30 March 2012

Brings these movies to life

This little booth, with darkened windows and ornate fixtures, seems like it could fit right into the Magic Kingdom of the 1970’s when A – E ticket booklets were the tender required to experience the park’s incredible attractions. But, that’s not where this little gem can be found. Instead, this booth sits perched just outside of the Great Movie Ride.

The Great Movie Ride is housed within a replica of the Chinese Theater found in Hollywood, CA. And when I say replica, I mean it! The Imagineers decided to utilize actual details of the theater in their version, using archival records and photographs to build it exactly like the 1927 version of the famous movie house. Those plans included the ticket booth that resided in the Chinese Theater’s courtyard. While the ticket booklets had been phased out long before ground even broke on Disney-MGM Studios (known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios today), the project was not only true to the original structure but also gives a nod back to the earliest days of Walt Disney World.

29 March 2012

See it to believe it

The eyes of Magic Kingdom gazers have, for the most part, been focus squarely on the expansion of Fantasyland on the former sites of Mickey’s Toontown Fair and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea over the past couple of years. There have been grumblings and misgivings about what has been taking place along border of Fantasyland and Liberty Square, but those whispers have continually been swept under the rug and chalked up to the massive expansion of Fantasyland.

In case you haven’t heard ladies and gentlemen, the alpine lodge and clocktower, previously home to the Skyway, has finally come tumbling down. Is this news or noteworthy? Let’s find out.

Let’s step back over to the massive expansion of Fantasyland that is unfolding before all of our eyes. Granted, short of putting the entire land, either the expansion or current attractions, into a giant bubble that could be used to project background images upon, there are not a whole lot of options for covering up such a massive construction project. We accepted that the vista from Dumbo would have tournament tents and towering castle spires alongside mounds of dusty dirt and monstrous cranes. We accepted that there would be a few pieces of concept art left as our only window into one complete side of Fantasyland that was lined entirely by wooden walls. We accepted that the rat-tat-tatting of the jackhammers and booming thuds drowned out the well-crafted ambient background loop of music. We accepted all of this as common place and then allow the same indifference to be applied to the opposite side of the land that, in all honesty, had no tie to the work that has over taken the rest of Fantasyland.

The Fantasyland station of the Skyway, dormant for the better part of two decades, has finally reached the end of its run as the alpine anchor to the west side of the realm of Fantasy. I had fond memories of this space and felt it served a purpose and created a beautiful nook, even if it was vacant. Yet, that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the reason for its demolition. While I had hope for the station to be repurposed as a restaurant or some other suitable second opportunity, I am happy that the space is going to be put to good use. What I cannot understand is why on earth everything on this side of Fantasyland lays open and exposed, like a gory, festering wound.

If we apply the logic we have adopted from Fantasyland East, then great, this wall that is barely taller than I am serves as the perfect backdrop to hide the construction. Like the Great and Powerful Oz, we should pay no attention to the machinery, earthen mounds, and show buildings exposed just beyond our reach but not outside of our gaze. Sure, there is some sort of screen over the top of it that appears to be vegetation. The problem with that idea is that there is no longer any vegetation back there. But this isn’t the urban sprawl of expansion projects, it is a small corner that is being redeveloped as restrooms and a walkway, or so the reports are proclaiming.Stepping aside momentarily, we have apparently decided that cleverly concealing show buildings or access points is no longer a priority. Painting the backside of Everest brown or the backside of Dumbo’s new queue (the side that butts up against the Tomorrowland Speedway) green is not the same as labeling a door part of the Tommorrowland Light and Power facility for deliveries only. However, allowing the castle court façade to run out and leave the tail-end of it’s a small world hanging out is an even more egregious error.

Back to our regularly scheduled tirade, we learned just half a decade ago how masterfully a job could be done at encouraging imagination and masking intent with a simple wall. In fact, we have to go no further than just around the corner and into Liberty Square. When the Haunted Mansion was reworked in a number of ways, a brown wall appeared near its entrance. Slowly that brown wood took on the appearance of wooden wall and gate with brick pillars between the sections, complete with sculpted planters on top. Pinned to that gate was a letter from Master Gracey about the new spirits he was seeking out in the netherworld. It was a barrier meant to keep guests from seeing the realities of construction, but it was so much more to the eyes and minds that saw it. Even the photo realistic screens covering Main Street U.S.A., along with other lands, are better than a plain wall.

It does not take much to distract guests, and I include myself in this category. There are plenty of other sights, sounds and adventures to sink our teeth into, but that doesn’t mean the little things, like a true barrier, creatively designed to keep the machinery monsters away from the dreams of Never Never Land should be forgotten. The Skyway is dead, the least we could do is give this corner of Fantasyland some dignity while it is refurbished and treat guests to a bit more imagination.

28 March 2012

Vinywaji baridi

Tamu Tamu Refreshments in the Harambe district of Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a history of being a nice stopover for guest venturing into the land from Discovery Island or Asia or out of Africa to other ports of adventure. The singular knock against the outdoor quick service location, if there had to be one, has been that it hasn’t offered many daring menu components. Yet, the crumbling fort turned diner now offers a dish certain the tingle the tastebuds, the Slow-roasted Pulled Beef Sandwich.

The menu board in front of Tamu Tamu Refreshments bills the meal as such: Spicy Beef with a Mint Yogurt Cucumber Sauce on a Pita. For a side dish guests have a choice between apple slices or fresh chips.

The exterior of the sandwich, the pita, is soft and works well with the other elements of the sandwich. The pulled beef has a great stewed curry flavor, which means that it is fork tender, not that you need the fork, with a slow burning kick. The mint yogurt cucumber sauce is chock full of fresh goodies, including tomatoes, cucumbers, and diced mint. The use of yogurt as a cooling agent for fiery foods is a time tested formula. When done correctly yogurt trimmings add unique flavors, dampen the heat of the spices, and all while never overpowering or disregarding the main component. The Slow-roasted Pulled Beef Sandwich succeeds in mixing heat and cooling and fresh and flavor in simple fashion.

As for the sides, I opted for the fresh handmade chips that have increasingly been showing up on menus across Walt Disney World. While I would never believe that they had been cut and fried inside of Tamu Tamu Refreshments, they were warm and included a kick I had not gleaned in the chips elsewhere. My assumption, from the red flecks found on my chips, is that these chips were ramp up with a bit of cayenne and black pepper.

It was great to see something new crop up on the quick service side of Harambe. The Slow-roasted Pulled Beef Sandwich made this new discovery even better by being a homerun! For the adventurous eaters descending upon Disney’s Animal Kingdom, trust me when I say this is a dish you just have to try!

27 March 2012

The kids next door

Do you recognize the clean-cut bunch of teenagers? Even if you can’t name the group, I’m willing to bet the wardrobe and hairstyles are a dead giveaway for what era they hail from. In order to dispense with some of the mystery, this smiling group of 1970’s youths is collectively known as The Kids Next Door.

The pop ensemble was a part of the Young Americans and performed in Washington, D.C. as a part of the 1976 bicentennial celebration. On the Disney front, The Kids Next Door played everywhere in Walt Disney World, particularly in 1972 when they spent ten days in May performing at the Contemporary’s Top of the World and the summer months putting on five shows a night on the Tomorrowland Space Stage. The group’s dancing and crooning antics focused heavily upon popular songs of the day.

If you didn’t happen to catch the troupe during the early to mid-1970’s, then you still have a chance to see The Kids Next Door. Sort of. On October 29, 1971, NBC aired the ninety minute special entitled The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World. Hosted by Julie Andrews and Glen Campbell, with guests that included Bob Hope, Jonathan Winters, and Buddy Hackett, the special featured an assortment of musical numbers and acts all across the resorts and Magic Kingdom. One of this musical performances included The Kids Next Door. The special can still be seen on You Tube.

The next time you are walking through your resort or one of the parks and see an ensemble performing, remember the long and storied musical history of Walt Disney World that the current selection of performers are living up to. From Bob Jackson to The Kids Next Door, music has always been, and always will be, an intricate part of the Vacation Kingdom experience!

26 March 2012

Planting pointers

We’re in high festival time in Epcot, with the blooms of the International Flower and Garden Festival opening to guests. Knowing that guests will be spending a lot of time in Epcot, specifically around World Showcase, the Gazette Roundtable dives headlong into our favorite World Showcase dining options to offer up some suggestions.

Roundtable Topic: Which pavilion in World Showcase do you dine in most often and why?
Roundtable Contributors: Melissa Loflin (Makin’ Memories), AJ Wolfe (The Disney Food Blog), Suzannah DiMarzio (ZannaLand), Andy Jackson (Eating (and Drinking) around the World), and yours truly.
Melissa – Our new no meat diet has changed the way we eat around the World Showcase. We tend to find ourselves snacking around the countries instead of sitting down for a proper meal. One of my favorite places that is a "Must Do" each trip is tucked back in the streets of France, Boulangerie Patisserie. The cramped and fast paced atmosphere inside really makes you feel like you are somewhere in Paris; even though this is rumored to change soon. My favorite options as a non-meat eater include the cheese plate and any number of the delicious pastries that are lined up on display. Enjoying these snacks outside at bistro tables lining the streets and people watching makes the experience even more enjoyable. You will also find food kiosks much like you would imagine on the city streets in France. At the end of the evening enjoy Illuminations in France, and since you are in the country of love, grab some Champagne and a crepe and toast to a romantic night.

AJ – I'll have to answer this several different ways, I'm afraid!

I dine at Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion quite often, because it is a favorite of mine, everyone always wants to go there, and it's fun to keep an eye on what they're doing with the menu. And I dine in Italy at Via Napoli from time to time as well, because it's one of my husband's favorites, and we love trying new menu items there!

I always love heading over to Rose and Crown Pub AND/OR Restaurant for a bite to eat -- especially in the not-too-crowded early afternoon! I can't handle the cut-throat, all-out war for an Illuminations-view table in the evening; but stopping into the pub for a British Bulldog and an Imperial Sampler when they first start serving around noon is just about the most perfect way to spend an Epcot day.

But, honestly, the pavilion I find myself in most often has very little to do with "dining" and much more to do with drinking! I'm always up for a trip to La Cava del Tequila in the Mexico pavilion! I love the innovative margaritas there, and even though I live in Texas and have great queso a stone's throw in any direction, I have yet to find a dip I love more than La Cava's queso blanco con jalapeno. It's everything that's good about cheese...sitting right there next to a giant margarita and a pile of tortilla chips! Heavenly. Worth the price of admission just for that!

Suzannah – This is such a tough question. As a local, we frequently dine in the Parks, and World Showcase definitely has the best variety. About five years ago, my answer would've been Japan's Mitsukoshi Teppanyaki without a doubt. However since the refurb and renaming to Teppan Edo, we noticed a pronounced dip in the quality of food and, to a point, guest service. We used to be able to get upgrade to a filet for my oldest, at a charge of course, but that is now no longer possible. In addition, I recently took my husband to Tokyo Dining for the first time and was shocked to learn that I could not substitute *anything*. This was extremely disappointing as I love sushi, but not sashimi or nigiri, the raw fish variety. Rather than substitute a California Roll, I was just told a flat "no." To me, part of what makes World Showcase dining options so great is that you are able to cater to certain dining needs or issues, while still expanding your palate from burgers and chicken fingers. Our last visit to Japan will most likely be our last, which makes me quite sad.

Negatives out of the way, I have to say our family usually has a grand time at Les Chefs de France and Biergarten. It is our annual Mother's Day tradition to dine in France and we also frequently pop in for lunch. In fact, I was just there on Monday and think the quality is actually improved over my last visit. Similarly, Biergarten in Germany always has something for everyone to enjoy and is a wonderful respite from the heat of the day, while you enjoy a show too. These two countries get our "most dined at" award because quite frankly, they usually have walk-in space available, unless you are there on a ridiculously busy day.

Another new favorite is La Hacienda de San Angel. I've been a fan since it opened and I could just sit in there all day soaking up the ambiance of this beautiful gem on the World Showcase lagoon. If you time it right to Illuminations with a window seat - heaven! I wish we could dine there more often but it is simply so popular, it's been hard to get a reservation recently. Honorable mentions are Rose and Crown, where we always have a wonderful experience, and of course, Le Cellier, which, if you can get in, is still my favorite place for a steak!

Andy – Pretty much anyone that knows me knows that World Showcase is my Happy Place – Epcot is by far my favorite park, and even if the circle of countries around the lagoon were a park unto itself, it would still be my favorite…

So needless to say, I’ve done lots of eating around the pavilions in Epcot…

Now if you, like me, consider tequila one of the major food groups, Mexico would have to be the pavilion I dine in most often…

But if you’re going to insist on the usual food groups be included, Japan tops my list of most frequent dining around the World Showcase.

Teppan Edo is fun if you have a group (even if the food itself is very average), Tokyo Dining is reliable, if not spectacular (be sure to try the sweet potato sushi!), but where I dine most often is the quick-service eatery: Katsura Grill (formerly Yakatori House).

Homey (in an Eastern-way, of course), filling, flavorful dishes are on the menu (and the revamp added several new, and interesting items, to the usual Teriyaki and Udon dishes – even though I still wish they would bring back the Sukiyaki Beef!). On top of that is the atmosphere, especially in the outside seating area.

It’s nothing overly fancy, but the large rocks and water features surround a semi-secluded area with Japanese lanterns crowning all – visit at night and you’ll soon find yourself in another world. Sitting back in the corner, you can almost forget you’re in the middle of a huge theme park – slurp on a bowl of warming Udon, sip on a Kirin, and you can almost believe you’re in a small diner in Japan…

Afterwards you can wander down the hillside to the new Garden House for some specialty sake drinks and then take a gander at the goods in the seemingly endless Mitsukoshi Department Store.

I’ve even been known to come over for just an afternoon, have a bite in Japan, wander a bit, and make my way back to the west coast of Florida…

Japan is relaxing, full of options (did I mention the sake bar inside the store or the Kabuki Café out on the promenade?), and my favorite country, and dining location, in Epcot – even if I do have to stop at La Cava for a Margarita (or at Promenade Refreshments for a Stella) on the way there…

Ryan – World Showcase offers options for every palate, including classic American favorites and progressing all the way along the food spectrum up to exotic options. While there is nothing I won’t try, there are definitely haunts I tend to visit upon more often than not. With all the options, I tend to head to certain World Showcase dining destinations for specific meal components.

In the beverage department, there is no stop finer than the plethora of margaritas available at La Cava del Tequila. My personal favorite is something light and refreshing, such as the Cucumber Margarita. Although, I am the first to admit that any of the offerings will be certain to hit the spot, especially when paired with some of the watering holes fine accompaniments.

For a meal, I prefer something a bit more out of the ordinary. I tend to focus my meals around the savory selections of options available in both the Japan and Morocco pavilions. Though if pressed for a singular entrée, it’d have to be the Shawarma Platters from Tangierine Cafe in Morocco. Between the succulent meats, lamb or chicken, and the sides, which salad, bread, tabouleh, and hummus, this makes for a great meal.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, dessert. When I think about desserts in World Showcase, there is only one place I can think of, Boulangerie Patisserie in France. The wide variety of pastries, along with a couple of heartier options, is enough to satisfy any sweet tooth! If you want my recommendation, I would never turn away from a slice of the Raspberry Schuss.

There you have it, some of Walt Disney World’s expert foodies have weighed in with their favorites from World Showcase. Now, it’s your turn. Let us know where you love to dine in World Showcase and what items really cause your stomach to roar! While you’re at it, send us a photograph of your favorite foods alongside some of the spectacular flowers!

25 March 2012

Disney This Week - 25 March 2012

Suzannah DiMarzio gives Zannaland readers a video tour of the new Royal Guest Rooms.

Makin Memories takes a trip over to Saratoga Springs where Melissa Loflin explores the waters of High Rock Spring.

In the wake of the returning Citrus Swirl, C Jeremy Morrison reminds us of another extinct snack at Spins the World, Figaro Fries.

My favorite part of any meal, dessert, is being refurbished at Sanaa, look to AJ Wolfe and The Disney Food Blog to have us covered!

Fritz at Imagineering Disney provides a wonderful photo safari of the Orange Bird.

Speaking of the Orange Bird, Richard Terpstra has come up with two shirt designs that I must have. Head on over to DesignerLand to see the Orange Bird and Citrus Swirl along with the Electrical Water Pageant.

The memories we share and the desire to get back to a park are explored by Matt Hochberg over at Studios Central.

Falafel in a burger, in Walt Disney World? Sarah Holodick and Eating WDW has all the details.

Melissa Sue provides an entrée breakdown between similar meal items and the potential savings between a sit down restaurant and a quick service location at The Affordable Mouse.

There can never be enough said about the potential of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as Adam and Andrew showcase at the Disney Hipster Blog when they discuss some reasons to love Discovery Island.

Michael Crawford takes us to the top, Broadway at the Top that is! Catch the show in its 1982 incarnation at Progress City, U.S.A.

23 March 2012

Reckless rocketeer

The details that fill the new area known as Storybook Circus are plentiful, and the hits are sure to keep on coming as the sub-land and Fantasyland expansion continue to unfold. Of course, this means that there is no time like the present to explore one of the many nods that pepper the landscape. First up, the Great Goofini’s rocket, Dolores.

The poster promoting this dazzling aerial feat gives a name to the stunt, Reckless Rocketeer, and feature Goofini, chaps and all, holding on for dear life as his saddle saddled projectile zooms across the circus landscape. For time and space’s sake, I’ll assume we all understand the Rocketeer reference presented here. The rocket itself can be seen just a short distance away, bent, banged, and contorted from its earthly collision. What really intrigues me, however, is the name of the rocket.

To my mind, this is an apparent acknowledgement of the circus staple, Dolores. Featured in three shorts between 1945 and 1953, Dolores was a playful elephant that played opposite Chip, Dale, Donald and, most often, Goofy. The 1945 feature, Tiger Trouble, saw Dolores and Goofy, with Goofy riding atop her in a howdah, in search of a tiger. In typical Goofy fashion, clumsy antics ensued. She was again spotted, stateside in a circus this time, in the 1945 short, The Big Wash. In this cartoon, Goofy is the caretaker of Dolores, who wakes him up for her breakfast and tries every trick in the book to avoid her bath. When her trunk fills with suds, Dolores soap sneezes send her and Goofy rocketing off the screen left, right, up, and down. Her final appearance was in 1953’s Working for Peanuts, where she teams up with Donald in order to rid a zoo of the pesky chipmunks, Chip and Dale.

While a grey rocket misfiring across the grounds of a circus may not seem to have a lot to do with this playful pachyderm, Dolores two distinct adventures with Goofy offer up a lot of fodder. From rocketing around a circus to Goofy perched atop Dolores’ back, it is good to see some of the smaller, if not in size than at least in number of featured cartoons anyway, characters are still getting attention in the parks.

22 March 2012

The computer makes life easier

Reports have been filing in that guests now have access to complimentary Wi-Fi in a variety of resort areas. All resorts were included in the upgrade, which allows guests to access the Wi-Fi network in lobbies, bus stops, pools, arcades, and convention spaces (for convention resorts), but perhaps the most exciting option is the ability for guests to use the Wi-Fi network in their resort hotel rooms. It seem that the only place guests are not able to access the Wi-Fi network is at the campsites of Fort Wilderness, although hardwire access is still available at those sites.

It took a bit longer than it should have for Walt Disney World to open up these connections to guests. It isn’t that there weren’t wireless networks before; after all, they have been used for operations throughout the parks and resorts for quite some time now. No, I firmly believe that one of the driving forces behind keeping lined connections, and charging for them, over the past several years was an effort to keep guests from spending too much time in their rooms. Walt Disney World would much prefer that guests spend time and money in the parks, restaurants, and shopping districts on property than checking email, auctions, and entertainment news.

As time has passed, however, we as a culture have not only cut the cords to our computers, but also to all of the other technological devices that we employ regularly. Wireless connectivity has become a part of our daily lives, and a part of the experiences of Walt Disney World. We review current wait times for attractions, map out the weather for the day, and even send pictures back to far off friends from world famous park vistas all without ever putting our smartphones down. This is no surprise to anyone, and Walt Disney World has slowly but surely waded into the individualized tools that we know and love.

From Pal Mickey to Kim Possible, there have been a variety of ways interactive and wireless technologies that the parks and resorts have found to enhance guest encounters. The introduction of a wireless network lends credence to the idea that a way of linking vacation needs, Fastpasses, ADRs, even room key information, to a single device or apparatus. While specifics of this idea, commonly referred to as the xPASS, have not been released (nor has the idea even been publically recognized), it is believe that it will tied into a cellular application or chip enhanced token, such as a bracelet, charm, pin, or badge. With a widespread wireless network accessible to guest is an enhancement to the resorts that has been a long time going, it is also a fantastic way to test the durability of such a network.

At the end of the day, and no matter what is coming down the line, it is nice to see Walt Disney World fully embracing the early era of the 21st century that has touted for so long.

21 March 2012

Fresh Florida Strawberry

Plant City, Florida, about 45 minutes down the road from Walt Disney World has been known as the winter strawberry capital of the world for well over one hundred years. Each February and early March this status is reintroduced to the outside world via the Florida Strawberry Festival. It seems this local favorite has finally stretched out across the state over to Walt Disney World with the introduction of a limited treat in Epcot, the Fresh Florida Strawberry Ice Cream Sundae.

Found inside the Edy’s sponsored Fountain View ice cream parlor, the sundae is not listed on the main marquee, but in a small plaque next to the registers. The frosty snack features fresh cut strawberries, strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. In the midst of the International Flower and Garden Festival this parade of pink, white, and red is the perfect accompaniment.

It takes a while to dig through the whipped cream, but once you do you are rewarded with the rich, creamy flavors of Edy’s strawberry ice cream. Next comes a layer of berries, more ice cream, and a few more berries tucked away at the bottom of the glass. If I have one complaint with the sundae it is that the top tier of ice cream is so large that it is next to impossible to pair it with the strawberries beneath for most of the frozen feast.

It is great to see a local delicacy being featured so prominently during its harvest season. With such a warm winter taking place in Florida this year, there have been a bumper crop of berries in the state, and I can think of no better way to cool off than with the Fresh Florida Strawberry Ice Cream Sundae.

20 March 2012

Castle in the sky

October 8, 1991
BOUND FOR DETROIT -- “Castle in the Sky,” a huge, 145-foot-high hot-air balloon in the likeness of the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom landmark, Cinderella Castle, will take to the skies above Detroit on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11. The balloon will lift off from Southfield Recreation Center at 7:30 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. each day, weather permitting.

19 March 2012

El rio del tiempo

If I were to ask you what the Genie, Rhapsody in Blue, Philoctetes and How to Hook Up Your Home Theater had in common, I’m willing to bet a few of you would know exactly who I am talking about. For the rest of you, whom I was amongst just a few years ago, all of these characters and short animated features are part of the body of work from animator and director Eric Goldberg.

While his body of work has gone well beyond the scope of Disney, if I ran through a list of his animation projects (from commercials to attractions and feature films), we’d be here all day. It should suffice to know that he is responsible for many, many images that have permeated our pop culture for the last several decades. I had the amazing pleasure to be able to see Goldberg, along with his wife Susan, speak here in Asheville last March. It is worth noting that she is just as integral to our perception of pop culture as Eric is.

The evening was incredible and featured many observations that young animators, whom were the target of the lecture, could cling to and merge into their own character, that’s personality not products of their art form. The stories and history, however, would have made any Disney enthusiast starry-eyed.

However, we’re here to talk about Walt Disney World, right? As it turns out you can see some of Eric’s work each and every visit to Epcot, provided you take a tour through Mexico. Eric was one of the animators tapped to give fresh life to The Three Caballeros. Now, it is easy to bemoan the character conquest in Epcot, and I did love El Rio del Tiempo, but I’m willing to see the benefit here. Towards the end of its run El Rio del Tiempo did not hold the same crowds as it had once upon a time.The real draw to me though is the Caballeros themselves. Yes, they are animated characters, but they are characters featured in a charming films based upon Walt Disney’s cross-culture voyage to south of the border North America and South America. Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros were, for many decades, only fawned over by a select contingent of animation aficionados. The inclusion of these characters, and the rerelease of these films, have given a new life to Panchito and Jose Carioca, as well as Pablo the Penguin, the Aracuan Bird, Pedro the airplane, and a host of other lesser known characters. And Goldberg had a hand in crafting several of the scenes in Grand Fiesta Tour which revitalized these stories and characters.

After hours of stories and clips last March, which could have been triple the amount of time and I would have sat and listened with a grin on my face, the Goldbergs’ session ended. The pair graciously agreed to stay after and speak with the audience one on one. While I understand that they were here for a week in different classes at UNCA (University of North Carolina at Asheville) and students would have more time to ask questions, to my shock and awe almost everyone left immediately. My wife took a few moments to take Susan for her stories and what her work meant to her, while I did the same with Eric. As luck would have it, he was also doing sketches for those who came. Many asked for his most notable creation, the Genie or some other famous character. I said I didn’t need a drawing, just listening had been treasure enough for me, but he asked what I would like. Because it is so dear to my heart, I asked for anything from Rhapsody in Blue and was rewarded with a gorgeous work of art of the drummer (whom is my favorite character from the short, but I didn’t dare go so far as to ask for this character).

The next time you’re passing down the rivers in the Mexico Pavilion, watching Hercules, Aladdin, Fantasia 2000, Pocahontas, Winnie the Pooh, The Princess and the Frog or any number of Disney animated works, be sure to pay a little respect to the wonderful worlds the Goldbergs have created for us. Oh, and even if they aren’t part of the film’s crew, take a moment to ponder all the work and amazing individuals who created these incredible films and attractions. How much have they contributed to who you are?

16 March 2012

Grand slam

Spring Training is well underway for Major League Baseball so is there a better time to explore the source of this Goofy player?This Goofy, decked out in his Blue Sox uniform, can be found at the Grand Slam Pool of the All-Star Sports Resort. While the canon wasn’t from the short, this is clearly Goofy from the 1942 cartoon How To Play Baseball. In this short, the first of the Goofy ‘How To’ series, Goofy is seen playing the roles of players on both teams and umpire. Although two tutorial cartoons, The Art of Skiing and The Art of Self Defense, had been released the year prior to How to Play Baseball, they didn’t specifically fall under the ‘How To’ banner of shorts that from 1942 through 2007’s How To Hook Up Your Home Theater.

In How To Play Baseball, the basics of equipment and positions are covered in the setting of a World Series between the Blue Sox and the Gray Sox. A three run lead for the Blue Sox is erased in the bottom of the ninth on a single play which ends in a play at the plate which is too close to call. Obviously, the cartoon ends with a bench clearing brawl!

15 March 2012

The fun-filled world

Before we get going today, I want to let everyone know that the Photo Safaris are going to be going on hiatus here on the Main Street Gazette’s main page. We’ll still be putting together thematic albums on our Facebook page and short daily tours in our Twitter feed. So, what can you expect to find on the front page of your Gazette starting next Thursday? A second perspective article!

Monday’s Perspective commentary has always been my thoughts on what should be happening or things that deserve recognition in Walt Disney Word. This second editorial will be utilized as a tool for discussing a piece of news or highly topical subject each and every week. The Gazette has never been a news site for Walt Disney World, there are too many others who are too good at that for me to throw my hat in, but I hope this new venture will offer you new insights into the world of Walt Disney World.

Now, since this is our like regularly scheduled Photo Safari, I want to go out with something important. The attraction posters that line the tunnels of the Main Street, U.S.A. are the first glimpse into the adventures guests are about to experience. These posters have been in the Magic Kingdom since it opened in 1971, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact similar, sometimes eerily so, posters in Disneyland predate their Walt Disney World counterparts.

If the Magic Kingdom is one adventure, one movie feature, then the entranceways of the Walt Disney World Railroad station are the lobby. In which case, these posters are, in fact, the coming attractions. When you visit the Magic Kingdom, which poster really gets your blood pumping?

14 March 2012

Everything changes and nothing changes

St. Patrick’s Day 2012 will be upon us in just a few short days, which means that all eyes in Walt Disney World are upon Raglan Road. But what about the quick service location attached to the side of the restaurant, better known as Cookes of Dublin? Well, if we’re looking to celebrate without attending a big party, Cookes of Dublin certainly has the pies!The meal of choice was the Chicken and Field Mushroom Pie which comes with a side of chips, aka French fries. All of the pies at Cookes of Dublin are made from scratch each day. The freshness with which everything is prepared here means that there is going to be a stretch of time between when you place your order and when your food is ready. In other words, it may not be as fast as a typical quick service counter, but you are also not going to wait as long as you would at a traditional sit down restaurant either.How is the pie? The top crust is light and flakey, while the crust that wraps around the pie is soaked with the pie’s gravy, making it chewy and buttery. The filling is large chunks of white meat chicken mixed. Also at the pie party are large segments mushrooms, leeks, and potatoes. The creamy sauce makes sure that all the flavors are equally distributed across the tastebuds. The pie is earthy and hearty and right in my comfort zone.

If you are looking for something a bit different this St. Patrick’s Day, or maybe just something to sop up some of that Guinness in your belly, you would do well to heed my advice and pick up a Chicken and Field Mushroom Pie from Cookes of Dublin. Oh, and if you’re wondering about the title of this article, it comes from John A. Cooke himself.

13 March 2012

Protecting the nice from the naughty

When the animated feature Lilo and Stitch was released in 2002, many of the trailers featured Stitch crashing trailers and famous scenes from other Disney films. We should have known that it wouldn’t have ended in the realms of cartoons!The video and DVD of Lilo and Stitch, that’s right, I said video, hit stores on December 3, 2002, just in time for the holiday gift giving season. As part of the promotion of the home theater release a gigantic Stitch, complete with Santa hat, found a copy of the film for himself right in front of Disney-MGM Studios. I apologize, by the way, for that goofball sitting on the fence/bench in front of the inflated Stitch. I’m not sure who he is, or what he thinks he’s doing.Oh, wait, here he is again. Stitch… and that goofy kid. In front of the gates wasn’t the only place that Stitch could be found in Disney-MGM Studios in 2002. Back along New York Street, Stitch could be found scurrying around atop the Empire State Building section of the street’s backdrop. Of course, if these proportions were correct Stitch would in fact be closer in size to King Kong than a pet dog.

In the end, Stitch would leave Disney-MGM Studios and start escaping into the Magic Kingdom in 2004. Still, for a brief, chaotic period Stitch ran amok in Disney-MGM Studios and showed us how to let out our wild side!

12 March 2012

Topiaries are all around

Since the 2012 edition of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival started this week, I thought I would go ahead and give you my first thoughts of this year’s festival. For starters, I should tell you that I ventured through the various grounds yesterday during intermittent rain showers, so I don’t really have photographs to show off.The past couple of years the main topiaries of the festival have tied into upcoming or recent animated releases, with the remaining figures being filled out by figures that seem almost identical to previous incarnations. This year there are plenty of favorites, such as Peter Pan and Captain Hook, the princesses, and Mickey and the gang, but there are also some new figures as well as some figures that have been removed. The same can be said for staple exhibits of the festival where the butterfly garden, playgrounds, sand sculpture, and speaker series are all still thriving.So, what has changed? Well, Aladdin is no longer in Morocco, instead a collection of ball topiaries dedicated to the renowned and well utilized spices of Morocco. The bonsai are still present in Japan, but the staging of them throughout the pavilion seems familiar, but the placement of each plant appears to allow them much more space. This means that each carefully cultivated bonsai is given its own vista and requires dedication on the part of guests to really see each one. There also seems like a movement towards topiaries of real creatures in the place of animated creations. That doesn’t mean there is an overwhelming number of animal topiaries, but they are definitely more present than I have seen in the past several years. The only thing that would make this feel more like early Walt Disney World was if he topiaries were primarily comprised of shrubs as opposed to sphagnum.From the festival poster, designed by Randy Noble, to the selection and placement of plants, gardens, and lectures, every corner of this festival feels fresh and new. The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is, far and away, my favorite annual event in Epcot, quite possibly in Walt Disney World. Yet, even I’ve felt it was beginning to become complacent and redundant. This year, guests will see plenty of returning favorites and some fresh buds and blooms to make this spring something exciting to behold!

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is running now through May 20, 2012 throughout Future World and World Showcase.

09 March 2012

An East wind was blowing

Even if you can’t read the title of this opened book, it’s easy to see that this scene was set for the nanny who is practically perfect in every way, Mary Poppins. Located in the room furthest back in the United Kingdom pavilion of World Showcase, also known as The Toy Soldier shop, this set up is designed as a meet and greet area. Obviously, Mary Poppins can usually be seen in her Jolly Holiday scene dress behind the cottage shop called The Tea Caddy, but it is nice to see that there is somewhere else for her to call home.

Since Mary Poppins started out as a book in 1934, it is only fitting that the opening scene of the film, which features Katie Nana, is written out here in this location. The other pieces, the lamp and carpetbag, are the belongings of Mary Poppins. The seemingly bottomless carpetbag is highlighted during the film when Mary sets up her room, with song of course, under the watchful eyes of Jane and Michael.

08 March 2012

Now appearing in our lobby

The Muppets have an amazing film that is coming to home theaters everywhere on March 20th and recently won an Academy Award for their song Man or Muppet. What is touched upon early on in the film are the careers, or lack thereof, that the Muppets have had when not in the public limelight.

Similar career choices can be gleaned from the posters positioned along the exit ramp of MuppetVision 3D in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. From formalwear to Fozzie Bear and the musicals-stylings of Rowlf and the Electric Mayhem, each poster his filled with rib tickling one liners and witty wordplay. Don’t believe me? Wakka Wakka this way for yourself and take a look!

07 March 2012

Veggie veggie fruit fruit - Bunny Chow

Once again, my wife has come to the Gazette, empty plate in her hands, to give us the lowdown on another vegetarian dish. While this entry may sound anything but vegetarian, I promise you this review is on the up and up.

Hello Main Street Gazette readers! Today I am back with a truly amazing vegetarian entrée. I know many of you have been to Animal Kingdom Lodge and have likely also been to the award winning Jiko, but have any of you taken the time to try the vegetarian options they have on the menu? Today, we are going to explore the uniquely named Bunny Chow!

In reality, this menu item is actually called "Bunny Chow" and "Falafel" Durban Curry Vegetables, but ordering something with the name Bunny Chow greatly amused my dining companions and intrigued me enough to ignore all of the other amazing items on the menu. As you can see from the photo, this dish was separated into two parts, the Bunny Chow and the Falafel, making for an amazing sampling of African and Indian inspired flavors.So, what is Bunny Chow? Well, according to Wikipedia, “it is is a South African fast food dish consisting of a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry, that originated in the Durban Indian community. Bunny chow is also called a kota in many parts of South Africa.” It apparently originated in the 1940s and is commonly served with a grated carrot, chili and onion salad. This portion of the entrée used Naan bread for the hollowed out loaf and was filled with a spicy mix of curried vegetables. I would compare this to an empanada in texture and flavor. It was quite crispy on the outside with softened bread and vegetables on the inside. Underneath the bunny chow, was the traditional carrot, chili and onion salad that was crisp and perfectly cooked. The one thing that surprised me about this side of the plate was the mixture of spicy and sweet. Having both the harissa mustard and mango ketchup gave a blending of flavors that I was extremely happy with.

Now, let’s move on to the falafel. This was a different version of a falafel than you can get at the Morocco Pavilion in Epcot or at any Mediterranean restaurant in your home town. This was, as the specific description on the menu says, “a chickpea-lentil cake,” or actually 2 chickpea-lentil cakes over wilted greens with cilantro yogurt and peppadew-olive tapenade. The cakes themselves were not deep fried, like most falafels, but were instead pan fried, leaving a crispy top and bottom but softness around the edges. Also, these cakes had a course texture due to the mix of lentils, chickpeas and other vegetables, which included carrots and onions. Because of the course texture of the cakes, the wilted greens were a great accompaniment. This portion of the plate was also a little spicy due to the peppadew-olive tapenade, so the cilantro yogurt was wonderfully cooling to the palate.

Overall, this was an amazing dish. I was blown away by the combination of flavors and textures. Often when you order a vegetarian entree, it ends up being some form of pasta or vegetable plate, but at Jiko, the chef truly took the time to lend both tradition and creativity to the dish and I encourage everyone to try it.

06 March 2012

A world we've yet to see


Talk about a world of opportunity! If a photo like this surfaced of a new park coming to Walt Disney World today, with no real knowledge of the attractions that would fill a park, not to mention a basic theme from which all the experiences would spawn out of, it is very possible that the internet would shatter into thousands of irreparable shards.

Take a moment, think about it. If you saw a stretch of land like this, which was announced to be a part of a new park/resort/entertainment area/etc., what kind of dreams would you like to fill it with?

05 March 2012

A little matter I forgot to mention

If you’ve been reading the Main Street Gazette for any amount of time, you know I have a pretty positive outlook on things all around Walt Disney World. Sure, there is the occasional menu item I’m not a huge fan of, but generally I try to bring reason to the discussion about why Disney has done something or offer my ideas as to how make Walt Disney World even better. It is rare that I have something negative to say, and I hope today doesn’t come across as negative as much as concerned and being true to my own opinions.

If there is only one corner of the Magic Kingdom that has received the majority of attention over the past couple of years, and by attention I mean refurbishing and plussing, it would have to be the Haunted Mansion. From the revitalization of the attic scene with the infusion of the bride, Constance, and her tale, to the remodeling of the graveyard, new portrait hallway and stairways there has been a lot of change to this stately, deserted manor. One of the most recent changes came in the scene with the hitchhiking ghosts. The once static figures that found their way into your doombuggy were upgraded with the ability to interact with guests.The ghosts can now swap guests’ heads with one another, use a lantern to make the heads disappear, and a handful of other gags. Each time I have ventured on to the attraction since the latest addition, I have heard the giggles and hearty laughs at the antics of the Ezra, Phineas, and Gus. I’ll admit, I’ve laughed at them too, and I consider the imaging effects of my head much better than the butchering I take on Spaceship Earth, but ever since that first visit something has been itching in the back of my brain, and I finally think I’ve figured out what it is. The interactive element of the Haunted Mansion’s hitchhiking ghosts has inverted the party that gets to interact.

Let me explain. In the original format of the hitchhiking ghosts guests found a ghoulish figure has plopped itself into their doombuggy. For the remainder of that scene guests would scoot around on their seat in order to give the ghost some room, attempt to take the place of the ghost, or try to hug the ghost that has appeared. In the current version, guests remain static while the activity of playing with the ghost falls solely onto the shoulders of whichever spirit happens upon their ride vehicle. Sure, Ezra, Phineas, and Gus are more animated in their movements than they had been in the past, but I really feel the heart of this experience was always in how you, as guests, interacted with the ghosts, not the other way around.

I am all for integrating new technology into attractions and constructing new attractions based on the latest and greatest tools of interactivity. However, sometimes the simplest way to tell a story is, indeed, the best. I don’t foresee the Magic Kingdom reverted back to the original form of the hitchhiking ghosts based off of my, or any other person’s, opinion. In fact, I believe we have seen the end of the old finale once and for all. What I can hope is that my small voice is read somewhere, lingers in the back of someone’s mind, and the next time a simple story mechanic is considered for revision, the individual weighs the story as it is and what it could be before jumping in with both feet. Really, isn’t that all anyone can ask?

04 March 2012

Disney This Week - 4 March 2012

The Disney This Week segment is going to be on hiatus until March 25, 2012 due to travel and work constraints. Regular articles will run as scheduled during the remainder of the week until then.

If you are in need of some fantastic article round-ups, we highly recommend the following in the interim:

ImaginerdingGeek-End Update

The Disney Food Blog Disney Food Post Round-Up

Makin’ MemoriesWhere in the World

Eating WDWMouse Bites

Mouse on the MindWeekly Roundup

02 March 2012

Load in new show

There are signs relating to classic Disney animation all throughout the parks in Walt Disney World. Without a doubt the majority of these tales are remembered through their attractions, but we’re talking little details here: Ichabod’s music lessons, Lucifer hanging around the wishing well, the Maroon Studios billboard, and too many others to name. One of the most recent additions to the Magic Kingdom, Mickey’s Town Square Theatre, features many nods to films of feature animation past. One such piece is this schedule board for the performances held at the hall.The first week is rounded out with the final performance of “Dance of the Hours,” the shipment of the creatures tied to the show, and the replacement of the stage due to. Perhaps naively, the unforeseen damage achieved by dancing hippos. Dance of the Hours is the sixth segment from the 1940 film, Fantasia, and the ballet written by Amilcare Ponchielli. The animated version from Fantasia includes the aforementioned dancing hippos as well as alligators, elephants, and ostriches that join in the ballet festivities.

Following the Dance of the Hours is “Three Little Pigs.” The remainder of the week is filled with dressing room set-ups (straw, sticks, and bricks), rehearsal of Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, performances, and a picnic lunch (reminder of no ham on the menu). The Three Little Pigs was a 1933 Silly Symphony which went on to win the 1934 Academy Award for Best Short Subject – Cartoon. Not only was the song, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, prominently featured in this short, it was the perfect showcase for the musical pigs who played the flute, piano, and flute.

Obviously, if this theater is supposed to live in turn of the century Main Street, U.S.A. we have to disregard the years in which the general public actually learned about these fantastic characters. Of course, one solution is that in the world of all things Disney these characters performed on stage before they moved on to animated features later in their careers. Hey, anything is possible if you believe in magic, right?

01 March 2012

Simplification of lines

Remember that whole ‘look up, look down, look all around’ mantra I spout off about regularly? I know it sounds like a movement activity for preschoolers, but that doesn’t mean and cannot bring with it valuable awards. Such is the case of walking through the Grand Floridian.

Ornate tile murals are common in Walt Disney World, you have to look no further than the Contemporary’s Grand Canyon Concourse or the breezeway of Cinderella Castle to see examples of this beautiful art form, but the tile mosaics don’t often play host to foot traffic. At the Grand Floridian, both on the lobby level and the monorail level, characters are gracefully entwined with the intricate floral patterns present along the walkways. Everyone from Mickey and Minnie to Chip, Cinderella, and even Tinker Bell drop by to leave their own marks on these beautiful tiles.