15 April 2021

Everyone Belongs

Earlier this week Disney announced that under their recently unveiled 5th Key of Inclusion, part of the keys to service and culture, they will be modifying the standards for personal style for Cast Members. This move is long overdue, but a great stride to creating a more comfortable workplace for their Cast Members, a place where authenticity will surely lead to more magical experiences for guests and Cast Members alike. I’d like to take a few moments to talk about why this is a smart business and social move, but also address some of the ideas I’ve seen since the news broke. Let’s start with part of the statement from Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman, Josh D’Amaro.
“Our new approach provides greater flexibility with respect to forms of personal expression surrounding gender-inclusive hairstyles, jewelry, nail styles, and costume choices; and allowing appropriate visible tattoos. We’re updating them to not only remain relevant in today’s workplace, but also enable our cast members to better express their cultures and individuality at work.
“Moving forward, we believe our cast, who are at the center of the magic that lives in all our experiences, can provide the best of Disney’s legendary guest service when they have more options for personal expression – creating richer, more personal and more engaging experiences with our guests.”

I want to start with that last line, the section about creating more personal experiences with guests. Representation matters, and it matters in all areas of the public eye, from music, television, and movies, to reporters, corporate C-suites, and restaurants. Being able to see someone who looks like you, who identifies like you, who expresses themselves like you is critical to each person’s own self-image and how much value they see in themselves. With Cast Members that means that a child who sees a Cast Member with hair, earrings, nail polish, costume gender, or pick your attribute like their own is more likely to feel comfortable in the theme parks and more likely to connect that they have a worth and are a part of the Disney story. That engagement is at the heart of the Disney Parks mission.
Allowing more expression also means greater productivity and less turnover from a business standpoint, and let us not forget that the Walt Disney Company is a business first, second, and third. In a recent study from the Harvard Business Review, allowing employees to be their authentic selves at work reduced turnover by 33% and enhanced the performance of the employees that they did have. In turn, this also made their customers happier, which produced a stronger bottom line overall.
This shift in how Cast Members are permitted express themselves at work also begins to break down the walls between the tiers of Disney management and other fields of the company and the frontline Cast Members who are out there with guests day in and day out. Let’s take one example, a very famous example, to discuss. Joe Rohde, a former Imagineer and longtime personal hero, is most well-known, perhaps even above his storytelling and engineering marvels, for his gargantuan earring. Could you imagine what would happen if a Cast Member had ever shown up in a park, on stage, with a similar earring? While I am certain this type of earring is still a no-go for Cast Members, these changes do begin to shift the balance of expression that has favored the white-collar fields of Disney, positions predominantly held by white males, with the much more diverse demographics that fill in the frontline, underpaid positions.
Those are just a few of the positives that can come from this change, but now let’s start dismantling some of the criticisms I’ve seen since this change was announced now. Let’s start with the most confusing statements I’ve read: It’s the uniform, I want to be able to tell the difference between Cast Members and other guests, I don’t want it to feel like I’m walking down the street in any city in the country. It’s still a uniform, Cast Members aren’t suddenly going to stop wearing their assigned costumes and nametags in favor of jeans and a tee shirt. If all you can see is hair style, beards, tattoos, and not the attraction, shop, or land uniforms and nametags, I’m not sure how to help you. And just to help ease the minds of some guests, they aren’t allowing Cast Members to throw all caution to the wind when it comes to costuming, they still have to wear the appropriate costumes for where they are staffed. You aren’t suddenly going to see a Space Mountain Cast Member costume show up at Festival of the Lion King.
Second statement I’ve seen a lot of: It’s a business and its tradition, Walt wouldn’t want it that way. I’ve used the Walt argument myself many years ago, and then I realized something; Walt isn’t here anymore, no one knows what he would or wouldn’t want, and if he had wanted his company to stay relevant he would have changed policies to keep up with the times just as he did during his lifetime. As for the tradition part, it was also tradition, from the time Disneyland opened through the first years of Walt Disney World for guests to come to the parks in full suits and dresses, as if they were going to a business dinner or church. While Dapper Day has brought this style back to the parks a couple of times a year, it is in no way still the tradition to show up in such attire. If the style of guests is allowed to evolve, why wouldn’t the self-expression of the Cast Members be allowed to as well?
Within this there is this notion that it is a business. I work for a business, I have a dress code, I also have grown a beard that I am sure those from another generation would rather I shave off. However, I am allowed to keep it provided it doesn’t get unruly. For me, my beard is part of who I am. I have it because, one, I look good with a beard, but more importantly, I don’t like the extra weight I carry under my chin and my beard helps me feel less self-conscious about that. If I was told I had to get rid of my beard, I would likely start looking for another position elsewhere. By opening up grooming and other attributes of style, Disney is allowing for more of their Cast Members to present themselves in ways that make them feel as comfortable as I do in my job, and I wouldn’t take that away from anyone.
Lastly, one of the more common arguments out there: Disney is only doing this as virtue signaling. I’m not going to spend much time here, other than to say that this is preposterous. Disney has long tried, and failed in many respects, to keep up with the times and include more people, rather than exclude individuals. They are continuing to move forward and have found another way to be inclusive, but as we stated earlier, they are a business and their ultimate goal is to make more money. Retaining Cast Members and making them more productive is a big part of keeping the money coming in. That’s what this is all about, it isn’t about being disingenuous as a company, this is who the Walt Disney Company is, and will be, into the future and beyond all of our lifetimes.

This change in guidance is a move I applaud, but I also believe there is more to be done under their 5th Key of Inclusion. What they do next, how they develop will be as unique as each of our own personal journeys with inclusivity and understanding those that do not look like us. I, for one, love to hear others’ stories, they challenge my entrenched ideas and give me the chance to grow as a person, it isn’t easy, but it’s always worth it. This is exactly the positive pains I hope to see Disney continue to go through.

08 April 2021

The Base of the Mountain

If I have one go-to beverage in all the lounges in all of Walt Disney World, it is the Tempting Tigress from Nomad Lounge. It was the cocktail I tried on my first visit to Nomad Lounge and, while I've sampled plenty of this marquee Animal Kingdom lounge's offerings, I come back to the Tempting Tigress again and again. While Nomad Lounge rests in Discovery Island, this is definitely a beverage fit for the finest establishments in Anandapur. I am thrilled to have it in my home bartending repertoire, just as I hope you will be after this entry.



2 Oz. Russell's Reserve 10-Year Bourbon
1 Oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 Oz. Lime Juice
1 Bar Spoon Tamarind Syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass with ice.
Stir and strain into a double rocks glass with fresh ice.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
There are a couple of recipe notes worth discussing up front. For starters, if you don't have a bar spoon for the tamarind syrup use somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 of an ounce. The tamarind is very strong, so definitely play with the quantities to suit your tastes. It also happens to be the toughest ingredient to come by, I found some in a local small grocer, but it can usually be found through Amazon as a last resort. Lastly, the Russell's Reserve is good, and is the bourbon called for in the recipe, but this tasty cocktail only got better when I subbed in Uncle Nearest or Woodford Reserve.

The Tempting Tigress has a rich mouthfeel, full of spicy notes and tart citrus. This isn't a typical drink you'd throw back on a warm summer afternoon on the beach, but it is perfect for sipping in the early evening with a good friend or good book on your back porch during any season.
If bourbon is your spirit of choice, and you like a bit of a spicy zing in your concoctions, the Tempting Tigress will not disappoint. If you are like me, and you look for a reason to stop in at Nomad Lounge just to have this chilled glass back in your hand, then this recipe is perfect for you. Straight from Nomad Lounge to your back porch, courtesy of a most tempting tigress.

24 March 2021

Unwind in the Heart of Serenity

With days finally starting to get a little warmer, the beverage selection around my house has turned from warm teas and ciders to something with a bit more of a tropical flare. While the warm sun of summer may still be as far away as Castaway Cay, it doesn't mean we can't bring the tropical flavors of a sun-drenched beach to our kitchens.

The Konk Cooler is one of the legendary drinks that can be found on Castaway Cay. A little bit pina colada, a little bit mai tai, a little bit pog juice, and a little bit of mixologist magic creates quite a tropical cocktail. Also, it isn't so strong that it'll knock you right out in your lounger. Instead, it lets the fruit flavors party in your mouth and leaves you in search of a friendly bartender to whip you up another.



1 Oz. Passion Fruit Juice
1 Oz. Pina Colada Mix
1 Oz. Orange Juice
3/4 Oz. Light Rum
1/2 Oz. Dark Rum

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
Shake vigorously and strain into a tall glass with ice.
That's about as easy a recipe for a cocktail as their is. Honestly, I suspect most well-stocked home bar liquor cabinets contain all but one or two of these ingredients. For our part, I had the passion fruit juice, but not the pina colada mix, for others I imagine it might be the other way around. Also, if you're feeling particularly fancy, you can add a wedge of the tropical fruit of your choice for a garnish.

The pina colada mix gives the Konk Cooler a creamy texture that many tropical cocktails don't employ. Typically, I actually try to avoid mixed beverages that utilize orange juice because I feel like the tend to overpower the other ingredients. Don't get me wrong, I love orange juice (I am a Florida boy after all), but it usually is too strong for adding it in with other flavors. Not so here, where the most forward flavors are the passion fruit juice and the dark rum. This switch up from what I was expecting, and from what I remember from my Konk Cooler on Castaway Cay, made for a delicious surprise!

I did have a couple of thoughts while making these myself. One, I would probably add ice to the shaker just to add a little chill to the proceedings, before the concoction makes it to the glass. Two, the dark rum works well here, but I also wonder if it wouldn't plus it up just a hair if I used spiced rum in its place.

Castaway Cay may not be in our immediate future, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a piece of it wherever we find ourselves. This fun, fruity, and frosty beverage will remind you of the warm seabreeze in your hair and provide you with a moment to serenity, wherever you happen to be. The next time you need that moment of bliss, throw on some beach music and remember that the Konk Cooler is a simple escape.

22 March 2021

Take a Stroll Around the Block

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is one of the longer festivals to grace the park. In a typical year it features garden ideas, seminars, shopping, food, music, and, of course, topiaries. It could be argued, and rightly so, that many of the festivals have lost their identity and have transformed into one year-long festival, with a couple of menu changes in the marketplace booths. Each year there is less innovative or original gardens and topiaries, with the individual spirit of the festival being relegated to new merchandise. That’s a story for another day.
The topiaries scattered about World Showcase and Future World have always been one of the true joys, and heart, of the Flower and Garden Festival. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a purist or just stubborn, but I’ve always liked the topiaries without the fake eyes. The more plant, the better.

Here we see a bit of topiary humor, with Aladdin modeling as the final touches are made to his topiary by a member of the horticulture team. This photo was taken in 1994, just days before the Aladdin topiary was installed for the first time in the festival. His spot for many years were the gardens, usually purple and green cabbage or marigolds, of Morocco. Situated along the miniature canals that connected to the waterwheel. A display, which while often overlooked, gave guests an up close and personal look at the model of irrigation.

When the gardens were removed to make way for Spice Road Table, Aladdin found other places to fly his carpet around the Morocco pavilion. While he isn’t part of the festival this year, I have a feeling he may be returning in the next year or two, as his film will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in November of 2022. I love Aladdin, especially his original placement, but I don’t know if he’s on the tops of my topiary list. As for you, which of the topiaries from the Flower and Garden Festival, new or retired, is your favorite? 

16 March 2021

Great Places for Children to Visit

Toy Story has become one of the marquee franchises in Walt Disney World. Its characters have an attraction in the Magic Kingdom, an entire land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and a section of the of All Star Movies Resort. The Toy Story section of the All Star Movie Resort features a representation of Andy’s Room circa the original 1995 Toy Story film, complete with a three story Woody figure and bookshelf. This bookshelf features a number of nods to other Pixar works of the time and was visible in the movie as well. What do all of these book titles reference? I’m glad you asked, let’s run through them.
Let’s get a couple of the more standard books children might have on their shelves. Fairy Tales, Dictionary, Great Places for Children to Visit, ABC’s, My First Book, and The Stars could all be found, in some form or fashion, on just about any child’s shelf. There are, to my knowledge, no hidden meanings tucked away in these titles.
Red’s Dream, Tin Toy, and Knick Knack are all references to Pixar short films. Red’s Dream, from 1987, features a red unicycle dreaming of being a circus star. 1988’s Tin Toy, stars a one-man band toy, Tinny, who is being pursued, and then ignored, by a baby. It is worth mentioning that Tin Toy would go on to be the first Academy Award win for Pixar. Lastly, Knick Knack, released in 1989, features a snow globe trapped snowman who desperately wants to be free of his snow globe and hang out with other souvenirs at a beach party.
Next up, Smyrl Smyrl Twist and Twirl, is a reference to Pixar technician and artist, Eliot Smyrl. Smyrl has worked on everything from Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, to Finding Nemo, Up, Inside Out, and even Pixar’s latest release, Soul.
The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. is actually a short that pre-dates Pixar’s formation. This short was created in 1984 and features a robot named Andre waking up in the woods and being taunted by a bee, Wally B. This short was created by Alvy Ray Smith, John Lasseter, Bill Reeves, and other names Pixar fans would be familiar with, but was created when they were still at Lucasfilm.
Ant and Bee Go on Vacation, isn’t a real title and it doesn’t have a tie to a Pixar project. However, it is likely a reference to the 13 Ant and Bee stories by Angela Banner that were created by Angela Banner and illustrated by Banner and Bryan Ward in the 1950s through the early 1970s. This series is still a beloved children’s book series in the United Kingdom.
Lastly, let’s discuss a pair of mysteries. Feet First has no place in Pixar or real-world literature that I could find. It’s a complete enigma to me. Scooter Run, however, may be a nod to the scooters that were used as transportation around Pixar in their early years. In fact, it is possible that this is even a reference to the timed races they would have when they needed to let off some steam, but I can’t find any solid documentation of my theory. If you have details on either of these titles, I’d be happy to know!
There you have it, a shelf full of childhood memories, nods to Pixar’s early history, and a couple of mysteries. Which is your favorite bit of history or trivia that you’ll share on your next trip to All Star Movies?

03 March 2021

One of Nature's Sweetest Creations

Today is the beginning of the 2021 Taste of Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. While the full festival experience is still paused given the pandemic, we thought we would follow suit and give those of you at home a chance to create your own taste of the festival. We decided on something sweet, that would be easy to whip up, and could be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or a snack any time of the day.

The Honey Peach Cobbler Freeze has been on the menu of The Honey Bee-stro marketplace since 2018, though in 2020 and 2021 it opted to drop the "cobbler" portion of its name and simply go by Honey Peach Freeze. I imagine the image of cobbler makes most guests think of something warm, which is the last thing this frosty concoction should do. Let's jump right in!



2 Cups Fresh Peaches (peeled and diced)
2 Cups Frozen Vanilla Yogurt
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Granola
1 1/2 Tbsps. Honey

Combine peaches, milk, frozen yogurt, and honey in a blender.
Blend until smooth.
Pour into 2 tall glasses.
Top with granola to taste.
Pretty simple, right? Basically a peach milkshake, or something between a milkshake and a smoothie, but either way is is definitely refreshing. We made a batch of these for our Sunday morning brunch, but we decided we could have had them at any point during the day for a little pick me up. Disney's recipe states that you can add 1 1/4 oz. of blueberry vodka to make it an adult beverage, but I would say you can add a lot of different spirits to make this freeze more adult. I personally imagine a citrus vodka would do the trick nicely.

We found a basic granola (honey coconut) to use as a topping, which I crunched up a bit more so that it would work into the beverage a bit more and not all sink to the bottom. Despite the name change during the festival, the granola doesn't dramatically change this drink. Honestly, it seems to enhance it by providing some texture when the blending process smooths out the other components. Also, the peach flavor we got was more reserved than we would normally like, and our peaches were ripe, so I would almost recommend 3 cups instead of 2 cups of peaches, but you know your palate best.

Overall, this is a great milkshake/smoothie, that is a breeze to throw together, and is good for any time of day. It gives you a solid base to mix and match fruits, flavors, and make something unique to you, while giving you a taste of the Flower and Garden Festival.

01 March 2021

Serving Serka Zong

Signage plays an important role in the storytelling and world-building of the parks and resorts of Walt Disney World. No place is it used with more enthusiasm and precision than in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, particularly in the lands of Asia and Africa. Touring through the Serka Zong section of the Discovery River Amphitheater, there are many signs of life that can be gathered from the assorted posting. They provide insight into governmental agencies and local laws, the history of the region, local businesses and industries, culture, mythologies, and beliefs. Additionally, these signs create a visually dynamic landscape that guests can break-up the monotony a structure or walkway. Even if they are ignored by guests, they have subconsciously affected the guest experience. When they engaged with, however, that is where the real magic of great storytelling comes in to play.

25 February 2021

Head to Marrakesh

Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar is a treasure trove of nods, personal effects, and coveted relics. Not just those of Jock and Indiana Jones, but also the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.) and the Adventurers Club. It is a collection of the sort of lost-and-found adventurers not seen since the Adventurers Club closed, and includes some deep cuts in newspaper clippings, maps, log books, cabinets, and several pieces of correspondence. One such item, situated behind glass with some surrounding photos, is a post card to Jock from none other than Dr. Jones himself. It reads:
Take the $500 I am wiring you and head to Marrakesh. Don’t let the idol slip through our fingers again. I will get it from you after I get back from Nepal.
Indiana Jones
While there are many stories in Indiana’s archeological explorations that this could be referencing, sometimes the most well-known and practical answer is the right one. The idol in question must be the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol that Jones lost to René Belloq, just before escaping the Hovitos with Jock in the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. We know that Indy heads to Nepal to acquire the Headpiece of the Staff of Ra from Marion Ravenwood, so we can assume that this is the timeframe in which the postcard had been sent. It should be mentioned that, aside from this postcard, both the headpiece and fertility idol can be found in Jock’s hangar.
The Golden Goddess was a two-part story from Marvel’s The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones in 1985 that told the tale of the fertility idol in Marrakesh. While it does account for Belloq offloading the idol to an antiquities dealer in Marrakesh, the story features Indy, Sallah, Marion, and a number of continuity problems, but no Jock. I think it’s safe to assume, at this point, that the story is a fantastical work of pulp fiction and that idol definitely reached Marrakesh with Belloq, but that Jock was the true savior of the artifact, not Dr. Jones and crew who were busy in Nepal and Cairo at the time.
The last little detail worth note on the postcard is the address for Jock: 1138 Seaten Ave., Springs, FL. Most of this clearly denotes a fictitious location, but the street number for the address, 1138, is a not so subtle nod to George Lucas’ 1971 movie, THX 1138.

23 February 2021

Hoist the Main

The fleet of the Disney Cruise Line is known for many things; a wonderful private island, Disney hospitality, delicious food, and onboard water features that are top notch. In addition, they are also known for evening shows, some of which employ Broadway-caliber technologies, performers, and music. Although everyone who has ever set sail with Captains Mickey and Minnie has their favorite show, they are retired every so often making way for something new. If you happened to be aboard the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder during their first few years in 1996 or 1997, there’s one retired production you may be familiar with, Voyage of the Ghost Ship.
This show lasted only a couple of years, but even so it actually had two versions that guests may have seen on their sailing. The first iteration had to be toned down to make more family friendly. And if you need to ask why a show called Voyage of the Ghost Ship needed to be modified for children, just remember that Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was PG-13 for a reason.
The show features an ensemble cast who are onboard The Lady Providence, either through work, booking of passage, or as a stowaway. The stowaway is the aptly named Trouble, who is quickly discovered by, and taken under the wings of, Captain Becker and the bosun Dutch. Princess Angelina and Lady Marta are returning to the princess’s kingdom where she is to be married, and they are accompanied by the Marquis Roderigo, who happens to be the magic-wielding Mad Jack in disguise, and his iguana, Charlie. Mad Jack’s goal is to reclaim his powers, ghost crew, and The Lady Providence by completing a spell and summoning the monster Charlemagne in the Dark Sea.

Captain Becker and Princess Angelina begin to fall in love with one another, but Angelina is transformed into the ship’s figurehead by Mad Jack. Deciding that the Dark Sea will put the princess in danger, not knowing her current whereabouts, Becker leaves Dark Sea. In order to bend the crew to his will and stop the ship from leaving the Dark Sea, Mad Jack summons sea sirens that will lead the ship to the rocks. Luckily, Trouble seems unaffected by the sirens, and is able to awaken the captain from siren’s song. The somewhat predictable, but no less fun third act kicks into high gear with Mad Jack makes his move, there’s a duel between Becker and Mad Jack, Trouble steals staff of Mad Jack, and Charlemagne appears to devour Princess Angelina and return Mad Jack to full power. He is a fire-breathing sea serpent, that looks a lot like the sillier serpent from the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage.  Charlemagne is fed a bomb, explodes, Jack sent overboard to swim with the sharks, Trouble uses the magic staff to return Angelina, Captain Becker becomes an Admiral, he and Angelina are married, as are Dutch and Marta, the crew of The Providence are commissioned to sail around the world, and Trouble becomes first mate. Take a bow you pirates and princesses!
Like many great Disney stories, this one wouldn’t be complete without some music.  The production included the songs My Name is Trouble, Hoist the Main, an interlude of Grim Grinning Ghosts (because, why not?), Mad Jack, A Sailor’s Tale which is very reminiscent of Whale of a Tale, Follow Your Heart and its reprise, We Fly, Hoist the Main (reprise), and closes with a second singing of A Sailor’s Tale.
The show would go on to be replaced with Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer, but still holds a treasured place in the hearts of some of the Magic and Wonder’s earliest sailing parties. I, for one, would love to see it returned for the Halloween on the High Seas sailings, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

17 February 2021

Habitual Bungling

Some of the biggest names in the Disney catalog come from roots set down in the West. Zorro, Crockett, Pecos Bill, and others were so much a part of the mid-20th century that there was an entire land dedicated to them in Disneyland, a land whose legends only grew as the kingdom parks spread across the globe. One pair of infamous, if only for their bumbling ways, grifters have found themselves immortalized in not one, but two postings in the queue of the Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We’re naturally speaking of Amos and Theodore.

Amos Tucker and Theodore Ogelvie, portrayed by Tim Conway and Don Knotts respectively, first appeared in 1975’s The Apple Dumpling Gang, based upon the 1971 book of the same title. At the time the audience is introduced to them, the pair of misfits are no longer members of the Stillwell Gang, having shot the leader in the leg, and have taken to calling themselves the Hash Knife Outfit, a not so subtle nod to a 1933 Zane Grey novel. After continually trying to rob Russell Donovan, and then his three wards who found a gold nugget, before befriending the group. Enter the Stillwell Gang, a hijinks-filled bank robbery, and a happy ending for the newly formed family, leaving our pair of reformed ne’er-do-wells asking to become farmhands.

Apparently, the simple life doesn’t satisfy Amos and Theodore, as in 1979’s The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again the duo, in an attempt to stay on the straight and narrow, end up being suspected of bank robbery, get recruited for a train heist, and end up working with an undercover soldier to clear their good, if a bit dented, names. While this sequel doesn’t feature Russell Donovan or his family, it does end with the pair returning to the safety of the farm.

The postings in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s queue definitely line up with what we know about the pair. One announcement includes a reward and a description of the two, claiming that they are wanted for “attempted bank robbery, chicanery, skullduggery, tomfoolery, and habitual bungling.” Sounds like Theodore and Amos alright. The second notice includes sketches, that are a darn good likeness, of the duo, and was posted by the T.W. Bullion Silver Mine. The Bullion name is a story in and of itself for another day. It states that the two claimed to be metallurgists and that they “fouled up our whole operation and took off with ten pounds of lead. Complete incompetents.”

Seems like the pair haven’t totally reformed their reputations, or their grifter ways, and they definitely haven’t forgotten how to enrage local constabulary and businesses, blunder their own prospects, and entertain the masses while they’re doing it. The next time you’re in the queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, keep a sharp eye out for Theodore and Amos, or, at the very least, the signs that they’ve been mucking about.

15 February 2021

The Cup That Will Transport You - Part XI

It's been well over 3 years since we've touched upon the Joffrey's coffee blends for your home brewing experience, but there hasn't been a ton of new additions to the line up in that time either. And, if we're being perfectly up front, it's been rather difficult to get Aileen to not continually crave the Alto Mayo Protected Forest. Yet, we're back today with a pair of offerings that span a new resort in Florida, before traveling all the way to Hawai'i, with results that are almost as far apart as these two locales. Let's get right to it!

Riviera Resort Blend (Dark)
Developed by our Head Roastmaster Chris De Mezzo in collaboration with Disney Chefs. This blend combines beans from Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica, and Kenya to create a sweet and smoky profile with a rich aroma. Transport yourself to the elegance and glamour of Disney's Riviera Resort with every sip.

What Aileen Tastes:
Joffrey's description is on target, but misses the mark for me. The smokiness is overpowering and makes this cup of coffee very bitter. There isn't a lot of sweetness to pick up after that, but it may pair well with a sweet dessert to balance it out. I just wouldn't make it my regular morning cup of joe.

Aulani (Medium) – Begin your morning as they do at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa. This is the coffee served in-room. A masterful blend of rich Kona coffee beans from the Big Island of Hawai'i, blended with beans from Central America. You'll find a distinctly smooth and buttery mouth-feel with mild tropical fruit flavors.

What Aileen Tastes:
This is an incredibly smooth coffee, and it hits on all of the right floral notes, as well as just a hint of almond and vanilla on the backside of each sip. If you're looking for a bright and bold coffee, with a very forward coffee flavor, this isn't the blend for you. This is one of my new favorites, no surprise given how big a fan I am of Kona coffee, and it could be very versatile, matching up with whatever meal or dessert you choose to pair it with.

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

Previous Reviews:

11 February 2021

This Isn't Poison

AbracadaBar is filled with magic, floor to ceiling, wall to wall. There are posters from magicians hanging on the walls, each imbued with its own tinge of something mystical. Cabinets and shelves filled with magical artifacts, tools of the trade, and books on a variety of magic. Even the wallpaper has the story of illusion written all over it. With so many items clamoring for guests’ attention, it would be easy to overlook so much of what AbracadaBar has to offer, not the least of which would be the small plate and beverage offerings. Guest should take note, however, of a small vial sitting on an upper shelf of the cabinets.

There are a handful of items that relate to movies scattered throughout AbracadaBar, but this is one of the finest details to be found. The bottle has a small label affixed to it for identification. No words are on the label, only the silhouette of a llama. While it is a bit dusty, there’s no debating that this is, in fact, the Extract of Llama featured in the 2000 animated feature, The Emperor’s New Groove. Mistaken for poison that the evil sorceress Yzma wants slipped into Emperor Kuzco’s drink, beloved (and later reformed) henchman, Kronk, uses the Extract of Llama by mistake. Kuzco’s transformation, instead of his untimely demise, prompts the legendary outburst from Yzma, “What, a llama?!?! He’s supposed to be dead!”
Yzma maintains quite the collection of animal extracts, most of which have transformative properties, and they wreak havoc later on in the movie. It seems as though one may have gotten away, passed from magical hands to magical hands over the years, and has found a new home at AbracadaBar. Only time will tell if the Extract of Llama causes any more calamity.

09 February 2021

Troll Country

In 1988, Maelstrom opened its doors, beckoning guests to board Viking longship and behold the beauty and charm of Norway. The attraction did just that until September of 2014 when it was shuttered to make way for Frozen Ever After. The memorable moments of attraction come one after another, making it difficult to choose just one scene as iconic. However, the three-headed troll who cast their magic on the invading guests, sending them “back, back, over the falls,” ranks pretty high up there.

I love finding the behind the scene glimpses of how such iconic moments come together. Here we see Peter Kermode working on the eight-foot tall clay model of the bothersome troll, back when the attraction was going to be known as SeaVenture.
Kermode was one of the premiere sculptors at Imagineering, taking over the from the renowned Blaine Gibson when he retired he 1983. Trolls weren’t his entire life though, Kermode’s work can be seen in parks all around the globe, in the form of everything from pirate wenches to bears, and he even worked alongside Don Chandler and Joe Kaba to bring Bruce the shark to life for the movie Jaws.
Back to the photo of Kermode and the three-headed troll, you can really see the detail on their faces that would be hard to catch glimpses of as your longship was thrown from side to side, and then backwards, during your brief encounter. Once the full beards, hair, shrubbery, and lighting effects were added, many of these details would be obscured. Warts, wrinkles, snarls, ears, and all, they strike an imposing figure that was definitely not to be trifled with.

04 February 2021

Disney Culinary History

Recipes from the past give us some insight into what dining and palates were like at a given point or time. Recipes that are attributed as being favorites of a specific person can offer us a sliver of what that person may have been like. When you reach into the Walt Disney Archives for Walt Disney “Favorite Recipes” you’re getting a bit of both. Much has been made over the years about Walt’s Chili and Beans, but today I wanted to branch out a bit and move towards a dish that is a play on one of my favorite dishes, but also brings in breakfast, and has a bit of a mystery to it.
If I am out and about for breakfast (those were the good old days), more often than not I am going to order corned beef hash, with the egg on the side if the missus is with me or sans egg if I’m alone. It is quite literally the meat and potatoes of breakfast foods. Walt’s version was a bit different, and was known as Browned Roast Beef Hash.
A point of clarification here, while it is known as one of Walt’s favorites, credit should be given to Thelma Pearl Howard, the housekeeper and cook to Walt and his family. Thelma worked for the Disney family from 1951 through 1981 and is the originator of many of Walt’s recipes. Her recipe has been featured in everything from the 1986 book, Cooking with Mickey Around our World, to the 2017 history and cookbook, Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food, and with good reason. Let’s get to the recipe itself and then we’ll talk through some of the finer points.
3 Cups Peeled Potatoes (finely chopped)
2 Cups (approximately 1 pound) Precooked Roast Beef (finely chopped, prime rib or steak can be substituted)
1 1/2 Cups Onion (finely chopped)
1 Cup Beef Stock
4 Eggs (fried)
6 Tbsps. Butter (divided)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish.
Lightly sauté onions in 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium until translucent (approximately 3-4 minutes).
Stir in meat, potatoes, and stock.
Transfer ingredients into baking dish and back for 1 hour.
Remove hash from oven.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Spread hash mixture evenly in the skillet, season to taste.
Cook over medium-high heat until bottom is golden brown (approximately 5 minutes).
Flip and continue cooking until the other side is golden brown as well.
Spoon onto serving plates and top with a fried egg.
Makes four servings.
I’m going to tell you now, the recipe sounds like you’re making has patties, which is exactly how we attempted to cook the hash. However, you may notice there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a binding agent for such preparation. A little digging shows us that even Marcy Carriker Smothers, the author of Eat Like Walt, couldn’t account for its absence, “Perhaps someone in Walt’s office asked Thelma for her recipe? It’s plausible that she casually dictated it since she never wrote her recipes down. The answer may be lost to Disney culinary history, but there is still fun to be had with this recipe.”

Smothers is absolutely correct. It also strikes me that some of the best hashes I’ve ever had weren’t the perfectly formed patty, golden-brown on each side, but a mess of potatoes, meat, and onion. I would worry less about making it perfectly formed, and focus more on the seasoning and making sure there is a bit of charring or browning to the finished product. This is what we did as we went through the back half of the hash mixture. If you are looking for the perfect patty, however, definitely work in some breadcrumbs or other binder to your version. While a bit time consuming to make, it was well worth the effort.
It may not be the perfect recreation of a dish Walt Disney dined on, but it is still delicious and gives you a strong jumping off point for you to putter with in your own kitchen. The Browned Roast Beef Hash is a hearty start to any day, whether it’s the 1950s or the 2020s.

02 February 2021

Cameroon Royal Drinking Horns

There are a few resorts around Walt Disney World, and Disney resorts across the globe for that matter, that provide a safe haven for artifacts that intersect at the roundabout of history, culture, and artistry. At the very top of that list are the galleries of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, both in Jumbo House and Kidani Village. Each artifact has a story to tell, but these tales are only hinted at by the small placards that accompany them. Take this horn that sits in a small carved out space on the fireplace of The King’s Library.

The posting reads simply, “Cameroon Royal Drinking Horns - Only royal males in Cameroon grassfields are allowed to drink from these horn cups.” There isn’t a ton of information there to go onto, but there is enough for the curious to latch onto and dig deeper into the narrative tucked into the carved, worn drinking vessel. Like many of the items on exhibit it doesn’t take many Google searches to find solid information from a respected source. In the case of the Cameroon Royal Drinking Horns, an exploration of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art provides this enlightening entry, which is meant for another horn, but speaks to some of the specific themes also found on the Kidani Village horn.
“In the courts of Cameroon Grassfields Kingdoms, rulers and noblemen drink palm wine from carved buffalo horns. The buffalo or bush cow is a large, dangerous, crafty beast that can easily turn on the hunter. Like the leopard or elephant, the buffalo is a royal emblem. So prestigious is buffalo horn that it is copied in word. The decorative motif carved on this horn is suggestive of the spider, another symbolic animal, chosen for its wisdom. The earth spider, a nocturnal hole dweller, is used in divination throughout the Grassfields. This wisdom is assumed because it comes from the earth, the resting place of the dead who will become ancestors.”
The stories this horn could tell, the meetings and moments it had been a part of, are likely a mix of significant and mundane. Yet, this drinking horn clearly has a fascinating provenance, which could be said of the backstory for each article in the hallway, library, elevator nooks, and atrium galleries of both sides of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The next time you’re in the lodge, find an artifact yourself and run headlong down the rabbit hole of its inimitable story. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

27 January 2021

The Big Finale

By the time you reach the end of Slinky Dog Dash, you are likely to be wind-blown, full of giggles, and excited by the sudden appearance of Wheezy. Maybe you will take note of Mr. Mike on the right-hand side of Slinky, but you could be forgiven for not immediately scanning through The Big Finale scene to catch the Pixar and Toy Story nods hovering just around Wheezy himself. That’s what I’m here for!

For starters, Wheezy’s shelter from which he croons is a songbook featuring his favorite standard, You’ve Got a Friend in Me, but is covered by a picture book entitled Partly Cloudy. If Partly Cloudy sounds familiar, you’re right. This is the title of, and the brief glimpse of this book’s cover confirms, the 2009 short from Pixar. Partly Cloudy was released in front of that year’s Pixar feature, Up. Its story is one of a solitary grey cloud named Gus who creates baby animals for a stork, named Peck, to deliver. While most of the clouds make cute humans and other cuddly creatures, Gus’ animals are cute, but crocodiles, porcupines, and sharks cause Peck more than a little trouble. Peck leaves, Gus is upset and creates a thunderstorm, but Peck soon returns having procured a football helmet and set of pads to keep him safe and still deliver his friend’s creations. Given the storyline, utilizing Partly Cloudy to keep Wheezy dry is a bit of ironic humor that I enjoy.

The second nod is more Toy Story specific, and helps form part of the stage for Wheezy. Beneath the letter blocks sits a box for a RC Wireless Remote Control Car, which prominently features an image of RC. RC’s largest role in the Toy Story world is, without question, his inclusion in the original film. It is here that RC is used by Woody to rescue Buzz and, once Woody has been thrown out of the moving truck and RC’s batter dies, is carried back to the truck by Woody and Buzz after the pair decide to light the rocket strapped to Buzz’s back. RC is also heavily featured in a flashback sequence in Toy Story 4 when he is rescued from road gutter where he is being swept away by a deluge of rain. While we may have learned in Toy Story 3 that RC had been donated, Toy Story Land lives in Andy’s backyard in the years between Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4, meaning that we still have many more years to enjoy RC.
Regardless of the land or attraction, there are always tons of nods and homages to catch throughout the parks and resorts. Some of them can be puzzled out from their surroundings, and in places that you can take your time to enjoy and unravel. Then there are the blink and you’ll miss them moments, such as those presented in The Big Finale of Slinky Dog Dash. That doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to appreciate them now and again though!

25 January 2021


Disney’s Hollywood Studios has always colored outside of the lines when it comes parades. Today’s cavalcades are almost a throwback to the park’s very first parade, Dinosaurs Live!, that has been mashed up with one of its most beloved, Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade. The Studios featured one of first parades in Walt Disney World that included show stops for guest interaction with both Block Party Bash and Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! What the park is most remembered for, however, are its film specific parades.
The heyday for these parades came in the 1990s, beginning Christmas week in 1992 with Aladdin’s Royal Caravan, continuing on with Toy Story Parade and Hercules “Zero to Hero” Victory Parade, and concluding in early 2001 with the last run of the Mulan Parade. Each has their charm, but you can definitely tell where some of the naming got a little more of a boost, while also tempting the imagination. With that in mind, let’s go ahead and take a closer glimpse of Aladdin’s Royal Caravan and Hercules “Zero to Hero” Victory Parade.
Aladdin’s Royal Caravan ran from December 1992 through August 1995 and highlighted Aladdin, in his Prince Ali guise, Jasmine, Jafar, and multiple iterations of the Genie, including a 32 feet tall inflatable Genie that towered over the spectacle. Like all beloved Disney pageantry, there were some pieces that would be reused later. The inflatable Genie meandered over to the Magic Kingdom for Disney’s Magical Moments Parade, and the spitting camels became landmarks of Adventureland’s Magic Carpets of Aladdin. It is worth noting that this parade was featured on the Full House episode, The House Meets the Mouse (Part 2), where DJ mistakes the parade’s Aladdin for Steve. This clever nod goes even deeper considering that Steve is portrayed by Scott Weinger, the voice of Aladdin in the animated feature.
Hercules “Zero to Hero” Victory Parade began its run in June 1997, concluding its run less than a year later in April of 1998. As the name suggests, this is a victory celebration/rally/parade for Hercules. It featured Phil, Zeus, Pegasus, Pain, Panic, the Muses, Hades, Megara, and Hercules, along with other characters and creatures, such as the Cyclops, Miss Greece, Dionysus, the hydra, Ridges Philbinylus and Apollonia Airheadenese. The cyclops character was a large inflatable, a technique utilized by many of the Studios’ parades. One of the more unique touches to the parade was the inclusion of the “Theban Family of the Day.” Like the Family of the Day seen throughout Walt Disney World in parades or park openings, this group of guests were selected earlier in the day, given togas and laurels to wear, and then marshalled the parade in style, being pulled by bicycling Greek soldiers in their gold chariots.
In recent years, the single film or series parades feel very pared down and are more of small processionals. The two most memorable of this form of parade are the Frozen Royal Welcome Ceremony and the March of the First Order. Both created striking visuals in their own right, and garnered the attention of guests, but, Covid cavalcades aside, there’s something about the pageantry of the earlier parades that’s been missing in the recent iterations. One day, once we’re healthy and safe once more, it would be wonderful to see full parades return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as the other parks of Walt Disney World.