29 February 2012

Dream of Italy

Walt Disney World did something rather special for the 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, they not only put together a cornucopia of delicious menus and beverages, they actually had their own wine crafted for the event. The chianti and pinot grigio, under the label of Sogno d’Italia, or Dream of Italy, were bottled by Placido and imported by Banfi and made available only at the Italy pavilion in Epcot. I picked up a bottle of each last year, though they are still available at Enoteca Castello in Epcot’s Italy, and recently did my own wine tasting.

As with most wines, there is the description of the wine from the vintners and what your own palate discerns from the wine. Below are the depictions from the Sogno d’Italia (in italics), followed by my own thoughts.

Sogno d’Italia ChiantiTrue to Tuscany’s winemaking tradition, this chianti is predominantly made with the region’s native Sangiovese grape. It is fresh, with a bright fruit character, and is eminently drinkable. It brings pleasure in both its aroma and taste, and makes a quenching match to a wide variety of foods, from the humblest wraps, sandwiches and finger foods to composed salads, pasta dishes and grilled meats.

As a meat and potatoes and more potatoes kind of guy, I am constantly looking for a new table red wine to add into my rotation, and this wine has definitely made that list. This isn’t as complex or full-bodied as you would expect, but its thinner nature makes up for it with a simple, well-rounded flavor reminiscent of pitted fruits (plums, apricots, cherries). The chianti also has a delicious earthy undertone that is almost certainly is a result of the barrels. Grilled vegetables, such as asparagus or zucchini, or meats, particularly chicken and beef, are the perfect partners for this wine in a super dinner team-up.

Sogno d’Italia Pinot GrigioThis pinot grigio is unique, in that it hails from Tuscany, a warmer climate than the northern regions to which pinot grigio wines were once relegated. As a result, it balances a fragrant bouquet and crisp freshness with succulent fruit flavors and a lingering finish. It pleases as a charming aperitif, and as a distinguished pairing to mixed antipastos, pastas in light sauces, shellfish salads, and broiled fish or chicken.

I’m not one to adhere to preconceived notions, such as white wines with chicken and fish, but definitely see the advantage of having the well pronounced flavors of seafood with this pinot grigio. There is a hint of fruit, specifically pears, but the wine is also slightly acerbic. Paired with desserts, specifically fresh fruit or a well devised cheesecake, or a strong cheese, goat, brie and bleu all come to mind, this white wine would be a welcomed accompaniment.

Overall, both wines have their place in your everyday wine rack, though I prefer the chianti over the pinot grigio, and considering this is Walt Disney World, I found them both to be reasonably priced. I can only hope that the Sogno d’Italia line continues with these two varietals and begins expanding and exploring other grapes.

28 February 2012

Whale of a tale

“This is Captain Nemo speaking. Welcome aboard the Nautilus. We are proceeding on a course that will take us on a voyage 20,000 leagues under the sea.” This line sent shivers down the spines and thrilled others for the better part of twenty-three years in Fantasyland. Captain Nemo welcomed visitors to his home port of Vulcania and aboard his beloved Nautilus for a most extraordinary voyage to lost undersea worlds.

That’s just a few opening lines from my recent article in Celebrations. The tale moves on to discuss the design and construction of the Nautilus fleet (such as the submarine being constructed below) with Imagineers George McGinnis and Bob Gurr, examine the story of the ride itself, and its ultimate demise. It is a whale of a tale if I’ve ever heard one, and it’s all true! I hope you’ll pick up Celebrations Issue 22 to read more!

27 February 2012

Cast your spell

The villains are running amok in the Magic Kingdom and the original park of Walt Disney World has been recruiting sorcerers to help save the kingdom. Putting guests in the middle of their own adventure has always been a key component of the park-going experience, which has been kicked up a notch with the introduction of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

Roundtable Topic: What are your thoughts about the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game debuting this month at the Magic Kingdom?
Roundtable Contributors: Chris Fore (Adventure Veranda), Andy Jackson (Eating (and Drinking) around the World), and yours truly.
Chris – I'm cautiously optimistic. For me, this is going to come down to the execution.

What will the impact be on the cosy confines of the Magic Kingdom? Will the attraction draw guests further into the environment, or take them out of it? How will the guests who *aren't* participating be affected?

The only similar experience I've done myself is Kim Possible's World Showcase Adventure (which I really like). What I like about the KP Adventure is that it encourages guests to step off the promenade and explore the wonderful details of World Showcase. I also appreciate that the various KP "installations" blend in and basically work as details even if you aren't playing the game. But for all that, even I can find the Kimmunicator "ring tone" distracting after a while, and there have been times when I felt like I could see a literal queue of guests following the trail and waiting their turn for each station.

I wonder if the experience would be better suited for an environment like a resort (or Downtown Disney, for example)?

Having said all that, my curiosity is piqued. I'm a techie, and what I've seen so far looks very cool. I'm also intrigued about the "trading-card" aspect of the game, as a social component could be very interesting indeed.

Andy – Next-gen; interactive; just a couple of the buzzwords we've been hearing over the past couple of years about how the Disney guest experience will be changing in the near future...

Several "non-attraction/ride" interactive experiences have already been put in place: Kim Possible at Epcot, interactive queues at several rides (most notably the one at my beloved Haunted Mansion) and the Midship Detective Agency on the Disney Dream. The next interactive game is of course the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom...

I've had a couple of chances to experience it during the beta testing, and by the time you read this it will have officially launched. I'll forgo much discussion of the gameplay itself so as not to spoil the experience for anyone who may be visiting soon, and in any case, our limited space here wouldn't allow much description anyway... of course I'm sure there are already plenty of places on the web to find out more details if you're so inclined...

Now that I've babbled on let's get down to it... I think this is going to be great! I've been a big fan of Kim Possible (of course you can play that with cocktails in hand...), and enjoyed being able to test the possible Wilderness Explorer game in Animal Kingdom, and the Sorcerers game has the potential to be huge.

With essentially all the gameplay (at least at this time) taking place on a video screen, it should be fairly simple and relatively inexpensive for the Imagineers to expand and update the game to keep guests of any playing level interested.

The collecting aspect of the game is already a hit - the cards feature characters (some obscure) from Disney animated features, and have already shown up on eBay. Inpark guests are already accosting others for trades - I wouldn't be surprised to see official trading areas in MK for guests to swap their duplicate cards or search for the rarer ones - and I was told that Castmembers were even trading cards with guests as they were waiting for their turn to play.

Disney will reportedly be selling a set of the cards, and other merchandise opportunities seem obvious (card carriers, logo clothing, framed card sets and so on), so this could be a real cash boon for the company.

Another thing the game (and others that could follow in other parks) will do is keep a certain number of guests off rides, and could have a positive effect on wait times (I doubt if it will be huge, but could be noticeable). Likewise if would seem possible that the programming of the game could divert a certain number of guests to less crowded parts of the park at different times of day. The current and future locations of the game portals can make guests explore parts of the park they may not normally visit - always a good thing in my mind.

Overall I see a big, big upside to this - I'm sure there will be glitches to work through, but I'm excited about what this technology will be bringing!

Ryan – Really letting my geek side show, for many years as a younger lad I was a fanatic collector and player of the collectible card game, Magic. The thought of far off realms, casting spells, and iconic heroes and weaponry really spoke to me (perhaps it was my longstanding wish to wield my own lightsaber and my undying love for the landscapes of Bob Ross). Even in those days, I could have never imagined being able to battle across the plains of Walt Disney World, but that is just what Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom offers.

When playing other collectible card games you often wonder what the battle would really look like. Sure, the card’s illustrations helped, but there really wasn’t a way to see how these skirmishes would play out. The interactive portal scenes for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom allow each spell to have their own effect on the game as you play through. Oh, and with a starter set of only 70 cards, I imagine more cards will be coming in expansion sets, the collector in me is hungering to grab them all!

While I have not yet had the pleasure to play the game, nothing I have seen has deterred my enthusiasm and everything has continued to excite me. I have seen many of the portals during playtesting and the way they were built into the various lands of the Magic Kingdom is extremely well done. The cards pay homage to characters across the history of Disney animated films and are full of bright colors and clever titling. Like I’ve said, everything I have seen of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom speaks to my inner geek and makes me want to collect and play this game time and time again!

There weren’t a ton of contributors this month for the Gazette Roundtable, I’ve been hearing whispers that most of the other roundtablers couldn’t be bothered to leave Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom in order to write their thoughts down, so I need the readers help more than ever this month! Have you played the game or seen others playing? What do you think of the cards, the game-play portals, and the overall concept? If you haven’t played, what are you excited about or concerned with when it comes to Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom? We all want to hear from you!

26 February 2012

Disney This Week - 26 February 2012

If you read one article this week, make it this piece from FoxxFur: On Integrity at Passport to Dreams Old & New. This isn’t about Disneyland versus Walt Disney World, it’s about sticking up for what was, is, and always should be uniquely Walt Disney World.

AJ Wolfe brings us news via The Disney Food Blog that France’s Boulangerie Patisserie might be expanded in the near future.

Imaginerding ponders what makes something vintage while George Taylor shows off some fantastic 1997 photographs.

Sarah Holodick grabs a table under the trees and reviews lunch at Sanaa for Eating WDW.

Studios Central and Matt Hochberg examine a very famous bumper.

Melissa Loflin explores where all things Universe of Energy begin at Makin’ Memories.

Progress City, U.S.A. tries to digest the latest in Innoventions and talks about the way health is presented in Epcot with Michael Crawford.

Forget Hidden Mickeys, Jeff Heimbuch goes in search of Disney survey markers for The 626.

In an era of Vinylmation, Melissa Sue reminds Mouse on the Mind readers about the original trading craze, pin trading.

We all have an Imagineer and/or artist that we admire, Sam Gennawey takes pause on SamLand’s Disney Adventure to look at the classic Eyvind Earle sketches that would come to be part of Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk Through.

24 February 2012

Thirst rangers

I started out with the photograph of our subject today, the Cool Ship known as Thirst Rangers that has landed above a Coka-Cola stand in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, because I want you to take a real good look at it. Very sleek in design, wouldn’t you say? Okay, now take off the engines, and while you’re at remove the horn/radar, what looks like an air intake system atop the ship, and the dorsal fin. Do you see what I see in the layers of curves that form the hull? How about if we remove the front viewport and instead of red we paint it silver. Do you see it now?Yep, that Cool Ship is actually a Trimaxian Drone Ship from the 1986 film, Flight of the Navigator. The iconic spacecraft is most commonly recognized in its original form in the boneyard of the Studio Backlot Tour in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but it isn’t the only ship to be found in the parks. The pair of ships spacecraft may appear to be metallic in design, but they in fact on thin sheets of wood that have been bent to the appropriate curvature. The drone ship had many different shapes in the film, depending on whether its portal was open or if it was accelerating at unheard of speeds, its most recognized shape is the one seen in both parks, even if one has received some after-market parts.

While rumors may swirl about remakes, I think it is fair to say that Flight of the Navigator has a soft spot in many hearts from our formative years. It is nice to see that while some things stay the same (which we love), they can also receive new life in extraordinary ways (which we also love).

23 February 2012

Stars of the universe

Wednesday may be our regularly scheduled food article, I’m not quite done with the topic this week. So, we’re heading over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a taste of some artwork that is out of this world! That’s right, we’re taking a closer look at the posters that hang out on the walls and fences near Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater’s concession stand, also known as the kitchen.

Bright colors? Check! Imagery that combines food items and space icons? Check! Clean, simply lines in the artwork? Check! Well, that can only mean one thing… We’ve stepped back to 1955 for some classic corny advertising! Of course, the easier way to tell that it is 1955 is by looking at the tags of any of the classic cars parked in the drive-in.

22 February 2012

It's nice to dine with fruit

Sometimes you pass by a displayed food item in Walt Disney World and pull a double take, literally. Such was my reaction in December when, as I was minding my own business as I found something for lunch in Sunshine Seasons, I came across the Guava Cream Cheese Cupcake. While baked goods are nothing new to this corner of Epcot, this combination of flavors did seem like an unusual, but conceivably tasty, grouping.What sounds like a breakfast pairing, cream cheese and guava, turns into a simple and sweet cupcake that could be eaten any time of day (and I do think it would serve well in the place of a breakfast pastry). From the top down, this is a cupcake that has a cream cheese frosting, which is very smooth and garnished with a sprinkling of chopped nuts, and a guava preserve topping. The guava is actually the core of the cupcake, as it becomes filling to the cake. As for that cake, it is clearly a yellow cake, but looks can be deceiving. As I was told by Catherine, who had made the cupcake in the Sunshine Seasons’ bakery, both cream cheese and guava had been folded into the yellow cake batter to create a consistency of flavors across the entire cupcake.There are no two ways about it; this is a delicious cupcake, an example of the well-crafted and imaginatively designed cupcakes that have been popping up in baking pans across Walt Disney World. I love that no matter where you bite into the Guava Cream Cheese Cupcake, you are, at the very least, going to get a hint of cream cheese and guava, even if all you get in your bite is cake!

21 February 2012

New tags on the way

It is one of those things that make speaking with a Walt Disney World Cast Member so unique. No, I’m not talking about the way they point using two fingers. And no, I’m not talking about their terrifically designed costumes either. I’m talking about the name tags that proudly display the Cast Member’s name and hometown alongside a small icon depicting a particular department or celebration.

The pair of name tags below come from 1976 when Walt Disney World was celebrating the United States’ Bicentennial with America On Parade. As with all things Disney, there were appearances to be kept up and a certain manner in which things had to be done, such as what and how to affix items to the name tags. Perhaps I should let Eyes & Ears, circa December 1975, explain how it’s done:
If you haven’t heard yet, every cast member will soon be receiving a new Bicentennial name tag. Wardrobe Department reports that they are busy engraving the new tags and will be distributing them in the near future. With the new tags on the way, we thought we’d take a moment to explain the Company policy regarding pins being attached to your name tag. The only type of ornament or pin allowed on your Disney name tag is a Company service pin, such as a one-year pin. On your new Bicentennial tag, should you desire to attach a service pin, then do it this way: Heat up a stick pin or tack with a match and slowly push it through the plastic face of your name tag. This will give you a clean hole through which to put your service pin.

The only place you may attach a service pin on your Bicentennial name tag is on the top, between the dates.

20 February 2012

Disney This Week - 20 February 2012

I hope you'll forgive me for the lateness of this week's roundup, the weekend was rather wonderful and hectic and I just couldn't pull myself away from it. In any case, here are the terrific stories I found last week!

Michael Crawford is king when it comes to EPCOT Center restrooms, as highlighted by Scandinavia’s presence in World Showcase on Progress City, U.S.A.

Romantic foods for two, or what Andy and Bonnie ate the weekend before Valentine’s Day, is the topic Andy Jackson tackles over at Eating (and Drinking) around the World.

Suzannah DiMarzio lets cute run rampant when she discusses some new additions to the antenna topper line for Zannaland.

Adam and Andrew at the Disney Hipster Blog give us something to look up about at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Chicken and Cheese Poppers burst onto a menu in Epcot, and as usual, AJ Wolfe and The Disney Food Blog were on the scene!

Mitch digs deep to tell the tale of the Rhine River Cruise at Imagineering Disney.

Phase One of World Showcase shirt designs from Richard can be found at DesignerLand. Looking for a shirt that isn’t there? I guess we’ll have to wait for some expansion…

Melissa Loflin offers up a perfect slice of The Oasis in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Makin’ Memories.

From Eating WDW and Sarah Holodick: Adventureland Egg Roll Cart. Why are you still reading this? Stop it. Go over and read this article… NOW!

If you can dream it

Four and a half years ago when I started the Main Street Gazette, I had no preconceived notions of what it would become. The site was simply a way to put my thoughts on Walt Disney World and, at the time, anything else in the realm of Disney down on paper. At that time I could have never have guessed the world of opportunities that would open up to me in the coming years. One such occasion took place this weekend when I had the chance to give a public talk about the history of Walt Disney World.

I want to thank Elizabeth Caran, Dan Brooks, and Wake County Public Libraries for supporting me and allowing me to come and share my brand of Walt Disney World history. Saturday would not have happened without the support of people like Jeffrey Lipack, Kollin Burrow, and George Taylor (all of whom were in the audience on Saturday, an audience that astounded and humbled me), and each and every person out who has ever validated my musings by reading the Main Street Gazette or in Celebrations Magazine or listening to what I have to say on WDW Radio. Thank you one and all!

I know many of you would have liked to have been there this weekend, but distance, timing, and life in general maybe got in the way. To show how much each of you mean to me, even if it is just a small token, I made sure to record the session for all of you. I apologize for the quality of video, and I hope you can make out the pictures. It may be a basic history and an oft-touted message, but it is a story and idea I think we all believe deep down inside.

This weekend served as a reminder to me that, "If you can dream it, you really can do it!"

17 February 2012

Little red

Many attractions see tweaks to the imagery and story that is presented during the weeks and months that follow the attraction’s opening. One such story, the tale of Big Red and Little Red, has undergone many changes in its fourteen years, and is almost certain to disappear entirely very soon. I guess we should go ahead and talk about it now before it moseys off into the sunset.

When Kilimanjaro Safaris first opened in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the poaching storyline was represented in a very aggressive manner. Perhaps the most startling portion of the story came from the inclusion of an elephant carcass, an effect not from a real creature. It should go without saying that even though this scene was only seen during Cast Member previews children, parents, and tender-hearted individuals were quite upset at this imagery and it was removed almost instantly.

Still, the story of an elephant calf and its mother being separated, presumably and later discovered as a certainty, by poachers. They were named Big Red and Little Red. The missing elephant is continually mentioned as the safari roams through animal enclosure after animal enclosure until guests are asked to join in the hunt for the poachers. Guests bounce about geyser fields, dart by an abandoned poachers’ encampment, and even survive being shot at. In the end, however, they are shown a Little Red Audio-Animatronics figure and informed that the uniting of mother and calf is imminent.In 2007, Kilimanjaro Safaris’ eye in the sky, Warden Wilson Matua, lost his partner in poacher hunting, Mrs. Jobson. Similarly, Big Red was also absent from the recorded narration, though the baby elephant figure remained central to the story and could still be seen in the finale scene of the attraction.

Word came down this week that this mechanical elephant will be removed to make room for more actual animals, including zebras. With some many live elephant calves roaming the savannas who could blame the park for wanting to show off some more true life adventures.

16 February 2012

Alligator bayou

Mardi Gras is next Tuesday, but it is always time to party at Port Orleans – French Quarter. From the parade pieces found in Sassagoula Float Works, the resort’s quick service destination, to the beads you are presented when you check in it is Mardi Gras 365 days out of the year. In fact, it is such a party, that even the wildlife have gotten in on the act. Long before The Princess and the Frog introduced us to the jazz-in-his-blood alligator named Louis, these decked out gators were jamming all along the route to French Quarter’s Doubloon Laggon.

15 February 2012

A leafy green salad

A Cobb Salad is pretty simple to make. As a matter of fact most salads aren’t too complicated if you get the right ingredients and toss them together neatly. However, the Cobb Salad has a great story attached to it. Aside from the components of the salad there is a key element which does require a recipe, the special dressing. So, today, we’re going to tell the tale of the Cobb and show you how to make your salad shine just like The Brown Derby’s Cobb Salad in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The Cobb Salad is a delicious blend of legend and historical fact. The Brown Derby keeps its own account of how the salad was originally created. As the story goes:
One night in 1937, Bob Cobb, then owner of The Brown Derby, prowled hungrily in his restaurant's kitchen for a snack. Opening the huge refrigerator, he pulled out this and that: a head of lettuce, an avocado, some romaine, watercress, tomatoes, some cold breast of chicken, a hard-boiled egg, chives, cheese and some old-fashioned French dressing. He started chopping. Added some crisp bacon, swiped from a busy chef.

The Cobb salad was born. Sid Grauman, of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, was with Cobb that midnight, asked the next day for a 'Cobb Salad.' It was so good that it was put on the menu.
It may seem kitschy, but I for one love the fact that The Brown Derby prints their recipe cards on miniature paper derbies. Is it still California Crazy if it’s not actually architecture? Call it what you will, but this dressing recipe is spectacular, and great on all sorts of salads, not just the Cobb for which it was created.
½ Head Iceberg Lettuce
½ Bunch Watercress Lettuce
1 Small Bunch Chicory Lettuce
½ Head Romaine Lettuce
2 Medium Tomatoes (peeled)
½ Brest Turkey (poached)
6 Strips Bacon (crispy)
1 Avocado
3 Eggs (hard-boiled)
2 Tbsp. Chives (chopped)
½ Cup Bleu Cheese (crumbled)
1 Cup Brown Derby Old Fashioned French Dressing

Chop all greens very fine and arrange in a salad bowl.
Cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds, and dice fine.
Fine dice the turkey, avocado, and eggs.
Arrange above ingredients, along with bleu cheese and bacon crumbles, in straight lines across the salad.
Arrange chives diagonally across the topping lines.
Present this at the table, toss the salad with dressing, and place on chilled plates.
Garnish with radicchio cup and watercress.

3 Cups Salad Oil
1 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Bead Garlic (chopped)
2 ½ Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp Sugar
1 Tsp English Mustard
Juice of ½ Lemon

Blend together all ingredients, except oils.
Add olive and salad oils, mix well again.
Keep refrigerated.
Blend well before tossing with salad.

14 February 2012

Beating a drum

Walt Disney World on Parade was the moniker given to the 5,000 participant rolling spectacle that was part of the dedication events for Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom. We’ve talked previously about the 1,076 member marching band led by Meredith Wilson, but today I want to stop for just a moment and admire the role of the big cheese himself, Mickey Mouse, in the parade.

In almost every parade, Mickey is seen in one of two positions, the very first or very last float. He has been a conductor, sorcerer, other sorts of conjurers and, as is the case in the October 25, 1971 Walt Disney World on Parade, the band leader. Notice how high Mickey is and how small he looks compared to the drum? As it turns out, Mickey was at the front of the parade on that balmy Monday in 1971, which also happened to be Veterans Day, banging along on a bass drum that was the largest in the world at the time.The little thing I notice from this photograph is the simple and gorgeous iconography set upon the sides of the drum. In the background he castle stretches skyward, while a monorail whooshes from within the belly of the Contemporary on its way to the Magic Kingdom, and a sailboat races along in the choppy waves of the foreground. It is succinct and simple and provides just a taste of all that the Vacation Kingdom has to offer. Then, of course, there is the capital letter D wrapped around the global Mickey symbol that was the insignia of Walt Disney World for so many years.

There are performers in the background and we could also talk about the horses pulling this mighty drum, but perhaps we should stop here and let Mickey and the drum enjoy their day in the spotlight.

13 February 2012

Walt and the Promise of Progress City

There is a continually evolving list of amazing writers out there composing thought provoking content about Disney history and experiences. Some voices in the community come and go and some shine so brightly that the move on to the next level. One such author is Sam Gennawey of SamLand’s Disney Adventures, who released the book Walt and the Promise of Progress City last year. Recently, Sam and Ayefour Publishing sent me a copy of the book to review and I was very excited to dig into it the day it arrived.

Sam starts out with his personal connection to the parks of Disney and the reason this topic provides a passionate canvas from which he has launched the remainder of a book. There are certainly those who share the same memories of Progress City as Sam, but the tale is so approachable that the rest of us have similar experiences that have taken hold of our hearts and driven us down our paths of investigation.

Progress City is not an easy topic to tackle. From Walt Disney’s dream of a continually evolving city highlighting all the best the world’s industries had to offer to the reality that never quite came to fruition. Progress City is a razor thin combination of futurist ideals, architecture and philosophy, and Sam Gennawey handles each aspect in due time, building upon previous ideas we have been given. Reading Walt and the Promise of Progress City is like a fine dining experience, where you cannot rush through the event, but you must chew on what is presented and let it settle in as digest into your memory. Combining interview and stories, introducing crucial terms in the planning lexicon, and detailing the evolution of Progress City, Sam does not provide a historical narrative, but through his words he crafts a living blueprint of the world Walt wished to build.

This is not a one dimensional story about a single individual and his fantasy. The worlds created by Walt and those who followed in his trailblazing footsteps over the past six decades is an amazing story to be placed stone by stone. Want to know about an airstrip in Walt Disney World? Or how about a ski resort that was to be built and managed by Disney? Think there isn’t a connection between to the two? The rub is everything ever built under the name Disney is carefully woven from all that has come before it, design and planning at its finest. If it has been built by Disney, you will find a glimmer of it somewhere between the two covers of Walt and the Promise of Progress City.

My inability to put a book down is the highest praise that I can heap on a book. In the case of Walt and the Promise of Progress City, I woke up on a vacation at 4:30 in the morning to continue reading and finished the entire 366 page volume before the end of the first week I had it. Sam has something special here, a rare educational text that embodies the spirit of Walt and carries with it the stories that well-versed armchair historians clamor for. This is, without a doubt, one of the best books I’ve read in the past couple of years. I cannot wait to see what Sam comes up with next.

Should you wish to add a copy of Walt and the Promise of Progress City by Sam Gennawey to your must read, reference or books you share with other enthusiasts shelf (and why wouldn’t you want a copy?) you can find it at Ayefour Publishing.

12 February 2012

Disney This Week - 12 February 2012

Next weekend I will be in Raleigh, NC taking part in a presentation about Disney Parks history. If you are in the area, I hope you’ll be able to join us for what I am sure will be a fantastic afternoon! For my part, I’m going to see just how much of the 40+ years of Walt Disney World history I can squeeze into about 45 minutes. I’ve been working on my John Moschitta, Jr., aka The Micro Machines Man, impersonation…

George Taylor gives his review of South of the Border with Disney at Imaginerding.

A very thorough evaluation of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is provided by Adam and Andrew at the Disney Hipster Blog.

AJ Wolfe is in search of dessert at Downtown Disney’s Earl of Sandwich for The Disney Food Blog.

Spaceship Earth and AT&T come to us this week courtesy of Michael Crawford and Progress City, U.S.A.

Matt Hochberg discusses how changes to the FASTPASS system may affect Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Studios Central.

Eating WDW and Sarah Holodick are serving up a pair of classics, the Rueben and French Onion Soup, from The Turf Club.

Melissa Loflin offers up her take on the new Katsura Grill over at Makin’ Memories.

According to the Disney Parks Blog and Jennifer Fickley-Baker, we should begin expecting more wildlife viewing on the savanna coming in the form of a prominent zebra environment.

10 February 2012

W. D. Story

Guests who were waiting to meet with Mickey Mouse backstage at the Town Square Theater used to find themselves spending some time in a rather blank empty room. In mid-December a number of new furnishings appeared in this space, from reels of theater tickets to a McDuck safe. The really interesting stuff, however, came in the form of a set of mailboxes. While each has a tale to tell, the one that struck me the most is labeled W.D. Story.

This is a clear nod to the attraction that originally resided in this location, known as The Walt Disney Story. A twenty-three minute film dedicated to the life and achievements Walt Disney. While the groundwork was being prepared for Walt Disney World in 1969, a staff of around 200 people at Walt Disney Productions began culling thousands of hours of Walt Disney interviews in order to compose a narrative of his life as told through his own words. There was an opening narration provided by Pete Renoudet, the voice of Henry from the Country Bear Jamboree and Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage, before Walt Disney took over the chronicle of his life. With Walt recounting his life, there was an obvious void at the tail end of the film documenting Walt’s passing.

The attraction was housed in the Gulf Hospitality House, but was not ready for the Magic Kingdom’s opening day. Instead, it opened in the spring of 1973 and featured a queue filled with props and exhibits highlighting Walt Disney’s career, think One Man’s Dream but on a smaller scale. Just before entering one of the two 300 seat theaters stood a mural, designed by Bill Justice, depicting over 170 Disney characters, but that’s a story for another day. At the exit to The Walt Disney Story was the Audio-Animatronics figure of an owl named Hoot Gibson, who previewed the coming attractions of Walt Disney World.

The Walt Disney Story closed its doors in 1992 and was eventually folded into the Kodak inspired exhibits of the Exposition Hall. One of the theaters was converted into a showcase for vintage Mickey Mouse cartoons and photo-op cutouts, such as the television from 101 Dalmatians where guests could pretend they were in the cartoon. Today, with the arrival of the Town Square Theater and these latest additions to the space, The Walt Disney Story once again occupies a small corner of its original home.

09 February 2012

A special kind of hero

In the past week a new exhibit focusing on healthy options opened inside Innoventions. From Florida Blue and Anthem Cross Blue Shield, Habit Heroes invites the young and old to get active and adopt healthy lifestyle routines. The comic book stylings used to facilitate the story and activities are bright and definitely project a sense of action. Prior to the attraction’s opening, posters of the dastardly villains, who want nothing more than for kids to do nothing, used the same comic book method of storytelling to tease out what Habit Heroes would be all about.

Let’s examine those posters and potential baddies today, a second chance to look at Habit Heroes previews for those who didn’t get a chance to see them and a look back at what we thought might have been for those who have had a chance to partake in the super-healthy-hero antics!

08 February 2012


Among the multitude of dishes included on the menu of the Grand Floridian Cafe are some unique takes on traditional sandwiches, such as the Rueben and roast beef. Perhaps there is no greater testament to the idea of what a sandwich is, however, than The Grand Sandwich.Open-faced hot Ham, Turkey, Bacon and Tomato with a rich Boursin Sauce, and Fried Onion Straws

The description does not do this sandwich near enough justice. The meat is piled high and is that amazing mixture of hot and savory that you look for in a great deli sandwich. The bread is buttery with a great blend of herbs, a bit of fresh tomato, and the onion straws are crunchy and add a bit of bitter to the sandwich. The meat is great, but what you come to this sandwich for is the creamy Boursin cheese sauce. To paraphrase my good friend Tony Caggiano, it’s so good you’ll want to bathe in it.

If my words seem a bit lacking here, it is because I literally do not know how to describe The Grand Sandwich, it makes me speechless. If you need further proof of the delicious and filling nature of this behemoth, take note of the fact that, unlike every other sandwich on the menu, it does not come with a side dish. It simply doesn’t need one.

Honestly, if you only ever take my advice on one dish, just like I took the word of Tony, let it be this one.

07 February 2012

Intricate waterways

When we talk about the construction of Walt Disney World, we often think of swathes of swampland being transformed into magical lands and magnificent resorts. Occasionally, we may allow our minds to wander over to the Gulf Coast and inevitably Tampa Shipyards where the Nautiluses were constructed and engines of the Walt Disney World Railroad were given new lives. Yet, Tampa Ship was not the only, or original, site for Walt Disney World vehicle construction.

Morgan Yacht not only began the process of fabricating the submarines for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage, they also set work assembling over 100 other watercraft that would eventually fill the various bodies of water around Walt Disney World. Morgan Yacht, based in St. Petersburg, FL, was the handiwork of Charley Morgan who had designed the Heritage, a vessel which was raced by Charley during the America’s Cup. Back to the Walt Disney World connection, among the various watercrafts constructed at Morgan Yacht there were a pair of side-wheel paddlewheels. One of which can be seen during its assembly below.

Though the paddlewheels are not still sailing around the Seven Seas Lagoon or Bay Lake, they had an incredibly storied history at the Vacation Kingdom. Anything I could tell you about them, however, would pale into comparison to what has already been penned by FoxxFur at Passport to Dreams. To continue the tale of the side paddlewheels, be sure to head on over and read The World Cruise.

06 February 2012

Share in the wonder

A couple of weeks back, Matt Hochberg issued his State of the Studios at Studios Central. It got me thinking that each park could use a reminder of what has been going right and what could be better. With that in mind, and feeling that there are others more qualified to speak on behalf of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, I am compelled to speak about the one park that is so often looked upon as the red-headed stepchild of Walt Disney World, Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The state of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is strong. It is not the half day park it has been so often schlepped of as. It is filled with intriguing stories that could overflow the boundaries of a single day. It deserves our respect and encouragement, and we will watch it flourish.For starters, as 2011 began, the park saw the addition of a brand new tour, the Wild Africa Trek. The tour focused on getting closer and spending more time with the animals of Africa, both from Kilimanjaro Safaris and Pangani Forest Exploration. The animal experts provide a wealth of information to nourish the mind while a meal was included, breakfast or lunch depending on your groups start time, to nourish the body. The real adventure of the tour comes from the manner in which you maneuver through the enclosures, from off the beaten path trails to rope bridges that are missing some slats. This type of up close and personal adventure is just what the park needs, and I wouldn't be surprised if a similar type of experience showed up in Asia at some point.Speaking of Asia, let’s go ahead and discuss the elephant, or rather yeti, in the room. This behemoth is the highlight of one of the most amazing attractions in Walt Disney World. From queue to shop, every minute detail has been covered here. However, the yeti’s stunning presence, or rather the lack thereof, is a stain upon this otherwise breathtaking and inspiring attraction. While I am sure Expedition Everest will continue to gobble up guests whether Disco Yeti is fixed or not, this needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.

The main message of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the conservation and preservation of creatures and natural spaces, is visible in every corner of the park. Over the past couple of years, however, I’ve realized that a secondary message, a salute to Broadway if you will, is also fairly prevalent. Okay, maybe not a message, but the shows featured in the park are amazing, and continue to enthrall guests. A new show in Africa or Asia would be nice, however.Speaking of new, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is due for an infusion of new blood, by which I mean new animals, new corners of the world, and new attractions. Unfortunately, I do not foresee any signs that this will be taking place in 2012. The construction of a new land based upon the mythical planet of Pandora will begin either later in 2012 or, more likely, in 2013. While it may not be the Beastly Kingdom die-hards had hoped for, and it may not include real creatures from our own planet that I would hope for, it is a step towards expanding the appeal of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

A growing segment of the park’s entertainment has come from small, personal interactions with Cast Members from far way countries. Educating through music, art, and discussion is crucial to not only enhancing the guest experience but to creating bonds to the outside world. I hope these exchanges in Harambe and Anandapur continue to thrive, as their impact is an important part of facilitating the message of the park.Aside from Epcot, there is no place better for diverse meal options that Disney’s Animal Kingdom. From quick service to sit down meals, there is something to be said for the variety that has sprung up around this park. Oh, and if you’re still craving that hamburger, they have those here too!

As a whole, the park is in looking good, but it could always be better. From cleaning out the muck along the Discovery River to finding new and innovative ways to entertain and engage guests, there is always more that can be done. Yet, when you look at what really matters, the care of the animals and the way in which their message is spread, you have to see that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is in great shape!

03 February 2012

Maroon Studios

When Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened in May of 1989, at the time known as Disney-MGM Studios, it had a loud and flamboyant spokesperson just waiting to jump on any gag he could to make a guest laugh. I am, of course, talking about Roger Rabbit. There was scarcely a corner of that early park where you could not find a suggestion of Roger and his wacky crew. As Roger’s popularity waned, so too did his presence with the Studios. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few references to the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, scattered about. One of which we are going to examine today.The dead giveaway of this billboard, which can be found overlooking the Echo Lake section of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is that it has the names and faces of three of the primary cartoon characters from the film, Roger Rabbit, Jessica, and Baby Herman. The real treat is the name Maroon Studios ballooning above the three.

Maroon Studios is, according to the feature, the home of the three characters featured on the advertisement. Though we know Roger, Herman, and Jessica all work for Maroon Studios, many of its other characters are left to the imagination of the viewer. Familiar faces from Dumbo and Fantasia appear on the lot, though we are told they are only on loan to Maroon from Disney.

The studio, whose full name is R.K. Maroon Studios, is the product of founder and producer R.K. Maroon. It is during the events of Who Framed Roger Rabbit in that R.K. Maroon meets his untimely demise at the end of Judge Doom’s pistol. The role of R.K. Maroon was taken on by Alan Tilvern, in what would become his last feature film performance.

When Disney-MGM opened, Disney wanted nothing more than to have Roger standing alongside Mickey as an equal, and presented him regularly in just such a light. For better or worse, Roger’s star never shone quite as brightly as Mickey’s, though that isn’t to say that he doesn’t still have a home within the park!

02 February 2012

Space home & garden

Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom has always been the city of tomorrow, though at some point it became an amalgamation of every future we had imagined in the last one hundred years rather than a true glimpse into the todays of tomorrow. This shift is understandable, considering that technologies across a spectrum of fields have been making rapid advancements and the land would date itself almost as fast as it could be update. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t dream of what the future could hold for us!

What better way to see what the future has in store than by seeing what is for sale or coming soon to the future. These posters can be found just over the bridge from the hub to Tomorrowland, on either side of the walkway and also as the coming attractions of The Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center. The potential for space collectibles, the latest and greatest in rocket transportation, high in the sky resorts, cosmic classical concerts, robots, home and garden necessities, planetary geography and even space yachting can all be gleamed from the various posters. There is, of course, one poster highlighting an already accessible piece from tomorrow, The League of Planets’ Astro Orbiter. Enjoy them all, and leave no detail unexplored!