30 July 2010

Whaling trip

Within the worn walls of Columbia Harbour House a vast storehouse of sailing paraphernalia awaits exploration. Everything from exhibits on knots, map cases, lanterns, coins, figureheads, miscellaneous sections of vessels, diving helmets, model ships, and even the occasional musical instrument line the shelves and canvas the walls. There is, however, just as much fiction to the sea stories presented inside the restaurant as there is nautical knowhow.

For instance, this posting could very easily be overlooked amongst the slew of other similar announcements peppered throughout Columbia Harbour House’s two floors. The obvious giveaway here is the use of the name, Captain Ahab. The famous captain who pursued his white whale beyond any rational line of thought can be found in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. While the story never explicated explains where Ishmael, the story’s narrator, heard about the Pequod, one can only imagine a notice such as this one caught his eye and caused him to explore further.

While this mounted poster is indeed a fabrication, one thing is for certain, throughout the history of the sea postings of this nature brought many young men out onto the ocean. This subtle blurring of maritime fantasy and seafaring fact not only serves to create a wonderful environment to dine in, but it also adds to the mystery of the sea.

29 July 2010

The most consistent high quality of production achievement

In the lobby of the All-Star Movies resort, there is a large collection of photographs detailing a good deal of the illustrious history between the Walt Disney Studios and the Academy Awards. Some of the most intriguing photographs in the collection in rare moments, as well as some well publicized ones, between Walt Disney and Oscar.

While Walt Disney may hold the record for an individual with the most number of Academy Awards, he was bestowed thirty-nine, the real gift here is the intimate nature of the pictures. The photographs not only show a few of Walt’s many personalities, but also a variety of Hollywood elite, including Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley Temple. Of course, some of the most heartwarming pictures capture Walt with his staff and his brother, Roy.

28 July 2010

Rich with cultural and culinary treasures

I have never been a fan of the offerings available in the China Pavilion of World Showcase, aside from the occasional egg roll. However, after dining at Nine Dragons last fall, I may very well have to eat my words.
For starters, what could be a very cramped and commotion filled environment has a very relaxed element to the atmosphere which is a well needed relief from the hustle and bustle just outside the restaurant’s unassuming doors. The interior décor is elegant, yet simple, as Nine Dragons is filled with rich colors, deep rosewood panels, and gorgeous artwork from a variety of disciplines.
My cohort for the dining affair was my good friend, and regular dining campanion, Glenn Whelan, and the pair of us decided on the Nine Dragons Family Dinner Set. The fixed price meal allows each guest to choose a bowl of soup, entrée, and dessert from a pre-set menu of options. With only two soup selections, three main dishes, and two desserts, Glenn and I opted to try as much as possible. Glenn sampled the Hot and Sour Soup, Honey-Sesame Chicken, and Strawberry Red Bean Ice Cream. For my part, I went with the Chicken Consomme with Pork Dumplings, Canton Pepper Beef, and Caramel Ginger Ice Cream. The only item left out of our feast was the Sweet and Sour Pork.
In my experience, there are two types of Chinese restaurants in the country, the quick carry out specialists/buffets and the more complex meal authorities. After my meal at Nine Dragons, I firmly believe in falls into the latter category. With such a dense history of food and, honestly, a culinary heritage unlike any other it is easy to not rise to the occasion of Chinese food, especially when the something as simple as wrecking rice can completely obstruct the rest of the meal. Nine Dragons makes the task look effortless in the way in combines uncommon elements together, such as the caramel and ginger, and subtly layers the flavors of traditional favorites, a la the Canton Pepper Beef. All and all, this was a terrific meal, and I am sure to head back to Nine Dragons again.

27 July 2010

Wardrobe mistresses

Right before Christmas in 1973, pirates invaded Walt Disney World. This was not the first time that scallywags of this sort had come ashore in Florida, they had a long a storied history with the area. In fact, it was for this very reason that Pirates of the Caribbean had not be slated as a project for the East Coast Vacation Kingdom.

However, after guests began churning through the turnstiles in 1971 expecting high seas adventures and made their displeasure at the lack of rum-guzzling buccaneers well known, Pirates of the Caribbean was on the expansion fast track for Adventureland. Access to the newest adventure would come through an area known as Caribbean Plaza, a blend of Spanish architecture and a resilient fortress that would offer shopping and dining. While it may not have been an opening day attraction at the Magic Kingdom, Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the handful of attractions that sets the standard for brilliant design and storytelling, as well as being the unofficial mascot of Adventureland.

Perhaps one of my favorite images from the period of construction for Pirates of the Caribbean is of two Imagineers making sure the armory guards are correctly dressed and bound. The title given to this pair of women is wardrobe mistresses, a title that would allow anyone to stand right alongside the Pirates’ redhead if I’ve ever heard one. In continuing with the witty phrasing from the photograph, Walt Disney Production captioned to photograph LEARNING THE ROPES, while the 1974 article from the Chicago Sun-Times titled the shot Trussing the guards. Either way, I love that the high level of attention to detail seemed essential enough that it warranted photographic documentation even back in the 1970s.

26 July 2010

A legend forevermore

Today’s commentary has its impetus in two very specific moments. First, and foremost, is this little guy that we’ve seen wandering around on the Main Street Gazette from time to time. Yep, that is a pint-sized version of today’s newspaperman. While this photograph may have been taken on Halloween, it would be safe for the readers to assume that I was rarely seen without this outfit.The second came recently from George Savvas’ <>Coffee With Walt photograph from the Disney Parks Blog. This is the photograph that really got me to thinking about artifacts that line my office walls.

There are ancient Walt Disney World pennants, construction photographs of EPCOT Center, a map of the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcadde, even a battered sign from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, to name a few of the more intriguing pieces. Still, it seemed as much as I have steeped myself in the history of Walt Disney and the parks, as much as I have learned and gathered and preached, I seemed to be lacking the watchful eye of Walt.

With that, I began to search for a suitable photograph of Walt to hang in my office. The uniqueness of Savvas’ photograph stuck with me, and I knew I did not want to simply find a photograph of Walt sitting on his desk or in the car on Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. The image of him standing in front of the concept map of Disneyland or the sketch of EPCOT would not do either. I needed to find the piece that was as distinctive as Walt and yet echoed a piece of my life. And then I found the photograph I was looking for.

Two of my heroes caught in a casual moment of song. The pair watch over me now, right beside my desk and, when my house is completely still, I feel as if I can hear them singing across all of those years. And sometimes, just sometimes, I join in the chorus.

25 July 2010

Disney This Week - 25 July 2010

Andy Jackson and Jamie Collins take us to what might be one of the tastiest events Walt Disney World has ever offered, the Taste of Africa Street Party at Eating (and Drinking) Around the World and Only WDWorld. Take a look at Andy’s offerings and Jamie’s submission.

Over at the Disney Parks Blog, Gene Duncan uses a two part series to examine the gorgeous Butterfly Garden at Fort Wilderness’ Outpost. See the amazing insects and brilliant blooms.

Amanda Tinney tours readers of Disney Every Day through the Aulani Resort model.

Time certainly flies, and Greg Grimsley gets to the heart of a Columbia Harbour House experience that changed a lot of lives at The Disney Obsession.

AJ unwinds at The Disney Food Blog with the best snacks and drinks she’s tried at Walt Disney World.

Jungle is 101 scribe, Mike Kelly, pontificates on Disneyland crowd control.

Matt Hochberg infuses Studios Central some intriguing insight into where and why The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror fits into the Disney attraction canon.

Melissa Loflin takes readers of Makin’ Memories with her to Victoria and Albert’s. FYI, I need to get Melissa to teach me how to photograph food.

The Noah Fine Art Blog covers all the bases with Noah at the unique Disneyland 55 event.

23 July 2010

From head to tail

As far as tales of dragons and damsels go, the story of Saint George has perhaps had the longest legs. As the tale goes, one day a village found a dragon blocking the way to their spring, the only source of water available. Attempts were made to move the dragon from its position, but to no avail. Sheep were offered as sacrifices, but when there were no longer sheep to be found, the village began sacrificing fair maidens. The lottery of straw drawing was employed, and with each new sacrifice, the villagers were given one day’s access to the spring.

One day, however, the straw was drawn by the princess. Though the king pleaded for his daughter to be spared, it was deemed that she would be sacrificed like all of the rest. Then, dashing in at the last minute, came Saint George who just happened to be passing through on his travels. With his magical lance (often used interchangeably with sword), Ascalon, George was able to slay the dragon and save the princess. In some versions of the tale the heathen or pagan villagers threw off their beliefs in order to follow the path of Christianity due to George’s deed.

The patron saint of England, Portugal, and the islands of Malta and Gozo, statues of Saint George have been erected in towns and villages throughout Europe as a symbol of his protective nature. One such statue has found its way into the central square of World Showcase’s Germany.

22 July 2010

Last seen

Being a preschool teacher in my other profession, I do tend to try and keep up with children’s cartoons and entertainment, if only to be able to carry on intelligent conversations with Pre-K children. One show that was quite popular with my group of students was Kim Possible, so imagine my excitement when the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure set up shop in Epcot! One of the coolest details of this experience, aside from the secret missions themselves, is the collection of WANTED posters plastered near the assignment stations.

21 July 2010

The Official Unbirthday Tea

Coffee has been a rollercoaster topic for guests of Walt Disney World for years now. While the well designed coffees available for purchase have been a best buy, if only for their packaging, the cups of joe available around the resort have, for the most part, left tastebuds wanting. This, however, has never been a debate I have wandered into because, as it so happens, I am not a coffee drinker. Tea, on the other hand, is right up my alley. Recently, Wonderland Tea has been making its way home and into the tea pots of guests around the world.

I picked up a sample package during a trip to Walt Disney World earlier this year, and decided now is the best time to put together a review of the twelve teas available. To set the stage, or table as the case may be, I brewed all the teas according the hot instructions provided (see below), without additions (milk, sugar, etc.). In between each tea sampling I cleansed my palate with water.
My Way to Make Iced Teaby The Queen of Hearts: Don’t twiddle your fingers! Prepare tea as normal, but double the amount of tea. Once it is brewed, off with the heat! Refrigerate it until cold (curtsey while you’re refrigerating, it saves time). Serve over ice, sweeten if desired, then… let me have it!

How to Make Hot Tea (a.k.a. Uncold Tea)by The Mad Hatter: Start at the beginning (and when you come to the end… stop). Pour hot water over one tea bag in your cup and steep for 2 to 3 minutes (we recommend your clock be two days slow). Move down the table to get a clean cup.
Disney Wonderland Tea may have only been on the market for a short period of time, but the packaging claims that it was established in 1951, the year Alice in Wonderland was released. The packaging includes the name and type of the tea as well as the guidelines for preparing the teas. Let’s take a taste, shall we?

Hue: Light
Smell: Strong – Warm blueberry syrup
Taste: The first inclination is of a thick liquid, the aftertaste is where the blueberry flavor come through.

Hue: Medium
Smell: Medium – Warm spices, feels like the late autumn or winter
Taste: All the elements of chai are here, but the expected intensity level is lacking.

Hue: Medium
Smell: Medium – Wild flowers
Taste: The scent of flowers carries over to the taste by offering a subtle rose essence.

Hue: Dark
Smell: Mild – Earthy
Taste: The warm earth feel continues with a leafy bite.

Hue: Medium
Smell: Strong – Sweetened Vanilla
Taste: A creamy texturing of vanilla that comes and goes from the time it is sipped until swallowed.

Unfortunately, this tea was left out of the package I received (Mango was duplicated instead). I will update this article as soon as I can obtain a Jasmine sample.

Hue: Light
Smell: Medium – Buttercup
Taste: Naturally sweet, almost a floral bouquet, with a citrusy zest.

Hue: Dark
Smell: Medium – Roasted apples and peaches
Taste: The sensation of warm homemade fruit pies tends to come in waves.

Hue: Light
Smell: Medium – Ripe mangoes
Taste: The sweet mango smell dissipates quickly and is replaced by a bitter/sour tang.

Hue: Medium
Smell: Strong – Peppermint
Taste: The light taste of spearmint permeates and lingers in the mouth, throat, and sinus cavity.

Hue: Light
Smell: Light – No smell
Taste: A very mild infusion of tropical fruit flavors.

Hue: Dark
Smell: Light – No smell
Taste: The bitter bite of pomegranate is slightly overwhelming to the palate.

20 July 2010

Part of the family

When looking through old Disney publications, sometimes it’s the items that you are not looking for that intrigue you the most. That is how I found this article.
It’s not really news, but William Windsor, Jr., his wife, Marty, and their two small sons, Jay and Lee, were the first family for Walt Disney World.

As the family from nearby Lakeland stepped through the turnstiles, they were greeted by Mickey Mouse and Disney Ambassador Debby Dane.

Day One for the Windsors was full of tours, important persons, and dozens of reporters and photographers.

But, Day One was not the only big day in the Windsor’s lives. They received a lifetime Silver Pass to Walt Disney World. So we hope to see them often in the days and years to come.

From the November 1971 installment of Eyes and Ears, the brief commentary speaks about the first family that stepped through the gates of the Magic Kingdom and their place in the history of Walt Disney World. The Windsors were a perfect fit to the image Walt Disney World sought to present. Not only were they the picturesque clean cut All-American family, they were also native Floridians. I can only imagine what that day was like for the Windsors, and I hope they have taken advantage of their Silver Passes, I know I would!

19 July 2010

For pained and broken hearts

Sitting in one place by yourself for too long can have a profound impact upon an individual. In a place such as Walt Disney World, where I spent a good portion of my youth and contemplate often as an adult, you can begin to feel the sting of aging and of what has slipped away, or perhaps what is yet to come. A little over a year ago, I sat on a bench in the Fort Wilderness Campfire Show arena well before time for the show to start. I watched children playing in the open field as I had once done, and I watched the water, the Meadow Trading Post, and the trees beyond as dusk settled over my boyhood retreat.

I haven’t changed a word of what I penned that evening (though some of the poetic waxing I wince at now) and I’m not sure how much I wrote down that night still holds true, but I think the sentiment and the conclusion I reached remain.
An Open Letter on Walt Disney World…

I remember Skyleidoscope, the dragon boats, hang gliders, and fireworks when the sun was out. There were silver space outfits and Mickey wore a rainbow on his chest. There was a time when white spires towered over Tomorrowland and the WEDway, canoes filled the waterways alongside keelboats in Frontierland, and Dick Tracy protected Disney-MGM Studios.

I remember camping under the stars, even when it was hot and wet. Fort Wilderness came complete with trails behind your campsite covered with underbrush, and the remnants of the Fort Wilderness Railroad still lied buried along the roads and woods. You could along a Cyprus boardwalk and watch a seas serpent, turtle, and octopus light up the lake. Back then, Fort Wilderness was the only place to watch movies outdoors in the evenings. Classics like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, not Freaky Friday and High School Musical 2.

I remember when on-property meant the Contemporary, Fort Wilderness, or the Polynesian. I was born when Walt Disney World was only the Magic Kingdom.

I have suffered the losses of Horizons, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, World of Motion, Residential Street, Pirates of the Caribbean’s Armory shop, the Dreamfinder, Fantasy and Sorcery in the Sky, Discovery Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, Mission to Mars, Meet the Muppets, River Country, Dreamflight, and the Skyway, to simply name a few.

In my lifetime I have seen the Transportation and Ticket Center turn from a hub of the world to an annoying pass through. I have seen buses fill the once hallowed ground occupied by watercraft and monorails.

I used to wake up to the whistle of the Walt Disney World Railroad, and I still can.

I have lost a lot, but I have kept the memories close and anticipate my new adventures every day. Like Walt Disney, I hold onto the past, my past, and keep an eye to the future.

I am as much a part of Walt Disney World, as it is a part of me, and that shall never change.

--Ryan P. Wilson
28 April 2009
Fort Wilderness Campfire Sing-A-Long

18 July 2010

Disney This Week - 18 July 2010

AJ tromps over to my neck of the woods and puts together a review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue at The Disney Food Blog. Makes me a bit homesick…

L.A. Times scribe Brady MacDonald has a scene-by-scene guide to The Little Mermaid attraction coming to Disney California Adventure. Survey says the same breakdown should suffice for the Magic Kingdom’s version as well.

Featured at Disney at Work, J. Jeff Kober has a very insightful look into what makes guest proud to be fans of Walt Disney World.

Jackie Ogden shares with us a few new arrivals to the warthog and scimitar-horned oryx families at Disney's Animal Kingdom on the Disney Parks Blog.

This week at Imaginerding, one of my favorite oft-tread upon but seldom investigated areas of Walt Disney World, the Walk Around the World, was covered by George Taylor.

History and horticulture intersect on Sunset Boulevard, as explained by Matt Hochberg at Studios Central when he tell us why the Victory Garden is there.

The Imagineer I’d most like to interview, but probably couldn’t get one question out of my mouth for, is George McGinnis. This week he shares a great piece from the relaunch of Disneyland’s Space Mountain with Michael Crawford and Progress City U.S.A.

16 July 2010

Mouse literature

Minnie Mouse is an avid reader and writer, not to mention cook, artist, gardener, and historian. Found throughout her house are pun-filled tomes that reference other established literary works (Good Mousekeeping Cookbook, On Men and Mice), television programs (The Wonder Ears), and a single book that could actually be bought in Walt Disney World at one time (Cooking With Mickey Around Our World). Sadly, however, most of these works are shelved and unable to be perused, but there are a pair of texts that offer valuable insight into the world of Minnie Mouse and the toon community as a whole, Famous Mice In History by Minnie Mouse and Clarabelle’s (Clarabelle Cow) Big Book of Pun Plants. From the pages that guests are able to catch a glimpse of, here is what we know about mice and dandylions.
Famous Mice In History by Minnie Mouse (pgs 233 and 234)

Confusedus – 551 B.C. Though somewhat less wide than the famous Confucius, Cofusedus has given us these pearls of wisdom: “A cheese in the hand is worth two in the fridge.” “A foolish mouse and his cheese are soon parted, unless he eats it first.” “You can lead a gift cheese to water, but you can’t look in its mouth… Or something like that. I forget.”

Mousocrates – 415 B.C. This great Greek philosopher lectured endlessly to his students on the essence of truth, beauty and cheese. “In ignorance of cheese lies the beginning of cheese wisdom.” His famous pupil, Pluto, (who was known as the teacher’s pet), wrote the book which immortalized Mousocrates: Dialogues about Cheese.

Attila the Mouse – 459 B.C. Attila was the King of a vast army of mice which swept out of the East, and into Rome. They did not pillage or destroy however. They merely came to taste the local cheeses, and finding them rather bland, they left.

Minniepatra – 40 B.C. The legendary romance between this Queen of Egypt and the Roman general Mick Antony was doomed to end in tragedy. But instead, they lived a long and happy life together, thwarting the gloomy expectations of romantics everywhere. Well, I guess they were in de-Nile.

Kublaimouse Khan – 1167 Mouso Polo, the Venetian explorer, immortalized Kublaimouse Khan in memoirs after returning from China with a food which is now believed to have been invented by the great Khan: String Cheese.

Leonardo da Moussi – 1530 This famous artist (who painted the Mona Cheesa) was also a visionary inventor. His voluminous sketch books depict numerous objects and ideas which would not become reality for three centuries! Among these, the cheese grater, microwavable cheese pizza, and the process for moulding [sic] cheese into the shapes of famous landmarks.

Mousileo Mouselei – 1564 Before Mousileo, many scholars believed that the moon was made from cheese. Mousileo turned the scientific world upside down when his astronomical observations led him to report that was in fact made from a processed cheese substitute!

William Mousepeare – 1564 The author of many famous plays: A Midsummers Night Cream Cheese, The Cheese Merchant of Venice, Julius Cheeser, Taming of the Cheese, and Moazzarella About Nothing. Some famous Mousepeare quotes: “A cheese by any other name would still smell as sharp.” “Out, out, dang cheese!” “Shall I compare thee to a wheel of cheese?” “Neither a lender of cheese nor a borrower be.” “To be a cheese on not to be.”

Charles Darmouse – 1823 The controversial scientist and author of Origin of the Cheeses, defied world opinion when he announced his reasoned belief that all modern cheeses are ‘evolved’ from earlier, more primitive cheeseforms. (Exactly how a cheese evolves he could not account for.)

Mary Moushelley – 1828 The author of one of the most famous and frightening books in all of Mouse literature, Frakenmouse, which tells the story of a mad scientist who defies nature and creates a new form of cheese by melting together a Chedder and a Swiss, only to find it far too sharp for his tastes. Pretty scary stuff for mice!

Thomas Cheddarson – 1847 The famous American inventor who brought to the world of Mice such useful items as the cheese grater, microwavable cheese pizza, and the process for moulding [sic] cheese into the shapes of famous landmarks.

Albert Einmoustein – 1921 This white eared mouse gained fame worldwide when he proposed the Theory of Cheesitivity, which states that C = MCheese2. In laymouse’s terms, this means that a cheese traveling at the speed of light would, within a specific mathematical probability, get all squished out of shape, but would taste just fine, and would probably be easier to spread on a cracker.

Clarabelle’s Big Book of Pun Plants (pgs 233 and 234)

Blue Bell (Dingus Dongus) I like the name ‘Bluebell’, it has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? This plant is a real hum dinger. It is related to the Bell Pepper Plant, and blooms in January to ring in the new year! Water sparingly, it tends to rust.

Buttercup (Oleo Innacuppa) This inexplicable plant makes a great gift. When you’re trying to butter somebody up, it really help you get a handle on the situation. Pour hot water and place a tea bag in the bloom every afternoon at 4:00.

Dandylion (Funnius Felineum) This purrfect plant enjoys just lolling in the sun all day. But be warned, it is not compatible with plants of the Canineum species, such as the Collie Flower. Prefers growing in the den. Be sure to rub its belly often.

Daisy (Donaldus Girlfriendium) The adorable blooms of the Daisy are recognized all over the world. This plant looks heavy, but is actually light as a feather. Allow it to float in a pond once a day.

Potted Palm (Handova Fistus) This four fingered species inspires applause world wide. This author definitely gives it a thumbs up. I really think everyone should give it a hand! Water weekly, but try to resist the urge to give the delicate fronds a handshake.

Sunflower (Toohottus Totouchus) This hot little number can brighten up any room, but don’t look directly at it without sunglasses. Water sparingly, and when you do, watch out for the steam! And please, keep it away from any open flame, you don’t want to get a sunburn!

Tiger Lily (Ferocious Felineum) This aggressive plant should be kept away from delicate plants such as Gazelleums. This is a very expensive plant, and can really take a bite out of your pocketbook! Water daily, and feed generously, but wear gloves when handling.

Twolips (Kissus Andtellium) This rare species seems to resemble something… But I can’t remember what. Darn it, it’s right on the tip of my tongue! Well, in any case, this charming plant really speaks for itself. Water weekly, with a straw, and apply lip balm generously.

15 July 2010


Being a writer, I have a thing for witty wordplay, a fascinating facet of the storytelling that can be found throughout Walt Disney World. One of the best places to find these talented turn of phrases is Dinoland U.S.A. From scientific slang to amusing ads, the wording of everything in Dinoland U.S.A. clearing comes from an unabashed assemblage of people that love to have fun with words. A prime example of these wily words can be found in the titles of the games of Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama.

With names like Mammoth Marathon, Fossil Fueler, Comet Crashers, Bronto Score, Whac-A- Packycephalosaur, and Dino-Whamma, the games are as fun to say as they are to play! (Not to mention take pictures of...) In this same vane, I would be remiss if I did not mention the names of the fuels used in Fossil Fuelers, they are: Extincto, Gasodon, Jurgassic, Rocktane, Pteroil, Supremadon, and Fossilene.