30 November 2010

Here We Come A-Wassailing

In the next few weeks, as we lead up to Christmas, we’ll be taking a look at some Walt Disney World Christmas activities. Most have gone the way of the ghost of Christmas past, but some never go out of style. We’ll start this week in Epcot.

World Showcase has always been perfectly suited for entertaining and educating guests about customs of the world, and there is no better example than the displays and productions of each country’s holiday season. While caroling, in its most basic form, may not have begun in the United Kingdom, a multitude of wassailing and recognizable carols did originate there. With the image of Victorian-era carolers firmly nestled in our heads, is it any wonder that caroling has always been am important part of the holiday presentation in the United Kingdom pavilion?

As a quick aside, I loved the double-decker omnibuses that comprised the World Showcase Transportation. And doesn’t that bus just lend itself perfectly to the holiday scene set in the United Kingdom?

29 November 2010

Just around the corner

Sometimes, in a morning rush to get to Space Mountain or Dumbo the Flying Elephant, we forget to take pause and admire the opening scene of the Magic Kingdom, Main Street U.S.A. Sure, the street is lined with guests during parades and fireworks, the jack-o’-lantern lined windows and garland festooned lampposts always make the holidays sparkle, and boarding the Walt Disney World Railroad from the Main Street Station is a time-honored tradition. However, on any given day, so much of the enchantment of Main Street U.S.A. is passed by.

Simply because it begins and ends with food, there is a wealth of dining establishments along Main Street U.S.A. From the handcrafted snacks of the Main Street Confectionery to the sweet treat of ice cream in a well fashioned cone, the indulgence allowed by the small bites of the avenue are second to none. For a more substantial bite, there is Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and the classic favorite, Plaza Restaurant. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the wealth of options, from breakfast through dessert, available at the aromatic, sinfully sweet Main Street Bakery.

There is also a historical and artistic side to Main Street U.S.A. that is seldom explored. Exhibits in Exhibition Hall, displays in the Fire Station, even the décor itself tells guests volumes about the time and place Main Street U.S.A inhabits. Peering just beyond the first layer of the thoroughfare, guest can find artisans clipping paper silhouettes, mountains of candy carefully being formed in the Confectionery, and glass bubbling to life step by step in Crystal Arts. Each of these stops can be enjoyed for as much time as you are willing to dedicate to them, but each offers a value that is hard to be for edutainment.

There is one final element that makes life on Main Street U.S.A. worth living, and that is the people who inhabit the borough each and every day. While Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the park in the discussion when dealing with streetmosphere characters, Main Street U.S.A. has its own residents, including a fire chief, mayor, journalist for the Main Street Gazette (how have I not yet gotten a picture of myself and Scoop Sanderson?!?!), and many others. A number of musical acts also populate Main Street U.S.A. From the Main Street Philharmonic to the Dapper Dans, music for the ears and soul can always be found here.

When it comes right down to it, Main Street U.S.A. is never going to have a crowd pleaser like Pirates of the Caribbean or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but it does not mean that it isn’t worth the investment of a little time to explore and enjoy all that this opening land has to offer. Starting midmorning and moving through late afternoon, there are a number of activities to occupy guests’ time, especially those who enjoy the simpler things and times in life.

28 November 2010

Disney This Week - 28 November 2010

Three of my favorite ladies, AJ of The Disney Food Blog, Suzannah DiMarzio from ZannaLand, and Amanda Tinney of Disney Every Day, sat down at The Turf Club for appetizers, entrees, and desserts. My only question, why wasn't I at the table?!?!

Matt Hochberg tells readers what he is thankful for at Disney Hollywood Studios over at Studios Central.

For those of us who won’t be able to see the new queue enhancements at The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh for some time, Thomas Smith has a video highlighting some of the changes on the Disney Parks Blog.

Hoot Gibson invites Mesa Verde Times readers to plug in the earphones to listen to the audio from Horizons’ travel posters.

George Taylor reviews the stunning, historical, and entertaining tome, The Art of Walt Disney World for Imaginerding.

Thanksgiving may be over, but The Disney Chick whips up the Apple Caramel Pie from Whispering Canyon Cafe, a treat no matter what the meals.

Michael Crawford catches the bus for Progress City, U.S.A. readers to explore The World Tour.

Andy Jackson touts his many celebrity chef encounters on Eating (and Drinking) around the World.

DisneyShawn scribe, Shawn Slater, ties together many of the stories of Disneyland’s Critter Country.

26 November 2010

The friendliest fossils

Digging around any where in Dinoland U.S.A. is sure to unearth lifelike dinosaur sculptures, fossilized femurs, and plenty of excavation equipment. Relics not likely to be coveted, however, are those belonging to the history of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and yet, they do exist.

Walking from Dinosaur or Restaurantosaurus to Dinoland U.S.A.’s main entrance and Discovery Island, guests pass by a small shack equipped with maps, fossil hunting gear, and a well educated Cast Member. This hut is the home of the Kids’ Discovery Club outpost in Dinoland U.S.A. If one were a pilfering paleontologist, the bone on top of the crate next to the shed would be perfect for a collection, but it is the crate itself that Walt Disney World excavators would find intriguing.The container is labeled: SHIP TO DISNEY’S OLD KEY WEST RESORT RUSH. This address spawns the question, why would a crate tied to the Disney Vacation Club turn up near a Kids’ Discovery Club? The answers is simpler than you might think. Once upon the time, the square shack, which follows the typical DVC sales hut construction, was the home to the Disney Vacation Club’s home in Dinoland U.S.A. In those days, this well trodden path was the main thoroughfare through the excavation area. As time passed, and the area grew flush with other activities, less and less foot traffic ventured down this road. The DVC information center was relocated, and the kids received a new edutainment facility.

History, both real and fictitious, can be found throughout Walt Disney World. The trick of the trade is not knowing where to look, but to look everywhere. You never know what type of wonderful find is waiting for you just out of plain sight.

24 November 2010

The aloha spirit

When thinking about sandwiches at Walt Disney World, the mind immediately wanders in the direction of hamburgers and hot dogs. While there are top-tier versions of both that can be found throughout the parks and resorts, there are also plenty of options for those looking for something a bit different between two slices of bread. My personal favorite, and newly discovered, sandwich resides in Captain Cook’s in the Polynesian Resort.

The Aloha Pork Sandwich grabbed me when I first read it off of the menu board, and even though there was not a description of the sandwich, I could not think of anything to order on the dreary night I happened into Captain Cook’s. When I opened the box up, however, I was taken aback. I had assumed there would be a sweet element, likely pineapple, associated with the Aloha Pork, but to see the shredded pork smothered by tomato and cucumber was almost too much to bear! I begrudgingly took a single bite, incorporating every element of the mammoth sandwich, and was overwhelmed by the flavorful explosion. It did not take long to devour the rest of the sandwich.The pulled pork is fall apart tender and mixed with a zippy sauce and pineapple. Meanwhile, the cucumber adds just enough of a snap to each mighty mouthful. The tomato is juicy and has the right amount of acid to balance out the sweet found elsewhere in the Aloha Pork Sandwich. The genius concoction is situated on a warm, hearty bun. Either of the available sides, Asian Vegetable Slaw and Polynesian Chips, ensures a well rounded meal of flavors, but my personal preference is the Asian vegetable slaw.

I have munched my way though plenty of hot and cold sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs in Walt Disney World. Some of them I seek out again and again, some I shy away from, and a few leave no lasting impression either way. When it comes to the Aloha Pork Sandwich, it is without a doubt one of my favorite sandwiches found anywhere on property. Do yourself a favor, even if it means a special trip over to the Polynesian Resort, and pick this sandwich up for yourself.

23 November 2010

People of America

America on Parade, the Bicentennial parade that celebrated the 200 year history of the United States of America, is one of the greatest processional displays ever created for a Disney theme park. The marching history book took over thirty minutes to make its way by guests and was anchored by a score played out through a 1890 band organ, complete with 1970’s synthesizing. Over the past couple of years, the Main Street Gazette has heaped history and praise upon the patriotic pageantry with stories about America on Parade and the Little Golden Book released during the festivities, Walt Disney’s Donald Duck in America on Parade, taking a few moments to point out the little details that we love so much.

Attending to those details is often the task of another past topic on the Gazette, and a fun term to play with, the wardrobe mistresses. In today’s look back to the vintage days of Walt Disney World, both the wardrobe mistresses and residents of America on Parade are highlighted.

The oversized occupants of the festival, known as the People of America, were eight feet tall and costumed in clothing that was as authentic as possible. In advance of each presentation of America on Parade, it was the wardrobe mistresses’ responsibility to inspect, repair, and make sure each of the 150 costumes sat properly upon the Cast Member. In the photograph below, the mistresses diligently work to prepare a pair of frontier settlers who, along with their covered wagon, are heading west!

22 November 2010


In an age where bonus features on DVDs and Blu-rays run longer than the film they are attached to what makes stunt productions like Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show worthy of guests’ extremely limited time? In a word, experience.

Lights, Motors, Action! is set up near the Streets of America in a massive amphitheater that was, once upon a time, known as Residential Street. Inside the auditorium, the stage is established as a provincial town square in France. The action that whirls through the streets of this plaza involves cars, motorcycles, and jet skis in a symphony of fire, smoking tires, gunplay, and a ballet of horsepower. The story and stunts themselves feel like a blend between James Bond and Jason Bourne sequences, which is no coincidence considering world renowned stunt coordinator Rémy Julienne worked with Imagineers to design the original French stunt spectacular that was later cloned for Walt Disney World.In between the live action segments, the stunts are broken down into layman’s terms for the audience to understand the level of skill, precision timing, and planning that is required for a single stunt to be successful. The instruments of the presentation, that is the cars, bikes, and other vehicles, are also showcased through discussion and diagrams, revealing their secrets and engineering feats to the spectators. Just in case the presentation becomes too mechanical heavy, as is the Disney way, a bit of humor is interjected into the show from time to time.That brings us back to the original question, with bonus features and cable network specials abound in today’s home entertainment, what makes Lights, Motors, Action! a valuable addition to a guest’s day. As I said above, it is the experience itself. Watching a stuntperson slide through fire in a retardant suit on a television set is very different from feeling the warmth of the flames on your face as the same action unfolds in front of you. The raw power of the engines that roar in your ears, the smell of the tires burning as they spin, and the concussive boom of cars and canisters exploding on cue are just a few of the sensations that are lost when not viewed in person.Everyone loves to view car crashes and spectacular stunts on the silver screen, but no one ever wants to live through such an ordeal in their personal, day-to-day lives. Lights, Motors, Actions! Extreme Stunt Show allows guests to witness the marvels of engineering and dangers associated with such a scene firsthand in a safe, controlled environment. The same information could be obtained through special features on a DVD or Blu-ray, but the experience of being up close and personal with the mayhem, that is a feeling that can’t be transferred.

21 November 2010

Disney This Week - 21 November 2010

Kevin Kidney examines a terrific 1961 billboard featuring the coming attractions of Disneyland.

As a native Floridian, the Jackie Ogden piece on the Florida Coastal Cleanup for the Disney Parks Blog is precisely the kind of effort I love to see, and an event I would love to take part in.

Another worthy event to talk about this week is the Walt Disney World launch of the Toys for Tots collection drive, as reported by Amanda Tinney and Disney Every Day.

Melissa Loflin talks about the happy accidents that brought Halloween to Christmas in the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on Makin’ Memories.

Imagineering Disney has some gorgeous vintage EPCOT Center posters that never were from the mind of Stephen Christ.

Matt Hochberg tackles the history behind the of Legends of Hollywood theater for Studios Central.

The Disney Food Blog clears up a blight on its record when AJ dedicates an article to the original Disney snack, Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar.

DisneyShawn author, Shawn Slater, shares a moment in time when he felt the closest to Walt Disney.

Andy Jackson does a yeoman’s job at covering the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic on Eating (and Drinking) around the World.

The history and details of a Studio landmark are explored by Sam Gennawey at SamLand’s Disney Adventures.

19 November 2010

Horticulture as a work of art

In Epcot’s Canada pavilion, while working their way down to reservations at Le Cellier or to a viewing of O Canada!, guests pass by one of the most enchanting gardens in all of Walt Disney World. The quilted patchwork garden known as Victoria Garden change seasonally, but is always gorgeous, as is the real world garden it is based upon.The plaque at the entrance to Victoria Gardens states that “These gardens are a reminder and a reflection of horticulture as a work of art and a labor of love.” From this posting guests can also learn that Victoria Gardens were inspired by Butchart Gardens, which is a true work of art and labor of love.

Butchart Gardens, located just outside of Victoria, British Columbia, began life as a limestone quarry. As Robert Pim Butchant depleted the limestone in the excavation area in the early 1900s, his wife Jennie Butchart began revitalizing the area as gardens. In 1906, a Japanese Garden sprung up on the site and is soon followed by Rose, Sunken, and Italian Gardens. Although the limestone had been completely exhausted by 1909, the gardens, known as Benvenuto, continued to thrive. Plants grown for seeds to be sold, artifacts acquired from worldly travels, new plantings, and fountains, wishing wells and other works of art are just a few of the additions that have kept the grounds of Butchart Gardens blooming.

The flowing, flowering rows of Victoria Gardens are smaller and less thematic than their inspiration, Butchart Gardens, but the craft showcased in the World Showcase plot is no less mesmerizing or deserving of a visit.

18 November 2010

Scenic tour

Once in a while even those of us who document every inch of Walt Disney World stumble upon a really intriguing picture opportunity. One such photo found its way into my collection purely by accident, but creates a magical feel of the past meeting the future.

Covering the storied grounds of Adventureland and Frontierland, there are many fabulous photo opportunities between the Main Street U.S.A. train station and the outpost in Mickey’s Toontown Fair. Guests boarding at Mickey’s Toontown Fair and disembarking at Main Street U.S.A., however, rarely see any of these elements. Instead, they are treated with views of more attractions than any other leg of the railroad, including Space Mountain, Peoplemover, and Tomorrowland Speedway. The line also happens to pass around the backside of the Tomorrowland Arcade, which is where today’s photograph was taken.While attempting to capture a picture of the bubble windows that dot the rear of the building, I realized that the reflection in the darkened window illuminate the train and Space Mountain. To my mind the photo captures the true heart of the Magic Kingdom, the spontaneity of the image captures the nostalgia of yesterday and the promise of tomorrow in one succinct moment.

Pictures with tucked away elements are almost better than a well-framed, plotted photograph. What about all of the readers out there, what photograph in your collection gave you the most pleasant surprise?

17 November 2010

Such a tasty treat

If you are having a particularly rough day in Walt Disney World (which is better than any day not in Walt Disney World) or just feel like treating yourself right for a few brief moments I have but one suggestion for you. If decadence were known by any other name, it would be the Red Velvet Cheesecake Cupcake.That’s right! Red Velvet. Cheesecake. Cupcake. The name alone is enough to make most knees quiver, even though it leaves out the frosting and toffee morsels. For those of you who have already grabbed your car keys and are headed out the door, this mountain of saccharine superiority can be found at Starring Rolls Cafe in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. For the rest of you who can only live vicariously, here’s what this cupcake experience is like.

Starting with the red velvet, before working our way up, the burgundy cake is very well executed. The cake is moist and dense, as it would have to be for the heaping amount of toppings. Unlike other dense cakes I’ve had in my life, the red velvet here does not send me in search of my milk after each bite. As for the toppings, I could do with less frosting and more cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong, the frosting isn’t bad, but the cheesecake core running through the center of the pile of frosting left me smacking my lips for more. The cheesecake itself is rich and airy, working well with the chocolate of the red velvet. The crumbled bits of toffee coating the exterior take this cupcake from a great snack to a superb dessert, adding another layer of creamy flavor and a textural element that would be otherwise missing from this fabulous baked good.

The next time you are in Walt Disney World, I suggest you run, don’t walk, over to Starring Rolls Cafe and order one of these recent additions to the menu. If you are not a fan of chocolate, cheesecake, or both and opt to pass on this treat, don’t worry, I have another sweet surprise coming soon.

16 November 2010

Visual focal point

Perhaps the most recognized piece of pre-Walt Disney World artwork is this painting of Cinderella Castle. Crafted by Herbert Ryman in 1969, this image would be presented on postcards available at the preview center and, much later, as the cover of The Art of Walt Disney World Resort. Both of the forms previously mentioned were in brilliant color, but the nuances provided by this black and white rendition almost make the prospect of visiting the Magic Kingdom more tantalizing. This black and white edition was sent to newspapers in May of 1969 with the following blurb:
CINDERELLA’S CASTLE… will be the visual focal point for Walt Disney World’s theme park. Twice as high as the castle at California’s Disneyland, it may be seen by guests staying at the “Vacation Kingdom’s” nearby resort hotels. Medieval décor will highlight a sit down restaurant, which overlooks the theme park from the second level of the castle.

15 November 2010

Famous wild animals

There are miraculous moments that take place inside the borders of Walt Disney World each and every day. Small surprises like a free ice cream after you dropped yours on the ground or a little extra pixie dust (read: confetti) for a child and even more magical moments including being selected for a show or being the child selected to throw the switch that illuminates the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. In one outpost of Walt Disney World, however, the miracle of life is the greatest magic of all.Throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom, life is happening every single day. Animals are resting, eating, and playing with one another. Though the creatures inhabiting Harambe and Anandapur do not have worry about their survival in the same way that their siblings do in the true wilds, the advancement of the species is still important. In other words, offspring must be born, protected and educated.In the past several months, several new babies have been born and slowly introduced to the public. In that same time span, I have been lucky enough to witness and young elephant romping with its herd, a toddling rhino surrounded by a protective pack, and a mother gorilla teaching its baby how to walk. Babies for endangered species are becoming fewer and fewer in the wilderness, although conservation efforts are assisting in turning that tide, so it is a truly amazing to be able to witness the continued expansion of species in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.Obviously, births and infants are not observed in the animal habitats on a daily basis, but the small miracles of animal life are visible. Miracles that should be considered awe inspiring. Of course, when a cute baby does come along, it should be smiled upon too!

14 November 2010

Disney This Week - 14 November 2010

Melissa Loflin has been completing a whirlwind tour of the 15th Annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival for readers of Makin’ Memories.

A coffee kiosk has come to Epcot and the consummate foodie, AJ, is there with the news for The Disney Food Blog.

Shawn Slater has found the long-lost and original Tom Sawyer of Disneyland on DisneyShawn.

Over at Imagineering Disney, Mitch features some wonderful close-up pictures of the 1955 Disneyland model.

A terrific tale of ingenuity and heart, Debbie Mola Mickler explains the story behind Disney’s Horticulture symbol at the Disney Parks Blog.

Looking for a perfect holiday gift? Suzannah DiMarzio has you covered, literally, as she discusses the new Disney Snuggies on ZannaLand.

Imaginerding features a review of John Stanley Donaldson’s Warp and Weft: Life Canvas of Herbert Ryman by George Taylor.

Matt Hochberg depicts the additions to this year’s Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on Studios Central.

DF’82 and Fiona Doyle walk us through the Phantom Manor queue.

13 November 2010

London at its brightest

From the time Mickey Mouse was created in 1928, it was only a few scant years before he was a household name the world over. Mickey became synonymous with quality and everyone wanted to market their product with the Mouse in turn. This week, one such Mickey endorsed advertisement will be finding its way into a new home.

One lot from Swann Galleries’ Rare and Important Travel Poster Sale, taking place on November 15th, will feature Mickey Mouse as a beacon for the film industry. The poster in question was created in 1934 as a means to educate Underground passengers traveling into London of the diverse cultural activities available in the city. The posters, of which there were four designs, showcased sports, stage, film, leisure and other arts that were awaiting passengers. While only a small part of the poster itself, Mickey Mouse had the honor and responsibility of enticing patrons to the cinema.

12 November 2010

Note to Harambe research team

In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the king of animal interactions is Kilimanjaro Safaris, but, for extended and extensive viewing the trails of Asia and Africa are in a class all their own. Africa’s Pangani Forest Exploration Trail offers prime views of okapis, meerkats, hippopotamuses, gorillas and other species. Pangani, however, is more than just clever creature viewing spots, it’s also a school and sanctuary.

Scattered throughout the observation stations are clipboards, chalkboards, and bulletin panels filled with various documents. Detailed drawings explain the physiology of the trail’s inhabitants, while documentation from students is refined and encouraged through the notes of their teachers, and letters, stories, and drawings from around the world expand upon the story presented along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. In the gorilla group areas, perched upon a rocky outcropping, is one of the students’ surveillance posts, complete with tent and cooler.

Any zoological facility can group animals together in geographical clusters, but with the storytelling of Disney, the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail comes to life. Walking through Africa, guests learn alongside the students of the sanctuary school, and take a piece of Harambe home with them.

11 November 2010

Leave for the sake of leaving

Leonard Maltin, in The Disney Poster Book, spoke about the essential duty that was innate to a movie poster’s life, “The poster was literally an attraction, a come-on that beckoned pedestrians to make plans to see the show.” The same could be said for vintage travel posters from distant lands, whose stylized and brilliantly colored sheets enticed passersby to dream of, or better yet book, passage to enchanting locales.

Along the back wall of World’s Showcase newest Italian establishment, Via Napoli, tempting postings from every corner of Italy can still be found and admired.

10 November 2010

Delicious discoveries - Argentina

We are approaching the final weekend of the 15th Annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, so it is time for one last venture into the marketplace for our final meal of the year. For our final bite of this year’s offerings, we’ll head south towards Argentina and sample the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree.

One nibble of this dish will, quite simple put, make the mouth water. From the time a bite crosses through the lips, every single taste bud on the tongue will find a reason to tingle between the beef, boniato, and chimichurri. The strip of beef is grilled well, with just enough charring on the savory bits to add the desired textural element, but it is the side and sauce on this plate that makes it a palate pleaser.Chimichurri, is a sauce whose basic components are garlic, parsley, olive oil, and vinegar. A variety of other herbs and spices can be added to chimichurris, and the Argentinean version served during the festival makes use of onion and saffron. The mixture, combined with either the boniato or grilled beef, or both, adds a bright, fresh kick to the meal.

Boniato is a variety of sweet potato found originally in the Caribbean, but now is grown throughout subtropical climates including Florida. The meat of the boniato is off-white and not as sweet as a typical sweet potato. What it lacks in sweetness, the puree of this dish makes up for it with rich mash that carries an almost cauliflower flavor with it. While not as starchy as a regular potato, the boniato puree pairs well with the beef skewer for the meat and potato crowd.

The 2010 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival returned plenty of festival favorites and introduced guests to a world of delicious discoveries. As the event winds down this week, the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree is certainly a contender for a final supper.

09 November 2010

Picturesque and challenging

This week, the PGA Tour will play the Children’s Miracle Network Classic at Walt Disney World on the Palm and Magnolia courses. While the event has been at other venues throughout the years, including the Lake Buena Vista and Eagle Pines grounds, this will be the 32nd event for both courses since 1971, giving the Magnolia and Palm trails a storied history.

Both Bermudagrass courses were designed by Joe Lee and opened in the Vacation Kingdom in 1971. Scott Welder has been the course superintendent for the pair of golf grounds since the first golfers teed off on the Palm and Magnolia in 1971. While the two are often times referred to in tandem, each course is unique. Magnolia, given the name by the trees that line its holes, has the distinction of being the longest of the Disney golf grounds and home to the world famous “Mouse Trap” sand bunker. Palm, also named for the trees surrounding the course, is widely considered the most challenging of the Disney courses.

In the first three years of the tournament, then known as the PGA Walt Disney World Open, Jack Nicklaus could be found standing alone atop the leaderboard from 1971 through 1973. Other past champions of the event include Vijay Singh, Payne Stewart, David Duvall, Hal Sutton, Lucas Glover, and Tiger Woods, among others.

The Children’s Miracle Network Classic, the final event of the PGA Tour’s Fall Series, always brings attention to the world of golf at Walt Disney World. Yet, since 1971, the Magnolia and Palm courses have been hosting golfers daily. Need proof? Just take a look at these stylish ladies hitting the links in 1971!

08 November 2010

Electrify the boys and girls

There is a lot of buzz surrounding the upcoming feature film, TRON: Legacy. Quite a bit of that anticipation has come from successful campaigns at San Diego Comic-Con and virally online, but some of the building excitement has come from events in Disneyland, such as ElecTRONica and the addition of TRON: Legacy music and images to the new nighttime spectacular World of Color. Wouldn’t it be something to see a piece of the Grid come to Walt Disney World.

When looking around Walt Disney World for suitable venues to host TRON events or attractions, there appears to be only one logical location, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While futuristic properties, such as Star Wars and the original TRON, have always had a home in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, the feel of the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland doesn’t have the same flow. Disney’s Hollywood Studios, however, has the two things needed to bring TRON: Legacy to life, a theme that utilizes film productions and the blessing of unused space.The only area in the park suitable for a dance party is the Streets of America. However, with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights residing throughout the avenues, it would make a dance party almost impossible. Similarly, none of the current nighttime productions have the ability or cohesion of theme to be able to add a TRON: Legacy element to them. With such seasonal and technical obstacles, it appears that stand alone attractions and showcases may be the only suitable route to take in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The first idea I had for the inclusion of TRON: Legacy in Walt Disney World was to use the space currently occupied by The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian walk-through. With the third movie in this series preparing to launch from under a banner that is not Disney, now seems the perfect time to update this soundstage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Perhaps, the waiting area could become Flynn’s office and the inner area could be the End of Line Club, before giving guests the opportunity to examine displays of identity discs, costumes, and even the occasional model and concept art of a light cycle.

On the other side of Disney’s Hollywood Studios rests the theater known as the ABC Sound Studio. Once upon a time this facility housed the Monster Sound Show, which gave way to the current Sounds Dangerous – Starring Drew Carey. The latter production operates seasonally now, proving that sound doesn’t carry as far as it used to, and making the ABC Sound Studio a prime candidate for an attraction that could operate year round. One of the most intriguing aspects of TRON and TRON: Legacy is the visual effects. From original and new suit technologies to green screens, this one little theater could create an interactive showcase of visual effects guests see everyday in film and television with just a tweak of the theater’s name and original purpose.A final, more blue sky, thought on a TRON: Legacy addition to the parks would be a full-fledge attraction in Soundstage 1. The notion involves employing similar storytelling techniques to those utilized in The Klingon Encounter as a part of The Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas and Poseidon’s Fury at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. By moving guests into Flynn’s Arcade and then stumble upon his office, where a power laser accidentally digitizes them onto the Grid. From this point, programs such as Tron and Quorra could shepherd the guests past game arenas where combatants are being derezzed, the End of Line Club, and lightcycle races before boarding a solar sailer or modified light runner in order to escape the digital world.

Any attraction or showcase involving the world of TRON would, obviously, not be ready before the film’s December theatrical release. However, with so many wonderful venues to inhabit, and given that the Grid offers innumerable possibilities, the inclusion of the TRON story in the parks would offer something to guests young and old.

07 November 2010

Disney This Week - 7 November 2010

The Walt Disney Family Museum has a new blog, Storyboard, where this week Lynn Zook surveys early Disneyland attraction/faux travel posters.

Jungle is “101” skipper, Mike, spins a tale about a solo journey through the Jungle Cruise at night at is sure to make your heart ache.

AJ shares one of the most adorable food images I have ever seen with The Disney Food Blog readers.

On Disney Every Day, Amanda Tinney highlights some Snow White art that you can really sink your teeth into.

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream has reopened and includes some fantastic pieces from Disney history. Thomas Smith showcases the original Abraham Lincoln Audio-Animatronics at the Disney Parks Blog.

Studios Central looks at the effects of a limited Fantasmic! schedule in an article by Matt Hochberg.

Suzannah DiMarzio dives into the VIP lounge in The Living Seas on ZannaLand.

Shawn Slater does a terrific job drawing attention to elements of Nature’s Wonderland that can still be found in Disneyland’s Frontierland at DisneyShawn.

Kevin Kidney spotlights Jody Daily’s painting of a Mr. Toad car descending into Hell and the inspiration behind the attraction’s peculiar finale.

Jeff Shain explores four decades of PGA Tour golf events at Walt Disney World on The Daily Disney.

05 November 2010

Lost Boys Fire Brigade

Tucked away near the flight to Never Never Land, otherwise known as Peter Pan’s Flight, is this rather plain barrel used by the Lost Boys Fire Brigade. As is often the case with names, dates, and locations found on signs, crates, and other elements around Walt Disney World, the name of the Fire Chief of the brigade is no ordinary person.

As it turns out, W. Ray Colburn is the Fire Chief of not only the Lost Boys Fire Brigade, but also of the Reedy Creek Fire Department. The Reedy Creek Improvement District was founded in 1967 to provide governmental services to the area that would become Walt Disney World. While not the original Fire Chief, Wm. “Ray” Colburn currently serves in that capacity in addition to his duties on the City of Bay Lake City Council.

04 November 2010

This island is our home

The design of Discovery Island in Disney’s Animal Kingdom comes down to a simple, yet nuanced, idea: the inhabitants of Discovery Island positively adore animals. From the manner in which their shops and restaurants are built to honor animals, as well as having been constructed in harmony with the local indigenous wildlife, to the lampposts and animal habitats themselves, everything has been created out of a singular overwhelming joy of animals, even the directional signs.

While each land the springs out of a different Discovery Island trail has a sign befitting that land, such as the carved gate for Africa or the hewn log marker of Camp Minnie-Mickey, there are also large, boldly colored signs within the borders of Discovery Island directing guests to new adventures. Africa spots an easily identifiable giraffe, just as Asia is denoted with a tiger, and stegosauruses highlight the way to Dinoland U.S.A., there are even a pair of feathered friends the show the way to the exit through the Oasis. The one tricky sign here is the bear gnawing on a canoe that signals the way towards the singular attraction, Festival of the Lion King, where he once upon a time directed guests towards Camp Minnie-Mickey.

Today, take a tour of the bright, catchy signs that shout about the love of animals all residence of Discovery Island share.

03 November 2010

Delicious discoveries - United States of America

Throughout the menus of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival there is a smorgasbord of unique flavors and fantastic pairings. Whether from the meticulous crafting of a classic sauce or the clever use of a disparaged ingredient, the mouth-watering dishes always leave guests seeking seconds. Today’s small meal, however, proves that simple can still be delicious.

Featured in the back of the United States of America stall is a tube filled with fresh, plump tomatoes of every size and color, from rotund purple to petite green, just waiting to be diced. The tomatoes are chunked and sliced and arranged on a plate so that the full assortment of tomatoes can be tasted. The dish is known as the Heirloom Tomatoes with Oregon Blue Cheese, Red Onions, and Basil, and as complex as the name implies, the concoction could not be any simpler to compose or enjoy.

The blue cheese from Oregon is rich, but not overpowering, while the red onions add a crisp, crunchy zing to the combination. As for the basil, the fragrant herb brings all the individual elements together with distinctive aroma and leaves that snap. Above all, the variety of tomatoes, juicy and fleshy, is the reason to sample this dish.

Beautifully arranged on a small plate, the wealth of tastes in the Heirloom Tomatoes would be more fitting in larger portions in a salad basin. The protein provided by the blue cheese, combined with the fresh grown tomatoes, onions, and basil, serves up a slice of the United States society of agriculture seen in our farmer’s markets and on kitchen tables from coast to coast. A simple, yet satisfying dish that is sure to appease any palate that gives it a chance.

02 November 2010

A monumental addition

As we await the arrival of Starspeeder 1000s and the next incarnation of Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as at Disneyland, today we take a giant step back. The image below offers a brief glimpse into the coming Imperial onslaught on Endor in the form of the massive AT-AT Walker.The 35-foot All Terrain Armored Transport was designed to give the appearance that it is constantly moving forward. The steel skeleton was almost completely encased with a fiberglass shell, remember the AT-AT resides in the back stage area of the park which means appearance matters, not completed entities. Although it would be erected in Florida, and unveiled to the public in August of 1989, the colossal wienie was originally constructed in California.

Appearing in the photograph with the AT-AT and model AT-AT are Imagineers Paul Osterhout and Shannon Hanaway and Larry Casey of the Walt Disney World operations staff.