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.