28 February 2011

To shape a world

The Gazette Roundtable is back for our first gathering of 2011. We have some new members that I know you are going to love and I hope you’ll welcome with open arms!

You know, it is hard for me to believe the Main Street Gazette has been around for over three and a half years, but it is even harder to reconcile the fact that Walt Disney World has been in existence for nearly forty years. There have so many wonderful events and moments scattered about the past four decades, with so much to reminisce over and about, I felt the history of Walt Disney World was the perfect jumping off point for the newest incarnation of the roundtable. I hope you’ll come along with us in our Time Rovers as we venture way back.

Roundtable Topic: If you could have been at one event from the history of Walt Disney World, what moment would you have liked to be a witness too and why?
Roundtable Contributors: Greg Grimsley (The Disney Obsession), Matthew Sedler (the geekTicket), Elizabeth Caran (Take the Monorail), George Taylor (Imaginerding), Fiona Doyle (DF’82), Melissa Loflin (Makin’ Memories), AJ Wolfe (The Disney Food Blog), Suzannah DiMarzio (ZannaLand), Chris Fore (Yet Another Disney Blog), Scott Otis, Eric Hoffman (Netmongrel), and yours truly.
Greg – Out of the many memorable occasions I could choose from I believe I’d pick October 3, 1971. This is the day that Peter Pan’s Flight opened in Fantasyland. This has been my favorite attraction ever since I was mesmerized by my first flight over the city of London. It is a “must do” on every trip; FastPass or Stand-by, doesn’t matter. It is not a trip to Walt Disney World without a ride through the world of Peter Pan. I think I would have loved the opportunity to be the first person to ride. Wow, what a memory that would have made!

Matthew – It sounds silly but out of all the events in the long history of WDW, I want to pick a more recent event: The opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom in 1998. DAK is probably the non-Magic Kingdom park I love the most (OK, besides DisneySea, which is a no-brainer) because of its message and its mission. As a vegetarian, I can understand why some people are opposed to zoos, but I constantly hold DAK up as an example of how zoos can be entertaining and educational while caring for the animals and treating them with respect. The work the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund does is a perfect example of this. Being able to see Dr. Jane Goodall speak at the opening dedication (or even the 10-year anniversary) would have been awesome. And it didn't cost anyone $8,500.

Elizabeth – Well, I think the classic answer is "opening day," and although that would have been fascinating and fun, I think I really would have rather been along on one of the flybys or planning sessions for WDW, maybe even just one of the real estate closings. Not very glamorous, true, but it would have put me right there at the beginning of an innovative and world-changing new thing. I think the energy and creativity in those first few moments of park germination would be absolutely magical, even without the fireworks and pixie dust.

George – This is a tough one, as I am sure all of the other roundtable’ers will attest.

I don't have a specific date, as opposed to a time period for my visit. As much as I would love to take another spin on Horizon, World of Motion and Journey Into Imagination, I would love to step back to a week in 1978.

Why 1978?

Well, Walt Disney World was such a different vacation destination than today. With one theme park, a handful of places to stay and the Village Marketplace, there wasn't quite the hustle like today. Most days, the Magic Kingdom closed at 6:00 pm and you found entertainment at your hotel or at the Village. Of course, there were also some great options at Fort Wilderness for recreational entertainment.

I would spend two nights at the Contemporary, two at the Golf Resort and three at the Villas at Lake Buena Vista. Evenings spent photographing all of the shops and restaurants in the hotels, including the Gulf Coast Room, the Trophy Room and the shops. I would make sure to collect all of the menus that I could to send to AJ.

At the Magic Kingdom, I can't wait to experience the Frontierland Train Depot, the huge grassy field where two mountains will eventually stand and reliving Flower Street. For the most part, I would be photographing signs, queues and buildings. Several trips on the Mark IV monorail to hear Jack Wagner's 1972 spiel are on queue and I would hop on the World Cruise and check out Discovery Island.

The Village would offer opportunities to cringe at the fashions and to burn through film getting pictures of the signs and all the ephemera I can nab. A day at Ft. Wilderness, where I would ride the rails and get pictures of the playground would round out my trip.

Fiona – I would have loved to have been there at the opening of the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. To listen to Roy make the speech, with Mickey Mouse standing next to him, I really think that would have been something. And to be one of the first to step foot into the beautiful park (which will always feel like Home to me) would be a moment that words cannot describe. It might be a common "I wish I could have been there..." moment, but it's one that really was the start of something special.

Melissa – Recently my love of the Animal Kingdom, its story, detail, and animals, has grown more than I realized. With that said, one event from the history of Walt Disney World that I would have liked to have witnessed would have been when Joe Rohde pitched to the company executives the idea of using live animals in the new park that was being conceived. During Rohde’s presentation, his team let a tiger walk in and simply sit down, scratch his chin, and walk back out. Nothing fancy or frightening, but the executives were so overwhelmed that Rohde and his team knew the argument of live animals not being exciting enough would not be brought up again. I haven’t been able to forget this story since reading it. I feel like this is something that we could all see Walt himself doing. I think back to the video footage of him with animals and his love of all creatures and just think that this moment helped create the vision he had of humans’ encounters with animals. As an animal lover I am thankful for a park that teaches people how to respect all creatures big and small and that we can live together in harmony.

AJ – I want a BBQ Chicken Handwich. Eisner introduced these bread-y, ice cream cone-shaped sandwich alternatives to the parks during the dark ages (i.e. the years I didn't visit Disney World), and I therefore missed out on one of the quintessential moments in Disney food history. I blame my parents for their misplaced Myrtle Beach and Hershey Park spring break trips (which I loved at the time...tsk, tsk, tsk...), and myself for not sensing the Handwich magic that was taking place. Thanks to my favorite Disney historians, I now know what I was missing.

Suzannah – I struggled with this answer, because I've been lucky enough to enjoy several key periods in Walt Disney World history. I have fond memories of the Skyway (and miss it so) and the Orange Bird, as well as staying at the Lake Buena Vista Vacation Villas back in the early 1980's. Walking through the Village Marketplace during that time period are some of my most treasured Disney moments. Similarly, I was able to experience EPCOT Center within its first year and in fact my family moved to central Florida in 1985, so we'd often visit weekly. We also made many trips during the Disney-MGM Studios heydays, and I was able to witness opening day of Disney's Animal Kingdom. So for all of those reasons, I feel almost greedy wanting to experience another WDW milestone event. But if I must...

If I could have been at any one event from the history of Walt Disney World, it would be opening day of EPCOT Center. I debated adding a condition to my pick: being older on opening day. I thought maybe I would have a better understanding of all things Disney and therefore appreciate the special situation in which I found myself. Upon further reflection, I realize that my first visits to the park were marked by such wonder and amazement at every turn, I would not want to trade those feelings for any amount of increased park knowledge. EPCOT Center was just so unlike any other park of its time - and still today, though it has obviously changed in many ways since 1982. Of course this was never the EPCOT Center Mr. Disney envisioned but if you gave it a different name, it would still hold all of the enchantment that we saw back then. The technology at the time was unlike any other. Touch screens, video dining reservations, blue screens, lasers! Don't even get me started on the World Showcase Dancers and rainbow space-suit Mickey and Minnie. Or Horizons. My love for EPCOT Center runs deep and given any opportunity to do so, I would gladly step into my time machine vehicle again and again.

Chris – The book "The Story of Walt Disney World" describes a moment that has stayed with me since I first read it decades ago.

The time is December, 1968. The location - a barren construction site on the shores of Bay Lake. It looks like any other piece of cleared Florida land, except for a big yellow "X" on the ground, a huge balloon rising 180 feet directly above it, and four more balloons at the corners of a football field-sized parcel over by the lake.

This was the construction "stake out" for the Magic Kingdom - a way to check out the spatial relationships between the major elements.

I'd like to stand on that yellow "X" and stare up 180 feet and imagine the peak of Cinderella Castle, then look over to the four corners that would become the footprint for the Contemporary's A-frame. I'd stroll that cleared plot of land and try to wrap my mind around all of the sights, sounds, and memories it will bear witness to over the next 42 years. I'm pretty sure it would blow my mind.

Scott – I would choose to have been present for the initial planning of the Florida Project. It would have been something special to see Walt excitedly explaining his ambitious plans for Disney World and especially his Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow.

I would have loved to fly over the property to try to picture the layout of everything; walk into the amazing Project X secret room of plans; see the entire Vacation Kingdom being developed from scratch and view the filming of Walt's EPCOT film that explained the project to the Florida citizenry, governments and businesses.

Eric – I would like to have been witness to the opening of EPCOT Center. Of all the projects completed by or in Walt’s name I EPCOT Center was the closest to Walt’s larger ambition executed within Walt Disney World. True, EPCOT Center was not at all a realization of Walt’s ultimate desire to create a true, working “model” community. However it remains in my mind a unique creation, original in scope and truly impressive in its scale.

In terms of theme parks EPCOT Center also represented the first departure from the Disneyland model and remains unique among the portfolio of theme parks Disney has since created world wide.

Ryan – At the opening of Space Mountain, the Magic Kingdom first “thrill ride,” there were several astronauts that I had grown up admiring. The combination of the space program heroes like Gordon Cooper and Jim Irwin and Walt Disney World seems tempting enough, but I wouldn’t pick that day. Nor would I pick the day my beloved Horizons was opened in EPCOT Center. In fact, I wouldn’t go back to the opening of EPCOT Center, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the star studded Disney-MGM Studios, or even the October 25th dedication of the Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World by Roy Disney, although each has their appeal to me.

Being a Floridian through and through, I would head back to November 15, 1965. On this date Walt and Roy were joined by Haydon Burns, then the governor of Florida, at the Cherry Plaza Hotel in Orlando. At 2:00pm the group announced plans for Disney World, later renamed Walt Disney World after his passing. While only broad strokes were painted at this presentation, the seed of Disney in Florida is planted at this moment, and seeing it in person would have meant the world to me.

Planning and flights to and from Florida, dedications and the opening of spectacular attractions all hold an allure for me, but nothing would compare to seeing Walt Disney announcing he was bringing his talents to Central Florida.

Now that we know what events the Gazette Roundtable would love to attend, we want to hear from you. To what date and highlight of Walt Disney World past would you set your time rover towards?

27 February 2011

Disney This Week - 27 February 2011

Shawn Slater looks at how two very different ideas came to fruition in Disney California Adventure on DisneyShawn.

Congratulations to Imaginerding and George Taylor on 1,000 well crafted articles! How do they celebrate? By reviewing one of the best, if not the definitive, historical texts on Walt Disney World, Since the World Began.

Matt Hochberg gives readers of Studios Central a primer for attending ESPN The Weekend.

The Disney Food Blog turns back the clock as AJ turns her intrepid taste buds towards Tie-Dye Cheesecake.

The Disney Chick offers up her selections for great corners to recharge and for respite in the parks.

The soup-de-jour for The Disney Obsession and Greg Grimsley is a fresh batch of Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup.

Jonathan Frontado shares what is sure to become a classic image of the Disney Dream and the space shuttle Discovery blasting off on its final mission for the Disney Parks Blog.

Makin’ Memories searches for the perfect cuppa and Melissa Loflin finds it at the Royal Anandapur Tea Company.

Todd Perlmutter mixes food and fun when he reviews the Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room for Touring Plans.

25 February 2011

Rod, you shouldn't

Libraries are great places to hold secrets, as today’s hidden detail will reveal two times over.

We begin this morning in the library of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, otherwise The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. To be more accurate, we’re searching for two stuffed envelopes, one in each library. One is addressed to the patriarch of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling, while the other is addressed to Victoria West. While these may seem to be letters left to hotel guests once upon a stormy night, most messages would have been left with the front desk and the truth is actually much stranger.

Beginning with Victoria West’s envelope, this is actually a reference to an episode of The Twilight Zone from the show’s first season. The episode, entitled A World of His Own, takes place in the library of a playwright named Gregory West and is centered around the abilities of his miraculous tape recording machine that brings his dictated descriptions to life. Such creations are able to be undone simply by burning the tape containing their narrative. One such creation, a woman whom he is carrying on an affair with named Mary, is discovered by his wife, our Victoria. After confrontation and explanation of the remarkable device, Victoria West is determined to have her husband committed, but is stalled when he shows her an envelope labeled with her name filled with audio tape. Convinced this is simply a ploy to keep her from divorcing or committing Gregory, Victoria tosses her envelope into the fire and subsequently fades away.

Horrified, Gregory begins to depict Victoria into the recorder again when he pauses and begins again, this time with a new spouse, Mary West. Rod Serling then appears on screen to close out the episode as a mere work of fiction. At this point the wall between narrator and story is broken when Gregory chides Rod. West then removes an envelope marked Rod Serling from his library safe, lobs it into the fireplace and causes Serling to disappear, but not before Serling gets in the episode’s parting words.

While an all together wonderful tale, and one that I have not done justice to here, what here grants A World of His Own such a unique status that it deserves a place among the peculiar artifacts of the Hollywood Tower Hotel? For starters, the interaction between Serling and the characters of The Twilight Zone, which was extremely rare. The second noteworthy element also involves Rod Serling, as A World of His Own is also the first time he appears as an onscreen narrator for the show, even though it is the 36th episode of the first season.

Just goes to show, that sometimes a library is meant to keep its secrets and nothing it what it seems in The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

24 February 2011

Colors flown by the original colonies

If there is one thing that can make any heart swell, it is watching the colors of their home hoisted high into the sky. There is something magical about the first moment when the wind catches the flag and unfurls it for all to see that stirs a person deep down at the heart of who they are.

Although there were only thirteen colonies at the time of the Revolutionary War, there were plenty of banners to chose from during this turbulent period. Each colony could be represented by any number of flags due in part to the various regiments that called the colony home. A cross section of these colonial colors are on display inside The American Adventure’s Liberty Inn. Take a moment to step back in time and visit with the flags that swelled the hearts of those who brought us the freedoms we enjoy today.

23 February 2011

Charming and sweet

It is time for us here at the Main Street Gazette to address the elephant in the room. More accurately, the sweet oversized elephant that resides in the Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This review has been a long time coming; after all we have already devoured the Brownie Paw and the Zebra Cupcake. With our taste buds torn over the previous two reviews, it appears that the White Chocolate Elephant Cupcake will make our break the specialty baked goods available at Kusafiri.

What constitutes a White Chocolate Elephant Cupcake? To put it simply, a thick slab of a chocolate cupcake, white frosting, toasted coconut and a cylinder of German chocolate running through the frosting, similar to the cheesecake portion of the Red Velvet Cheesecake Cupcake available at Starring Rolls Cafe. As I often find is the case with the oversized cupcakes, I could do with a little less of the frosting or a frosting with more quality ingredients. Otherwise, the chocolate cupcake is moister than its counterparts, the coconut has a sweet, crunchy texture and the German chocolate is a pleasantly appealing.

The best part of the snack I have saved for last. We may have mentioned chocolate above, but that is not the chocolate that comprises the white chocolate elephant portion of the treat. The topper of this cupcake is a large elephant lollipop made out of white chocolate. While you would expect to pay an upcharge for such a lavish snack, the White Chocolate Elephant Cupcake falls in the exact same prize range as other premium cupcakes throughout the resort.

Over the past several years, Walt Disney World has garnered a reputation for gratuitous cupcakes, both in size and toppings, but the White Chocolate Elephant Cupcake truly takes the cake. Gorgeous to look at, this cupcake utilizes its baked and candy elements to double the snackablity, share factor, and overall pleasure of a single treat.

22 February 2011

Sleek, stainless steel exterior

We’re going to glance back at a specific building today. The photograph below comes from August 13, 1982, almost two months to the day before EPCOT Center opened. Notice that some of the Future World benches have not even been installed yet. With a diameter of 320 feet and a height of 65 feet, this is a structure meant to be awed, not discussed. So, I am going to leave you here to marvel at this drop dead sexy building, the World of Motion.

21 February 2011

Eat dainty

Adventureland has a problem on its hands. No, it’s not the fact that one the original marquee attractions, whose ‘new management’ has often been called into question, is currently shuttered due to fire. The plethora of guests who prefer the original cruise the Caribbean before it was high jacked can be overlooked. It’s not even the loss of identity of the Sunshine Pavilion’s snack stop, although the hindrance does have to do with food.Positioned at either entrance to Adventureland, whether coming from Frontierland or Main Street U.S.A., are two dining establishments that have long sat under-utilized with the ‘seasonal’ tag attached or completely shuttered. The Tortuga Tavern, previously known as El Pirata Y El Perico, and the Adventureland Veranda both reside in choice locations for a quick service dining establishment, but neither has been given appropriate opportunity in the past several years to shine. Despite overcrowding at mealtimes and the addition of eateries coinciding with the Fantasyland Expansion, Adventureland is the sole land within the Magic Kingdom without a single constant source for complete meals.

A potential solution to the problem would include permanently closing and repurposing one of the destinations, while using the larger establishment as the restaurant with an expanded menu. Although it has been sealed, save for a few events and as a makeshift food stand during a couple of busy seasons, the Adventureland Veranda would actually be my choice to become the Adventureland dining establishment. While the Veranda had a wonderful run from 1971 until 1994, and is beloved by many for its Asian inspired menu and vibrant setting, the true reason for its selection comes down to location. With access directly off of the Hub, as opposed to Tortuga Tavern’s positioning along the edge of the park, it is easily reached by guests from all lands, as well as providing contact to those same lands to guests who have finished their meals. This location would also potentially alleviate the congestion continually felt at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe.

Now, that leaves the question of what to do with Tortuga Tavern down in the Caribbean Plaza. One solution, that does not leave valuable space unoccupied, is twofold. Firstly, the majority of the space that is currently used for seating would be annexed by the short-seated Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe with refurbished thematic elements. For the remainder of the area, a onetime guest favorite could make a return. I am, of course, speaking of the Caribbean Arcade, a game room where a pirate’s life could be a wonderful life filled with targeting games, fortune telling machines and doubloon imprinting machines (aka coin presses).

The current incarnation of Adventureland appears to be much maligned on the surface, but has a wonderful wealth of history, potential and uniquely designed spaces. This combination of factors leaves me with hope that one day, no matter who’s vision comes to pass, the future of adventure will be bright and flavorful.

20 February 2011

Disney This Week - 20 February 2011

Jeff Heimbuch has been doing some wonderful interviews at Disney Dispatch lately, but his latest entry takes the cake as Jeff goes one-on-one with Rolly Crump.

The Disney Food Blog always makes me hungry, especially when AJ dives into some of my favorite menus, like she did this week when she reviewed Kona Cafe.

Kevin Kidney talks about Dapper Day at Disneyland, an idea that I wish would catch on for Walt Disney World.

Vintage Disney Valentines are documented at Tulgey Wood by Jim Fanning.

Melissa Loflin dishes about one of the great dining secrets of Walt Disney World, the Tune-In Lounge at Makin’ Memories.

Progress City U.S.A. scribe, Michael Crawford, explores an EPCOT Center eatery you've never dined at.

George Taylor digs up some wonderful comments from Walt Peregroy, timeless moments from EPCOT Center and a great graphic from Celeste Cronrath for Imaginerding.

Jungle is “101” skipper, Mike, has brought out some vintage Disneyland goodies, including records, View-Masters reels and postcards.

Retro 71 continues on DesignerLand, as Richard brings a motif based upon the Walt Disney World bags and boxes of the 1980s, also known as my youthful era with the Vacation Kingdom.

The continuing mystery of Lilly, the baby Western Lowland Gorilla at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is discussed by Dr. Mark Stetter on the Disney Parks Blog.

18 February 2011

Refresh yourself

There has been a large amount of kaffufle made over the revelation of the secret formula for Coca-Cola on This American Life last Friday. While I can neither confirm or deny the authenticity of this recipe, mostly because I’ve never had access to any true recipe of Coca-Cola, I can be certain of a few ingredients.There are several burlap sacks scatter about, as one would obviously do with ingredients to a secret formula, throughout the storage area of Epcot’s Refreshment Outpost. While most guests would focus in on the various Coca-Cola storage and vending devices that cover a wide array of languages (and who doesn’t want to buy the world a Coke?), the true soda spies will take no time in deducing that the bulging bags are filled with kola nuts, coffee, sugar and coca.Clearly some dastardly individual here in the Outpost is trying to mix up their own batch of the refreshing beverage from a swiped version of the long guarded recipe. Either that, or the Outpost features a wonderful sight gag to the most obvious ingredients that comprise Coca-Cola. But the first theory is more likely, right?

17 February 2011


Disney theme parks have a history of previewing their attractions to guests as they enter a park. Great attention has been paid to the coming attractions poster the fill the area surrounding the train station at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. Additionally, the concept of wienies, from Cinderella Castle to the Space Mountain spire, have also been used to promote an area and drawn guests in. Using elements that are fundamentally African, the gate of Harambe uses both of these tools to entice travelers.

The gate to Africa, also known as the village of Harambe, is a massive structure that towers over guests entering the land and is the personification of a wienie. The intricate carvings upon the large door are jaw-droppingly beautiful, but it takes a little more effort to realize what you are looking at. Etched upon the door are the animal inhabitant of Africa’s Harambe or, more specifically, the creatures that populate Africa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. From the expected and highly sought lions, elephants, gorillas and giraffes, to the more unique birds, beasts and baobab trees, all have a place within Harambe and as part of the preview of the excursions within the village.

16 February 2011

If they don't win, it's a shame

Snacks in Walt Disney World come from confectionaries, bakeries, ice cream carts and outdoor stands that can be grabbed without causing guests to divert too far off the path to their next attraction. But what if I told you there was a warm, savory bite that comes in its own on the go packaging, would you take a few steps off the main thoroughfare for it?

Every well-traveled guest of the Magic Kingdom knows the place to get the best hot dogs and spread of traditional toppings is Casey’s Corner on Main Street U.S.A. Not only do the dogs hit the spot, but the feel of sitting in bleachers and watching sports cartoons or resting beneath a striped umbrella listening to a ragtime pianist at his finest is one of the true simple joys to be found within the park. For guests arriving to the park in early afternoon, however, not seeking the full meal of lunch or dinner, but merely enough goodies to tie them over until they’ve wound their way through Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and possibly it’s a small world, fear not, Casey’s has you covered.

I have three words for you: Corn Dog Nuggets. These golden brown nubs come in a small drink cup, with enough of them to reach the rim of the cup (approximately ten), and are delicious. The crispy exterior meshes with the gooey morsels of the batter that adheres to the miniature, juicy hot dog bites in all the most wonderfully bad for you ways. Grab some mustard packets, or a cup of hot cheese sauce, and you are well on your way to a delicious snack. But be warned, they can become addictive and one serving, even with a side of fries, is in no way large enough to be considered a meal for those in the midst of a full day of navigating the Magic Kingdom.

It may take a few more moments away from hitting the next attraction on a guest’s must ride list, but the Corn Dog Nuggets are tasty enough that they won’t really mind. Hot dogs may have originated to portability of the medium, while corn dogs improved upon the idea with breading and a stick, but the Corn Dog Nuggets the bite sized and portably to another flavor-filled level.

15 February 2011

Magic Kingdom's inland waterways

One of the earliest attractions in the Magic Kingdom took guests down the lazy waterways of Main Street U.S.A., near enough to almost touch Tomorrowland, and venturing briefly into Adventureland. This experience was in operation for just over a decade, from May of 1973 until August of 1983, and yet it is one of the most under-documented attractions from the parks. I am, of course, speaking of the Plaza Swan Boats.

The Plaza Swan Boats originally docked near the Plaza Restaurant, in what has become an outdoor seating area along edge of the canal. Once the permanent dock was built, the green roofed pavilion that can be reached by walking through the Plaza Rose Garden, the original dock was repurposed. Guests could board one of the twelve boats named after popular Disney heroines for a D-Ticket during the peak summer season, although one boat would be refurbished as a vacuum boat for cleaning the canals.A solitary image of the Plaza Swan Boats, which ran on natural gas, would provide a glimpse of grace plying the channels of the Magic Kingdom. In truth, however, these swans roamed more like odd ducks. An electrical guidance system failed early in the attractions history, calling for an alternative navigation approach. The new steering mechanism consisted of two jets, one each in the front and rear, which could be employed by their own steering wheels by the piloting Cast Member. While these jets answered the problem caused by the failings of the electrical system, they also included the addition of user error. There were many accounts of boats running ashore, crashing into support beams and even spinning in circles.

With problems ranging from popularity that could not be supported to ever-increasing maintenance costs, the herd of swans were permanently docked after the 1983 summer season. While there were flaws in the Plaza Swan Boat’s system, a scenic tour of the waterways surrounding three lands of the Magic Kingdom, especially in such a regally designed craft, would be right up there with the tours of the Walt Disney World Railroad, Peoplemover and Liberty Belle.

Oh, and speaking of glorious tours, did anyone notice the buckets of the Skyway floating by in the background?

14 February 2011

The Concert Feature

It has been said that George Gershwin dressed up jazz and brought her into the concert hall. By the same token, Walt Disney dressed down the concert hall and brought her into the cinema. These two visionaries each revitalized music in their own unique ways while providing new sounds and ideas to audiences who may have never heard such pieces before. Perhaps it is time to revisit this ideal in the theme parks of Walt Disney World, more specifically in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

It seems like I am often picking on Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but the park has so much unused, or underutilized, space and a sweeping theme that offers a ton of promise that I am really just hoping to see its potential. In this instance, I feel that a singular idea could infuse new life into the former home to the animators of Walt Disney Animation and the ABC Sound Studio. At the same time, this grand thought would build upon a motif already present within the Studios and a longstanding wish of Walt Disney’s.

Walt Disney venture into musical composition paired with an animator’s musically untrained vision became known as Fantasia. His one wish was that the feature would continue in perpetuity with familiar sections being interspersed with new movements on a regular basis. This was, unfortunately, not to be the case for Fantasia, which has developed a beloved following in the years since. However, there was a single sequel produced by his nephew Roy several decades after the original feature, entitled Fantasia 2000. With music education continually being held under the executioner’s blade, there is no better time to reintroduce the concepts of Fantasia to audiences.

So, we have been dancing around the outskirts of an idea, but not getting into the heart of the music. The idea is to present a live version of Fantasia in the parks on a daily basis. Walt Disney World gathers some of the greatest performers in the world for their productions, ranging from Beauty and the Beast to Finding Nemo: The Musical. Throughout the resort’s history there is also a fine tradition of extremely talented musicians, from Off Kilter to the Future Corps, while Walt Disney Animation created feature length films once upon a time. These last two artistic venues is what the Fantasia idea, lets call it The Concert Feature, builds upon.

With a sound studio already in place, but needing an updated attraction that could carry an audience daily, the new experience would call for a live orchestra to perform in front of this audience. While the music was playing, directly above the musicians would be a screen filled with animated sequences. This is where touring the animation facility becomes a thrill again, as guests would be able to see animators hard at work on new sequences for The Concert Feature. This constant flow of animation would also mean that Walt Disney dream of rotating segments would finally come to life. The length of the show would obviously have to be shortened from the full length of Fantasia or a symphony performance, but other productions in Walt Disney World show that guests will spend forty-five minutes to a hour with a single experience if it is worth the time.

Even though elements of Fantasia can be seen throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios, that doesn’t mean that teenage guests are going to sit through an entire performance of classic composition. That means there needs to be enticing musical score for younger guests too. Perhaps The Concert Feature travels a path not put forth by its predecessors, and that is to animate around a commissioned piece of music. For instance, one of the highest selling albums of 2010 was Daft Punk’s score for TRON: Legacy, reaching as high as number 4 on Billboard Top 200 albums. While snub by the Academy Awards, a section composed by the duo would easily bridge the gap between ‘stuffy’ concert hall music and modern sound.

The Concert Feature may just be my own personal daydream of reinvigorating a dream belonging to Walt Disney, while at the same time finding a way to encourage musical education in younger guests. The music has been tugging on my heartstrings, but if this in in fact a daydream, then it has been a wonderful musical exploration to be on.

13 February 2011

Disney This Week - 13 February 2011

Mitch at Imagineering Disney clearly know the way to my heart is through the inner workings of the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, but that is precisely what is happening at The Disney Food Blog as AJ bids adieu to the fair fare of Mickey’s Toontown Fair.

Sam Gennawey visit’s the House of the Future, circa 1957, at SamLand’s Disney Adventures.

The Disney Parks Blog and Tom Fitzgerald gave the hearts of those aligned with either the Empire or Rebellion a bit of a skip when several beloved characters were announced to be taking part in the new Star Tours adventures.

Melissa Loflin has a tasty take on the BoardWalk Bakery for Makin’ Memories.

Over at Imaginerding, George Taylor wants to know who framed Roger Rabbit in 1983?

Matt Hochberg practices the ways of a Studios Central Jedi as he navigates guests successfully through the most popular experiences in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Disney Dispatch columnist, Jeff Heimbuch, yaks about a yeti.

Suzannah DiMarzio talks about the upcoming launch of Disney Junior Live On Stage coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in ZannaLand.

D23 features a glimpse into the life of the legendary Bill Justice who passed away this week.

Greg Grimsley touches upon a treasured spot at The Disney Obsession.

11 February 2011

Roast on open fire

Not even a third of the way through the Winter Course of the Winter Summerland miniature golf course a delicious fire hazard is brewing. Hole number four is also known as Putt Out the Campfire, and is a source of contention for Santa’s Elves. From their note it is clear that all the responsible elves leave the party early:
Did we douse the fire?
No one remembers
Please help putt it out
Just aim for the embers

Of course, what the elves neglect to mention is why they started the fire in the first place. Just off to the side of the well prepared campfire is a canvas sack filled with, what else, chestnuts. The directions for preparation are simple, “For best chestnuts roast on open fire.

The allusion here is to the holiday standard, The Christmas Song. Perhaps best known for the Nat King Cole rendition from 1961, the song was actually the work of Bob Wells and Mel Tormé. According to Tormé, Wells was simply trying to keep cool during the blazing summer of 1944, by writing down chilling phrases associated with winter in an attempt to keep his mind from boiling. Tormé found the half completed thoughts, expanded them into lyrics, wrote accompanying music and viola! Instant Christmas classic and a nut that known no bounds, even though it may effect your miniature golf game…

10 February 2011

Scenic trip around the Magic Kingdom

The Carolwood Pacific Historical Society, the group dedicated to the preservation of Walt Disney’s locomotive legacy, has only one requirement for its members, that they ride aboard a steam train when in a Disney Park. It isn’t asking a whole lot, but it does give back to the passengers exponentially. Membership or not, it is an activity I recommend for each and every guest.

In the Magic Kingdom there are two excellent ways to unwind and relax for a few moments, a trip aboard the WEDway Peoplemover, or several trips depending on your exhaustion level, or a the complete circuit of the Walt Disney World Railroad. My personal preference is to hop aboard in Frontierland, mainly because I love the station there, but today we’re going to look at the sights of a full circuit by booking passage to and from Main Street U.S.A. Along the way you’ll see desolate outposts, dusty towns, native inhabitants, the backside of tomorrow and even honest to goodness wildlife mingling with the automated wildlife. If you are really vigilant, you’ll even be able to catch a glimpse of the Fantasyland Expansion through the rows growth and pines. Enjoy the tour!