30 June 2009

Everything around you

Edutainment is alive and well within Walt Disney World, from the gates of Epcot to the stunt shows of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and even in the wilds of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The greatest part of being educated while in Florida is that while you may, or may not, realize what is taking place, you may never see the sources Disney is presenting you with.Take, for instance, guests staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. There are art exhibits everywhere, stations devoted to animal care and information, and Cast Members from the other side of the globe. Each of these concepts, in their own way, help create immersive and intricate experiences, perhaps none more so than the international Cast Members. Not only can these Cast Members directing you to Boma or Sanaa they can also enlighten you on the heritage and culture of their people.Often times these Cast Members are equipped with collectible cards that provide a great deal of information about their home country. Each card itself comes with two maps, one featuring their country’s location within Africa and the other a more detailed map of the country itself, an image of the country’s flag, ‘Did you know…?’ factoids, and information on how to assist conservation efforts with your spare change. The single most important piece of this card, however, comes at the very bottom where there is a line for the Cast Member to sign the card for you.This could be seen as toilsome to these Cast Members, but I suspect it actually brings them a great deal of joy knowing that their signature means they have imparted a bit of wisdom to the guest population. For the guests themselves, long after they have returned home, the cards can serve as story pieces as they tell the tale of a country as it was conveyed to them by the Cast Member who signed their card. And so the stories of the people of the world and the value of edutainment continues on and on.

29 June 2009

Popular drink

Club Cool sits at the very edge of Future World and, for guests traveling from World Showcase down the central corridor, Club Cool is one of the first experiences they come into contact with. This positioning enables Club Cool to showcase a world of beverage possibilities. Aside from Build-A-Cup Stations for frozen drinks and product specific merchandise, Coca-Cola, the space’s sponsor, provides sample soda fountains which feature eight of their more than three-thousand beverages. Most guests who indulge in the small, but free, samples fall into two categories, those who are attempting to cool off with a drink and time away from the sweltering Florida sun and those who are maniacally trying to convince friends and family members to try their ‘favorite’ beverage Beverly. What most guests miss, however, is the opportunity to really learn something about the countries represented and the countries’ inclination towards specific flavors and types of beverages.

While each beverage is available in several countries, and in several different flavors (such as Coke and Cherry Coke), here are the tidbits that are offered for the eight countries and their representative drink.

Krest (Mozambique) – Ginger has long been used as a medicinal herb throughout Africa, so it is not surprising that Krest Ginger Ale is a popular drink in Mozambique.

Fanta KoLita (Costa Rica) – Fanta KoLita captures the essence of two Costa Rican traditional drinks. Aqua dulce (sweet water) is sugar cane dissolved in water. Frescas are mixes of crushed fruit and water.

Beverly (Italy) – Beverly, with its bitter flavor, is a popular non-alcoholic aperitif that stimulates the appetite before dinner.

Mezzo Mix (Germany) – Germans often mix their beer with non-alcoholic beverages like Mezzo Mix, a combination of Coca-Cola and orange flavor, to enhance the flavor.

VegitaBeta (Japan) – In Japan, the interest in healthy consumption finds its ultimate expression in “Health” vending machines that dispense vitamin drinks like VegitaBeta.

Kinley Lemon (Israel) – Historical records from the 12th century reveal that a drink made of lemons, water, and honey was popular among Genghis Khan’s thirsty warriors.

Lift Apple (Mexico) – Water flavored with fruit juices is a traditional thirst quencher in Mexico. The Spanish name for these drinks, Aquas Frescas, means fresh water. They are made by combining iced water with crushed fruit and sugar.

Smart Watermelon (China) – The Chinese produce 40% of the world’s watermelon crop and consume millions of watermelons each summer.

28 June 2009

Around the World in Many Ways

If there is one question I get asked more than any other, it is, “Why Disney?” Obviously, this question is not coming to me from the readers who frequent the Gazette, but more from people who have never truly experienced what Walt Disney World has to offer. The short answer is that Disney, all things Disney, but specifically Walt Disney World, captures my imagination. It is the stories, the nuanced details, my love of past, future, and transportation.

In the Spring 1981 issue of Disney News the article Around the World in Many Ways, showcased just how many ways there were to navigate the World and mentions pieces of history that have since become extinct. While the article is brief, it is enough to take me back to one of the many reasons I find myself drawn back, time and again, to Walt Disney World. Presented below is the full article.

Ever since opening day at the Walt Disney World Vacation Kingdom, resort guests have found that traveling to and around our World is both convenient and fun. WED Transportation Services, Inc. provides transportation for all Walt Disney World guests, and includes monorails, ferryboats, motor launches and motor coaches. The service also includes shuttle bus transportation to and from resort areas, the Magic Kingdom and the shopping-dining-entertainment community of Lake Buena Vista. In fact, visitors here can park their cars and put away their keys until they prepare to return home.

Probably the most impressive and recognizable feature of the transportation in the Vacation Kingdom is the monorail system, our primary link between the Contemporary and Polynesian Village Resort Hotels, the Magic Kingdom and the main parking area.

Passengers on these sleekly designed vehicles are silently and smoothly whisked via an air suspension system over water and land, and through the magnificent Contemporary Resort Hotel for a breathtaking inspection of its muraled lobby.

Another highly visible component of the WED Transportation Services system is a fleet of boats and ship – comprising the fifth largest navy in the world.

Biggest ships ii the fleet are two 600-passenger ferryboats which carry incoming guests from the main entrance of the Magic Kingdom to the Park itself.

Out on the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, a flotilla of turn-of-the-century navy launches provide efficient service to the Contemporary and Polynesian Village and to the Fort Wilderness Campground Resort.

Boats also provide transportation along the winding waterways of Lake Buena Vista. Guests staying in the luxury villas and townhouses of this secluded nook of the World can “cast off” for the stylish shops, restaurants and night spots of Walt Disney World Village. And everyone can experience the romance of starlit Flote boat cruises.

In addition, vacation adventurers can chart their own courses for excitement via Disney sailboats, mini-speedboats, water skiing boats, canoes and pedal boats.

With so many ways to explore the Vacation Kingdom, it’s easy to see why we can say, “Put your cares – and your car keys – away!”

27 June 2009

Time to grow

Today marks the final day of shows for Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration. In fact, information about the show has already been removed from Walt Disney World’s website as they begin to retool and rework what will be seen and how it will be presented.

In honor of this short-lived show, I thought today we would examine a piece of costume concept art. This is for Gizmo, one of the two robots sent by Stitch from Robo-Mart. Robo-Mart is a division of X-S Tech, the same corporation that brought Tomorrowland the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, which was, ironically, replaced by Stitch’s Great Escape! Though today may mark the last appearance of Tip Trendo, the Galactic Girls, Gadget, and Gizmo, I hope that whatever arrives from tomorrow to take their place still keeps those pieces of Tomorrowland history and the spirit of fun that this show attempted to create.

26 June 2009

The truth in chapters of our minds

I have never been the most dedicated fan of Michael Jackson, in either his music or in his personal life and choices. I can remember that Michael Jackson was the first song that I recorded to a cassette tape from my radio and that the first tape I purchased for myself was Dangerous. In his later years, and my early adulthood, I felt that he had made great mistakes, mistakes that as an advocate of children I could not condone. In both cases I came late to his music stylings and lifestyle. One thing, however, that I did not come late to was his greatest film role, Captain EO.Captain EO, the special effects laden film featuring Michael Jackson and Anjelica Huston was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas. The feature opened to the public on September 12, 1986 at EPCOT Center as part of the Imagination pavilion, it would go on to have a successful world tour at Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and EuroDisney. I can remember the first time I saw the film, I dove under my seat at the first signs of the Supreme Leader. The only things that could coax me back to my seat and to peak through my clenched fingers were the beats and Michael Jackson’s vocals of We Are Here to Change the World. Between his space-aged military jacket, rainbow powered shirt, and positive outlook as things became bleak, I was able to make it through that first, and subsequent, sittings.

Years later, as I began my search for Walt Disney World audio and video, Captain EO was certainly high on my list. You can view the entire film over at The Disney Blog.

Yesterday, Major Domo, Hooter, Fuzzball, Minor Domo, Idee and Odee lost their Captain. The larger world beyond lost a very tortured and conflicted individual. Whatever your personal feelings for the man were, Michael Jackson was a consummate entertainer and was one of the greatest forces music had ever seen. I hope that peace has finally found him. Now excuse me, I need to go belt out a few verses of We Are Here to Change the World.

25 June 2009

Got a lot of stiff necks

Research programs can be filled with monotonous work for years upon years waiting for a break-through. While every person involved with these programs deserves credit when a discovery is made, day-in and day-out the backbone of these studies are the lowly interns and graduate students and their droning work. It is no wonder that they need to let off some steam every once in a while. The graduate students of Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s The Dino Institute are no different.In Dinoland U.S.A. the grad students air their dirty laundry in public (that’s in the literal sense, not their public disagreements), improve the vernacular of the area by introducing the suffix –osaurus to every printed word they can find, and create their own games to help pass the time. The site with the greatest number of these grad student touches is Restaurantosaurus, reasonable considering that it is the commissary and dorm for the students.Guests dining at Restaurantosaurus may miss the students’ crowning achievement, Lawn Chair Archery, if they forget the geek mantra to look up, down, and all around. Perched upon the roof of the former fishing lodge are a set of lawn chairs, a boom box, camera, cooler, colored plunger arrows (complete with the addition of fletching), and large bows. Running across the courtyard to the EATosaurus water tower is a pulley system for retrieving the used plungers with a bucket. Presumably one graduate student would have to be station at the water tower to replenish the plungers in the bucket.

There’s no bones about it, this archery game the grad students have created, a cross between Super Mario Brothers and Robin Hood, is definitely the game to be played if you can ever find your way onto the Restaurantosaurus roof. For those wishing to keep their feet on the ground, or for the more ordinary graduate students, there is always the alternative of basketball. In keeping with the fossil theme, however, the backboard includes a wooden bone that is used for mounting the rim. All-in-all, these students have created some great ways to keep themselves going, no matter what bones have been breaking their backs all day.

24 June 2009

Where did I come from?

Pictured above is the young man who would one day go on to helm the Main Street Gazette. To be totally honest, when I look at that picture, I see everything that I wanted the Gazette to be and everything I would have to put on the line in order for it to succeed. I wanted to share pieces of Walt Disney World history, such as the container of popcorn that is no longer in use. I wanted to find ways to share the magic of the parks, such as little used attractions like the Liberty Square Riverboat, with everyone. I knew that I was going to have to step outside of my comfort zone, stop being an introvert, and be the sole voice and responsible party for the Gazette. And I knew that I was going to have to do some goofy things from time to time, whether it is sitting on a railing like you are warned not to, take part in a community game (like The Disney Feud or Survivor: Passamaquoddy), or publish old pictures of myself.

The great part about sharing old photographs is that they aren’t always just about me, sometimes I’m the most sane person in a photograph. My cousins, sister, mother, father, uncle, nanie, and whoever else happens to be in these photographs are considered casualties today. Although, it’s always fun looking back.

The young boy opposite me in the next few photographs doesn’t seem to be someone that anyone in my family can recognize. It looks like we had a pretty good time either way.

This last picture just goes to show, you don’t get to pick your family, but sometimes you end up with just the right group anyway.

23 June 2009

Keep the recyclable material out of the landfill

According to the 2008 Walt Disney World Resort Community Report, the resort recycled more 77,000 tons worth of material. If we look at this figure as a sole product of the Walt Disney World Cast Members, that means that each Cast Member, and there were approximately 62,000 Cast Members employed over the course of the year, recycled approximately 1.24 tons apiece. That is a staggering figure.Obviously, this effort is more than the work of the Cast Members. It comes down to every person, Disney employee or guest, which comes through the gates to take part in Disney’s conservation movement. To this end, over the past year or so, I have seen more and more signs of Disney creating opportunities for guests to take part in the recycling efforts. Recycling stations have popped up not only in the parks, such as the above bottle recycling container located in Future World, but also at the resorts, as seen by this versatile recycling system that can be found at Fort Wilderness.In order to increase guest participation, however, Walt Disney World is going to have to step up the number of these recycling units that are accessible to guests. With a trash can available approximately every thirty feet, most guests are not going to go in search of a recycling bin when a trash can is readily available. By the same token, as Walt Disney World works to increase the ease of which we as guests can find places to recycle, we are also going to have to walk a little further out of our way to find the recycling stations.77,000 tons can be just the beginning as long as we all work together to provided a cleaner, greener, Walt Disney World and world beyond for future generations of Cast Members, guests, and mouse eared enthusiasts.

22 June 2009

An animated character

I thought since we had looked at Goofy’s Multiflex Octoplane this morning, we’d take a look at Goofy in one of his many day, or night, jobs this evening with a desktop. Coming to us from the Broadway area of the All-Star Music Resort, Goofy is the box office guru who is having some difficulty with the ticket roll. Gwarsh!




This design is purely conceptual

Like all of the structures found within the borders of Mickey’s Toontown Fair, The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm comes complete with a wonderful collection of details. From nods to history and insider references, to clever wordplay and visual weenies, the comedy hits comes just as fast and furious as Goofy’s crop duster in a nosedive. Indeed, the cornfield that meanders through the queue and attraction takes on multiple meanings in the presence of this comedic genius. While the list of The Barnstormer’s gags could go on and on, perhaps no one piece is more all-encompassing of the spirit of Goofy than the piece designed by Goofy himself, the schematics for the Barnstormer, otherwise known as the Multiflex Octoplane.

The Multiflex Octoplane blueprints themselves can be seen in two locations throughout the queue, once at Goofy’s workstation and the other pinned up in the loading area of the barn. Including in the designs are plans for a braking system, where you put your feet through a hinged hatch in the floor of the plane and use your feet as breaks, spring flexing action, a steering yoke that cannot steer down, and one emergency escape parachute, which has been cut for budgetary reasons. And while the scale for the octoplane maybe unknown, Goofy lists the scale as garshed if I know!, he did at least have the common sense to create a model before plunging ahead with a full scale version.

The propulsion design of the plane, however, has apparently hit a snag that even goofy could not overcome. In the engine design section of the diagram the “pollution free power source” is listed as conceptual and requires the use of “neighborhood chipmunks,” with an illustration showing Dale. The secondary concept of launch is recorded as requiring a very large slingshot. The final model of the Multiflex Octoplane uses neither of these means of motoring, nor does it use Gulp Gas readily available at Pete’s Garage nearby, instead Goofy’s crazy crop duster uses Goofolene.

This is only one of the many gaffs and gags found at The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm, but it is a perfect example of the fun and free life Goofy leads. While this attraction may be meant for the younger set, the comedy of the queue should keep adults coming back time and time again. If for no other reason than how could anyone pass up a view such as this one?

21 June 2009

Hoax or Reality?

Today’s Back Issue doesn’t include any specific articles, but rather an examination of an entire newspaper. Positioned alongside the Rocketeer’s helmet and jetpack and a copy of Peevy’s schematic at Peevy’s Polar Pipeline in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is an copy of an October issue of the Los Angeles Examiner.Contained within the newspaper is an article about Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron and his attempts to reign in the corruption in the city, specifically the Civil Service Commission and the vice squad. This article actually comes straight from the September 30, 1938 edition of the Los Angeles Times.

The second article is where the publication takes a swift turn. The article entitled “Bill Gets Approval 64 – 20,” discusses the Senate vote to make Alaska the 49th state. The essential problem with this article is that that vote actually took place in 1958, with the article itself coming from the Associated Press on September 30 of 1958.

Two articles separated by twenty years exactly. Considering that The Rocketeer takes place in 1938 Los Angeles, it is safe to assume the Alaska article is the one that doesn’t belong. Included alongside these two articles is the Disney created headlines, “Who is the Rocketeer?” and “Hoax or Reality?,” near pictures of the Rocketeer and the pilot he saved during the Chaplin Field Air Circus.

While The Rocketeer did poorly at the box office, coming in fourth during its opening weekend behind Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, City Slickers, and Dying Young, it was given high marks by critics at the time. Today, it stills serves as a terrific Saturday afternoon action movie, complete with a full array of glitz, glamour, pulp, spies, and shtick.

The Rocketeer opened on June 21, 1991, eighteen years ago today.

20 June 2009

Famous mice in history

Mickey’s of Hollywood, which runs along Disney’s Hollywood Studios Hollywood Blvd. and includes Disney & Co. Fashion Extras and Pluto’s Palace, features one of the most unique views of Mickey available anywhere on property. Starting at the front of the store, near the park entrance, a guest can move through the store and the progression of Mickey’s animation.Throughout the store figures of Mickey are centrally placed to showcase the career and modifications of the character. The first section of the store features Mickey Mouse in black and white from Steamboat Willie (1928), his first on screen appearance. In the middle of the shop is Mickey from The Band Concert (1935), which also happens to be the first time Mickey Mouse appears in color. In the last section of the shop is Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia (1940), the first time Mickey is given his more modern appearance. The fact that this is the conclusion of the store and the Mickey timeline is in keeping with the golden age of Hollywood (the 1930s to the 1950s) that permeates throughout the park.In addition to the figures of Mickey, the various sections also include borders near the ceiling that emphasize the stories of the various cartoons.

19 June 2009

World Traveler

In 1990, with the opening of the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin resorts, and the work being done for future Epcot area resorts, Walt Disney World created a second gate for guests entering the park, the International Gateway. Today, a variety of guests from the Epcot Resort Area enter Epcot through the International Gateway by walking or by floating along the waterways aboard one of the Friendship Boats. At one time, however, there were actually three manners in which to access the World Showcase entrance of Epcot.

For guests of the Swan and Dolphin, both of which opened in 1990, trams identical to those of the parking lot trams, were available to ferry them to Epcot and back to their respective resort. These trams featured the teal and salmon coloring of the resorts which, presumably, served to distinguish its route from the other trams located at the front of Epcot. The trams were shut down in the middle of the 1990s as the profusion of Epcot resorts, including Disney’s Boardwalk, began to spring up.

While some of the original back road still exists, the addition of these new resorts and plentiful amounts of foot traffic have made it inconceivable that these trams would ever return to service. For the inquisitive guest, however, as you approach or leave via the International Gateway you still have the opportunity to venture around and through the tram’s International Gateway station. Just don’t wait too long for that next shuttle, okay?

18 June 2009

Pedestrian Nature Trail

Wilderness Swamp Trail. That has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? These days what was once known as Fort Wilderness’ Wilderness Swamp Trail has been renamed the Pedestrian Nature Trail.

No longer does it feature a fantastic name worthy of its post. No longer is there a boardwalk with spectacular views accessible to guests. No longer does the trail meander and wind around the Marshmallow Marsh. All that the Pedestrian Natural Trail offers guests is a quiet stroll free from modern vehicles with some vistas onto Bay Lake and beyond. Wait a second…

For all that the trail once was, it still carries rugged backwoods, quiet views of the Contemporary , Bay Lake Towers, and the Magic Kingdom, and pieces of Walt Disney World history known to few and sought out by even fewer guests along its trail.To begin with, the Pedestrian Nature Trail starts off to the right and behind the Settlement Trading Post, as you look at the store straight on. Taveling through the Cyprus for a while, you come to a clearing along the shores of Bay Lake. There is a bridge that crosses over to the remainder of the looped trail and a small cabin or guests can turn and walk back down the beach, past an abandoned set of volleyball posts, to the Fort Wilderness Marina.

At this juncture, however, are the remnants of the Wilderness that once was. This is the former docking location for the Marshmallow Marsh Canoe Excursion. Remnants of the experience, including the dock, trash cans, and cabin, are still present.

This cabin can be seen on long forgotten resort maps, such as this one from 1978: From this point in space and time, the trail continues back into the woods with some spectacular vegetation and views such as this one.One of the most overlooked, and perhaps finest, features of this trail is the fact that it is, in fact, a true trail. It has not been totally cleared and paved over, it doesn’t come with handrails, and it is a close to natural as any point inside of Walt Disney World that guests have access to. It is places and experiences such as this one that keep me returning to the footpaths and byways of Fort Wilderness time and time again.