Wednesday, November 28, 2012

EPCOT: From Experimental Prototype to Linking Nations and Ideas

Though the 30th Anniversary was October 1st, We thought it was time to take a long look back at the development and creation of Walt Disney's crowning achievement. 

    “Welcome to a little bit of Florida in California.” Walt Disney was about to reveal to guests the ideas that WED Enterprises would be implementing into the recently purchased Florida land cod named, “Project X”. The now famous EPCOT film thought of as the lasting image of Walter Elias Disney became a rallying point for Disney fans around the world. The culmination of the Florida Project would be the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
            EPCOT, as it would come to be known would become a working, living and breathing city. This utopian community would become a beacon of the future for all as a technological marvel that presented reliable public transportation and the ability to become completely self-sustaining. This was Walt Disney’s ultimate goal and his crowning achievement in a career full of accolades and praise. Walt decreed that, “EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are emerging from the forefront of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed. It will always be showcasing and testing and demonstrating new materials and new systems."

            The plan included industrial, commercial, and residential zones, with a monorail transportation service moving residents from the outside in. At the center of the city would be the commercial and downtown district, completely enclosed by a dome, protecting residents and guests from the elements. Walt had hoped that by instituting tours of the EPCOT city, visitors would take ideas and thoughts back to their own communities and stimulate progress. The concept is still recognizable in some form aboard the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, as the Progress City model resides within the show building of Stitch’s Great Escape.
Sadly, the unfortunate passing of Walt Disney in December of 1966 led many to wonder the logistics of such an undertaking, and whether the costs of construction would make the project feasible. With men like Martin Sklar and John Hench leading the production, there was a sense of calmness within the company considering Hench’s storied career with Disney and Walt specifically, and Sklar’s connection writing Disney’s personal material.
This led to two distinct ideas worthy of the EPCOT moniker. There was the designed Future World, which included new ideas and technology being presented to visitors. This concept was considered the closest link to the original concept, as it stuck to the theme of advancing technology and the look to the future. The other design was an expanded World Showcase, showing the link between all nations and their ability to work together and coexist. These two models continued to expand, until a meeting with the then head of the company Card Walker and Donn Tatum. This meeting led to Sklar and Hench taking the two models and pushing them together. In one instant, EPCOT was born.

The EPCOT Center theme park would become a permanent World’s Fair, which was ironic considering the 1964 World’s Fair brought about much of the ideas and concepts that Walt Disney ultimately planned for Florida. The theme park contacted people like science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury to create attractions and shows that informed guests of a vision of the future. With attractions like Spaceship Earth, The Universe of Energy and World of Motion, EPCOT would inform guests of our roots, and our plans ahead. Conversely, World Showcase would present guests the ability to see countries, what they are known for, and how they coexist in the world. Upon the opening of the park the Fountain of Nations proved unity between the countries within the World Showcase, as each country (plus representatives from other nations) poured a gallon of water from their homeland into the fountain.  

Though the EPCOT concept did not materialize as Walt Disney had initially intended, its legacy cannot be measured. As it nears its 30th anniversary it is important to note that though the park is not exactly what was planned, the entire Walt Disney World Resort has been positively affected by its creation, and its original concept. Without the vision of Walt Disney, guests would not be riding Monorails from EPCOT to Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center, and the WEDway PeopleMover (or TTA) would not exist. The city of Celebration is especially grateful, as the Disney Company used some of the concepts of their innovated visionary to create the living city. EPCOT is not only a theme park, but should be looked at as a place that links ideas and beliefs as well as the world.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Places, New Experiences

I can now announce it as it has become official, I have begun writing for the website It is an honor and a privilege to write for such a distinguished site in the Disney fan community. It is a huge step forward, and though I will still be posting here regularly, I am hoping this turns into a regular spot. I ant to thank Herb Leibacher for the opportunity and hopefully this leads to more expansion and exposure for the site.

My first article can be found at World of Walt- Gone but not Forgotten

Friday, November 23, 2012

Things are Looking Up!

It appears that the blog will be taken to a whole other level in the coming weeks. There are some things on the horizon, ones that will be announced real soon that will help not only expand the exposure of the writing of this blog, but I personally think it will prove to be a boost to the blog overall. Keep in tune with whats going on. As soon as it happens I will let the cat out of the bag.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Disney Films on the Move

It appears as though the Disney Company has quite a few films and television ventures in the works that might definitely be worth looking into. Some of them are based off actual park attractions, and others are more a concept of the Disney parks and company. Here is just a small taste of whats going on:

1. Jon Favereau's Magic Kingdom- The much anticipated film seems to be making headway, and rumor has it that Pixar has gotten involved in the production. This seems to be the crown jewel in the companies stable right now, but very little is known, and very little is coming out of Disney or Favreau's mouth. All we know is this is down the pipeline, but they are taking their time with it, which is a good sign.

2.  Star Wars 7, 8 & 9- As we have heard the past few weeks (here as well) the Disney Company now owns Lucasfilm Ltd. This has now lifted Kathleen Kennedy to the head of Lucasfilm, which is a big deal considereing Kennedy has been the producer of some of the biggest films in Hollywood (Indiana Jones, ET, Jurassic Park, etc.) and helped co-found Amblin Entertainment (which is Spielberg's big production company) This marks a huge move in the company as it allows a respected and successful producer the keys to the kingdom (no pun intended)

3. Saving Mr. Banks- A film that will eventually put Walt Disney on the silver screen for the first time in a biopic, as it shows the companies attempts to pry the rights to Mary Poppins from author P.L. Travers. Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, and Colin Farrell are connected to the film, but the big news is that Tom Hanks will be playing the part of Walt Disney. This will be the first time an actor will portray the iconic Disney creator. The film apparently will be released next year, as filming began in late September.

4. Marvel Universe Continues- With Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Cpatain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man and The Avengers 2 on the horizon, the future is bright with Marvel Studios.

5. Oz: The Great and Powerful- The prequel to the iconic 1939 classic, this film will show how the wizard ends up in the wonderful land of Oz. Starring James Franco, this film will hit theaters next year.

6. Big Thunder Mountain- This television show is being developed for ABC and may follow one of the backstories of the famous ride it will be depicting. There is not much information except that Chris Morgan, who was a writer on many Fast and the Furious films is connected to the project, as well as Jason Fuchs, who wrote Ice Age: Continental Divide.

7. The Haunted Mansion- Yes they are going down this road again, but this time it looks like it will be different. Again this film has very little to go on, but it is being directed by Guillermo Del Toro, which bodes well for the future of this film. Maybe it will use much of the backstory that the attractions have produced.

As it stands, there is much on tap for the Walt Disney Company in terms of their live action film division. The question becomes how many of these see the theaters, but with their track record (John Carter not withstanding) it appears as though the future seems bright.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Disney Buys Lucasfilms!

I know it is a few days late, but unfortunately Hurricane Sandy did her damage to my area, taking away more than just power and internet, but it appears as though Bob Iger has made his third major purchase during his tenure. It started with Pixar, then Marvel Studios, and now Lucasfilm Ltd. This purchase allows Disney not only the rights to the Star Wars Universe, but also to Skywalker Sound, and notably Industrial Light and Magic, which is the leading special effects company in the business. This announcement was followed by another in which Disney plans on releasing an Episode 7 of Star Wars, seemingly continuing the Luke Skywalker story arc. This is to be followed by two more films, making the Star Wars saga a trilogy of trilogies. Many are worried that it might be made using CGI technology, but word has it that Disney wants the films to be live action as the rest of the films have been. There is also the thought of Indiana Jones, but there has been no word on the legality or control Disney would have over that franchise, as it is tied up within Paramount as well.

This acquisition has led many in the community to wonder of the future of a Star Wars themed land in the resort, notably in the area near Star Tours in Hollywood Studios. Though rumors persist of the backlot express being rethemed to the Mos Eisley Spaceport, no substantial news exists. This will not change peoples thoughts and beliefs that more is coming to the parks as a result of this purchase. Stay tuned for updates about this developing story. This big change to landscape may only be the beginning.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Disney That Never Was: Switzerland and the Matterhorn

It is always a Disney tradition for there to be a certain landscape within the parks. This landscape revolves around the "mountain" region, or a mountainous weenie, as Walt called them, to draw people further into each land. Consider Magic Kingdom and its mountain dominated landscape: Space Mountain draws guests into the heart of Tomorrowland, and Big Thunder and Splash Mountains draw guests to the back corner of the park, through Adventureland and Frontierland. Even Animal Kingdom has Expedition Everest, which clearly draws guests through Animal Kingdom to the rear of the park. Believe it or not, there was once a concept that would leave Hollywood Studios as the only park without a mountain? Ok, true this is incorrect, and we will see why, but it is strange to think.

One of the ideas as an addition to World Showcase in and around 1989 was to create a Swiss Pavilion, that would sell cuckoo clocks, and Swiss chocolate (Swiss Miss hot cocoa anyone?) as well as add that distinct Swiss flair within the World Showcase. One of the real reasons for this addition is the ability to add the Matterhorn Bobsled to Walt Disney World. This attraction, which debuted in Disneyland in 1959 would serve as the weenie that would draw guests to the back of World Showcase, possibly located near the now Outpost. The mountain would have the coaster within, and an appearance by the legendary Yeti (anyone guess why this idea is completely out now?)

The legendary Matterhorn Mountain would serve as a suitable and appropriate backdrop to the pavilion as Disney prides itself on making each EPCOT pavilion as realistic as possible. It had been released in the Orlando Sentinel in May of 1989 that the Swiss government had approved the proposed plans, and would provide $10 million dollars funding, contingent on the approval by the Swiss population to match the $10 million the government had proposed to pay. This would have made the Swiss pavilion one of the few funded by the government in which it was replicating. The question we all must ask is, what happened here? It sounded like a done deal. It sounded too good to be true. Evidently, it was.

The Switzerland Pavilion never saw the light of day, and in fact only few stills and artist renderings actually exist to even prove that the concept existed. If we look into the timing of the whole project it might be easier to see what went wrong. This announcement and development began in 1989, around the time of the Disney/MGM Studios opening. As it is known, Michael Eisner believed MGM Studios to be a half-day park, and as such created in that image. As guests flocked, it became apparent that more needed to be added to the park to convert it into a more full day experience. This led to the opening of MuppetVision 3D and the eventual construction of Sunset Blvd. These ideas seemed to leave Disney with no extra cash, or resources (Imagineers, construction workers, time) to complete this project, and like all the World Showcase Pavilions, left behind to wonder. As it is now, there is virtually no chance of this pavilion being developed as Disney opened its Matterhorn attraction in Florida by ways of the Expedition Everest attraction in Animal Kingdom. Announced on April, 23 2003 and opened roughly three years later on April 9, 2006, the attraction features the Yeti and follows the similar story arc. It it understood that though it is not a "bobsled" coaster, its design has made the idea of moving the actual Matterhorn attraction to Walt Disney World a moot point. Thus, the Switzerland concept with its majestic Matterhorn will stay where it has for the past 20 years. On a piece of paper and a country's dream. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

New Fantasyland to have Soft-Openings Beginning Today!

As of this morning, it appears as though guests were treated to a surprise as the gates to New Fantasyland have been open, and soft-openings have begun. This is a bit of a surprise as it was thought that the Annual Passholder openings in early November would be the first days that guests could view the new land. Obviously, this is a big story, as many of us, including myself, have been covering and following this construction since its initial announcement. Stay tuned for news regarding the opening, including reactions from both guests and enthusiasts alike. I will be down there at the end of next month, just prior to the official December 6th opening, so I hope to have many photos and thoughts about the area.

In other news:

Splash Mountain to Go Down for Lengthy Rehab

The Disney Company has officially announced that Splash Mountain will go down for refurbishment from January 2nd until roughly March 20th. This is longer than the usual one month refurbishment, which leads many in the community to believe that this rehab might be the one where many of the issues that have been left off previous rehabs finally gets looked at. This tender, love and care is necessary when we look at issues like the turned off jumping fountains in the laughing place, and other issues with the unsynchronized music and dialogue within the mountain. This is something that I have spoken about recently, and it seems that Disney is realizing the need to have this attraction at peak condition. With the closure of Big Thunder Mountain last winter, and the track update and extensive refurbishment done there, it was rumored that this year would be reserved the time for Splash Mountain and its numerous needs. This appears to be happening, and though two and a half months of closure is long, it is necessary and welcomed by all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

EPCOT's 30th Anniversary

October 1st marked the 30th anniversary of the opening of EPCOT Center. This date is not only important in the history of the Disney Company, but also important in American popular culture. This date marked the culmination of thoughts from Walt Disney, and the company's ability to make as much of that vision come to life as possible. As we move into the 30th year that the park has been open, there are changes on the horizon (no pun intended) with the refurbishment of Test Track under way. The question now becomes: what else needs to be done? We know that EPCOT is certainly still a popular park, and as Food and Wine begins, the park has reached its own peak season. As we look around Future World, there seems to be things necessary to the future of the park that are in need of expansion. Looking at a few we see:

1. Wonders of Life- It may be time to make a decision regarding this pavilion. It is working right now as a special event locale, but if there is a need for attraction expansion, this is the most likely space. There have been construction demolition papers made up regarding this space, but that does not mean the entire pavilion is being demolished, unless there are structural issues. 

2. Universe of Energy- Even though Ellen is still a popular draw, it seems that it may be time to do something with this attraction, especially the 45 minute length.

3. Journey into Imagination with Figment- This has been worked on the last few years, although nothing really major, it is time for the attraction to be overhauled. It is interesting, if this was still the original Journey, we likely may not be having this conversation. Alas, this needs to be done.

4. Captain EO- The appeal is running out, as many people ho remember it from their childhood or younger days have returned to Disney to see it already, and now its attendance is fleeting. A new 3D attraction might be looked into in the near future. 

5. Spaceship Earth- I have ranted about this in the past, and it is time for Siemens to fix a mistake. Rumors swirl that the old future AA's are hidden behind the curtains on the descent, it is time to at least open it up and restart them. 

6. Soarin'- Though this is a rather new attraction, it would become much more fitting if they swapped the California film with either a Florida or a United States film. It has been said that the films could easily swap out, and it might be time.

As EPCOT hits 30, it is certainly an important time for the park, and now that the anniversary has passed, it might be time to look into refurbishing attractions that have run their course and might need, in some cases, slight upgrades. Some cases are unfortunately in need of full attractions. But for now, Happy 30th EPCOT, and many more!!!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Characters in Flight Return

It is widely being reported that the Characters in Flight attraction located at Downtown Disney will be returning as scheduled in the coming weeks as it appears the new balloon is being installed and should be ready to go soon. This comes as a surprise to many (myself included) considering the accident that transpired with one of Aerophile balloons which led to the closing of this attraction and the recall and replacement of the tethered balloon.

This is proof that Disney does have faith in the monetary value of this attraction and their belief that guests will not be discouraged from returning to the attraction, or giving it a go. Only time will tell how popular this attraction becomes after its return, as many have questioned its popularity beforehand, with the $18.99 per person price tag. Stay tuned for more info on this and other news.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Alcohol at Be Our Guest?

It has been widely reported, and confirmed that for the first time in the history of Walt Disney World alcohol will be served within the confines of the Magic Kingdom Park. This decision was made regarding the newly created Be Our Guest Restaurant, which is soft-opening in New Fantasyland on November 19. This upscale restaurant is the first to offer any alcoholic beverages in the parks forty-one year history. This decision, confirmed by menu releases, has sparked much criticism and controversies throughout the community.

The critics have argued that Walt wanted Magic Kingdom to stay alcohol-free, or dry as they say, rather than be pressured into offering alcohol. This has always been the appeal for the park, and the thought of beer carts on Main Street have many people upset and angered. The other side of the coin questions whether or not Walt would still be for a dry Magic Kingdom with the amount of money that is in these sales. The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer. It is necessary to change with the times, but does it mean to escape from something that the company once held near and dear. The alcohol-free Magic Kingdom has always had support all over the world, as Disneyland Park continues to be a dry park. The counter to that is Club 33, a private club within the Disneyland Park, that does serve alcohol. This is an exclusive club and should be treated as such.

The question and debate continues on, and it seems the battle lines have been drawn in the sand. Rumors have abounded that guests cancelled reservations when this was announced, but there has been no confirmation that such action has occurred.

Not to delve into my own personal opinion, but what must be considered is the shear lack of a signature dining experience in the Magic Kingdom. Sure Cinderella's Royal Table is considered such, but this establishment is geared toward the family and has character dining. Be Our Guest will be the first "real" signature dining experience, so this must be considered as well.

We will keep the news flowing, no pun intended, as they develop to the upcoming soft-opening November 19th, and the official December 6th opening.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Expansion: We Now Have a youtube Channel

One of the expansion ideas I have had was to create a channel on youtube. This coupled with twitter and facebook have made the blog completely socially networked. If anyone would like to view the videos I have posted from within Walt Disney world resort just visit the channel below.

Tomorrowland Gazette youtube Channel

Monday, September 10, 2012

Disney That Never Was: Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy

With the news of a massive shakeup possibly changing the landscape and footprint of Disney's Hollywood Studios, it seems necessary to look at part of the first real expansion that was planned for the then Disney/MGM Studios.

As one of the major components of the Disney Decade, Michael Eisner used his connections within the movie industry to expand on a EPCOT pavilion concept: the movie pavilion. By expanding this idea, MGM Studios was born, and through that creation, so did a completely different direction for the Walt Disney Company in Florida. Eisner's idea was a full year ahead of rival Universal's own park opening, which in turn gave Disney the edge.

Disney/MGM Studios was originally conceived to be a half-day park, as many executives did not think that there would be enough attractions and shows to keep guests within the park fr an entire day. Fortunately for them, they were wrong. The park became an immediate success, and calls for more were demanded by park goers. This led to the addition of such things as MuppetVision 3D, and the entire Sunset Boulevard area to the park. With all that the park has now and added over the years it is a wonder that there were many concepts left on the drawing table, and ones that simply were shelved during development. One of these projects was Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy.

In an attempt to capitalize on the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Imagineers came up with a concept for a new area to encompass the MGM Studios. This area would mimic the sets of the film, and become heavily influenced by the popular film with a slew of new attractions, including a Toontown Trolley and a Benny the Cab Ride. (which eventually became known as Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin in Disneyland and Tokyo) The Baby Herman attraction would take guests right into the middle of a Roger Rabbit/Baby Herman cartoon, notably the Tummy Trouble short as guests loaded into dark ride style baby carriages. It was described by one Imagineer as being a ride that, ” … guests zoom through the cartoon sets of Toontown Hospital, fly down stairs, crash through doors and bound over beds.” Though the concept had promise, and would have added a completely new dimension to the park, it never made it past the concept stage.

There have been rumors abound for why this attraction as well as the rest of Roger Rabbit's Hollywood never came to fruition. Some point the finger at Eisner and Frank Wells being a bit too bold during the Disney Decade, and others blame the character's fleeting popularity for its eventual cancellation, but the truth seems to lie somewhere in the middle. One major issue that seemed to be a sticking point was the ownership of the character and Disney's disagreement with Amblin Entertainment (Steven Spielberg's production agency) led to multiple delays. Being that both Touchstone (Disney's live-action production company) and Amblin were responsible for the creation of the film, disagreements arose over the profits, the usage and the design of the land and attractions. Considering Spielberg's affiliation with Universal, it is a wonder that this became a major issue moving forward. The other problem that arose was the rising costs of EuroDisney, and the eventual losses that the Disney Company took once it finally opened. As the disagreements finally seemed to be ending with Amblin, Disney found that it had a capital issue which led to much of the plans from the Disney Decade to be shelved. Once this capital issue was resolved however, it seemed that the Roger Rabbit character had lost its luster and popularity, so the company went in a different direction as they eventually decided on a project that eventually became Sunset Boulevard and the Tower of Terror which opened in July 1994.

Though this attraction was never officially green lit, and therefore never has been created, much of the technology that this attraction was conceived to feature has found itself in other attractions, notably the Winnie-the-Pooh attraction in Magic Kingdom with its "bouncing" and "floating" honeypots. It is also important to note that Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin eventually was created in Disneyland in January 1993 and in Tokyo in April 1996.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Is Avatarland off the drawing board? CarsLand and big changes to DHS?

Rumors are abounding that the future of Avatarland in Animal Kingdom has been decided. That decision has been to possibly scratch the whole entire project. There have been many thoughts as to why this might have happened. One of the major reasons this seems to have been scraped is the fact that James Cameron wanted 100% creative control, and Disney generally does not allow such things. This seems like good business as it allows them to hold some control on what gets produced within their parks. Apparently this may not be working for a big-time director like James Cameron, and the popular belief is that coupled with the seemingly negative fanboy response to the projects creation has caused the company to cease the forward movement of the concept.

With this news comes even more rumors of a possible overhaul to the Hollywood Studios Park. There have been many rumors about the future of the parks streets and areas, as well as some things that might make many fans happy and possibly worried. Here are the rumors, in order of how possible they seem to be:

1. The Hollywood Hills Amphitheater to add 1000 seats. This has been all but confirmed, this makes us wonder about either a World of Color update to the show or an integration of World of Color effects to the already popular Fantasmic show.

2. CarsLand could be on its way to Hollywood Studios. Rumor has it that the Backlot tour will be put out of its misery to make way for the land to be placed within the confines of Pixar Place.

3. The eventual closing of the Backlot Express to be re-imagined as the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars fame. This rumor has been around for a while, but appears to be finally ready to happen.

4. The re-imagining of the Grauman's Chinese Theater as the Carthay Circle Theater. This would allow Disney to end the litigation of the usage of the facade, and allow them to take down the Sorcerer's Hat and use the Carthay as the official park icon.

5. The closing of possibly both Mama' Melrose's and Pizza Planet to make way for two Muppet inspired eateries. (look back at the History of WDW look at Gonzo's Pandemonium Pizza Parlor as a guide to what may be going here)

6.  Ending the madness of Sound's Dangerous and making the space an official Jedi Training Academy. This would allow for a better experience for guests as well as a more "Force" inspired experience.

7. The Monster's Inc. Coaster. This has been on again off again and then back on again rumor for the past five years. Personally it is still a long shot but if an expansion to Pixar Place is in the works this may become a part of it.

As runors it is absolutely possible that these things do not happen, but it appears that Hollywood Studios is now the park on tap to be refurbished. This will continue to be observed and reported as actual news comes out, but there are many outlets reporting these ideas. This is just more of a grouping of the all of the major rumors.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Magic, The Memories and You To Become Re-Imagined

It has been announced the the Pre-Wishes event "The Magic, The Memories and You" will end its run as soon as today in preparation for the new pre-show entitled, "Celebrate the Magic" which will debut in November. It is rumored to feature much of the designs and effects that its predecessor implemented including the castle effects, but it appears as though the concept of photographs during the day of guests will be removed.

This seems like a logical move forward for this technology, as it originally was implemented with the pictures because apparently Disney brass was worried that the simple effects would not draw crowds. Now that those fears have been squashed, and the show's popularity is revolved around the Castle effects, it appears as the progression would be to eliminate the memory portion of the show, and eventually implement the technology into the firework show, which may eventually call for the either updating or replacing of the Wishes Fireworks show. What do people think about the idea that Wishes' days may may be numbered?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

History of WDW: Back to Neverland

In looking back on videos from my childhood, I came across a video from the Magic of Disney Animation at the previously titled Disney MGM Studios. This video, reminded me alot of my childhood, which outlined the way Disney makes their animated films. It starred Walter Cronkite and Robing Williams, and was titled Back to Neverland. Many times this video was played, and it was one that all of the guests felt drawn to. Maybe it was the way Walter Cronkite in some way reminded us of Walt Disney (considering their friendship and Cronkite's status as the other "Uncle Walt") Maybe it was the goofiness of Robin Williams.

As we have seen the degeneration of the Magic of Disney Animation, this was the first in a line of changes that caused it to become a shell of its former self. This film was viewed while the animators were still working on the studio, and when the studio was still producing television shows and effects. It introduced us to the real magic of animating a Disney film, long before the entrance of Pixar and the CGI animation.

The show featured Walter Cronkite choosing a random member of the crowd (conveniently Robin Williams) and gave him the opportunity to become an animated character. Through his trip there were goofs and gags, notably an animated Robing mimicking Walter's mannerisms. It also featured Robin as a lost boy in Neverland, fighting Captain Hook. As the show went on, Robing was drawn, inked and set. the process was comedically placed and was factual and accurate. The beauty was the on air camaraderie and respect both Williams and Cronkite had for one another. The show became a must see which caused the attraction repeatability.

The attraction has since been redesigned with a Mulan inspired film, and the loss of the animators has made this attraction less popular and less traveled. The "Back to Neverland" film added to the Robin Williams Disney Legend status, as his performance was one of the factors that led to him being cast in Aladdin. (note the similarities of his attire and that of Genie at the end of the film) This film had a large impact on the early Disney/MGM Studios, and the future of Disney animation.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Re-theming of California Grill Coming?

It has been stated on websites and other media outlets that the California Grill will be closing on January 6, 2013. This closure has been stated to be an "extensive rehab" and will reopen in the late summer of 2013. This long closure has many Disney fans wondering and worrying about the fate of the well-known Signature Dining location. There have been rumors that it will be completely re-themed, and the cuisine would go through complete menu change.

According to Chef Brian Piasecki, the menu will have some changes but what has made the California Grill what it is will remain. (Thanks to for the info) It also sounds as though there will be an upgrade to the interactive kitchen, though the kitchen staff and floor-plan of the restaurant have been said to remain.

Alas, there are many that are worried of the closing, as six to eight months is a long time for a restaurant to be closed, there is a sentiment that more is on the horizon. Maybe the restaurant is going back to its roots as the Top of the World Club, or maybe it is going to cease as a restaurant altogether. Personally I would think that Disney will keep this Signature Dining venue around and similar to what it is today, as it remains to be one of the most popular places on property. Coupled with excellent food and an amazing view of Cinderella Castle and the Wishes Nighttime Fireworks, this venue will return with a fresh upgrade, even better food and a new experience that will once again beckoning people back for more.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cutting Back of Extra Magic Hours?

It appears that we might see a cutback in the times of night Extra Magic Hours throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. As it stands now, the parks are open, on select nights, an extra three hours to guests staying in a Disney World Resort. The change that seems to be on deck is to cut those three hour nights back to two hours. This change appears to be going into effect in January of 2013.

For those of us who have survived an all-night Magic Kingdom EMH will attest that toward the end of the night the parks become extremely scarce. I personally remember once being in Magic Kingdom at 3:30am. This also proved to be an extremely quiet time. Is it possible that Disney is seeing that the extra hour is not worth the cost of keeping it open. I mean we all know that if EMH ends at 2am the park does not empty out until almost 3. They do not close the rides at the time of park closing, they simply stop letting more people enter. This could cause attractions like Soarin' and Space Mountain to have twenty minute lines within.

The question is this: How do people feel about this concept and change. It is not set in stone yet as it is simply a rumor as of today, but the fact is it appears that it is on the horizon. Any thoughts?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Goodbye to Characters in Flight...?

It appears that the Downtown Disney attraction Characters in Flight will be closed now through November. This is in response to an apparent accident because of the material that the balloon is made of. A similar balloon made by the company Aerophile supplied this balloon as well as the one that fell from approximately 20 meters (50 feet to us used to the English system of measuring) at Ocean Park in Hong Kong.

The attraction was already scheduled for a refurbishment and balloon replacement for this November so it appears that this is the plan, but one cannot help but speculate that this might be the last that we see of this attraction. Keep a few things in mind:

1. Does Disney want an attraction that has a history, even though it did not happen on a Disney owned resort?
2. Was this attraction popular enough to sustain the loss of guests who may not trust it anymore?
3. Will Disney allow it to return to the air, keeping the safety of the tests in mind?

Personally I think we may have seen the last of this, as I think Disney will close it for refurbishment and then slowly and quietly dismantle the entire setup alla 20,000 Leagues. It is safe to say we will find out soon enough, but if we do not it may be because the attraction has gone by the wayside

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is Spectro replacing Main Street Electrical ?

Rumors have begun to swirl that the Main Street Electrical Parade maybe once again leaving Walt Disney World, and we might be seeing the return of SpectroMagic. Though this is a major change that will garner much debate among guests and fans, this could happen almost immediately without much notice.

What must be kept in mind is that the floats and show pieces for SpectroMagic are still in a warehouse on property ready to be used again. According to MousePlanet, there is a souvenir book that has stated that Spectro is returning. Though this has not been announced, it is a good possibility considering that MSEP returned originally for the Summer Nightastic in 2010. We shall see if the change back happens. Keep up to date here with new info. The blog is back to its tricks of being there for Disney fans and enthusiasts.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Coming Back...

Sorry for the brief hiatus. Unfortunately it was unavoidable. We will be coming back real soon with much more. There is so much to talk about and things to do. Hopefully this summer I can get this blog to new heights. Until then, we will be back as soon as possible.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Will we see The Avengers in the Parks? Not Likely.

With the huge early returns of the first Disney-Marvel creation The Avengers blowing up theaters and breaking records, ($200.3 Million opening weekend) the conceivable thought is that we are close to seeing Marvel character roaming Disney’s Hollywood Studios and possibly an Avengers attraction making its way to the theme parks. Sadly, we are mistaken. These things will not be happening anytime soon; it at all.

When Disney bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009 it was thought that there would be Marvel character roaming parks and attractions galore within all of Disney theme parks. This has not been the case, and though we may want to blame Disney for not capitalizing on the brand, it is much more complicated than that. When we look down the block to Universal Studios, there is an area of Islands of Adventure called Marvel Superhero Island. This area, which predates the acquisition of Marvel by Disney, has written within its contract that the agreement cannot be ended with a change in ownership. It almost seemed as though Universal knew that one day Marvel would be sold (and they did not have the funds to buy the company themselves) and they wanted to keep themselves covered. This deal, which Disney CEO Bob Iger has since honored, does not allow Disney to use any Marvel character that has a place in Islands of Adventure in any capacity east of the Mississippi River. The positive ramification is that it excludes Disneyland from this binding contract, leaving the West Coast free to create whatever it pleases.

This brings up the Universal angle though: what would possess a company to continue to market its opposition’s franchise? Think about this: You enter Universal, and you are greeted by Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the Hulk. That is good. The bad: you are seeing characters and attractions themed to a Disney owned property. Disney has free marketing at Universal Studios. Though it would be costly, wouldn’t the logical thing be to re-theme Superhero Island to maybe DC (though it would have to finagle a deal away from Six Flags) or a complete re-imagining of the land? It seems like a poor decision to promote Disney owned characters, especially to a population dominated by tourists, who may not know this deal exists and thus not know the difference.

The only answer we have is this: No. You will not see an Avengers attraction in Hollywood Studios (Hulk is in Universal.) The wonder I have is the logistics of maybe an Iron Man attraction. That might be feasible, though I am unsure of the semantics of the contract. One day Universal will re-theme the Island as they will have had enough giving Disney free market space. Then and only then will Marvel fans see the franchise in the resort it belongs. Till then we can only speculate.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Disney That Never Was: Beastly Kingdom

Of all of the lands of Animal Kingdom that were operational on opening day on April 22, 1998, the land that had everyone wondering and hoping for the immediate expansion that was planned. Sadly that expansion never came, and might now aspects of it may become a part of the Avatar themed expansion.
Beastly Kingdom was immediately a rock-solid plan in the minds of Disney executives. Animal Kingdom was supposed to feature animals of all types; those in real-life, those who walked the planet but have become extinct, and finally animals of the mystical realm. These plans would have placed Beastly Kingdom squarely in the area now inhabited by Camp Minnie-Mickey. What people do not know, is that Camp Minnie-Mickey has a remnant of the un-built Beastly Kingdom: A dragon shaped fountain within its boundaries. The plan of Beastly Kingdom was to create an area for all mythical and fantastical animals including Unicorns, Dragons, and sea monsters among others.

The land would have been broken up into two distinct areas: A good side and an evil side. Each side of Beastly Kingdom would have a “weenie” or landmark distinguishing itself from the other. The good side would feature an attraction called Quest of the Unicorn, as well as a Fantasia styled boat ride. The evil side of Beastly Kingdom would have featured Dragon Tower, an old castle in ruins inhabited by a fire breathing Dragon. As such the land would have been one of the focal points of the park, and likely would have kept Animal Kingdom from its initial failures. 

The area never came to be, and much to do with budgeting and finances. Rumor has it that Michael Eisner had to choose between the Beastly Kingdom area and the Dinoland area, as costs soared on construction. Seeing as Disney was real easing Dinosaur, the believed that would be the better land to create and promote (How did that film do?) As such Camp Minnie- Mickey was put in as a band aid replacement. Many of the Imagineers involved with the project eventually left the company in some sort of disgust at the failure of the construction amid the planning and man hours used in creation. Many of these Imagineers found their way to Universal, and were involved and used elements from Beastly Kingdom in the creation of The Lost Continent. Proof of this was found in Dueling Dragons (Now known as Dragon Challenge) as the concept of two dueling dragons within a ruined castle (sound familiar?)

Some elements of Beastly Kingdom are still evident in Animal Kingdom even today:
·       The Marquee of the park logo still includes a silhouette dragon among the animals walking behind the Animal Kingdom name.
·       One of the parking lots of the park was and still is titled Unicorn.
·       There is a statue of a Dragonhead above the ticket booths, though no Dragon exists in the park.
·       Fire blasts would fly from a cave within Camp Minnie-Mickey. There also included a suit of armor and an announcement on the now defunct Discovery River Boats that the cave housed a fire breathing dragon.

Beastly Kingdom was an enormous undertaking that the Disney Company decided was not cost-effective or feasible with the opening of the park. Though there were and still are elements  of the Beastly Kingdom concept included in the park (proving the seriousness of the creation of the land) it appears as though this has and will be permanently shelved with the announcement of the Avatar themed land within the park.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

History of WDW: Mickey's Toontown Fair

I would suspect that a year or so is long enough to discuss the recently closed and demolished land of Mickey's Toontown. Though I first remember it as Mickey's Starland, it was originally opened as Mickey's Birthday land in 1988 by then Disney CEO Michael Eisner. It was Eisner's idea to put Mickey in a permanent spot, though the land was never meant to be a permanent place. Mickey's Birthdayland was converted to Mickey's Starland in 1990, and eventually to Toontown Fair in 1996.

The idea of Toontown Fair was a place for Mickey, Donald, and their friends to have a "vacation spot" in Florida as it would make little sense to children that Mickey could live in both California and Florida (As Toontown exists in Disneyland Park) This idea to keep the canon going was created to explain the land to guests. Toontown Fair included Mickey's Country House, Minnie's House as well as Donald's Boat and The Barnstormer at Wise Acre Farm. These attractions made Toontown Fair an attractive place for children and parents alike.

Mickey's house concluded with a trip to the Judge's Tent, as part of the story includes that Mickey has come to Toontown Fair to judge the farm contest. Here was the permanent spot to meet Mickey until the areas closing and the opening of Town Square Theater. This area included mostly walk-throughs with the exception of The Barnstormer. Goofy's Barnstormer was and is a children's style roller coaster, based on Goofy and his plane. This attraction closed with the rest of Toontown Fair in February 2011, but will re-open in the coming weeks with the new Storybook Circus set to open next month officially. There will be a few changes, though they will only revolve around the story and theming.

The area included Donald's Boat, a children's play area that included Donald's sailor suit. There was also Pete's Garage, that housed the restrooms, but we always looked out for the key to Pete's bathroom in the gas pump, but don't worry, the bathrooms were always unlocked.

Mickey's Toontown Fair closed in February 2011in preparation for the opening of New Fantasyland. Some of the structures, like the tents and such have remained as part of the Storybook Circus area, and as stated even the Barnstormer has survived. What was once supposed to only be a temporary area is now gone for good, but its footprint remains. For an area that was not supposed to last, 23 years sure was a long time, and they even built a train station for it. Toontown Fair/Starland/Birthdayland will always hold a special place for many Disney World fans. We said we wouldn't be caught dead in there, but we were always found within the confines of the Fair at some time in every trip.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Agent P's World Showcase Adventure

Once again I love it when a rumor becomes fact. Disney Parks Blog is reporting that this summer the Kim Possible adventure in World Showcase will be changed to Agent P's World Showcase Adventure. Their will be possibly a new device, though nothing really has been said past a "high-tech secret agent device" so there is speculation that something new is coming into the experience. This change will be happening during this summer, though it will probably be a quick turnover as it will just be signs and such around World Showcase and an updated home base. Lets see how this change goes. We know it will have a positive feedback from fans and children alike.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bye-Bye Habit Heores

So this opening did not even make to a blog post of mine, but apparently the new attraction in Innoventions East in EPCOT Habit Heroes has already bitten the dust. The attraction, focusing on eating healthy has been slammed recently by people complaining that Disney is discriminating against obese people. It has been such a backlash that even places like the Binge Eating Disorder Association among others have petitioned Disney to close the attraction up. Well, apparently Disney has listened. It seems that the attraction has ceased operation, and all signs point that this will either be a permanent closure or a massive rethinking of the concept. Now we are all wishing for Waste Management's "Don't Waste It" to come back. Stay tuned for the updates on this situation.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Snow White's Scary Adventures to Officially Close in May

It has been made official, Snow White's Scary Adventures will close on May 31, 2012. This is to make way for the new Princess meet-and-greet set to occupy the show building. It was thought that the attraction would not close until The Under the Sea Adventures with Ariel in New Fantasyland opens, which leads some to believe that it is possible we may see the new realm opening at least in some form in the late spring early summer. Lets see what happens on this front in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Changes Being Made to Policies for FastPass and ADR's

There has been a lot of dialogue in the past few weeks regarding the major decisions at Disney to change the policies of the FastPass system as well as the Advanced Dining Reservation. These changes can and will have a major affect on Disney park goers, especially in the coming future.

The policy for the FastPass system has really always been on place. As we slip our park ticket into the receptacle, we are given a FastPass with strict time constraints. These cards offer us a one hour window in which we may redeem our FastPasses for a ride on the attraction via the FastPass line (which is supposed to be much shorter than the stand-by line). This system seems foolproof, however it has become a Disney practice of not allowing people to redeem their FastPasses before their scheduled time (sounds logical) but to allow people to return much later than their times to ride the attraction. This has diluted the rules of the system, and has cause many guests to decide to take advantage of Disney's gratuitous flexibility. This causes many issues as we see FastPass lines to become overloaded, and that in turn adversely affects the stand-by line.

The enforced policy will allow park patrons to arrive 5 minutes before their FastPass begins and up to 15 minutes after it expires. What we hear is that is it! No more will we see people with six hours old FastPasses on the lines. This should help keep both the FastPass and Stand-By lines moving, and though it will be an adjustment to some guests, the consensus is that it will be a benefit to the overall park experience. Personally, I am in agreement that something needed to be done to make the system work on a more optimal level. There have been many times in which the FastPass lines were out of control because  large groups would show up hours late to their repot times. There was a reason that the system was created to only give a certain amount of FastPasses per hour. This made that plan and idea relatively useless. This policy enforcement will bother some, but majority of people will be pleased I am pretty sure.

With the news about the FastPass system changes comes the change to the policy for Disney ADR's. There has been a major problem in the resort over the past few years with guests making reservations and not arriving for them. This would not be a problem if not for the fact that most times there was never a cancellation of these reservations, and thus the restaurant would be unable to give a table to any walk-up guests. the new policy change will require guests to leave a credit card number to make the reservation. They will also require cancellations be made 24 hours prior to the reservation. Unlike the situation with the enforcement of FastPass, I think people are much more concerned with this one. The reason is because many (myself included) are concerned with what happens when something unexpected occurs in the park that specific day. What would occur when your child is not feeling well, and you must cut your day short? Or you cannot get to the park where your reservation is because of weather (this happened to me as they shut down the water taxis from MGM to EPCOT) The question becomes how flexible they will be with the 24 hour window when an extenuating circumstance occurs. Will they be forgiving, or will they still charge you the $10 fee. This has I'm sure become an out of hand situation, but I trust Disney is prepared for such issues to arise. Let's see how these thing happen as they are set to begin in the coming future, with the FastPass policy being enforced in March.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Phineas and Ferb to Replace Kim Possible?

Ok, so unfortunately I have found myself increasingly busy, and thus have found trouble keeping up with my posting, but I wanted to present this bit of news that I think a few people have heard as of now.

It appears as if Phineas and Ferb (with Perry the Platypus as well) may soon be taking over the Kim Possible detective game at EPCOT. With the anticipated success of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom taking shape and finishing up its run of testing, it seems that this change might not be soon behind. The question is of course why. The answer seems much more simpler than we want it to be. The truth is that Kim Possible does not have any following with the younger generation as it did five years ago. Unfortunately it has run its course and many children play the game not really knowing what the show even was. The other even more logical reason is the popularity and the apparent transcending of ages that Phineas and Ferb have been able to accomplish. It is not uncommon to see adults and teenager alike to be wearing a Perry the Platypus shirt or hat, and I even find myself caught watching it when it is on.

This is a developing plan that may or may not come to fruition. Odds are that it will happen in the future, but how far into the future is the bigger mystery as of this moment. We will let you know as soon as we find out.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Eisner... Savior or Pariah?

In this world we are often presented with people that are polarizing. We look at them as being heroes or villains, good or evil and how their actions affected our lives. One of those debates have raged on over the past ten years over the tenure of Michael Eisner in the Disney Company. While many would be quick to point out his shortcomings, others are just as quick to mention his successes. While not displacing an actual gospel opinion on the man, it is necessary to look at both his positives and his negatives to get a better understanding of what went on throughout his tenure at the House of Mouse.

Disney President Frank Wells and Disney CEO Michael Eisner

To first look at Michael Eisner is to see how it was he came to The Walt Disney Company. Eisner, of Paramount Pictures, along with his friend and colleague Jeffrey Katzenberg arrived in the company in 1984 along with Frank Wells, a man known for his time as President and Vice Chairman of Warner Bros. They were brought in to replace Walt Disney's son-in-law Ron Miller, as it was on Miller and Board President Card Walker's watch that saw both the Disney animation come crashing down, and the near-miss hostile takeover by Saul Steinburg (who wanted to buy Disney and sell it off piece by piece). Those events prompted Roy E. Disney to start his famous "Save Disney" campaign that was preceded by his choice to resign as a member of the Board of Directors. This move ultimately replaced Miller and Walker with Eisner and Wells, who had known Roy since college.

President of Feature Animation Peter Schneider, Animation Head Roy E. Disney, 
and Disney Studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg

During the tenure of Wells and Eisner, fans saw both growth in the parks and in animation. There was the opening of Disney/MGM Studios, and the subsequent expansion of that park in the from of Sunset Boulevard. It saw the reinvigorated energy from feature animation, now headed by Peter Schneider. Roy Disney returned to the company he left in 1984 to run the Animation department under Schneider and Katzenberg. The team of Roy and Jeffrey Katzenberg  though tumultuous at best produced some Disney's greatest hits ever. Animation ran off hits like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King in succession. This helped not only retail of merchandise and toys, but also kept the parks running at a high level through the early 90's. Eisner helped change the landscape of the company in less than 10 years. His form of reckless abandon, shoot from the hip attitude led the company while Frank Wells helped keep balance and was always the voice of reason. Unfortunately the happy story seems to end here.

Sadly on April 3, 1994 the world lost Frank Wells, as he tragically died in a helicopter crash in Nevada, returning from a ski trip in the Ruby Mountains. Frank was always known for his love for mountain climbing and skiing almost reached his goal of reaching all seven summits (he had to turn back one day short of the summit of Mount Everest). Wells' death left not only a huge void in the Disney family, but an even greater void in their corporate hierarchy. With the loss of Wells, Disney was without their President, and Michael Eisner was without his sounding board, and his voice of reason. Around this time, Jeffrey Katzeneberg believed that he was next in line to be the Disney President. At this point much debate ensues as some believe that Katzenberg pushed Eisner to promote him, while others believe that Eisner never intended to have Katzenberg work alongside him. Whatever the reason, there was a rivalry between the two that was evident before Wells' death. It came to head afterward.

Eisner eventually pushed Katzenberg to resign, and he went on to create Dreamworks SKG with close friends Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Katzenberg eventually sued Disney and settled out of court for roughly $250 million dollars. At this point much of Eisner's choices began to become questionable. He hired Creative Artists Agency co-founder and close friend Michael Ovitz. This became one of Eisner's most questionable administrative choices.

Disney CEO Michael Eisner and President Michael Ovitz

The Michael Ovitz experiment ended with Disney owing him almost $160 million dollars in salary and stock options. The year of Ovitz as President not only ruined the relationship he had with Eisner, it also ruined his reputation, as many believed him to be "dumb". Ovitz claims that he was left out of a lot of meetings, and was never explained his role or what was expected of him. His dismissal began to show how Michael Eisner was trying to keep complete control.

Disney CEO Michael Eisner and President Bob Iger

Eventually we are lead to Eisner assuming both posts, but after pressure from many, he named Robert Iger President, and after Roy Disney's second "Save Disney" campaign, Eisner resigned a year before his contract ended. With that Bob Iger assumed his position as President and CEO. 

The questions that are always asked: Was Eisner really that bad? Did he do anything good? Why was there so many issues during his career? Why didn't anyone stop him? The answers though not simple spark many debates. My take is that Eisner is everything and more. He was and is an extremely complex person. He was a good corporate leader during part of his tenure, and he was a poor leader at other times. He did his best work in his first 10 years, and it seemed he lost direction and desired more control during his second 10 years. It can be said that Michael Eisner is like a tale of two people. The first was the intelligent business man who helped take a company on the brink and make it not only relevant, but highly successful. The other person was the man who did not have a real vision, or direction. The second person was power hungry, and wanted everyone to do as he wanted. What was the difference? Frank Wells.

Without Frank Wells' ability to mediate situations, it seems that Michael Eisner's personal issues with his colleagues caused many problems. He was unable to control his feelings toward others. So when the question is asked of Michael Eisner is a savior of Disney or a Pariah, I think the question must be asked: When? From 1984-1994 or 1995-2005. The answer may become much simpler. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop SOPA...!

Please join Facebook, Google, and Wikipedia in their fight to stop the SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills that are going to be voted on in Congress on January 24th. This bill may make sites like WDW Radio and WDWNT have to shut down as the monitoring of such sites might have major issues and such following them. These bills may make blogging difficult. If you are a person who wants their freedom of speech and freedom of the media to withstand, join the growing number of people and businesses against both the SOPA bill and the PIPA bill. Sign the petition on Google and email your local congress people. Thanks for your support!