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.