31 March 2010

We're happy amigos

We're happy amigos
Ryan P. Wilson

Last November the Gazette brought you the news that Mexico City booth from the International Food & Wine Festival had stuck around to become Taqueria Del Lago. The stand has become a temporary quick service location for those craving Mexican dishes while the Cantina de San Angel undergoes a massive refurbishment. Taqueria Del Lago’s menu looked tempting enough that, on my next trip to Walt Disney World, I decided to give it a taste drive.

Looking over the menu I decided on the Tostadas de Pollo. This dish serves up two tortillas of chicken marinated in chipotle. The chicken is then topped with black beans, lettuce, sour cream, and queso fresco, while pico de gallo and guacamole come served on the side. The chicken was very tender and not overly spicy, and is not overpowered by the items piled high on top of it. Unlike traditional guacamole, Taqueria Del Lago’s was not a pasty connection, instead large chunks of each vegetable could be readily found. The pico de gallo, like the chicken, was not spicy enough to send me in search of my beverage, but I liked that it was included on the side so that each diner may choose their level of zing for themselves.If I have one complaint about the Taqueria Del Lago, it would most certainly be the lack of seating or tables. While I understand that the Cantina’s seating area is unavailable, there should be some accommodations made accessible for patrons. The fare here can get messy, and there are only so many steps in front of Mexico that can be taken up by guests eating before the walkway into the pavilion is entirely clogged. I, myself, had to find a spot on the nearby bridge to balance my meal on while I ate. A few pub tables where guests can stand and eat shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Overall, I would definitely eat at Taqueria Del Lago again, the food was fresh and flavorful and really hit the spot. While I don’t foresee a change in dining furniture before the Cantina de San Angel reopens, I can hope that the type of menu offerings now found along the promenade make their way on to the Cantina’s regular menu.

30 March 2010

Planning for the past

Planning for the past
Tony Caggiano

While we, admittedly, cannot plan for the past, we can take a look at how we planned in the past and today that is exactly what we are going to do.

Every year or so, the folks down at Walt Disney World offer a new vacation planning video to help visitors plan for their upcoming visits. While I may or may not require the assistance of these videos, I am always first on the list of recipients when a new video is offered. During a recent discussing on Facebook, I found that I was not alone in my love of the WDW Vacation Planning Video. Many people joined in the conversation and many of them had differing opinions on which “edition” of these videos they liked the most.

One video that had a lot of favorable comments was the planning video from 2005-2006, commemorating the Happiest Celebration on Earth, the celebration of the 50th birthday of Disney Parks Worldwide. This video has an upbeat tone and fast paced editing, and it is certainly one of my favorite editions. Not only does it do a great job in talking about new additions and offering, but it also offers suggestions on when, where, and how to plan a fantastic visit to Walt Disney World.

Whether a newbie to the world of Disney vacation planning, someone who is looking for tips to make the chore easier, a veteran vacationer looking for a bit more of that magic, or someone who is getting psyched up for an upcoming trip, these videos are a fantastic and free way to get a taste of the magic at home, both before and after a Walt Disney World vacation.

29 March 2010

Members emeritus

Members emeritus
Ryan P. Wilson

This morning, we have a small, but imaginative, group sitting around the Gazette’s Roundtable. Pleasure Island, in its heyday, offered a variety of experiences for every guest who ventured out into the night. There is, perhaps, no one club that is looked back upon more fondly or well remembered than the Adventures Club. With most of Pleasure Island still sitting vacant, is it any wonder that we dream of what tomorrow could be like on the Pleasure compound? That is exactly what Chris Fore invited us to do when he presented the question below. If you have your own ideas, please feel free to post them in the comments!

Roundtable Topic: What would you like to see as a follow-up setting (time period, character type, theme, decor, etc.) for a new Adventurers Club?
Roundtable Guests: Matthew Sedlar (The geekTicket), Chris Fore (Yet Another Disney Blog), Greg Grimsley (The Disney Obsession), and myself.
Greg – Interesting question. One thing that struck me about the Adventurers Club in it previous incarnation was that it was a place that adventurers came to once the adventure was complete to tell of their exploits. What if the club was actually situated in the adventure; meaning why not place it among the lush rainforests, or on a tea plantation in Ceylon during the British Colonial era. In terms of Walt Disney World, this would place it somewhere near the Jungle Trek. Though the trek would incorporate a few Asian Elephants into the mix.

The club would be large and full of open spaces, especially on the tea plantation. Carpets, tropical vegetation, rattan furnishings, with an interior of dark woods and polished white marbles. Yes, there may be a library, but books would be scattered all about and within easy access. Drapes are gently moving to a light breeze. And, owing to its proximity to the jungle, a few animals and birds will be among the guests.

Hathaway, Pamelia, Samantha, et al, will continue to stop by and share of their days adventure; either tracking elephant, tigers, and so forth, but we may well finds the likes of a Hemingway type or perhaps some chap named Quartermain. Either way, with these gentlemen, the hunt is the thing, and they are sure to make a gift of some recent conquest to the head of the household. And who knows, with adventure just outside on the verandah, it may easily find itself inside with the blink of an eye.

The beverage of choice, why, cognac of course. “Remy, everyone!”

Matthew – Charles Muntz's Spirit of Adventure airship from Up. The time period would be while Muntz is still a world-renowned explorer. Two reasons for this: It would be impossible to get dogs as the wait staff, and Muntz's years spent in Paradise Falls might be a little too dark and creepy. The Muntz character could be charming and witty, but still show a little bit of the madness that later settles in. I could actually see Disney using a theme like this. They're always looking for ways to use successful Pixar properties inside and outside the parks.

Chris Fore – The time is 1947. We find ourselves on a small island in the Adriatic Sea, still trying to find it's place in post-war Europe. Although the local population has always done decent business playing host to a variety of local sea-pilots, recently the island became a port-of-call for cruise ships. These ships are bringing a never-ending parade of fresh faces (and money) to this once-sleepy island community.

Our setting for this evening is an American-style cafe - a favorite watering hole for both the cruise guests as well as an eccentric mix of ex-pat's, former G.I.'s, musicians, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and others. Some of these lively characters have stories to tell; tall tales of adventure, improbable anecdotes, or perhaps even a business proposition for those who are willing to seize the opportunity.

Our ship leaves port in the wee hours of the morning - but until then, why not stick around? The food is good, the libations are flowing, the music is lively, and the conversation even more so...

Ryan – I would love to see something in the vein of Rick's Café Américain, a place full of mystery, romance, and vultures everywhere. Live music, such as the works of Duke Ellington, The Andrews Sisters, Fats Waller, or Vera Lynn, could be performed throughout the main rooms, with smaller stories, including an ill-fated romance, shifty underworld dealings, or even a thief being conned by a better thief, taking place in the distant corners and tuck away rooms. For real entertainment, guest could venture in to the gambling room where, as it turns out, there isn’t any gambling going on at the moment, but there is a spectacle taking place that is sure to attract the attention of every person in the room. And what better way to end the evening, than with a raid, and closure of the Café, by the police.

28 March 2010

Disney This Week - 28 March 2010

Disney This Week - 28 March 2010
Ryan P. Wilson

If you have come to love Walt Disney World in the past two decades, then you know about the Fife and Drum Corp in World Showcase. However, this was not the original version of the patriotic experience, as George Taylor related to readers of Imaginerding through a vintage postcard.

I love to get my haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street U.S.A. As it turns out, I can get the same experience in Disneyland Paris. Princess Fee shows off the Daper Dan’s Barber Shop, as well as some clever details, over at DF’82.

I have always loved the International Flower and Garden Festival. To be totally honest, it is one of the reasons I always do my research in the spring. So, it is without wonder as to why I love Tokyomagic!’s tour of Tokyo DisneySea 2008 Spring Carnival. You can follow along over at Meet the World by reading Part I, Part II, and Part III.

AJ will forget more about Disney Dining in her lifetime than most of us will ever know, and if she doesn’t know something, she knows where to get the answer. That is why it is so great to see her collaborate with her Disney Food Blog readers to come up with a fantastic collection of Disney Dining tips.

Some places in Walt Disney World you dine at for the food, some for the ambiance, and some for the entertainment. This week, Amanda Tinney takes Disney Every Day to a spot where you can have all three, Whispering Canyon Cafe.

I have long been a fan of night photography found at The Disney Obsession. In fact, Greg Grimsley is the one who inspired me to figure out how to take quality night pictures with my point-and-shoot.

Alice in Wonderland has been smashing the recent box office and Princess in the Frog has been released for home theathers, but the buzz this week should be revolving around the film that takes a look at Disney animation in the 1980s and 1990s. Scott Wolf, of D23, offers his review of Waking Sleeping Beauty.

VinylNation reports on the Passholder Preview of the new Vinylmation store, D Street. The preview is next Saturday, April 3. I am going to make sure to be there, even if it means arriving to Epcot a little later in the day.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios, specifically the Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, take great pride in the history of Hollywood. Over at Studios Central, Matt Hochberg offers up a detailed look and the historical inspirations for Villains in Vogue.

Staying in the Studios, Lou Mongello takes WDW Radio on the road as he scours the park for Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ best snack.

Every week, there is a ton of great stories coming out of the Disney Parks Blog. In case you missed it, Jackie Ogden reveals details behind the rescue and rehabilitation effort for sea turtles caught in the abnormal cold this winter offered up.

I will be in Walt Disney World the next two weekends, but fear not, Disney This Week will still make its appearance on Sunday mornings. Although the article list may not be as extensive as it usually is, it will still be available for your weekend viewing.

Also, if you’d like to follow along on my adventures I will be sending pictures and updates to Twitter. Be sure you are following along, because you never know what I’ll see or who I’ll run into!

26 March 2010

This way to spectacular

This way to spectacular
Ryan P. Wilson

Directional signs, whether to tell you how to find the nearest restroom or how to get to a given land or attraction, are crucial to the flow of traffic in a space. Using carefully selected fonts and adding details to these signs enhance their attractiveness and allow them to seamlessly integrate into their environment. No park does this with more flair than Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Take, for example, this large directional sign that lives in the heart of Asia, near Yak and Yeti, Kali River Rapids, and the path to Expedition Everest.At first glance, it appears to be a collection of signs that have been bolted onto a lamppost, some of them in a rather precarious fashion. What makes these signs intriguing, however, is not the level of authenticity to signs found in real world Asian marketplaces, it is the mixture of locations found in the Asia of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and businesses created to further the backstory of Anandapur. Starting at the top, an exploration of each piece of the sign reveals the following.

Seven Summits – A mountain trekking service that does not actually exist within the park. Expanding beyond the borders of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, however, and we can find Frank Wells’ window on Main Street is for Seven Summit Expedition. Seven Summit Expeditions is a reference to his desire to climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.

Bat Cliffs of Anandapur – Can be viewed along the Maharajah Jungle Trek trail, specifically from the Community Hall.

Public Telephone and Restrooms – Both actually exist, in the guise of the structure housing a bathing fountain, and can be found near the entrance to the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Maharajah Jungle Trek – Bats, tigers, and birds, oh my! If you’re not sure where this actually exists, just follow the big red arrow.

Kali River Rapids and Kali Rapids Expedition – Kali River Rapids is the attraction, but Kali Rapids Expedition is the company that is home to Kali River Rapids. Their offices can be ventured through in the queue for the wet rafting journey.

Anandapur Rail Service – Home to the former Royal Anandapur Tea Company, the Anandapur Rail Service, and its route from Serka Zong to all points beyond, has been put back into service by Himalayan Escapes, otherwise known as Expedition Everest.

Anandapur Woodcarving – While not a place you can visit, the idea planted here is that there are handicrafts and a cultural identity to be found in Anandapur.

Bi-Cycle On Hire – When thinking of transportation in Asia, more often than not thoughts turn to the lasting images of the pedaling people. Bikes have, for a very long time, been the transport of the masses, and can be found all throughout the Asia of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Himalayan Escapes – Tied to the Anandapur Rail Service above, Himalayan Escapes is the company that dares to challenge the Forbidden Mountain and its occupant with their excursion known as Expedition Everest.

Flying Yak – Until Disney’s Animal Kingdom creates a prop plane adventure for Asia, this company only serves to showcase how modernized the area is.

Manam Travel and Tours (P) Ltd. – With so many vast wild places to explore in and around Anandapur, it is no wonder that the there are multiple travel groups in the area. This one, however, cannot be found within the borders to help you plan your next trek.

Shangri-La Trekker’s Inn & Internet Café – While a physical building located near Himalayan Escapes/Expedition Everest does exist with this name, the only piece of the building we can visit is the public restrooms.

25 March 2010

Brightest, sharpest, most colorful pictures

Brightest, sharpest, most colorful pictures
Ryan P. Wilson

A while back we took to the old photo trail of the Magic Kingdom in 1972. The exploration utilized a 1972 guidemap, complete with icons denoting the stops on the photo trail, and visited the same locations today to see what views were offered. This journey seemed so successful, that I thought another tour was due, this time into EPCOT Center in its early years, namely 1984.

Why 1984, you may ask? Honestly, in my personal opinion, 1984 is a very precise point in the evolution of EPCOT Center. Both Future World and World Showcase still had pavilions to be constructed. Horizons, what many believe to be the pinnacle of the Future World discussion, due to the fact that it touches upon every theme in the remainder of Future World, had just opened. The Living Seas and the Wonders of Life pavilions were both years away from their release, although The Living Seas was previewed on the map itself. Morocco was also previewed in the Spring 1984 map, as it was mere months away from opening. Elsewhere in World Showcase, Norway Outpost, and International Gateway were still awaiting their openings.As for the tour of the Kodak Photo Spots, as Walt Disney World had moved away from GAF and towards Kodak since 1972, it is difficult to track some of the spots due to their confusing placement on the map. Examples include Italy being left off of the large map but included in the detailed map of Italy, the appearance that Universe of Energy and Horizons shared a common Photo Spot, and the placement of a two spots that looks to be setting up odd shots, including a picture for France from across the bridge but is on the wrong side of the bridge (I took the liberty of moving to the other side of the bridge for this shot) and another across the waterway from what would be The Living Seas that either was meant for a long shot of Future World West or the construction of The Living Seas (I chose to snap a picture of The Seas in this instance). As could be expected, most of the spots have held up over time, especially in World Showcase. In some case, also not surprisingly, new buildings and foliage have enveloped the original vista, but that didn’t stop me from taking the picture anyway.

Enough of my chatter, let’s take a walk, shall we? Oh, and be sure to have your cameras ready!

24 March 2010

Off Menu Dining: Widowmaker Fries

Off Menu Dining: Widowmaker Fries
Tony Caggiano

You might be asking yourself, what in the world is “off menu dining?” And you are not wrong to do so, reason being…I made it up!

With so many dining options in Walt Disney World one would assume that there was more than enough to keep a person happy, gastronomically speaking. Myself, personally, will never likely be satisfied. Not in a bad way mind you, but I will always be looking for something new, something different. That’s how off menu dining came to be.

It began during a trip to Walt Disney World in 1998 or so. My cousin, James, and I were looking for a bite to eat, but with SpectroMagic about to begin, we didn’t want to sit down and miss the parade, so we figured we would grab a quick bite. Figuring it would be easier to not have a plate to hold I ordered a large order of fries, as back in those days a side of fries came in a large cup, similar to one which popcorn comes in at your local movie theater. Cup o’ fries in hand, I proceeded across the restaurant to get some condiments. As I was just about to add a squirt of ketchup to my fries I was overcome with the delicious aromas of sautéed mushrooms and onions from the fixin’s bar… this is when it struck me.

A cup o’ fries sounded nice, but I was really hungry. “What if I was to add some of them fixin’s to my fries,” I thought. I mentioned this to my cousin, who was about 18 at the time and prone to eating anything that wasn’t nailed down, and he thought that it was a great idea. Never one to do anything half way, I told him that if we are going to do this, let’s do it right and add all of the condiments to our fries.

That’s just what we did, and thus Widowmaker Fries were born!

I chose to name them this for two reasons. One, as many people may know, Widowmaker is the name of Pecos Bill’s horse. Secondly, the name just fit. Since that fateful trip twelve years ago, each and every trip to Walt Disney World has been blessed with the presence of Widowmaker Fries.

While they might not be for everyone, it is important to note that they are a Walt Disney World tradition in our family. You are more than welcome to partake of the Widowmaker Fries and even add them to your own list of traditions, but first and foremost the important thing here is to have traditions.

I have included my official-unofficial recipe below, so that those brave souls who wish to give them a try may do so. But, please, do not call them Widowmakers if you do not follow the recipe to the letter... that would just be wrong!


First thing you will need is the fries. Since Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn Café no longer offers their fries in a cup, you will need to get them on a plate. If you plan to use the fries which accompany your burger, ask for an additional plate… you’re gonna need it.

Once your fries are on a plate of their very own, you should proceed to the Fixin’s Bar. While I will not list ingredients here, the important thing to know about Widowmaker Fries is this, in order for them to qualify you must add each and every item offered on the fixin’s bar. On the particular day these fries were photographed, they happened to have a fine offering of fixin’s available. These Widowmakers include: shredded lettuce, tomato, salsa, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions, shredded cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, barbeque sauce, olives, peppers, pickles and nacho cheese sauce.

23 March 2010

The magic is where you feel it

The magic is where you feel it
Tony Caggiano

Today’s article was inspired by the last minute trip down to Walt Disney World that I took the weekend before last, but actually started years ago.

While on our way to dinner at ‘Ohana back in the late 1990s, my sister-in-law and I were having a conversation as we walked through the lobby of the Polynesian Resort. We were admiring the foliage in the center of the lobby when she told me that as beautiful as the resort is, she thought that it lacked that special Disney magic. I was appalled, how on earth could this be?!?!? In my eyes there was no resort in all of Walt Disney World that held more of that Disney magic for me. What was she thinking? Clearly she had no idea what she was talking about!!!

Since that day, I have often though about her comments and why she would have felt that way. As a Walt Disney World vacationer, she had been visiting since around 1991. Nearly all of her trips to that point had been taken at, the then named, Dixie Landings Resort. As the resort which essentially brought her into the world of Disney vacations, it had always held a special place in her heart. An occasional dining excursion to a resort such as the Polynesian, while a lot of fun, didn’t bring her home to Walt Disney World the same way it did for me, someone who spent countless summer nights as a child running around the grounds by tiki torch light.

This concept of where people find their own Disney magic was brought back before me just a few weeks ago while I was planning my last minute trip. While considering which resort we should stay at for our weekend jaunt, I posted a question on my Facebook page as to what people thought of Pop Century, where we were planning to spend the weekend. The responses I received varied greatly, and ran from “Do yourself a favor and stay somewhere else” to “There is no place with more magic than Pop!” These responses got me thinking again about the conversation I had with my sister-in-law Kelly those many years ago.

My family and I spent six nights at Pop Century, and while we had an amazing trip and absolutely loved the resort, I couldn’t help but think how different the magic really from person to person. Those of us in this Disney community all have one thing in common: we get it, we all understand what the Disney magic is, and we all feel it. The fact of the matter is, however, that from person to person what makes the magic magical can be a very different thing. For some it mean the fast paced, hustle and bustle excitement of an early morning visit to Pop Century's food court on their way to the Magic Kingdom, while for others it might mean being the only person sitting at a picnic table by the waterfront outside of Good’s Food To Go at Disney’s Old Key West Resort, sipping a cup of coffee in the cool morning air planning a day at Epcot. The simple fact of the matter is, that no matter where you find it, or what it is that gives you that feeling, Disney magic is in the air everywhere you go in The World.

Even if it doesn’t look that way at first blush, you may just understand better what the magic is if you take the time to speak to others and ask where they find their own magic… it will no doubt be a labor of love to explore new ways to experience it for yourself.

22 March 2010

15 years of magic

15 years of magic
Ryan P. Wilson

From October 1, 1986 until September 30, 1987 there was a spectacular held in Walt Disney World that would not set the standard for all celebrations to come, but is a celebration which still influences today’s annual events. The 15th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, sometimes referred to as the 15th Birthday Celebration, was shorten and most commonly referred to as simply 15 Years, with a logo the included both Spaceship Earth and Cinderella Castle.

The celebration itself had gigantic displays at the entrances to both parks. In front of the Main Street U.S.A. train station there was a large Mickey Mouse alarm clock with the number 15 filling in every spot where the 1 through 12 should be. Also in front of the station, guest could find a car from General Motors, but more on that in a bit. Meanwhile, over in EPCOT Center, there were massive angular cakes filling the entrance plaza. You can see the cake in the background of the photographs below, one of my sister and I and the other from the reader who inspired me to write this article.
(As a quick aside, I loved this photograph because it not only gave a great view of the 15th birthday cake, but also shows off the original plaza fountain and the vintage Future World trash cans.)

The 15 Years celebration also brought with it a great deal of entertainment. In the Magic Kingdom alone, there was a float added to the Main Street Electrical Parade as well as a stage show in front of Cinderella Castle and a afternoon parade, entitled 15th Birthday Magic Show and 15 Years of Magic, respectively. I can still, from time to time, find myself singing, “Fifteen years of magic, come and join fun…” While not designed specifically for the 15th celebration, Skleidoscope took place on the World Showcase Lagoon beginning in 1985 and ran through 1987. This spectacular used the now infamous dragon boats, as well as sea planes, parasails, sailboats, and other craft of the sea and air, as the battle between good, a la the Dreamfinder, and evil, in the form of the dragon boats, with the fate of the rainbow of color hanging in the balance.

(Quick aside number two, I would love to see the skies and lagoon of World Showcase again take center stage in the afternoon with an event like Skyleidoscope.)

Moving back to the General Motors vehicles in front of the Magic Kingdom, the cars were there as part of a giveaway. During the 15th celebration there were prizes given away to guests every fifteen seconds. From small pins up to the vehicles, the 15 Years event had one of the best guest to prize ratios ever seen in a Disney park celebration. While my family never won a car, even though one was given away every day, the EPCOT Center Future World pin, featuring Spaceship Earth and a diagonal monorail, is still a cherished possession.

Overall, the 15th year of Walt Disney World had quality entertainment, great prizes to be won, and decorations that did not detract from the overall park going experience. It may be because this was my heyday of visiting Walt Disney World as a child, but this celebration will always hold a fond place in my heart.

I want to take a moment to thank Aubrey Griffin Cooper, the reader who not only inspired me to write this article, but who also graciously donated her family photograph. As for the rest of the readers out there, if you have a question you want answered or topic you’d like covered on the Gazette, please feel free to email me: mainstreetgazette@gmail.com

21 March 2010

Disney This Week - 21 March 2010

Disney This Week - 21 March 2010
Ryan P. Wilson

George Taylor uses one of my favorite resources, the Walt Disney World cast newsletter Eyes and Ears, to inform Imanginerding readers about the results of the St. Patrick’s Day Run… of 1984.

Vintage advertisements for the parks some of the most remarkable pieces of Disney history, due in part to their timecapsule nature, with attractions, hours, and/or prices all in one small article. A 1962 ad featuring Disneyland Swiss Family Treehouse, was brought to our attention this week at Kevin Kidney. Kevin Kidney is returning to reporting after a long absence, so welcome back to the fray!

As I made my way through the various sites and articles this week, I came across a recurring theme, the heart and soul of all things Disney that is the driving force behind why we keep coming back and why Disney holds such a fondness in our hearts. Here were a few pieces that caught my eye and tugged on my heart strings.

Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. is, in some ways, the heart of the Disney park experience. This week, we learned from Princess Fee, of DF’82 fame, that no matter rain or power outages the lights will always be burning.

There are a plethora of ways to propose in a Disney park. Dave DeCaro reminds us that creative and the couple matter when he presented a guest’s Disneyland wedding proposal story over at Daveland.

Cast Members are what make a great and memorable trip to Walt Disney World magical. AJ shows the Disney Food Blog readers that it is the simple discussions that can mean the most to guests and Cast Members as she recounts her interaction with the Rose and Crown’s bartender Carl.

Sierra Bailey is a designer and writer, both of which shine over at her Manic Trout home. This week, she has tumbled down the rabbit hole and is awed and inspired by Alice’s clothes in the recent feature, Alice in Wonderland.

The Gazette is always impressed with the amount of history and detail provided by DisneyShawn articles. This week, however, Shawn Slater throws caution to the wind and reminisces about his handful of memories from his very first trip to Walt Disney World.

I usually reserve Disney This Week for showcasing the talented writers from the various worlds and aspects of the Disney community, however, I would be remiss if I did not take a few moments to pause and put down my own thoughts on the loss of Fess Parker earlier this week. As I look back on my youth, aside from Walt Disney World, Fess Parker was the largest piece of my connection to Disney. I had the coonskin cap, a homemade costume that I wore day and night, a Tavern in my Fort Wilderness stomping grounds, and a song that made my heart swell when I sang it, and I sang it loud, proud, and often…Since those early years I have wandered near and far away from home, partially because of the adventurous spirit instilled in my younger self by the King of the Wild Frontier. He wasn’t Daniel Boone, he wasn’t even Fess Parker to me back then, he was, and always will be, Davy Crockett, and his spirit will be carried forward by pioneers and explorers, boys and girls, from generations before mine and those yet to come, and Fess Parker will always be the face of the legend, forevermore.

I recommend reading D23's fantastic story of the life of Fess Parker for more information.

19 March 2010

Potter's Mill

Potter's Mill
Ryan P. Wilson

On Tom Sawyer Island there are lots of caves, bridges, hideaways, and even a fort to explore. For youngsters it is a playground paradise, but for those who know the tales of Tom Sawyer, it is literature come to life. But one piece of the island has a history that is even more storied than the rest of the island, Muff Potter’s Mill.

Muff Potter’s Mill, with its green slats and slowly churning windmill may not look like it from the outside, but inside it pays homage to one of the earliest Disney films. 1937’s The Old Mill, which was the first film to use the multiplane camera, featured the life and times of, you guessed it, an old mill. The dilapidated mill in the film bears little to no resemblance to Potter’s Mill, but the inhabitants are one in the same. Inside the windmill guests’ gaze is beckoned upward by the hoots of the sleepy owl and the luck of the bird who built her nest in one of the gears holds steady, as the gear it crosses just happens to be missing the prong that would surely cause her harm, and both of these elements can also be found in The Old Mill.

18 March 2010

Art where you least expect it

Art where you least expect it
Tony Caggiano

Being the rather rare sort of park visitor who likes to slow down and really look around, I am always amazed at the remarkable amount of detail and art that can be found around the busy, busy parks, if guests only take the time to look for it.

The collection I have for you today is from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Each section or land of the Animal Kingdom has its own crest of sorts. These crests are right under your nose, but I am sure that most people do not take the time to truly appreciate them.

My first photo was taken in the Oasis area, and is the logo of the Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

I love the fact that until I stopped to take this photo, even I barely noticed the subtle details of this wonderful piece of art, and the way that, even the spaces between the branches form the outlines of animals.

As we moved toward our first ride of the day, Kilimanjaro Safaris, I noticed the crest that coincided with our gracious host village of Harambe. With its proud and powerful shield and spears, it speaks of the pride of the local residents of this small African village.

As we wandered our way through the street of Harambe, we found ourselves at the Harambe Train Station. After a short ride, we were at the heart of Disney's Animal Kingdom, Rafiki's Planet Watch.

While admiring the veterinarians hard at work and exploring fun and exciting ways to make a difference in our world, I took a moment to admire some of the smaller, lesser known art offerings here. Brightly colored animal silhouettes against contrasting colors, form striking yet beautiful displays all around the area.

Later in the morning, our travels brought us to another far off land. Nestled high in the Himalayas, I found a crest bearing the likeness of the beautiful and majestic tiger, the symbol of Royal Forest of Anandapur.

As the day wore on we found ourselves en route to watch Festival of the Lion King. I was lucky enough to find the crest of Camp Minnie Mickey, emblazoned with the ubiquitous profile of the Big Cheese himself.

We wrapped up our visit to the Animal Kingdom with a stop by Dinoland U.S.A.

While queuing up for a spin on Dinosaur, I happened to catch a glimpse of the icon of The Dino Institute. Rather stately and scientific looking, their crest states their intentions plainly, with little frill. Yet it is still a work of art.

With my young sons getting restless, we decided it was time for the boys to “get their ride on” and stopped by Chester and Hester’s to hop on TriceraTop Spin and that is where we found the last of the Animal Kingdom’s noble crests…

While perhaps not as noble as some, it certainly does a great job of showing you that in a world such as Walt Disney World, you never know where you will find beauty and art. Take the time to slow down and you too may find untold wonders and hidden beauty everywhere you turn!

17 March 2010

Hospitality and cuisine

Hospitality and cuisine
Ryan P. Wilson

On my most recent trip to Walt Disney World, the trip for the 2010 Half Marathon, I had the great pleasure of dining at a restaurant that not only has one of the most adventurous menus on property, but I also had the great joy of dining there with my very good friend Andy Jackson of Eating (and Drinking) around the World. The restaurant was Artist Point and, while the menu excited my taste buds and the décor inspired my other senses, I thought this review would go a little differently. This time, I am going to let to food speak for itself, with a few notes here and there from myself.

Spinach Salad with Crisp Bacon, Radishes, Hard-cooked Eggs, Pickled Onions, and Mustard Vinaigrette – Tasty, but not the most unique item that can be found here.

Venison Pot Stickers with Tamarind Ponzu – Tender and crispy, and the tamarind seals the deal.

Smokey Portobello Soup with Roasted Shitakes and Chive Oil – The interplay between the Portobello and Shitake paired with the creamy base made this to die for.

Truffle Fries – Frying makes everything better…

Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Sautéed Baby Spinach, Blue Cheese Fritter, and Port Wine Reduction – Perfectly seasoned and cooked, but the rich blue cheese fritter is what sells this dish.

Butter-poached Wild Boar Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom Goat Cheese Bread Pudding, Fava Beans, and Huckleberry Au Jus – I will bypass the Hannibal reference I am dying to make here, and simply say that the boar was masterfully prepared, but the mushroom and goat cheese bread pudding was so flavorful that the portion size could be ramped up just slightly and this side could be a dish unto itself.

The atmosphere here compliments the fare perfectly, it is not pretentious but it calls for a more daring palate. Artist Point delivers on service, taste, quality, ambiance, and style. I would say that Artist Point is family-friendly, but it is most certainly better suited for a quiet meeting, a great meal with friends, or a romantic rendezvous. In fact, I would love to go back again, not just for the full experience, but even simply to sample its whole leaf tea and dessert offerings. Artist Point is another culinary masterpiece in the Walt Disney World dining repertoire.

16 March 2010

Marine scientists at Vulcania

Marine scientists at Vulcania
Ryan P. Wilson

Often times, when thinking about an extinct attraction, enthusiasts tend to get whipped into a fever pitch about how incredible the experience was and bemoan the loss of the amazing attraction. That isn’t to say this isn’t a valid approach, and I have had more than one fit over a lost attraction myself, but today, I thought we would take a different approach and go back to the beginning. The beginning of what, you might ask? To the very beginning of life on Earth, or more appropriately the beginning of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Guest approaching their underwater voyage could hear Captain Nemo discussing the merits of the seas with a mystical, almost romantic, recollection. As he expanded upon the abundance of creatures, resources, and adventures to be had in the great deep, he also offered up a potential new name for our planet, Oceanus. This journey through the Polar Ice Caps and through Atlantis, as well as through menacing tentacles, meant that an entire fleet of submarines had to be constructed for Walt Disney World.

This fleet, which would end up numbering twelve submarines before it was finished (fourteen if you count the two prop subs that are attacked during the voyage), and their design was the brainchild of George McGinnis. Meanwhile, over in Tampa, Bob Gurr had the task of merging all of the unruly drawings and electrical diagrams, not to mention the hull assembly of the submarines themselves. Between the shipyards of Morgan Yacht and Tampa Ship, the pieces came together.

Some of you may have already guessed the problem, the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea subs were extremely large, and they had to be transported from Tampa to Walt Disney World. The route to transport these underwater marvels had to dodge power lines, stay clear of the low clearance underpasses, and worry about the size, weight, and awkward shape of the submarines. As with all Disney projects, the team found a way to make the difficult look easy. And while most of us can remember viewing the subs plying their watery course in the attraction, how many of us can say that we saw the subs motoring down the highway, as in this 1971 photograph from Walt Disney Productions?

15 March 2010

Environmentality’s Newest Addition

Environmentality’s Newest Addition
Tony Caggiano

While leaving Disney’s Animal Kingdom last week I stumbled across something I found very interesting, it was a trash receptacle. Now, I know many, if not all of you, have met the very popular talking trash can, PUSH, in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland or his less known cousin, PIPA, who is a walking, talking recycling can over in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, this can neither walked nor talked, but it did cause me to stop in my tracks to take a closer look. The can I am speaking of is nothing more than a recycling can, specifically designed to collect used park maps.

I know what you are thinking, “We knew this guys was nuts, but this might take the cake!” At least, that is what I was thinking to myself. I’m not going to lie to you, I was getting some funny looks as I stood there photographing a garbage pail. The best look of the bunch was the one I got from a passerby as I turned to my wife and exclaimed, “How awesome is this,”…quite loudly!

In this day of recycling and the green movement, I thought it was great to see Disney taking steps to reclaim and recycle these maps that I love so much. Even after all of these years, I still grab a map as soon as I enter a park, a habit that has rubbed off on both of my sons, who MUST have a map as soon as they arrive also. Admittedly, I usually wind up taking my maps with me, as well as an additional copy or two to save, (I have maps from every visit I have ever taken), but I know this isn’t the case with everyone.

With tens of thousands of visitors, and nearly that many maps consumed, in each of the four parks everyday, it was nice to see that these beautiful, complimentary, and often unappreciated, works of art which I enjoy so much, were not all headed to a landfill somewhere.