Sunday, December 11, 2011

History of WDW: Country Bears Jamboree- Christmas Overlay

In keeping with the season I thought it would be a good idea to look at something that for a long time helped signify the upcoming holiday season, and seems to be sorely missed by all who had the privilege to have seen it.

Ever since its beginning on opening day October 1, 1971 the Country Bear Jamboree has not only thrilled but captivated audiences by its use of great characters, and audio animatronics. This show is still much like it was on opening day, and still seems to bring in the audiences daily.

At and around 1984 (conveniently the same year Michael Eisner and Frank Wells took over the company) it was decided that a change must be made to the Country Bear Jamboree to keep it fresh. A decision was made and during the holiday season of 1984, the Country Bear Jamboree Christmas Special was born.

Billed as an escape from the regular show, the Jamboree is very similar to the original show. It features the same cuts and characters, meaning that they never had to rearrange the setups behind the stage, and the characters are all the same, except that now they are dressed for christmas. The Five Bear Rugs continue to play in the center stage, playing "Tracks in the Snow", "Deck the Halls" and "Hungry as a Bear". It also features Terrence singing "Blue Christmas" (while he is freezing, and receiving no help form his penguin counterpart) and an argument between Max and Melvin over who should be singing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" (considering that Max has a red lightbulb on his nose.

The show featured mostly the same voice actors as the original, like Pete Renaday as Henry, and Thurl Ravenscroft playing Buff and had a very festive sort of feeling. The highlight of the show is Rufus. He is completely unseen, however when Wendell's gun goes off and blows the light it is Rufus who has to huff and puff up (or down) flights of stairs to "give me some light"as Henry puts it. If that is not the highlight of the show then seeing Big Al in a diaper singing "Another New Year" has to be it.

Sadly in 2005the show was taken off of the Holiday agenda and the original incarnation of the show has remained on the docket ever since. Many attribute the Castle "Dreamlights" as the reason that the budget did not allow them to do the conversion of the Country Bears, but that is only a rumor, and it seems to be a bit unbelievable. As it stands this season the show did not return however there seems to be hope of this one day returning to the Magic Kingdom as it is only an overlay project, and takes only a few weeks to create. We may yet see the Country Bears Chrismtas Special yet. If you would like to view it there is a video here:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas in Walt Disney World

Sorry it has been sometime since I last posted, but with the upcoming and recently past holidays I have found myself engulfed with work and things that have kept me from the blog... However...

Having been to Disney World on many occasions during the holiday season, I have found that it truly is a magical place to be a part of. It is an amazing sight to see some of the decorations as well as some of the changes made during this magical time. If you ever have the opportunity to go, do yourself a favor and try. It is an experience that you will never forget. There is so much to do and see there, and here are just a few:

1. Cinderella's Castle "Dreamlights"- instituted around 2005-06, this sight during Wishes is something that has been captivating guests since the first lighting. Explanation cannot tell the entire story, but a picture can speak a thousand words.

2. The Magic, Memories, and You- Disney has added a holiday overlay to this Wishes pre-show. Look for the 25th anniversary "birthday cake" castle image during the presentation.

3. Mickey's Verry Merry Christmas Party- This hard ticket event runs from just after Thanksgiving through Christmas and includes "snow" on Main Street, a special Holiday parade and fireworks show, plus cookies and hot chocolate.

4. The filming of the Christmas Day parade- A favorite that I have been a part of usually occurs on the first Saturday in December. Be prepared to lose most of your day, but if you play your cards right, people may call you on Christmas Day asking if you are in Disney World at that moment.

5. Epcot's Candlelight Processional- Event that occurs many times throughout the holiday season in the American Gardens Theatre and is narrated by a host of celebrities. This years list includes Marlee Matlin, Neil Patrick Harris, Lorraine Bracco, and Blair Underwood on Christmas day.

6. World Showcase Christmas- Each Country represented does special presentations and decorations to show how there culture celebrates the holidays

7. Illuminations Overlay- An addition at the end of Illuminations helps to add to the holiday spirit.

8. Osborne Spectacle of "Dancing" Lights- Over 3 million lights adorn the Streets of America each night during the season. This has been plussed each year, and now there is a string of songs that is played every 5-10  minutes that the lights "dance" to. Try to see it when they play Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas- Sarajevo"

9. Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade- An Animal Kingdom style Christmas parade plusses the traditional parade in the park during the season.

10. The Resorts and Downtown- Each resort is decorated in its own way for Christmas. From the Gingerbread houses to the giant tree in the Wilderness Lodge, each resort has its own style of Christmas decorating befitting their theme. Also Downtown Disney is fully in the spirit of the time as people shop till they drop for the big day.

There is plenty to get us in the mood in Disney World during the holidays, and the beauty is if you head down there before the holidays you can experience this without the ridiculous crowds. Trust me I am a fan, but Disney World is the last place I want to be on Christmas Day. However, I have seen everything those people have seen, with crowds at least half the size. Put this on the bucket list of things to do. Mark it down.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mine Coaster Concept Art

Some info on the Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster was spoken about on the Disney Parks Blog. Artist renderings have been presented to the public, with more apparently on the way. Though we are looking at a 2013 opening, it seems that headway is finally beginning with this attraction. With Snow White's Scary Adventures set to close in February (as rumor would have it) it seems that there will not be much going on in the Magic Kingdom come February. With Dumbo set to be moved during that time, and Snow White to close, and the announced Big Thunder Mountain refurbishment the park will be lacking at this time, but to see the bright future in new Fantasyland makes it an exciting time to be a Disney fan.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Talking Mickey?

In the next step towards all things NextGen, Mickey has been spotted in Main Street Theater, which seems somewhat normal, except that he has begun talking! Apparently we are being introduced to some of the newest technology dealing with real-life characters. This is a newer initiative that Disney has been trying to install throughout the park, and this might be just the beginning of it.

Just imagine not having to explain to your children why Mickey Mouse cannot talk to you. It will bring even more to life in Walt Disney World. Lets see where this leads as it was only around for a 30 minute test run. This might become a more permanent occurrence, and that might completely change the Walt Disney World character meet and greet landscape.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Disney That Never Was: Walt Disney's EPCOT

When Walt Disney ventured into Florida, he had bigger ideas then anyone knew. He was looking for space, and this space would house his greatest innovation: EPCOT. Standing for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, Epcot's original concept was the "community of the future", the idea that corporations and citizens would coexist together in an urban living situation that will be forever changing and breaking down barriers. Highlighted in his film that presented the "Disneyworld Resort" to the public, Walt ultimately outlined his plan. 

EPCOT was to be a model community, home to roughly twenty thousand residents. This would be the beginning test for his concept.  The community was to have been built in the shape of a circle, with businesses and commercial areas at its center, community buildings and schools and recreational complexes around it, and residential neighborhoods along the perimeter. There would be no cars, instead monorails and peoplemovers (like the TTA Poeplemover in Tomorrowland) would take people to the center where the business district was located. Though Walt knew that the MAgic Kingdom would bring  people to Florida, he had hoped that EPCOT would keep people there.

EPCOT would have no landowners, and no retirees. This was supposed to be a utopian city that would be always in flux, much like technology. It was Walt's crowning achievement, and would certainly become a part of Disneyworld if not for Walt's untimely death in 1966. The EPCOT project could not start until the Magic Kingdom park was finished. Walt never saw either project started. Sadly, the plan just seemed inconceivable without Walt's input and direction, so by 1980, the company had decided to go another direction with the EPCOT concept (considering they had a contract with the state of Florida to build EPCOT) They conceived EPCOT Center, and this is what stands on the site of the original concept. 

Though we have a major theme park in Epcot today, it is nothing like the original idea that Walt Disney had created in his mind. Many wonder whether they original plan could have been possible. Though it would have been an amazing undertaking, it seems through Walt's guidance it would have been a definite part of the resort. As we look around today, instances of Walt Disney's EPCOT concept are evident. Future World is a direct descendant from that idea. The monorails movement through and around Spaceship Earth is also a feature Walt would have enjoyed. The biggest issue Imagineers had with the project, and one reason it took almost ten years to create was the constant questioning of "What would Walt do?" It became a sticking point, even to the affect that people like Marty Sklar and John Hench, who worked beside Walt had to take control to make the park what it is today. Hey if you would like to see a part of what EPCOT would have been ride the TTA PAoplemover. Inside the the Stich's Great Escape show building. 

Below is the EPCOT Film Walt created to outline his plans in Florida

Saturday, October 22, 2011

1st Anniversary!

So yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the blog. I want to thank all of the people that have been either following or keeping up to date. I did not think that when I started this a year ago I would be still at it today. It is a great feeling to be still going strong and making some great strides toward bettering the site. Here's to another great year! Thanks again!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

News: Bob Iger to Step Down in 2015?

In a move that may stun fans of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, Disney CEO has decided to step down as of March 2015. Yes, that's right 2015. Why the announcement now in Ocotber of 2011 then. Well there maybe a few reasons for this:

1. The death of Steve Jobs- Iger and Jobs had been close friends and confidants since Disney purchased Pixar in 2006. Jobs' death may have caused Iger to look at his life after Disney. That seems normal when someone loses a close friend.

2. He would like to leave Disney on "good" terms, or on his own terms- Unlike his predecessor Michael Eisner, it seems Bob Iger wants to end his Disney career on a high note. Again this seems noble considering how he came in. Iger has always taken the high road, and done what is best for the company, this might be his way of stepping away before any dissension ever arises.

3. He wants Disney to succeed- He has two lieutenants in Tom Staggs, from the Parks division, and Jay Rasulo, the CFO. It seems he wants to create a succession using one of these two men. 

Bob Igers' tenure at Disney has been nothing short of phenomenal. From his patching of the relationship and eventual purchase of Pixar, to the purchase and addition of Marvel it seems the Disney Company is on the right track on his watch. Though it will be sad when he leaves in three years, he seems to have the company moving in the right direction. Considering he has been at the reigns for six years without any issue is a testament considering the state of the company when he arrived on the job, he has done some fine work. Lets hope the future remains bright.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

History of WDW: The Timekeeper

Added as a part of "New Tomorrowland" on November 21, 1994, The Timekeeper was an attraction that spanned the entire globe, from Paris to Tokyo with a stop in Florida along the way. Surprisingly, The Walt Disney World version was the last to open. The attraction was a circle-vision 360 show, the first such attraction in this format to have a flowing plot, as well as audio-animatronics. The stories narrative style followed the adventures of "9-Eyes" as she travelled through time on a research and record trip.

The attraction was originally housed in "The Transportarium" which was later renamed to the "Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center" to keep the canon of "New Tomorrowland" in tact. Guests were introduced to the Timekeeper (Robin Williams) as he presents not only his invention of the time machine but his creation 9-Eyes (Rhea Perlman). As guests move into the circle-vision theater the presentation changes to show 9-Eyes vision as she travels through time. With the Timekeeper as the narrator, 9-Eyes travels through the ice-age and eventually to a meeting between H.G Wells (Jeremy Irons) and Jules Verne (Michael Piccoli) As Wells' departs, Verne is introduced to 9-Eyes and quickly wants to learn more about the future. After mistakingly bringing bit 9-Eyes and Verne back to the present, the Timekeeper decides to show Verne exactly how his creations became realities. As the Timekeeper finally returns Verne to the sight of his presentation (after a few failed attempts) we are once again met with H.G Wells, who as it turns out is trying to figure out what has happened to his friend, and who 9-Eyes is. The Timekeeper decides to send 9-Eyes to the future, and is once again met up with Verne, now with Wells aboard his own time machine. The show ends with the successful demonstration of time travel.

The Timekeeper was a popular ride upon opening, but had issues that attributed to its rather short history.  Probably the single greatest reason for its demise was its setup. As a show, guests are used to sitting and relaxing (one of the major reasons shows are generally well attended) as well as watching in one direction. The Timekeeper as it was setup, forced guests to stand and lean on handrails, as well as never really have a major focal direction. This led to confusion, and a lower attendance as well. Many people also attribute its lack of connection to Disney as a cause of its demise. It was also known that The Timekeeper had a pretty hidden entrance which made it often overlooked. (it seems that Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor has a similar issue now)  The events of September 11 also had a major affect on this attraction as it featured a scene depicting the World Trade Center. Many executives were ready to close the attraction around that time, but it remained open. The attraction's attendance eventually waned, and in the early 2000's it went seasonal. This generally is the death bell ringing as the attraction eventually closed on February 26, 2006 to little fanfare.

The Timekeeper is generally considered as one of the greatest "extinct" attractions. Part of the reason for that is its short life span. The attraction was open for just over 11 years, which is a relatively short life for an attraction. As an attraction, The Timekeeper has gained a cult style following, with videos on youtube as well as other sights commemorating its inclusion in Walt Disney World as well. Most people believe that if it would have had any type of seating, we may still be seeing it in Tomorrowland today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Disney Releases Statement Regarding Fantasyland Update

As per the Disney Parks Blog, the storybook circus has become a more concrete visual that many have been wondering about since it's announcement. It is now confirmed that the new Dumbo attraction will feature "dueling Dumbos'." What does that mean? It tells us that for the first time in history a DumbO attraction will spin clockwise. It presents the concept that the Dumbos will spin opposite of each other. Also we have learned that The Barnstormer will not actually change names. The reimagined theming is taking place but the name of the attraction apparently will remain. Lastly, we have learned that the "Fantasyland Train Station" (not Storybook Circus Station) will be open to the public in early 2012. This give guests more of a concrete say over when the expansion begins opening to guests. Hopefully this is the beginning of many announcements regarding the expansions opening and continued development.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy 40th Disney World!!!

I would like to take this moment to say Happy Birthday to the Happiest Place on Earth..! As we look back we can honestly say that Walt Disney would sure be proud of what the resort has become as of today.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Avatar Coming to Walt Disney World

Disney Parks blog has announced that Animal Kingdom will have a new land in the park. Based solely on Avatar. This seems to be Disney's long awaited response to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Personally, I have yet to see Avatar, but I will be seeing it now because of its eventual inclusion in the parks. This is something that maybe we didn't know about or think about but was necessary. At this point it is a perfect match to have an attraction based on the highest grossing film of all time. I think putting it in Animal Kingdom is perfect in that it makes the park relavent in a way it never was. Hopefully this is done well and with WDI's string of hits in updates I think we are in for an amazing replacement for Beastly Kingdom. I think Disney might have a knockout punch on their hand.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ranting and Raving: "Minusing"

While on my most recent vacation to the most magical place on earth, a new thought entered my head. For all of the "plussing" that the Walt Disney Company does in the parks, there is some minusing as well. "Plussing" was a term that Walt Disney created when referring to adding on to an attraction to make it better. Us in the social media world have begun to use the term "minusing" to describe what it means to change an attraction for worse; not better. I have found through the years that for all the good that has been done, they have done some questionable things. Below are a few I noticed on this past trip

Instance 1:

Splash Mountain: On this past trip I noticed quite a few things different that were there last year when I went around the same time:
     1. There were lap bars-  We posted about this in the past so I was prepared. No problem here
     2. The Roadrunner with no friends was gone. Seems he was not replaced but just removed. This
         bothered me actually. It was pretty funny.
     3. In the "Laughing Place" there was no more shooting streams of water or raising turtles. This was
         quite disappointing.
     4. In the riverboat scene a few roosters and chickens were "dead". They didn't move and actually
         they appeared dead. Traumatizing for children I'm sure.

Instance 2:

TTA Peoplemover: I noticed only that the upkeep for the Progress City model is lacking. There is no movement, and it just seems as though they just dim the lights.

Instance 3:

Innoventions: I know they are in the process of updating this, but the world of walls just didn't do it for me. I was a bit upset by this one.

Instance 4:

Test Track: I know they are refurbishing this in a few months, but the pre-show film was not even on. The room was just an extension of the queue. I found this a bit disturbing actually.

These were just a few of the glaring ones for me, but I know there were others. I do not want to sound as though I am knocking Disney all over the place here, but I think it is a little upsetting when things like this happen. I know not every guest will be happy all of the time, but when negative changes happen I feel as though it needs to be mentioned. Disney does many great things, but like all giant companies, they are not immune to missteps. This I fear is a few missteps in the parks division. Overall it was still a magical experience, but these few things did put a chink in the armor so to speak. Just do not let me get started on Universal. Oh I feel another rant coming on.

Friday, September 16, 2011

40th Anniversary Afterall

So it is true. There will be SOMETHING for Disney's 40th. It seems strange to me because through the years it always seemed as though Disney needed an excuse to celebrate something. From the 100 years of magic to Mickey's birthday and such it always seemed as though some Disney related celebration was looming.

This time... Not so much. Surprisingly, it seemed as though The Walt Disney Company was content with letting October 1, 2011 pass without so much as a peep, a few merchandise opportunities and that be it. What I heard was that something will be done, just not as a long celebration like people expected. What exactly is being done seems to be a bit hush hush. I hear many groups and Disney people are doing their own celebration. I just wouldn't be too far from Magic Kingdom on October 1st. It seems something is definitely brewing.

UPDATE: It appears that Magic Kingdom has in fact changed its hours for October 1st. It will now be open until 12am. I wonder what this means now?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Walt Disney World News: Sorcerers, Narnia Departs

It appears that the Main Street Fire Station is closing for a reason after all! Amid rumors for the past few weeks into what the plan is for the closed building it seems that DisneyParksBlog has an answer. That answer is the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. This seems to be the Kim Possible type interactive game that was rumored to be coming to Magic Kingdom. It is slated to open in early 2012 and we will keep you up to date on the news regarding it.

Also it seems as though Hollywood Studios is trying to cleanup a few low attended attractions. Since Star Tours opened in May, the attraction closest to it (Sounds Dangerous) has not been open, and now it seems that the Chronicles of Narnia will be joining Drew Carey's fate. It is scheduled to close on September 10, though no new attraction has been slated to replace it. We shall see what happens in that area though I suspect it will not be a major attraction being that the congestion in that area due to Toy Story Mania would make that idea almost impossible.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Test Track's New Vehicles

A few weeks ago I reported on a rumor of major changes in Test Track. It is scheduled for refurbishment and their have been rumors of something big coming. I do not know if this news feeds into that rumor or squashes it but it seems as though Test Track has changed to a newer style ride vehicle. The new vehicle looks almost identical to the original (so much that I barely even noticed that that I was riding in it) The new vehicle sports a newer color scheme, GM logos on the front of the vehicles but not much else it seems. I would believe that this will coincide with the refurbishment that is scheduled just after the new year in regards to this attraction. I would believe that this means that GM will be remaining the official sponsor of the attraction, which means no Radiator Springs Racer overlay for this attraction like some people had thought.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Back and Raring to go!

Well... I have returned from my trip to the world (which is why it has been a bit since I have posted) It was fun but extremely busy. Some things have changed, but not a bunch in a year. I will have hopefully videos and photos to share, as well as opinions. I will be adding a separate page to this blog that will be based more on my opinions than anything else. I know that people may not necessarily agree with everything I do, but I think it will make people think a bit about certain topics.

There will be much more to come in the coming weeks.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ranting and Raving: The Spinning Spinners of Magic Kingdom

Somehow I find myself thinking about the different attractions that are in each Disney World park, and the thing that came to mind today and that really seemed to get at me was the round-a-bout spinning attractions that Magic Kingdom has. It occurred to me that this park wants guests to have jumbled heads by the time they exit the turnstiles at night. Consider this, as a classic spinner attraction Magic Kingdom has three: Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Astro Orbiter, and the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. In the classic carousel there is Prince Charming's Regal Carrousel (or whatever they decided to change it to now) and  The Mad Tea Party. Also, but not in the category of the others is the famous Carousel of Progress. Wow, and I thought it wasn't that bad. Who forgot to remind Disney that differentiation was a good thing.

Though each spinner attraction has a different theme, they are generally the same attraction. The magic carpets are the same as Dumbo and the Astro Orbter in design. They spin round and round and go up and down. The only difference is that tone is themed after the Buck Rogers space ships and the other two are based off of Disney films. It does not make much of sense to have this many attractions with the same basic concept in one park. Think of the other three parks. Can you name a spinning attraction in them?

Now the rant is not really meant for the original two attractions that were in the park, but saved for the most recent Spinner attraction the Magic Carpets. What exactly was the logic in dropping this attraction in the middle of Adventureland. It seems to me and many of the people that I have talked to that this attraction has not only bottled up that main area of Adventureland, but it has ruined the original story of the land. Now we must deal with trying to prove that the Agrabah Bazaar area fits in with the theme of adventure. Where does it end. I understand that Aladdin was a huge success for the Disney company and thus they were trying to maximize the popularity by placing an attraction themed off of it in the parks somewhere, but this was not the place.

Considering this I think it is safe to say that we will not be seeing any new spinning rides in the Walt Disney World Resort, or at least the resort for that matter. Not unless they want to go the Six Flags route, and we all know that we do not want that.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Test Track To Go Through Major Changes?

It seems as though Test Track might soon be going through a major overhaul in the coming months. What is being said is that the pavilion may be losing GM as a sponsor, and that might mean major changes to the attraction. It is being said around the internet that the theme of the attraction may be shifting from the "testing" of vehicles to the actual "creation". What that means is anyones guess. What could influence this refurbishment could be the new Radiator Springs Racers in Disney's California Adventure. If this is seen to be immensely popular we may see a change towards that type of ride system, though I highly doubt major work will be done here. The attraction is scheduled to go down for refurbishment in January 2012 for almost six months. While not long enough to redo the entire attraction it is enough time to repair some effects that have long since shut off, and probably change the sponsorship. If there is anything we may see in the future that would be the most likely. We will keep on this story to see if it actually becomes news and not just an online rumor. The only fact we do know is that it will be going down for a lengthy refurbishment after the new year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Disney That Never Was: Fire Mountain and Bald Mountain

When we hear from guests about the Magic Kingdom mountain landscape, we immediately think of the "big 3," Splash, Space, and Big Thunder. Imagine what it could have been as Disney had plans to add attractions like Fire Mountain and Bald Mountain to the mix in the mid 1990's. As 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was being closed and eventually removed, there were plans to add not one but two attractions as a way to ease guests feelings over the closing of the famous E-ticket attraction. Both of these attractions were similar and it is said that Michael Eisner loved the idea so much he wanted both to be built within the Magic Kingdom walls. Each was going to have its own land, with Fire Mountain being placed in Adventureland, and Bald Mountain dropped over where the old 20,000 leagues attraction lay dormant. Sadly, neither of these attractions ever made it construction.

Fire Mountain was to be located either between Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash, or directly on the other side of Pirates (though that would have taken some refurbishment of the Jungle Cruise to achieve) and would have been the so called "weenie" that drew guests deeper into Adventureland. This attraction was rumored by many to be a flying rollercoaster which meant the vehicles would have guests lying facedown in an attempt to mimic flying like a bird (or Superman) The mountain would be built like a gigantic Volcano, firmly placing it in Adventurelands' story. Guests would fly and soar through and around this living breathing volcano with its molten lava and dark and scary theming. There was an idea that this attraction was just the beginning of an expanded area of Adventureland themed to this mountain.

Bald Mountain from Fantasia fame was to have been built near the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction after its abrupt closing. As a draw to the rear portion of the park, the attraction would house a log flume, or rollercoaster (the design never actually decided on which) themed on Disney Villains. Known to many as Villains Mountain, this attraction would take guests through a hair raising experience of escaping some of Disney' most famous evil characters. As a log flume, guests woud have boarded longboat style rafts modeled after Hades boats in Hercules. Guests would have been taken through Chernabog's mountain where the Villains were meeting to decide who was the best (or worst) at which time guests would be attacked and the only saving grace would have been the slide deep down the plunge in the front of the mountain (the rollercoaster theme never had a major story design leading many to believe that the flume would have been the choice here)

The major question to ask is... Why do we visit Magic Kingdom and not see either of these attractions? The answer is not so simple. Disney saw these two attractions as can't misses, going as far as to toy with the idea of making an expansion to Fantasyland that was based around the villains. Sadly, as this concept became a bigger rumor of a 5th gate based on villains. This made the Bald Mountain concept too valuable to construct in Magic Kingdom, especially if it would be added to the rumored 5th gate. Alas, the Villains park has yet to go anywhere, and with the Fantasyland Expansion in full swing it is doubtful Magic Kingdom will ever see this mountain. As for Fire Mountain, plans were set for construction, with Disney even floating a balloon high to the peak of where the mountain would be to test if it would be visible from Main Street, USA (it was not, but it was clear as day to the Polynesian Resort) however it is believed that management saw the expense of building a major rollercoaster in a family oriented park and decided against it. Will we one day see one of these attractions high above Magic Kingdom or another Disney park? It is possible. Let's keep a weather eye out to the future and what may happen. You never know when old plans become new again.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

History of WDW: The Wonders of Life Pavilion

Part of the Epcot family since October 19th 1989, The Wonders of Life pavilion showed guests the amazing scientific phenomenon that is the human body. An original Epcot concept, the Wonders of Life spent over 5 years on the drawing table, mostly looking for a corporate sponsor willing to take on the costs of the construction and upkeep. That sponsor was found in MetLife. The Wonders of Life pavilion, though hidden by trees and landscaping was easily spotted by its 75 foot tall double helix statue made to resemble a DNA chain, as well as its creative gold geodesic roof. The pavilion housed more attractions than most of the other Epcot pavilions of its time. Attractions like Body Wars, Cranium Command, Goofy about Health and The Making of Me were the major marquees of the building. Each followed the theme of exploration the human body, and each did it in a different way.

Body Wars took guests on a bumpy and thrilling ride within the human body was a way to present the inner anatomy and show guests what it would be like to be inside of our own blood stream. Using the same technology that Disney used in creating the Star Tours simulator guests were taken on a queasy and more violent trip than any Star Tours fans could ever remember. Directed by Star Trek alum Lenord Nimoy, guests were shrunk to the size of a single cell by actor Tim Matheson. Along for the ride is Dr Cynthia Lair, (a young Elizabeth Shue) which as you all know does not go according to plan. After entering the body from a splinter, guests were introduced to Dr. Lair as she was swept up by the blood stream. Craziness insues as guests witness a race against time, a power loss that can only be rectified by traveling to the brain, and a last second escape. Though a popular ride in it's day, Body Wars lost it's appeal as it aged because of it's violent trip and lack of a refurbishments.

Cranium Command took guests through a day in the life of a twelve year old boy. As we meet General Knowledge and his "Cranium Commandos" in the presume we realize that these commandos' job is to direct the mind of the humans and control the body functions. As a small and unknown commando Buzzy (voiced by Scott Curtis) is given a twelve year old, we see just how hard dealing with beig a child really is. Having to control this all-star cast of organs, Buzzy must carefully monitor the heart (voiced by Jon Lovitz and Charles Grodin) the adrenal gland, (Bobcat Goldthwait) the stomach,(George Wendt) the bladder, (Jeff Doucette) the hearts ventricles (Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey playing their famous Hans and Franz routine) and the hypothalamus(Kirk Wise). Each poses its own issue from being hungry, to sweating profusely and almost heart palpitations, Buzzy struggles to control the boy throughout the show until the end as he finally gets all the organs to work together. With an audio animatronic Buzzy, and different screens for each character, the show was an instant hit, run it the entire time of the pavilion. As time passed however the attraction dated itself because of it's actors and their popularity (many children did not know the Hans and Franz routine on the mid 90's or really knew the show Cheers any more) this led to a loss in popularity towards the end.

The last major part of the pavilion was The Making of Me. Narrated by Martin Short, the show demonstrated how life is created and childbirth works. Because of its topic there was an advisory sign posted outside to warn parents of the theme of the show. This attraction was not a huge draw in the pavilion as it had a topic that was known as "not Disney friendly".

MetLife dropped it's sponsorship of the pavilion in 2001, which led to the pavilion to eventually run on a seasonal schedule by 2004. The pavilion officially closed on January 1, 2007 after operating seasonally for three years. As it stands now the pavilion is used generally for Epcot's Food and Wine, and Flower and Garden festivals. The building inside and out has been gutted of what made it a special place in the early 90's and now looks generic. It is the first, and right now only Epcot pavilion to close without a new attraction or theming to replace it. It's closure was blamed more on the attractions that quickly dated themselves rather than the lost sponsorship. As of today many guests and Disney enthusiasts are waiting for some legitimate refurbishment to this pavilion as it still stand and is still usable. It's immense size and scope allows for attractions to be put within it. Is the future bright for this empty pavilion, or are we just hoping and dreaming for a miracle?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Whats the Deal? Fantasmic Refurbishment

It seems as though many Disney fans are beginning to worry about the future of the nightly spectacular Fantasmic's future. There is a growing fear throughout Disneyana that the attraction in its current incarnation might be at its end. The show is slated to be in refurbishment from January 5 to February 12 of next year. Many of the people I have spoken to are worried that the attraction might go through a major overhaul while it is closed. If we take it at face value and going by what we know, is it really possible for Disney to completely change this show in a little over a month? Consider this, the new Enchanted Tiki Room is scheduled to reopen on August 15th, almost three months after the fire that destroyed the Iago animatronic among other things. Personally, I think that this refurbishment is going to be used to clean up the Hollywood Hills Theater, and possibly repair the dragon that seems to have been down for quite a while. A major overhaul seems extremely unlikely, but you never really know. Keeping in mind that it is a show with sets and show pieces, there is not much stopping Disney from doing major work offstage, and spending the entire month installing the new equipment. We shall see. Maybe there will be an announcement at the upcoming D23 Expo, though I highly doubt it. This does not seem big enough. Fans are looking for much more at the Expo than a monthlong refurbishment of this major nighttime show.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Rant: The Sorcerer's Hat at MGM!

Walking down Hollywood Blvd. in 1993 there was an amazing sight of seeing not only The Great Movie Ride, but a large part of what Disney's MGM Studios really was. The openness of it all was apparent, and it was completely inviting. Walking down today however it seems as though something has changed. Can you guess what it is? I'll give you a hint.

Yes. It is the Sorcerer's Hat. Amazingly one addition could completely change the way a park can look. Ask Disney fans and enthusiasts what they think about the hat and the consensus would probably be borderline hatred. Though it is ugly, and though fans may despise it, rumor has it that there was a reason for it that is more to it than just adding a park icon. It dealt with Disney being taken to court. Apparently the owners of the Graumann's Chinese Theater took the Walt Disney Company to court in the mid to late nineties, based on the usage of their famed building. (in case we aren't all aware, The Great Movie Ride is a replica of the front of the faed theater.) As rumor has it, the original agreement between Disney and the theater owners wnet like this: The building could be reproduced for the park, but so long as Disney did not make money off the building. What does that mean? If you look at Disney t-shirts, and postcards and such from the early nineties, the building was in a way used as the unofficial icon of the park. It was put on t-shirts, mugs, and so on. The owners of the Chinese Theater were furious that Disney decided to use the building to make money in memorabilia and souvenirs that they eventually took them to court. Disney either lost, or settled and it was decided that rather than take the facade down, as long as the view of it was obstructed from the entrance, and Disney no longer used it as a de-facto icon, it could stay. So while you walk down Hollywood Blvd. you may be angry and upset for the hats placement, but it seems that our anger is pointed at Disney, but not for the reasons we all thought it was.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monorail's Shutting Down Early?

It seems as though the Walt Disney Resort has taken a strange new measure in keeping costs down at the Happiest Place on Earth. As has been stated on numerous places on the internet, Disney has decided that as of July 11 the Epcot monorail will cease operation one hour after park closing. That includes nights in which Epcot has Extra Magic Hours (EMH). Magic Kingdom will follow suit starting August 1.

Many people who know me might be prepping themselves for one of my famous soapbox rants. Sadly, this is not one of those nights. The reason being... I understand why they are doing this, and am shocked that this has not happened in the past. I have been killed on discussion forums because I do not view this as a big deal, but honestly is it.

 I have a certain belief about this whole situation.

The idea of EMH is so that Walt Disney Resort guests can have extra time in the parks to enjoy the attractions without the added crowds. If you are brave enough to weather fatigue and crying children, this is an excellent time to ride attractions that you love until your heart is content. In my belief the Monorail at night is for guests who are staying off property that are going home for the evening. They need the Monorail to get them back to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). In Epcot the Monorail has an even less function as it is only necessary for guests who started at Magic Kingdom. My question is this: If you are a Disney Resort guest, how are you getting to Magic Kingdom on a night that they have EMH?

My guess would be that 9 times out of 10 guests will be using the Disney Resort bus line. It takes you from resort to park, and I know I have used it exclusively on many of my trips. If this is the case then why is the Monorail closing a big deal. It is not being used by resort guests, and those who need rides to the TTC are guests who were trying to stay in the park much later than they were supposed to anyway. I am not trying t be vindictive or act holier than thou, but the EMH is designed for resort guests, and therefore Disney should make an attempt to keep it that way. Though this is not their reason for the change, I think that it might be an added bonus. Logically the Monorails closing an hour after park closing is not a huge deal. The only resorts really affected are the Grand Floridian, Polynesian and the Contemporary (and this has a walkway straight from the entrance) If the company decides to only cease the express monorail, they will probably need less trains, and less workers. This is not a major issue. It may be a cost effective solution to a longtime problem.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Prepping for Disney...!

In the next month I will be taking yet another trip to Walt Disney World. As a precursor to that trip I think it is time to spend a little time talking about preparing for a trip to Disney World. It is a grueling experience! If done correctly (and by that I mean to see as much as possible) you may need a vacation from a trip. There are many things you must keep in mind when prepping to go to Disneyworld.

1. Keep in Mind- You will not be able to see everything- I must have been to Walt Disney World roughly 10-12 times on either one or two week vacations. I am confident in saying that I have not seen everything yet! That's right. I have not yet seen it all. There are places that I have not visited. There have been trips where I left disappointed that I missed too much. If you have a plan, you will see the most possible.

2. Plan Plan Plan! On top of making your trip easier to navigate, and be prepared, it is also a fun experience. For many people the thrill is in the planning. Plan accordingly. Make ADR's and figure out where the Extra Magic Hours are going to be for the days you will be there.

3. Know your Climate- Depending on when you are going, Florida can be hot! It is important to dress accordingly. If you are going in the winter months, you may want to bring some sort of a sweatsirt as the nights may get cool. Be sure to have bathing suits in the summer months because you may need to spend time in the pool on an almost daily basis because of the heat.

4. Be ready to have fun! As I continue to countdown toward my trip I will be posting more preparation tips. Feel free to add any tips that you may have as well. Making a Disney trip easier is important in having an excellent time in the vacation capital of the world!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

History of WDW: River Country

Known as the first water park ever created by the Walt Disney Company, River Country opened on June 20, 1976. As water parks go, it was based on the "old swimming hole" theme, and based on its look and feel Disney definitely nailed it.

River Country was (and is ironically still) located on the Bay Lake shores, it was close to another abandoned Disney attraction of the 1970's and 80's Discovery Island (or Treasure Island depending on when you visited the resort.) This water park fit right into the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds that it became a part of.

River Country was made up of roughly four water attractions and one walking trail. It was not known as a rather large water park, compared to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach and therefore was known to have a far cheaper admission price. Its claim to fame was the Whoop 'n' Holler Hallow which was a pair of water slides that emptied into what was known as Bay Cove. One of the most interesting parts of this water park was that it essentially was a part of Bay Lake. Though Disney filtered and cleaned the water being used in the slides and coves, it was nothing more than cleaned up Bay Lake water. This helped the watering hole theme. Bay Cove was also a sand bottomed lake area that had things like a tire swing among other attractions within. The park was a modern marvel in the way it was designed and created. There were very little steel holding the slides up, as Disney did not want to ruin theming so they created rock formations that could hold the slides and made the park seem more rustic.

River Country closed on November 2, 2001. It was reported that it would be undergoing renovations. This rumor continued until January 20, 2005 when Disney announced that the park would remain closed. This permanent decision sparked many questions as to the reasoning for it. Many have speculated over the years, and no one answer is given. One says that the water in Bay Lake actually became a health hazard to guests, but I am not sure that is a viable reason. The other "more" believable rumors is that Disney felt that it was not worth keeping open as a small park with Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard 
Beach packing in guests. Still another rumor is that Florida regulations on water parks changed and forced parks to use "municipal" water. This means the water must come from city wells and filtered by the local town and city water. River Country filtered the water from Bay Lake. This apparently was against new regulations and the cost to use municipal water was too great. 

Today River Country is in a state of ruin and decay. The park was abandoned, and few have seen it since. If you google the name you will find some snapshots of what River Country looks like now. What you will find is a once proud water park overgrown and falling apart. Sadly, this seems to be the future of this famous and groundbreaking attraction.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It is a great feeling...!

It certainly is a good feeling when a rumor is reported and it becomes true. In February I reported (citing my many sources across the web) that WDI was contemplating returning the Tropical Serenade to its original state in Magic Kingdom. Turns out that this information was true and it was made official via the Disney Parks Blog on May 15. It will be a nostalgic return of a beloved attraction that had Walt Disney's hands all over it. One can only imagine what it will be like to walk into the attraction and not have to hear a certain birds voice (considering he also does not voice a particular duck on tv anymore either)

Slated to open somewhere around August 16 (just in time for my next WDW vacation) stay tuned for a ride review around that time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Disney That Never Was: Great Gonzo's Pandemonium Pizza Parlor

Every once in a while a concept comes by that makes you want to shout, "why didn't they do this...?" Seeing photos, concept plans, and even blueprints tend to make these voices yell even louder. I find myself in the position of standing on a platform screaming when I think of the Pandemonium Pizza Parlor. I would tend to guess that 8/10 people probably have no idea what exactly I am talking about, but those who do would probably be lined up right next to me.

In the mid 1980's Jim Henson was in the midst of selling the Muppets, as well as Jim Henson Productions (with the exception of the Sesame Workshop) to the Walt Disney Company. While this sale was picking up steam, so was the idea of a land within the newly created Disney/MGM Studio. Included in the land would be a 3D attraction (Eventually MuppetVision 3D) as well as a Muppet Movie Ride (a satire of the attraction that resides in the Chinese Theater) and a restaurant. Sadly, Jim Henson's passing led to major issues between Disney and Henson Productions that would not be rectified until 2004. The only remnants of the planned land is the MuppetVision attraction and the nearby studio shop.

The original plan for the Great Gonzo Pandemonium Pizza Parlor called for the creation of audio animtronic rats. Led by Rizzo, they would deliver food to all the guests via a train track system. This coupled with speakers projecting Gonzo's voice from above, with pounding and stomping sounds would create the illusion that Gonzo was somehow stuck in the duct work above. Other plans also had the Swedish Chef popping out through the kitchen doors on occasion, as well as commotion coming from the kitchen as guests ate. Many screens depicting famous scenes from the Muppet Show throughout the restaurant. The location of this restaurant may have been in the current locations of either Pizza Planet, or Mama Melrose.

Looking back on such plans show us what could have been in and around the MuppetVision attraction. Where it is now an area without much identity, we could be looking at a well themed and well designed area to the park. This would have added to the Disney/MGM Studio experience that was really missing until the late 1990's. As we look to the future of both this area and the Muppet franchise, one cannot help but look to the upcoming Muppets film as the last hope of seeing a larger Muppet presence within the Disney parks. A good showing may bring this concept back onto the table, and replace a restaurant in that area the desperately needs to be updates.