31 August 2011

Like a carnival

Food is like fashion, what’s been around for a while can suddenly become the greatest thing since sliced bread and what’s old can become new again. In the past several years food trucks, generally found in populous areas or at regional festivals, have begun to hit the streets everywhere. Foodies fan out in search of the next big gourmet dish to be served curbside, as if they were on some sort of culinary scavenger hunt. These mobile feeding frenzies have yet to permeate the gates of Walt Disney World, but perhaps it is time they found that perfect parking spot in the parks.

Last week, John Frost at The Disney Blog reported that food trucks were inching closer and closer to Walt Disney World. In fact, a collection of foodmobiles can now regularly be found a little more than a mile from Downtown Disney. But, close isn’t on property, and close only counts in horseshoes.

So, where would these trucks park themselves once their convoy breached to borders of Walt Disney World? Where else, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. What, I have to explain that one? Okay.

As mentioned above, the most prominent parking locations for such trucks tend to be in or around street festivals, state fairs, and the like. While not precisely a fair, DinoLand U.S.A.’s Dino-Rama does offer the same type of feel to it. Heck, it’s even sprung out of a parking lot! Adding a second parking lot with a semicircle of taco, barbeque, vegetarian, or even cupcake trucks and picnic table seating would make a lot of sense.

Being Walt Disney World, the trucks would likely look mobile, while in reality they would be a more permanent structure. Similarly, food trucks have the option of changing their menus as they sit fit, whereas Disne would like have a more permanent fare selection. Still, the scent of the grilled meats, fresh cut French fries, and baked goods would surely call in the customers. And if the foods needed an odor boost, we all know Disney is not afraid to pump up the volume with a smellitzer.

The truth is, food trucks are a recognized part of the culinary culture. Whether they stand the test of time or are revealed as just a fad is yet to be seen, but they have left their mark on the foodie landscape and, for that, they have earned a spot among the continually diversifying food landscape in Walt Disney World. What better place than Dino-Rama, a parking lot begging for fantastic fare!

30 August 2011

Its most famous citizen

Over the forty year history of Walt Disney World, no single area has seen more construction, demolition and refurbishment than the corner known as Mickey’s Birthdayland/Starland/Toontown Fair. For much of its lifespan, the area was announced to be temporary, meaning guests had a limited amount of time in which they would be able to visit with Mickey in his dressing room or home in Duckburg or, later, Toontown.

Temporary had a way of becoming permanent, that is until the recent expansion of Fantasyland that engulfed the former home of the cartoon stars. Of course, when Mickey’s Toontown Fair did come to town, the small facades and realistic looking houses were converted into more toon-approved abodes. One such domicile to receive the toon treatment was Mickey’s house. It’s a good thing he has such a loyal group of characters, I mean friends, to help him remodel!

29 August 2011

A world of fears

We all have them, those attractions that churn our stomach at their very mention. It may be a deep seated fear of an attraction, you had a bad experience, or it really just isn’t your cup of tea. Whatever they are, there are those attractions that we scratch off of our touring plans and simply try to ignore when we pass by. But what are they, and why do we despise them so? Sounds like a question for those meddling kids at the roundtable!

Roundtable Topic: What is the one attraction you always avoid at Walt Disney World, and why?
Roundtable Contributors: Matthew Sedler (the geekTicket), George Taylor (Imaginerding), Fiona (DF’82), Melissa Loflin (Makin’ Memories), AJ Wolfe (The Disney Food Blog), Chris Fore (Adventure Veranda), D.J. Jones (The World of Deej), Eric Hoffman (Netmongrel), and yours truly.
Matthew – This is a really easy question for me. Mission: SPACE is by far the one attraction at Walt Disney World I will not ride ever again. I can get incredibly claustrophobic, and those cabins are like coffins to me. Add to that the fact I'm prone to motion sickness and Mission: SPACE becomes a nightmare for me. The one time I went on Mission: SPACE, I even opted for the Green Team. I've been on a gigacoaster that I almost blacked out on and I would probably ride that again before I step foot on Mission: SPACE.

Daniel – What attraction do I always avoid? This is an easy one. Sure, there are plenty of attractions that I never visit, like Mission: Space and everything in Fantasyland, but if I was at the park with someone dead set on going on these, I'd surely tag along. There is one attraction, however, that I will not visit under any circumstances....Stitch's Great Escape!

You may be asking yourself, "What's so bad about Stitch's Great Escape? It's harmless." Well, my aversion to this abomination of an attraction is not due to what it is, but rather what it once was...Alien Encounter.

Picture it....Family vacation, 1996. It's a cool March afternoon, and our entire family decides we should check out the still relatively new Alien Encounter. At nearly 15, I was at an age that I'd take on just about anything, but even I knew my own limits, and since I was scared of the dark (I still am) this ride didn't bode well for me. We entered the theater and I took a seat between my Dad and younger brother, thinking they would protect me from whatever horror we were about to face. The ride begins, I close my eyes tight, and spend the next 18 minutes of my life wondering if this is what hell really is like. The flap of the alien's wings, his breath against my neck, the guts of some poor soul being splattered on my face. It was all more than I could take, and were it not for the harness around my neck, I would surely have ran out of the room....

If I thought the ride was bad, however, it was nothing compared to the years of ridicule I have endured from my entire family. Imagine a 15 year old boy shrieking like a little girl, and holding his Dad's hand for support on a ride.....at Disney! Obviously, I still carry quite a bit of shame, but now that I'm twice the age I was then, I can find the humor in this story.

But not even a shop selling nothing but hot glazed donuts would get me to set foot in that building ever again....

George – This is going to garner some hate, that's for sure.

We don't do Kali River Rapids since our first visit to the Animal Kingdom in 2000. When we were exiting, people saw us and turned the other way. We were so wet, that we left puddles for the rest of the day. It is a ride that we don't find a lot of fun. Another attraction we skip is Dinosaur. It is too jerky and loud for us. If you have ridden the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland, then you realize that Dinosaur is a poor man's copy. Our family is not very fond of non-traditional roller coasters, so we avoid Expedition Everest. It is the backwards part that does not agree with my wife and kids.


So, when we go to the Animal Kingdom, what do we do?

We like the safari. We like It's Tough to Be a Bug. For some strange reason, my kids love Primeval Whirl. Beyond that, we don't do much in the Animal Kingdom. I guess that is why we haven't been there, as a family, since 2008. We tend to want to spend our time at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

I guess, the short answer is that we enjoy the other parks at Walt Disney World and tend to not enjoy the Animal Kingdom, as a whole. For me, it seems like we spend more time getting to, parking and entering the park than we spend enjoying the park. Plus, we have one of the best zoos in the world in North Carolina. I know, the Animal Kingdom's early slogan was it's nahtazu!

Melissa – There is one attraction in all of Walt Disney World that I don’t ever plan to ride again. That ride is Kali River Rapids in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I hate anything that deals with water rushing at me, or being dunked under water, so this ride is definitely on my NO list. That’s not to say I’ve never tried it. I rode it, once, and it proved my point. I ended up on the side of the raft that went down the hill backwards, that got stuck under a downpour of water, and I came off the ride soaked. Not fun. I’m not a fan of walking around the park soaked to the bone. I’m really not a fan of panicking while the water is rushing at me. Ergo, I’m not a fan of this ride. At least it’s not a great ride that I’m bailing out on. I mean come on; this ride could be so much more than it is. It’s trying to tell a very important story, but I think it goes by so quickly that people who don’t already know the story just miss it entirely. I will admit that I hate missing the detail in the queue area, so maybe one day I’ll just walk through and then skip out on the ride. Is there a chicken exit for Kali??

Fiona – I can't say there is any attraction at Walt Disney World that I specifically avoid. I have had to think about this one long and hard. I can't really think of any attractions I don't like to do, or avoid. I thought about saying Snow White's Scary Adventures, mainly because ever since I rode this when I was 8 years old it has always been scary to me! But I think that I should focus on one that although I avoid, I don't do it for bad reasons.

So the only one I can think that I go out of my way not to do is the movie at the China Pavilion. I don't have a really good reason as to why I do this - except for the fact that it is the one attraction I have never done in all my visits to Walt Disney World! And the more I visit, the more proud I am that there is one attraction or show that I have never done in my life. Although I adore the pavilion, and I love looking around the buildings and the architecture, I manage to steer clear of the movie itself.

AJ – The first attraction to "slip my mind" on each visit is Alien Encounter. Or is it Stitch's Alien Adventure? Or Stitch and His Alien Friends? Or "Be-Strapped-To-Your-Seat-And-Watch-Stitch." Not sure what the *full* title is these days.

While this may be a Tomorrowland gem, I've never really been a fan. Stitch is not one of my favorite characters, and the humor in the show is a bit lost on me. Plus, unless I'm going upside down very fast, I don't like to be strapped into something I can't get out of quickly in an emergency.

I know I should give this one a chance once in a while, but I just keep bypassing it. And apparently so do plenty of other folks.

Eric – One attraction we definitely make a point to avoid is Stitch's Great Escape. This attraction, a revamped version of the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter that came before it, re-uses much of the technology and sets of its predecessor. This ride just does not do it for our family. Your time in line is awarded by a pretty lame, predictable story line, your shoulders get pressed down as Stitch runs through the crowd ("oh gee Stitch, please stop walking on us, you are so crazy..." yawn), and a few puffs of smelly, "belchy" air blown in your face after the little alien consumes a chili dog.

I can say the audio-animatronic Stitch does boast some impressive, fluid movements. Oh, and it spits water too.

My family loves the Stitch movies. Well, some of them. We love the Stitch character too and make a point to get a picture with him every time we visit the parks. However, there is nothing in this ride that makes us ever want to return. When Disney decides to replace this ride, I for one will not mourn the loss one bit.

Chris – It has been a long time indeed since I found myself on the track at the Tomorrowland Speedway. It's not that I have anything in particular against the attraction, but looking back I can't remember the last time I queued up for it. I suspect the fact that I don't attend WDW with little ones is a big factor here. I think location also plays a role. With the Mad Tea Party on one side and the TTA PeopleMover on the other, I'm usually looking past the humble Speedway no matter which direction I travel. A Tomrrowland Speedway with all-electric (or fuel cell) cars would no doubt bring me back, but until then it is likely my only views of the track will come from the TTA.

Ryan – The one attraction I avoid like the plague? Well, I’ve mentioned it here and there throughout the years, but it is, in fact, Space Mountain.

When I was four, and my cowlick reached just above the height requirement line, my dad took me on Space Mountain. He had me pumped up for this attraction I had only ever seen the building for. We got in our rockets, back in the days when could sit in between someone’s legs and have one belt for the pair, and blasted off!

I spent the entire time dead silent with the words ‘why did I do this,’ running through my head.

Afterwards, after we got outside, my dad asked if I wanted to go again. According to my mom I gave an enthusiastic yes, with a look of sheer terror in my eyes. It should go without saying, she did not let me back on Space Mountain that day.

I spent the next twenty odd years avoiding any rollercoaster that called for more guts than Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. These days, I’ll get on any rollercoaster and have a blast the entire time. In fact, I’ll even do Space Mountain, but if you happen to convince me to board those rockets with you, be prepared for me to clutch my seat and scream like a little girl the entire time, the mental anguish is buried that deeply in my subconscious.

It has often been said that every attraction is someone’s favorite attraction (I didn’t think this was true until the day I found someone who was upset to see that Sounds Dangerous was closed). The reversal of this logic is that every attraction is also someone’s least favorite. The question is, what attraction do you avoid, and why?

28 August 2011

Disney This Week - 28 August 2011

Fiona examines the transportation modes available in Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris for DF’82.

Staying in Disneyland Paris, Shawn Slater takes us on a tour around the treehouse of the Swiss Family Robinson in DisneyShawn.

Makin Memories reminds us that architecture can tell a story when Melissa Loflin takes a look at The Seas.

Matt Hochberg questions a Pixar Place arch at Studios Central.

The Disney Parks Blog features a piece from Nate Rasmussen that highlights Minnie on vacation at the Polynesian.

Given the current East Coast concern with hurricanes, Chuck Lionberger has a timely reminder about Walt Disney World and hurricanes at DisneyDaddy.

Sarah Holodick offers up some comparative shots of the Japan and China pavilions of World Showcase in the 1980s and today for Eating WDW.

Over at Imaginerding, George Taylor gives us his long overdue review of Peter and the Starcatchers.

AJ Wolfe covers menu changes at a pair of Magic Kingdom establishments, Columbia Harbour House and Cosmic Ray’s, for The Disney Food Blog.

26 August 2011

Fiesta hoy

The festival scenes of the Grand Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros, as well as El Rio del Tiempo before it, bears a startling resemblance to characters and facades of it’s a small world. The one seemingly out of place element are the merrymaking skeletons. Truth is, they may belong along the canal moreso than even Donald Duck himself!Known as calacas, the festive skeletons can come in many forms, including candy, wood or clay figurines, and even carved masks for revelers. Although the figures are created and utilized throughout the year, they are most commonly associated with the Mexican holiday known as Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos is the day when families make offerings of favorite foods and gifts to their deceased family members. The lives of the departed are celebrated, as no soul would like to see their loved ones hurt by their passing. As such, the calacas are often depicted as wearing bright colored clothing, and are dancing, playing a musical instrument, or both!

So, while Jose, Carioca, Panchito, and Donald Duck may be giving a special performance in Mexico City, the calacas have been celebrating their families for thousands of years.

25 August 2011

Meet the toys

There is a lot of joy and sadness exuded from the guests as they make their way through and exit Once Upon A Toy in the Downtown Disney Marketplace. Joy in finding that perfect toy to play with or take home to a loved one, and sadness from the youngsters who have been told they cannot purchase the perfect toy they found to play with. As with many destinations around Walt Disney World, there is an awe affect that comes from viewing the larger than life toys and games in the shop. This is generally pushed aside by immediate rush of having so many board games, stuffed animals, vehicles, figures, and other toys to choose from.

One piece that often gets overlooked stands directly behind a sales counter in the dead center of Once Upon A Toy. The mural is a representation of a toy workshop that is eerily reminiscent of Geppetto’s, the woodcarver/toymaker who becomes Pinocchio’s father. Without a second glance, the wooden soldiers, puppets, and other old-fashioned toys appear to be the only ones present in the mural. A closer inspection reveals many Toy Story characters (Buzz, Woody, Rex, and Potato Head), Winnie the Pooh, and even Mickey Mouse. It is a spot that is worthy of a little extra attention, if only in those fleeting moments while you are purchasing that perfect toy.

24 August 2011

Home on the range

Every year guests descend upon Epcot in the fall to wander through World Showcase turned International Marketplace to fill themselves full of nibbles from around the globe. Removing ourselves from the International Food and Wine Festival, and the need for full blown meals, World Showcase provides small plates aplenty every day of the year. Take, for instance, these pot stickers.

Found at Lotus Blossom Cafe in the China Pavilion, the pot stickers come in a carton of three with a small container of dipping sauce. Each pot sticker is grilled, not boiled or fried, leaving one side with a caramel-colored charring that gives it a crunchy quality. Of course, this also the top sized as doughy and slippery. The pork filling is small, but offers enough flavor, especially when coupled with the salty dipping sauce.

While they may not be the best thing on the menus of World Showcase, their cost is similar to those of the appetizer size dishes from the marketplace kiosks of the International Food and Wine Festival. Year round, World Showcase is a great place for dining, whether it is a full meal, a quick snack, or just a small bite.

23 August 2011

The whole world wants to thank, thank you, just for being you

23 August 2007 isn’t a date that means a lot to many people, but it is a very special day for us here at the Main Street Gazette. Why, you might ask? Well, it’s the day that I chose to start writing this site. Throughout the years we’ve gone through a variety of styles, diversified our content, and finally found a selection of article types that seemed to fit perfectly. It hasn’t been an easy process, but it has taught me many lessons and brought me an amazing collection of readers, friends and colleagues.

I don’t really want to waste a lot of your time tonight, but I do want to thank each of you for your continued support! The fact that you are interested in my blathering is, at times, beyond me, but I will continue to provide the quality articles you have come to expect from the Main Street Gazette as long as you all continue to read and spread the word.

Thank you!

The happiest cruise that ever sailed

There are some things in Walt Disney World that almost never get talked about, but are so blatantly obvious. Case in point, the backgrounds of almost any dark ride in Walt Disney World. To illustrate this point, we’re going to look at a preopening photograph of It’s A Small World.Taken in 1971, the eye is almost immediately drawn to the riding crop wielding tour guide, mother and two young girls gazing up in wonder at the spectacle unfolding before them. Beyond the group, however, we are then moved to explore the visuals presented in the form of a Ferris wheel and steamboat, both swaying and swinging as their miniature Mary Blair occupants sing along to the classic melody. Beyond that, the eye is pulled towards the glittering stylized plants and other fuzzy show pieces displayed in the background. By this time we think we’ve seen all there is to see in such a photograph, or attraction if we happen to be so lucky as to actually be taking part in a trip to Walt Disney World, and move along. What we almost always overlook are the blank, black walls that reside around and above the set pieces of the attraction.

These empty spaces are more a part of the story than you may realize. For attractions like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Pirates of the Caribbean, the darkness helps relate the fact that the stories are taking place at nighttime. The other reason for the unadorned backdrops is to create space behind and above the focal points and to produce a contrast for the colorful pieces in play throughout the various dark rides.

No matter how you look at it, the black backgrounds are overlooked, and that is precisely why they are there. As for our photograph from It’s A Small World, isn’t it great to see that attraction hasn’t been changed too drastically in the past forty years?

22 August 2011

The opus unfolds

I have talked before about how my aunt who worked at Walt Disney World was my first behind the scenes source and also one of the resort’s biggest fans. She would talk up new experiences and give me a hint of what was coming next, always in an upbeat manner. The last few visits I had with her at Walt Disney World, however, had a decidedly upsetting tone. She talked about light bulbs that had not been fixed and paint cracking around the Jungle Cruise outpost. I chalked it up to someone who had been through the trenches for over twenty-five years, someone who knew the potential and wanted to see every corner live up to it, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t keep that critical eye component in my bag of Disney tricks.

There are still times that I see something that doesn’t quite sit right with me because it wouldn’t have sat right with her. By the same token, when I see something that is given some love and attention, I think of how happy it would have made. The latter is the reason we’re having this conversation today.When Fantasia Gardens opened in 1996, there was an obvious focal point to the entire course, Mount Olympus. In those early days, however, the mossy green and rosy pink mountain was the home to a river of wine and a babbling waterfall and, perched high atop the forty foot mountain, was the column and domed abode of the Greek gods. Then, sometime between 2006 and 2008 the home of the gods vanished.

Though I was unable to verify what caused the mysterious disappearance, I would imagine the temple on Mount Olympus was caught up in, and damaged by, the tropical weather that is common throughout Florida. Nonetheless, Mount Olympus was left without a home atop it for a good many years. I, like many, felt that it was gone for good. Fast forward to this spring the mystic mountain topper magical reappeared. To say I was stunned or to say I was overjoyed would both be understatements, but it is the simple pleasure of seeing my favorite recreational diversion once again whole for all to enjoy that truly made my day.My aunt would have been happy to see Fantasia Garden receiving the attention it so richly deserves. This is, of course, the same thought I have every time I see a ‘Wet Paint’ sign, refurbishment wall, or little noticed touch ups. I think there is a lesson in there somewhere. We all want to gripe when Walt Disney World doesn’t do precisely what we want or expect of it, which can detract from the overall experience. That isn’t to say that there isn’t room for constructive criticism, but seeing the attention to detail and the continual upkeep on a smaller level should give each guest a little smile and every Cast Member a sense of pride.

21 August 2011

Disney This Week - 21 August 2011

Andy Jackson gives us one of the first breakdowns of the new dining landscape in Japan for Eating (and Drinking) around the World.

Makin’ Memories is doing just that when Melissa Loflin takes some amazing photographs of Morocco’s Fez House.

Sam Gennawey gives readers of SamLand’s Disney Adventure a terrific account of the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Over at Touring Plans, Erin Foster changes the Disney Fairies’ job assignments to include Tooth Fairy duties.

Toys aren’t just for kids anymore, as Matt Hochberg shows us at Studios Central when he dishes on Mr. Spell.

AJ Wolfe gives us the top five brownies available in Walt Disney World at The Disney Food Blog.

Eating WDW and Sarah Holodick continues her excellent series of historical images, this week's entry includes Horizons and World of Motion in the spring of 1984.

One of the Parkeology scribes, Shane Lindsay, peeks under the bow of the Liberty Belle.

Chelle from This Happy Place gives us the lowdown on why she stays in a Value Resort.

19 August 2011

Flux duct

Sometimes, a scene sets itself. The spire of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Spaceship Earth. The Hollywood Tower Hotel, home to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Then again, sometimes an attraction needs a few more details to get guests into the story. DinoLand U.S.A. does a great job of telling the story of a dig site on the grow. The Dino Institute, the typical museum to the extinct, fits the bill as well. However, the real story is of The Dino Institute is the CTX Time-Rovers and the Chrono-Tech that they use.

In most cases, this type of miraculous discovery would be presented in a lavish showcase. The Dino Institute, however, is still being housed in its Sub-Basement Research Facility. Also known as Sector CTX-WDI-AK98 (CTX – the attraction’s original name, Countdown To Extinction, WDI – Walt Disney Imagineering, AK98 – Animal Kingdom 1998 [the park’s opening year]), the area is filled with pipes, concrete, electrical boxes and loose wiring.While the pipes feature various chemical compounds, including those for mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup (harkening back to the days when the attraction was sponsored by McDonald’s) and Ordorised Time Flow, the real time traveling story comes from the processes byproducts. The various side effects are held in large white pipes the appear overhead after guests return from their blast to the past, just prior to disembarking.

So, what is left over from the Time Rovers’ travels?
Reclaimed Time Flux
Magnetic Coil Exhaust
Flux Duct
Excess Void
Dynamic Time Flow

18 August 2011

The hand of man

There is a tremendous amount of artwork and artifacts to be uncovered throughout the Wilderness Lodge. From carvings of Duane Pasco, to the portraits of Charles Bird King and McKinney-Hall, the era of exploration and indigenous population of the West is well represented throughout the lobby, guest rooms, hallways and dining areas of the resort. Yet, for me, there is no better window in the life of a people or individual than a photograph.

Even in posing, it says something of an individual. Pride can be seen in a stiff stance, while a wide smile, even in harsh conditions, can show a person who is at peace and happy with their life. That is why, when I explore the Wilderness Lodge, I make sure to take a little extra time to examine each photograph I find. Here are a few of my favorites.

17 August 2011

Made him feel like a crumb

Walt Disney World foodies are a special breed. We want great food, we know what makes a fantastic meal, and we know where to find it. On the flip side, we are also willing to praise a gourmet burger that, for quick service in Walt Disney World, is great, but that would almost certainly not stack up to burgers we’ve found elsewhere beyond the property line. We are an odd bunch, and we do know when to say something just isn’t up to par, but we also forget about simple things.

As one of these Walt Disney World foodies, we tend to write articles about unique food items or surprising favorites. Items like the cinnamon roll at the Main Street Bakery, Kouzzina’s lamb burger, or Dad’s Traditional Meatloaf from 50’s Prime Time Cafe are typical fare for our mouth-watering commentaries. Yet, there are plenty of regular, every day elements that we rarely talk about, but that are created with just as much care as the dishes we talk about daily.

We may nibble on these meal components at any time during a given day, such as the bearclaw from the Royal Anandapur Tea Company or a root beer float found at Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies pictured here, and find them at a variety of locations, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthy of a few words or Twitpics. The truth is, these common items are what cause us to have such rave reviews of the other, more intriguing meals that we find. How, you might ask? Simple, an regular meal item done well makes the above average look stunning in comparison. It also fills us up as we go through the day anticipating certain items, never allowing hunger to cloud our perception of what we are devouring.

A well done root beer float may not be cause for celebration, but it certainly takes the sting out of a hot summer day just as well as a Dole Whip. The only difference between the two is that one is commonplace and one is a Walt Disney World original and tradition. These items deserve a bit more respect that we Walt Disney World foodies have given them, as they are just as much a part of the culinary experience of the resort as La Cava del Tequila’s Ruby Margarita or Mickey Waffles. I, for one, know I have taken them for granted and hope I can change my tune (or should that be menu?).

16 August 2011

Splashin good fun

SPLASHIN GOOD FUN -- Goofy races round the curves of Whoop-'N-Holler Hollow at River Country. The wild slide is just one of many white water thrills by the Ol' Swimmin' Hole in Ft. Wilderness Campground, just across Bay Lake from the Magic Kingdom.

15 August 2011

Ward Kimball: A New Look at a Legend

If you’ve been following the Main Street Gazette for any period of time, you know that several years ago we made a conscious decision to turn away from animation and Disney Parks worldwide in order to focus solely upon Walt Disney World. Today, however, we have a guest article from Kevin Carpenter about the life and times of Ward Kimball, one of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. While Ward’s documented contributions to Walt Disney World may seem meager, his presence can be felt in all corners of the resort, and he most assuredly deserves a day in the Gazette spotlight.

Thanks to Kevin for his fabulous take on Ward Kimball and for bringing his story to the Main Street Gazette!

Ward Kimball: A New Look at a Legend
by Kevin Carpenter

In a bit of serendipity, I recently stumbled upon an issue of The Illustrator magazine from 1977. It had been given to my mother as a prize for winning an art contest sponsored by the magazine. Packed away for nearly 35 years, it was finally unearthed last weekend while cleaning. Much to my delight, the cover story of this issue was written by Disney Legend Ward Kimball about his career in the animation industry.

The eight page feature is a fascinating first-hand look at how Ward Kimball followed his love for drawing to a job at the Disney studio and a lifetime of creating magic. Although Kimball remains best known for his contributions to animation, his impact could also be felt at Walt Disney World ... or at least it used to be. Few realize that he worked with Imagineering to create Epcot’s World of Motion, which closed fifteen years ago. While Ward Kimball’s WDW legacy cannot compare to his animated creations, it does highlight how his work influenced all facets of The Walt Disney Company. Below is a short sketch of Ward Kimball’s life and career, sharing several of the stories and anecdotes from his piece in The Illustrator.

Ward initially took up drawing during his childhood in Minnesota, but this interest lapsed when his family moved to California. His artistic talent lay dormant up until the day he walked into his fifth-grade classroom at school. Each week, Ward’s teacher would award a chocolate candy bar to the student who drew the best picture. This was just the inspiration he needed: “Since I was a candy bar freak, I hopefully entered the contest every week and each time it was zilch until finally I came up with a winner.”

Ward’s eventual winner? An ocean liner drawn sailing in perspective, with birds and tufts of smoke billowing overhead.

From those early days of drawing for chocolate, Kimball continually worked at refining his creative ability. This dedication was ultimately rewarded with a scholarship offer to the prestigious Santa Barbara School of Art. Unfortunately, the entirety of his tuition would not be covered by this scholarship, so Ward had to work as the school janitor to make up the difference.

The one piece of animation specifically mentioned as a major inspiration to young Ward Kimball was Disney’s “Father Noah’s Ark” Silly Symphony. So impressed with Disney’s work, Ward decided then and there to drive out to the Disney Hyperion studio and submit his portfolio. The studio offered him a job on the spot and he officially began working at Walt Disney Productions the following week, on April Fool’s Day no less.

Interestingly, Ward reveals that his dream job during those early days at Disney was to be a background artist. Alas, he was assigned to the animation department ... and the Disney studio would never again be the same. Ward quickly worked his way up the ladder and, after the unprecedented success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, he received his first big break. He was named the supervising animator for Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio. In effect, he would be creating the design for the now-legendary character.

Well, this was not as easy as it might seem. With Walt Disney envisioning Jiminy as an endearing character, Ward battled mightily to find the right balance for the cricket’s design. His struggles could be summed up in one simple question: How do you turn an ugly insect into a cute Disney character? Ward’s answer was to get rid of the ugly parts. Afterwards he remarked, “Nobody seemed to mind that the cricket was no longer an insect.”

During his illustrious career at Disney, Kimball also animated the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella’s Lucifer (based on Ward’s old cat which had a “perpetual sneer on its face”), and the Crows from Dumbo among many others. Yet it was a series of Disneyland television episodes that he remembers as his personal creative pinnacle.

The three Tomorrowland space-themed episodes of Disneyland remain some of the most groundbreaking and innovative works to ever come out of the Disney studio. Knowing of Ward’s interest in space exploration (and UFOs!), Walt Disney personally tapped Kimball to produce and direct the project. With equal doses humor and analysis, Ward meant for the “Man in Space” series to both enlighten and entertain viewers.

Ward’s directing work has twice been recognized with Academy Awards. He first won in 1954 for “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom”, a short depicting the development of music. 1969’s short, “It’s Tough to be a Bird”, earned Ward his second Oscar. In fact, this victory remains the last Academy Award won by the Disney studio in the “Best Animated Short” category. With two awards under his belt and many timeless characters animated, Ward Kimball has truly left an indelible legacy that may never be topped.

Ward ended his article with some heartfelt advice for the readership of The Illustrator (many of whom were aspiring artists). But his words, printed here, should really apply to all walks of life: “My final two cents of advice is to develop an all-consuming curiosity for things both exotic and ordinary. Read, observe, analyze, and become involved with a variety of interests. Study, practice, delve, probe, investigate, and above all, be flexible. Keep an open mind. The world is changing fast. Don’t be caught in the corner of the ring. Keep moving and have fun. Take it from me, it’s worth it!”

Kevin Carpenter works in professional soccer and has contributed to Celebrations Magazine. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kejcarpenter.

14 August 2011

Disney This Week - 14 August 2011

As he often does, Greg Grimsley gets to the heart of the Walt Disney World experience in The Disney Obsession.

DF’82 and Fiona Doyle feature one of those Disneyland Paris details I wish would come to Florida, the Old Mill.

AJ Wolfe heads out onto the savanna to get The Disney Food Blog a review of Sanaa.

Gourmet dogs are getting stranger and stranger, this week Sarah Holodick gives Eating WDW the lowdown on a Mac and Cheese and Truffle Oil Hot Dog.

Studios Central and Matt Hochberg head into a sleepy little burg to rustle up some of the most wanted.

At Makin’ Memories, Melissa Loflin once again provides photographic evidence as to why everyone should spend some time in the gorgeous pavilion of Morocco.

Erin Foster gives readers of Touring Plans Blog a reminder that if you forgot something at home, chances are the resort gift shop has it.

At Only WDWorld, Jamie Collins gets with the JAMMitors beat.

Two articles to note from the Disney Parks Blog this week. First, Jennifer Fickley-Baker gives us a great view of the Progress City, U.S.A. model. Then, Nate Rasmussen tops off the Crossroads of the World.

12 August 2011

Sharkus Gigantus

Disney has a history of concocting scientific names for the various plants and animals they bring to life. Look no further than the trees that cradle treehouses in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom for Tarzan and the Swiss Family Robinson, respectfully. Today, however, we’re going to look at something that’s a little wetter and packs a bigger bite, the Sharkus Gigantus.

A complete creature, snout to tailfin, has not been spotted in Typhoon Lagoon, but the chompers of the Sharkus Gigantus, also known as the Really Big Shark, were left behind after the terrible storm passed through. As the story is told is told, “This set of jaws from a Great White was found on the beach after the legendary typhoon. If its original owner is still living in the water of Shark Reef we haven’t seen him… yet.”

That’s right, these great pearly whites can be found near the Shark Reef area of Typhoon Lagoon. The manner in which this gaping maw has been strung up makes for the perfect photo op for the brave members of your party who dared to swim with the (smaller) sharks. It is also one of the few designed photo spots that doesn’t come readily equipped with a PhotoPass photographer. Which means you can arrange your group in whatever bizarre cluster formation you can dream up.

Oh, and if you go out in search of Sharkus Gigantus, I'd recommend not using the abundant floating tubes of Typhoon Lagoon in your pursuit. In my opinion, you're going to need a bigger boat (sorry, I couldn't help myself).

11 August 2011

The heritage of idealism

A portrait captures a moment and holds the figure for eternity in a single pose. In the case of presidential portraits, these stately stances often, especially in the case of Presidents who held the office prior to photographs, film and video, leave the most lasting impression on our memories. They are certainly the first images we conjure up at the mention of names like Jackson, Lincoln, or Monroe.

Spread across the walls in the waiting area of the Hall of Presidents is a collection of portraits highlighting just a few of our 44 presidents. For chronology’s sake, the portraits begin with George Washington and reach as far as Ronald Reagan. If you’re like me, it’s likely you can’t list every single president, much less their personal accomplishments. That makes the allotment of time truly worthy of exploration in this gallery where you can learn about the individuals, and the artifacts that populated their lives, whom have been known as Mr. President.

10 August 2011

Cooking lights

If you’ve been perusing through the Gazette’s culinary conquests, you’ll notice their notable absence of breakfast articles, especially when compare to snacks, entrees and full meals. The straightforward answer for this oversight is that I am not a breakfast consumer and, when in Walt Disney World, I am usually on the go and not willing to stop for a meal until midmorning or midday. There are, however, one or two exceptions to my hard and fast rule of leaving breakfast in the dust. One such meal sends me to the outskirts of known guest areas and into the depths of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

A boma is a shelter, a Kraal style fence constructed of sticks. In the case of Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge, the stick fencing appears throughout the restaurant sectioning off the dining areas (much in the way a farmer would separate various animal groups) and buffet stations. This detail is oftentimes overlooked by guests focusing on the lighting elements, gorgeous chairs and tables, faux thatched roofs and the food itself. Speaking of food…The menu of Boma at breakfast time is not set in stone, leaving the chefs and cooks the option of using fresh ingredients. There are, however, meal staples, the breads and other starches, vegetables, fruits, and meats that are ever-present along the buffet. Scattered about the winding smorgasbord one the day I visited, I found pap (white cornmeal), Chakalaka (spicy stewed tomatoes and onions), roasted corned beef, ham, sambal, Boma mustard, African spiced corned beef hash, and turkey bobotie (ground turkey with spices and egg custard). For the less adventurous diner, Boma offers quinoa, oatmeal, ham, sausages, two types of scrambled eggs, scones, croissants, banana bread, cinnamon rolls, assorted muffins, yogurt and assorted fruit. There is also a make your own omelet section, though not being a fan of eggs myself, I bypass this area each and every time.Savory is definitely the heavily favored taste of Boma. Sweet is used sparingly, almost as a cooling element to the salty and spicy of the majority of meal components. Rather than go dish by dish, which could take me weeks (an exquisitely excruciating thought), how about we just tempt you with these two plates I piled high into my gullet?For beverages, Boma offers coffee, milk, and juice. However, to truly complete the experience of dining at Boma, one should partake in West African Frunch. The sweet concoction contains a mixture of lemonade and pineapple, orange, guava and papaya juices.All in all, not being a breakfast person, I have gladly missed my fair share of rope drops in order to participate in the morning feeding ritual at Boma. Perhaps my fascination with this breakfast is rooted in the fact that, while it is indeed a morning meal, it is infused with the sharp flavors I love and can generally only find during lunch and dinner. While it may be bit of an expedition to reach Boma, it is well worth the journey!

09 August 2011

New daytime show

While I was more of a Skyleidoscope kid myself (two words: dragon boats), Surprise in the Skies was one of those rare afternoon shows that garnered my attention. Due to layout constraints, EPCOT Center (or Epcot) has never been full-fledged parade central, which makes large scale entertainment productions a bit trickier. The answer was, and always has been, the utilization of World Showcase Lagoon.

Daytime aerobatics, fast watercraft, colored smoke, and fireworks were the cornerstones of great daytime performances in EPCOT Center. Shows like Surprise in the Skies were crucial to drawing children into World Showcase, children who otherwise didn’t have a desire to be anywhere near the mile long promenade.

Wouldn’t it be great to see the skies over Epcot filled with fireworks and flying crafts again?
FANTASTIC FINALE – Daytime fireworks, paraplanes, hang gliders, kites and giant balloons combine for “Surprise in the Skies”, the new daytime show at Walt Disney World Epcot Center. Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters pilot paraplanes over World Showcase Lagoon, while speed boats pull red-white-and-blue kites into the sky and 45-foot tall cold air balloons highlight each of the pavilions.

08 August 2011

Japanese fantasy creations

There is something to be said for watching a piece of art being created right before your very eyes. It is also rather special to watch a delicious meal or recipe take shape as you watch. Then again, if you could wrap both up in a single package, that’d be pretty amazing in and of itself, wouldn’t it? As it turns out you can watch as food becomes art in World Showcase’s Japan.Appearing several times a day, Miyuki rolls her cart out to just in front of Mitsukoshi to create incredible works of art. As she prepares her space, it is worth taking note of the instruments she uses to create the animals known as Japanese Fantasy Creations. Once she begins working, her hands and implements will move about in such a flurry that you will be marveling more at the creatures coming to life than how they are being shaped. Though, fair warning, while these sugary treats look good enough to eat, although who would want to, they are intended only for display, not consumption.

Miyuki herself is a masterful presenter. Each show offers insight into how the art form came about, stories of the creatures being molded, and engaged the guests, especially those younger guests who are truly in awe of the art. Perhaps the most unique portion of the show, however, is Miyuki herself. Though she would never boast, Miyuki is the only woman in the world trained in the art of candy sculpting. Her expertise and devotion to her craft shines through in each show and each piece she creates. Consider the fact that the rice dough is hotter than either you or I could likely handle, in upwards of 200 degrees, and how quickly she molds a new animal, and her skill is something to simply admire.I used to, okay I still do, watch The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Watching the mountains and trees of his landscapes has always caused me to relax and feel a warm fuzzy sensation from my hair to my pinky toe. I’ve probably lost a lot of you in the last few lines, but all of that was to say the same calming feeling I’ve gathered from watching Bob Ross is the same sensation that washes over me in the few minutes I get to watch Miyuki on each trip.

Once upon a time, Miyuki would hand out her creature creations to children in the crowd, though her cart contains the warning that the figures were for display not digestion, this practice was stopped in 2010. While the general consensus is that this was done for to meet health and sanitation guidelines, there are rumblings that the custom was discontinued due to grumblings from parents whose children did not receive a sculpture.Even without the prospect of a free souvenir, as a currently childless adult there is no chance that I would receive one of this incredible pieces, I still make sure I catch at least one viewing of Miyuki during each visit. Candy sculpting is not an easy craft to perfect, but Miyuki has done so, and presents each figure with grace and ease. Taking pause in Japan has never been sweeter, or more rewarding.

07 August 2011

Disney This Week - 7 August 2011

Suzannah DiMarzio gives some insight into some electrifying magic on ZannaLand.

Walt’s Writers and Jessica Clawson take a peek at Windows of Main Street.

Fiona Doyle is taking DF’82 on the road a looking into casting in the kingdoms.

Matt Hochberg showcases some terrific pieces of concept art of Disney-MGM Studios at Studios Central.

Over at DisneyShawn, Shawn Slater must be a dead man, because he’s telling tales of Tortuga Tavern.

AJ Wolfe has found a pair of battling apple pie apples at The Disney Food Blog.

The Disney Obsession and Greg Grimsley give us another quite spot to let it all wash away in: The Temple of Heaven.

Melissa Loflin breaks down the experience of meeting Phineas and Ferb for Makin’ Memories.

Teriyaki nuggets are on the menu for Sarah Holodick and Eating WDW.

Richard at DesignerLand is continually created posters and shirts I must have. The latest poster I need to adorn my wall is his Walt Disney World/Florida concept.

05 August 2011

Rightwise ruler

Once upon a time the boy mentality (I phrase it this way because I played with many a tomboy in my younger days) had a fair sized footprint in Fantasyland. At one end Peter Pan took to the skies of Never Never Land, as he still does, while the other extreme of Fantasyland featured the adventures of Mr. Toad and Captain Nemo. These days, the last bastion of boyhood resides squarely on the shoulders of the boy who never grew up, or does it?

Situated square in the middle of Cinderella Castle’s courtyard, directly in front of Prince Charming Regal Carousel, sits a stone with the hilt of a sword peeking out. The tale represented here is, obviously, The Sword in the Stone. The 1963 animated feature weaved the account of a young squire named Wart, his encounter and training with Merlin, and his rise to the regal position as the King of England. Wart, as fate would have it, turns out to be the legendary King Arthur.While Wart, I mean Arthur, is no longer pulling the sword from the stone himself, Merlin did venture to Magic Kingdom with the sword. Beginning in 1994, and running through April 2006, Merlin would gather young guests round the stone platform, calling on them to pull the sword from the stone. When a child was found who could heave the sword from the anvil would be crowned ‘Temporary Leader of the Realm.’

Though the ceremony was discontinued in 2006, the stone remains. For the little boy in all of us, and we do indeed each have that side to us, there is a pit stop to be made in Fantasyland beyond Peter Pan’s Flight. If nothing else, an attempt to pull the sword from the stone makes for a great photo opportunity.

04 August 2011

Make the good guys so mad

A while back we looked at the tile mosaics in the Villains in Vogue section of Downtown Disney’s World of Disney. While the tiles feature a collection of villains’ eyes watching, they are not the only body part of the rogues that are visible in the shop. Menacingly reaching out into the room from various post are the hands, and hook, belonging to the who’s who of villains. Each hand is highlighted by a secondary element the villain is known for.

Oh, and there’s also a certain croc’s clock.