything but just a swamp, and now it’s one of the most fantastic cities in Florida. And Disney World is there, and it’s a super place to go now.”

Bob Ross was one of those shows that no matter where I lived, I always tried to find a way to watch or record it every week. As for “Emerald Waters,” I cannot count the number of times I stumbled across a similar scene during my backwoods adventures growing up in Central Florida.

Bob Ross eventually returned to Florida, where he passed away in July of 1995, but his paintings, catch-phrases, and calming nature live on for future generations to enjoy and learn from.

15 February 2009

We go on

MouseFest is going through a lot of changes. Not only has the number of participants grown in leaps and bounds every year, but the needs for all of those various guests has also grown exponentially. All of this has had some dramatic effects for MouseFest going forward, as is evident by the email the MouseFest Executive Committee released this afternoon. The entirety of which can be read at MouseFest.org.

There are two pieces of this press release that I wanted to address here: The stepping down of Dave Marx as the MouseFest Chairman and the 2009 hiatus of MouseFest.

First, and foremost, allow me to offer my deepest gratitude to Dave Marx. I may not have been able to attend every MouseFest, but the tireless work and effort he has put into this event is far above and beyond what could be asked of any of us. Thank you for all you have done for us Dave!

As for MouseFest being on hiatus for this coming winter, I can only say I am optimistic at what the future holds for the event, and appreciate everything (both out front and behind the scenes) that the Executive Committee has done for us in the past. I am sure 2010 will knock all of our socks off.

The MouseFest Executive Committee has given its blessing of a sort to the continued travel of the community and of events that gather us together this coming December, even though MouseFest will not officially be taking place. In the spirit of everything that makes MouseFest and the Disney community great, the Main Street Gazette will be in Walt Disney World during what was originally scheduled to be the MouseFest Land dates. Additionally, on at least one of the dates, the Main Street Gazette will be hosting a gathering/event/shared experience of some sort. I hope to see all of you there as well!

Crafts of the Kingdoms

Though over the years much of the merchandise available in Walt Disney World has become more marketing-driven, there are still the lost corners and dying arts that can be found throughout property. Silhouettes can still be obtained in Liberty Square, as well as a few other tucked away locations, painstakingly detailed glass can be obtained on Main Street U.S.A., and in Epcot's Mexico cornsilk flowers never wilt. Traditional art forms are still highly valued, where it can be found, in Walt Disney World.

Today's Back Issues takes us back to the Spring of 1983, when Anne Coppinger gave us a glimpse into the fine arts available at Walt Disney World, as well as Disneyland, in her Disney News article, Crafts of the Kingdoms.

No doubt about it – the popular interest in crafts is thriving. Craft fairs and classes instructing novices in the creation of various handicrafts abound. Perhaps the notion that handmade items are more valuable than those that are mass-produced is rooted deep in a nostalgia for simpler times, but whatever the reason, the fact remains – people have fallen in love with that which is handmade.

While some folks travel far and wide to search for craft items, Disney aficionados will be delighted to discover that their quest leads them to places dear to their hearts – Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Shops in each amusement kingdom stock crafts from literally every corner of the globe, and in several instances artisans are on hand to demonstrate the skills necessary to create their specialties.

What follows is a quick guide to the places where crafts and craftsmen are found on the Disney premises. The list is not cast in bronze, however, for exact inventories vary from time to time. But there's always sure to be an abundant cache of crafts to satisfy the most dedicated of collectors.

It's All American
Booty from the Americas is particularly rich, reflecting the diverse heritages of the peoples of both the Northern and Southern continents. The American Indian nations contribute distinctive jewelry:

Navajo pieces inlaid with turquoise chunks, shimmering all-silver Hopi pieces, and Zuni rings and pins inlaid with turquoise and red and white stones. Sand paintings and blankets, totems and baskets, kachina dolls and realistic tom-toms round out the native American selection (Indian Trading Posts, DL).

Revere-style bowls in silver and silver plate, looking as if Paul Revere, the master silversmith himself, had crafted them, remind shoppers of our country's early years (Silversmith, WDW). The one-of-a-kind handmade dolls depicting personalities of bygone days – for example, elegant Victorian women, pottery vendors, chimney sweeps, and peddlers – are definitely worth a peek (Heritage House, WDW). Rural America is recalled in cozy quilts, carved decoys, and apple-head and corn-husk dolls (Ursus H. Bear's Wilderness Outpost, DL). Modern do-it-yourselfers are not forgotten; they can buy stitchery and needlepoint kits as well as supplies for macramé, quilting, and latch-hook rug making (Great Southern Craft Company, WDW Village).

From our Canadian neighbors to the north come smooth soapstone pieces sculpted by Inuit artisans, supple mocassins [sic], and other leather leather goods, while festive Mexican piñatas, papier-mache figurines, pottery in blacks, blues, and ochres, and mother-of-pearl jewelry give guests a feeling for south-of-the-border wares (Mexican Village, DL; Port of Entry, WDW).

A Worldwide Endeavor
The buyers who comb the world's markets for unusual crafts don't confine themselves to North and South America. Many of the crafts of Europe have found a common home in Epcot Center at Walt Disney World. Pottery and baskets right out of old Italian marketplaces can be found in Arcata D'Artigiani. And the Volkskunst Clocks and Craft shop resounds with the call of cuckoo birds.

The shelves of the import shops in both Magic Kingdoms are stocked with crafts of still more distant origins. From China's craftsmen there are hand-gilded copper plates engraved using the Chokin method (originally used to decorate Samurai warriors' helmets), jade jewelry, and delicate cloisonné items (Oriental Imports, WDW; Adventureland Bazaar, DL). The Mitsukoshi shop in Epcot Center has devoted a section to traditional Japanese crafts, and shoppers may find lacquer screens, carvings, kimonos, and fans among the wares. From Africa there are colorful dashikis, wooden combs and other jewelry, and carved antelopes, giraffes, zebras, and other veldt creatures (Traders of Timbuktu, WDW; Adventureland Bazaar, DL).

Men And Women At Work
In addition to buying craft items, guests at the parks can actually see many artisans at work. In Walt Disney World Village, a potter works at his wheel, spinning blobs of clay into beautiful pots (Pottery Chalet); a leathersmith hand-tools belts, handbags, and accessories and a jewelry maker crafts silver wonders (Great Southern Craft Company); and an artisan makes Damascene jewelry and plates (Toledo Arts). This skill, highly developed by the ancient residence of Damascus, is the art of inlaying gold or silver threads on metal objects; it is also demonstrated in the Arts and Crafts shop (DL) and at The King's Gallery (WDW).

There are still other marvels to behold. Wax hardens into candles before your eyes (Holiday Corner, WDW), black paper is snipped into likenesses of guests' profiles (Silhouette Studio, DL; The Shadow Box, WDW), and glass is blown into horses, pianos, and castles (Arts and Crafts, DL; Crystal Arts, WDW). There are even plans to have German artists come to Epcot Center several times during the year to paint Hummel figurines (Glas Und Porzellan).

14 February 2009

Every rock and tree

The tree is a source of life. It shades us from the sun, offers us shelter from the elements, and nourishes us with its fruits. Trees are more abundant inside of Disney's Animal Kingdom than in any other park that comprises Walt Disney World. Not just the iconic Tree of Life or the trees whose canopies cover the walkways, but also in symbolisms found throughout the park, from lanterns to stage pieces.

The most often tread upon use of the tree is also one of the least known. Set into the entrance pavement, from the tram gates to the park entrance and, a tree grows with each step we take towards the Oasis. It is hard to see, or photograph, the pattern since it runs across the baggage check, various planters, and the ticket booths. Thankfully, Google Earth gives us the perfect vantage points for these aerial wonders.

The next time you are walking towards the Oasis, the parks dramatic break from the outside world, tread carefully and take notice of one of the more subtle messages in the park.

13 February 2009

How do you get to Wonderland

During 2008's Fall season, specifically during the festivities of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the quiet walkway from the backside of Tomorrowland to Mickey's Toontown Fair was transformed into a walk through Wonderland. Banners showcasing favorite characters were hung from the lampposts, while flower and card cut-outs dotted the grassy clearing. Considering the Mad Tea Party covers the main corner between Tomorrowland Mickey's Toontown Fair, this walkway gave fans of Alice in Wonderland a couple of great photo-ops and a little life to a mostly desolate area of the Magic Kingdom.