31 October 2009

Characters you love to hate

Today is the day when children dress up and collect candy from their neighbors, local festivals, or organized trick or treating programs. It is also a day for adults to let go of themselves for a little while and become someone, or something, else. Heroes and villains alike are fair-play for our play.At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the American Film Institute has a display showcasing the props and costumes of some of film’s greatest villains of all times. Arriving across space and time, these knaves and enchantresses have sent shivers down our spines for years, but they seem rather harmless, and full of style, tucked away behind their glass cases.

30 October 2009

Sea scout

Many people, myself included, have been ecstatic over the news coming out of yesterday’s Disney Cruise Line presentation of the Disney Dream. One of the highlights coming out of the announcement was the water rollercoaster, the AquaDuck, guests will be able to experience.

This isn’t the first time this name has appeared around Disney, however. The Art of Disney stores feature a series of art pieces by Mike Kungl where characters are given a comic book persona. Mickey Mouse is the courageous Captain M, while Donald is the daring Aqua Duck!

Check yourself into the Laugh Floor

The Monster Inc. Laugh Floor has had some mixed reviews in the human world, but in Monstropolis it is the show to see, or the second show to see depending on who you ask. One of the many Monsters Inc. office bulletin boards includes reviews of the new show. From medical professionals, to the local paper, Monsters Inc. employees, and even Mike Wazowski’s parents have something to say on the matter. Here are a few of my favorite reviews:
Dr. Harvey Furrystein“If laughter is the best medicine, then check yourself into the Laugh Floor and you’ll feel better. If not, then call me and I’ll write you a prescription for something stronger.”

Unknown (Signed with a blot) – “I laughed my head off. Literally. If found, please return my head to Monsters Inc. lost and found. Thank you.”

The Daily Glob“If you see only one show this year, see My Scare Lady. But if you see two shows, then you should check out The Laugh Floor.”

Of course, this back and forth notes of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Wazowski, Mike’s parents, is priceless!
Mrs. Lawrence Wazowski“Mike Wazowski is the funniest son I ever had.”
Mr. Lawrence Wazowski“Mike Wazowski is the only son you ever had!”
Mrs. Lawrence Wazowski“Are you saying he’s not funny?”
Mr. Lawrence Wazowski“He’s hilarious. I’m very proud of him. Now what’s for dinner?”

29 October 2009

Believe in our wishes

Water is not an uncommon sight within the parks and resorts of Walt Disney World. From rides to waterways, to gentle streams and lagoons, water plays an important role in sustaining the parks growth, animals, and sense of animation. Some of the most gorgeous water features to be found on property are the various fountains and wells found scattered throughout the parks, recreational areas, and resorts.A longstanding pastime for well-gazers is the wishing upon a coin and tossing it into the water. Some prefer not to see the coin land, while others try to make as big a splash as possible or skip the coin across the water, the heart of the experience is taking a wish from deep down inside and setting it free.Once the coins are gone from your hand and settled to the bottom of the well, pond, or fountain, the wishes are carried with guests and the coin is almost immediately forgotten about, but that does not stop them from making a difference. A wishing coin that gave a desire hope also brings a different kind of hope to others. From Disney Hand, the global outreach branch of the Disney Company, to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, these coins have made a difference in the lives of children, families, animals, charitable organizations, conservation programs, and a multitude of other groups throughout the world.While many of us don’t carry much change with us when visiting Walt Disney World these days, unless we’re on a collision course with the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade or a pressed penny machine, it is important to remember just how far carrying a few coins in our pockets can go. A coin, and some properly placed water, can give a heart’s wish wings and can make someone else’s dreams come true.

28 October 2009

WDFM - December Schedule

The Walt Disney Family Museum has released its December calendar, and just as the winter holidays bring with them warm feelings, treasured moments, and wondrous gifts, so too does this schedule. Between the musical magic of string quartets and candlelight carols, the images and stories of Walt Disney and family at Christmas, and the continuing conversations with Disney Legends, it is hard to decide which event isn’t perfect for the Disney enthusiast in your life.



December 12th - String Circle Quartet
4:00pm, Special Exhibition Hall, 122 Riley Avenue

tickets available online at www.waltdisney.org

Concerts in our Special Exhibition Hall continue to shine light on composers of Fantasia with Schubert’s String Quartet in G. Henry Purcell’s delightful Suite from The Faery Queen—a bit of musical fantasy—is also performed. Joseph Edelberg, Anthony Martin, and Kati Kyme, violins, and Thalia Moore, cello.

December 19th and 20th - Artists’ Vocal Ensemble Concert: A Candlelight Christmas
4:00pm, Special Exhibition Hall, 122 Riley Avenue

tickets available online at www.waltdisney.org

Nothing is more magical than a choir performing classic Christmas songs and carols. Our candlelight program will include European Renaissance motets and carols, contemporary American carols and anthems, and an audience sing-along led by Jonathan Dimmock.


Film of the Month: Christmas with Walt Disney
Christmas with Walt Disney runs until January 4
12:30pm, 3:30pm, 6:30pm, Theater (except Tuesdays, December 25, January 1, and December 5th at 12:30pm and 3:30pm)

tickets available online at www.waltdisney.org

This special holiday screening includes The Nutcracker Suite from Fantasia (1940), Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952), scenes from the television Christmas specials, and rarely seen home movies of Walt and his family. See how Walt celebrated Christmas at the Studio, at Disneyland, and at home.


December 5th - Memories of Walt: A Conversation with Legends
2:00pm, Theater

tickets available online at www.waltdisney.org

Join us on Walt’s birthday as we hear from Disney Legends Blaine Gibson, Rolly Crump, and Richard Sherman as they share special memories of Walt. Blaine is the sculptor behind the Hall of Presidents, Rolly is one of the Imagineers behind “It’s a Small World” and “Haunted Mansion” and Richard wrote such Disney music classics as “It’s a Small World” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. It will be an extraordinary afternoon filled with stories, laughter, and reflection.

December 25th – Christmas Day
Museum is closed

Season's Greetings

Members of D23 have begun receiving their latest issues of twenty-three today. As with previous issues, a small token from the Walt Disney Archives Collection is also included. This time, members received a replica of Walt Disney’s 1932 greeting card, featuring a preview image of the Silly Symphony Season’s Greetings. The card, originally sent to Baron Siroon Missakian and his wife, and former Laugh-O-gram Films employee, Nadine, includes Walt’s signature and personal message: “My Regards + Best Wishes”

An inspiring sight

If you have been following the Gazette for any length of time, then you know I am a fan of the artwork of Christi Bunn. Her drawings cast the structures and pavilions in such a unique light, and in a medium not often used in Disney art pieces, that you are immediately drawn into them. While her subject matter is vast, both involving Disney and subjects beyond the Disney’s borders, she captures the essence of World Showcase’s pavilions unlike any other.I could spend a lot of time in World Showcase, especially in the corner that includes Japan, Morocco, and France. I don’t know if it is the food, the romantic atmosphere of these countries (after all, Japan and France were featured in the romantic scene of Delta’s Dreamflight), or the amazing style of gardens and architecture that draws me in, perhaps it is all of the above, but I could wander these three pavilions all day.

Recently, Christi ran a contest on her site for one of her prints and I was lucky enough to win the Morocco print seen above. It is a fantastic addition to the many pieces of Disney art, pictures, paper, props, and souvenirs that adorn the walls in my office. In fact, even though nothing Disney is supposed to leave my office, my wife is considering hanging it in the living room.

Now, if I can only complete the trifecta with Japan and France…

27 October 2009

All it Takes is Faith and Trust: Life with the Boy Who Never Grew Up

I have said time and again that I could never do what I do without the infinite understanding and constant propelling of my wife, Aileen. This statement becomes truer with each and every day. Two years ago today we were married, and while I usually use my soapbox to proclaim how lucky I am to have her as my partner on this day, this year I thought it would be interesting to turn the reigns over to her. What is it like to live with me? Here is her biased, and probably somewhat forgiving, take on life with the Gazette’s Editor-In-Chief.
All it Takes is Faith and Trust: Life with the Boy Who Never Grew Up
By Aileen Sheehan-Wilson

Good morning readers of The Main Street Gazette. I assume this article is going to be posted around 9:00 a.m. eastern time, since my husband is nothing if not dedicated to getting the faithful readers of the Gazette their morning Disney fix. Unfortunately, your article today will not be filled with amazing Disney history or photos that you would have never thought to catch on your own. Instead, I am interrupting your regularly scheduled programming so that I can give you a glimpse of what it is like to live with this particular lover of all things Disney.

What brought this on you say? Why would the Editor-in-Chief hand over the reins on a random Tuesday in October? Well, as I am sure he has already stated in his opener to this article, it is our 2 year wedding anniversary today and I believe he thought it was time to hear what the other half of his household thinks about his complete dedication to bringing you new and interesting information about Walt Disney World and other parts of the Disney company.

If you have ever met me or seen Ryan and I interact, you would know that I spend a good portion of my day picking on him and loudly complaining that I know more about Walt Disney World than any one person should, especially one that had no interest in the parks 5 years ago. This may lead you to believe I dislike Walt Disney World or that I am annoyed that I have been forced to attend yet another trip to the parks but that is definitely not the case. Please note that I only pick on him for three reasons: I love him, he deserves it (don’t let him fool you, he picks on me all of the time) and because secretly I enjoy all of our Disney trips, even the ones where he spends most of his time taking photos of sidewalks, restrooms and out of the way signs. I even act as his assistant, helping him figure out what photos to take and what parks to visit each day. I may be exhausted when we return and complain that I will never do the 10 hour drive again, but to be honest, it is worth it. All of the effort is worth it because of the passion and respect he has for Walt Disney’s vision of a place that families can enjoy together.

Overall, I like to think of myself as Ryan’s grounding force, reminding him that although it is important to know what Walt Disney World was like in 1973, it is also important to take time out and enjoy the life he has around him. However, if I am Ryan’s grounding force, he is the one who has taught me to fly. He constantly reminds me that it is not always about being logical but instead about having faith and trust in the people around me and in the future. Without that, I have to say, I would be living a life with little excitement even less laughter.

So, to answer the question “What is it like living with Ryan P. Wilson,” I would have to say it is fun, sometimes frustrating, always silly and definitely worth every minute of struggle. He often says he is the boy who never grew up but that isn’t really the truth. He can definitely act like a fun loving boy (especially around kids), but in the end he has grown up to be a very thoughtful, humble and truly respectful man that I am lucky to share my life with.

26 October 2009

Guaranteed absolutely pure

I love the smell of coffee. In fact, I used to work in a coffeehouse because the smell was so comforting to me. However, I have a confession to make, I cannot stand the taste of coffee. I cannot get up and get going by having a morning cup of joe. On the other hand, I can face the day with a steaming cup of hot tea. This brewing of plant parts and boiling water dates back thousands of years, and is one of the central themes found in Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Asia.

The vehicles used by adventurers for Expedition Everest are refurbished tea trains running along the Anandapur Rail Service. Used today by Himalayan Escapes to tour the Forbidden Mountain once belonged to the Royal Anandapur Tea Company, as did many of the buildings now used by the expedition company. Signs of the Royal Anandapur Tea Company’s one time occupancy can be found throughout the attraction’s queue, from their logo on the walls to the ample amounts of tea plants found surrounding the area.

Legend says that the Royal Anandapur Tea Company was forced out of business due to mysterious circumstances surrounding their shipping route near the Forbidden Mountain, a place guarded by the enigmatic yeti. Their trains and storehouses were left abandoned until Himalayan Escapes moved in. Yet, even though we are told that the Royal Anandapur Tea Company has vanished, they are still offering their flavorful teas to the public.

Further up the road is a small stand offering teas and other beverages under the name of the Royal Anandapur Tea Company, complete with a sign announcing that they are the tea suppliers. There is one difference between the two, however, their slogans. Listed below the company’s name in the abandoned buildings, the slogan states “Guaranteed Absolutely Pure,” while the bamboo enshrouded stand’s sign claims to be “Exporters of Specialty Teas.”Whether or not they are one in the same, the stand offers some truly remarkable hot teas, as well as several chilled beverages. I have not made my way through the entire selection of teas, yet, but having sampled approximately half of the teas available, I can recommend them all, especially the Honeybush Organic Superior, Dragonwell Lung Ching, and Masala Chai. Hot tea may not seem like a first choice on a steamy Florida day, but while the brews themselves are hot, they have a relaxing and cooling effect on the body.

The inspired exporters of the Royal Anandapur Tea Company not only list all of their teas, they also include descriptions of the types of teas offered, as well as tips for brewing the perfect cup. Take a look at the varietals available, and plan to sit a spell with one the next time you venture into Anandapur or to calm your nerves after an exciting encounter with the Forbidden Mountain’s guardian.
Keemun OP
Slender black leaves which are tightly curled. This is a full-bodied China black tea with a flowery bouquet.

From the Mikir Hills, an extension of the Great Himalyan Range, in Umrangshu. The blackish tea leaves, with golden tips, brew to a bright copper liquor with a sweet musty smell and a bold malty taste.

Ti Kwan Yin Oolong
A semi-oxidized China Oolong. A fresh orchid flavor with a clean finish.

Green Dragon Oolong
A Formosa Oolong. This tea stands out with its unique aroma, taste and dark green appearance.

Dragonwell Lung Ching
China's best known green tea. An emerald liquor, light and delicious.

China Green Jasmine
Classic scented green tea from Fouzou Province with jasmine flowers.

Sencha Saga
A delicately herbaceous Japan Green. "One of the world's most extraordinary teas."

Silver Needle
One of China's best white teas. Brews at a pale yellow/reddish liquor and has a delicately sweet flavor.

Rooibos Organic Superior
Delicious mild light amber cup. Contains all the nutrients as regular tea, but grows naturally with no caffeine. Known as a "miracle tea" in South Africa, where this herb is grown.

Honeybush Organic Superior
Contains all the same properties as Rooibos, but is naturally sweeter.

Rooibos Vanilla
A perfect blend of our 'miracle tea' and Madagascar vanilla.

Masala Chai
A combination of red spices and dried fruits with our bold Indian tea.

25 October 2009

Floyd forces parks to close for first time in history

Growing up in Central Florida, one tends to inherit a respect for nature and weather, especially during hurricane season. Having lived through my share of hurricanes, near misses, and severe weather it has always amazed me at how well the safety systems at Walt Disney World worked in controlling their responses and limiting guest inconvenience as storms approached and wreaked havoc. In fact, there was not a single closure on their record until 1999, when Hurricane Floyd spun in for a visit.

The front page article, as well as many of the interior stories, from the September 23, 1999 issue of Eyes & Ears, Floyd forces parks to close for first time in history, describes the events.
For the first time in the 28-year history of the Walt Disney World Resort, the theme parks, as well as other attraction areas, closed to guests for a full day.

Because of storms expected from Hurricane Floyd, the Walt Disney World Executive Emergency Operations Team decided to close Walt Disney World attractions and administration areas early on Sept. 14 and keep them closed on Sept. 15.

On Wednesday, Sept. 15, the Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, and the Disney-MGM Studios and all water parks, recreation areas and most administration areas remained closed throughout the day.

The weather cleared early Wednesday morning, and it was obvious that Central Florida was spared the brunt of Hurricane Floyd. Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened at noon that day for Walt Disney World resort guests only.

It wasn’t the first time harsh weather conditions forced the parks to modify their hours. On Aug. 31, 1985, the Walt Disney World Resort closed early, at 5 p.m., because of Hurricane Elena. Ten years later on Aug. 2, 1995, Hurricane Erin forced a late opening at the theme parks; they opened at 11 a.m.

Except for a few trees that fell because of winds, the Walt Disney World Resort didn’t suffer any major damage.

24 October 2009

Tomorrow is just a dream away

Today, we conclude our look back at the Magic Kingdom in 1972 with Tomorrowland. These days, as guests make their way to Tomorrowland from Fantasyland, they are met with a choice to visit Tomorrowland or Mickey’s Toontown Fair. While Mickey’s Toontown Fair has a long and storied history, first as Mickey’s Birthdayland and then Mickey’s Starland before transforming into its current state, this area was undeveloped for the first sixteen-plus years of the Magic Kingdom’s existence. While it may not be on every guests ‘Must See’ list, Mickey’s Toontown Fair is a treasure trove of animation history and clever jokes. For the purposes of this series, however, we’ll stop there and let the area speak for itself in other articles.

Like other lands that have one foot in reality and one foot in whimsy, namely Adventureland and Frontierland, the early years of Tomorrowland could be viewed as a work in progress. Many of the infamous and beloved attractions of Tomorrowland had not yet been created in 1972. What was there, however, could be described as the promise of tomorrow.

What was missing in Tomorrowland 1972 included a veritable who’s who of the area, including Space Mountain the WEDway Peoplemover (or Tomorrowland Transit Authority, if you must), Carousel of Progress, and the Star Jets (Astro Orbiter). In the place of the current Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was the free attraction If You Had Wings, a darling among the Magic Kingdom’s extinct attractions. Flight to the Moon, later Flight to Mars, has become Stitch’s Great Escape, and America the Beautiful Circle-Vision 360 is now the home to the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. Connected to Fantasyland, the Skyway was silenced almost a decade ago, and its home in Tomorrowland is currently being removed. The Grand Prix Raceway still exists, though its track has been altered, in the Tomorrowland Speedway.

With so few attractions in its first few years, Tomorrowland used the expansive dining area known as the Tomorrowland Terrace, known today as Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, to pull in guests and kept guest there with live music like the Tomorrowland Terrace Rock Band. The only other home for futuristic food in 1972 was the Lunching Pad, then located where Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies stands today. Assorted sandwiches, hot dogs, ice cream, and hamburgers were available in Tomorrowland via these two locations.

Mickey’s Mart, the Skyway Station Stop, and The Space Port covered the gifts from the future. Mickey’s Mart, currently Mickey’s Star Traders, carried Tomorrowland toys and apparel, while The Space Port, in the modern Merchant of Venus’ location, offered contemporary furnishings for the home. With the subtraction of the former Tomorrowland Skyway building the Skyway Station Stop is venturing into the realm of extinct shopping experiences, but at one time it offered an assortment of standard Walt Disney World souvenirs.

The truly lost treasure of 1972 Tomorrowland was the entrance and architecture. The towering white spires, originally meant to containing pillars of crystal water, spoke to a clean, safe view of the future. When Tomorrowland was retrofitted to grant guests a glimpse into the science-fiction tomorrow that never was, these pristine towers, along with the clean curves found throughout the remainder of Tomorrowland, were replaced with mechanical apparatuses, gears, and rockwork.

The Tomorrowland of 1972 was a prelude to the land’s golden age, but still spoke to the possibilities the future held for each guest. Today, the ideas of tomorrow have become muddled by advancements in technology and science-fiction storylines. Even the cohesive storyline of Tomorrowland as a central city of the future has, for the most part, been forgotten, with only a scant few reminders left for those who know where to look. Of the many lands of the Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland is the land most in need of a polishing. Take it from the man who still has an ancient lightsaber in his closet somewhere, the world of tomorrow should be bright and full of promise, not convoluted and worn thin.

23 October 2009

Off to Neverland

Dreams, sometimes referred to as fantasies, are always changing. The same can also be said for the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. The land of dreams, where little boys never grow up, princesses reign, and elephants take to the air, has wrestled with many drastic changes in the years since 1972.

Menus have changed across the board in Fantasyland, but the fairest fare of all in the land has always been offered at Cinderella Castle, whether as a part of King Stefan’s Banquet Hall of Cinderella’s Royal Table. 37 years ago sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs were the dining selections of the peasants and were available at Pinocchio’s Village Haus, Tournament Tent, and The Round Table. These days, Pinocchio’s Village Haus is still a viable option, but now focuses on pizza and salads. Meanwhile, The Tournament Tent has been replaced by the frozen beverages of Scuttle’s Landing, and the corner of Fantasyland once known for The Round Table is now under the management of Mrs. Potts and Friar Tuck, complete with their cupboards and nooks. The Troubadour Tavern, which served Welch’s juice products, also played its last tune many years ago, but Fantasyland has added to its dining opportunities with the treats of the Enchanted Grove.

When it comes to the availability of Fantasyland souvenirs in 1972, the wide array of items available is astounding. From Tinkerbell Toy Shop and The Mad Hatter, to The AristoCats and Merlin’s Magic Shop, it is clear that some classics, and their collectibles, never go out of style even though there is always a new animated feature to marvel at. Almost four decades ago, guests could also stop in at the Castle Camera Shop or the Fantasyland Art Festival, where caricatures were the art of the day. These days, the time-honored tradition of focusing stores around family favorite films has continued with Tinker Bell’s Fairy Treasures, Sir Mickey’s, and Pooh’s Thotful Spot. For the princess of every family, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique offers a royal makeover.

Once upon a time, many many years ago, Fantasyland was more animated than it is today. The motion of the buckets belonging to the Skyway, submarines launching from their home port of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, the flights of Dumbo, and the parade of carrousel horses corralled as a part of Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel all made the area feel alive. Even the manic melody from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or It’s A Small World added to the atmosphere. Today the submarines’ lagoon has become overgrown with shrubs and the Hundred Acre Wood of Pooh’s Playful Spot, Mr. Toad has handed his deed over to The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, and the alpine Skyway building still towers over Fantasyland as a reminder of the bygone days. Still, Mickey still composes his magical melodies, though he has traded in his Revue for the PhilharMagic, Cinderella’s steeds, the spinning tea cups of the Mad Tea Party, Dumbo’s flapping soaring ears still ferry guests, and it’s a small world, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Snow White still carry on with their adventures.It would be remiss of me at this juncture in time and space, and fantasy, if I did not mention the impending expansion of Fantasyland. The plans, which include almost doubling the size of the current Fantasyland, include a new E ticket attraction based upon the Little Mermaid, interactive experiences highlighting the lives and times of the princesses, and several new dining experiences. The pieces of concept art released in September were enough to cause my heart to skip a beat, and that is not an exaggeration. It may not all come to pass, and what exactly it will look like when it is finished is anyone’s guess, but I am cautiously optimistic. Especially considering the ideas I have seen include the return of water and gorgeous greenery to the area.

Dreams do come true, and many of them have found a home in Fantasyland. The land of heroes, princesses, talking critters, and venomous villains has always been at the heart of the Magic Kingdom and the twinkle in small children’s eyes. Yesterday, Fantasyland offered an amazing assortment of attractions and experiences, and the promise of tomorrow looks bright.

22 October 2009

An astounding revolutionary dream

Four years before the United States’ bicentennial Liberty Square was the home of patriotism, as well as a few grim grinning ghosts. Of the many lands and many refurbishments of the Magic Kingdom, Liberty Square has change the least since 1972. In fact, the area footprint of the area is the only one to have not changed over the years.

In the realm of stories and attractions, Master Gracey’s Mansion has shuffled through brides and undergone a few interior decorating projects, the Hall of Presidents has gained several new Commanders-in-Chief as well as shifts in storylines, and the river has seen the addition and subtraction of a second paddlewheel. The only significant changes have been the loss of Mike Fink’s Keel Boats, based upon Mike Fink’s Gullywhumper from the Davy Crockett television serial, and the Diamond Horseshoe Revue. The Revue is worth noting not only for its unique brand of entertainment, but also because it was a dining show prior to the invention of Character Dining and also because it was free, meaning it did not require the use of an A – E attraction coupon.

Another name in the free entertainment of Liberty Square was the Fife and Drum Corps. While a modern version of these performers can be seen in from of Epcot’s The American Adventure, the pageantry and patriotism of this procession was something not to be missed and never failed to broaden the shoulders and swell the heart.

Other dining opportunities included three perennial favorites, Liberty Tree Tavern, Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, and Columbia Harbour House. While all of these restaurants have seen menu changes over the past 37 years, they have all remained time-tested favorites of guest making their way between Fantasyland and Frontierland or Adventureland.

The most drastic changes to have been thrust upon Liberty Square since 1972 have come not from their dining or entertainment venues, but rather from the shifts in available merchandise. Heritage House has remained as the only retailer to continue serving Liberty Square since its inception, with its collection of historical reproductions and Americana. The various residences that currently comprise the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, just over the bridge from the Hub, were at one time a trio of exceptional prospects. These shops included a silversmith for jewelry and gifts, an antiques dealer, and Mademoiselle Lafayette’s Parfumerie, where signature scents could be created for yourself or that special someone. For those seeking Revolutionary attire, or at the very least a facsimile, the Tricornered Hat Shoppe offer just the right accessory. Today, Liberty Square has also seen Madame Leota’s Cart roll in, along with open market artists, and the addition of the Yankee Trader and their wares.

While so much has changed, our past reminds us that so much has stayed the same, at least where Liberty Square is concerned. The bicentennial has passed and we are well on our way to the United States tricentennial. Liberty Square’s foliage has flourished since 1972, as has its sense of time and place with the inclusion of a Liberty Bell replica and the Court of Flags, which offers up flags for each of the thirteen original colonies. Make no mistake, though there have been some fantastic losses, this land is our land.

21 October 2009

Heritage of the past

In 1972 there was dusty street with a train station at one end and the civilization of the east coast at its other point. There were no mountains on the horizon of this frontier and no rafts on the river, only a few singing bears, fur clad explorers and young adventurers, and a view of the west as it existed for most of this country’s history.

Frontierland, prior to the expansion of Adventureland to include Pirates of the Caribbean, dead ended at the Frontierland station for the Walt Disney World Railroad. The small red wooden station sat closer to the parade crossroad than it does today, and it existed on ground level. This space is now occupied by Splash Mountain, which grew out of the sandy soil of Frontierland in 1992 and also gave birth to the current incarnation of the railroad station. Splash Mountain, however, was not the first mountain to grace the skyline of Frontierland, that honor belongs to the 1980 inclusion of Big Thunder Mountain. Neither of these mountains, however, had even disturbed the sleepy residents of the frontier in 1972.

Comprised of a pair of eateries, a couple of shops, and a pair of attractions, the main thoroughfare of Frontierland in 1972 was then, as it is now, home to the troupe of vaudeville bears known as the Country Bear Jamboree. In fact, the mounted trio of Melvin, Max, and Buff not only served as entertainers in Grizzly Hall, but they also entertained the mass of guests snacking at the Mile Long Bar. And no, while this establishment was named a bar, it did not offer alcoholic beverages. The other longstanding attraction found in Frontierland in 1972 was the Frontierland Shootin’ Gallery, still present today under the moniker of Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, complete with metal shots.

The only additional attraction found in Frontierland in 1972 were Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes. Plying the waterways with the Mike Fink Keel Boats and Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat, both of which make birth in Liberty Square, these canoes added to feel that Frontierland was a bustling port of call on the watery highways of yesterday. Guest wishing to look the part of the canoes’ namesake, Davy Crockett, when they launched from the dock could gather their western garb from the shop Western Ho.

The Frontierland Trading Post was a required interruption for children of the West requiring a souvenir of their journey in 1972, and has now become a similarly necessitated stop for those interested in the art of pin trading. The other frequented establishment of 1972, though this one was for those seeking an end to their hunger pains, was Pecos Bill’s CafĂ©. While the restaurant has gone through several refining refurbishments, Pecos Bill is still slingin’ grub under the name of the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn& Cafe.

Since 1972 several other food stands and shops have sprung up along the rambling road and around the base of the newly formed mountains, Davy Crockett has beached his canoes, Tom Sawyer has chartered rafts to his island, and the frontier now crosses paths with adventure. Yet, through this explosion of growth, much like the real western frontier saw, Frontierland has managed to keep it independent spirit and devil may care attitude intact.

Oh, and did I mention that even across the past almost four decades, boys and girls, and boys and girls who never grew up, can still find a coonskin cap?

20 October 2009

Under new management

There are two major differences between Adventureland of 1972 and the Adventureland of today. One, the footprint the land occupies, and two, the variety of dining experiences available in the area. Attractions have new management, shops have been renamed, and sponsors have shifted, but the Adventureland still speaks to guest with a voice that bellows, “You are nowhere near home.”

In 1972, guests would cross the tribal bridge into a village reminiscent of any colonized outpost. As they moved past the tropical treats and dining halls, traders’ stands, daring homesteads, and boating voyage until the reach the Sunshine Tree Pavilion, which is where the world of Adventureland ends. In just a few years Caribbean Plaza would extend the land’s borders, complete with its cruise through the lives and times of the pillaging Pirates of the Caribbean.

When hunger grasped those who were trekking through the jungles of Adventureland, the Sunshine Tree Terrace, complete with its Little Orange Bird, and the Veranda Juice Bar, now known as Aloha Isle, offered specialty snacks of a fruity nature. For full meals, the Adventureland Veranda, located in the colonial immediately on the right past the Adventureland bridge, once offered Polynesian and South Pacific fare. Though the shutters have been, well, shuttered, for a number of years now, the other end of Adventureland now offers Mexican and Spanish provisions at El Pirata y el Perico, when it is open.

In the past 37 years very little has shifted along the shores of the Jungle Cruise and Swiss Family Treehouse. The Tropical Serenade, showcased in the Enchanted Tiki Room, has been under new management since 1998, but guests can still sing like the birdies sing. The unobstructed view of the Sunshine Tree Pavilion available in 1972 can now only be seen in glimpses between the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Live entertainment, including the Safari Band and the Adventureland Steel Drum Band, has been replaced by character meet and greets and Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial.

Bringing home a piece of Adventureland, whether it was from a Polynesian port of call or a piece of African handicraft, could easily be collected from the various market stands known as Tropic Toppers, Oriental Imports, Ltd., Tiki Tropic Shop, Traders of Timbuktu, and The Magic Carpet. These days the true treasures rest alongside surf sundries in shops such as Zanzibar Trading Company, Island Supply, Agrabah Bazaar, Bwana Bob’s, and Plaza Del Sol Caribe Bazaar.

The experience that is Adventureland has altered its face many times since 1972, but it still offers a home for the armchair adventurers. Every dream, fantasy, and preconceived notion of exotic locales is realized with just enough of the real world to give this land the feel of a true life adventure. Guests have always found mystery and amusement in Adventureland, and that essence has never been far off the beaten path.

19 October 2009

Down on old Main Street

Main Street U.S.A. of 2009 looks strikingly similar to the Main Street of 1972. The train station, with its turn of the century steam engines, still whistle out their welcome as they chug along down the tracks, and the vehicles of Main Street still ferry guests down the lamp-lined thoroughfare. Fire Station, Town Hall, and Exposition Hall (or Hospitality House) still stand tall as they encircle Town Square. Along the shops of Main Street, the windows still list the individuals who turned Walt Disney World from dream to reality. Balloons can still be seen floating above the crowds in large clusters.

The main differences that can be found on Main Street U.S.A. today, as opposed to looking at the land in 1972, is the shops that can be visited. In 1972 West Street housed the Greenhouse Flower Shop, Harmony Barber Shop, Hallmark Card Shop, and the Elgin-Helbros New Century Clock Shop. Currently, the Harmony Barber Shop is located in Town Square near the Car Barn, while the card, flower, and clock shops remain only in memory. West Street itself was annexed by the Emporium in 2001 as part of the shop’s expansion.

Other shop changes over the past 37 years include the House of Magic, Penny Arcade, and Tobacconist being refurbished into the Main Street Athletic Club. While I am pleased at the removal of the Tobacconist, the Penny Arcade and House of Magic are both cornerstones of my childhood that I greatly miss. I can remember many hours spent learning a new magic trick, or attempting to dupe friends and family into grabbing a stick of snapping gum, or plopping coin after coin into the turn of the century games of the arcade.

Across the way, the Cinema is still standing, but what was an actual theater in 1972 now houses the collectibles of The Art of Disney. And while the Chapeau can still be found in Town Square the sensible headwear for men and women has become the house of every imaginable mouse ears. Still, silhouettes can still be seen being trimmed, the smell and showcase that is the Confectionary still stands on the corner of Town Square, and Crystal Arts still sparkles in the sun of Main Street.

When hunger set-in in 1972 hot dogs could be found across from the ice cream parlor, the Crystal Palace and Town Square Cafe offered enjoyable meals, and, of course, there was the bakery. These days, the names and sponsors may have changed, including the addition of the Plaza Restaurant, but the hot dogs, ice cream, and baked goods can still be found where they have been for all these years.

Entertaining groups like the Keystone Kop Quartet and the Crystal Palace Trio may only live in faded photographs now, but the street of Main Street U.S.A. is still bustling with life and music. With the introduction of streetmosphere characters, the bands and quartets feel even more at home in this land.

Main Street U.S.A. has undergone cosmetic and substantive changes, but has still maintained its welcoming ambiance and spirit inherent to its lampposts, locomotives, services, and spaces.

18 October 2009

Coupon or 10¢

This week the Main Street Gazette is going to take a little journey back to the first few years of Walt Disney World. In fact, we’ll take a look at the Magic Kingdom in 1972, moving through the park land by land and discussing what was there, has since become extinct, and what has been imagineered since then. In order to start this excursion we have to look at what it took to get into the park and experience any and all of the attractions.

For starters, entrance into the Magic Kingdom for an adult was $3.75 as of February 1972, as opposed to an admission ticket cost of $79.00 that was set in August of 2009. In 1972, however, the only attractions that guests could experience with their general admission were the Diamond Horseshoe Revue, If You Had Wings, and America the Beautiful. The remainder of the park attractions required a coupon with an A through E designation. Moving through the categories, starting at A and moving up to E, denoted popularity and novel attractions. Working under the assumption that guests would want to partake in each and every attraction on their visit, this was after all within the first year of Walt Disney World’s opening, these coupons could add up to $14.65 per adult.

For discounts on individual adult attraction tickets, especially for guests who may not wish to take the Omnibus and the Fire Engine down Main Street U.S.A., the parks also offered coupon books. In early 1972 these books were offered with coupons in quantities of 7 or 11. 7 Adventure Books, available for $4.95, and included one each of the A, B, and C coupons and two each of the D and E coupons. The 11 Adventure Books, costing $5.95, consisted of one A and B coupon each, two C coupons, three D coupons, and four E coupons. In October of 1972 the 7 and 11 Adventure Books were discontinued and 8 and 12 Adventure Books were introduced. The 8 Adventure Book increased the price to $5.40 and added an additional E ticket over the 7 Adventure Book, while the 12 Adventure book raised the cost to $6.30 with the addition of an extra D ticket.

The General Admission, Adventure Books, and attraction coupon system remained in use in the Magic Kingdom until 1981. Also, as compared to the current fold out park guide maps, the 1972 pamphlets included more information and a land by land breakdown, including dining, shopping, and entertainment in addition to the attractions. But, I suppose, that is a story we’ll begin exploring tomorrow on Main Street U.S.A.

17 October 2009

WDFM - November Schedule

The Walt Disney Family Museum opened a few weeks ago and, from all reports, it is indeed a sight to behold. They have just sent out their public schedule of events for November, and it is chock full of events to excite and entice Disney enthusiasts. From classic animation and conversations with Imagineers, to the original Alice and Christmas with the Disneys, I could go on, but I’ll let the schedule speak for itself.


Film of the Month: Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty runs until November 20th
12:30pm, 3:30pm, 6:30pm, Theater

tickets available online at www.waltdisney.com

The classic fairy tale of a princely kiss awaking a beautiful princess from a deep sleep is the subject of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Throughout the month of November, relive or discover for the first time the visually stunning animated feature, Sleeping Beauty as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this incredible film.

November 14 - International Animation Festival and the Screening of the Alice Comedies
Landmark Theatres Embarcadero Center Cinema

tickets available on the SF Film Society website

Walt Disney’s first successful series of films, the Alice Comedies, were built around a clever special-effects idea: a real little girl entering a cartoon world and interacting with the cartoon characters.
The Walt Disney Family Museum will partner with the San Francisco International Animation Festival to present these charming films. A selection of the Alice Comedies can be seen during the Festival on Saturday, November 14 at the Embarcadero Cinema.

November 27 - Christmas with Walt Disney (Special Holiday Film Begins)
12:30pm, 3:30pm, 6:30pm, Theater

tickets available online at www.waltdisney.com

Walt Disney’s Christmases past are remembered in this special holiday screening that includes Walt’s “Nutcracker Suite” from Fantasia (1940), Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952), scenes from the television Christmas specials, and rarely seen home movies of Walt at home with his family. See how Walt celebrated this beloved holiday at the Studio, at Disneyland, and at home.


November 21 - The Art of Sleeping Beauty with Lella Smith
3:00 pm, Theater

tickets available online at www.waltdisney.com

The rich tapestry appearance is the visual hallmark of Sleeping Beauty and the primary vision of animator Eyvind Earle. Lella Smith, Creative Director of Walt Disney Animation Studios Research Library, will discuss the unique art and design that brought Princess Aurora and her magical world to life 50 years ago.

November 22 - Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Beyond: The Designs and Art of Herb Ryman
3:00 pm, Theater

tickets available online at www.waltdisney.com

The first glimpse of the gleaming white towers of “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle” is a moment that few forget. But, who designed Disneyland’s most recognizable landmark and the dream home of many a prince and princess? Here is the opportunity to discover the creativity of an early Imagineer, Herb Ryman, from Marty Sklar, former International Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering.
Mr. Sklar, who was with the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney Imagineering for 53 years, will talk about the extraordinary talent of Herb Ryman that went beyond his work at Disneyland by sharing his art and designs.

An unfortunate camel collision

The Adventurers Club offered something for everyone, true life adventurers to interact with, comedy, remarkable drinks, and a level of detail that compares only to the intricately realistic Serka Zong and Hollywood Tower Hotel. There are an innumerable amount of unique experiences in Walt Disney World, but the retired crown jewel that was the Adventurers Club is one we can only hope will be duplicated someday.

Within the vastly overlooked, though not underappreciated, collections of the Adventurers Club are a number of incredible items. Many of the more distinctive pieces come complete with their own museum-like display plaques. Often, such items blend the history of myths with a comedic twist. One such display, and one of my personal favorites, is the Authentic Flying Carpet of Abu Dhabi which comes complete with its own seatbelts.

Acquired by Lord and Lady Reed and donated to the Club’s permanent collection following an unfortunate camel collision. Fortunately, Lord and Lady Reed walked away from the incident unscathed. “It pays to buckle up.”

16 October 2009

Soaring on currents of air

I would like to preface this article by stating that it had been prepared prior to yesterday’s news out of Colorado.In April of this year, Downtown Disney began offering a new experience to guests at Walt Disney World, the ability to take flight in a tethered balloon known as Characters in Flight. With a cage capable of holding up to 20+ guests, the character covered balloon could climb as high as four hundred feet and offer unparalleled views of Walt Disney World. Although, it should be mentioned that the number of guests and the maximum height are totally dictated by the weather conditions and often times the balloon must be grounded.

This is an experience that even those who have a fear of heights, like myself, cannot afford to pass this flight over. The pilots are well trained and affable, answering questions, relating information about the flight itself, and discussing what sights can be seen. For some of the available vistas, see below.

I know that there have been discussions about paying for such an attraction, but since its opening in 1972 Walt Disney World has always offered unique events that cost above and beyond the regular park going experience. My own real concern stemming from Characters in Flight is the fact that, at times, it can be seen from inside of the parks. However interesting the skyline looks with this balloon hovering above it, it does cause some visual intrusion.

No matter the concerns or drawbacks, this is most certainly a flight that everyone should take at least once.

15 October 2009

The mystery of the forest

A little more than a year ago Camp Minnie-Mickey closed one of the two shows that anchored the land. The only area to view real live animals in Camp Minnie-Mickey, aside from Mickey and friends of course, was Pocahontas and her Forest Friends. Using woodland creatures such as skunks, snakes, and porcupines, Pocahontas, along with Grandmother Willow and Sprig, race against time to discover the one creature in the woods who can protect the forest. As it turns out, that creature is discovered to be man, but no man or woman could save this touching show from being shuttered. But, a year after its final performance, what has changed in the arena where Pocahontas used to sing about the colors of the wind?

Surprisingly, on the surface, this conservation minded show appears like it could reopen again any day. The stage, seating, and even Grandmother Willow herself are all intact, and seem to be in good repair. Out front, however, is a different story. The Grandmother Willow Theater bulletin board promoting the show had its lettering removed earlier in the year and remained dark for until just recently. These days this announcement board now displays a map of Camp Minnie-Mickey. This is not the first site specific map to be found within the parks of Walt Disney World, however others, such as the map of Tomorrowland, generally come from areas that are very complex.

Of any land in any park in Walt Disney World, Camp Minnie-Mickey is by far the most in need of entertainment venues, whether they are shows or attractions, retail locations, and/or dining opportunities. While I don’t foresee Pocahontas and her Forest Friends returning anytime soon, I would love to see something functional, which involves animals, and carries with it the same heartfelt message of its predecessor. Until then, guests must remember that we are the creatures of the forest that can save and are responsible for the other critters of this planet, an idea that still permeates the rest of the park.