31 December 2013

2013 Best in World of Yesterday - Traditional Evening Campfire

Not much to say about this article. I have always been an enthusiastic supporter of Fort Wilderness, and this 1970s postcard booklet gave me another reason to talk about my childhood home away from home. I simply love the place, past and present, and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

I’ve said this before, but back when film was the only way to capture memories at Walt Disney World, I would be very selective in what I chose to photograph with my little 110 camera. To supplement my pictures I would buy up whole handfuls of postcards on each and every trip. Not to send to anyone in particular, though I would occasionally scribble a note to myself on the back before I put them away in their box at home, just to have the memories to hold on to.

Early on, Walt Disney World saw that postcards weren’t just for sending to family and friends about your adventures, they were a way to remember your trip as well. Thus was born the postcard booklets. Booklets, such as the 8-postcard version from Fort Wilderness that we’re looking at today, included perforated postcards that you could tear out and send to whomever you wished. However, the tab the postcards came off of also included a copy of the picture and a section for ‘REMARKS’ so you had something to hold onto for yourself. The only postcard that didn’t have a reproduction inside was the postcard on the cover, whose tab identified what the booklet’s subject matter was.

The postcards included in the booklets would change over the years, but at their heart they were a visual almanac to what a specific place and time in Walt Disney World had to offer. Let’s go ahead and venture back to 1973 and see what Fort Wilderness had to offer!

Goofy helps water a thirsty locomotive at the Ft. Wilderness water tank. The Ft. Wilderness trains, like the ones used in the Theme Park, are powered by authentic steam locomotives.

As the narrow guage steam train passes in the background, two Ft. Wilderness campers enjoy one of the more popular sports in the Vacation Kingdom Campground. With many miles of trails and bridle paths horseback riding is an excellent way to see the beautiful Ft. Wilderness area.

Fort Wilderness campers enjoy total camping comfort and convenience. Recreation includes canoeing, fishing and horseback trail riding.

A convenient store-on-wheels lets Ft. Wilderness guests purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and other food items right at their campsite. Ft. Wilderness offers over 700 campsites with more planned for the future.

In the heart of Walt Disney World, at Fort Wilderness, vacationing guests relax in wooded campsites and take part in a wide variety of outdoor recreation.

Here, Fort Wilderness campers can select from hundreds of outdoor items. Of course, there’s always time for a game of checkers, too!

Campfire time at Disney World’s Fort Wilderness is a perfect end to a fun-filled day in the Magic Kingdom. Held every day at dusk, the traditional evening campfire features songs, games and special surprise entertainment.

Located within Fort Wilderness, the Tri-Circle-D Ranch features horseback trail riding, a pony ride and a petting zoo for the children.

30 December 2013

2013 Best in Perspective - The Journey Begins

I started the Main Street Gazette when I felt I had a lot to say about Walt Disney World, a younger man with more opinions than common sense perhaps. As time went by the natural educator in me was always looking for a way to give the occasional guest a better park going experience. In that vein, I always love when I am able to recommend a good book, or two or three, to give readers the tools they need to succeed. With Disney's Animal Kingdom turning fifteen this past spring, I was certainly not letting the chance pass to recommend some of my favorite wild reads!

We’re going to be focusing a lot of Disney’s Animal Kingdom this month. Not only is the park celebrating its fifteenth anniversary later this month, but the park itself is at a major turning point with massive changes coming to the park in the next few years. Everything makes this the perfect time to stop, take a look back, and look around at the state of the park as it currently stands. Today, however, is a get to know Disney’s Animal Kingdom piece. What better way to find out more about the park than to dig into the library of books dedicated to the youngest of the Vacation Kingdom’s theme parks, and pick out a few choice pieces to help you enhance your own Disney book collection?

For anyone just starting out their Walt Disney World education I always recommend the Imagineering Field Guides. The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is penned by Alex Wright and weighs in at slim 128 pages. The pocket-sized pages, albeit taller than the average pants pocket, make this volume easy to take into the park so you can learn as you go. A mix of history and detail gazing, the guide is the perfect blend of basic information with break out sections that give a look at some of the more intricate details and historical facts of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It is also the one volume on this list that is still readily available.

For those interested in continuing on to the advance level of park history, The Making of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park by Melody Malmberg is required reading. The 160 page, hardbound book would seem like a coffee table book from the outside, but is really more of a historical text. From the idea of an animal park to the creation of an advisory board, from exploratory safaris straight through to construction, and into what would come next after Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened, this work leave no stone unturned. The documentation in written form is reason enough to pick up this behind the scenes volume, add to that copious amounts of concept art and photography, and you have a solid base from which to begin any true study of the fourth gate.

Perhaps your interest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom doesn’t reside in architecture, Imagineering, art forms, or cultural identities. It is incredibly likely that you really want to know more about the actual inhabitants of the park. You’re in luck; the Field Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is right up your alley. The slender, tall, 152 page guidebook is not to be confused with the Imagineering book it shares so many traits with. The focus of this text is to provide visual and zoological information about the animals and vegetation that reside in every corner of the park.

The shortest, yet most advanced, text we’re including here is Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain – The Journey Begins. Topping out at a whopping 24 pages and penned by Joe Rohde and other Imagineers. The text takes you through the development of the last big expansion to come to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and along through a journal type entry of what it is like to move through the Expedition Everest attraction. Like The Making of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, this text provides a ton of concept and research information, but with the added blessing of size, as the entire volume is dedicated to a single attraction.

Some of these may take a little time to track down, but they are all excellent editions to add to your home library if you are at all interested in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you aren’t particularly intrigued by the park, pick up one or two of these texts, you may be surprised by just what the Disney’s Animal Kingdom has to offer.

26 December 2013

2013 Best in The WDW Record - Wall-To-Wall Creeps

This is, perhaps, one of my favorite articles top to bottom from the past year. Not only does it showcase the fact that I don't know everything when it comes to Walt Disney World, and includes a little seen detail from a beloved attraction, but more importantly it highlighted what a remarkable community the circle of Disney enthusiasts actually are. Scroll all the way through Wall-To-Wall Creep to get to the update and see how we solved a long held personal mystery!

I am a stickler for not using flash photography for on ride photos. Sure, with the camera I have, that usually means the pictures I take aren’t as crisp and clean as I would like, but it is all about maintaining the integrity of the attraction, its special effects secrets, and the enjoyment for all the guests. Once or twice I have broken my own rule, such as when I took this photograph a few years back inside the Haunted Mansion. Of course, on that trip, I was literally the only person in my stretching portrait gallery and no one was in line when I got to the doombuggies. Flash photography isn’t the topic of today’s article, but I wanted to be clear about my feelings for it and how this picture was obtained before we got going.

Actually, I need your help today! For quite a few years, I noticed a hidden portrait tucked away in the corner of the Haunted Mansion, but I could never quite make out what it was. It is situated between the ballroom and the attic. As you begin the turn, moving away from the organist and dancing couples, right where the railing meets the wall, there is a painting hanging there in the shadows. What is it a picture of? Take a look for yourselves.

It is definitely creepy enough to fit in at the Haunted Mansion, right? The question is, what is this painting? Who was it painted by? I have asked a number of individuals and sifted through as much artwork associated with the Haunted Mansion as I could, but it has all been for naught. I’m hoping one of you, the well-traveled readers out there, may be able to shine a bit of light on this Haunted Mansion mystery!

Give me your theories, the avenues you think I should pursue, or just out and out state what you know about the picture. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated! I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated as this enigma plays out.

UPDATE: That didn’t take long, did it?

All my searching, and the story of this portrait was right before all of our eyes for the longest time. According to FoxxFur of Passport to Dreams Old and New, “From 1971 to 2007 that was in the hallway leading to the Library on-ride and had the ‘follow-you’ eyes. It is an adaptation of two pieces of Marc Davis concept art for the character which eventually became the bride. For use as a ‘follow-you’ eye gag, the woman's candle was replaced with opera glasses. The portrait was removed in 2007 and re-touched with new eyes added before being put in its current spot. Who actually painted it is a contentious issue. Some people say that Davis painted all eleven of the 1971 ‘staring’ portraits. They are all based on Davis concept art and do display his characteristic bold color, but I'm not convinced. One way or another, that painting has always been somewhere in the ride.

Thanks again to the always knowledgeable FoxxFur for giving us some incredible insights!

25 December 2013

2013 Best in Epicurean Displays - A Model Citizen

I'm not sure if this is my favorite food article from the year, but it certainly was one of the more unique dishes that I tried this year. When you couple The King's uniqueness with the fact that the missus and I made our first pilgrimage to Graceland this past autumn, and I can't come up with a single reason why I shouldn't feature this royal cupcake as our best Epicurean Display article of 2013!

This Friday is the thirty-sixth anniversary of the loss of The King. Famously known for his crooning and gyrating, Elvis Presley was also known for his favorite foods. In celebration of the life and times of this rock‘n’ roll legend Pop Century’s Everything Pop crafted a cupcake for Elvis last year.

The King, as the cupcake is known, features a chocolate cupcake base with banana custard filling. The frosting is peanut butter topped with candied bacon bits and chocolate drizzle. The banana custard was the most surprising part of the cupcake, as the custard used real banana in the custard. For those who love the idea of chocolate and banana, the main portion of this dessert will hit you right in your comfort zone. Then again, if you are more of a chocolate and peanut butter fan, you are not going to be disappointed either! Provided, that is, that you can unhinge your jaw in order to take a chunk out of this behemoth cupcake.

If I had to offer up some criticism of The King, it comes from the ingredient I was most looking forward to, the candied bacon. The bacon used for the crumble topping is the thin, wimpy breakfast variety. A thicker cut of bacon would definitely bring out the sweet and savory combination that the candied bacon could and should be.

This weekend let loose your inner Lilo & Stitch, crank up the Elvis tunes that make you want to move, and indulge a little with The King!

03 December 2013

Jack's experiments

It’s 1997 and you have over three hundred Imagineers and various consultants working on the construction of a park, in this case Disney’s Animal Kingdom, what’s the best thing to do? According to vice president of Project Management, Jack Blitch, you make them stop working and take filed trips!
During the height of construction, when tempers are hot, sleep is non-existent, and the potential for burn-out is high, Blitch decided to try something new in order to maintain team composure. He created mandatory field trips to central Florida destinations. In particular he had the teams visit, in groups of around 50 at a time, animal exhibits throughout Florida. Included in the destinations were Busch Gardens, Silver Springs, Lowery Park Zoo, and Gatorland. As a native of the area, these are some of the first places I got glimpses of wild animals myself!
These trips were so crucial to the success of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and keeping staff mentally healthy and happy, that anyone not wanting to go on the field trips because they were too busy had to actually call Blitch personally to request not going so they could keep working. It should go without saying not many of these requests were filled when these trips kept spirits so high!

02 December 2013


My birthday is next week, and last year we played a game here on the Main Street Gazette for it. The game allowed you, the readers, to ask me any question you wanted to, Disney, personal, or otherwise, and I would answer them. The  caveat was that combine you all had to ask me a total of 31 questions, as that was how old I was turning that year.

The game turned out to be such a hit that I kept it going throughout the year as our regular Twitter game, Disney Post-It. If you played along with us, you’ve noticed the game has been delayed for the past few months. We’re going to be starting it again soon, but let’s use the birthday questionnaire as a kick off again!

So, here’s the deal. You can tweet (@mainstgazette) or email (ryan@mainstgazette.com) me questions between now and Saturday, December 7, 2013. If I get 32 questions I will answer them all on the site next Monday. If I do not get 32 questions, I will run another perspective piece of my choosing, and the answers to your burning questions will remain a mystery! If I get over 32 questions, I will let the missus pick the 32 questions she thinks I should answer. Oh, you can ask several questions, this is not a one person, one question type of game.

Want some ideas of fun, thought provoking, or embarrassing questions you could ask? Take a gander at last year’s article!

Happily Ever After

Forgive this article this morning, it’s more personal than Disney, but it is something I felt like shouting from the rooftops.

Several years ago, when I and the Gazette were just a fledging entity in the online Disney community, I made some incredible friends. Many of these friends, no matter where we are scattered around the world, will be near and dear to my heart until the day I die. A lot of these friends came from group meals that happened on the fly and introduced this introvert to many new faces. Two of those faces happened to be Andy Jackson and Bonnie Gray Smith.

In just a few days, Bonnie and Andy will be getting married and then sail off into the sunset to start a whole new life. I have been blessed to be able to watch the pair go from being friends to beginning a relationship that would blossom into so much more, and I don’t know how I could be any happier for a couple to have found one another.

Andy and Bonnie have always been there for me and my wife, Aileen, and I don’t know that they even know how much they mean to us. We have run races together, found new old haunts together, peaked over construction walls together, and shared more than few magical moments with one another. Whenever I make the trip south to Florida, Andy is always one of the first people I reach out to, because a trip home is never complete without having a meal and a cocktail with Bonnie and him. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Andy has gently steered me into the perfect entrĂ©e or beverage on more than one occasion!

It breaks my heart that I will not be present at the ceremony later this week, but I am there in spirit. The fact that I have been able to witness their love grow in person has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve been granted in my life, and I can only imagine what the future holds for them both. What I do know is that it will be filled with laughter and magic!

Congratulations Bonnie and Andy!

01 December 2013

Disney This Week - 1 December 2013

This WeekOn the Main Street Gazette

We asked how many of you wanted to be a part of the Main Street Gazette as a guest columnist or contributor to Disney This Week.

The music of Horizons can change your life if you take its message to heart!

Barefoot Bay Marina, and its abundant watercraft, are as fun today as they were yesterday.

The missus took a bite out of Captain Cook's Chocolate Beer Cupcake.

We went in search of the heroic horse, Maximus.

Silent Saturday took note of the shipwrecked Albatross.

This WeekAround the Disney Blogosphere 

Estelle Hallick talks about the time The Julie Andrews Hour went Disney on This Happy Place Blog.

Terrific Disney food magnets are on the fridge of The Disney Food Blog and AJ Wolfe.

Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley explores the newest Disney swag to hit mailboxes for Mouse on the Mind.

It may seem like an annual tradition, but looking at the Grand Floridian Gingerbread House, this year from Eating WDW and Sarah Holodick, is always special to me!

Safari Mike reminds readers at Jambo Everyone of why it’s great to volunteer for Flights of Wonder.

Eating (and Drinking) around the World and Andy Jackson whip up a batch Eclipses from the Disney Fantasy. 

This WeekWorld News Roundtable

The holiday this week also made for a slow news week, but Blake Taylor sums it all up nicely!

Roundtable Contributors: Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com).

No News in Good News

Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com) 

In terms of breaking, earth-shattering news and announcements, this week is a little slow. In terms of setting a course for what I believe to be future Disney history in the making, this past week was a game-changer. We had a fairytale musical film playing to sold-out theaters across the nation, a new Mickey Mouse short accompanying it, and a primetime Muppets television special. (Regardless of your opinion on that latter item, as it was a bit cringe-worthy at times, it's neat to see the Muppets in the public eye.) This is a big moment for Disney. Their franchises and studios all seem to be exactly where they need to be for optimal impact. And we get to soak in all the magic that comes with it.

28 November 2013

By the Captain of the Guard

I talk a lot, and I know it is a lot, about pavements in and around Walt Disney World. We’ve explored the difference between the original flat walkways of the Magic Kingdom and the storytelling emphasis that has been placed on the ground beneath guests’ feet. Tire treads, peanut shells, and animal prints are just some of the ways that Imagineers have come up with to use the pathways to help sell the story. Now, they’ve even gone and one-upped themselves, or should I say they’ve taken another step forward in their story telling?

No longer are the prints of horseshoes enough to tell the story of the bygone days of America, or how the circus carts arrived in Storybook Circus. Of course, these prints do belong to a pretty spectacular horse. These prints were made by none other than Maximus, the Captain of the Guard’s horse from Tangled. Arguably, one of the film’s main stars, who steals the show without ever actually speaking a word, though his neighs and snorts do help him get his point across.

I’m sure it is obvious by now, but Maximus’ horseshoe prints can be found near the Snuggly Duckling restrooms on the border between Fantasyland and Liberty Square. While it is completely clear as to why he would be trotting around these parts, and a case could be made that attentive guests could puzzle out who’s prints these are without the name placed in the horseshoe, the addition of the name makes the story very clear to each and every guests who takes the time to look beneath their own hooves, err…, feet.