28 December 2018

From the Archives - Rain Forests, Bat Caves, and Grottos

It is cold and damp in much of the country today, so why not daydream a little about a tropical hideaway. No, not the one that just opened in Disneyland, Walt Disney World's island getaway stuffed into a water park, Typhoon Lagoon. I may have a soft spot in my heart for River Country, but Typhoon Lagoon was definitely something I had never seen before when it opened in 1989. Today's visit to the archives, we're looking at some of the wonderful concept art for the park, as well as a few words from Imagineering on what the park had planned for guests when it opened.

Rain Forests, Bat Caves, and Grottos - Originally Published 21 June 2017

River Country may have been the first water park in Walt Disney World’s repertoire, but Typhoon Lagoon added a whole lot of land and a new level of thrills to the water playground experience. With the park slated to open in early 1989, the Disneyland Line was one of the first publications to get the scoop as to what was coming downstream to the Disney portfolio when it ran Typhoon Lagoon to Open at Walt Disney World in February of that year. While the article didn’t feature any construction photos, it did include some fantastic concept artwork for Typhoon Lagoon. Below we present the article in its entirety, without any interruptions from your beloved narrator.
“In just a few months, Walt Disney World guests will snorkel among thousands of tropical fish, plummet down the flumes of a volcanic mountain, and ride waves in the world’s largest inland surfing lagoon.
“The place: Typhoon Lagoon, a massive, one-of-a-kind water theme park, which joins Disney-MGM Studios as a major new attraction for 1989. The swimmer’s paradise is four times the size of River Country, which opening at Walt Disney World in 1976.
“Sunny beaches and lazy streams are among the unique facilities surrounding the water par’s 95-foot mountain. The new water-entertainment area takes its theme from a legend of romance and danger evident by a wrecked fishing boat stranded on a mountain peak, and storm-tossed automobiles resting in the branches of giant trees.
"Located halfway between Walt Disney World Village and the new Disney-MGM Studios, the project includes nine water slides and roaring streams up to 400 feet long coming down the mountainside, and a two-and-one-half-acre wave-making lagoon. There will be a unique salt-water snorkeling pool where guests will come face-to-face with colorful fishy creatures of the Caribbean.
“Typhoon Lagoon uses state-of-the-art technology to create six-foot waves, streams that look just like those in Hawaii and Fiji, and a chance to have a close-up look at the tropical marine inhabitants. Demand for the snorkeling experience has grown ever since the opening of Epcot Center’s Living Seas, where swimming is limited to staff divers.
“The lagoon includes separate activity pools for young children and families, and features geysers, fountains, bubble jets and slides. In the family pool, an overhead cable drop will transport adventurers Tarzan-style across a course of random water obstacles to a water fall inside a scenic grotto.
“Another unusually themed experience circling the Lagoon is a meandering, 2,100-foot river. Guests hop onto rafts and inner tubes for a relaxing tour that takes them through a rain forest and a hidden grotto with a spectacular view.
“If you’re planning to travel to Walt Disney World, check out the fun at Typhoon lagoon. But, beware of sharks!”

27 December 2018

From the Archives - Leads the entrance way

With all of the construction taking place around the entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios, I thought a glimpse back to the roots of where the entrance design came from was in order. The simple teal and cream towers with bright red flags are so iconic that Disney California Adventure actually reproduced them for their entrance during the park's 2011-2012 refurbishment. As clean and elegant as the entrances are, however, there is a place where the Imagineers drew their inspiration from. For the rest of the story we dip back into our archives.

Leads the entrance way - Originally Published 3 December 2010

Guests of the Magic Kingdom can view a castle across a lagoon and a turn-of-the-century train station at the turnstiles, while at Epcot the giant geodesic sphere known as Spaceship Earth beckons. When it came time to select a suitable draw for the entrance of Disney-MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios), the design was simple and sleek, not extravagant like its predecessors and it felt right at home in Hollywood.

Perhaps the reason the structure feels so at home, is because it was inspired by a real life building in California. The Pan-Pacific Auditorium was opened in 1935. The arena, visualized by the architectural firm of Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket, was home to innumerable boat, home, and automobile shows. The facilities also housed hockey bouts, basketball games, tennis matches, ice skating performances, radio broadcasts, wrestling matches, concerts, orchestra performances (including one conducted by Fantasia partner Leopold Stokowski), and a speech by soon to be President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Shown below in Los Angeles Time photograph, from its heyday of 1956, the Pan-Pacific Auditorium was eventually replaced by a larger facility in Los Angeles in the 1970s and soon began to crumble into a state of disrepair. A mere three weeks after the first guests past through Disney’s salute to the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, the inspirational site caught fire and was burned to the ground. The site has since been refurbished into a park with a scaled down replica of one of the recognizable towers. Luckily for guests of Walt Disney World, the green and white, streamlined towers still preside over the land and dreams of tinseltown in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

19 December 2018

Seasonal Specialties

With only two quick service locations to their name, you wouldn’t expect specialty menu items to come along to Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort very often. Yet, each time we are there for Christmas, Halloween, or another special time of year, we often find that Tide Me Over’s regular menu has been accessorized with at least one seasonal offering. Such is the case this holiday season when they added multiple items to the menu. In order to give you a taste of the low country holidays, we did a little taste test of the Holiday Turkey Sandwich and the Snowman Pretzels.

Let’s start with the sweets first. The Snowman Pretzels come two to an order, dusted with cinnamon sugar, and a side of cream cheese spread. I often find that oddly shaped pretzels have a dense and crumbly consistency, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well this stayed together. This is a sweet pretzel, so the sour flavor that pretzels are known for is downplayed with these snowmen. The cinnamon and sugar provides a nice holiday flavor, and the cream cheese is definitely the way to go with this treat. Plus, if you spread the cream cheese over the pretzels, they tend to look more like snowmen. This is definitely a snack I would pick up again.

Moving on to the main course, the Holiday Turkey Sandwich includes over-roasted turkey, cranberry mayonnaise, white cheddar cheese, bacon, arugula, and tomato. It is served warm on multi-grain bread and comes with a side, which we of course picked French fries.  I’m going to start by telling you that I didn’t expect anything more than your typical holiday sandwich, but we were so thrilled with the sandwich that we ended up taking one to go when we hit the road to come home.

Everything in this sandwich works! The turkey is thick and juicy, the bacon is there enough to add flavor but not enough to overpower everything else, likewise with the cheddar cheese, and the arugula adds a bit of spice. The bread is toasted, but not buttered to death and grilled on a flattop the way you usually see hot multi-grain sandwiches handled around the Disney culinary scene.

What I really want to talk about, however, is the cranberry mayonnaise. Typically anything with the word mayonnaise means that it’s heavy on the mayo and light on the other ingredient, but not in this situation. The cranberry mayonnaise is all bright and tangy cranberries with maybe a tiny hint of mayo deep in the background. It was almost more like cranberry relish than it was a mayonnaise spread, and it was right on the mark. Also, because we were able to talk about how it was made with a wonderful Cast Member, we can definitely say that it is handmade on site.

Tide Me Over at Disney’s Hilton Head Island doesn’t have a ton of room to work with, but that hasn’t stopped them from finding great flavors to highlight with the seasonal offerings. It is also worth noting that they’re preparation is second to none in how they choose to utilize components and technique. I can whole-heartedly recommend the Holiday Turkey Sandwich and the Snowman Pretzels, but you’d better hurry before they catch a sleigh out of town!

18 December 2018

Chocolate on Demand

If the intoxicating smells that waft out of The Ganachery at Disney Springs haven’t been enough to entice you in to sample their rich and delicious assortment of chocolate goodies, then you definitely need to give the chocolatiers there a chance. Better yet, you should pick up a treat that you and your friends can all share together, such as today’s featured sweet, the piñata.

Each month the masters of chocolate at The Ganachery create a whimsical treasure box of chocolate. Some months the theme is clear, such as Jack Skellington for Halloween, and other months they get to play with their imaginations to create the treat. Each month the outer decorations are different and inside the orb’s shell, the surprises are also different. For December, Santa Mickey came to play, complete with chocolate ears, gum paste buttons, white chocolate and rice crisp pearls adorning the outside and ground covering of the piñata. Inside, however, are a handful of homemade marshmallows coated in chocolate.

How do you get into the hidden snacks, you ask? Like any good piñata, you have to smash your way in. I don’t recommend using your hands or that you take this task on blindfolded, but a spoon or a knife will do the trick. To add even more ceremony to the event, The Ganachery offers a branded mallet for purchase that will definitely get you into the chocolate piñatas without much resistance. I know it looks beautiful and you may not want to break into it, but trust me you’re going to want to.

This shareable treat was absolutely a hit with a group of friends that I shared it with a couple of weeks ago. The Ganachery makes very rich, very smooth chocolate and there is a ton of it here. The rice crispy pearls were particularly sought after, with pieces of the chocolate shell being utilized as spoons to scoop up as many pearls as possible. The marshmallows were soft and sticky, perfect marshmallows if you ask me, and they melted in your mouth.

The only concern I had with the piñata at all was the plastic case that it comes it. It is stuck together at several points with a substance so sticky that it took a huge amount of effort to get into and also damaged the piñata. I understand wanting to make sure the chocolate work of art is secure, but this seemed to take it a little too far.

I’ve have never had a bad bite at The Ganachery and the monthly chocolate piñata continues the trend! I recommend a piñata for 2 to 6 people, depending on how hungry everyone is for chocolate, but they’re also incredibly affordable. Whether you are living up to the season’s spirit of sharing or keeping the orb of chocolate and marshmallow to yourself, this is one treat that I can definitely say will put a smile on your face.

06 December 2018

The Holly and the Ivy

Generally when we think of Ichabod Crane, our thoughts jump to a horseman with a flaming pumpkin head and the frantic chase the two had through Sleepy Hollow. That shiver inducing tale is wonderful when Halloween comes to Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, but what about Christmas? As it turns out there is a reason to consider Ichabod as Christmas rolls around.

Starting with the obvious, a musically inclined sign informs guests that Ichabod offers music and voice lessons in Liberty Square, by appointment only of course. This sign sets up the story that Ichabod’s studio is actually one of three distinct environments that makes up the various rooms of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, with the other two being for a colonial residence and a woodworker’s shop. Each room has a distinct feel and design to it, whether that feels like a well-worn and loved house that is clearly lived in or a woodcarver’s shop filled with hunks of wood, iron tools, and completed toys that are absolutely charming. When it comes to Ichabod’s music and voice lessons, however, you can definitely tell that music is serious business.

Ichabod’s corner of the shop is filled with instruments and musical notes everywhere you look. From the music stand with a copy of The Fly (no, not that The Fly) and a flute to the framed parchment paper filled with lyrics and notes hanging on the walls, music is all around. It is the framed sheet music that interests us at this joyous time of year. Considering that these pieces of music are framed and hung prominently, it is clear that they are some of Ichabod’s favorite carols to train his students with during Christmas time. The three songs in question are I Saw Three Ships, The Holly and the Ivy, and Joy to the World.

While Joy to the World would have become standard between the time it was first published in the late 1700s and when Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman burst onto the literary scene in 1820, The Holly and the Ivy would have been a more contemporary song having only been distributed since the mid-1810s. I Saw Three Ships is a bit stickier to get a date pinned down, while it wasn’t commonly published until 1833, there have been copies of the music dating back to the 1600s. It appears that Ichabod had a thing for contemporary classics, as well as deeper cuts.

The next time you think that the tales of Sleepy Hollow are best served up at Halloween, remember, that you’re absolutely right. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should complete cast off the memory of Ichabod when the calendar rolls around to the holiday season, he still has a song in his heart, and on his walls, that is worth taking note of.

04 December 2018

Full of Yuletide Cheer

December is here, which means you may be shopping for gifts for the Disney-phile in your life. Sure you have the limited release MagicBand for their stocking, or maybe even a phone call scheduled from Mickey Mouse if they’ve been very good this year and you’re surprising them with a trip. What about for that individual who just can’t get enough history of all things Disney? Lucky for you, there are a couple of volumes that are sure to be a hit this year!

Jeff Kurtti is arguably the name when it comes to Disney history, and he has proven it again and again with each book he publishes. This year he had three volumes that were released: Travels With Walt Disney, From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card, and Practically Poppins in Every Way. While I haven’t had the chance to pick up Practically Poppins yet, though it is on my list to read immediately after I catch a screening of Mary Poppins Returns, the other two have already become new classics on my bookshelf.

Travels With Walt Disney was released this spring and chronicles more than just Walt’s vacations. Each section tackles a different period of Walt Disney’s life, a different style of transportation, or a different focus in his life. The book is almost a scrapbook of Disney’s life, filled to the brim with photographs of places and people. Starting with his early life, to his time aboard a train, cruises, and even when he brought the world in his dream, Disneyland, each section includes an itinerary and is expertly navigated by Kurtti’s narrative and vignettes. From Disney’s time in Europe with the Red Cross Ambulance Corp during World War I to the saving grace of recreation with Lily, the impact of travel is not lost on a single page in the entire volume.

It is worth noting that Travels With Walt Disney, while mostly moving through Walt’s life in a linear fashion, does not run precisely in chronological order. For instance, the segment on railroads include comes in just after his formative years before jumping ahead to the 1956 feature film, The Great Locomotive Chase, and then transitioning back to his life in California in the 1930s. The jumps through Walt’s lifespan never seem out of place due to the sections having been deftly tied together. Honestly, it would be more jarring to constantly transition from a train trip, to a cruise, then to an airplane voyage, before back to another boat outing.

From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card is the more timely volume and, like many holiday spectacles, it opens with the curtains being pulled back from the middle. In this case, the centerline of the front cover. While an intriguing way to start a book, it sets the stage that this is no ordinary history text. For those who like their Christmas cards more tangible and less printed on the page, you are covered. Scattered throughout the book are 12 envelopes affixed to the pages, each holding a reproduction of a memorable greeting card.

Moving ahead to the text itself, the forward addresses the origins of Christmas Cards before plunging the reader headlong into the history of Disney’s versions of the holiday greeting. Starting with the 1930s and moving to the present day, Kurtti spin through the history of the Disney animation and storytelling come to life in annual cards like a hand-turned zoetrope. If you’re looking for a glimpse of artwork from a specific Disney legend, chances are you can find it in here as everyone from Mary Blair and John Hench to Kevin Kidney can be found in this massive archive of Christmases past.

I have been a fan of Jeff Kurtti’s work from the moments I flipped through the pages of Since the World Began many moons ago, and he continues to impress with each new book he releases. There are always details I’ve never heard before and layers I’ve not considered, even in something as simple as an archival look at Christmas cards. If you’re looking for a book to add to your Christmas list, or trying to find the perfect gift for the bookworm in your life, I cannot recommend Travels With Walt Disney and From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card enough.

30 November 2018

Market Development

There are many vignettes, or small stories scattered throughout Harambe in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Often times, the messaging of the land in shared through the art, postings, and signage of the found on the walls everywhere in Harambe. Today, let’s look quickly at one such message found on a wall in the Harambe Market. Like much of the graffiti found around Harambe, it is helpful if you know Swahili. Since I am not, I lean heavily on translation sites to get me close to the message and then begin the work of searching Swahili speeches and proverbs for keywords to get me to where I am going.

“Kila mango na ufunguwo wake,” is painted in bold black strokes of a sure hand with nothing fancy about it. The message is in, as stated above, Swahili and comes from Kenya. The proverb translates to, “Every door has its own key.” The breadth and width to which this proverb has been utilized is amazing, but in recent times it most often comes up in educational training. The proverb illustrates how every child, like a door, is unique and their potential will be unlocked in similarly unique ways. They may each learn differently or have different interests, much in the way keys have different notches for the lock pins, but they all have value and can be taught if a teacher is willing.

While the proverb most often ties in with education, I think it is easy to see its application across a broad spectrum of fields. As with most proverbs, you get out of it what you put into it. Is there a scenario you are facing right now, your own personal locked door, that you just haven’t found the right key for? If we are to heed the words in Harambe, your persistence will pay off in finding the key that opens your door.

27 November 2018

Disney Chefs are Sweet on Christmas

Gingerbread is as much a part of the holiday experience at Walt Disney World as Christmas trees, peppermint, wreaths, bows, or and bubbly snow. In fact, the spiced molasses treat has been around the parks and resorts for a long, long time. 25 years ago in 1993, the world of gingerbread was expanding and Eyes & Ears’ December 23, 1993 issue provided a complete rundown of what gingerbread (and other sugary) displays you could find throughout the Vacation Kingdom. Surprisingly, there was even more gingerbread to see and smell back than there is to be found in Walt Disney World these days. Let’s take a look at the list.

Magic Kingdom Park, Liberty Tree Tavern – a “traditional” gingerbread village, which began five years ago, has been enhanced and added to each season. This year, a country/western flavor brings new excitement, according to Area Chef Marianne Hunnel.
EPCOT Center, The Land – a competition between all of the World Showcase pavilions has produced an international village, with chefs through the Park participating.
Disney’s Polynesian Resort – an old-fashioned Christmas village, made of gingerbread and candy, is on display on the second floor lobby of this resort. 
Disney’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort – chefs have constructed an almost life-sized gingerbread playhouse. Again, candy and gingerbread (a lot of it) make up this house near 1900 Park Fare.
Disney Contemporary Resort – an “Early American” village made from rock sugar and gingerbread takes a place of prominence at the rear of the first floor lobby.
The Disney Inn – a piano and a storyteller add to the “Christmas-y” feel here. 
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort – an “old fashioned” Christmas village is on display at the Trail’s End Buffeteria.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – Caribbean houses made from gingerbread and candy highlight this display. The chefs’ work can be seen in front of each Old Port Royale food shop location.
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort – Belle and the Beast are part of this display “in person” and in food product at this main lobby display. Scenes from the movie have been recreated using almond paste, powdered sugar, candy and egg whites. Characters from Beauty and the Beast are on hand during the evening hours it is displayed.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort – Ariel stops by the main lobby at night (in person) to meet and greet Guests. The rest of the day, she can be seen here, along with the rest of the cast of Voyage of the Little Mermaid, in an exquisitely crafted diorama of sugar, candy, egg whites and almond paste.
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – scenes from Aladdin highlight this gingerbread, candy sugar and icing creation. “Marketplace” and “Castle” motifs from this smash hit have been recreated in the resort’s lobby.
Disney’s Dixie Landing Resort – a “Southern Bayou Christmas” comes to life in the form of gingerbread, icing, candy and sugar at Colonel’s Cotton Mill.
Disney Village Marketplace – a gingerbread contest too center stage at Chef Mickey’s Restaurant December 14. Winning entries are on display here and at the Empress Lilly Riverboat.
Disney Vacation Club Resort – a Key West Christmas village dominates the front lobby of Olivia’s restaurant. On display until December 29.

21 November 2018

Friendship Day Celebrashun

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what the year has given to us to be thankful for, a time to gather around the table with friends and families, and make new memories that we’ll cherish. This is not altogether unlike a meal at Walt Disney World, particularly one where friends come to visit your table, marvel at the good things piled high on your plate, and when they just so happen to be having a Friendship Day Celebration (or rather, Celebrashun). If you’re still lost, we’ve ventured over to the Crystal Palace to visit with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore, while enjoying a smorgasbord filled with all the best offerings from the Hundred-Acre Wood.

Since not all buffets are alike, let’s start with the setting at the Crystal Palace. Based upon the original Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park, you can see how the structure would have been a marvel during the Great Exhibition of 1851. Even the Magic Kingdom version is filled with ornate iron and glass which transports guests back in time and gives the whole restaurant a sense of elegance. Juxtaposed against this opulence are the childish qualities associated with Christopher Robin’s animated friends, a charmingly misspelled banner, and even topiaries of Pooh and company. It is altogether a wonderful mishmash of fun and sophistication.

This trend continues onto the menu, where just about any and everything you would want from a buffet is provided. In fact, playing into this week’s festivities, I was able to put together one plate that was all Thanksgiving and included turkey, stuffing, gravy, rolls, green beans, collard greens, carrots, and mashed potatoes. It may not be specifically what we’ll have at my house tomorrow, but it was a fine stand in. Other options include a wealth of salads, pastas, seafood, sausages, a ton of vegetable offerings, and several meat options from the carving station.

Beyond how vast the selection was, I was shocked by how many healthy options there were. Not only the quantity, but that the vegetable and salad options were things that I wanted to eat, and not just healthy options that had been thrown together for the sake of having healthier options. The cucumber salad and whole carrots were favorites of mine, while my wife gravitated more towards the couscous and other salads.

Of course, being with a bear with a rumbly in his tumbly, means that there are also going to be something sweet to eat as well. Ice cream with all the fixin’s is available, but don’t overlook the dessert spread. Small s’mores tarts, honey tarts (complete with candy bees), panna cotta, dirt mousse, and fruit filled domes are just a few of the offerings here that you’re going to want to save room for.

The last meal I had at the Crystal Palace was a little more than a decade ago, and at that time I swore off the place for good. However, giving it another chance recently was one of my better decisions. I went into this meal expecting to eat very little and come out hungry and looking for something else to eat, and I was entirely shocked by the wonderful meal I was able to have. Yes, it is a buffet, but there is a quality to the menu items that is a step above what the term buffet usually means to all of us that surprised me.

If you’re like me, I highly suggest you give the Crystal Palace another chance, or a first chance, if you’ve never tried it. The atmosphere is great, the food is delicious, and the friends are wonderfully warm. I guarantee you if the food doesn’t have you leaving the restaurant with a smile on your face, your interaction with the silly old bear will!

19 November 2018

Artifacts No Longer Taken as Payment

Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is a trove of artifacts and curiosities from his piloting days and his adventures with archaeological adventurers, namely Indiana Jones. To get more specific, there are many nods scattered throughout the hangar that are direct pulls from the original trilogy of Indiana Jones films. Over time it appears that Jock grew weary of accepting things that belong in museums as payment for his services, or drinks, and erected a sign that artifacts would no longer be considered a form of payment. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some wonderful pieces to ogle while you’re there. Today, however, let’s stick close to where it all began, and unearth some artifacts from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

We first come upon Indy in the jungles of Peru, where he using field notes from another archaeologist, Forrestal, he is seeking to locate the Chachapoyan fertility idol. The figure depicts Pacamama and is found by Jones in the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors. However, just as soon as he acquires to idol, Belloq steals it away from Jones. With the help of his trusty pilot, and our barkeep, Jock, Indy is able to fly away to adventure another day. The idol, meanwhile, has a story that continues on.

Belloq, on his way to uncover the Ark of the Covenant, sells the idol in Marrakesh to an antiquities dealer named Saad Hassim, the one place Jones knows Belloq can unburden himself of the idol. It is here that Dr. Jones is later able to acquire the fertility idol and present it to the National Museum. At a gala in the idol’s honor, a band of Hovitos, and possible decedents of the Chachapoyan, steal back the idol and head for Brazil. Jones gives chase and confronts the Hovitos, and their Nazi counterparts, and is able to once again obtain the idol.

It is clear that at some point after this adventure that Indiana turns the idol over the Jock. Whether it’s for safe keeping, because a hangar in central Florida is the last place you’d expect to find a Peruvian fertility idol, or to pay for safe passage to and from another adventure, the idol ends up in Jock’s hands. You can find it atop a trunk turned makeshift bookshelf in the very back, right corner of the Hangar Bar.

Before Indy was able to collect the idol, however, he had another adventure that was the main thrust of Raiders of the Ark. His quest to get to Tanis and locate the Ark of the Covenant takes him to Nepal in search of Abner Ravenwood. Instead, Jones finds Abner has passed away leaving the artifact he is looking for, the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra, has been passed to Abner’s daughter, and Indy’s estranged love interest, Marion.

Briefly in the hand of, and burned into the palm of, Arnold Toht, the headpiece contains instructions on the precise height for the staff of Ra. However, with only the information on one side, the Nazis end up with a staff that is too tall for the map in the Well of Souls and with a dig site in the wrong location. With the original headpiece in the possession of Indiana, he is able to locate the Ark first, only to have it, once again, swiped out from under him by Belloq and the Nazis. He and Marion are eventually able to attain the Ark again, only to have it spirited away by the American intelligence services.

Meanwhile, either Marion or Indy accidentally left the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra at Jock’s place after a night of frivolity, and maybe one or two too many Jocktails... If you’re looking to claim this artifact, or just admire its craftsmanship, then you should definitely look very closely at the Lost and Found case in the hangar. The case is along the walkway to the restrooms and, aside from the headpiece, it contains a wealth of wonderful items that are sure to interest you.

Jock Lindsey is in the conversation for one of Indiana Jones’ most stalwart companions, right up there with Sallah and Marcus Brody, and their years together show through the sheer amount of artifacts found throughout the Hangar Bar and notes from the flight log, aka menu. The fertility idol and Headpiece to the Staff of Ra from Raiders of the Lost Ark are only the beginning of the relics left behind from their adventures. This only means we’ll just have to keep visiting Jock’s in order to excavate new stories from the barkeep and pilot’s home.

13 November 2018

South of the Border Specialties

We’ve talked before about Choza de Margarita and how we enjoyed some of the upscale on the go offerings we’ve tasted there. It is a credit to the entire Mexico pavilion that just about every spot to grab a bite to eat or something to drink within, and outside of, the pyramid is a place that I regret not visiting if I can’t get there on a particular trip. As Choza de Margarita is still relatively young in its lifespan, let’s head back today to sample a bit more of the menu. This time we’ll focus in on a dish and a margarita that are a bit more traditional, but with that typical Choza twist.

Guacamole may not sound like a must try dish to you, but in our house it’s a common staple to have on hand. Sometimes we make it ourselves, and sometimes we leave it up to the capable hands of our local grocer, but it is something that we keep around. The guacamole at Choza de Margarita takes what you know and love about guacamole, the avocado, a bit of heat, and seasoning, and ramps it up with mango and pumpkin seeds. Then, instead of tortilla chips, it comes with fried flour chicharróns that are drizzled with salsa valentina. A lime also accompanies this dish to add as you see fit.

The mango is a refreshing addition to the guacamole and adds the brightness of lime without as much acidity, while the pumpkin seeds add some texture to the otherwise silky smooth guacamole. The fried flour chicharróns are wonderful scoops and can hold an extra-large dollop of guacamole that you typical chip would crack beneath. They are like air puffed pillows of salt and heat and they’re perfect alongside the fattiness and fresh flavors of the guacamole. There is definitely more than enough to share in a single portion, and it will really hit the spot if you’re looking for something to tide you over between meals.

To wash the guacamole down, we opted to go a hair up from the traditional margarita, and instead picked up Choza de Margarita’s Lime Cucumber Margarita. This beverage includes Libélula Joven Tequila, fresh cucumber juice, Combier Orange Liqueur, and agave nectar with Tajín Chile-lime powder on the rim. The difference between this and the traditional margarita offered at Choza is the type of tequila used, the addition of cucumber juice, and the rim, which in the traditional version is a black ant salt rim.

As much as any margarita can be, the Lime Cucumber Margarita is as refreshing as it gets. The cucumber is mellow and spends most of its time in the background, allowing the lime and orange liqueur to do the heavy lifting. The cucumber juice comes through enough to cool off the harsh edges of both and leave you with a pleasing aftertaste. The Tajín Chile-lime powder will give you a kick each time you place your lips to the glass, but if you stay in one spot, that effect will obviously dissipate as you continue sipping on your margarita. Overall, the Cucumber Lime Margarita is extremely flavorful, but not overbearing, and is definitely something I will add to my regular rotation.

With a couple of dishes and a handful of margaritas under my belt, I can safely state the Choza de Margarita is representing well the recent trend of great food and drink in the Mexico pavilion. If you’re on the go between stops, or just simply don’t want to wait to get a table at La Cava del Tequila, Choza de Margarita is definitely a place to check out. If you’ve been before, give something else on the menu a try, because from my sampling they will not disappoint you!

06 November 2018

Adventures and Attractions in the Magic Kingdom

One of the great joys in researching and sharing the wonderful worlds of Disney is that, on rare occasions, friends and family members pass along materials and photos from their personal history with Disney vacations. Today happens to be one of those days. The smattering of photos, fourteen in total, feature great views, young plants, topiaries, and entertainment offerings not seen in a long time. While the specific year for these photos is in question, the fact that the WEDWay PeopleMover is up and running and the bicentennial banners are up on Main Street, U.S.A. means this is probably either 1975 or 1976.

There are a couple of unique things that are worth noting as you make your way through these photographs, aside from the aforementioned PeopleMover and banners. The original design of Tomorrowland, free roaming topiaries, and the Dapper Dans on a bicycle built for four are chief among these. Also, pay attention to the exterior and artwork of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage behind the marching Main Street Philharmonic and the openness around Cinderella Castle and on Main Street, U.S.A.

Enjoy this stroll down memory lane that was gifted to us. I know I have!

30 October 2018

Halloween Hysteria

Mickey’s head may seem the perfect size and shape for a Jack-o’-lantern, Disney’s vault shelfs are lined with spooky stories and terrifying villains, and the Haunted Mansion is living ghost story, but that doesn’t always mean that the Magic Kingdom has been a happy home for Halloween. From the day the park opened and even through the bicentennial, the main holidays visible within the park were Christmas and the Fourth of July. Yet, like the Headless Horseman waiting for just the right time to appear to Ichabod and make his blood run cold, Halloween was just biding its time around the bend.

The Magic Kingdom’s first real foray into a Halloween event long predated the now beloved Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. It was known as Halloween Hysteria, and it wasn’t even held on Halloween! Instead, it was held on the Saturday closest to Halloween in October of 1979, which fell on October 27th. This one night event followed the formula for after-hours events set by Disneyland and continued well beyond the Magic Kingdom’s first decade: attractions with smaller crowds, special entertainment, and even musical performances by The Police and Dr. Hook. The single night events that would grow to larger affairs were the hallmark of special events for a long time at Walt Disney World. Even the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party held in 1983 was only a single night affair.

It would be under the tenure of Michael Eisner and his drive to create a Walt Disney World where guests could spend their entire vacations and have more entertainment options than ability to do them all in a single vacation when the modern Magic Kingdom Halloween party would start to take shape. The first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party would be held in 1995 and would still be a single night soiree, but the curve for expansion would be steep. In 1997 it became two nights, 1999 saw it reach three nights, 2001 upped the nights again to five nights, in 2003 it doubled to ten nights. Soon after, it was bursting at October’s seams and spilled out into September.

The offerings have, appropriately, changed over the years. Fireworks, parades, character meet-and-greets, not to mention the character’s costumes and photo backdrops, trick-or-treating trails, shows and entertainment, and even the variety of meals and sweet treats have shifted with the times. I, for one, would love to venture back to 2000 and visit with Frankenstein Goofy in front of a flimsy façade, and not very accurate, Haunted Mansion background for a photo or two.

Today, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has invaded the end of summer season and is held on 34 nights over the course of August, September, and October. For the curious, this means 12 more nights than Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party in 2018, making Halloween the (pumpkin) king of Magic Kingdom holidays. While bigger is better in the world of specially ticketed events, and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary definitely delivers big thrills and chills, not to mention lasting memories, it’s almost uncanny to think of how small the party’s origin was in comparison.

25 October 2018

A Painter's Brush

I am a sucker for visual displays that show a rainbow of colors. When something shows off the full ROY G. BIV spectrum to me it just makes me happy, and I don’t think I’m the only one. In fact, there are whole fields dedicated to the psychology of color. It ranges from how certain colors help us learn or be more productive at work or whether a certain color makes us drowsy, right on through to why children are drawn to more vibrant colors, our stereotyped association of pink for girls and blue for boys, and how the color of food suggests to our brains what that food might taste like. It’s truly fascinating.

When it comes to rainbows, I like the balance and harmony it shows. The spectrum is symmetrical in a very non-symmetrical way, putting everyone at the table, in the color wheel, or in the double rainbow. I’m sure there is some sort of science behind that as well, especially tied to the attributes I place upon rainbows, but there is definitely something to be said for a well-crafted use of color. If I dug deeper into my own psyche, which is a scary place to play around in all by itself, I’m sure there’s some nod to the Dreamfinder or Figment hiding in a corner whispering alongside Bob Ross about the rainbows.

In Disney Springs alone there are several examples of rainbows being utilized, sometimes in bright, in-your-face displays, and other times in more subtle versions. Here are a few of my favorites from UNIQLO, Amorette’s Patisserie, and Cherry Tree Lane in the Marketplace Co-Op.

23 October 2018

Goods at the Market of Harambe

Satu’li Canteen, Tiffins, Flame Tree Barbecue, Tusker House, and even Nomad Lounge take up a lot of the space when talking about dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. As well they should, there is a lot of great dishes and culinary risk-taking coming out of all of these restaurants. Sometimes lost in the shuffle, or lost in a deluge due to its outdoor ordering and seating, Harambe Market offers up some wonderful dishes that you should be paying attention to. Let’s sample one or two, or four, today and give you an idea of what you could be missing out on.

Let’s start with a pair of entrees, the Spiced Karubi Ribs and beef and lamb gyro. The ribs feature an African spice rub and barbecue glaze and come paired with green papaya slaw and black-eyed pea salad. The gyro, as you would expect, features thinly sliced gyro meats from a rotating spit, served open-faced on naan and topped with cucumber and tomato salad and tzatziki sauce. It also comes with a side of black-eyed pea salad.

The ribs are definitely one of the specialties of Harambe Market, and that care shows in every bite. Some of the meat will literally fall off of the bone, while you will have to pull some of it off with your teeth, although not with much effort. The spice mixture present in the rub and sauce represent the best of what African spices can do, but the flavor profile may be a bit off putting for picky eaters. The green papaya slaw is cool and crunchy, with fresh flavors that are a bright contrast to the slow cooked ribs. Likewise, the black-eyed pea salad, with corn, peppers, and black-eyed peas, delivers a ton of tasty vegetables in a small package.

Moving over to the beef and lamb gyro, this is a step up option for those guests who don’t want to step out of their sandwich comfort zone. The cucumber and tomato salad, along with the tzatziki sauce are laced with cool and mellow flavors that complement the savory and rich elements coming from the gyro meats. The naan is pillowy and chewy, and makes for a sturdy base that you can either cut into with a fork and knife or pick up like a traditional sandwich. The black-eyed pea salad is, again, a nice accompaniment to the dish and a welcomed change-up from fries or chips.

Since we’re back in Africa, it seems only right to also try the Safari Cake, which is a coconut cake with pineapple-coconut mousse that is then coated in chocolate and served on a bed of toasted coconut. The cake spongey and the coconut flavor is definitely the star here. The mouse is creamy and thick, and you catch a hint of the pineapple, but the flavor is fleeting between the waves of coconut. The chocolate is a nice touch, as is the toasted coconut on the plate that easily sticks to the cake or chocolate covering, and both serve the cake well. The portion size will definitely leave you wanting more.

To wash all of this down, we sampled the Leopard’s Eye, Snow Leopard Vodka blended with kiwi-and-mango flavored Bibo. Bibo is a fruit based beverage from Coca-Cola which here is the kiwi and mango variety. The tropical flavors mask the vodka well and, when paired with its neon green coloring, the Leopard’s Eye feels and tastes more like frozen Ecto Cooler, for those of you familiar with the juice box staple. It’s very sweet and does wonders to combat the heat and humidity of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My only complaint is that the ingredients used to create slushy beverages can, at times, cause me to get not only an ice cream headache, but full body aches. That’s more of a personal problem than it is a slight against the Leopard’s Eye, but I thought I would issue the warning in case you suffer similar frozen cocktail discomforts.

The stalls of Harambe Market are meticulously crafted, with every detail considered, and so too are the meals and menu items which are offered up from their windows. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has long been the bastion of adventurous eaters and culinary boundary pushing within the four parks of Walt Disney World. Harambe Market offers unique takes on recognizable dishes and pleases the palate on every visit. If you haven’t paid a visit to the open air eatery yet, or it’s been a while since your last visit, I say it’s time you take another bite or two, or four.