Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bright Idea

Six Flags Over Texas is introducing a new parade to their theme park! Get this...the parade takes place at night! "The Glow in the Park Parade" will feature the classic Looney Tunes characters on floats made of fiber optic lighting. Isn't that a novel idea!? Where did they come up with that....?

You can read the whole story here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Loose Shoes

I've been a little out of the loop lately not only with my own posting but with catching up on all the other great Disney blogs out there. If I repeat something that someone else has already covered or mentioned...I apologize.

I wanted to share a couple of links with ya, that I've had sitting around the BWTS offices for a while:

  • The Washington Post ran an article on the cover page of their Style & Arts section back in July about the new Innoventions Dream Home attraction in Disneyland. The Future Is So Yesterday by Joel Garreau was accompanied by plenty of full color photos. However, instead of scanning the article you'll be able to read it better if I just post a link instead.
  • I'm not really into the whole religion thing, but my mom gave me an article from a Catholic newspaper which talked about priests blogging. One of the blogs featured is called Jesus Goes to Disney World. It's not an exclusive Disney site and it's also not an exclusive Jesus site. This page, run by a campus minister at Towson University, uses pop culture as a spring board for discussions on many life lessons. Disney is a popular topic on the site, so if you scroll down and check out some of the archives you'll find some interesting reading with a different angle on the Disney universe.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Friday, August 1, 2008

Disney World Without the Jell-O Pops

Going back to the 1980's, I guess Bill Cosby was too busy appearing in every other commercial on television to find the time to do this commercial staring his mega-popular TV family...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wells Expedition

Former President of the Walt Disney Company and mountain climbing enthusiast Frank G. Wells is the subject of this article from the Disney Beat department of the May 1991 issue of Disney Adventures magazine (issue #7).

Wells served as the company's president from 1984 until the time of his death in a helicopter accident on April 3, 1994.

Monday, July 28, 2008

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges!

When you're on Disney property you just never know who's going to stop you and spread a little magic. While walking back to our car from the World of Disney store (with $300 less than we went in with) a Walt Disney World Security office pulled up to my family in his patrol car. Instead of having the kind of experience you usually have when a security guard stops you, this cast member reaches out of his car and hands both my kids Mickey Mouse Junior Security badge stickers. Of course, I had to persuade my children to not stick the stickers on their shirts and instead let Daddy save them for his collection of everything from Disney World...but it was a nice surprise and a magical touch that you wouldn't expect in a Disney parking lot.
The Blog Wore Tennis Shoes will be putting on it's flip-flops as we close our offices and spend the week and the beach with the family. The Blog will be on auto-pilot until next week. We'll have some light posts throughout this week.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jack Wagner: The Official Voice of Disneyland

Going back to my list of WDW memories again, I had listed the voice of Jack Wagner on the monorail system as one of the things I miss when visiting Walt Disney World. If you've never heard Jack Wagner's work, or you don't remember it - we'll fix that in a moment. Mr. Wagner served as the official announcer for Disneyland beginning in the 1970's. He could also be heard doing announcements at Walt Disney World. He was named a Disney Legend in 2005 but had a rich career that stretched outside the Walt Disney Company. You can read his official Disney Legends bio here. There is also a nice list of his voice over credits over at Wikipedia. And then there is this nice little video that I found on Youtube. It features plenty of photographs, old and new, of the Walt Disney World monorail system with an early 80's Jack Wagner spiel for audio. Enjoy:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Now Playing at the Penny Arcade

Yesterday I offered up my top ten favorite things that I miss at Walt Disney World. Number six on my list was the Penny Arcade on Main Street U.S.A. The hours I spent there are unforgettable. The best reference I've found regarding the ol' Penny Arcade is an old Steve Birnbaum Guide to Walt Disney World from 1981. The write up on the Penny Arcade is extensive and includes:

"...there are authentic old-time games - a Kiss-O-Meter, tests of strength, and an antique football game.

"In addition, in the center of the front section of the arcade, there are a number of machines that show very early "moving pictures" - that is, stacks of cards on a roller that can be turned to flip the cards and thereby "animate" the images they contain. There are two types of viewing devices - Mute-o-scopes, first introduced around 1900, whose rollers must be turned by hand, and Cail-o-scopes, developed about a decade later. These are turned automatically. Both of these are worth your while. Most stories here are comedies; the humor is broad and slapstick - good for at least a smile (if not a roar) and as amusing comments on the changing ideas about what tickles a funny bone. On the Cail-o-scopes, you can see such stories as Yes, We Have No Bananas, in which a suitor slips on a banana peel and is ridiculed; Tough Competition, in which sailors come to blows over a pretty girl; Texas Rangers, where the good guy lassos the robber; and Run Out of Town, in which one unfortunate man has paint dumped on him, falls into a manhole, is knocked over by a car, sits on a freshly painted bench, and knocks over a paint bucket - all in a single day. During A Raid On A Watermelon Patch, two fellows do and are discovered. Oh Teacher concerns the antics of a teacher's pest. Brigitte On A Bike shows a real sourpuss taking a tumble; it might be subtitled, "Or The Trials of Riding In A Long Skirt." Particularly interesting is Captain Kidd's Treasure, in which a pirate lass shows knees, bare arms, and ankles. The display of skin - which would rate a solid G today - must have looked positive risque three quarters of a century ago.

"Among the Cail-o-scopes , the best are probably Expecting, which is a funny cartoon about people waiting, and Knock Out, which documents a World's Heavyweight Boxing Championship between Joe Louis and German fighter Max Schmeling; but some of the others are also worth a peek - and the cost is only a penny."

Ye Olde Good Times!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

10 Things I Miss About Walt Disney World

Time for another one of my world famous (in my mind) lists! This time it's Ten Things I Miss About Walt Disney World. This isn't necessarily a list of attractions, because I think we'd all have pretty much the same list. These are things, big or small, that have changed or disappeared over the years. Of course, we encourage you to leave your own list in the comment box or post your list on your own blog. We had some great lists posted in the comment section last time. So now, keep your arms and feet inside the blog and let's take a look at some things I miss from Walt Disney World..

10) AM Information Radio - If you were driving on WDW property you would see road signs informing you to tune your car AM radio dial to a certain station and you'd hear a continuously running loop of information about everything Walt Disney World has to offer, including park times and entertainment offerings. This kind of thing used to be standard fare at most theme parks but this being Disney, it was a well produced recording often featuring character voices and theme park music. This station operated somewhere into the 1990's. On an average weeklong trip I'd probably listen to the entire loop two or three dozen times.

9) Original Monster Sound Show Pre-show The old Monster Sound Show at Disney-MGM Studios was great, with the Haunted House movie staring Chevy Chase and Martin Short. Back in the early days, while you were waiting in line there was a video playing of Disney sound effects artist Jimmy Macdonald showing David Letterman how sounds form different animated classics were created. The clip was just a segment from Letterman's old NBC show "Late Night" but it was bookended with new footage of David Letterman. Back in the 80's, before Dave was the household name his is today - I was a HUGE Letterman fan and was totally blown away that he was included in this new theme park. I still remember at the end of the video Dave said something along the lines of: "When the automatic doors open please move into the theatre in an orderly fashion or else men in mouse suits will drag you and your family out of the park!" I don't remember it word-for-word but it's classic Dave!

8) Previous Gift Shops on Concourse Level of Contemporary Resort I know they recently gave this area of the resort a makeover, and I was only able to see it passing by on the monorail on my last trip. I see they've made quite a few changes but I've always loved the quiet shopping in the Contemporary. In contrast to the noisy and exciting Chef Mickey's, the gift shops on the same floor have always offered a quiet and relaxed shopping atmosphere. In the Fantastia gift shop there used to be an animated figure of Sorcerer Mickey with fiber optic fireworks in the background. I Cherish the home video I took of the setup in 1990. Next to Fantasia was Concourse Sundries & Spirits where I used to always pick up a couple of packs of Mickey shaped fruit jelly candy. On the other side of the concourse was BVG which was one of the last remaining spots where you could find a few unique items. Smack in the middle was the Pin Trading stand where I've had many enjoyable conversations with the cast members.

7) "The Best Time of Your Life" I realize that "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" is a Sherman Brothers classic, not to mention the original tune that held together the General Electric Carousel of Progress. But for the bulk of my childhood visits to WDW the catchy little number that played everytime that theatre began to spin was "The Best Time of Your Life" and that song would be stuck in my head for months after every trip. This song was part of the show from the time Carousel debuted in Florida in 1975 until 1993 when they brought back the original song. I also prefer the "future" scene with the family watching the New Year's Eve fireworks from Disney World on their big screen TV...but that's another story!

6) Main Street Cinema - Still kicking in Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland, Walt Disney World's Cinema slowly faded away over the course of time. I've always loved going to the movies, and I've always had a love for old black and white slapstick films. When I was a kid, I was lucky if we got to the movies once a year so stepping into this dark old time Cinema was just as good as going to the Multiplex for me. Plus you got to see Mickey Mouse on the (somewhat) big screen! That was the greatest! In the late 90's they turned up the lights and started adding merchandise inside the theatre and had one film playing on one screen. Eventually they filled the whole spot with stuff to sell and the last remaining screen is used to promote parks around the world. Obviously, it's just not the same effect.

5) Fiesta Fun Center - Arcades are a dime-a-dozen these days, but old school Disney World had one of the greatest arcades I ever encountered. Located in the bottom of the Contemporary, this space (now known as the Food and Fun Center) was one of the earliest offerings for evening entertainment. Going way back, there used to be a huge shooting gallery in there, plus a gigantic assortment of coin-op games. There was also a small theatre in one corner that showed classic Disney animated films. I only made into that theatre once and saw The Little Mermaid on a 1993 visit but seeing a Disney film on Disney property is extra magical!

4) Original Voice on the Monorail - I know I'm not the only one who misses Jack Wagner, the original announcer on the monorail system and also the "voice of Disneyland". His authoritative yet friendly voice was such a part of any Disney trip that if you heard him on a TV special at home you'd have an instant flashback to your most recent trip to WDW (or Disneyland, I guess!)

3) When Gift Shops Were Gift Shops - Shopping at Walt Disney World used to be as much of the experience as any ride or show. But as we've all noticed in the last decade or so, most of the shops in the parks and resorts now pretty much sell all the same stuff. Remember all the cool shops in the Magic Kingdom that sold stuff that had nothing at all to do with Disney or all the random movie and television related merchandise you could pick up at Disney-MGM Studios? That little merchandise spot near the exit to Sounds Dangerous used to sell all kinds of cool movie and tv show hats, shirts and mugs. Now it's just another spot for plush characters and High School Musical stuff!

2) Actual Television and Movie Production - In the early days of Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park there was so much real honest-to-goodness film production going on that it really was like visiting a real Hollywood Studio. I've been obsessed with film production since I was a child, when STUDIOS opened I was 15 - it was like heaven! Just seeing real movie cameras was enough for me, yet alone seeing actual shows and movies in production! I can remember looking down from the catwalk of the Backlot Studio tour as they were working on scenes for DICK TRACY and seeing them at work on HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KIDS. And I must have spent at least a half hour staring at people working on the editing of a Little Mermaid Happy Meal Commercial in the old Animation Tour. Another time, I couldn't have been more excited to see two of the female Mouseketeers recording a song for the Mickey Mouse Club. I also sat in the audience for a taping of some Animal Planet talk show...but that wasn't as exciting. It's a shame that most of the filmed entertainment industry has died off in Orlando.

1) Penny Arcade - Of all my favorite things to do at WDW, nothing ever ranked higher than spending some quality time at the Main Street Penny Arcade. Sure they had a bunch of antique coin-op games on hand, and I gave them a play every once in a while but the real attraction for me was the turn of the century Mute-o-scopes which cost one penny. These machines had a huge Roladex inside them filled with hundreds of photographs. When you inserted your money the inside of the machine would light up. Then you would look through a viewfinder and turn a crank which would flip the cards and in turn animate a story before your eyes. Most of the stories at the Penny Arcade were comedies (slapstick and cartoon) but there were also sporting events and even dramas. As for the comedies, I must have watched each one of them 50 or 60 times each. I wonder what my parents were doing all that time!? Some of the machines from the Penny Arcade have found homes at other spots in WDW, but it still - to this day - doesn't feel right walking down Main Street U.S.A. and not hoping into the Penny Arcade for a couple of flicks with my pocket change!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Disney Adventures Cover Gallery #3

This third collection of early covers from Disney Adventures magazine puts less emphasis on cartoon artwork and gives the celebrity guest of each issue the spotlight. Some of these 1990's celebrities laid low for a while but are currently enjoying surges in their popularity...
I guess Hulk Hogan never really went anywhere, but after a string of kiddie movie flops he's resurfaced in the last couple of years as a reality show star with Hogan Knows Best and American Gladiators.

Neil Patrick Harris was off the radar for quite a while after Doogie Howser, M.D. but his star has recently risen as one of the stars of How I Met Your Mother, not to mention he plays a mean game of Million Dollar Password!

Ahh...Paula! Nobody saw much of her after a couple of hit albums in the early 90's, now she's on the highest rated show on television, American Idol.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Surprise For Mickey Mouse

This 1971 Little Golden Book is not only a Surprise for Mickey Mouse but it's also a surprise for readers. With no indication on the front cover, this book is actually about one of the original attractions at Walt Disney World. The story starts off with Mickey Mouse receiving a telegram informing him that he is to conduct the orchestra at Walt Disney World's new Mickey Mouse Review. Mickey is so excited that he rushes to tell Minnie the good news. However, Minnie doesn't seem all that interested in Mickey's good news. When Mickey bumps into some of his other friends like Horace Horsecollar, the Three Little Pigs, Geppetto and Donald Duck, none of them seem to find much interest in Mickey's new gig either.

Sometimes when you pick up older kids books like this one you'll find a few words or phrases that have dropped off the "vocabulary radar" in more recent times. In this book my two favorite sentences are: "Mickey walked on feeling terribly forlorn..." and "...Mickey brooded all the way to Florida." They crack me up every time. I also like the part: "Good luck," said Practical Pig calmly, "And don't touch my new wall. The mortar's still wet." Just an odd word that you don't see often in a Little Golden Book.

In the end, Mickey and his nephews make their way to Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom...
...and all of Mickey's friends surprise him by being part of the Mickey Mouse Revue.
In case you're not familiar with the Mickey Mouse Review, it was an audio-animatronic show featuring dozens of Disney characters singing a medley of tunes from Disney films. The show ran in Fantasyland (where Mickey's Philharmagic now runs) from opening day until September 1980. The stage show got a second life when it was moved to Tokyo Disneyland in 1983.
I can imagine how exciting it must have been to have had this book as a child in the 70's, read it a thousand times and then to get to Walt Disney World and see that the Mickey Mouse Review was actually there waiting for you beyond the castle walls. That must have been very magical!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

City Island - Harrisburg, PA

You never know where a little Disney magic (authorized or not) will spring up!

I've been a resident of Pennsylvania for five years now. For the first time, this past weekend I ventured into our capital city of Harrisburg to do a little sight seeing. In the middle of the downtown area is a public park known as City Island. There's several attractions on the island including a minor league baseball stadium, miniature golf course, places to shop and eat and batting cages. They also have a small train ride and a children's carousel.

The carousel is a portable 3 row model from the 1950's that's found a home at City Island in a nice gazebo. What's all this have to do with Disney!? Well...not much! Except that the carousel building featured cut outs of many Disney characters. They were actually pretty good representations for unauthorized characters. The picture on the right shows the entrance to the ride, Mickey and Daisy look on from the side. Inside there were more characters as well as some of the Looney Tunes gang. But there was another surprise inside...

This image of Mickey made out of mirrors adorns two sides of the middle of the carousel.
Not a great big deal, I know...but it's kind of cool to find Mickey Mouse hanging out on a ride in the middle of a city park.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Fun with Mickey & the Gang

Here's Mickey and friends enjoying their summer in a handful of children's books...

1983, Random House/Wonderful World of Reading Book Club

Originally published 1950, Golden Book/Western Publishing

1991, Disney Books by Mail

1974, Golden Book/Western Publishing

2007, Disney Press

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Odyssey Memories

This picture was taken in May of 1991 inside Epcot's Odyssey restaurant. That's a 17 year old me on the right -with my Touchstone Pictures ballcap and Disneyland 35th Anniversary watch. On the other side of Mickey is my best friend Grant (who recently designed this blog's new banner.) In the middle of course is Mickey Mouse, sporting his futuristic space age metallic rainbow jumpsuit from Epcot's earlier days. I have a feeling that suit eventually went missing from Disney's wardrobe department and ended up in a Gay Pride parade somewhere...but I digress...

I have a great memory from my visit to the Odyssey. In 1991 I was lucky enough to attend Grad Nite at Walt Disney World. About 20-30 of us from the senior class flew from Baltimore to Orlando on a Friday afternoon. That evening we attended the Grad Nite festivities at the Magic Kingdom from 11:00pm to 5:00am. Saturday, we were whisked back to WDW for a day at Epcot Center. Between being 17 years old and not having the invention of the internet, I was pretty sure I was the world's foremost expert on everything Walt Disney World. Therefore, I was personally offended when some members of my class chose to tour Epcot on their own instead of having me as their tour guide.

After spending the better part of the day taking in all the headlining attractions at Epcot Center, my group and I had diner at the Odyssey. We had a teenager approved meal of hamburgers, chicken strips and whatever other fast food delights we wanted. We were also, unexpectedly, treated to a live stage show featuring Mickey Mouse and friends singing and dancing around the restaurant. As many members of the group had never been to Walt Disney World before, meeting Mickey and the gang face to face was a real highlight of the trip. After our meal and show we headed back into the park and sampled more attractions.

As the park closed, we headed back to our bus and met up with the rest of our classmates. The rest of the class couldn't have been more disappointed in how their day had gone. It seems without my "expert" knowledge they decided to have dinner at Les Chefs de France. They ended up waiting a long time for a table, a longer time for their food, and then they were served the kind of food that didn't exactly fill the tummies of a group of high school seniors on a field trip. Meanwhile, everyone in my group went on and on about how they got to meet Mickey and Donald and we got our pictures with them and the food was really good and we rode all the rides...

My honor had been vindicated!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ward Kimball & His Trains

Disney Beat was a fun little department in the earliest of issues of Disney Adventures magazine that shared some little bit of Disney-lore with it's young readers. Instead of reporting on some new bubble gum pop group or the latest Disney flick at the Cineplex, Disney Beat actually featured stories on good old fashioned Disney fun. Today we have a two-page article on animator Ward Kimball's enormous train collection, taken from the March 1991 issue. Enjoy!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Inside Disney Movie Club

The mail-order Disney Movie Club is starting to offer a great deal of worth-while material from the legendary Disney vault.

It's easy to dismiss the Disney Movie Club as just another mail-order club that will have you buying things you don't want (or need) for the next five years. And with the limited DVD selection that print ads feature, die-hard Disney fans might feel joining is unnecessary because they buy all their Disney DVDs when they are released to stores. But the club offers two great advantages to Disney fans...access to DVD titles that you can't just pick up in Wal-Mart or Target anymore and the Disney Movie Club Exclusives, which is a list of titles that is rapidly growing.

In the club's earlier days, a small selection of Exclusive titles were available to club members. The majority of these releases were recent Disney Channel movies and some theatrical obscurities from the 90's. But then within the last two years, Disney has slowly been releasing gems from their vault exclusively to club members. They started with some random episodes from the studio's anthology series that has seen VHS releases. In the past few months, Disney has really reved up their exclusives releases.

The most recent mailing from the club announced the first-time DVD availability of the 1965 Annette Funicello comedy The Monkey's Uncle, the unusual-for-Disney 1962 political satire Moon Pilot, and the beloved 1948 semi-classic So Dear to My Heart which is said to be one of Walt's personal favorites.

Just last month the club added the rare gems The Legend of Lobo, The Boy Who Flew With Condors, and the ultra-hip Bob Craine vehicle Superdad (which is one of the most dated movies you'll ever see!)

Some of the other recent releases include Rob Roy: The Highland Rogue, Treasure of the Matecumbe, and The Story of Robin Hood. They've even got Donald in Mathmagic Land in all it's uncut glory on DVD!

In addition to these exclusive offers, the Disney Movie Club gives you the chance to add some of the great live-action Disney films from the 50's, 60's and 70's to your collection. I've stocked up on some of my obscure favorites like Charlie the Lonesome Cougar and The North Avenue Irregulars (I love that one!).

If all that weren't enough, Disney also often slips in a little something extra to your month mailing. Along with a catalog and fliers for movies you'll sometimes find something fun like stickers, tattoos, bookmarks or calendars. Nothing big, but it's a nice little Disney touch...plus who else do you know that has a sheet of Cinderella III stickers!?

If you're looking to add some new titles to your personal Disney Vault, you might want to take a look at what Disney Movie Club has to offer!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th!

When you get home from the fireworks tonight, fire up the ol' TiVo and set it to record "Studio DC: Almost Live!" which is scheduled to air Saturday July 19 (EST) on Disney Channel. It's a brand new Muppets special pairing Jim Henson's timeless characters with the Disney Channel stars of today. Kermit and the gang will perform with The Jonas Brothers, The Cheetah Girls, Ashley Tisdale and of course Miley Cyrus! I know we're not all big fans of what the Disney Channel has become, but any chance to see The Muppets is a-ok in my book!

Monday, June 30, 2008

My 10 Favorite WDW Attractions

I love lists! I like making them, and I like reading them. I want to do more lists on this blog and I encourage you to post your own list, either in my comments section or on your own blog. Here's a list I've been wanting to do since my last trip to Walt Disney World. After much soul searching I present my new list of the top attractions at the Walt Disney World resort that I love the most.

#10 - The Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management Yes, I wish the new management would sell it back to the original owners. The WDW refurb of this Disneyland classic is not even half as charming as the original. However, I loved the old show so much that even screaming Iago and his rap music can't make me stop loving this birdbrained show. I love how the show is literally all around you and there is nothing standing between you and putting your fingers in a Tiki guys mouth.

#9 - Splash Mountain - To me, the 52-foot drop isn't the coolest part of the ride. I love the way the boat meanders around the exterior of the mountain, taking it's sweet time before you get inside the mountain. Once inside, the ride still takes it's time floating through scene after scene of audio-animatronics. It really sucks you into the story. And I really like the way the set pieces are bright and colorful and cartoony - such a contrast from some of the other AA based epic attractions in the Magic Kingdom.

#8 - Pirates of the Caribbean - I remember riding this when I was little and just totally feeling like you were in another world. I mean, before you even got to the ride the queue just completely separated you from the theme park outside. And I really thought we were outside once we started sailing in our boat. Nowadays, I appreciate the grandness of the set pieces and how everything is all around you. Unlike Haunted Mansion, where your line of sight is controlled, there's all kinds of stuff to look at all over the place in this masterpiece. I think the new characters added to the ride recently bring a little something extra for younger generations to connect with, without taking away from the ride as a whole. This is one of my sons favorite attractions too and they just love spotting Jack Sparrow along the way.

#7 - Living With the Land - I gotta admit, I never really thought much of this ride until recent years. I'm all about simplicity and this ride couldn't be more simple. Plus, it's one of the last remaining attractions that hasn't changed much at all since Epcot opened 25 years ago. When I was younger, this ride couldn't have been more boring. When I ride it now I'm amazed at how fascinating growing plants can be. You can't go wrong with Mickey shaped pumpkins. Not to mention, you've got the tunnel with the live animals in it at the end to look forward to.

#6 - Space Mountain - Just simply one of the best thrill rides built anywhere!

#5 - Muppet Vision 4-D - I've been a huge Muppets fan all my life. In fact, in my younger days I was probably more into Muppets than Disney! Naturally I was excited when they announced this attraction. Even after all these years, and having seen this film dozens of times, it's still funny! It's very funny!

#4 - Test Track - Here's where I'll geek-out on ya and tell you the reasons I love this ride. I love the pre-show and how they tried to make it look like it's live. I love any ride where the vehicles start and stop or change speeds during the show. I love going up the curvy mountain road in the beginning. I love the way you twist and turn and make your way through that massive building. I love how that truck off to the side gets me every single time!

#3 - Gran Fiesta Tour - This one is a little hard for me because El Rio del Tiempo was my absolute most favorite ride in all of WDW for many, many years. I loved it's simplicity and mild incoherence. It also featured my favorite gag in any Disney ride - the film of the merchants as they followed your boat while you floated by three windows. While Gran Fiesta Tour carries over many similar elements from the previous attraction it just isn't the same for this El Rio fan. I like the addition of the characters and now the ride has a story and it's funny. But I'll always miss the random clips of people cliff diving and having drinks in a hot tub.

#2 - Mickey's PhilharMagic - This is just one of the coolest things in the world! Swimming with Ariel, flying with Peter Pan & Aladdin, and I love the kaleidoscope effect during the Lion King number. The effects are awesome and the whole thing is simply jaw dropping every time! This is now home to my NEW favorite gag in all of WDW. When Donald Duck gets shot out of the movie screen and crashes through the wall in the back of the theatre, his little feet hanging out of the wall brings a huge smile to my face every visit!!

#1 - Tomorrowland Transit Authority - I was disappointed when they replaced the more serious narration with the silly space-themed voice over but this is still a cool ride. I love the way the trains quietly glide alone the track, slowing down and speeding up and zipping through all the different attractions in Tomorrowland. Alot of rides end at a gift shop, but TTA takes you through a gift shop - how cool is that? Plus you've got the EPCOT model and that alien chick getting her hair done...what's not to love!? With the demotion of the Mexico ride, TTA (or WEDway Peoplemover as I still call it) is my new #1 favorite ride in Walt Disney World!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

DVD Spotlight: World's Fair, Toy Trains

The 1964 World's Fair is an hour long documentary produced for Public Television in 1996. Overall the show is a bit disjointed and unfocused but it is filled with loads of glorious footage from the two year event. A combination of promotional footage, newsreel/archive footage, and amateur home movies offer a first hand look at the New York World's Fair. The narration, provided by Judd Hirsch, is more of a trivia track than a narrative history or tour of the fair. The program does start off with the development of the fair but quickly jumps around to covering attractions and buildings as well as memories shared by people who visited the fair. Of course, the 1964 New York World's Fair was to be the stage for one of the last great chapters in Walt Disney's life. This DVD acknowledges Walt's role in the fair but offers little insight beyond what is general knowledge to any Walt Disney historian.

There's footage of the Disney characters dancing and interacting with fair goers throughout the program. And although it is mentioned several times that Walt Disney was one of the major attractions to the fair not much is discussed about the Disney attractions. As you know, Disney had a hand in four shows at the `64 Fair. Two of these shows: Ford Motor Company's Magic Skyway and the State of Illinois' Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln aren't even mentioned in the show. There are some brief glimpses of the exterior of Pepsi Cola's It's a Small World, including the legendary Tower of the Four Winds. There's also a brief shot of the mammoth building that originally housed General Electric's Carousel of Progress. The documentary takes you inside the Carousel via a grainy home movie that shows some of the sets the exact same way they appear today and even a look at how the show's final "futuristic" scene played out in 1964.

The show doesn't ignore Disney's involvement with the fair, but it hardly gives Disney the coverage they deserve. However, what does make this DVD program worth hunting down and watching is the extensive footage of the General Motors pavilion, a massive ride through experience called Futurama II. The GM ride had it's roots in a similar attraction from the 1939 World's Fair called Futurama. Both versions featured a look into the future and the modern conveniences new technology would bring to everyday life. It's been noted several times in the Disney blogosphere that many of the original attractions at Epcot Center were inspired by the Futurama show at the 1939 World's Fair. A good chunk of this DVD is devoted to a professionally produced film of the interior of Futurama II. From a look at the unusual ride vehicles, which were an endless conveyor of three side-by-side chairs, to the miniatures that made up the numerous scenes; the extensive look at Futurama II becomes the real treat of this program for any theme park aficionado.

While not an outstanding program, The 1964 World's Fair is worth a look for those curious about the landmark event but weren't present to experience it. You can find the DVD for sale on the internet (including Amazon) but it's more of a rental title so luckily you can also find it at Netflix.
Speaking of Netflix, I had also rented Great Toy Train Layouts Disc One. I've been on a bit of a toy train kick lately and I enjoy seeing great big layouts that people build in their basements or garages. The first disc of this three disc set features the collections of eight different men. I wasn't expecting this DVD to have anything to do with Disney so you can imagine my surprise when the first of the eight collectors turned out to be veteran Disney animator Ward Kimball. In addition to working on all of the great classic animated films from the golden age of animation, Kimball is also known the world over as a top collector of model trains.

Ward Kimball has two large buildings behind his house where he keeps all his wonderful toy trains. This video will give you a very detailed tour of his collection. If you've never seen one of these Toy Train Videos before, they can get a bit nerdy and technical. It's all about the gauges when it comes to collecting, and Ward spends a bit of time showing off his collection and talking right to the avid train collector. Still, for a Disney fan who's heard of Ward Kimball's love of trains, it's a real treat to see his collection up close.

The segment on Kimball runs about 23 minutes, most of that is devoted to his toy trains. In fact, it's not until about 18 minutes into the show that Kimball's connection with Disney is even mentioned. After a brief biography, the real pay off is a look outside of Ward's collection buildings and a look at his famed Grizzly Flats Railroad. The video wraps up with a look at all of Ward's full scale collection that he had scattered across his backyard. It's wonderful to get to see all this great stuff that is so much a part of the Disney story.

You'd probably have to go to a toy train shop to find Great Toy Train Layouts on a shelf. There's plenty of sites on the web where you can purchase such a DVD, including Amazon. If you're just interested in seeing it you can check out Netflix, which also has the DVD. (Make sure you put Disc One in your queue.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wall-E Wednesday: Coloring!

Wall-E is just 48 hours away! With all the positive reviews coming in, it's sure to be Pixar's ninth smash hit in a row! Here's a fun little coloring page from the latest issue of Disney & Me magazine. Just click on the image below to enlarge it, print it out and then give it to the kids to color. If any one wants to send in a colored picture we'll run it next week!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Disney Adventures Cover Gallery #2

Fun character art and celebrities from various levels of fame make up our second look at the covers from early issues (#5 - #9) of Disney Adventures magazine...

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Shower Scene

Speaking of bathrooms...
The theme of Disney's All Star Movie Resort carries on all the way into the most intimate of locations. The tile work in the showers of the guest rooms is made up to look like a reel of film. The film strip motif can be found throughout the resort, including the chairs in the food court and the railings of the guest buildings.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Black Hole Golden Book

As I've stated before The Black Hole cracks me up. Don't get me wrong, it's a good film and all but it's just such an un-Disney movie from a time when Disney films were very formulaic. Thirty years later the merchandising still makes me smile. Case in point, this Little Golden Book from 1979. First, you've got the title: The Black Hole: A Spaceship Adventure for Robots. That sounds like the literal title translation from an overseas market. Second, you've got a Little Golden Book, famous for cute stories like The Poky Little Puppy and The Saggy Baggy Elephant and this one is about murderous robots about to be sucked into the dark abyss of cold, empty space.

Poor Black Hole, it doesn't even get the fond recognition that other not-so-classic Disney films get, like Pete's Dragon, Bedknobs & Broomsticks and The Aristocats have achieved.

Anywho, here's some of the slightly bizarre uncredited illustrations...

I don't care how big of a Disney fan you are, ya gotta admit V.I.N.C.E.N.T. has always been a poor man's R2-D2.