30 April 2010

Visual development

As each new features from Disney and/or Pixar makes its way to the silver screen, the Animation Gallery in Disney’s Hollywood Studios showcases the tools that bring these features to life. With the upcoming release of Toy Story 3, not only are we given glimpses into the future of the toys, but also a lot of the history that has been locked away in the attic. Included amongst this history are early character maquettes sculpted by Bud Luckey, character concept pieces, and trivia relating to the toys’ development.

Here’s a look at an early Woody and Buzz Lightyear, along with the trivia presented to guests.

At first, Woody was going to be a Charlie McCarthy-type of ventriloquist’s dummy that belonged to Andy’s father.

On the surface Woody sees easy-going, but inside he’s really nervous about his new toy competition. The inner conflict was an important consideration in Woody’s visual development.

Except for his soft, pliable face, Buzz is made of hard, durable plastic. The rigidity suits his “go by the book” persona and his “never say die” attitude.

His original name was Lunar Larry, but that didn’t seem grand enough for the ultimate action figure out to protect the universe – even if that universe exists only in his own mind! In the end, even though Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear looks like a superhero, making him more like a cop that took the wrong off ramp on his way to saving the galaxy helped clarify his look, his name, and thus, his character.

29 April 2010

Pioneering photographic safaris

Last year, Pixar took the call of the wild to new heights with Up. During this journey we are met with the Spirit of Adventure, both literally and figuratively, and its embodiment, Charles Muntz. To see what real adventures of the era were like, however, guest at Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House have to look no further than The Sunset Overlook and the travels of Martin and Osa Johnson.

Martin and Osa Johnson were a Midwestern couple who spent a major portion of their lives as travelers, explorers, documentarians, and lovers of the undiscovered or unindustrialized corners of the world. Martin had spent a good deal of his early years aboard the Snark with Jack London or traveling with the exhibit that featured photographs, artifacts, and stories from that journey. After marrying Osa, the pair set off across the world documenting and studying the worlds of the South Pacific and Africa.

After spending the years between 1917 and 1920 observing the South Seas and Borneo, the couple set their sights on Africa. For the next fifteen years they would dedicate their lives to surveying and studying the people, creatures, and landscapes of Africa. During this span they would also obtain their licenses to fly, purchase a pair of amphibious planes (named Spirit of Africa and Osa’s Ark), and be the first pilots to fly over, and film, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. Along the way, Martin and Osa would visit Kenya, the Nile, Mount Marsabit, and the Congo, including a little area known as Ituri Forest (which should sound familiar to those who frequent Kilimanjaro Safaris). From their fifteen years of filming in Africa they would create movies that include, but are not limited to, Trailing Wild African Animals, Martin’s Safari, Osa’s Four Years in Paradise, and Congorilla.

Meanwhile, back in The Sunset Overlook of Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House, a collection of photographs from Martin and Osa Johnson’s various African safaris can be examined, for those that take the time to wander through this great area. Aside from the photographs, there are also exhibits featuring clothing and supplies that crews would carry with them on such safaris. Also, should you wish to discover more about the couple’s life and travels together, I recommend Osa Johnson’s book, I Married Adventure.

I apologize for the blurriness of some of the photographs below. For those interested, I highly recommend viewing the photographs for yourself!

28 April 2010

A wide-range of sweets

For the past year, I have been on a mission. A mission to sample delectable desserts and, when fully stuffed, cap off the evening with the bursting of firework shells set in time with classic Disney compositions. In short, I have been trying to attend the Wishes Fireworks Dessert Party held at the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station.Even though I would call the morning extensions were announced, I never seemed to be able to secure a table. The problem? I was dining solo, and the smallest table size for this dessert extravaganza was a table for two. Now, while I can eat myself silly, I don’t believe I have the available stomach space to justify paying for a table for two. So, when a good friend of mine told me that she would be down last month, and she would have her daughter with her, my first question was, “Do you guys want to do the Wishes Dessert Party?” With an affirmative response, the table was booked and we were on our way!

Arrival time was at 9:00pm, but we arrived about fifteen minutes early, and a small line of other participants had already gathered. We were given wristbands that allowed us to come and please as we like and, promptly at 9:00pm sharp, we were escorted to our table which had been assigned to us prior to our arrival and came complete with festive confetti (more on that later) and a placecard. We were instructed as to where the drink station was, which came complete with coffee, tea (hot and cold), and lemonade, but our eyes were already securely locked on the desserts!

The spread that evening included:
Glazed Donut Holes
Chocolate-covered Strawberries
Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarts
Raspberry Tarts
Confetti Cupcakes
Classic Cheesecake
Chocolate Cheesecake
Pistachio Crème Brulee
Banana Cream Tarts
Kiwi Orange Tarts
Strawberry Berry Tarts
Canoe Cookies
Mango Shooters
Tiramisu Glasses
Assorted Cookies and Chocolates

It is sufficient to say there was more than enough food to fill even the heartiest of eaters. While I did not eat one of everything, I did, at the very least, sample one of each dessert and I went back for some of my favorites. All in the name of research, of course! Every sweet treat I put in my mouth was delicious, even the tiramisu, which I am not normally a fan of, prompted me back for a second bite. The real winners, to my palate, were the canoe cookies, mango shooters, and pistachio crème brulee. The canoe cookies were soft finger-shaped cookies with a strip of preserve running the length of the hollowed out cookie. The mango shooters are precisely what they sound like, small cups filled with mango puree, topped with whipped cream, and served with a small, thick straw. The pistachio crème brulee was served in a miniature tea cup and had that perfect combination of creamy filling and charred sugar that make for an intriguing texture for the taste buds.

Before I continue, I feel I need to say a few words about the Cast Members who were on hand for the party. First of all, empty or discarded plates did not rest on the table very long, and everyone had a genuine smile for guests when they spoke with them. Two Cast Members stand out, however. First, the Cast Member who told me that next time let them know I would like to photograph the spread, and that they would allow me in early to get pictures before everyone mobs the desserts. Second, the small girl I was with was in love with the Mickey and Castle-shaped confetti that was sprinkled on the tabletops. So much so, that she was less concerned with the desserts and actually wanted to venture off to other tables to ask other guests if she could have their confetti for her collection. I asked one of the Cast Members if it would be possible to procure a small handful of the confetti. In no time the Cast Member returned with a child-sized cup which was filled halfway with the confetti, she told me, “I understand, this stuff is better than gold at that age!” The more interactions I have with Cast Members, the more of the shining spirit I see, but the Wishes Dessert Party Cast Members from that evening were truly something extra special.Without moving to the railing, there are a few bursts that can be missed during Wishes from the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station. However, not having to jostle for position, seeing Tinker Bell land right on top of you, and having a comfortable place to sit more than make up for a few high in the sky eruptions, especially if you have seen Wishes countless times before.

Afterwards, there is no rush to clear guests from the area. In fact, during the fireworks, all of the desserts are condensed down into one section, with the extraneous sections having been rolled away, for guests who still have an appetite for a smackerel of something sweet.

Aside from the frustration of not being able to book a table for one, I was thoroughly impressed with the variety of desserts and beverages, the Cast Members, and the party overall. This is definitely one experience I recommend for couples or families, and one that I am sure to partake in again myself!

27 April 2010

Wilderness Swamp Trail

A while back we talked about Fort Wilderness’ Pedestrian Nature Trail, a path that currently runs from behind the Settlement Trading Post, towards the junction of Bay Lake and the former Marshmallow Marsh, and then deeper into the woods of central Florida. Once upon a time, however, the Pedestrian Nature Trail was known as the Wilderness Swamp Trail.

While Wilderness Swamp Trail may sound more rugged and wild and less, well, pedestrian, both trails offer a break from the hustle and bustle of resort and theme park life and some the best views found in Walt Disney World. Yet, where the Pedestrian Nature Trail ventures out into the woods and loops back in upon itself, the Wilderness Swamp Trail took explores to the marshy edges of Bay Lake via its boardwalk. Here guests could not only take in the sights and sounds, they could also come into contact with a wider variety of wildlife than is currently found along the current trail. Heron, alligators, and turtles were just a few of the untamed creatures that could be found stirring here.Just a few months after Fort Wilderness had opened, Walt Disney World released this photo of the Wilderness Swamp Trail in early 1972, and had this to say about it:
[The] Boardwalk is part of [a] nature trail in [the] Fort Wilderness area of Walt Disney World’s Vacation Kingdom. [The] trail takes adventurers to natural Florida beauty and protected wildlife. At night, canoe excursions are led through [the] Ft. Wilderness area. Horseback riding and camping are other Ft. Wilderness attractions.

While the boardwalk section of this trail has long since been forgotten, and has fallen into decay, I will always have found memories of running along its planks, the heavy thump of my sneakers echoing through the wilderness, trying to catch a glimpse of some swamp creature plying the waterways. I, and others who remember this lost piece of Fort Wilderness, can take heart in one thing, when closing the boardwalk, Walt Disney World only modified the trail, where beauty, protected wildlife, and a calming walk can still be found.

26 April 2010

Crush the poachers

If you have a fear of, or are made uncomfortable by, the continual reminder to look all around you for the details tucked away within the corners of Walt Disney World, then you may want to opt out of this mission, umm…, I mean article. Okay, those of you who chose to stay on, I imagine are the sort that love to find these hidden worlds and minor story elements that pepper the landscape throughout the parks and resorts. Today’s entry emerges from the wilds of Africa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The stories folded into Harambe and Kilimanjaro Safaris are many, and include many subtle yet fantastic subplots. One of the smallest of the Kilimanjaro Safaris’ details, yet one of the most intriguing, comes from inside the cab of each of the safari trucks. Along the highways and byways the world over, each person’s vehicle tells their story by the type of vehicle they drive, what condition they keep it in, the type of license plate they have, and what decals they chose to adorn it with.Similarly, the interior of each safari truck is filled with bumper stickers that tell a story of each of the guides’ personalities. Examples include a set that utilizes decals stating Hakuna Matata and No Hurry In Africa relate the idea that the driver is more laid back, while a set containing Save the Rhinos and My Horn is my Dilemma, Please save me clearly proclaims this driver’s fondness for rhinoceroses and their continued ability to thrive. However, my absolutely favorite sticker declares I Love Pot Holes. Clearly, this is a driver who likes to go off road! These sets of decals may not reflect the personality of the guide currently driving the vehicle, but they were assembled to create personal vignettes.

The next time you venture into Harambe for your two week safari, examine the bumper stickers that line the guide’s cab. You never know what their story might be!

25 April 2010

Disney This Week - 25 April 2010

Osh Popham is the proprietor of Main Street U.S.A.’s Emporium. Over at Disney at Work, J. Jeff Kober explains Osh’s place in Disney canon, as well as his place in modern business.

Staying on Main Street U.S.A., Shawn Slater is beginning a new series that will be exploring Main Street U.S.A. at DisneyShawn. He starts out recounted previous tales from the turn of the last century street.

As part of Earth Day, Suzannah DiMarzio, of ZannaLand, recounts her memories of the Opening Day of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

One of the few experiences that I am dying to try, but have yet to have an opportunity to explore is Dine With an Imagineer. According to AJ and The Disney Food Blog, the meal with food for thought has just expanded to Flying Fish.

Over at Studios Central, Matt Hochberg shows us why dark rides aren’t dead and other lessons that can be gleaned from Toy Story Midway Mania.

The Disney Parks Blog has recently been showcasing the wide variety of art forms displayed around Walt Disney World. This week, Thomas Smith, highlighted the world’s fastest artist, Rock Demarco, who created a piece in mere minutes at the D-Street opening.

Amanda Tinney alerted readers of Disney Every Day to an auction of William Weaver’s work, including Snow White, Jiminy Cricket, Donald Duck, and other well recognized Disney characters.

23 April 2010

A fantastically successful Coney Island attraction

There is a model of a rollercoaster sitting in the lobby of Disney’s BoardWalk, but what is the history of this early attraction? Turns out you don’t have to go far to get some information on the looping experience known as the Flip Flap Railway.

A deeper investigation of the lobby, which is filled with the sights, sounds, and feel of Coney Island reveals plenty of amusement history. One photograph that hangs upon the walls relates the following information about the Flip Flap Railway:
“George C. Tillyou, founder of Coney Island Boardwalk’s Steeplechase Park, once said: ‘Paradox: a successful ride must look extremely dangerous yet convincing that the ride in completely safe.’ The Flip Flap fulfilled both specifications, and was a fantastically successful Coney Island attraction.”

The Flip Flap Railway opened as part of Paul Boyton’s Sea Lion Park between 1888 and 1895, unfortunately, due to conflicting reports, a more accurate opening date cannot be determined. Designed by Lina Beecher, the two-seater, seatbelt-less coaster car would climb up the lift hill before sending riders screaming towards a twenty-five foot vertical loop that could impose a mind-boggling, for the time, twelve-Gs, before pulling back into the loading area. The Flip Flap Railway was the United States’ first looping rollercoaster, but, due to repeated complaints of neck and back strains or other injuries, the attraction was quickly discarded.

Whatever the stories, both factual and/or mystifying, it is nice to see a tip of the hat to the history of amusement attractions found in the heart of Walt Disney World.

22 April 2010

Roots, stems, leaves, flower petals

Happy Earth Day!

In celebration of the day, and as promised earlier in the week, here is the photo safari of my recent Behind the Seeds tour.