31 May 2010

Spending even a few minutes

In the introduction to Winnie-the-Pooh, the book not the film, A.A. Milne briefly expounds about the two types of guests that visit the zoo in London. During this narrative Milne recounts, “There are some people who begin the zoo at the beginning, called WAY IN, and walk as quickly as they can past every cage until they get to the one called WAY OUT. But the nicest people go straight to the animal they love the most, and stay there.” Similarly, there are many guests who rush as quickly as they can through Disney’s Animal Kingdom without every truly taking time to pause and absorb the wild world around them.While A.A. Milne observed two types of visitors to the zoo, it is my opinion that there are three types of guests that visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The category of guests include those that dart throughout the park and are gone as quickly as they arrived, others who plod along through the various lands taking note of a few exhibits as they continue moving from the entrance back to the exit, and, finally, the guests that find places to stop and savor every moment for as long as they can.Upon entering Disney’s Animal Kingdom, plenty of guests make their way through marquee experiences, including Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Dinosaur, a showing of Festival of the Lion King or Finding Nemo – the Musical, and perhaps a spin through either Primeval Whirl or Kali River Rapids, before beating a path back towards the exit before noon. These guests refer to the park as a ‘half-day park,’ and dash through Disney’s Animal Kingdom as early in the morning as they can before moving on to one of the other three parks for the afternoon, evening, and night.A second collection of guests will, most certainly, rush with the crowds to obtain a Fastpass before moving on to the queue of another attraction. After successfully taming several attractions, they will meander at a slower pace to the remainder of the plotted points they wish to experience. Along the way, they could be cajoled into visiting one of the animal trails or pause to take a few moments to marvel at DeVine, before the heat of the afternoon drives them to the air conditioning of their cars, resort rooms, or attractions of the other parks.The final selections of guest notice when one of the multitude of animals are available for viewing, they take in the occasional attraction, but will spend a majority of their day viewing their favorite creatures, and taking time to talk with the Cast Members positioned throughout the exhibits. While possibly not their favorite animal, these guests are always in wonder of the nature world being presented, and are content to stop and stay put for as long as is necessary to understand a bit more about the animal in front of them.As stated above, not everyone’s favorite animal is presented in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, however I find it difficult to believe that among the plethora of species roaming around the park, which include gorillas, tigers, otters, macaws, hippopotamuses, bats, and meerkats, to name a few, there is not a creature that each and every guest could find intriguing. This is not to say that any of the above factions are right or wrong, it is simply that some guests are more attuned to the message of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Taking a few excerpts from Bob Lamb’s introduction in the Field Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, we are reminded of what this park truly means:
“Spending even a few minutes, for example, watching the gorillas interacting with one another or seeing the tigers at play is a poignant reminder of what a privilege it is to be able to observe these creatures.”“When guests visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, we want them to enjoy the wonders of our animal world, but we also want them to go away inspired by what they see and to become personally involved in conservation efforts in their own communities and in conserving wildlife and wild places around the world.”

30 May 2010

Disney This Week - 30 May 2010

Amanda Tinney shares the best kind of mail to receive, coconut mail, on Disney Every Day.

Over at DisneyDaddy, Chuck Lionberger shares a rare treat from Japan, Miyuki.

Lou Mongello knows how to start the day off right, and reveals his photographic culinary experience of Tonga Toast with WDWRadio.

Studios Central scribe, Matt Hochberg, tells us why the Streetmosphere characters party like its 1947.

The headline of the Zannaland headline crafted by Zanna DiMarzio says it all, The Coolest Nametag Ever.

If there is one thing that I am super excited about as part of Summer Nightastic, it is without a doubt the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade. This week, Thomas Smith, goes behind the scenes of the Main Street Electrical Parade’s return to Walt Disney World on the Disney Parks Blog.

Shawn Slater takes DisneyShawn on a mission to Mars when he explores the Mickey and historical connections found in Mission: SPACE.

Disneyland’s Space Mountain turned 33 this week, and TokyoMagic! celebrated at Meet the World with park paper, press photos, and slides of the attraction.

With Free Dining rapidly approaching, AJ has everyone covered as she explores the five best dining plan values, focusing on the quick service restaurants, this week at The Disney Food Blog.

Also, this week The Disney Food Blog and Main Street Gazette completed their comparisons of the similar food offerings available from Disneyland and Walt Disney World. From Disneyland we taste tested the Candy Palace, Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port, Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival, and Goofy’s Kitchen, while from Walt Disney World we sampled the Main Street Confectionery, Pizza Planet, Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, and Chef Mickey’s (along with a bit of Goofy’s Kitchen). I hope you enjoyed the meals as much as we enjoyed sharing them with you!

28 May 2010

Worlds wonderland lines

Throughout the golden age of Hollywood present in the opening boulevards of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there is but one way to travel, the Pacific Electric Railway.More commonly referred to as the Red Car, the Pacific Electric Railway transported the masses throughout Southern California from 1901 until 1961 using a variety of, what were then considered, modern modes of transportation. The fleet relied heavily upon light rail and busses, however, the most often reminisced element of the Red Car were the trolleys. By utilizing these various vehicular transit options, the Pacific Electric Railway was able to service three districts that covered a large swath of Southern California, including Pasadena, Santa Ana, Long Beach, Beverly Hills, Glendale, San Bernardino, Santa Monica, and, of course, Hollywood.The Red Car was so much a part of the times that it can not only be seen in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as a viable means of transport and as a way in which to set the scene, it is actually pivotal to the plot. In the film the villainous Judge Doom seeks to dismantle the Pacific Electric Railway so that automobiles will appear more attractive to the typical motorist. With the world of Roger Rabbit playing a crucial role in the early years of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then known as Disney-MGM Studios, it is no wonder that the Red Car could, and still can, be seen throughout the park.So, where can these glimmers of this transportation gem be found? It should come as no surprise that the average guest does not look up enough, however for those who do gaze up along the boulevards of Hollywood and Sunset, a billboard exalting the wonders of the Red Car can be found. At the crossroads of Sunset and Hollywood there are two mentions of the Pacific Electric Railway. The first is the roundhouse building that houses the L.A. Cinema Storage shop, while the second is a map of the Red Car’s lines, which can be found on the backside of the tip board. Finally, following the trolley tracks down Sunset, just before reaching the Hollywood Tower Hotel and G-Force Records, there is a scaled down trolley serving as a merchandise stand.

27 May 2010

Food of the thirty-seven countries

Several weeks ago, I was extremely pleased to sit down with friends old and new (in terms of how long I’ve known them, not their age) for a meal at Pleasure Island’s Paradiso 37. The entire meal was well-documented on the WDW Radio Show, in Episode # 165. Joining in on the culinary adventure were Lou Mongello, Glenn Whelan, Scott Otis, and John Leuzzi. As noted during the show, I made sure I photographed all of the various appetizers and entrees that we partook in.

Shown below from the starters section of the menu are the Central American Crazy Corn, Chicken Quesadillas, and Mexican Dipping Trio (which includes Chunky Guacamole, Chili con Carne, and Spinach Queso). For the main events, our meals ran the gamut from the Bacon and Pineapple Burger and Beef Burritos, to Citrus BBQ Pork Ribs, Argentinean Skirt Steak, and Chilean Style Salmon. I hope you enjoy this photo safari through what was on heck of an enjoyable meal. I think we should do this again soon gentlemen! Wooooo!

26 May 2010

Course by course - Part IV

Today is the final installment between The Disney Food Blog and Main Street Gazette comparison of Disneyland and Walt Disney World dining options. While there are plenty of other dining options that could be compared,
our taste tour has reached its dessert. Actually, since we started with dessert, I guess it is time to get to the main course!

To top off our tour we’ll be reviewing two character buffets, and we’ll both be discussing both restaurants! So, where did we sit down to eat? Why, two of the hottest breakfast tables in town! From the Disneyland Hotel we’ll be partaking in Goofy’s Kitchen, while the Contemporary offers up Chef Mickey’s. To be fair and upfront, my meal at Goofy’s was back in late 2007 as part of my honeymoon and my meal at Mickey’s as last month, but in order to give a comprehensive view I’ll be looking at each restaurant in three categories: Food, Atmosphere, and Characters.

Food: Isn’t this why we’re all here?

Chef Mickey’s offers up just about every imaginable breakfast food item a guest could crave. In fact, the spread is so large that I did not even catch the cereal and treats section until my party was walking out. The buffet offers up a variety of potatoes, eggs, meats, and a variety of breakfast breads, including the world famous Mickey Waffles. For those with a more health conscious appetite, there are a variety of fresh fruits and yogurt, and even vegetable lasagna. A quick aside, one of the prettiest photographs I took during my recent trip to Walt Disney World was this griddle full of fresh pancakes.

Goofy’s Kitchen offers up just about every imaginable breakfast food item a guest could crave, and they’re just getting started. In addition to a breakfast selections similar to above, there are a variety of savory items also available, including pizzas, pastas, and fresh vegetables. With such a broad range of flavors, the menu here has something for every type of eater, diet, and hankering.

While both restaurants offer a terrific assortment of breakfast staples, with such a vast array of dishes, Goofy’s Kitchen clearly gets the nod here.

Atmosphere: The feast for the eyes.

Chef Mickey’s is situated along the Contemporary Resort’s Grand Canyon Concourse, where monorails can be seen whooshing overhead and where most dining rooms have a view that overlooks the Magic Kingdom.

Goofy’s Kitchen is tucked away in a quiet, first floor corner of the Disneyland Hotel, within mere steps of the meticulously designed Neverland Pool and a short walk to Downtown Disney, Disneyland, or California Adventure.

While both restaurants offer glimpses into the history of their respective homes, a view of the Magic Kingdom and a host of monorails passing by wins every single time. Period.

Characters: A breakfast with character!

Chef Mickey’s offers guests a chance to dine with the Fab 5; Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Donald, and Pluto. During the course of an average breakfast, each of the five characters will make their way to each table, pausing long enough for autographs and pictures. As well, there is group interaction with all of the guests and characters waving their napkins in the air every so often.

Goofy’s Kitchen employs a vast ensemble of characters that interact with the guests. During my particular visit, I can remember seeing Chip, Goofy, the Fairy Godmother, and Wendy, among others. Also encouraging group participation, Goofy will occasionally gather a group, consisting mostly of children, to play in the pot and pan band that he creates by dumping out a variety of large dishes and utensils on the floor.

I am split on where the better character interaction is here. While Chef Mickey’s offers a guaranteed glimpse of Mickey and the gang, these characters can be found elsewhere, and some of Goofy’s inhabitants are often very difficult to find. As for their group dynamics, give me a rowdy band to guest slinging hash off of their napkins any day!

Overall, I think it is pretty clear that no matter if you are visiting the West or East Coast homes of Disney, both Goofy’s Kitchen and Chef Mickey’s offer up a delicious meal that is complimented by a fun atmosphere, and it would be a terrible mistake to pass up either opportunity.

I hope to venture back down the Disneyland and Walt Disney World food trail, or any taste tour for that matter, with my good friend AJ and The Disney Food Blog again soon! Until then, check out our tasty tour of snacks (Candy Palace and Main Street Confectionery), pizzas (Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port and Pizza Planet), and festivals (Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival and the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival). Bon app├ętit!

25 May 2010

The site of the 26th World Congress

Founded in 1919, the International Chamber of Commerce is an organization that seeks to be ‘the voice of world business championing the global economy as a force for economic growth, job creation and prosperity.’ Throughout the world, the ICC has eighty-four national committees and hosts a variety of conferences with the aim to engage the most challenging problems facing the global economy. Every two years the ICC hosts a World Congress that was, up until the year 1978, held in the capital of the host nation.In 1978 the host nation was the United States, but the 26th World Congress would not be held in Washington D.C., instead it would venture south to Walt Disney World. It would be before this body of 2,500 business executives and political leaders that Card Walker, then President and Chief Executive Officer of Walt Disney Productions, would make the announcement of EPCOT Center on 2 October 1978. The members of the World Congress, with business ties around the globe that would be crucial for pavilion sponsorships, were the first to preview the plans for the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. One attendee who spent a good deal of time conversing with Card Walker about the plans was President Jimmy Carter, seen below with plenty of concept art hanging in the background.Walt Disney World sent the International Chamber of Commerce 26th World Congress back home with a fireworks display that would linger long in their memories as they began to wonder about their own futures with EPCOT Center.

24 May 2010

Highway in the sky

By now, we have all seen and heard of the Tronorail. I, for one, couldn’t wait to see the overlay in April after having witnessed countless photographs and viewing the concept art. It was my sole mission to not only see the Tronorail, but to take a journey aboard it. I have been incredibly psyched up about TRON: Legacy since I first got word of the production, and I have always wanted my own lightcycles to putter around town on, but placing this iconic image on the side of a monorail just looks cool.When I finally saw the Tronorail gliding overhead in Future World, I won’t lie, I was extremely giddy. My first ride aboard the Tronorail was as smooth as any other trip aboard a monorail sans-overlay. And, as the week wore on I became less and less enthusiastic about the sound of an approaching monorail, wondering with less frequency as to whether or not the monorail around the bend was, in fact, the Tronorail. However, with each glide by, I began to think more about the fleet of monorails themselves.

In the past several years we have seen Disneyland unveil a new fleet of monorails, whose design reflects the original style of the monorails. Stylish and 50s-futuristic, the Disneyland fleet exemplifies both variations of transportation and the history of the area it serves. In Walt Disney World, however, these monorails would look out of place, as the current exteriors, sleek and complete with striping, have always been the norm on any monorail pulling away from the Transportation and Ticket Center.Excluding, for the moment, the possibility of a new monorail fleet coming to Walt Disney World, the Tronorail and Disneyland’s updated fleet have given me, as well as several people I have talked to, an idea about refurbishing the current Mark VI monorails. Flashy imagery can be removed, but covering the entire body of the monorails in a single color, and vary that color from monorail to monorail would give the fleet a brand new appearance and appeal. For those who like the striping effect of the current fleet, perhaps the same bold swath can still appear on the side of the monorails, but this time in white, reversing the styling pattern of the original fleet.

Obviously, a monorail coated in the same lime coloring used for a stripe wouldn’t be as visually appealing as one would hope, so clearly new colors would have to be designed. Again, the Disneyland and Tronorail offer up the answers. Disneyland iridescent paint job for their fleet uses a palate of colors that is a bit more muted, and even the Tronorail uses a much less vibrant shade of blue. Instead of lime being the color of choice, perhaps a monorail doused in a forest tone would sit better with the eyes. If Walt Disney World really wanted to be creative with the coloring, how about picking out some identifiable colors tied to animated characters, such as the red color specifically designed for Ariel’s hair.The point is that with the introduction of the Tronorail, Walt Disney World started a trend that can continue. As the country, and the world, recover from a strenuous economic period, there improvements that can be made to a fleet of monorails without creating an entirely new fleet. In an era where the history of Walt Disney World is as important to guests as the latest innovation, the monorails’ iconic shape is as much a part of the Walt Disney World story as the silhouettes of the Polynesian longhouses or the A-frame of the Contemporary, but with some tweaking the fleet can once again catch the attention of every guest.

23 May 2010

Disney This Week - 23 May 2010

Often times, when speaking of the Golden Age of Hollywood visible through Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we speak about architecture or the Streetmosphere characters, but what about the vehicles? Shawn Slater has the answers for us over at DisneyShawn, where he discusses where and when to find the Studio vehicles.

What could be better than a meal in 1972? Why having the recipe in 2010 of course! George Taylor gives us just that, a view in King Stefan’s Banquet Hall and recipe from the establishment, this week at Imaginerding.

Since its transplanting, the Pooh treehouse has been causing quite a stir. Found at the Disney Parks Blog, Thomas Smith features a video that showcase why and how the Pooh tree was repurposed.

As so many of us did, I grew up with Walter Cronkite in various forms. I also spent a good portion of my youth absorbing all the science fiction I could. Michael Crawford presents a video that combines both of these things when Walter Cronkite meets TRON on Progress City U.S.A.

Also from Disney on television, Vintage Disneyland Tickets examines a February 1971 TV Guide, that features a special filmed entirely in Disneyland.

While a little off topic for a Disney-related article, Dave takes Daveland readers on a tour of Batman photographs and then to the original Batcave entrance!

In the continuing series of Disneyland and Walt Disney World meal selections, AJ and The Disney Food Blog toured Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival. Meanwhile, we here at the Main Street Gazette began licking our chops for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

21 May 2010

Engine No. 10

Trains and steam engines have always been a part of the Disney story, from Walt Disney’s backyard line to the short-lived Fort Wilderness Railroad. As much as trains are connected to the history of Disney, they are even more crucial to the story of the United States. One such story is presented in miniature, both in model and in tale, within the lobby of Old Key West.

Outside of Florida, where elementary students (of which I was one) study Florida History, a large portion of the population is unaware of the role played by Henry Flagler and the Florida East Coast Railway, along with its impressive Long Key Viaduct. For the most part, this is all the information that guests of Old Key West are given from the plaques surrounding the model. Today, however, let’s dig a little deeper.Henry Flagler – Henry Flagler was an entrepreneur who saw opportunity, but also the promise of brighter tomorrows, throughout his life. While most people recognize the first name in The Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler company, which would later become Standard Oil, few realize that, like Rockefeller, Flagler was a giant of industry and was also part of the movement that allowed the American railways to flourish.

In the late 1870s, Flagler and his family moved to Florida due to medical concerns. Realizing that Florida could flourish in the areas of tourism and crops, Flagler turned his interests to the hotels and transportation systems of Florida. Beginning in 1885, and continuing for the next seven years, Flagler purchased several established railroad lines in Florida. From 1892 on, his endeavors focused on building new railways within the state. Between the purchased lines and newly created routes, Flagler’s collection of tracks became known as the Florida East Coast Railway, and he even had his own private car, known as Rambler, to entertain guests.

Florida East Coast Railway (F.E.C.R.) – Purchased lines of the Florida East Coast Railway, including JStA&HR railway, the St. John's Railway, the St. Augustine & Palatka Railway, and the St. Johns & Halifax River Railway, were known as the Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Indian River Railway. The lines had one continuous problem for Flagler, however, they did not use the same gauge track, which made consolidating the lines impossible. To solve this problem, Flagler had all of the lines redone in standard guage, before moving on the add further track down the East Coast.

As the lines spread southward towns began to take on new life, and several sprang up as the result of the railway. After reaching an agreement with several landowners in Biscayne Bay to bring his routes further south, the name of the railway was changed to the Florida East Coast Railway. The lines continued to thrive and, in 1896, the railway reached Biscayne Bay, what we now know of as Miami.

Construction continued on the railway until its completion in 1912, a year before a tragic accident cost Henry Flagler his life. By 1912, the F.E.C.R. reached all the way to the Florida Keys via The Oversea Railroad, a 128-mile stretch of railway stretching from the tip of Florida to Key West. The innovations and advancements required to complete the structure are astounding, and produced the Long Key Viaduct.

Long Key Viaduct – Known as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the stretch of the F.E.C.R. from Florida to the Keys that included the Long Key Viaduct cost fifty million dollars and took seven years to construct. During the period of construction from 1905 until 1912, three separate hurricanes threatened the project, including one that washed a quarterboat housing 150 construction workers out to sea where the boat broke apart and cost 67 men their lives. Today, the F.E.C.R. no longer runs across the two-and-a-half mile viaduct, but the structure still stands and offers some of the best fishing in the state of Florida.

20 May 2010

Muppet Studios

For the past several decades, 3D was thought of as a gimmick, not as a technique that could enhance the depth of field in a film. These days 3D is here to stay, and more and more cinemas are rushing to convert theaters so that they are able to keep up with current 3D technology. With all of the talk about 3D, it makes one wonder, what will be coming next to the big screen?

Perhaps the team at Muppet Labs, the creators of MuppetVision, has the answer. As guests wind their way along the exterior queue for MuppetVision 3D, one of the sights they will encounter is a selection of some of the finely crafted Muppet feature films. There is a distinction to be found among the posters, notices that were put in place when the attraction originally opened featured a variety of filming styles, while the newer posters, which include Beak-E, Hammah Montana, High School Mayhem, Pirates of the Amphibian – At Wit’s End, and Wild Frogs, were created without an additional filming gimmick. What, precisely, are these filming techniques that Muppet Labs brought to the future of filming? Time to explore them for ourselves.

The Bride of Froggen-Schwein: Filmed in Shock-O-Rama (So scare-raising it’s hair raising!)

Cleopigtra: Filmed in Sniff-A-Ramma (Something stinks and it ain’t the sphinx)

Dive Hard 2: Wet-O-Rama (So real your fingers will get all pruney)

Follow the Feet: Filmed in Blista-Vision (So real your tootsies will ache!)

It Called From Outer Space: Filmed in amazing! VacuuVision (No Air – No Gravity – No Kidding)

Star Chores: Filmed in Stellar Vision (So real you’ll see stars!)

The Pigseidon Adventure: Filmed in Flood-O-Rama (So Real You’ll Go Glub! Glub! Glub!)

19 May 2010

Course by Course - Part III

As we continue our coast to coast culinary Disney tour, today The Disney Food Blog and the Main Street Gazette take a step away from the table and take a walk. A walk towards new foods or a stroll to walk off the last dish as wander through Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival and the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. While still several months away from this year’s World Showcase of food, the festival runs from October 1 through November 14 in 2010, the spirit of the event never changes and sometimes, just sometimes, you can find that one bite whose taste will stay with you the rest of your days.

The crux of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is, without a doubt, the food and wine mentioned in the marquee. Peppered along the World Showcase Promenade are the kiosks of the Marketplace. The 20+ stands invite guests to sample cuisines from all corners of six continents. Each year offers something new to try, and 2010 will be no different with the additions of South Korea, Belgium, and Singapore, but also offers up familiar flavors, with nine representatives (Japan, France, Poland, Mexico, United States, Canada, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom) having attended every single incarnation of the festival.

In addition to the sampling plates and glasses of adult beverages, of which 1,200,000 plates are used, 600,000 forks, and 33,000 bottles of wine, there are a plethora of other dining experiences not to be missed. From Tequila Tastings and Sweet Sundays filled with the best in pastry, to Party For the Senses and Culinary Adventures, there are a broad range of dining events to fit ever palate and budget.

Once guests can look up from their plates, there is a whole new world of experiences to entice the other senses. For starters, there are educational workshops, tours, and seminars to indulge in that are hosted by some of the brightest gastronomical minds in the world. Often times found in the Festival Center, otherwise known as the former Wonders of Life pavilion, this domed space also provides shopping space for cookware, art, wines, and culinary books, often times with an author or two on hand.

As night settles around the World Showcase Promenade, the atmosphere begins to heat up and what had been a banquet of scents and tastes during the day morphs into a feast for the ears as the Eat to the Beat concert series takes to the stage in the American Gardens Theatre. Artist like Vanessa Carlton, Billy Ocean, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and En Vogue are all able to top off an amazing evening. During the 2010 festival, the night will be more alive than ever as the inaugural Wine and Dine Half Marathon takes place on October 2nd.

Returning back to the food at hand, there are a variety of dishes that can be found throughout the Marketplace. While not every booth will be a smash hit, there are a few items that are immediate rock stars. Such items include the Lobster and Scallop Fisherman’s Pie (found in the Cork kiosk) that takes what the sea will give and turns it into a warm trip down memory lane into guests’ own family kitchens, Kefta (from Marrakesh) that is the epitome of savory, portable street foods, or even the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup (found under the Montreal banner, but also a staple of Le Cellier) which is a fan favorite all year round.

The menu may change from one year to the next, but the emotional ties that connect us all to our foods and, undeniably, to our own friends, families, and roots, remain constant. Whether consciously or not, it is these same bonds that can be found the world over and which we share with one another during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

Now that we've tasted what the international marketplace has to offer, head on over to The Disney Food Blog and see the worlds of flavor offered up by the microcosm that is California and Disney's California Food and Wine Festival.

Next week we will conclude our series of dining in Disneyland and Walt Disney World with AJ of The Disney Food Blog. If you are still hungry, check out our snack sampler featuring The Disney Food Blog’s tour of the Candy Palace and our own taste test of the Main Street Confectionery or, if you need something more substantial, grab some pizza at either Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port or Pizza Planet.

18 May 2010

Magnificent two-and-one-half mile long lake

As you delve into the history of Disney theme park and resort areas, the more accustomed you grow to hearing the terms Mineral King and Disney’s America. (A quick aside, if you want to read a fantastic series on Disney’s America, please head over and check out our good friend Sam Gennawey’s expose on the park-that-never-was over at SamLand’s Disney Adventures.) A project that is a not as well known, or as often talked about, is The Independence Lake Project that was in development in the latter half of the 1970s.

The Independence Lake-Mt. Lola venture was announced in July of 1974, and was held together with a limited partnership with Southern Pacific Land Company and the Sierra Pacific Power Company. By the summer of 1977, the venture moving forward with the project by publicizing their initial master plan. What did that plan include, you might ask? Here is what was laid out in the 1977 Walt Disney Productions annual report:
“Visitor facilities, both winter and summer, will be concentrated at the northeast end of this magnificent two-and-one-half mile long lake. Here will be located a 21-acre pedestrian oriented visitor village, lodging units, restaurants, guest services, campgrounds, and base operations for both winter and summer recreational programs...The area offers some of the finest beginning and intermediate ski terrain to be found anywhere in America, with runs emanating from elevations up to 9,100 feet. The terrain is ideally suited for family skiing groups, which will be an essential part of the Disney market.”

If all stages of development had occurred within the guidelines set forth in the original master plan, Independence Lake would have had enough accommodation space for 2,900 guests each evening during the winter and 3,400 guests per night in the summer, the discrepancy in accommodations coming from camping units. At that time it was estimated that the site would be able to hold 10,800 guests per day, where peak times were the winter slope season, with an astounding 1,800,000 visitors filtering through the facilities annually.

While there was no way to predict how the government agencies required to give this project a greenlight would react, Disney was hopeful that they could begin groundbreaking in the spring of 1979 with the first facilities being opened to guests in the winter of 1981-1982 (a very good winter if I do say so myself…). In October of 1977, Disney offered this cautiously optimistic statement:
“…the Company culminated more than three years of environmental and engineering studies and master planning by filing with Sierra County and the United States Forest Service its Environmental Assessment Report, thereby beginning the formal Environmental Impact Statement process with the federal, state and local agencies.

There are no assurances at this time that this administrative process, which could take up to eighteen months, will ultimately result in governmental approval for the project.”

As it would turn out, this administrative process would wind up being the Independence Lake Project’s undoing, and it wouldn’t take long. By the early spring of 1978 Disney had deferred all plans for the area due to the increasing hazards of dealing with red tape. On 27 March 1978, the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial claiming the following:
“Even if Disney had a favorable Environmental Impact Study in hand - - and none is in sight - - it still could not proceed without the additional approval of nine state agencies, ranging from the Department of Fish and Game to the Public Utilities Commission. But Disney officials were never told which agencies had jurisdiction, and did not find out until new ‘demands were made on them by still another entity of government.’”

Smaller projects like Independence Lake and Mineral King, which did not have the enthusiastic support of the government that Walt Disney World had enjoyed, floundered and died. Independence Lake was a project that spent five years in development and study, at the cost of two million dollars, but never produced a single cabin, slope, or hiking path. Still, it is hard to not wonder about what might have been, or how these plans could have affected other concepts developed down the line… Lottawatta Lodge anyone?