31 December 2010

2010 Best in The WDW Record: I won the lottery

This week we looked at how the Main Street Gazette wished to educate, build community and communication, have some fun at Walt Disney World and, of course, the wheres and whats to eat around the Vacation Kingdom. Yet, if you know anything about your humble author here, you know that the history of Walt Disney World, alongside my own personal history with the resort, is a subject I could spend hours expanding upon.

I won the lottery took a look back at the working studio, a founding principle of Disney-MGM Studios, a great film prop, and the park’s current grip on Disney history.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse back through 2010 this week, and I hope you are just as excited for 2011 as I am! See you all next year!
In the late 1980s, if word had spread that Bette Midler was starring in a comedy being directed by Garry Marshall, the impending success of such a film would have been palatable. While most people can remember this dream connection working together on the Touchstone picture Beaches, few remember their smaller film, The Lottery.

The Lottery was a 2 minute and 40 second short film about a music teacher in New York City that realizes she has just won the lottery. Unfortunately for her, her ticket flies out the window and is carried away by a pigeon. Bette Midler, playing the teacher, climbs out onto building ledges, hangs from clotheslines, zooms down the sidewalk in a cart, flips into the subway, and is nearly run over by a train in the pursuit of the pigeon and her fluttering ticket. In the end, she believes her ticket had been destroyed by a passing subway train, only to have the pigeon return it to her, the pigeon is, in turn, rewarded with a giant pigeon statue by the music teacher. It should be noted, that Garry Marshall not only directed this film, but also had a small part as a man offering Bette Midler warnings from the subway platform.

The film was the first to be shot entirely at the Disney-MGM Studios. Soundstages sets were designed for interior and some special effects shots, while exteriors were shot along New York Street, what would one day become part of the Streets of America. The Lottery was in a very limited engagement, as the short and its sets could only be seen as part of the Backstage Studio Tour. In fact, the sole purpose of the production was to give guests a better understanding of the various elements that went into producing a film, if it did only last a little over two and a half minutes.

Today, The Lottery has long been retired to the Disney vault, its most recent showing during a presentation for Disney-MGM Studios/Disney’s Hollywood Studios 20th anniversary. While the film itself may be a thing of the past, much of New York Street still appears as it did in the film, and the subway train used in the film can be seen in the prop warehouse guests walk through before boarding their tram in the current incarnation of the Studio Backlot Tour.

30 December 2010

2010 Best in Photo Safari: Flowing together for more than a million years

There were quite a number of photo safari pieces to choose from, and this selection was probably the toughest choice I had to make when deciding on each entry for this series of articles. There where plenty of photographic tips, subject matters, and conversations to be had in this broad ranging topic, but finally I settled upon Flowing together for more than a million years. The post featured a wide reaching effect and detail that is often overlooked, and I love turning readers on to new aspects of Walt Disney World. The research for this article also sent me on a scavenger hunt of sorts, scouring each World Showcase pavilion to find the perfect spout of water and the perfect framing for the shot. Grab a nice tall glass of water and enjoy this look back.
Water is a critical component of life on earth, not to mention that it covers two-thirds of the globe. Water is, obviously, an essential element to weather and temperature, but since the dawn of time it has been fundamental part of daily living. Water hydrates humans and livestock alike, is used for irrigation of crops, houses a wonderland of food, fountains have been utilized as central meeting places, is traveled upon, and natural falls and pools of water are renowned for their beauty. The many forms and uses of water as an integral part of earth, and our place in it, are explored throughout the pavilions of World Showcase. While each pavilion presents at least one view of water’s role in a culture’s existence, on many occasions there is more than one work of water being showcased.

29 December 2010

2010 Best in Disney Delish: Course by course - Part I

Collaboration has become a great part of working on the Main Street Gazette. From the roundtable sessions, to working for and with other sites and organizations, I love partnering with other great minds in the Disney community. Look for expansion of cooperative efforts and other creative collaborations in 2011, but for now take a taste of Course by course - Part I, an epic crossover event with The Disney Food Blog.

There is a lot to be said about the food of Walt Disney World. Similarly, there is just as much fare to be discussed, and digested, from Disneyland. With that thought in mind we are going to undertake a particularly intriguing conversation. So, to answer your two burning questions (which, I am certain are, who is this we I speak of and what tasty topics are we going to be chatting about?), over the next month of Wednesdays we are going to be comparing the cuisine from Disneyland and Walt Disney World with examples that are as close as in taste as is possible. The other, far lovelier, piece to this puzzle is our good friend AJ from The Disney Food Blog. In fact, since I have just returned from Walt Disney World and she has just returned from Disneyland, those will be the respective meals that we are each accountable for. Therefore, over at The Disney Food Blog you can follow our tasty trail in California, while the Main Street Gazette will offer the symmetrical dishes from Walt Disney World.

We’ll kick off our tour with the small bites. In the battle over sweet snacks around Walt Disney World, Dole Whips, Mickey Bars, Patisserie pastries, and Kitchen Sinks are often bandied about as if they are the supreme rulers of the realm. In fact, however, far more tempting and time-tested treats can be found in the first land of Walt Disney World in the Main Street Confectionery.

In my attempt to offer a fair and impartial look at the offerings of the Confectionery, I decided it was only prudent to sample as much as I could. During the week I tried one piece of fudge, but I was so concerned that the others did not meet the mouth-watering standards of the first piece, that I decided I should sample another half dozen pieces. In addition to the fudge overload, I also choked down a piece of English toffee slab and pecan caramel roll. With a spread fit for a king, and enough sugar to keep me awake until my next visit to Walt Disney World, here were my thoughts of the various sweets I tasted.

Fudge – For comparison’s sake I munched on the chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate-peanut butter, turtle, vanilla turtle, chocolate-vanilla, and s’mores varieties of fudge. There were several others I did not get to, but I saved those for another trip.

Growing up, fudge was a simple, rich slab of melt in my mouth chocolate or peanut butter, with the occasional walnut thrown in for good measure. It is the quality of ingredients that combine to make that smooth texture and tongue boggling taste, and the Main Street Confectionery clearly uses only the highest quality ingredients. These hunks of fudge were, simply put, a trip back to my childhood, at least as far as the chocolate and peanut butter classes are concerned.

When it came to the other flavors, ones that added in syrups, marshmallows, or graham crackers, the quality was well maintained across the board. Also, the additions were evenly distributed across the pieces so every bite had the same flavors coming through. All of the flavors were top notch, even if I happen to be partial to the more classic flavors.

English Toffee Slab – This is one of the Confectionery’s marquee attractions. In fact, when I ordered my piece, the Cast Member assisting me told me it would be the best thing I ate that day. Those were high standards to live up to and, unfortunately, the treat fell a little shy of that mark for my taste buds.

For those of you who have never sampled the English toffee slab, it is a block of toffee (caramelized sugar and molasses that has been allowed to cool into a brittle sheet), covered in chocolate, and the topped off with chopped nuts. If this item had been served with just the toffee bar, or even with the coating of chocolate, it well could have received my highest marks for candies. However, the chopped nuts, which usually are a plus for me, put me off of this particular snack because it simply seemed as if there was too much going on and the creamy flavor of the toffee were being lost.

Pecan Caramel Roll – Where the nuts in the English toffee slab proved to be too much, the pecans in this chunk of sugar proved to be the piece the put the roll over the top. The pecan caramel roll is a thick snaking roll of caramel, topped, once again, with chocolate and nuts, that is then sliced off into oversized wedges.

The piece is chilled, tacky, and hard when you first receive it from the case, but the longer it spends in your hands, or in the sweltering Florida sun, the softer, stickier, and chewier it becomes. Whether it is enjoyed immediately, which is nearly impossible given how rich the caramel is, or as it softens, the pecan caramel roll is at the top of an extremely tall mountain of quality sweets that the Confectionery offers up daily.

While the homemade saccharine snacks are the highlight of the Main Street Confectionery, there are still other treats to be found here that are a feast for the eyes. Staring out over Town Square, the art of cotton candy crafting can be viewed by the charmed and passersby alike. Once enticed inside the store, however, the feathery cotton candy is left in the window and the real operation can be seen. Behind a series of windows the candy making process can be monitored, and items such as peanut brittle, candy apples, rice crispy treats, and toffee come to life before viewers’ eyes.

All in all, the lines may be longer elsewhere around Walt Disney World, particularly just over the bridge into Adventureland, but the Main Street Confectionery is the real heart of the snacking soul of Walt Disney World. Fresh, quality treats can be seen being created and sampled from the large display case. And you really cannot ask for more than that. To read about Disneyland’s counterpart, the Candy Palace and Candy Kitchen, be sure to check the article at The Disney Food Blog.

28 December 2010

2010 Best in World of Yesterday: Marine scientists at Vulcania

It should come as no surprise, whether you’ve been reading the Main Street Gazette since its inception, only for a few weeks or even happened to hear one of my guest appearances on the WDW Radio Show, that I love to talk about the history of Walt Disney World and its attractions. In many instances the story of an attraction’s creation or demise is just as unique as the attraction itself. In the case of the Fantasyland favorite, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the process by which the fleet of Nautilus-like submarine reached the Magic Kingdom has always been a favorite story of mine. I tried to give the tale as much life as it deserved in Marine scientists at Vulcania. Take a peak!

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?

27 December 2010

2010 Best in Perspective: Bay Lake’s tropical island paradise

We’re kicking the week off with my favorite Perspective piece from the last year. I love this article because it touches upon several of the founding principles of the Main Street Gazette. For starters, it allows my imagination to run wild, daring to dream what could possibly be impossible dreams. Also, it raised the level of discourse in the Disney community. Anytime I can craft an idea that creates an exchange of ideas among others I am extremely happy.

Go ahead and take a look back at
Bay Lake’s tropical island paradise, a glimpse into how to repurpose Discovery Island for a band of castaways.
Sitting out in the middle of Bay Lake is an island. While those of us who have spent the better part of the last forty years enveloped in Walt Disney World know this as Treasure or Discovery Island, the remnants of buildings, sheds, aviaries, and the shipwreck seem mighty mysterious to the casual guest who may only have begun visiting in the past ten years. For those of us who grew up with the island, it is also a mystery, as to why it has sat dormant for so many years. Perhaps it is time to go back to the island, this time with a move towards a LOST experience.

Unlike its predecessor, however, this LOST island would not operate during a majority of the daylight hours. Instead, it would be an evening event with a tour of the island and dinner. Guests would check in at the Polynesian and board their boat, say something in the Chinese junk department. While a submarine would be more appropriate, even I know there will never be a submarine trolling the depths of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. This excursion could take place two to three times an evening, and for those of you who believe guests wouldn’t wander so far off the beaten path for an experience like this, may I offer up the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue as a counterpoint.

Once guests reach the island Dharma folks would meet them at the dock, where a submarine would already be parked, and begin to lead them on their tour of the island, which guests are told will end at their barracks. As the group makes their way through the jungle, guests would pass by the Black Rock, the cave with the Man in Black and his mother’s skeletons, and hear whispers in the woods, among other experiences.All at once the ground begins to shake, trees on the horizons shudder and fall, and guests hear that familiar clicking-hiss of the smoke monster. The tour obviously must be cut short, but rather than return to the dock, guests are hurried inside one of the Dharma scientific research stations, The Swan station. This is where dinner will take place, in the large room with the countdown clock. Throughout the meal guests will overhear conversations amongst Dharma staff, arguments about the smoke monster, how the island isn’t ready for visitors yet, etc. As guests have finished eating, one argument would lead the hosts to leave the room for a few moments, just as the clock ticks down to zero.

As the hieroglyphs begin to rotate through the clock the Dharma members return. While one rushes to the control panel to enter the now infamous code, the other leaders will hasten the guests back outside and towards their waiting launch at the dock.

This is, of course, only one scenario and one thought towards revitalizing the once bustling island in the heart of Bay Lake and bringing a LOST experience to a fanbase that has been clamoring for an attraction for years. All of you Losties out there, what type of experience would you like to see at Walt Disney World, and where? For all of you Walt Disney World enthusiasts, what would you like to see happen with Discovery Island?

24 December 2010

One more sleep 'til Christmas

I hope, wherever you are, that you are enjoying this holiday season, and that your days are filled with family, friends, and wonderful food! We here at the Gazette family want to wish you and yours the brightest of holidays!

Next week, the Main Street Gazette will be running our favorite article in each section from 2010. For those of you who have diligently read all of the articles from this past year, fear not, as there will be additional commentary for each article. Perhaps an explanation as to why it is my favorite article, or maybe some juicy details not in the original story, but no matter what there will be something for everyone next week.

While I will be taking this weekend off, do not fear that I am resting on my laurels. Next week, while you, dedicated readers, are catching up on the Gazette’s favorite articles from 2010, I will be working furiously in my workshop, crafting new articles and projects for 2011. So keep your subscriptions up to date, come back next week for a little fun, and I’ll see you all in 2011!

P.S. - If you do need a little more Main Street Gazette in your lives next week, be sure to follow me on Twitter. I’m sure to be getting into so kind of mischief there!

23 December 2010

The important thing is the family

City Hall, situated to one side of Town Square on Main Street U.S.A. is also known as the service hub called Guest Relations. Once inside the beautifully designed structure, guests are usually occupied with setting up tours, Advanced Dining Reservations, acquiring services for disabled individuals, and a smorgasbord of other forms of assistance. What is often overlooked, however, are a series of photographs featuring the Disney brothers. While a majority of the images feature Walt Disney, amusing himself with a Tiki bird, rolling down the rails and other grin-inducing activities, there is a solitary image of Roy, standing on Main Street U.S.A. and dedicating the park his younger brother dreamed of. Go ahead, peruse the gallery for yourself.

22 December 2010

Boogie-woogie bakery boy

In the past when looking into, and tirelessly tasting, the snacks of Walt Disney World, we have come across gigantic cookies, clever twists on classic desserts, and even tricked out cupcakes. However, there is at least one baked good we haven’t sampled yet, brownies. Well, my salivating companions, that changes today, when we head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in search of a behemoth brownie.

The Brownie Paw can be found back in Africa at Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery. Among the other bakery items, including turnovers, cinnamon rolls and croissants, are a trio of top tier treats. The problem for the Brownie Paw is that it appears smaller and has less swagger and trimmings than its older siblings, the Zebra Cupcake and White Chocolate Elephant Cupcake. The idea that the Brownie Paw is not as worthy of valuable consumption time is a gross miscalculation.

Bits of molded chocolate form an animal track atop a slab of rich, smooth buttercream. Beneath this first layer is a thick tier of fudge that is filled with gooey, chocolatey goodness that is the consistency of ganache. Once the sugary sucker-punch subsides, there is still a brownie that tiptoes the line between chewy and dense like a pro. While it may not have the height of its Kusafiri counterparts, the Brownie Paw delivers the baked goods on all fronts. It is also the perfect snack to split with a child who may not be feeling up to the adventurous spectacle of the Zebra and White Chocolate Elephant cupcakes.

It seems that with each progressive year the selection of bakery snacks continues to become more diverse, introducing new ingredients and dessert forms, and better quality. The Brownie Paw has been hiding in the shadows for a while now, but is a delicious twist on a childhood favorite. The next time you are hanging in Harambe, remember this bodacious brownie, you won’t regret it!

21 December 2010

Dickensian carolers

Elements of Christmas within Walt Disney World are always changing, but there are also plenty of traditions that return year after year. Take, for instance, today’s Christmas image from the Magic Kingdom in 1979. Here’s the blurb Walt Disney Productions sent along:
WALT DISNEY WORLD CHRISTMAS -- A 70-foot high living Christmas Tree, Dickensian carolers, the Very Merry Christmas Parade, nightly fireworks, the spectacular Candlelight Processional, and nightly performances of the Nativity story make for a memorable Christmas Season at the WALT DISNEY WORLD resort complex in Central Florida. Extended hours in the Magic Kingdom and special holiday entertainment take place from December 15 to January 1.

The more things change, the more things stay the same, right? There is no longer a Nativity story or Candlelight Processional within the Magic Kingdom, but the Processional and Christmas story have found a new home in Epcot. Fireworks, Very Merry Christmas Parade, Christmas Tree, and carolers, although in different forms, still find their way to the Magic Kingdom for the holiday season.

The striking features of this image though, are many. The un-eared wreath hanging from the Main Street U.S.A. lamppost. The classical ornamentation of the Christmas Tree. Oh, and did everyone catch the Walrus from Alice in Wonderland is harmonizing with the Dickensian carolers? Yeah, that would certainly put a smile on my face.

20 December 2010

All the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine

Over the weekend I received a lovely email that asked a lot of great questions and, among other things, referred to me as one of the grandfathers of Disney blogging. My first two thoughts, in order, to this idea were: “There were plenty of others who came before me,” and “I’m not old enough to be anything’s grandpa.” It was one of those comments, however, that make me smirk and contemplative throughout the day, or in this case the weekend. As the year comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a great deal about not only my own place in wonderful world of Disney, but friends and colleagues and the past, present and future of our beloved Walt Disney World.

The Main Street Gazette has always been constructed as a labor of love. I grew up in a lot of places, but none have resonated with me so much as Walt Disney World. I had family that worked there, I spent more than a ridiculous number of weeks and weekends tromping through Fort Wilderness, and I remember how happy my father seemed when we were there (a sentiment that seemed rare to me at the time). One of the driving forces, and there were several, behind beginning the Main Street Gazette several years back was the passing away of my aunt who had been in Security at Walt Disney World for well over twenty years. She had been our insider at the Vacation Kingdom, walking us around and dropping ‘did you know’ facts here and there, persuading us to come and see something new she had discovered, and sending along enticing trinkets, such as the Cast Member book The Magic begins with Me, which she labeled ‘propaganda.’

In those early days I had so much that I wanted to say, so many opinions that I wanted to voice. Around the Disney blogosphere there were a multitude of wonderful journalists and editorialists already churning out remarkable articles, podcasts and books. I won’t begin to try and talk about each one here, it would take far to long, but each had a special place in my development as a writer and amateur Disney historian. Early on they were the inspiration that kept me moving forward. Today, many of them are not only inspirations to me, but also dear friends, and many others I'm still hoping to call friends.

What I have found as intriguing as Walt Disney World itself is how complex the Disney enthusiast community is itself. Each person has their own set of values, standards and ideas of what makes Walt Disney World special to them. Their memories and interactions have created a personal golden age of the Disney experience. This is why, throughout the various Disney inspired websites you can see sites that are continually gushing praise or heaping criticism, it isn’t that one is blind to the problems or ignorant of the enchantment, it is because they both love Walt Disney World so much that they want to see it be a success. In the case of the presumed overly hostile, they remember a certain flair and certain dedication to the craft from their childhood and have built upon that with critical research. They may seem like naysayers, but, deep down their passion for the Vacation Kingdom is what drives them. My own work on the Gazette, for right or wrong, has always desired to fall somewhere in the middle, raising awareness of little known details, commenting on how to improve, and fondly remembering my golden age of Walt Disney World.

Each and every day, I am amazed by a new author I was not aware of yesterday, by a new line of thought I hadn’t considered and by a facet of Walt Disney World I didn’t even know existed. That is the new joy of Walt Disney World for me, when I know how to move through a park optimally, can view an entire attraction with my eyes closed and know I don’t have to camp out for hours to view fireworks because I have and will see them hundreds of times, it is discovering everyone else’s perspective on the place that I love that is so remarkable.

Let’s see, community, friends, new outlooks, what other gift has the Gazette granted me? Oh yes, you. Early on, like I said above, I had so much to say about Walt Disney World. And when all of those words ran out after a few months, I was left with blank pages and a headache thinking of new things to say. There were some growing pains, trying to find my next step, but the readership grew and continued comments felt like a comforting hand on my shoulder making me want to carry on and feel worthy of the warm welcome. Whether you regularly comment or have only ever read the Main Street Gazette in passing, thank you, you have made this an experience like none other.

I started as a kid who had no idea what he was doing, awestruck by my predecessors, and have been able to blossom into a daily contributor to the conversation, I’ve had magazine articles published and even appear on a pod cast now and then. Everything that came after that first article has been a shock to me, and I count my lucky stars every night. The funny thing is, whether I’m talking to a contemporary or about the Contemporary, I’m still that kid with no idea what he is doing, awestruck by my predecessors and the new kids on the block, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, provided I still get to talk about a place that is so near and dear to all of our hearts.

19 December 2010

Disney This Week - 19 December 2010

Amanda Tinney whets our appetites for the new Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun parade coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Disney Every Day.

At A Cup of Disney, Ashley Reeve treats readers to a preview of Babycakes NYC in Downtown Disney.

Thomas Smith clues us in to some more concept art for Disney’s Art of Animation Resort on the Disney Parks Blog.

New Year’s Eve and dining at Walt Disney World are the topics du jour for AJ and The Disney Food Blog.

The Disney Chick discusses her well-founded obsession with Segway tours.

Eating (and Drinking) around the World scribe and foodie, Andy Jackson, digs in on some not-so-edible outerwear.

Melissa Loflin reminds Makin’ Memories readers that small details matter, even in gingerbread.

Over on Studios Central, Chris Reid walks us through how to train your Stormtropper.

Reed Milnes talks about the Mouseketeers taking their show on the road to Yuba City after the town flooded on Christmas Eve in 1955 on Storyboard.

At DisneyShawn, Shawn Slater spins the tale of King Arthur’s Carrousel.

Michael Crawford explores a never built Disney Vacation Club Resort for readers of Progress City, U.S.A.

18 December 2010

Picturing The Walt Disney Family Museum

A new book has just hit the shelves and virtual store for The Walt Disney Family Museum. I really wish this volume had been released earlier, but it should make the perfect last minute gift for the Disney enthusiast on your list. Here's what the museum had to say about Picturing The Walt Disney Family Museum.
It all started with a visit to San Francisco. When photographer Jim Smith—whose body of work includes contributions to more than 100 books—discovered The Walt Disney Family Museum, he was immediately captivated by Walt’s life story and the rich visuals that bring it to life. Jim proposed a photo book to Museum executive director Richard Benefield that would provide a great souvenir of our state-of-the-art galleries and exhibits, not to mention our stunning location near the Golden Gate Bridge. Given a green light by the Museum, Jim returned with two talented colleagues, Stephen Titra and Mike Vasiliauskas, who committed to seven days with an unusual shooting schedule: very early mornings before the Museum opened to visitors, and very late nights after the Museum had closed.

Working with every department from Collections to Facilities, Jim trained his professional eye on art, objects, artifacts, trains, cameras, and interactives – transforming them all with precise lighting set-ups and some post-production magic. The book, designed by Frank Kofsuske, Georgina Lee, and Yolanda de Montijo at EmDash, not only takes you inside an imaginative Museum but also reveals Walt Disney’s extraordinary journey. Text is by Richard Benefield with an introduction by Diane Disney Miller.

The book retails for $34.95 and can be purchased in the Museum Store, or online at www.waltdisney.org

17 December 2010

The sacred mountain

When it comes to the nooks and crannies scattered about Walt Disney World, sometimes a rock is just a rock, a name on a box is just a name and a temple is just a temple. In the case of the temple overlooking the Forbidden Mountain, otherwise known as Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, this shrine means much more to the inhabitants of Serka Zong.

Journeying from the heart of the original Asia experience, Anandapur’s Kali River Rapids and Maharajah Jungle Trek, the first vista overlooking the peaks, rails and structures of Serka Zong features elevation maps of the mountains, viewfinders and temple grounds. At the heart of tale being presented in this corner of Asia is a shrine, covered in coins and fruit, that features a sculpture of the yeti in its center.The shrine is simple and elegant enough on its own, but, given the right perspective the rolling domes and spires of the structure take on a whole new life. When placed directly in line with the skyline of Expedition Everest, the outlines of the mountain and the temple are almost identical. The villagers of Serka Zong that erected the structure, clearly hold the Forbidden Mountain and its inhabitant in high regard.

16 December 2010

Jingle swells

Christmas is right around the corner, but Santa’s southern workshop, otherwise known as the Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course is decked out equally for surf as it is for snow. Throughout the two courses there are loads of beach and winter features. Today we’re pausing to examine one such detail.

Hole number 5 of the Summer Course contains a set of seven surfboards. Six of the boards are built for Santa’s elf helpers, but one has been constructed for the Big Kahuna himself. Each board has a unique color pattern to it, but equally intriguing are the names given to the individual boards. Short the Curl, ShortWave, Little Kahuna, Lil’ Surfer, Itty Biddyboard, and Rusty Runt are all the names of the short boards. Santa’s board, which is where you want to aim your golf ball according to the elves, is known as Jingle Swells and features a flaming wreath. Take a moment to examine the boards for yourself.

15 December 2010

Specialty hot dogs

I have been known to sing the praises of any dining establishment in Walt Disney World that steps out of the shadow of hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and French fries. But sometimes, you cannot help but give in to the urge to sink your teeth into a warm, juicy and delicious hot dog. My usual stop for this delicacy is the renowned joint, Casey’s Corner. On a recent trip, however, I decided to sample to gourmet dogs from Tomorrowland’s Lunching Pad.

Lunching Pad’s specialty hot dogs come in three varieties: Philly Cheese Steak Hot Dog (topped with beef slices, onion, peppers, mushrooms, and cheese sauce), Taco Hot Dog (topped with ground beef, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa), and Reuben Hot Dog (topped with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing). Each meal also comes with a side of either apple slices or a bag of chips. The crew I dined with selected one of each to give the dogs their due, and were presented with mountainous, mouth watering hot dogs.The hot dogs and toppings are all high quality, and negate the need for a fixin’s bar, which the Lunching Pad does not come equipped with anyway. However, aside from the Reuben Hot Dog, the mile-high additions make it almost impossible to get the toppings and hot dog in a single bite. It was agreed that most often you end up with two layers, one bite for the toppings and a second for the hot dog.The other problem for the Lunch Pad dogs are the sides. While I understand that there is more to the actual hot dog, paying a dollar more than I do at Casey’s Corner for a hot dog, dressed up the way I want it fixed, with a side of French fries makes the prepackaged apple slices and chip bags seem simply lackluster. Add to this that the stand also serves pretzels and whole pieces of fruit, neither of which are offered as a side, and the value of the Lunching Pad’s hot dog offerings seems to be slipping like cheese sauce off of the dog.Overall, I found the Lunching Pad hot dogs to be a conundrum to eat and paired with a slim side. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t give the dogs a second bite, but the next time I have a hot dog hankering, I’m more likely to stick to Main Street U.S.A. and Casey’s Corner.

14 December 2010

O, Christmas Tree

Each park of Walt Disney World has its own unique set of decorations for their gigantic Christmas Tree. They also each have a designated location for their holly-jolly tree. The Magic Kingdom’s fills the center of Town Square on Main Street U.S.A., Epcot’s occupies a spot at the crossroads of Future World and World Showcase, and the trees of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom both rest outside of the main gates. In the case of Disney’s Hollywood Studios though, this wasn’t always the case.

Before the rolls of film adorned the tree, and back when the park was known as Disney-MGM Studios, a tree filled with thousands of lights was placed at the head of Hollywood Boulevard, directly in front of The Great Movie Ride. The tree felt like a slice of old Hollywood, rather than a montage of the various venues of entertainment, and looked gorgeous when mixed with the decorations and neon of Hollywood Boulevard. Take a look!

13 December 2010

When danger calls

Children and preteens have always been fond of rollercoasters and the wonderfully storytelling inherent in all attractions of Walt Disney World. Yet, as technology becomes faster and increasingly interactive, it becomes harder and harder to hold the interest of young minds. To counteract this trend, queues have become more and more engaging in the past several years, but so to have the attractions. One area that severely needed a hook for the tween crowd, World Showcase. Luckily, Disney knew of a secret agent who needed a little assistance.

For those who have never taken part in the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, here’s the sitch. You have been assigned to support Kim and her sidekick Ron thwart one her nemeses who are running amuck with an evil scheme in one of the countries of World Showcase. Using a Kimmunicator guests tangle with several clues and diabolical devices in an attempt to corral the criminal. The final piece of any investigation, whether it is the retrieval of a stolen idol, the villain themselves or another surprise, is always impressive.

Although the incessant four beeps that signal the Kimmunicator have been permeating the soundscape of World Showcase since January of 2009, I am still a big fan of the engaging children in World Showcase. The presentations of the various nations from around the globe is fantastic for teens and adults, but has for years left children and preteens itching in their skin. Now, they are gobbling up massive amounts of culture and history without ever removing themselves from an engaging activity and technological device they are familiar with. Now, that’s what I call edutainment.

However, given my blue sky pencil, I would love to see a small change to the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, and it is in the very name itself. Kim Possible began in 2002 and ended its run in 2007, well before the 2009 launch date in Epcot. Now, I understand things stick around with syndication, but these days it is almost impossible to find Possible on television. Luckily, Disney has a large lineup of potential replacements in Agent P, from the Phineas and Ferb cartoon, the host of Marvel superheroes and superheroines, and the Disney Host Interactive (DHIs) from Ridley Pearson‘s Kingdom Keeper book series. Each has mass appeal to children young and older, boys and girls and, with the Marvel supers, a proven longevity record.

Another change I would love to see with the World Showcase Adventure? Expansion. Currently, there are several countries not participating in the activities. Let’s go ahead and bring them into the fold. Next? Let’s send some trouble towards Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There is so much to be garnered from the trails, exhibits, and buildings of the park, why not craft an interactive tour that defeats evil and saves the creatures we share the world with. I don’t know about you, but animals tend to tug on the heartstrings of children I work with, and would definitely inspired children to want to help.

At the end of the day, however, we currently only have Kim Possible saving World Showcase. While I may dream of what may come next, I am still in love with the variety, repeatability, fun, and ability to engage of the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. Chances are, if you find me in World Showcase, I’m either eating, watching Impressions de France, or hot on the trail of a dastardly villain.

12 December 2010

10 December 2010

The Wild Frontier

It’s not often that we here at the Main Street Gazette reprint one of our articles, in fact, it’s never happened. However, today is my birthday, and deep down I wanted to talk about one of my favorite places in all of Walt Disney World, Fort Wilderness, and one of my heroes, Davy Crockett.

The Wild Frontier was originally published on 08 June 2010.

Once upon a time, Crockett’s Tavern at Fort Wilderness was not only known for the spirits it served. In fact, I can remember the establishment serving up some of the best barbeque and home cooking available anywhere on Walt Disney World property. As for desserts, don’t even get me started on the Berry Patch Shortcake. These days however, the restaurant serves a small food items and is the stomping ground of parents and adults who need a few minutes to themselves.

What is often overlooked, now as it was when I was a child, are the furnishings found spread throughout the tavern. While an accurate account of what is there today, and what each piece represented, would be difficult, we are in luck. The original Crocket’s Tavern menu, otherwise known as the Crockett Almanac, gave guests a rundown of the items.
Look aroun an you’ll see many a fascinatin things that made Davy Crockett a legend.

Back by the door is a oil picture of ol Davy hisself.

Overhead is a birch bark canoe made by a 68 an a 72 year old Algonquin Indian up in Ottawa Canada. Its sealed with a mixture of sticky pine pitch an smelly bar grease.

Look in the case over by the bar ta see Ol Betsy, Davys rifle, an his famous coonskin hat.

Mike Finks hat an his brass cannon, both presents from Davy an Georgie Russel, are also there, along with a copy of Davys openin speech ta Congress.

Its easy ta spot the model of Mike Finks keelboat, the Gullywhumper, jes as it wuz in the great race down the Ohio an the mighty Mississip.

That’s President Andy Jackson behind the bar, with the 15 star, 15 stripe Star Spangled Banner draped aroun him. Georgie Russel is there ta the left, along with all kinds of maps, guns, an tomahawks.

Hangin on the post is the target where Davy shot one bullit right into the same hole as his first shot, ta win the match with Big Foot Mason.

Back in the corner is pieces remanescent of the Alamo, includin Jim Bowies knife next ta his picture, an Col. William B. Travis, an Davys song he wrote on the way ta the Alamo, ‘Farewell’.

Last is one big brown bar, not unlike the kind Davy tried ta grin down once.

Now while yer waiting fer yer food, walk around an enjoy these thing. Things that made Davy Crockett the King of the Wild Frontier.
To the enthusiasts that tour through restaurants looking for hidden treasures that rest in plain sight, Crockett’s Tavern is still a treasure trove. The likenesses of Davy and his company are those from the original Disneyland serials, and include not only Fess Parker, but Buddy Ebsen, Basil Ruysdael, and Kenneth Tobey as well.

Those seeking a more mainstream viewing location for memorabilia from Davy and Georgie’s adventures can also mosey on over to Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom. Where, spread throughout Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and CafĂ©, are objects and stories from the Wild Frontier, including Davy’s hat and Georgie’s tale of Big Foot Mason.