17 April 2017

Rainbow Corridor

ImageWorks; just saying the name drums up all sorts of feelings for adults who were children in EPCOT Center. This was the interactive area of Journey Into Imagination that occupied the second floor of the Imagination pavilion’s glorious glass pyramids. The area closed with the original attraction back in 1998, and even though nearly two decades have gone by since, the area still holds fond memories for those who were able to see it in all of its glory.

Typically, I could be found tied to either Figment’s Coloring Book and the Magic Palettes, as both let me taking my coloring book skills onto a massive scale, or the Stepping Tones, the hexagon shaped lighted floor patterns that made musical tones when you stepped onto them. The Pin Screens were also a favorite for my sister and me, especially since they were sharp but also had a way of tickling us. Honestly, while we had our favorites, there was nothing in the ImageWorks that we would have sneered at, from the Bubble Music and Giant Kaleidoscopes to Dreamfinder’s School of Drama, we would spend hours engaging our imaginations up there. No matter how much time we had in the ImageWorks, we would also find some time to briskly run through, carefully minding the other guests of course, the Rainbow Corridor.

My only regret for this article is that the above picture isn’t in full color, but this gives you a sense of what the Rainbow Corridor looked like. It snaked through the ImageWorks with lighted tubes that changed color as you made your way through the tunnel, which was also known as the Sensor Maze. Everyone who was anyone wanted their picture taken with the Rainbow Corridor, and I could remember seeing pictures in my local newspaper of celebrities taking in the wonder of this attraction during EPCOT Center’s formative years. I’m certain we have a color photograph in our family collection of this unique experience, I just haven’t found it yet.

When the ImageWorks closed in 1998, the Rainbow Corridor was left intact in its original spot. There it would stay until construction began for the Imagination DVC Lounge that currently occupies the second floor of the pavilion. While I remain every optimistic that the Rainbow Corridor, and some of the more timeless attractions of the ImageWorks, may find new life in some form one day, for now it must reside in our memories and photographs. Then again, those memories and the emotional connection we have to them seem to be precisely one of the lessons we were supposed to learn from the Dreamfinder and Figment.

13 April 2017

I Wonder What Happened to Rosita

La Hacienda de San Angel welcomes guests to enter a family estate and sample some local dishes that are bursting with flavor and, in some cases, innovative in their creation. No host, however, would welcome you into their hacienda without offering some wine or other beverage as a sign of friendship. There are plenty of options if you’re looking for wine or tequila, particularly if you are interested in a premium margarita. While the Skipper Canteen may have answered the question of what happened to Rosita, I couldn’t help looking at the menu and wondering what the Rosita Margarita tastes like.

For starters, the cocktail that arrived at my table was simple and beautiful. The Rosita Margarita is light pink in hue, with a deeper red rim, and a few rose petals added in for good measure. It contains Exótíco 100% agave premium silver Tequila, fresh lime juice, orange liqueur, and a rose infusion. This is not a frozen concoction, but rather a margarita that is served on the rocks. The rim is coated with hibiscus Himalayan salt.

This drink is actually as delicate as it looks. The citrus notes from the orange liqueur and lime juice are bright, but they do not overwhelm the rose flavors highlighted in the drink. The hibiscus Himalayan salt does a nice job of building on the floral flavors from the rose infusion. While you won’t miss the tequila, it doesn’t overpower the rest of the ingredients. In fact, the Rosita Margarita is light and easy to drink, which means you should definitely mind how quickly you are able to finish this sweet and tangy mixture.

There are more traditional margaritas to be found at La Hacienda de San Angel, as well as some more intriguing takes that offer up intriguing combinations and even some heat. The Rosita Margarita is a great margarita for those who don’t have an overly adventurous palate, but who also want something more than lime juice, salt, and tequila.

12 April 2017

Legendary Flying Beasts

The S.E.A., that the Society of Explorers and Adventurers for the uninitiated, have been woven into many of the stories told throughout Disney parks and resorts. I don’t just mean at Walt Disney World, but parks across the globe, which only makes sense if you consider that the S.E.A. have had adventures all over the world. From secret messages to mess halls, they’ve worked themselves into many facets of the park-going experience. Perhaps no place is more steeped in their lore, however, than The S.E.A. Room, a secret meeting room tucked behind a bookcase, at the Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd Skipper Canteen.

There are many wonderful details in this room, but there are also things that could be overlooked, such as the map of Legendary Flying Beasts of the Mekong River and the Surrounding Territories mounted along one wall. While the dirigibles that outline the map and the fact that there are dragons on the map may have guests thinking about Figment, the Dreamfinder, and the Dream Machine, there are in fact specific references to other works in the map. You need look no further than the creators of the map to find several key individuals, which reads, “As recorded by the Honorable J. Chandler, President & Captain Brieux of the Hyperion Airship.”

Let’s start with Captain Brieux and the Hyperion Airship. These are taken from the 1974 live action film, The Island at the Top of the World. Set in 1907, the film follows Sir Anthony Ross as he attempts to locate his missing son. For this journey he hires Captain Brieux, portrayed by Jacques Marin, who has invented his own flying machine, aka airship, known as the Hyperion. The film is an adaptation of the Ian Cameron’s book, The Lost Ones. Although I would admit it is a very loose interpretation, especially since the Hyperion didn’t even appear in the novel. You can see the airship at the top left corner of the Skipper Canteen’s map, peeking from its hangar. A life-sized variation on this view can be found at Disneyland Paris’ Café Hyperion.

Jumping backwards in our authorship line, we are met with J. Chandler. While he has nothing to do with The Island at the Top of the World, he does have an interesting history. Jason Chandler was originally imagineered by tony Baxter as a part of the Discovery Bay concept for Disneyland Paris and would have tied the area into the mining boom of Big Thunder Mountain. While this iteration never came to be, Jason would be resurrected.

In 2012, the Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad underwent an extensive refurbishment that included the enhancement of its queue and, by default, its storyline. It was here that a letter from Jason to the head of the Big Thunder Mining Company, Barnabas T. Bullion, can be found, but that’s a tale for another day. He would also pop up in the Disney Kingdoms’ comic series created by Dennis Hopeless and Tigh Walker, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. In this tale he is a miner working for Bullion who, along with other folks in Rainbow Ridge, have been robbing the gold shipments in protest of how they are treated by Bullion. Depending on how you read the letter in the queue of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, it appears Bullion and Chandler have buried that hatchet and are on friendly terms. Regardless, Jason Chandler has clearly made a name for himself if, at some point in his life, he was the President of the S.E.A.

The stories hidden in the nooks and crannies of Walt Disney World are many, and often times have their roots in the company’s long film history. However, as the Society of Adventures and Explorers continue to add stories and characters to their history and ranks, there is an ever-present tapestry that is slowly coming in to view. I, for one, love the interconnectivity and await the next entry into their adventures.

06 April 2017

Thank You, George McGinnis

George McGinnis is a name you’ve heard around the Main Street Gazette on more than one occasion. In fact, my continual pitch to make him a Disney Legend, and the fact that not a single Imagineer was included in the slate of 2017 Legends released this morning, had given me inspiration to start another article asking for Disney to consider him in their next class. This, sadly, is not that article. It was reported by The Orange County Register earlier this evening that George McGinnis has passed away.

He was the last Imagineer hired by Walt Disney, and he had a remarkable and storied career, both within the walls of Disney and in his work elsewhere. Known best for his work in EPCOT Center, specifically Horizons, he would also work on feature film, The Black Hole, the jeeps and time rovers of the Indiana Jones Adventure and Dinosaur, respectively, and even on the trams for Walt Disney World.

George was one of a handful of heroes I’ve had in my lifetime. It was his work on the Nautilus submarines of the Magic Kingdom’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction that would first put me in his path when I was writing for Celebrations Magazine. I was so nervous about speaking with him, afraid that I would trip over my own words and forget my questions, that our first exchanges were only through email. I shouldn’t have ever been worried, he was nothing but gracious. During our discussions he would share such wonderful stories and was incredibly generous with his time and resources. I could listen to any and every story he wanted to share and never lose the sense of wonder I had for the man and his work.

As I said before, George McGinnis had been on my mind a lot lately, and I hope he knew what he meant to all of us. Our encounters were only brief and I didn’t get to know him nearly as well as I would have liked, but to those closest to him, they know that he was a giant among men. Thank you, George, for everything you given us, for sharing your imagination, wit, and wisdom. We will never forget you.

05 April 2017

Countless Tropical Locales

When we think of sliders, the most immediate image that comes to mind is something along the lines of a miniature version of a classic sandwich. Something that resembles a bite-sized hamburger or pulled pork barbeque sandwich are likely the first examples that spring up. The folks over at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto in the Polynesian Village Resort have some unique ideas when it comes to old favorites, and their sliders are no exceptions to this rule.

The Roasted Chicken and Pork Pâte Báhn Mì Sliders don’t even sound like sliders, do they? Based in the Vietnamese art of sandwich making, báhn mì is a name given to just about any type of sandwich with a meat filling. The phrase báhn mì comes from the words for ‘wheat’ and bread,’ and was originally introduced to Vietnam through the French baguette. It is also worth noting that báhn mì has two spelling, the other being bánh mì, but that either form is acceptable.

Since we’ve spent so much time talking about the bread, let’s start there. Like a baguette, the sliders come on bread that has been cut open from the top, with the meat and other fillings stuffed inside. The bread has a crispy and chewy crust, much like a baguette, with a soft flavorful inside. However, due to the bread’s unique shape, you will be eating quite a lot of the bread without the chicken, pork, or vegetables that reside mainly in the center of the sandwich.

The two meat components of the sliders come straight from the title, roasted chicken and pork pâte. The chicken is good, with a nice mild flavor, but can be overpowered by both the pâte and the pickled vegetables. For its part, the pork pâte is rich and wonderful, and I’m not even a fan of pâte as a general rule. This is not your typical creamy pâte, but rather a more country version of the spread with healthy chunks of pork and fat.

The remainder of the sliders is comprised of pickled carrots and onions, Thai chilies, and cilantro. These add some heat, an acidic bite, and even a hint of citrus from the cilantro. All of these components work well with the richness of the pork pâte, not trying to battle it for space on your taste buds, and lend some flavor to the underwhelming chicken.

The Roasted Chicken and Pork Pâte Báhn Mì come three to a serving at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, and I would order them again. If pressed, I would wish for a little less bread and to give the chicken some extra punch, maybe a chili rub of some sort. However, the components work well enough together that I can’t find too much to complain about. This dish has also shed new light on just what it means to be a slider in Walt Disney World.

04 April 2017

Taking Pictures is Makin' Memories

It isn’t often that we get to dig into our personal Walt Disney World photo archives, but today is one of those days. I’ve written before how much my sister and I used to enjoy taking a trip from Fort Wilderness over to the Contemporary Resort. Mostly it was so that we could run amuck in the Fiesta Fun Center for hours on end, but we also loved to climb on the Mickey sculpture just outside of the main tower. Heck, even my dad liked to get in on the action occasionally.

By the way, I would like to not be blamed for my clothing choices in these photos. It was the 1980s, that’s my only defense. Even looking at these now, I appear to have been trying to cover myself in one, while praying that this photo never sees the light of day in the other.

What struck me, and the reason I pulled these out for today’s article, even with my own personal embarrassment on the line, was how much this sculpture has changed over the years. Here’s a more recent photo of the Mickey ears, taken in July of 2015.

Here’s what stands out to me. The sculpture placement has changed. Originally it ran parallel to the North Garden Wings, seen in the background, but now it faces out over Bay Lake. The pad it is placed on, and how it is attached to that foundation, has also been changed. The original sculpture sat on a paved area that was Mickey shaped. However, the more recent picture shows a round pad with darkened pavers in the form of a Mickey underneath. Additionally, the metal framing isn’t simply bolted to the ground any longer, as there are box like footings at the two points of contact.

Last, but certainly not least, are the people pictured here. The two in the ears have gotten much bigger, and that one holding up Mickey has gotten a bit older. Oh, and the person who always seemed to have to hold the camera for pictures, can now step in front of the camera thanks to the handing stand now provided for the Mickey sculpture photo op. There’s also a new addition to the team, and I think we can all agree that she’s definitely a keeper.

How we look at changes, in particular how we look at changes to the environments and stories of Walt Disney World, depend greatly upon what perspective we carry with us. I can’t say whether I prefer the old set up of the Contemporary’s sculpture or the new staging. For some, they’ve only ever seen it one way or the other, and that informs how they feel about the sculpture. I am happy that I’m able to document the changes when they occur, and that I can still take a motor launch over to the Contemporary. Except these days it’s usually for the photo op and to grab a bite to eat.

03 April 2017

Farewell to the Mountains

We all know The Ballad of Davy Crockett, for many of us it is ingrained in our childhood, especially those of us who grew up dreaming about the olden days of the frontier. Yet, that wasn’t the only song that Disney’s version of Davy Crockett brought to us. Tucked away on a wall of Crockett’s Tavern, in Davy’s scrawling hand, there is a reminder of another tune made popular by Fess Parker.

In case you can’t make out the words, let me translate it for you:

Farewell to the mountains whose mazes to me more beautiful far than Eden could be. The home I redeemed from the savage and wild the home I have loved as a father his child. The wife of my bosom farewell to ye all in the land of the stranger I rise or I fall.

This song, known as Farewell to the Mountains, was originally featured in Davy Crockett at the Alamo, the February 23, 1955 broadcast of Walt Disney’s Disneyland television program. It would also make the cut and appear in the 1955 film Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, which was itself a trimmed down feature containing footage from the first three Davy Crockett episodes of Disneyland.

The song is sung by Fess Parker, as Davy Crockett, when things look very grim at the Alamo. During the second time through, Davy is joined by Buddy Ebsen’s Georgie Russel, as well as an ensemble of the soldiers in the fort. According to Georgie in the episode, it was the only song that Davy ever wrote, and that he did so as a part of their first journey away from Tennessee many years earlier. According the to original menu for Crockett's Tavern, however, Davy wrote the song during their travels to the Alamo. While the Georgie of the television show and the Georgie who assembled the menu may not agree on when and where the song was written, it is a fine piece to include in Fort Wilderness' home of the king of the wild frontier.

This song was adapted from an actual poem penned by the true Davy Crockett. While the beginning is the same, it does have a much less somber tone. It reads:

Farewell to the mountains whose mazes to me
Were more beautiful far than Eden could be;
No fruit was forbidden, but Nature had spread
Her bountiful board, and her children were fed.
The hills were our garners – our herds wildly grew,
And Nature was shepherd and husbandman too.
I felt like a monarch, yet thought like a man,
As I thank the Great Giver, and worshipped his plan.

31 March 2017

Perfectly Balanced Building

Japan is one of those World Showcase pavilions that stands out, even amongst the other nearby gems of Morocco and France. There isn’t a corner of the pavilion that isn’t steeped in a deep understanding of the country’s culture, history, architecture, horticulture, and other disciplines. The pagoda, torii gate, and castle may be the main focal points of the pavilion, but I’ve also found myself drawn to the natural elements of the garden areas and the simplistic, yet beautifully crafted, quick service dining location at the top of the hill behind the pagoda.

The 2012 refurbishment of the restaurant included a name change from Yakitori House to Katsura Grill. While the restaurant would see more than just superficial changes, the name change was anything but. To understand why the name change is so important, we need to go back to the plans for the pavilion itself.

Yakitori House, as it was known when EPCOT Center opened, was designed to look like a single section of the Katsura Imperial Villa, which resides in Kyoto. The site the restaurant was modeled after is, to this day, considered one of the crown jewels of Japanese architecture. With that type of pedigree you can see why the Imagineers would want to include it in their plans for EPCOT Center’s Japan pavilion. The Katsura Imperial Villa would end up being comprised of three sections, the smallest of which was recreated for the park.

Digging in a bit further, the villa was actually designed by a 16th century landscape designer who placed three conditions on his undertaking of the project. The leeway he was provided was unheard of at the time, but he was able to obtain a guarantee from his benefactor, Hideyoshi. His provisions were that during the creation of this summer villa he would not be burden by any budgetary constraints, the project could take as long as he needed, and no one could interfere, offer opinions, or change anything of his designs until construction had been completed.

You can see from the before and after photos in the article that some of the simple, yet elegant, design elements stayed through the refurbishment process. The changes did brighten up the interior, but kept the overall look of the structure intact. A name change may not be the most substantive modification to the quick-service dining location in the Japan pavilion, but it does give us a chance to educate ourselves about the building’s inspiration and history.

30 March 2017

The Cup That Will Transport You - Part IX

Today we're stepping away from the park specific coffees offered up by Joffrey's Coffee & Tea Company, but not too far away. Beginning in 2009, Disney began a project with Conservation International to create sustainable agriculture in the Alto Mayo Basin region of Peru. In Alto Mayo, coffee production accounts for the livelihood of 240,000 individuals, which means that education and hands-on demonstrations of sustainability would not just save the environment, it would also allow individuals to thrive.

Enter Joffrey's who supported the project by sourcing a single origin coffee from the region and even sending their Roastmaster to witness the work of the project firsthand. It wasn't long before the idea of serving this coffee in Walt Disney World became a way to not only move this work forward, but to raise the profile of the work. Unlike other roasts that were created for specific restaurants, the Alto Mayo Protected Forest coffee will be found at 11 restaurants between Walt Disney World and Disneyland to start, followed closely thereafter by restaurants that serve pressed pot coffee.

I highly recommend learning more about this roast, even if you're not a dedicated coffee drinker. You can read more from Disney, including in which restaurants you can find the coffee, in this article: New Fair Trade Coffee Helps Peruvian Communities.  Additionally, you can learn more about Joffrey's work on the project from this article: Fair Trade Coffee With a Conscience. Now, on to the review you're looking for!

Alto Mayo Protected Forest (Medium) – Our Alto Mayo organic & fair trade coffee comes from a protected part of the Amazon rainforest in the province of San Martin. Farmed using sustainable methods, the unique soil, partly nourished by the Mayo river, gives these exceptional beans their deep chocolate notes and fresh vanilla almond aroma.

What Aileen Tastes:
You all know by now that I am a fan of dark roasts but this medium roast coffee blew me away. Since we have established that I am a fan, let’s start with the aroma. From the first sniff, I could smell the bitter dark chocolate and almond. The scent made me assume I would be delving into a very bitter roast but I was definitely wrong. I still tasted the chocolate and almond, but upon brewing, vanilla came into the mix and the entire flavor profile mellowed to an absolutely wonderful cup of coffee. I tried this roast black (I normally drink my coffee with stevia and milk) and I have to say, the smoothness stayed. I cannot think of many roasts I would drink black, but this is one that I wouldn’t mind enjoying in that fashion, especially if paired with a sweet dessert. Overall, I can’t recommend this roast enough. Not only is it organic and fair trade, which means you are changing the lives of the farmers growing the beans, it has amazing flavor that actually matches some of the local coffee roasters we have in our area. It can be enjoyed with almost any meal, dessert, or as your morning pick me up. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, we will be reordering this roast as soon as the bag is empty.

Overall Cup of Disney Rankings:
– Alto Mayo Protected Forest
2 – French Bistro
3 – California Grill
 Flying Fish Espresso
– Trattoria al Forno
6 – Flying Fish
7 – Sanaa
8 – Yachtsman Steakhouse
9 – Kona Blend
10 – Citricos
11 – Victoria & Albert's
12 – Narcoossee's
13 – Tusker House
14 – Jiko
15 – Artist Point
16 - Le Cellier
17 – Flavors of Africa
18 – Hollywood Blend
19 – The Wave

Previous Reviews:

16 March 2017

Trois Blondes Biere

We here at the Gazette love a good crate or barrel! With the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast hitting screens nationwide this evening, it felt like the perfect time to belly up to the tavern bar and have ourselves a belt. The question is, with all of the choices in Gaston’s Tavern what should we choose? Barrels cover not only the registers of the establishment, but also line the wall behind him. These five varieties split between seven barrels offer intriguing options, but sadly you can only order a glass of Lefou’s Brew. Let’s explore what’s in a name, or in this case five names.

Trois Blondes Biere – Translated simply means Three Blondes Beer. This in in reference to the three blondes who all dream to one day be wooed and wedded to Gaston. While regularly referred to as the Triplets, the three do have names. Claudette (red dress), Laurette (yellow dress), and Paulette (green dress) are seen in a majority of the film’s scenes that include the townsfolk, but are not part of the mob that launches an offensive on Beast’s castle.

IgerBock – This one shouldn’t need much of an explanation as it relates to the Walt Disney Company’s Chief Executive Officer, Bob Iger. A Bock beer is a strong, dark lager that is typical released in spring months. IgerBock also plays off of the true name of bock beer, Einbeck, to northern town in Germany where the beer originated.

Staggs Ale – This barrel is a nod to Tom Staggs who was the chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts at the time New Fantasyland and Gaston’s Tavern opened. He would later become the Walt Disney Company’s Chief Operating Officer before he and the company agreed to mutually part ways in the spring of 2016. An ale is a type of beer that is typically produced without any hops and have a sweet, fruity flavor.

LeFou’s Brew – Named for Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou’s Brew is the only barreled beverage that is actually served at Gaston’s Tavern. It is a frozen apple juice concoction that has a hint of marshmallow and is topped with passion fruit-mango foam. It will go straight to your head, in the form of an ice cream headache.

Chateau Blunderbuss – Chateau is actually a wine term for the name of a vineyard or estate in which it was brewed, which makes us look to the under the name for the second line of text, which reads “Biere Haught Caliber.” A blunderbuss is Gaston’s rifle of choice, while the estate of Chateau Blunderbuss clearly has worked up a high caliber beer.

I hope you found the right beverage for your next stop in at Gaston’s Tavern, even if you’re only playing pretend with LeFou’s Brew with your family on that visit!

14 March 2017

Driving Rain

Sometimes you stumble upon a great bit of history without even trying. Take, for example, this photograph of Jack Nicklaus at the Walt Disney World Open Golf Tournament. The event ran from 1971 through1973 before becoming a two man team event between 1974 and 1981 and known as the Walt Disney World National Team Championship. The individual tournament would return in 1984 and continued until 2012 under a variety of names, including Oldsmobile Classic, Funai Classic, and Children’s Miracle Network Hospital Classic, to name just a few.

Nicklaus won the event all three years when it was the Walt Disney World Open Golf Tournament. While he would win the inaugural event with a three stroke lead fifteen-under-par, this photo captures him during the December 3, 1971 first round when he was not in the lead. Terry Dill had completed his first round with a seven-under-par 65. Nicklaus had to mark his ball after play had been called for the day because of a driving rain. 

It the scheme of Walt Disney World’s history, Jack Nicklaus marking his ball during the original golf tournament to be held on the Palm and Magnolia courses may not rank very highly. Yet, there is something charming and lovely about this moment to me.

13 March 2017

Slow-Cooked Specialties

Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapenos. If the name alone doesn’t start your mouth to watering, I’d get to a doctor and make sure your pulse is still kicking. As for me, this was an item I was very excited to see returning to The Smokehouse for the 2017 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. I’ll be honest with you, last year’s menu had me at ‘burnt ends,’ once I was able to try the dish, it didn’t disappoint, and I was hopeful it would return this year.

While I joked above that this dish should bring joy to everyone, I know full well that it won’t. For starters, I have many friends who are vegetarians or vegans, and this clearly is not something in their wheelhouse, and I respect that. Also, beef brisket can be an acquired taste. I happen to live in one of the barbecue cornerstones of the country, so I have had ample chances to develop a taste for beef brisket barbecue. Some people may only think of pulled pork when they consider barbecue, and while that is delicious and has its place, which is not brisket. There is more connectivity between the meat with beef brisket, as well as a bit more fat to contend with.

Beef brisket is typically served in slices, the thickness of which varies wildly, but at The Smokehouse they’ve mixed it up by providing guests with cubes of brisket labeled as ‘burnt ends.’ Historically, these are the unwanted scraps of the barbecue process. The overly dry or fatty pieces that could be used in stews or served up as a cheap appetizer, but were seen as having very little else that was appetizing. Except that the ends still carried with them the rich flavors and smokiness from the barbecue process. This burnt ends became highly sought after and soon pitmasters became known for how well their burnt ends taste.

The Burnt Ends Hash isn’t precisely what I would call ‘burnt ends’ in the traditional sense, but they still retain the delicious bark and crunch along the outer edge. The cubed form is more akin to what you would find it a typical hash, tossed in with an assortment of other vegetables, peppers, onions, and the like. Liquid gold is a term usually withheld for a yellow cheddar sauce, but since there is such a thing as white gold, I think we can let it apply to the white cheddar fondue that coats the hash here. Then it is topped with a handful of pickled jalapenos.

The jalapenos aren’t your typical from-the-jar jalapenos, and their acidity does wonders for the richness of the beef and cheddar. Barbecue enthusiasts from those cornerstone areas we talked about earlier, are probably not going to find this brisket to be inspired. However, to the average palate, it is probably a reasonable facsimile, especially if they’re not accustomed to either burnt end or beef brisket.

As with most items procured through a quick service avenue in Walt Disney World, consider the amount of food which needs to be prepared and the speed in which you are able to procure it. Is this a top-tier barbecue product? No. Is it a savory treat that I wish my local pitmasters would figure out how to recreate this in a more traditional form? Absolutely. Do I think you should make time to try the Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash while you’re visiting the Flower & Garden Festival? Without question.

10 March 2017

A Spectacular Journey Into the Movies

With award season come and gone, and the passing of the incomparable Robert Osborne, I’ve been thinking about the role Disney’s Hollywood Studios has in the modern movie going experience. Specifically, I’ve been ruminating on the question of whether or not The Great Movie Ride has skewed or contributed to the way we look at films? Even more precisely, since not everyone has multiple experiences with the attraction in their formative years, has The Great Movie Ride subtly nudged a generation of Disney enthusiasts and how we look at genres and the legacy of particular movies?

The idea came to me a few months back when I was viewing, and becoming complete and utterly enamored with, La La Land. The obvious comparison to be made about a musical film set in Hollywood is Singin’ in the Rain, but is that the most accurate representation or have we just fallen into the comparison because we’ve seen  Singin’ in the Rain so many times and that is the direct line we’ve been hearing and reading about so much since the film’s release? From my perspective, I grew up thinking musicals were only something that my mother made me sit through on a rare occasion. Let’s disregard the fact that I sang in county and state school choirs and loved it or that I was fascinated with movies like Labyrinth and Mary Poppins. It wasn’t until I discovered Singin’ in the Rain in my 20s that I fell in love with the genre properly. However, I only came to Singin’ in the Rain because I wanted to see every movie that had a major scene in The Great Movie Ride.

I can draw almost identical parallels to the spotlight of Alien and science fiction horror and The Public Enemy and gangster films. Similarly, I didn’t have an interest in John Wayne westerns until The Great Movie Ride’s trailer sequence sent me on a hunt for The Searchers. Although I can remember a deep-seated love of the Man With No Name trilogy, but I couldn’t tell you now whether or not that came out of the Clint Eastwood figure in the western scene of the attraction. Likewise, while I know that my mother had a love of Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan films, I didn’t have an affinity for them in my younger days.

The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, Casablanca, and Raiders of the Lost Ark are timeless to me, and I don’t think their inclusion or exclusion in this attraction would ever change my feelings for these films. I don’t know many kids that loved Fantasia, aside from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment, but I burned through at least one copy of that VHS because I loved that entire film early on and never let it go.

Where does our love of film, or specific pictures, or genres come from? I suppose, as with most things in life, it comes from the world around us. How something affects us is directly related to how it is presented to us, and it can determine if we love or loathe it. Sometimes, someone loving something, such as my sisters fascination with Titanic in our squabbling teenage years, can make you distance yourself from it for no apparent reason. Generally, however, is something is present with care and adoration to a child, that child is going to have that same love for it.

This brings us back to The Great Movie Ride. Here, it is clear that the films presented are loved by our tour guides. Each scene is carefully crafted to make you feel like you have indeed walked straight onto the set of a movie, or that you are actually living out a part of that movie. Nothing is left astray, down to the posting on the jailhouse wall in the western scene or the screen readouts aboard the Nostromo. It is that care and dedication that can make us smile at Mary and Bert on a rooftop and give us shivers at the slithering floor of Well of the Souls. It is this attention to detail that makes almost all of the movies presented in The Great Movie instant classics in the minds of those who grew up with this attraction.

I’m willing to bet that if you were to ask someone in their mid-to-upper-30s that didn’t grow up going to Walt Disney World on a regular basis if all of the films with dedicated scenes inside The Great Movie Ride were classics, you get a bunch of affirmative responses. However, they may balk at Tarzan, The Public Enemy, Footlight Parade, or The Searchers. It isn’t that they couldn’t grow to love the films, it’s is only that the films haven’t been presented in the same light and with the same care as some of us have seen them in. They aren’t ingrained in their cinematic DNA.

The addition of Robert Osborne to The Great Movie ride was not a change that I greatly looked forward to. I mean, TCM is one of three channels my television lives on and his insights have always given me a deeper understanding and joy of the pictures he showcased. However, I just didn’t see what it would add to the attraction, and it didn’t help that my first ride with the new audio had a handful of glitches and poor sound. Since that time I have come to love the narration, but particularly the new trailer area which is filled with Osborne providing tons of insight, trivia, and knowledge I may not otherwise have gathered. I’ll go so far as to say some of the new to The Great Movie Ride films featured in the queue will be considered classics to the next generation, because of Osborne’s presentation.

If The Great Movie Ride has influenced a generation or two, or maybe even three, around a handful of films, then I am perfectly okay with that. Not everyone has to love the same pictures, and they don’t even have to agree on what makes a particular picture great, but these mean something to me and I think they’re classics. If that’s because I had the privilege of being able to experience The Great Movie Ride more frequently than others my age, I good with that to. Because, honestly, I can’t imagine my life without them.

09 March 2017

Water in a Sheltered Cove

During its first summer of operation, Walt Disney World’s original swimming hole, River Country, garnered visits and attention from guests, media, and even Cast Members looking to splash around and relax. There were also those who wondered just how River Country worked as a cove of Bay Lake, but still managed to keep to water fresh and moving. A simple, yet inspired, solution was created to give River Country its cascading rivulets and churning pond.

State of the art pumps in the mid-1970s were ineffectual at keeping the million gallons of water in River Country from becoming stagnant, much less to get needed flow up to the top of White Water Rapids and Whoop-‘N-Holler Hollow. Engineers figured out a system that would utilize the functions of Mother Nature, i.e. gravity, and the most modern technology to make the park a reality. This great diagram from the August 20, 1976 Eyes and Ears, shows off just how the feat was accomplished.

The rubber bladder that separates the swimming area from Bay Lake is the key to the entire operation. The tube stretches across the entirety of the cove’s mouth along with its sensory device that can pump water in or drain water out as needed. The sensor fills the bladder until it is filled enough to float six inches above the surface of the lake. As water levels drop, the sensor automatically activates the drainage system will ensure that the bladder stays at the six inch mark.

As for the water movement itself, an intake pipe deep out in Bay Lake pulls in water and moves it along the lake bottom. Once inside the boundary of River Country’s cove, the pipe makes its way to the base of the waterslide hill. From here the water is pumped up to troughs at the top of the slides, which is then careens back down the hill in the flumes towards the swimming area. The churning of the water, not to mention the guests tubing, zip lining, tire swinging, and cannonballing into the main swimming area causes water to splash out of the cove, over the bladder, and back into Bay Lake. From there the process could start all over again.

With 8,500 gallons of water moving through the attractions each minute, is it any wonder that River Country had to break the mold on design and engineering to bring the old fashioned swimming hole into the 20th Century?

07 March 2017

The Bass Never Landed

If you’ve ever ventured into the Live Oak Lodge at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, then you’ve likely wandered into Big Murggie’s Den. More often than not guests are taken in by the billiards table and may not even give a second consideration to who, or what as the case may be, Big Murggie is. A clue as to this rascal’s identity can be found right over the mantle of the den’s fireplace.

The plaque reads, “Since 1941, a channel bass ‘Big Murggie’ has fouled both rod and reel in the waters of Broad Creek. Lodgers both young and old tell a tale of the bass never landed.” It goes on to list the individuals who almost got him, the date of the incident, an estimated weight of Big Murggie at the time, and a quote from the fishermen in concentrical fish shaped rings. The four entries are:

M. Merrill (6-5-41) – 15 Oz. “Nice try”
G. Grantham (10-27-48) – 10 Lbs. (Maybe) “Slipped away…”
R. Edmunds (3-14-59) – 22 +/- Lbs. “Bent my hook!”
T. Sparks (7-11-66) – 48 Lbs.? “Broke my line!”

If the name Edmunds rings a bell, that would be because it is his family, as the story goes, that it was Royce’s family that first came to the island and wanted to create this lodge. It just so happens that Royce is also one of those dedicated to the rod and reel who would love to see Murggie up on their wall.

According to the anthology of the resort, “Big Murggie is the biggest, meanest channel bass ever to cross man’s path. Royce was just a youngster when he first laid eyes on him, and from that day on he believed that it would be his mission to reel him in. You are welcome to fish for him yourself, but by now he’s probably as big as a house. The plaque on the wall in the den of the Live Oak Lodge is all primed and ready for him; all that’s missing is Big Murggie himself.”

Considering the last sighting was in 1966 when Murggie was 48 pounds, it’d be easy to believe he’d be the size of a house by now! So if you’re out on Fishing Pole Pier, and happen to see a rather oversized channel bass swim by, know that you’re probably going to need a big fishing rod. As for me, I wouldn’t be surprised if he buried himself in the much and has sprouted one of those beautiful dunes in the marsh. And that’s precisely the type of tale they tell around Big Murggie’s Den.

03 March 2017

Archaeological Findings

Today is the 22nd birthday of the Indiana Jones Adventure – Temple of the Forbidden Eye attraction opening in Disneyland. This certificate was presented to guests during the opening on the attraction, which includes an Eye of Mara watermark just below the attraction name, as well as Maraglyphics around the border, both of which are invisible in the scan, and for that I owe you an apology. Another piece that was create at this time was the archaeological finding document from Dr. Jones himself. I thought we’d review this today, as it is filled with great information and a few tidbits you may not be aware of!

Archaeological Finding
Research: Dr. Indiana Jones

Initial Findings: I have unearthed an ancient temple. Many a soul has lost his life within the eerie corridors and caverns. Appears to be a massive shrine to the might deity Mara. Hieroglyphics along the temple corridor walls indicate that Mara can “look into your very soul” and grant the “pure of heart” one of three magical gifts – earthly riches, eternal youth, or future knowledge. Other wall carvings and unsavory finding also indicate that few have escaped the temple with Mara’s gifts. Warning indicate that no one must gaze upon the eyes of Mara.

Have witness fiery, bubbling lava pits; swarms of rodents, snakes (I hate snakes!), and wretched insects; poisonous darts; and mummies. Records indicate that those who have been tempted to look into the eyes of Mara must deal with these and other terrible fates. Findings even indicate that entire exploration parties have been eliminated by powerful, explosive beams of light that shoot directly from the eye of Mara. Have not witnessed such… yet. –Indy

Beginning of dig: August 1993

Temple unveiled: March 3, 1995

Design: Walt Disney Imagineering

Location: Deep within the Adventureland jungles

Temple cubic footage: 2,200,000 cu. ft.

Temple Chambers: Chamber of Destiny, Hall of Promise, Tunnel of Torment, Gates of Doom, Cavern of Bubbling Death, Mummy Chamber, Bug Room, Snake Temple, Rat Cave, Dart Corridor, Rolling Boulder finale

Ride track: 1,975 linear feet

Total track: 2,500 linear feet

Number of vehicles: 15 cycling + 1 spare

Vehicle Weight: Approximately 12,800 pounds

Vehicle Capacity: 12 Guests per vehicle

Maximum velocity: 20 feet per second (13.6 mph)

Ride Technology:
  • Utilizes a state-of-the-art enhanced motion system developed and patented by Walt Disney Imagineering.
  • Each on-bard ride control system contains a myriad of programmed cues. The adventure will never be the same twice, with nearly 160,000 possible combinations of show programming.

Trip time: 3 minutes, 20 seconds

Cycle time: 4 minutes, 30 seconds

Maximum theoretical hourly capacity: 2,400 Guests

The queue: 50 minutes of permanent queue, 1,400 linear feet

Additional Findings:
  • More than 168,000 square feet of hand-carved surfaces adorn the caverns, with 55 hand-painted murals throughout.
  • More than 2,000 replicated human skulls found within the temple chambers.
  • Wind speed inside the Mummy Chamber rush up to 60 mph.
  • The vehicle displayed in the base camp was the actual vehicle used for the chase scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • More than 600 strobes are used to simulate lightning in the Tunnel of Torment.
  • By the power of Mara’s wrath, 60 pounds of rubble can fall inside the temple every 18 seconds.
  • The exterior temple structure towers four stories above the excavation site.
  • The temple contain 2,129 representations of snakes.

02 March 2017

Large Teeth and the Things They Do

When you’re venturing through the wilds of Adventureland, you can work up quite a hunger. Luckily, the skippers of the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. opened the doors to their mess hall and have prepared some of their best dishes for traveling guests. Which is ironic considering that prior to the opening of the Skipper Canteen, the skippers were best known for all things chicken. Today, we’re craking the lid of our dim sum steamer to sample the S.E.A. Shu Mai.

The S.E.A. Shu Mai dumplings are served in their steamer, and are listed as being a legendary blend of pork, shrimp, edamame beans, and spices wrapped in gyoza skin and then steamed. While not listed in the menu description, the dumplings are dusted with sesame seeds and also contain water chestnuts, fish sauce, arugula, and Sriracha. The dim sum appetizer is also served with a dipping sauce that consists of a low sodium soy sauce and sambal oelek.

Shu mai is a pretty common option at dim sum restaurants and the S.E.A. Shu Mai matched what I expected quite well. Both the textures and flavors of the pork and shrimp were spot on, with some mild heat and not too mushy. The edamame was a unique addition, as typically shu mai is prepared with mushrooms. However, if you like edamame, you’ll love this addition as it gives some new flavors and texture to the dumplings. The gyoza skin was cooked well. Meaning it wasn’t gummy, but doesn't add as much flavor to the shu mai as it retains from the filling mixture itself. The sesame seeds add a wonderful bit of coarseness to a dish that is relatively soft, as well as adding another complex flavor to the mix.

The dipping sauce was savory and spicy, and played well with all of its friends in each dumpling. My suggestion would be to nibble a hole in the side of your dumpling and then dunk it in the dipping sauce. This way you are assured of getting some of the sauce inside and mixing with the wonderful combination of pork and shrimp.

Overall, I loved the S.E.A. Shu Mai and its blend of pork, shrimp, and edamame, just as I have about every dish I’ve sampled from the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. If you’re lost in the jungles of Adventureland you would do well to follow your nose, and stomach growls, straight to the doorstep of the Skipper Canteen. I can promise you won’t be disappointed by the food, the jokes on the other hand…

28 February 2017

Sinclair Exhibits Weird Dinosaurs

For most of us that grew up in and around Walt Disney World, the first time we linked dinosaurs to petroleum probably had something to do with the Universe of Energy at EPCOT Center. It’s also possible that the first time we heard about a World’s Fair was in correlation with Walt Disney’s efforts at the 1964 World’s Fair, which also happened to feature a few famous dinosaurs. However, the Universe of Energy wasn’t the first time that the myth of dinosaurs as a form of fossil fuel was employed; the Sinclair Gas & Oil company had been utilizing them for years. In fact, they even took their dinos to the World’s Fair.

Actually, Sinclair dinosaurs were present at multiple World’s Fairs, including the New York edition in 1964. However, Chester and Hester seem to be interested in an earlier appearance, at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Sinclair had been trying to come up with an iconic image for their logo that would be immediately recognizable to passing motorists when they hit upon the dinosaurs. By the time they reached the World’s Fair in 1933, their exhibit featured a brontosaurus that could move its neck and tail, along with a selection of other, static, dinosaurs. According to the guidebook from the World’s Fair: 
“Giant prehistoric monsters. On the heaped up reddish brownstone hillside of the age of reptiles the forty-ton brontosaurus swings his long next, jerks his huge tail, clashes his jaws and emits life-like screeching grunts. In a pool a glaring-eyed trachodon, bigger than a hippopotamus, splashes with his huge clawed foot. He is watching a fight between a three-horned triceratops and a tyrannosaurus, most ferocious creature that ever lived, with crocodile haws and hind legs like a kangaroo. Near them a stegosaurus, large as an elephant, browses on prehistoric vegetation.” 
That may be the first time I’ve ever read of a t-rex being compared to a kangaroo.

The dinosaurs were featured in Big News, a special edition newspaper publication created especially for the Chicago World’s Fair by Sinclair. Chester and Hester were able to located one of these issues to place up on their walls amongst the photos and comic books featuring their favorite creatures. This makes sense, considering that the Sinclair dinosaurs were so popular that the giant figures began popping up at fueling stations around the country. Additionally, the dinosaurs spawned multiple toy lines, including the petroleum-based injector models of a number of dinosaurs.

Sinclair would be the inspiration for Pixar’s Dinoco, the gas stations and company that can be seen in everything from Toy Story to Cars. Eventually the dinosaurs of Sinclair would stop showing up around gas stations and the touring exhibit became extinct. Sinclair still has stations far and wide, although those of us on the east coast would have to travel a fair distance to find one. Regardless, Chester and Hester seem to have a soft spot for the gas company that seems to love dinosaurs as much as they do.

23 February 2017

Found at Hawker Centers

Coming out of the gate I want to be completely up front and honest. We are reviewing the Morimoto Spare Ribs that can be found at both Morimoto Asia and Morimoto Asia Street Food, if you haven’t heard about them yet, I’m not sure what rock you’ve been hiding under. If you haven’t taken the time to try them yet, then maybe I can finally be that voice of reason that sends you scurrying off to take your first bite. If you’re just here for the food porn that is a picture of the Morimoto Spare Ribs, here you go!

The ribs come in in orders of three at both Morimoto Asia and Morimoto Asia Street Foods, but an order of six can be obtain at Morimoto Asia. An order of three of these behemoth ribs is more than enough for one person, and six is definitely for sharing. The menu lists the Morimoto Spare Ribs as pork ribs with cilantro and hoisin sweet chili glaze. Those descriptions hit the basics of what is included in terms of flavor, but miss out on a lot of the other wonderful components make up these ribs. In the mélange for the ribs, from either the braising ingredients or the glaze, are tamarind paste, garlic, onion, ginger, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and soy sauce, to name just a few.

Each rib is huge, and that is not an understatement. I know that beef back ribs can sometimes be referred to as brontosaurus ribs, but these pork spare ribs want to compete for that title. For as big as they are, each of the Morimoto Spare Ribs contains just as much flavor. They are crispy on the outside, with tender, juicy meat that falls right off the bone just underneath. The glaze strikes just the right balance between sweet, heat, and salty. I absolutely cannot recommend these ribs enough.

How much do I like these ribs? We all know I am prone to recreating Disney recipes that I love at home. The Morimoto Spare Ribs were so popular that the recipe was released a little more than a month after the restaurant opened. Here’s the rub, I know that utilizing recipes supplied by Disney that I can generally make a fair stand-in for any given dish, but with the ribs I’m almost certain to be disappointed. The ribs are so good in their original form that anything I would create would only pale in comparison, so I won’t even try.

If you weren’t hungry before you started reading this article, I’m willing to bet that you are now. If you hadn’t tried the Morimoto Spare Ribs before today, I hope you are making immediate plans to rectify this situation. And if you need someone to take an extra rib or two off of your hands because you order too many, then I’m your man!

21 February 2017

Where the Stars Stay and Play

When you wander down Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you could be forgiven for being distracted. After all, your attention is almost immediately drawn to the screams being emitted from the large hotel at the end of the street. With all the chaos and attention that the Hollywood Tower Hotel is bringing upon itself, have you ever paused and looked at artifacts on the street just below your line of sight?

On the left hand side of the street, as you make your way down to the Tower of Terror, there is a sign on the curb near Sweet Spells. The sign is a California marker for US-66, otherwise known as Route 66. The more interesting artifact, however, is the sets of luggage found at the base of the signpost. The two pieces of green luggage belong to Gilbert London, while the matching three piece set of brown luggage is the property of Carolyn Crosson.

Both Gilbert and Carolyn, though perhaps she is better recognized by her stage name of Claire Poulet, both come to Sunset Boulevard as characters from the Tower of Terror episode of The Wonderful World of Disney. The episode aired on October 26, 1997 and featured Steve Guttenberg and Kristen Dunst as a reporter, Buzzy, and his niece, Anna. Gilbert and Carolyn are two of the five ghosts featured in the attraction and the film, though they are portrayed by a different acting pair in the television installment. Gilbert is the snarky and snide actor who, deep down, has compassion for his fellow ghosts. Carolyn is a warm and caring individual, who tries to be as open and honest as one can be in her situation. While not what one would expect, they were in love prior to their deaths in the Hollywood Tower Hotel’s elevator in 1939 and remain so in the afterlife.

The episode would go on to be released as a standalone film, but there are never references made to the attraction or story’s tie to The Twilight Zone. The Tower of Terror feature can be seen as the beginning of Disney’s attempt to bring attractions and their stories back to film, as this predates Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, The Country Bears, and the like. In fact, all exterior shots of the hotel and several of the interior scenes were filmed at the Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then Disney-MGM Studios.

Gilbert and Carolyn finally get their storybook, or science fiction television, romance at the end of Tower of Terror. However, their theme park counterparts are still sending chills up the spines of guests daily. I much prefer the first ending to their story, don’t you? Regardless, these sets of American Tourister luggage have been awaiting the return of their owners for a very, very long time.

20 February 2017

The Essence and Flavor of France

It’s no secret that the level of attention that went into the selection of landmarks, as well as the attention to detail, for each of the pavilions in World Showcase was monumental. In fact, the story of each pavilion was so intricate, from the choice of restaurants, to decor, and even to the placement of the pavilion, that Cast Members had manuals dedicated to the individual pavilions that they worked in when EPCOT Center opened in 1982. The design stories from France are, if not my favorite, amongst a very short list from around World Showcase. I could pull out a couple of details for you, but why not give you a chance to read some of it for yourself?

“When Architectural Designer Harry Webster began designing the France pavilion, one of the first questions he asked himself was, ‘How do you symbolize, represent, create images for and capture the essence and flavor of France in an area roughly an acre in size.’ 
“One of his goals was to provide a historical stretch of French architecture, representing several styles and influences. Our provincial street, La Pétit Rue, could have been built in the 1600’s, while the chateau façade of La Signature recalls those grand country estates of the 1700’s. Parisian architecture is best remembered for its structures built in La Bell Époque, or the beautiful age, those years between 1850 and 1900. 
“An earlier concept was to re-create the Place du Tetre, the artists’ colony up near the cathedral of Sacré-Coeur, but we found that the Sacré-Coeur would have dominated the skyline too much, and hence, decided on our symbol and exclamation point provided by the Eiffel Tower. 
“From the outset, we thought it was only appropriate that France should reside near a river in order to provide atmosphere of Paris on the Seine. After securing the pavilion’s site, Au Petit Café was relocated from the west side to its present location. The move gave us the opportunity to include the small park near the canal. 
“Under Baron Von Haussmann during the 1850’s, Paris’s great boulevards were almost standardized with uniform seven-story high structures. This was known as the Grand Design, depicting elegance with its mansard roofs and dormers. 
Masters of scale, our Disney designers have made our Paris buildings look much higher than its three-story layout.
The original Eiffel Tower in Paris, France was built in 1889 for the Paris Exhibition, and was the tallest structure in the world until 1930.
Although ours is duplicated from original blueprints, it stands without a base. However, this peculiarity doesn’t take away from the show, as the tower’s sale makes it not only look as if it’s farther away than it actually is, but also looks as if the buildings before it are ‘hiding’ the base.”

There are as many stories about the France pavilion as there are artists and composers present throughout the pavilion. The document created for France’s Cast Members doesn’t share all of these stories, but it sets a great foundation for further explanation, even if their Eiffel Tower doesn’t have one! From windows to the river, the France pavilion is a masterclass of design.