30 December 2011

2011 Best in The WDW Record - That California trip

I am always afraid I am going to run out of little details to discuss in The WDW Record. There have been many panic stricken moments when I feel as if, with the tens of thousands of photographs I’ve collected over the years, I am not going to be able to find a name or artifact that requires explanation. It is in these moments that I wish my future self could come back and smack me in the face, because there is always some new layer to uncover in Walt Disney World.

That California trip gave me a reason to break through the berm of Walt Disney World and venture across the country, if only in my mind. In my own lifetime, I have only spent a few moments here and there along Route 66, but I love imagining it in its heyday, which I am allowed to do, however fictionally, along Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

This road sign signifies more than just a route the zigs and zags across the United States ending, or beginning depending on your point of view, in California. US 66, more affectionately known as Route 66, is an intricate part of our country’s traveling spirit. Before interstates, Route 66 was the main thoroughfare running from Chicago to Los Angeles. It not only connected major cities to one another, but it featured a variety of roadside attractions, shops, dining and lodging. Route 66 added to local economies, sometimes it comprised the entire livelihood of towns it passed through. It was such an important part of our coutry’s heritage that Disney-Pixar even made a movie about it. You may have heard of it, a little picture called Cars.

So, what does that have to do with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Sunset Boulevard, where this sign and baggage reside, in front of Villains in Vogue? Well, everything. On the outskirts of Hollywood, Route 66 merges with Sunset Boulevard for one of the road’s final legs. Meandering into Los Angeles, Sunset and Route 66 take motorists straight into the heart of the city, Olvera Street and the Plaza de Los Angeles State Historic Park.

Most visitors to Disney’s Hollywood Studios see the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, in the form of an opulent hotel and swanky boutiques, when they turn to motor down Sunset Boulevard. Little do they know, they are still adding to the narrative of one of America’s most storied roads, Route 66.

29 December 2011

2011 Best in Photo Safari - Pioneer founders

Pioneer Founders could have almost been a World of Yesterday article, what with the leveling of Mickey’s Toontown Fair. However, Minnie’s lineage deserved to be showcased somewhere and, for whatever twisted reason, I had a fondness for the Toontown area (in all its incarnations).

The safaris are some of the easiest to find articles I write, and require the most dedication. When planning a trip, I have to know where I am looking for complimentary or series of images. While some are self-explanatory, others require a bit more digging. The joy I get out of the Photo Safari segments is the ah-ha moment, when readers (or myself) realize just how planned certain details were.

Among Minnie’s many talents, including artistic, publishing and culinary exploits, is her fascination with her Mouse heritage. Much of the genealogy that she has uncovered is mounted on her living room wall. These photographs of her ancestors show just how much Minnie has explored her past and loves her family, and there are some very famous mice in this lineage. Included on the wall are Sheikh Manni El Mousri, Florence Micingale, Mather and May Mousesmith, Daniel Toon, Milo Mouse and Mabeline VanMouse, Milieus and Maris O’Mouse, Mathilda Mousebjörg and Merik Mouström, Merry and Marley Mousill and Princess Marie DuMouse are all framed alongside closer family relations.

With the shuttering of Mickey’s Toontown Fair, these photographs from Minnie’s Country House were removed from public display. But chances are, they aren’t too far from Minnie’s heart.

28 December 2011

2011 Best in Disney Delish - Only the tasty

Disney Delish serves as both a blessing and a curse to me. The curse is that in order to complete so many food articles, I am continually forced to try new venues and new menu items. The blessing is that in order to complete so many food articles, I am continually forced to try new venues and new menu items. Yep, food articles make me a walking contradiction, and hungry, very hungry.

Through all the years I’ve been writing about Walt Disney World food, it always seems to me that the sweets, specifically cupcakes and fudge, tend to garner the most attention. Some snacks remind us of our childhoods and some are controversial, but nothing brings people together more than Pumpkin Fudge, as Only the tasty so humbly proved.

Often times, the menus of Walt Disney World are praised or slammed for the latest and greatest creations they concoct. It can often be years in between these types of changes, which explains why they are so scrutinized when the shifts occur. Yet, there are places on property that change their selection regularly, with amazing results. The first thought that comes to mind is the Main Street Confectionery, and the monthly rotation of fudge!

I am talking about this delicious morsel right now for two reasons. One, the tantalizing glimpse I offered of the Pumpkin Fudge last week seemed to set the world on fire. Two, the Pumpkin Fudge should be available to those of you making the pilgrimage down to Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom for the 40th anniversary next week, and it really shouldn’t be missed!To put it simply, this fudge is pumpkin pie on steroids! It has all of the flavors you’d expected from a well-crafted, traditional pumpkin pie, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc., but they’ve been amped up to send your whole mouth a tingling. Purely on the fundamentals of fudge design, the gooiness of pumpkin pie filling has been transformed into the decadently rich and creamy texture associated with top tier fudge.

Often times, you will hear people talk about how they are unable to devour an entire square of fudge due to the sweetness, richness, or filling nature of the confection. Those who have sample the Pumpkin Fudge before will understand me when I say that is not an issue here. In fact, you won’t even have to power through a chunk of the fudge, and I’d be shocked if my fellow fudge aficionados out there were unable to polish off a piece in under a minute.

Seriously, if you are in the Magic Kingdom anytime between now and Halloween, you must color me ashamed of you if you don’t take the time to snack on the Pumpkin Fudge. At the very least, you should pick up some to gobble up in the privacy of your resort room, car, or home!

27 December 2011

2011 Best in World of Yesterday - Vacationland

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m particularly fond of vintage Walt Disney World press photos. In fact, they make up the bulk of the World of Yesterday articles. I feel as if they are tidy, little windows into the past that I can throw a boulder of information through! However, sometimes things come along that simply knock my socks off!

Vacationland gave me a gorgeous map, a passion of mine, and an educational component I cherished as a smaller version of myself. This article, and many of the World of Yesterday, allows me to enjoy a moment I’ll never remember, that first introduction to Walt Disney World. Can you imagine if this map were your first glimpse of Walt Disney World? It safe to bet you’d be hooked for life, right?

Back when I was a kid in elementary school, I always looked forward to Fridays. Sure, there were spelling tests and once free from school there was a whole weekend to explore, but one of my favorite parts of Friday was when the teacher handed out a new edition of Weekly Reader.

The reading comprehension based educational materials from Weekly Reader have been produced for well over a hundred years now. When I was a kid I didn’t know I was learning, it was simply interesting articles about extreme sports, new movies and some clever puzzles to solve. I hope it is still as intriguing to students today as it was to me back then.

Going back even further, the summer edition of Weekly Reader from 1971 gave children a peak at what was coming from a little Disney project in central Florida. The cover shows a child constructing his own castle and encouraging his dog to help out as opening day was only two months away. The interior article featured three construction images and a brief description to whet the appetite of vacation hungry students.

The real joy of this issue, however, comes from the perfectly gorgeous map of the park, monorails and Contemporary Resort. The attraction names weren’t released with the publication, listing instead Car Ride, Tree House and Resort Hotel, but the spirit of what the Magic Kingdom was and would become is definitely captured in this artwork.

26 December 2011

2011 Best in Perspective - Roll, bounce and float

Nothing, it seems, stirs up emotions like talking about our personal pasts with Walt Disney World.

While we all saw and experienced the same corners of EPCOT Center or the Magic Kingdom in our formative years, it is amazing how differently we remember those moments and places. Speaking for myself, I feel as if I always have one eye pointed towards the past and one eye towards the future, just as it seems Walt Disney did. Unlike Walt, however, I tend to lose sight of the present occasionally. In Roll, bounce and float, I tried to imprint my memories of transportation in and around the parks into a meaningful wish for the future.

With articles such as this one, I try to give words to those who fondly remember something from Walt Disney World and wish for the best tomorrow it can have, but are unable to find the words themselves. I hope you have all heard a bit of yourselves in the Main Street Gazette this year, and I promise to keep speaking up for all of us in 2012!

There is a hustle and bustle in the Magic Kingdom. It is the huddled masses crushing in upon one another, trying to get from one place to another as quickly as possible, and before someone else in the same crowd can. This massive throng of humanity, also known as park attendance, increases each year, but once upon a time there was a different feel to the park due, in part, to the continual inclusion of transit. Let’s step back to the late 1970s and early 1980s to gain a bit of perspective.

For starters, we are not talking about the illusion of movement, such as Mission to Mars, or rides that occur in darkened buildings, including If You Had We Wings. No, we want full on motion, going somewhere, being a part of something on the move! Main Street, U.S.A. alone featured seven types of transportation: Plaza Swan Boats, Jitney, Fire Engine, Horse Carriage, Horse Cars, Ominbus and the Walt Disney World Railroad. Adventureland had the Jungle Cruise and Frontierland Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but those were more about what you were seeing or being a rollercoaster than about being a form of transportation. The Rivers of America was really active, and included Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island, Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes, Mike Fink Keelboats and the Liberty Square Riverboat. In Fantasyland, we had one half of the Skyway and methodically moving Nautiluses of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, while Tomorrowland’s transit included the WEDway PeopleMover and the other half of the Skyway.

Depending on how you account for the Skyway (with each station allowing only a one way trip, I’ll go ahead and count it as two attractions), that is fifteen attractions devoted to transportation. These days, many of these attractions have been retired: Plaza Swan Boats, Davey Crockett Explorer Canoes, Mike Fink Keelboats, both stations of the Skyway, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and one of the Liberty Square Riverboats. The Main Street vehicle brigade is all but a distant memory. They each make their occasional appearance motoring up and down Main Street, with the most frequent being the Horse Car, but these appearances are so rare that I made sure to get myself photographed with the omnibus (my personal favorite of the Main Street vehicles) when I saw it out around Easter this year, as I didn’t know when I would receive another chance. So, where are we on the vehicle count? We still have a PeopleMover, Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island, the infrequent Main Street vehicle, Liberty Square Riverboat, and the Walt Disney World Railroad, barely a third of what traveled through the park at the pinnacle of moving attractions.

Now, I am aware of the liability of putting a driver in charge of safely navigating down Main Street, U.S.A., through thousands of oblivious guests, ferrying about other antsy guests, and possibly dealing with an unruly horse (we all have our days, and this is a worst-case scenario) or springing a leak and ordering guests to bail out into the Rivers of America, not knowing who can and cannot swim. Yet, it seems to me, the Magic Kingdom could do with a little more movement around its waterways and avenues.

It is well past the time to put the Main Street vehicles back into regular service. Think of how idyllic the Plaza could look with graceful watercraft, perhaps not swan boats but possibly a modified gondola equipped to hold more guests. The Rivers of America is meant to resemble a water highway, constantly ferrying goods and people along, not a sleepy river with the sporadic boat churning through. Boats piloted by guests, while the epitome of interactive, could cause some problems. However, adding a second riverboat that adds some diversity to the river, an ironside comes to mind, while not putting the control in guests’ hands would get the river flowing again.

I understand I have a rose-colored view of Walt Disney World from my youth, but I also like to think of what might be down the road, and then come to a happy medium in the middle. As a people, we are supposed to learn from our mistakes, but our successes are just as critical to our continued achievement. Yet, the Magic Kingdom has regularly syphoned away the vehicles that gave it life and personality. While the park may not have heeded how well the water and land craft brought a sense of vitality with them, there is still time to come about face and put a few more wheels in motion.

23 December 2011

Find the gherkin

We all know about the Christmases past where stockings, real foot-work socks, were filled with fruit and nuts. This may seem quaint or perhaps a bit weird in this day of overstuffed stockings, filled to the brim with candy, gadgets, and a wide array of nonsensical items that we share a smile over, but tradition should never be sneered at. Another tradition that has garnered quite a bit of attention over the past couple of years is the German tale of tucking away a pickle ornament somewhere in a tree on Christmas Eve. In fact, in Walt Disney World, you can find a whole tree stuffed to the gills with pickle ornaments!

As the story goes, and is told in the Germany pavilion, a glass pickle ornament was placed on the tree by parents on Christmas Eve and the eagle-eyed child who found the ornament on Christmas morning were rewarded with an extra gift from St. Nicholas. It’s the type of offbeat tradition that just warms you from the inside, doesn’t it? Except that it isn’t entirely true. In Germany, St. Nick comes on the 5th or 6th of December and children open their gifts on Christmas Eve. So, what is the true story of the pickle ornament?

The production of glass ornaments took off in the Lauscha region of Germany, an area renowned for its blown glass, in the mid to late 1800s. While traditional shapes and images were the first produced, very quickly molds of famous individuals and creatures of every sort soon followed. As time passed, Lauscha would become the primary source for glass pickle ornaments.

As for the pickle present, we have to come back across the Atlantic to the United States, in the midst of the Civil War. The Bavarian-born Private, John C. Lower, was part of the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry and was captured in Plymouth, North Carolina in April of 1864. Lower was taken to the prison camp, Andersonville, where he spent the following Christmas. On Christmas Eve, near death of starvation, he begged a guard for something to eat before he expired. Softened by the pleas, the guard gave him a single pickle which gave Lower the mental clarity and strength to carry on until he was released. Afterwards, Lower began the tradition of hiding, with the reward being a year of good fortune for the family member who found the ornament.

While mostly a family narrative that cannot be easily verified, Private John Lower was a prisoner in Andersonville that much is for certain. No matter what you want to believe about that pickle tucked away on the tree, an old German tradition or a memorial to the fortitude of the human spirit, it is a Christmas ornament worthy of remembrance. The stories of all our ornaments, picked up on a family vacation or demarking a birth, marriage or other event, are the reasons all of our trees shine so brightly in our hearts.

22 December 2011

Seasonal display

The holidays are about family and friends, and making the most of the extra time we are given with them during these dark, cold winter periods. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy some of the, shall we say, more commercialized elements of the festivities. A Christmas tree going up on my birthday is a must and a new special ornament is also a tradition in my household. However, there is one holiday detail that few know I’m partial too. Call it what you like, but I am over the moon in love with lamppost decorations.

I’m not talking ribbons, garlands, or well-manicured plants. Nope, I mean the gaudy, tinsel clad snowflakes, trees and snowmen that come wrapped in lights and fill streets and parking lots all across the country. They are ridiculous, but I have loved them since I was a little tike. Disney’s Hollywood Studios does too, apparently. As the lamppost decorations have found their way to Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, Echo Lake, and Pixar Place. They are each a variation of a star motif, which makes sense, considering that stars shine brightest in Hollywood!

21 December 2011

Winter events

The holidays always bring with them thoughts of food. From family feasts and roasted meats to stockings stuffed with fruits and nuts. Today, however, we have a plethora of snacks that may not be good for you, but they certainly are tempting to the tummy’s eye. While the holidays may only be in full swing in Walt Disney World for a couple of more weeks, My Santa-sense is tingling and telling me those of you headed that way are going to be looking for some unique stocking sweets. First up, let’s start with a beverage!Christmas Soda – This fizzy holiday drink can be found by the bottle in the shops, not bakery, of World Showcase’s Norway. Also known as Julmust, the drink was created in 1910 and began a meteoric rise as a Swedish holiday tradition.

While listed as a ‘flavorful winter soft drink,’ I wasn’t actually able to finish mine. To me, it tasted like a carbonated beer, while my wife thought it tasted like fizzy cold medicine. Either way, it wasn’t too our liking. Of course, I hope someone out there gives it a try and loves it!Candy Cane Fudge – Seasonal Fudge from the Main Street Confectionery is a time honored tradition of mine, with Pumpkin fudge currently holding the top spot. This pink and cream marbled fudge, dusted with crumbled candy canes, definitely put a sparkle in my eye.

I expected an Altoid infused peppermint fudge which, in hindsight, probably would not have been appetizing to a broad spectrum of guests. Instead I received a hunk of rich, buttery goodness. You know those small, after-dinner butter mints that restaurants serve? Picture that, but on a much larger scale and with flecks of candy cane mixed in, and you’re pretty close to this delicious fudge!Gingerbread Cookie People – Gingerbread decorations, and by decorations I mean gargantuan carousels and life-sized houses able to fit grown people inside, have become a staple around Walt Disney World since they started in the Grand Floridian. With that in mind, I decided to head over the original gingerbread house to see if the gingerbread tasted as good as it looked as a building material.

I was not disappointed. This isn’t a chewy gingerbread cookie, and it isn’t as sweet as one would expect. However, the consistency falls right between chewy and crunchy, in that great spot where the gingerbread man’s appendages bend before breaking away from the rest of the cookie. As for flavor, the emphasis is on the ginger, as it should be, which makes this a great cookie to snuggle up next to a cup of tea or hot cocoa for dunking.Hot Cocoa Peppermint Float – Okay, that may not be the precise name, but this float can be found at Scoops in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Presented in a souvenir mug, this may just be the best treat for a cold night on Sunset Boulevard!

A cup of hot chocolate, the standard quick mix kind that seems the consistency of thick water, is invigorated with a serving of pink peppermint ice cream and is topped with a generous portion of whipped cream and red and green sprinkles. The dairy in the ice cream adds a frothy, creamy component to the cocoa. Meanwhile, the cocoa warms you from the inside, even though you’re eating ice cream! It is a wintery win-win!

There you have it, the must devour treats of December. I hope you all have a great time snacking and feasting through the holidays, and if you happen to be in Walt Disney World, I hope you’ll give some or all of these treats a try!

20 December 2011

Red platoon

1961’s Babes in Toyland had a lot going for it, and still does, for fans of Disney films. Regular Disney actors and actresses, including Annette Funicello, Ed Wynn (Mad Hatter), Gene Sheldon and Henry Calvin (Zorro’s Bernardo and Sergeant Garcia), gave this movie a life and more than a handful of memorable songs. As it turns out, however, the most enduring figure from this feature is the Toy Soldier.

These stiff red, white and gold trimmed military men have become an integral part of the holidays, appearing in various forms and fashions throughout the years, including the Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade. Here they are tooting their own horns from the 1984 version of the parade.

19 December 2011

Enjoy age-old traditions

The holidays are in full swing, and soon the rustling of discarded wrapping paper and the tearing of flimsy cardboard from plastic shells will be upon us. But the winter holidays are about what you get or what you give, it’s about sharing time with the ones you love. Here at the Main Street Gazette, we thought we take a few moments with some of our closest friends and discover how Disney influences their holidays.

Roundtable Topic: What role does Walt Disney World, or Disney in the broader sense, play in your winter holidays?
Roundtable Contributors: Fiona (DF’82), AJ Wolfe (The Disney Food Blog), Chris Fore (Adventure Veranda), Andy Jackson (Eating (and Drinking) around the World), D.J. Jones (The World of Deej), Eric Hoffman (Netmongrel), and yours truly.
Fiona – I think the part Disney plays in my Winter Holidays, is probably the same as in most others - we decorate the tree with an assortment of Disney baubles and decorations, and most of the decorations throughout our house are Disney. Most of the decorations hold a special place in our hearts, having purchased them at a specific time or during a specific trip to one of the Theme Parks. My most recenty acquired tradition is to get a Disney Mickey-Head Bauble 'engraved' with whichever Disney Race I have completed during my trip.

Another Winter Holiday tradition, revolving around Disney, includes the films. Every Christmas, I have to watch A Muppet Christmas Carol and (odly) The Nightmare Before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the family will usually sit down and watch a Disney film together, either one on the television or from our collection. It is a great excuse to spend time together, watching something everyone can enjoy! And in a way, Disney helps to bring the family together during the Festive Season.

'Happy Holidays' to all!

AJ – I actually don't have a lot of Disney decor in my house, so the way that Disney has really become a part of our winter holidays is that I'm always clamoring for a trip to Disney World during the holiday season! Luckily, for the past couple of years, I've been able to make that wish come true for a few days! Heading to Orlando in December, enjoying the holiday decorations and holiday treats (yum!), and experiencing Disney World in a completely new way has become such a fun tradition for us. Hopefully we can continue that tradition, but even if we can't I know that I've created some great holiday memories that we'll be able to hold on to!

Chris – Most years find us visiting Florida during November or December, and (as my family will attest) it is hard for me to visit the Sunshine State without paying a visit to Walt Disney World. We love the holiday decorations, both in the parks as well as the deluxe resorts. Disney is also well represented in our Christmas decorations and tree ornaments - and there's usually a Disney book or film (or two!) wrapped and sitting under the tree.

Andy – I’m fortunate to be a “semi-local” to WDW and usually able to get to the World multiple times during the winter holiday season, so the events and decorations around the parks and resorts usually play a big part in my holidays.

I always enjoy the “usual suspects”: the Osbourne Lights, the storytellers around the World Showcase, the special decorations at the resorts, stalking the celebrity narrators of the Candlelight Processional, and perhaps my favorite of these year –to–year is the holiday tag added to the end of Illuminations (not surprising considering Illuminations would be my “if you put the proverbial gun to my head and made me chose” favorite thing in all of WDW).

Another great thing about the holiday season at WDW is that there is so much to see and do, that even the park going vets can almost always find something new and different to enjoy each season. This year Bonnie introduced me to the specialized Christmas trees at Camp Minnie-Mickey in Animal Kingdom. There are trees specially decorated for various characters: the Fab Five of course each have their own, as well as ones for Nemo, Stitch, the Country Bears, and many more. We spent quite a bit of time taking in all the details of the ornaments on each tree.

And really the best thing about the season at WDW (and be forewarned, here comes the sappy part) is it always offers opportunities to spend time with great friends and loved ones. With the “we-can’t-call-it-Mousefest-anymore” weekend in early December, there are always lots of good friends in the World, and considering that most of the holiday decorations are still up in early January, Marathon weekend is still part of the long holiday season, and even more great friends are in the parks then too. And best of the best, is being able to spend time there with someone you love… and I’m lucky to be able to do just that… and that’s all due to the Disney magic too… but that’s another story for another time…

Happy holidays to all!

Daniel – Disney has always played a big role in my life during the holidays, but even more so over the last several years. 3 years ago my wife and I were married at the Boardwalk the week before Christmas, so the holidays at Disney will always hold a special place in our heart. We made a pact that we would celebrate every other anniversary at a Disney resort, although we have veered off schedule by visiting Disneyland this year. Hey, when an offer to dine at Club 33 on your anniversary presents itself, you simply don't say no!

Eric – We love Disney World all through the year and across all seasons and holiday. However, we do incorporate Disney magic into our Christmas season in a few small but special ways.

The music of Disney World plays a huge part in our family's time spent away from the parks. We listen to Disney park music all the time. Christmas is no exception. Disney Christmas loops are in constant play this time of year. From the loops heard on Main Street USA to the Country Bears Christmas tunes, they add a great bit of Disney magic to this special time of year.

If we are fortunate enough to be in the parks, we will also make time to attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. The parks are amazing when decorated for Christmas - nobody does Christmas decorations and parties like Disney!

We also make a special point to watch the Christmas parade on TV on Christmas morning. And with the kids out of school there are many big breakfasts together enjoying Mickey shaped pancakes eaten off Mickey Mouse plates. But that last item happens a lot all throughout the year!

Ryan – With my birthday only a few short weeks from Christmas, the two usually roll into one, which occasionally means a trip to Walt Disney World for the event and the ability to see all of the special events (Castle Dreamlights, Holidays Around the World, etc.). However, the true Disney tradition in my house comes in during the tree trimming.

When the tree is up in its stand and all the branches have fallen, we pop a copy of Mickey’s Christmas Carol into the DVD player and begin setting in the lights and ornaments with Scrooge, Pete, Goofy, Mickey, Jiminey and the whole gang relating the Dickens’ classic Christmas tale. While short, it usually only takes one viewing to get the tree stuffed to the gills with ornaments. A second viewing immediately following the decorating ritual is usual required to send everyone off to bed with visions of sugarplums, err, rather, smishmashio dancing in their heads!

For people like us, we celebrate the magic of Disney and Walt Disney World all the year ‘long, but the holidays are times to celebrate the people we hold near and dear to our hearts. These are the days where Disney ties itself into our traditions and sprinkles a little bit of magic into the holidays while not being the main focus. Which leads us to ask, how does Walt Disney World and Disney tie into your winter holiday traditions?

16 December 2011

Mr. Imagination

The conservation and preservation message of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is not intended solely for the animals of this planet, but also for the plants and niches of this planet. Keeping the earth, its waterways and landmasses, fertile and inhabitable for all of us is just as much a part of the solution as the ability to bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction. In order to accomplish this, however, we must remember our three R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. This doesn’t have to mean the process has to be boring. Take, for instance, this sculpture found in Dinoland U.S.A.

This fossilerific figure can be found just outside Chester and Hester’s old service station and features two figures, one large dinosaur and another smaller figure. It is the brainchild of the artists known as Mr. Imagination, whose real name is Gregory Warmack. This piece, as with much of Warmack’s artwork, is composed of recyclable materials. Glass bottles, beads from jewelry, scraps of metal, and many other elements were pulled from a life of insignificance and waste in the junkyard by Warmack. While these items may have polluted the earth if left to rot in a dump, here that have been shined up and put on display for all to see and, hopefully, walk away with the message of greener is better.

Oh, and for you Hidden Mickey buffs, try finding the One-Year Service Award Pin given to Cast Members. The small, oval-shaped pin features Steamboat Mickey, and can found along the spikes running down the dino’s backside.

See, I told you Reducing, Reusing and Recycling could be fun!

15 December 2011


Once upon the exit queue for Star Tours felt like a 1970s travel agency or airport terminal, a bland corridor with a few framed travel posters (Coincidentally, if anyone has one of the gorgeous posters travel posters of old that you don’t want, I’d be glad to take them off your hands!). Today, however, the new exit ramp is bright and full of today’s vision of Star Wars tomorrow, err... yesterday.

A single one of the new travel posters has more in common with a portal than a framed poster, and takes up an entire section of wall that would have previously been filled by three separate posters. While not as intricate as the mirrored travel posters of Horizons, the newest Aurebesh (that’s the written language that permeates the Star Wars universe) embellished additions seem to share more traits with those travel advertisements of EPCOT Center than that do with their Star Tours predecessors.

Don’t believe me? Just check out these beauties!

14 December 2011

No lightweight

Dough. Cinnamon and Sugar. Deep fried in a long strip. What more do you need to know about a churro?

Okay, the Walt Disney World version is longer than expected and you are definitely going to pay more for it than it would be worth outside of the parks, but c’mon, it’s a churro. The classic theme park snack never tasted better than it does sitting along the Rivers of America taking in the Liberty Belle and Tom Sawyer Island or admiring a round of perfect shooting at the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade. Trust me, you can’t go wrong here, and you’ll likely make a memory in the process.

13 December 2011

Paint the sky

Once upon a time, there was a boy who would pour over the videos of World Key and interactive elements of CommuniCore. The only thing that could pull me away? The booming opening notes of Skyleidoscope. A daytime spectacular the likes of which haven’t been seen this side of 1987 EPCOT Center. So, what was involved in this production which launched in September 1985? I couldn’t say it any better than the press materials and newsletters Disney released.

Skyleidoscope is a fairy tale come to life. Watch Dreamfinder, the star of Kodak’s ‘Journey into Imagination,’ paint magical rainbows in the sky. Dreamfinder orchestrates more than 70 flying, swimming, and sailing vessels from his fanciful flying machine. Colorful streamers of smoke and daytime fireworks brighten the sky. Add evil dragons, heroes, and ear-catching music, and you have a crowd-pleasing, one-of-a-kind show.
--December 20 – January 2, 1985 Walt Disney World News

Ma’ Dragon and her sinister sidekick, Pa’ Dragon, join the forces of evil in the 1986 edition of Skyleidoscope at Epcot Center. Along with 10 purplish ‘dragonettes.’ They stir up World Showcase Lagoon in an effort to disrupt the ‘good guys,’ whose mission is to paint the sky with rainbow colors.
--1986 Walt Disney Company press photoSkyleidoscope’s appeal blends a magical mix of seaplanes, kites, colorful speedboats, purple dragons, jet-powered seas shells, sailboats, balloons, and fireworks for a wild aero-nautical presentation. This entire spectacle stars the lovable Dreamfinder, from Kodak’s ‘Journey into Imagination.’ Flying above the action in an extraordinary magical biplane, you’ll hear him hoot and bellow and roar with laughter as he paints the sky with Magical Rainbows.
--January 3 – 16, 1986 Walt Disney World News

Dragon boats and rainbow-making flying machines combine with red-white-and-blue daylight fireworks to fill the World Showcase Lagoon and the skies above it with happy sounds and colors in the Walt Disney World 15th Birthday edition of Epcot Center’s Skyleidoscope.
--1986 Walt Disney Company press photo

Sadly, this black and white photographs only give you a sliver of insight into what this incredible show thrilled guests with. While it only ran every day during busy holiday periods, mostly it was performed on a Saturday through Wednesday schedule, it packed the fence around the lagoon with the same capacity of awe-struck onlookers as IllumiNations would today or Laserphonic Fantasy did then! Now, if only I could find a clean copy of Skyleidoscope’s soundtrack to help my afternoons soar along!

12 December 2011


A couple of months back as part of an article I was working on for Celebrations Magazine, I had the extreme pleasure of being able to talk a personal hero of mine, George F. McGinnis. Most widely remembered for the creation of Horizons, but on this day we chatted about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage.

While most of the interview made it into the article, here are a few wonderful moments that I thought I wanted to share with all of you!
Main Street Gazette: What type of limitations did the submarines' designs face?

George McGinnis: As concept designer I had no limitations placed on me. But near the end of my effort, I heard a clue to my doing too much detail. Dick Irvine President of WED hailed me in the hall one day, "McGinnis are you 'glossing the goose' over there.” Meaning over at Roger Broggie's Engineering where Bob Gurr and I had our offices. Apparently Roger had been talking with Dick. ;) When I finished with the design, the project was handed to Bob to do the field supervision in Florida during construction . I was new and had no experience with field work. I made one trip to Florida on the subs to explain my drawings on rivet layout.

Thereafter I was called McRivet. ;)

George McGinnis (discussing how he felt about the design, and the fiberglas model made his design): I asked my boss Roger Broggie if I could have the model and heard the loudest NO! ever heard from him. ;)

He was Walt's "can-do man" -- all business around the office, but fun to travel with.

I cannot begin to explain how extraordinary it was to speak with George McGinnis, I'm sorry, McRivet, but it is a memory I will hold for a very long time and, hopefully, I will have the honor to speak with him again down the line.

I'll be sure to let all of you know when the rest of the interview, along with the entire 20,000 Leagues article, runs in Celebrations!

11 December 2011

Disney This Week - 11 December 2011

Kevin Kidney shows off plans for a never produced, 1990 Disneyland parade, Here Comes the Muppets.

A holiday beverage I’m looking forward to, spiced wine in World Showcase. AJ Wolfe and The Disney Food Blog tell us where to find this treat!

George Taylor give Imaginerding readers a glimpse into The Art of Epic Mickey.

Eating WDW and Sarah Holodick has found some terrific food inspired attire.

Andy Jackson gets cooking with the small world at Eating (and Drinking) around the World.

1970s Walt Disney World has a seemingly endless supply of wonders to look back at. This week, FoxxFur at Passport to Dreams Old & New and Michael Crawford at Progress City, U.S.A. both offer hints of the STOLport and a STOLport stowaway.

It may be off property, but I can’t resist a LEGO story, Suzannah DiMarzio invites us along to see the lighting of the first LEGOland Christmas Tree over at Zannaland.

09 December 2011

No one more raucous

The tenth hole of the Gardens Course at Fantasia Gardens features an unusual colored green. In fact, the grass has been stained entirely by the spilt wine of the jolly fellow at the top of the hill, Bacchus. The course calls for guests to put up the knoll and watch their ball drop down amongst the bubbles, towards the cup. Here’s the poetic preview and hint of the hole:
In all of the land there’s no
one more raucous
Than the fell here,
the infamous Bacchus
He’s poured you a path that
you simply putt up
Hit it just right and it
spills to the cup

So, who is this spirited character? Bacchus is the Roman name given to the Greek god Dionysus, the god of wine and intoxication, and from the looks of things he definitely has intoxication under control! In the world of Disney he, obviously, appears in the 1940 classic Fantasia. Bacchus first appears during the third movement of The Pastoral Symphony. In this scene the jolly, rotund, clearly intoxicated Bacchus rides in on his donkey-unicorn hybrid, Jacchus (no, I’m not making this name up), who seems equally willing to partake in a drink or two… or three. He is clearly drawn to the centaurettes and pursues them tirelessly, until he final believes he has caught up to one of the lady centaurs and puckers up for a kiss. Wine goggles were obviously firmly in place, as the centaurette he plants a kiss on is none other than Jacchus. The duo return later in the piece, delighted with a flood of wine unleashed by the destruction of a wine vat by one of Zeus’ thunderbolts. Their antics are some of the more memorable moments of the Fantasia segment.

It is worth noting that Bacchus returns in an altered form in 1997’s Hercules. Hercules also features Philoctetes pursuing nymphs in much the same fashion as Bacchus did the centaurettes in Fantasia, and with the same result.

In the scene set up on hole ten at Fantasia Gardens, Bacchus obviously remembers the Zeus instigated wine flash flood and is seeking to recreate it for passing putters!

08 December 2011

Best two out of three

Once upon a time, Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom had a selection of turn of the century games that could still be played in the Penny Arcade. The arcade closed in 1995 to make room for more retail space, but not all of the games disappeared.

Any day of the week, guests can book passage aboard the Walt Disney World Railroad, okay just hike up to the second floor landing where the train stops at the Main Street Station. It’s likely that you’ll have a few minutes to wait before the next locomotive comes chugging around the bend, in which case, you’re in luck! Inside the air conditioned waiting area is a selection of games, mostly scenes in a flipbook fashion, which once lived in the Penny Arcade.

Even if you’re not hoping onboard the train, I recommend taking a few moments to check out these games. They were virtual reality before it was cool!

07 December 2011


In case you haven’t been keeping score, I’ve been making my way through the various quick service dining options of World Showcase over the last couple of years. In an effort to showcase something that could be eaten no matter what country you are find yourself in at mealtime, and today marks the last country I need to complete the cycle. Of course with new options cropping up on a regular basis (look for a report on the new Katsura Grill in Japan coming in early January), it’s a never ending buffet.

So, where are we headed to today? Sommerfest in Germany. First off, I didn’t save Sommerfest for last out of any preconceived notion of ‘saving the best for last’ or avoiding it as I thought the food would be inedible. This quick service location has only two entrée options, either a Bratwurst or a Frankfurter, and both come paired with sauerkraut and a roll. The best way I describe the difference between the options is a Bratwurst is close to an Italian sausage, while the Frankfurter is more akin to the typical hot dog.Okay, so this picture is a study in beige, isn’t it? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Still, the first problem was finding a place to sit. With so few tables in the seating area, I was forced to venture all the way down to the lagoon to find a place to rest my plate. While I don’t believe there is enough space to squeeze in any more tables than are already at Sommerfest, this popular food counter could most certainly do with some additional seating.

The Frankfurter passes the first test with flying colors as it has a nice snap to the casing. Once down to the meat of the sausage, however, there is not a ton of flavor. In fact, I’d go as far as to say there are better standard dogs to be found around property, including at Casey’s Corner in the Magic Kingdom. However, the sauerkraut from Sommerfest is second to none on property, I only wish there was more of it. With the score for and against at 1 – 1, it’s down to the roll to decide the fate of this dish, and it falls flat. You know those almost stale, unappetizing dinner rolls someone always brings along to Thanksgiving dinner? Yep, that’s what we have here.

I think, perhaps, the pairing of the Bratwurst with the sauerkraut is the better option here, and I look forward to giving it a shot down the line. There are also pretzels and strudel to try! The Frankfurter plate, however, has a bland look to it and the flavors back that assumption up.