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.