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 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!