Animal Kingdom Opening Day Remembered
by Ron D’Anna
For the Disney Parks fans, there can be no greater event than the opening of a new theme park. The last time this rare event occurred at Walt Disney World was April 22, 1998. I was there–a senior in high school skipping class to attend. Earth Day was an apt choice to birth a new park based on conservation and the natural world. Disney’s Animal Kingdom officially debuted that Wednesday at 7 AM.
Animal Kingdom had already been in soft openings for weeks for Cast Members and annual pass holders, but the official opening still felt like something special. Arriving to the plaza in front of the turnstiles a little before 6AM, I was already so far behind in the sea of people I could not see any of the actual opening ceremony events, but the dedication still speaks to what the park is and the broken promises of what it was supposed to be–Beastly Kingdom was well known, even then. As Michael Eisner read that morning, “Welcome to a kingdom of animals… real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.”
Once past the turnstiles, the crowd didn’t seem to just speed toward the Safari Village (now Discovery Island). The winding paths of the Oasis captivated the crowd. People were steadily moving forward, but groups would veer off to stop and look at the exhibits. While we stopped for a brief look at a few habitats, we moved towards our first intended stop fairly quickly– Dinoland USA. We didn’t really look around much, but we headed straight to Countdown to Extinction (now Dinosaur).
I had been on Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye a few years previously, so I thought I knew what to expect. The ride, still one of my favorites, was at it’s best back then. The jumping compsognathus, the diving pteradon, and the final asteroid were all there and working. These effects added something to the ride that is missing now but will hopefully return someday. Exiting the ride, we didn’t stop to look around the heavily branded McDonald’s Dinoland, the name and logo were also all over the park map; we decided to hit the E-tickets and return later.
This proved to be a good idea; when we arrived at It’s Tough to Be a Bug, the queue was probably 40 minutes long, if not longer. We actually enjoyed the time in queue, and as we looked at all the intricacies carved into the Tree of Life for the first time, it did seem to make the wait go quicker. I’m sure everyone has had his or her own first time experience in the show and has watched other guests react to the tactile effects for the first time, but being part of an entire crowd freaking out as the sting effect hit might be my most vivid memory of that day except for the screams from the under butt bugs at the end of the show. At the time, I think the effects made it my favorite 3D show at Walt Disney World, but it’s repeatability has definitely waned.
After exiting the Tree, we walked into Asia; only Flights of Wonder and a dock for the now non-existent Discovery Riverboats were there; however, the “Adventurer’s Guide” park map showed the construction of what was then referred to as Tiger Rapids Run. Next, we took the boat back to Safari Village, and we headed to Harambe Village and Kilimanjaro Safari.
Of the attractions I visited that day, the Safari has probably changed the most. The wait was only about a half hour, and I remember the TVs setting up a good preshow of the Harambe reserve; I don’t know if they still do this, I haven’t ridden it without a FASTPASS since then. The animals were actually out and fairly active that day; I’ve seen it much better and much worse over the years. The most memorable difference was the existence of the Big Red plot and her body. This is the only time I remember seeing the body. I’ve heard people say it was only there for the previews, but I clearly remember seeing it there that day.
We moved on to the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (now the Pangani Forrest Exploration Trail – I think there’s a pattern here). Here, very few of the animal exhibits were active. The animals were in their habitats, but they seemed to still be shying away from the viewing locations. I knew about the tricks Disney had employed to keep the animals visible, but they didn’t seem to be working too well. The lack of animals led a friend to paraphrase Jurassic park: “You do intend to have Gorillas on your Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail?” I like to think this lead to the name changing just a few months later. Not all the animals were hidden from view, and I do remember being fascinated by the meerkats and the aviary.
With some time to kill before lunch, we headed to Conservation Station aboard the Wildlife Express; there was no mention of Rafiki anywhere. It was still a good distraction, but I don’t remember anything standing out about it at all as two high school seniors weren’t exactly the target audience for the petting zoo. After getting back to main part of the park, we decided it was time for lunch. All of the quick service locations had fairly massive backups; the park map listed only five “Dining Locations” as separate from “Quick Bites.” We ended up getting the perennial favorite turkey leg at the Dino Diner cart (now Trilo-Bite) and sneaking into the back of “Journey into the Jungle Book.” The show was good and should have stayed longer than it did.
We decided to ride Countdown to Extinction again and encountered something that you won’t see anymore since the addition of FASTPASS: a line circling the entire carnotaurus rotunda. We spoke to some other people who told us what we missed on the other half of the Discovery Riverboats. So, we decided to head over to the Safari Village dock, but the line was an hour long. We went back and started to walk around the Dinosaur Jubilee which was a tented area containing some very cool exhibits including the skull of an actual Tyranasaurus rex nicknamed Sue. Sue was a truly unique exhibit to a Disney park and now resides in the Field Museum in Chicago. The exhibit was something that Animal Kingdom does well in certain places but is lacking in Dinoland–a real life look at the animals as they exist, and in this case as real fossils being examined.
At this point, word had spread among the guests that Disney was giving commemorative lithographs as guests were leaving the park. We were not quite done for the day but headed out to the Oasis to pick up our prints before they ran out. Afterwards, we wandered around and took in the animal exhibits in the Oasis and around the Tree of Life and shopped for a few hours. By 3 PM, we were ready to head home and face the three-hour drive ahead of us. We did catch part of the March of the Animals (later Artimals) before leaving too. We spent 8 hours in the park and didn’t even see half of the shows; Festival of the Lion King and Pocahontas and her Forrest Friends were both showing that day. Long before Kali River Rapids and Exhibition Everest, Animal Kingdom was still a full day park if you took the time to examine it.
I don’t really remember any other official events commemorating the opening day. There was a corridor of media booths with radio and television stations from across the country that lined one of the paths out of Africa, and we stopped to talk to a couple of Miami DJs we were familiar with. I don’t think large-scale ceremonial events are really necessary to appreciate the weight that day carried. The crowd had a unique energy to it and an awareness of the occasion. If you ever get a chance to visit a park opening, it truly is an event worth the trip.
Ron has been going to WDW longer than he can remember. As a former Cast Member, he has always tried to share his love of Walt Disney World. Ron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Gurr: The Wizard of Wheels
by Daniel Butcher
Everyone who has visited a Disney park worldwide has experienced the creativity of Bob Gurr. When reviewing the numerous vehicles and attractions that he has helped bring to life, his two and a half decades as an Imagineer seems too short for the magnitude of his achievements. Bob Gurr’s design career did not end after he left Disney, but continued to grow into new and unexpected areas. With a legendary career and an infectious personality, Bob continues to be a Disney fan favorite.
On October 25, 1931, Robert Henry Gurr was born to Henry and Helen Gurr in Los Angeles, California. Young Bob was a creative boy who was an energetic handful for the teachers unable to keep him occupied. In fact, Gurr was expelled from the third grade and sent to the Burbank Military Academy where he enjoyed their project centered curriculum in place of the repetitive grammar school curriculum. Gurr’s enjoyment of unique and varied projects would stay with him for a lifetime. When the Army took over the academy during World War II, he returned to public school, but now in Junior High he could select electives, courses he would excel in while he tended to lag in the required courses. An architecture teacher noticed young Bob’s desire and ability to design automobiles and allowed him to free draw cars when his assignments were completed. That same teacher later encouraged Gurr to attend the Art Center School in Los Angeles and its newly formed Automobile Design department.
Gurr entered the Art Center School in 1949, the first year it was authorized to offer four year baccalaureate degrees. In 1954 the school would be renamed the Art Center College of Design. The instruction focused on something Gurr excelled at, real world skills. The curriculum prepared students for jobs and immediate employment. Gurr, like many graduates, found themselves employed quickly. Before graduating, General Motors, who had provided him a scholarship halfway through his program, hired him as an automobile stylist. In May 1952, Gurr left California for Detroit, Michigan with his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Industrial Design and hopes for his future in the automobile industry. Before he even arrived in Detroit, his position was moved to Ford. Dissatisfied with the politics of major auto companies and designing hub caps, he left a year later and returned to California.
In California he made ends meet by two means. The first was writing books on car design including How to Draw Cars of Tomorrow, which he published after graduating college, and Automobile Design: The Complete Styling Book. The second paycheck was contracted automobile design jobs for local and Detroit based firms. One day the Placement Officer of the Art Center College would ask Gurr a fateful question, “Do you ever do outside work?” To that point Gurr hadn’t, but today he said yes. The yes would change his career path and introduce him to a new concept, the theme park.
After Gurr’s return to California he spent much of his free time with a member of his car club the “Road Burners”, Dave Iwerks. This included frequent dinners at the Iwerks’ home where Dave’s father Ub talked about his day at Walt Disney Productions. Ub Iwerks was already a Disney legend as the original animator of Mickey Mouse and was at the time engrossed in his work at the Special Process Lab. At one of these meals the senior Iwerks mentioned a small car driving around the studio that was only had a chassis. Gurr did not realize that this small comment would be linked to his own future. The outside work that Gurr was referred to in the summer of 1954 was to design the body of that little car under the supervision of Studio Machine Shop Manager Roger Broggie. The car was for an attraction for Walt Disney’s new project, Disneyland, to open in 1955.
Gurr was brought to the studio to serve primarily as the stylist for this little car. Walt Disney had decided to design his own car for his driving attraction instead of buying an off the shelf model. Gurr soon found out that he was also expected to draft the car’s parts so they could be massed produced. Suddenly the designer found himself working as a mechanical engineer. Bob spent his evenings drafting for Disney and his days working at an automobile design firm. Every Saturday he drove down to the studio to show his designs and drawings to Broggie and other Disney employees. One Saturday in December 1954, Broggie remarked that he wanted to keep Gurr busy with Disney work. Gurr remarked maybe he should quit his other job. Broggie jumped at the comment, took Gurr to the Personnel Department, and signed Gurr on as a full-time employee immediately. Gurr provided his own first official title, Director of Special Vehicle Development when a title was needed for business cards. Bob was officially a regular employee for WED Enterprises and added to the full-time team targeting Disneyland’s opening.
Gurr designed the body for Disney’s new attraction car. His alma mater the Art Center College made the clay model of the design, saving Disney money by using student labor. Additionally, Gurr redesigned the chassis that was to be put under his car design. Disney contracted Glasspar to craft 40 of the Gurr fiberglass bodies for the car and MAMECO Engineering to assemble the vehicles for the Richfield Autopia, sponsored by Richfield Boran Gasoline. As each of the 40 cars were completed they were delivered to Disneyland, without bumpers. Aluminum bumpers were added at the suggestion of Disneyland sponsor Kaiser Aluminum. The cars had a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour, but pre-set governors limited the speed to 11mph. The original cars had two accelerators pedals; one was built for the shorter legs of children. And each car had automatic braking which engaged when the foot was lifted from the gas pedal. There was also a parental hand brake placed under the dash and a long brake handle mounted to the body for ride operators. In testing Gurr discovered that unlike steel bumpers the aluminum models failed to spring back into shape and were becoming warped as ride operators tested the cars. As he prepared for opening day, Gurr’s biggest worry was the damage that guests would do to the bumpers on the 40 Autopia vehicles. Gurr had also made plans for an Autopia bus to give small children rides, but it was never built.
On July 17, 1955, Walt Disney presented his new project to the world on ABC television. During the Dateline: Disneyland program, Bob lead 20 of the Autopia cars in the Opening Day Parade. After the parade chaos ruled at the Autopia attraction. The cars were in disastrous shape. The bumpers, as Gurr feared, were distorted from guests bumping. There were a large number of other car problems ranging from brake damage to shot bearings. Cars could pass each other on the two lane road, and accidents did occur including spin outs on the roadway. The guests, after waiting in long lines to drive, were treated to cars without padding on the steering wheels, which lead to Gurr taking several children to First Aid with broken teeth. Additionally the ride operators were beat up between collisions with drivers and bruises from kick starting stalled cars. By the end of the week only two of the 37 cars used on the attraction were still running (one car of the original 40 was a special model for Walt Disney, and two were styled as police cars for ride operators). Gurr pulled his own tools out of the trunk of his car and began to reconstruct the broken vehicles. Soon after Disney provided two mechanics to repair the broken cars while Bob spent the summer redesigning the cars to survive the daily wear and tear of guest usage. By the end of the summer he had turned most of the original cars into improved Mark II or Mark III models. Gurr and the Autopia team soon after designed a new drive package for the cars and converted all Autopia vehicles into Mark IVs. By 1958, park operations decided to redesign the cars yet again creating the Mark V model for use in the Tomorrowland Autopia and in a new Fantasyland version of the ride. This updated version of the cars would run until 1965.
While designing the Autopia vehicles, Walt Disney asked Gurr to add another project to his workload. Disney wanted authentic antique vehicles travelling on Main Street U.S.A. to help set the mood for the turn of the century community. While shopping for authentic cars to use in the park Bob realized that they would never handle the day-to-day wear of life in a theme park. So instead of refurbishing antiques, he decided to create vehicles that looked authentic but actually used modern, off the shelf parts. On opening day, three “Gurr-mobiles” were present in the park. Two were travelling from the train depot to the central plaza; one red horseless carriage and a two-story Omnibus ferried guests, while a Carnation truck stayed parked for viewing. Though built with modern parts, Bob made sure that each authentic reproduction antique both ran and sounded period accurate. In 1957 a yellow horseless carriage and a second omnibus were added to the fleet. A year later Gurr remarked to Disney that they did not have a fire engine, which he thought they should have, leading to his commission of creating an antique fire truck. Bob drove the engine down the Santa Ana Freeway himself to deliver it to the park. And the fire engine was such a hit with Walt Disney he often drove it around the park before the gates opened. Gurr’s Main Street vehicles with their one way trips have carried weary guests for generations. The vehicles typically take 7.5 minutes to make a round trip at four miles an hour. They accommodate approximately 150 guests an hour. Gurr did not build any backup vehicles, but luckily in their first 20 years of operation there was only one breakdown.
During the early years of Disneyland Gurr completed a number of projects. One was a streamlined narrow train that ran from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland. Gurr added to the Disneyland Railroad by designing the Excursion Train which debuted in 1958. Then he moved out of simply creating vehicles and started designing other show elements. For example he developed the mechanics behind the dancing tribesmen of the Jungle Cruise and the dancing tall flowers of Alice in Wonderland. Despite the magnitude of these projects, arguably Bob’s greatest triumphs were yet to come.
With Disneyland open, Gurr continued to create attractions, especially transportation themed, for the park. These new projects would include trains, spaceships and a return to Autopia. Bob would also be asked to contribute to the animation of a beloved President.
Walt Disney and many of those that worked for him, including Gurr’s boss Roger Broggie, loved trains. Disney decided he wanted a streamlined train for his park and Bob was tasked with designing this train. Gurr observed the General Motors Aerotrain running between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and loved the design. In February 1957, Bob drafted the design drawings of a train based on the Aerotrain and had the drawings completed in 20 days. He went to a local junkyard and purchased 1954 Oldsmobiles which he used to design the cowl, windshield and front doors, shortening the bodies since the train would be smaller than a car. A Chevrolet 327 engine and an eight-wheel drive gave the new train greater speed than the typical train, giving it the label of the world’s fastest miniature train. On June 26, 1957, the Viewliner began operation between Fantasyland and Tommowland. Despite electrical problems and a coach fire, Walt Disney served as the first fireman of the streamlined train, with Gurr as engineer on the track between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Bob missed the first station on the opening ride. He backed up to the platform and was then berated by Walt Disney for not blowing the whistle three times to alert bystanders that he was backing up. The Viewliner would only run until September 15, 1958, when it was removed for the construction of other Gurr projects.
In October 1958, Walt Disney returned from a trip to Europe and requested his designers develop a version of the German Alweg Monorail for Disneyland. The Viewliner served as a foundation for designing the new train. Gurr used the same structure for the new attraction, from the floor up and including the doors, windows and face to face seating, all based on his miniature train. Despite having mechanical precedents to work with in the Alweg Monorail and the Viewliner, Gurr found the new train visually displeasing. He thought it looked like a bread loaf on a rail. Bob reached back to images from Buck Rogers and curved the skirt around the skids to hide the shape and give the train a sleek futuristic look. The original red Monorail train opened on June 14, 1959. The train was on its beam for only two weeks before opening and experienced electrical issues on opening day. Gurr expected the train to catch on fire! For the inaugural ride, Vice President Richard Nixon and family joined Walt Disney with Gurr as Engineer. After the Monorail had left the station Nixon realized he had left his Secret Service detail at the platform. At the insistence of the Nixon children the party took a second trip, with Bob worrying about potential fires and the wrath of the Vice President’s bodyguards. When Nixon left the attraction after the second ride, he was amused to find his detail remained on the Monorail thinking that Nixon was riding again.
Also during 1958, Disney asked Gurr to develop another transportation based vehicle, a bobsled shaped roller coaster car. When his design was completed, Broggie asked Gurr to begin laying out the track to fit within Matterhorn Mountain. Bob worked with Ed Morgan and Karl Bacon of Arrow Development who had developed a new bent steel pipe track roller coaster system. Teaching himself trigonometry, Gurr did the calculations by hand. Once he had a track layout that fit within the confines of the mountain’s structure, Arrow built the fan favorite Matterhorn Bobsleds which opened along with the Monorail on June 14, 1959. The highly successful ride proved Gurr could design beyond wheeled mass transportation.
With trains, cars and sleds under his belt, Gurr moved to flying saucers! An inventor brought a bumper car style ride vehicle to WED hoping to sell it to Disney. Bob was one of the first to try out the gas powered hover craft. It was loud and blew dust everywhere, a safety hazard in Gurr’s opinion. But the idea did not go away and Morgan and Bacon developed a concept of using a unpowered vehicle on a platform of pressurized air. Bob designed a flying saucer attraction car for their new concept. The Flying Saucers opened to guests on August 6, 1961, but technical problems led it to run for one day short of five years. In 2012 the concept would be revisited with Luigi’s Flying Tires at Disney California Adventure.
Gurr like others at WED saw much of his efforts redirected to new projects when Walt Disney decided to participate in the 1964 New York World’s Fair, somewhat as an experiment to determine if a Disneyland like theme park could find an audience in the Eastern United States. Bob returned to his Detroit automobile roots with the Ford Magic Skyway, in which he modified Ford, Mercury and Lincoln convertibles into ride vehicles. But the fair also provided Gurr with something new, people! The Disney team had added a late project sponsored by the state of Illinois, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. The star of the show was to be full sized animated figure or Audio-Animatronic of Abraham Lincoln. The mechanics of the figure were currently too heavy and it was too limited in movement. In less than 90 days, Gurr dissected the Lincoln frame, analyzed the desired motions and rebuilt the mechanics with lightweight materials.
The years after the World’s Fair were focused on transportation for Gurr. He worked to improve the Disneyland monorail. The Mark II train included a “double bubble” top based on a request from Walt Disney. He thought the driver’s view from the monorail was so breathtaking that guests should be able to share it. The Mark III was lighter and had a lower center of gravity. Additionally, the Mark III provided an updated and more reliable electric propulsion system. Introduced in 1968, the Mark III would run at Disneyland and in Las Vegas until 2006. At the same time Gurr was also assigned a project given the temporary name of PeopleMover, a name that it never seemed to lose. This slow moving transport provided Bob the challenge of loading guests on a continually moving ride vehicle. He solved the problem by loading from a moving turntable, rotating slightly slower than the PeopleMover itself. He also designed the cars used on the PeopleMover, officially known as the WEDway. The WEDway vehicles included automatic doors and roofs for guest convenience. The WEDway opening in 1967 would slowly transport guests through Disneyland’s Tomorrowland until 1995, with a Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom version operating to this day.
Gurr’s experience with slow, continuously moving ride vehicles was key in the development of the Omnimover, initially used for Monsanto’s Adventure Thru Inner Space at Disneyland. The conveyer belt system of ride vehicles allowed Imagineers to turn the guests in any direction. The Omnimover system has been recycled by Imagineers since its 1967 introduction and includes The Haunted Mansion, Spaceship Earth, and The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. And finally, Gurr returned yet again to Autopia, with the Mark VII car. The Mark VI vehicles all suffered cracking due to constant bumping. So Gurr determined that bumping had to be taken into account to design a longer lasting vehicle. The chassis of the Mark VII was built to flex to take into account daily torture. Gurr’s Mark VII’s would run until 2000, when new cars replaced them. The new and improved vehicles would have better engines and electrical systems, on top of a Mark VII chassis!
Walt Disney World Resort
With the building of a new East Coast resort, the legendary Imagineer was called upon to use his special design and production skill sets. One of his first tasks was to build the Monorail Mark IV for the Florida resort. The new model would be required to carry more guests over a greater distance than its California cousin. Additionally, Gurr had to plan for more extreme weather in Florida, requiring encased components and electrical equipment that could tolerate daily rain. The Mark IV would run in Florida from the opening of the resort until 1989 when two of the trains became the Las Vegas Monorail, operating until 2004. Additionally, Bob oversaw the assembly of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarines at the Tampa Shipyard. Gurr taught himself electrical design as the drawings of the electrical systems he received from California were inaccurate. And finally, unable to find a third party product suitable for Disney’s needs, Gurr designed the Walt Disney World Tram tractor to transport guests from the parking lots to the ticket center. An updated version of that tractor is used at Disneyland to this day.
From 1979 until 1981, Gurr was assigned to assist in the development of Tokyo Disneyland. Bob traveled to Japan and inspected manufacturing and production facilities. At the office in Glendale he gathered designs from the team working in Japan and forwarded them oversees. He enjoyed his time aiding young designers in Japan but found he had lost his enthusiasm for Disney corporate life. After returning from Japan, he spoke up in a staff meeting about his displeasure. A month later he was asked to leave, and he resigned of his own will. When asked in a November 1997 interview with the E Ticket, he noted that he had risen to Senior Staff Engineer. That role had him reviewing the work of others, including those leading the design efforts in Japan, but did not provide him the opportunity to design himself. He missed that and wished to return to the drafting table. Regardless of Bob’s reasons, over 25 years of Disney employment had come to an end.
In 1981 the time had come for Gurr to leave Disney. He became his own boss as the head of GurrDesign. Bob did not go quietly into the night, but instead continued to find new and exciting projects, 117 to be exact until 2000. Some of these projects were for Disney competitors, including Universal. He designed a mechanical serpent for the Universal Swords and Sorcery Show and a 30 foot animated figure of King Kong for Universal Studios Tour in Hollywood. Gurr also took a number of entertainment projects including the 1984 Michael Jackson Victory Tour lighting systems, a spaceship for the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics, and the Las Vegas Treasure Island Pirate Battle Show. For a man who spent the first half of his career juggling many widely varied projects, these new challenges were business as usual.
Today guests in Disney Parks around the globe enjoy the legacy of Bob Gurr. Be it a ride on the Disneyland fire truck, a tour on the Monorail, the bumpy circuit of Autopia, a visit to a haunted graveyard, flying tires and so much more, Gurr’s original, updated and adapted designs are unavoidable. However, there are still intentional tributes to this legend in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In the Disneyland Park above Disney Clothiers one can find a window for the “Meteor Cycle Co” lead by the “Fast, Faultless, Fadless” Bob Gurr. The window claims that “Our vehicles pass the test of time.” The longevity of Gurr’s vehicles continues to be proven daily. The window’s cycle shop theme is based on Gurr’s love of mountain biking, and includes a bike hanging from the building. In Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park, Gurr also shares a window with Dave Gengenbach, George McGinnis and Bill Watkins. They share in “The Big Wheel Co.” makers of “One-of-A-Kind Unicycles- Horseless Carriages.” Additionally, Gurr has continually shared his stories on blogs and podcasts, highlighting his fun-loving personality and furthering his legendary status with fans. In 2012 he published those stories in his autobiography, Design: Just for Fun.
It is nearly impossible to capture the fullness of Bob Gurr’s career. He has provided over 100 designs for Disney Parks, building his legendary status even before Disneyland opened. Over the years Bob proved that there was no challenge he would not take up, even helping to build a human figure, despite being a trained as an automobile designer. With his fingerprints deeply embedded into every Disney theme park globally, it is impossible to imagine a Disney vacation without Bob Gurr’s creations.
edited by Michele Gaudet
Una Comunidad de Fanáticos de Disney en Español
A Spanish Disney Fan Community
By: Brandon Brush
The Disney Parks have always been a source of family entertainment for guests of all ages, nationalities, and languages. While many Disney fans enjoy learning the history and future of the parks through community websites, it appears that most sites cater specifically toward English speakers. In 2007, Oscar Feito decided it was time for a new Disney fan site. Disney Hispana has been a popular blog among Spanish Disney fans for five years and has expanded its reach to message boards, social networks, podcasting, and Disney travel books.
Oscar Feito, originally from Madrid, Spain, has been a fan of Disney for as long as he can remember. He has lived in London and Washington DC and is fortunate enough to be fluent in both English and Spanish. Once fluent in English, he began exploring the online Disney fan community by listening to popular podcasts such as WDW Today, Inside the Magic, and Lou Mongello’s old show MouseTunes. Feito explains, “I was amazed at how much more enjoyable the Disney park experience could be if you participated in these communities, read the blogs and listened to the podcasts.” He was sure that there were other Spanish speaking fans out there that may not be as fluent in English, and they were missing out on a great experience. Feito questions, “What good is the Internet as a global information and entertainment tool if the content you like is not in your language?”
As a solution, Feito launched Parques Disney en Español in 2007–http://disneyhispana.blogspot.com. This later helped developed a message board, http://www.magiadisney.com, and a “Disney Adictos” Facebook community of over 30,000 fans. The site’s presence in the podcasting world started with El Podcast de el MagiaDisney.com. While the team working on Disney Hispana isn’t sure if they have been the first in everything for Spanish fans, they have “definitely been pioneers in delivering quality Disney content to Spanish speakers worldwide,” according to Feito.
“El Podcast de el MagiaDisney.com” focuses mostly on the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. However, they do cover Disneyland on some episodes. The show covers news, offers travel tips, shares memories, and delves into the origins of Walt Disney Imagineering. The episodes cover topics from the Lucasfilms acquisition all the way to how to deal with post-Disney depression. While their podcast usually only covers the parks, Disney Hispana’s blog focuses on all aspects of the Walt Disney Company. They have written extensive articles about the origins of Disney animation, music, books, and video games. Recently, they published the largest Spanish Walt Disney World book, La Guía Esencial de Walt Disney World which is available as an eBook on Amazon for five dollars. Eventually, Feito hopes to have print copies in circulation. The text acts as a guidebook with some history and fun facts. It is a great addition to the Spanish Disney fan community.
Unlike the Disney online fan community that most of us are familiar with, Disney Hispana’s fans are usually very “cooperative and civilized.” Feito comments, “To be honest, there have been very few cases of inappropriate behavior, rudeness or extreme reactions from our Community.” Many of Disney Hispana’s fans are always eager to help out, and they love participating in fun activities offered by the site. Last year, Disney Hispana organized a “Disney Short Story” contest. They received around twenty terrific submissions.
Disney Hispana reaches fans from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, United States, Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela. Feito has established great friendships with many readers and listeners who are extremely appreciative of the work the site does. Feito recounts, “A fan recently told me that it’s become a tradition in their family to listen to our show while they have dinner, since it’s definitely happier than the news we see on TV nowadays.” The relationships with the fans is the most rewarding part of all the work put into the sites.
If you are interested in any of Disney Hispana’s sites or projects, you can find them on Facebook at the page “Disney Adictos.” They consistently deliver interesting and unique content catering to all types of Disney fans. Their sites can expand your Spanish understanding of the parks far beyond a simple “¡Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas!”
Mr. Baxter’s Wild Ride
by Josh Hall
Tony Baxter. It’s not necessarily a household name and for most, it’s not even a familiar one. True enough, if I asked you to name an influential person in the history of Disney Theme Parks, Tony Baxter might not even come to mind. But for some of you, this behind-the-scenes giant of Imagineering is the first person who comes to mind.
It’s been a few weeks since Tony announced that he was stepping down from his position as Senior Vice President for Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering and reactions have run the gamut from anger to sadness. Tony Baxter has left his mark on the hearts of millions through his designs, his ideas and his imagination.
But who is Tony Baxter and what has he done in the past 47 years?
Travel back in time with me to 1965. There’s a young teenager working at Disneyland; sweeping footpaths, scooping ice cream, and operating a ride or two. He’s working hard to help pay for his college degree in Theatre Design from California State University in Long Beach, California. Starting with that simple cast member position, he would have the same employer for the rest of his life. Having graduated in 1969, he presented Walt Disney Imagineering (originally known as WED Enterprises) with a portfolio including a model of a “Marble Maze”. WDI, impressed by the maze’s precision, gave this young man a job. That young man’s name was Tony Baxter.
Tony’s first assignment as an Imagineer was to work on Walt Disney’s newest project which was not in Anaheim but in Florida, where “the blessing of size” provided plenty of room for the creations of WDI. The Walt Disney World resort opened in 1971 and, with such a large canvas, it’s no wonder that Tony’s talent and vision shined so brightly.
His first big step came in the mid-70s back at Disneyland in California when he designed a concept model for a new attraction with sort of western theme – a runaway mine train. In 1979, Tony’s model of that attraction became a reality when Big Thunder Mountain Railroad first delighted Disneyland guests. Today guests in California, Florida, Tokyo, and Paris continue to experience and enjoy the thrills of an attraction that started as Tony’s model.
The 1980’s parlayed Tony’s success into a more active role within Disney. 1983 saw a complete overhaul and redesign of Disneyland’s Fantasyland. The overall renaissance theme and architecture was changed and replaced with colors and textures of a Bavarian village, thus invoking thoughts and feelings of a true fairytale among guests.
All of this took place under the direction, oversight, and supervision of Tony Baxter.
With such a positive reception, this design standard was repeated and copied at Disney theme parks around the world, proving that Cogsworth knew what he was talking about when he said, “If it’s not baroque (broke), don’t fix it.” That same year, Tony led the creative efforts that brought us the Journey Into Imagination pavilion (now Imagination!) at Epcot.
One day while driving to work, Tony began to brainstorm on an attraction that would bring more guests to Disneyland’s less popular Bear Country (now Critter Country). The light bulb above his head flickered on and the idea for Splash Mountain began to take shape. In 1989 one of the most expansive projects in Disney Theme Park history opened and the first guests took the plunge into the Briar Patch. Two more versions of Splash Mountain now exist at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland Tokyo and all three continue to draw long lines of excited guests.
Even in light of all of this success, 1989 was a trademark year for Tony Baxter. Not just because of Splash Mountain, but because he was named Senior Vice President of Concept, Development, and Design in time for the design of Disneyland Paris which opened as Euro Disneyland in 1992.
The 1990s brought continued success for Baxter. Following in the successful footsteps of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, another Indiana Jones based attraction was developed and created at Disneyland. The Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye was designed and constructed by a well-oiled machine of some 400 Imagineers led by Tony Baxter.
In 1998, Tony led a creative team to redesign Disneyland’s Tomorrowland area. The latter parts of Tony’s amazing career have seen the opening of the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, the reopening of Captain EO, and the redesign of Star Tours.
On February 1st of this year, Tony informed his fellow Imagineers via an open letter that he would be stepping down from his current role and into an advisory position. He’ll still be an influence – just not a full-time one.
In his 47 year career, Tony Baxter created numerous enduring Disney classic attractions, redesigned others, brought smiles to the faces of people on other continents, and creatively designed an entire Disney theme park, all of which beg to answer just one question: What have you done lately?
With the Epcot International Flower and Garden festival for 2013 now underway, here is your complete guide to everything you can expect from this year’s festival.
Festival Dates: March 6th through May 19th, 2013
What’s New This Year
- Garden Marketplace culinary creations ranging from smokehouse barbecue and shrimp with grits and Zellwood corn to sweet “frushi” made with fresh fruits and coconut rice. Chefs are perfecting menus for marketplaces that will include Florida Fresh at World Showcase Promenade, Smokehouse Barbecue and Brew at American Adventure courtyard, Primavera Kitchen at Italy showcase, Hanami at Japan showcase and eight others. Around the World Showcase promenade
- Garden Marketplace refreshing libations with a kick like Hot Sun Tomato Wine from Florida Orange Groves Winery and Dole Whip with Spiced Rum, as well as non-alcoholic drinks like Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade and Wild Berry Slush. Beverage specialists will feature brews and beverages at food marketplaces and at Fruits by the Glass and Pineapple Promenade. Around the World Showcase promenade
- The Land of Oz Garden circus-like play area, based on the Disney fantastical film adventure “Oz The Great and Powerful” to be released March 8, 2013. The interactive children’s play zone will feature play systems adorned with giant flowers and designed to stretch kids’ imaginations and muscles. Midway-style games, circus-themed game tents and the “Oz Movie Garden” of intriguing plants will capture the spirit of the upcoming film. Also on tap: photo opportunities and the “great and powerful Oz’s” crashed hot-air balloon. Imagination Walkway
- Larger-than-life Fab Five Disney character topiary. Floral versions of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck (with Daisy Duck in a cameo) star in a celebratory cookout scene in living topiary color. The 14-foot-tall Goofy topiary will bobble an anniversary cake while Donald and Daisy play badminton, Mickey fires up the grill, Pluto swipes a link of hot dogs and Minnie chills out on a colorful blanket of blossoms. Epcot Front Entrance
- Illuminated Gardens in the park’s Future World and World Showcase will twinkle and glow over the festival’s world-famous Disney gardens and topiaries each festival evening. Epcot Future World and World Showcase
- “Monsters University” topiary: Floral representations of Mike and Sully from the hit Disney-Pixar film “Monsters, Inc.” and stars of Disney-Pixar’s June 2013 release, “Monsters University,” will join the festivities as new topiary family members. On the Future World Walkway
- Phineas and Ferb topiary: The popular Disney Channel animated celebs limit their shenanigans to go green for a family photo-op. Behind Spaceship Earth
- “Radiator Springs” interactive play zone: Race car Lightning McQueen and tow truck “Mater” of the Disney-Pixar film “Cars 2″ will be the well-maintained topiary stars of this play area. On the Test Track Walkway
- Flower Power Firsts: 1970s top disco band the Village People (April 19-21) and 1960s singer-songwriter Tommy Roe (May 3-5) bring on the Flower Power beat when they take the concert stage. At America Gardens Theatre
- Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House: Eight fanciful fairy topiaries of Pixie Hollow, including Tinker Bell, Fawn, Vidia and Terrence, take over the Butterfly House this year where hundreds of colorful winged beauties flit to life. On the Imagination Walkway
Flower Power Concerts
|March 8-10||The Monkees Lead Singer Micky Dolenz “Last Train to Clarksville”|
|March 15-17||Chubby Checker & The Wildcats “The Twist”|
|March 22-24||The Guess Who “American Woman”|
|March 29-31||Nelson “Garden Party”|
|April 5-7||The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie “Happy Together”|
|April 12-14||Paul Revere & The Raiders “Good Thing”|
|April 19-21||NEW! The Village People “Y.M.C.A.”|
|April 26-28||The Orchestra featuring former members of ELO and ELO Part II “Don’t Bring Me Down”|
|May 3-5||NEW! Tommy Roe “DIZZY”|
|May 10-12||Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am”|
|May 17-19||Starship starring Mickey Thomas “We Built this City”|
Fun Facts and Trivia
- 30 million blooms blanket the park throughout the festival, which runs 75 colorful days.
- One dozen brand-new garden marketplaces surround the World Showcase Lagoon offering festival taste treats ranging from shrimp and grits with fresh Florida veggies to barbecue and brew. Each marketplace will feature a produce and herb garden to represent the more than 50 marketplace beverage choices and more than 30 food items featured at the marketplaces.
- The festival’s front-entrance Party with Mickey & Friends topiary scene comprises
- six topiaries – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto and Goofy –and more than 15 varieties of flowers, plants, and other garden materials.
- The Land of Oz Garden is the largest festival garden ever created for the festival at nearly one-third acre. The garden’s own “yellow brick road” is 160 feet long and includes 40 feet of “yellow brick” decal, 40 feet of ForeverLawn yellow turf and an 80-foot-long floral path planted with 1,200 yellow viola plants, to be replaced by tropical duranta plants when the weather heats up later in April. Dozens of additional Disney character topiaries represent the largest collection of Disney character topiary in the world and include Disney and Pixar film and TV stars Mike and Sulley (new!) plus Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Cinderella, Belle and Beast, and Phineas and Ferb. At least 25 different plants, grasses and mosses of various colors, including pink and red begonias, dusty miller, palm fiber, palm seeds, ficus and lichen, are used to create and define features of additional festival topiaries.
- 1,000 native butterflies represent up to 10 species at the expansive Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House. Among the garden’s two dozen nectar plants are Cape Royal plumbago, passion flower, coral honeysuckle, blazing star, butterfly bush, scarlet milkweed and canna lily.
- More than 500,000 plants, trees and shrubs are planted for the festival; 250,000 of those are annual blossoms installed for the festival.
- Festival plants include 60 different species of trees, 47 types of palms, and 48 varieties of bedding plants.
- 150 hands-on gardening demonstrations and seminars will be presented.
- 30 “flower towers” of of several varieties of blooms and plants line Innoventions Plaza.
- 225 floating mini-gardens, each three feet in diameter, of multi-hued impatiens provide splashes of color on two ponds that border the walkway between Future World and World Showcase.
- 700 container gardens of flowers, herbs, plants and vegetables in clay pots, barrels and urns enhance the landscape throughout Epcot.
- 400 Walt Disney World horticulturists are needed to install the festival landscape, topiaries and many exhibits; 100 Epcot horticulturists maintain topiaries and other festival displays.
- It takes more than one full year and about 24,000 cast member hours to prepare for the annual festival.
- The festival’s weekend Flower Power concert series includes 11 artists and groups known for their Top 40 hits. This year’s musical hit-makers from the 1960s and ’70s include The Monkees Lead Singer Micky Dolenz, The Village People (new!), Tommy Roe (new!), Starship starring Mickey Thomas, The Guess Who, Chubby Checker & The Wildcats, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Nelson, The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie, The Orchestra starring former members of ELO, Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone.
Food & Drink at Flower & Garden
(** indicates TRYit items, Disney’s new campaign that encourages children to try something new.)
Fruits by the Glass – World Showcase Plaza
Watermelon Passion Fruit Cocktail
Wild Berry Slush – Non Alcoholic
Sea Dog Blue Paw Wild Blueberry**
New Planet™ 3R Raspberry Ale (Gluten Free)
Florida Orange Groves, Mango Mama, Mango Wine
Florida Orange Groves, Blueberry Blue, Blueberry Wine
DeLoach Vineyards Heritage Reserve Chardonnay
DeLoach Vineyards Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir
Florida Fresh – World Showcase Promenade
Watermelon Salad with pickled Red Onions, Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Reduction**
Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits with Andouille Sausage, Zellwood Corn, Tomatoes and Cilantro
Angel Food Cake with macerated Florida Berries**
Florida Orange Groves, Hot Sun, Tomato Wine
Florida Orange Groves, 40 Karat, Carrot Wine
Orange Blossom Pilsner
Strawberry Slush – Non Alcoholic
Jardin de Fiestas – Mexico
Tacos de Carnitas (Pork Tacos topped with Tamarindo salsa, served on a flour tortilla with Chicharrón)
Tostada (Crab tostada served with Chipotle Mayo and Valentina Salsa)
Flan de Guayaba (Guava Custard)
Conga Fruit Punch – Non Alcoholic
Corona Light Draft Beer
Organic Tequila Flight
Lotus House – China
Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries
Spring Pancake with Grilled Chicken and Green Apple**
Pan-Fried Vegetable Bun
Peach-Oolong Bubble Tea
Kung Fu Punch (Vodka and Triple Sec with Mango and Orange Juice)
South Sea Storm (Guava with Light and Dark Rum)
Tsing – Tao Beer
Lychee Aerated Water
Peach Aerated Water
Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market – Germany
Savory Bread Pudding with Spring Peas and Wild Mushroom Ragout
German Meatloaf Sandwich with Sweet Mustard and Fried Shallots
Potato Pancakes with house made Apple Sauce**
Florida Avenue American Wheat Ale
Goose Island Brewing Company’s Honker Ale
Blue Point’s Toasted Lager
Hugo – Charles De Fere “Organic” Brut with Elderflower and Mint
Primavera Kitchen – Italy
Asparagi con Aragosta all’Ortolana (Green asparagus, lobster, garden cocktail sauce)
Lasagna Primavera (Spinach Lasagna, green peas, zucchini, mushrooms, broccolini, béchamel and fresh tomatoes, with garlic and basil leaves) **
Panna Cotta al Limoncello (Limoncello flavored Panna Cotta, wild berries)
Fontana Candida, Pinot Grigio
Castello di Querceto, Chianti
Bosco del Merlo, Prosecco
White Peach Bellini
Birrificio Del Ducato – Nuova Mattina (Spring Saison Ale)
Birrificio Le Baladin – Nora (Specialty Ale)
Birra Del Borgo – Rubus Lamponi (Specialty Wild Fruit Ale)
The Smokehouse: Barbeque and Brews – American Adventure Courtyard
Pulled Pig Slider with Cole Slaw
Smoked Beef Brisket with Collard Greens and Jalapeño Corn Bread
Rocky Road Brownie Mousse
Mama’s Little Yella Pils (Czech style Pilsner)
Liberty Ale from Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco, Ca. (India Pale Ale)
Red Ale from Orlando Brewing, Orlando, Fla. (Red Ale- Organic)
Blackwater Porter from Orlando Brewing Company, Orlando, Fla. (Stout- Organic)
The Original Rib Shack Red Wine
Hanami — Japan
Frushi (Fresh strawberries, pineapple and cantaloupe rolled with coconut rice, atop a raspberry sauce sprinkled with toasted coconut and whipped cream)**
Chirashi Hanazushi (Grilled Salmon, cooked shrimp and crab stick served over a bed of fragrant ginger rice with Volcano and Dynamite sauce)
YakiSoba Pan (Fresh grilled carrots, onions and cabbage with Japanese noodles and teriyaki sauce served on a bun with mayonnaise and Beni Shoga)
Green Tea Flan (Silky custard with macha green tea and caramel glaze)
Frozen Kirin Ichiban
A Taste of Marrakesh – Morocco
Spiced Lamb Kebab with Vegetable Couscous Salad
Harissa and Lamb Confit Chicken Drumettes with Chermoula and Cucumber Salad
Baghrir (Moroccan pancake with honey, almonds and Argan Oil)**
Mint Iced Tea
L’Orangerie – France
Tarte à la ratatouille et fromage de chèvre (Zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, onions and tomato tart with goat cheese)**
Terrine Campagnarde, baguette et compote de cerises (Country style pâté served with baguette and cherry compote)
Verrine charlotte au pèches (Caramelized peaches and rosemary and light vanilla cream)
La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush (Grey Goose Vodka Orange,
St. Germain liquor with White and Red Cranberry Juice)
Muscat Pétillant, Sparkling Muscat Charles de Fère
Chardonnay, White Burgundy, Macon Village Georges Duboeuf
Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux Beau-Rivage
Kronenbourg Blanc 1664, (Fruity White Beer with Citrus Notes)
The Cottage: Savories, Trifles and Teas – United Kingdom
Potato, Chive and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare and Sour Cream
Baked Goat’s Brie with Kumquat Chutney**
Waterkist Farms Heirloom Tomatoes with house-made Mozzarella, Minus 8 Vinegar and Basil**
Ginger and Tea Trifle
Trio of Trifles
Hot Teas (Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Lemon Green Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, Spiced Apple Chai, Pumpkin Chai, Mixed Berry Black Tea, Pomegranate and Raspberry, Camomile Honey & Vanilla, Honeybush, Mandarin and Orange, Pure Peppermint, Lemon & Ginger)
Peach Cold Brewed Iced Tea
Mixed Berries Cold Brewed Iced Tea
Poema Cava Brut Rosé
Chilled Rose Blush Lemonade – Non alcoholic
Pineapple Promenade – World Showcase Promenade
Dole® Whip with Siesta Key Spiced Rum
Pineapple Upside Down Cake featuring Dole® Pineapple
Dole® Pineapple Fruit Cup
Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade – Non Alcoholic
Samuel Adams® Cream Stout
Fruit & Cheese Plate
Southwest Chicken Wrap
Tuna Salad with Pita
Asian Tuna Salad with Noodles
New Planet™ 3R Raspberry Ale (Gluten Free) (12 oz.)
Blue Point’s Spring Fling (12 oz.)
Florida Orange Groves, Mango Mama, Mango Wine
Florida Orange Groves, Blueberry Blue, Blueberry Wine
DeLoach Vineyards Heritage Reserve Chardonnay
DeLoach Vineyards Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir
Poema Cava Brut Rosé
HGTV and DIY Network Seminars
- March 8-10 – Chris Lambton, Going Yard: ”Going Yard for Your Lifestyle”
- March 15-17 – Chris Grundy, DIY Network’s Cool Tools: “Keepin’ It Green with Grundy”
- March 22-24 – Egypt Sherrod, host of Property Virgins: “Getting the Inside Scoop on HGTV’s Top Home Features for 2013″
- March 29-31 – Brandon Johnson, My Yard Goes Disney: “Bringing More Disney Inspiration and HGTV Design to Your Backyard”
- April 5-7 – Meg Caswell, Meg’s Great Rooms: “Discovering Design Tips to Personalize Your Space & Make a Good Room Great”
- April 12-14 – Jason Cameron, DIY Network’s Desperate Landscapes and Man Caves: “Desperate Landscapes . . . Where Do We Grow from Here?”
- April 19-21 – Sara Peterson, Editor-in-Chief, HGTV Magazine: “Boosting Your Curb Appeal! 25 Easy Ideas from Front Doors to Flower Pots”
- April 26-28 – Carter Oosterhouse, Million Dollar Rooms: “Million Dollar Trends”
- May 3-5 – Casey Noble, Design on a Dime: “Creating Luxury Hotel Floral Arrangements in Your Home”
- May 10-12 – Dan Faires, HGTV.com, DanMade: “Easy Ideas for Creating a Designer Garden”
- May 17-19 – David Bromstad, HGTV Design Star, ColorSplash, Design Star All-Stars: “The Power of Color”
For More Information: www.epcotinspring.com
Test Track: First Impressions
by Ron D’Anna
December 11, 1998 was a landmark day at Epcot. While not officially open, it was the first day Test Track saw riders. After over two years of waiting and delays, Epcot received its first thrill ride. While official Cast Member previews would begin the next day, Epcot cast members and their guests got to experience the attraction before anyone else. However, though I wasn’t working at Epcot, I managed to get in with a group of friends that night as well. After years of waiting for the ride to open, I was there for its first night, and what appeared to be its first breakdown. Just as I pulled into the unload area, the ride suddenly stopped and the Imagineers who had been lining the platforms scattered. It was a truly memorable first ride.
Just a shade over 14 years later, I approach Test Track for the first time again, just after park opening on a Saturday morning. The line is already sticking out past the shade-providing canopy. The ride is down. “At least some things haven’t changed,” I think to myself. I’d seen plenty of reviews and videos of the so-called Tron Track and I hadn’t decided what to think about it. Rationally, I’d decided to wait to experience the ride before condemning it. I decided to get my Fastpass and come back later.
Finally, I came back in the afternoon to ride via Fastpass. Immediately, I saw we were segregated from the main queue, though the few exhibits Fastpass and Single Riders see are interesting enough for the short wait. Finally we come to the design stations. We quickly select our predesigned vehicle, and within a couple of minutes we’re loading on to our Sim-Car and we’re off. Little did I know I had bypassed the most compelling component of the new experience.
What first hit me was how beautiful the environment of the ride track is. The graphics are incredible, and definitely convey the feeling of being in the computerized environment. However, I immediately began to feel at a loss of where I am and what I’m doing in the vehicle testing storyline. The ride track may be exactly the same, but the change in narration and décor of the building don’t quite impress on the riders what exactly they are testing. When the ride switches to the cornering and high-speed sections this lack of direction is essentially minimized as the ride’s focus switches to the sensations rather than the environment. Along the way the design ranking screens have been displaying how our cars have been doing, but having chosen a pre-made design I felt no real connection to my design.
Any emotional connection to the ride is lost by taking the Fastpass or Single Rider options. The heart and soul of the attraction lie in the design features, and after going back and playing with that, my entire outlook on the ride instantly changed. Exiting into the post show, I still felt somewhat cheated. All the elements of the post show revolve around your design. From the simple performance readouts to the interactive “create your own” commercial and the drive tables, I still had fun but it felt cold and sterile. Something was missing to make the new Test Track the E-Ticket anchor Epcot deserved.
Everything changed again the second I found the design stations in the post-show area. After waiting for the station the person ahead of me had been using to time out (these desperately need a functional “I’m Done” button), I thoroughly enjoyed the design process, playing with option upon option for the full amount of time each section allowed. Everything I had just experienced hit me in a different light. I know the physical experience wouldn’t have changed, and it really hadn’t from the original ride, but I could see the emotional attachment to the car rankings and post show elements.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take my new design back through again because of timing on a busy holiday weekend, the posted wait time was well over two hours. I really wanted to see how it felt with my own car. I found it hard to believe that something so intangible made all the difference in what is billed as a thrill ride. And even more surprising, Disney has finally come up with a compelling reason to skip Fastpass. Hopefully, the advent of MyMagic+ will allow guests to predesign their vehicles and allow those who use the Fastpass option the same experience as those in the standby queue with out the hour plus waits.
In all, the new Test Track is a worthy successor to the original, but the heart of the attraction isn’t the thrill factor, it’s the tie in you get from preshow to post show with the vehicle you create. Unless the option to design your car ahead of time is introduced, I will highly recommend making Test Track your first attraction in the morning, rather than relying on Fastpass to experience the full version.
Ron has been going to WDW longer than he can remember. As a former Cast Member, he has always tried to share his love of Walt Disney World. Ron can be reached at email@example.com.
Life Outside of the College Program
By Bret Shroats
The Disney College Program offers a diverse amount of options for a cast member’s schedule; you may take as much or as little overtime at your work location as you want. Now, you have no control what you get scheduled, but you control the amount of overtime and what you do with your free time. I know participants who went to Walt Disney World to work, and that was all they wanted to do, and they were happy. They were living their dream, and they knew they would continue to live the dream as long as they wanted to. These people Walt Disney’s words, “You reach a point where you don’t work for money,” quite literally.
There are also people who apply and accept their offer to the Disney College Program so they can move to Orlando, Florida and party while they are there. They request as few hours as possible and try and give away hours whenever they can. They are also happy.
I, and many others like me, go down for the full experience of the Disney College Program and Orlando, Florida. I was completely content with the hours I was given, and I still made time to do almost everything Orlando and Tampa, Florida had to offer. Sometimes I even requested more hours. One week I worked almost 80 hours, and I had no complaints. During a separate week I had a 14 hour shift. Cast Members at the Magic Kingdom kept me busy; they knew if I was there the job would be done.
I was not a slave to Disney though; I did everything I could around the central Florida area that I wanted. I went to competition theme parks, and I went everywhere from Cocoa Beach to Clearwater Beach. I took the stroll down I-Drive, I shopped at the Florida Mall, and I did some of the activities that Disney offers to College Program participants.
Now, having a life doesn’t just happen when you have free time outside of work. Obviously, as you work in the role that Disney has casted you for, you will make friends with co-workers even if you do not work with them every day. You may have a social life at work and outside of work. I made some of my greatest memories hanging out with friends while working at Magic Kingdom such as the rare times when the park was slow or stopping work July 3rd and 4th to watch the Magic Kingdom’s July 4th fireworks show. Watching the same show as the rest of the near 100,000 crowd was a truly magical experience.
There is so much to do outside of working for Disney as a Disney College Program participant. Orlando is a fantastic place to live, work, and play. It has seven world class theme parks, and you can get into four of them for free anytime you want. There are four amazing water parks, and you can get into two of them for free at most times. There is great food, places to shop, and entertainment for everyone. It’s hard to not find something to enjoy. Because of this, Orlando, Florida was voted the #10 Best Vacation Spot in the United States by TripAdvisor in 2012. You do not get that ranking without some great things to do around the area. Additionally, the Tampa, Florida theme park and the beautiful beaches, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, are within reasonable driving distance.
One day, to remind myself from home, I created an exciting, memorable outing. I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I had a Cincinnati day in Tampa, Florida. I went to Clearwater, Florida for the beach and a Cincinnati restaurant—Skyline Chili. In that restaurant, they had a pennant from my high school. Later that night, the Cincinnati Reds were in town to take on the Tampa Bay Rays. The Reds won the game by a score of 5-0. It was a great reminder of home that I had time to create while attending the Disney College Program.
If you want a social life while working at Disney, you can have one. If you do not want a social life while working at Disney, you don’t have to have one. I recommend having the best of both worlds; if you don’t, the magic will wear off one day. It may not happen immediately, but it will eventually happen. When the magic does wear off, you will want friends to share your magical memories with. The magic will return with time away from Disney. Sometimes people overdose on magic; that’s when you need to step away and breathe in the breath of the sea or experience the frenzy of another local attraction. Once you do that, the magic will return to you, and you will continue to be successful and happy at “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
Have a magical day.
Un Jour à Disneyland Paris
Bonjour et Bienvenue
Most of my friends had always assumed that when I finally got married, the honeymoon would take place at Disney World. This really was not too much of a stretch when you think about how much of a Disney fan I am. I have been visiting Walt Disney World since I could not even count. I even ran my first marathon at Disney World.
When the big wedding day finally came on September 15th of 2012, we surprised everyone when we did not board a plane for Orlando – rather, we headed to Europe. As much as I love Disney World, I really wanted to do something new and extra special for a honeymoon (not to mention my new husband is not quite the diehard Disney fan that I am).
So it was rather convenient that in the end, I could have my cake and eat it too. On the last full day of our trip, we headed out to the Disneyland Paris Resort (DLPR) – which has Disneyland Paris and Disney Studios parks. This was my first trip to DLPR – my first to any Disney park outside the United States for that matter.
Of all the Disney parks, Disneyland Paris may be the most notorious by reputation. For years, I had heard so much about the place – so much of it negative, often accompanied by the word “failure” – so I was very curious to see what my own feelings would be (particularly having practically grown up at Walt Disney World). What follows are my thoughts on my first all new Disney Resort in 15 years.
Est-ce que vous êtes prets? Alors, allons y! (Are you ready? Let’s go then!)
From our hotel in the center of Paris, we opted to take the train to the resort. Very early that morning, we boarded the Metro to the Auber station on the RER A line. The RER is Paris’ regional train system (for any New Yorkers reading this, think MetroNorth). The ride was pretty quick (under an hour) and the station was literally right at the gate of the resort. It is the last stop on the line, so it is hard to miss. (Be aware that the RER A has two different terminal stations. Make sure you get on the train bound for Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy.) While I found the Paris Metro extremely easy to navigate, with well placed signs in multiple languages, the RER was not as clear. Be sure to look at the TV screens on the platform to be sure you are getting on the right train as the trains had no announcements of any kind.
Returning on the train was easier, although very crowded as we left at park closing time. We had to stand the entire way back, and these trains were not designed with standing passengers in mind. Still, it was way less than the cost of a cab, and many MANY more people seemed to be heading to the parking lot than the train station after the park closed.
The first thing that struck me about the resort was that it is very beautiful. It was immediately obvious that this was a Disney resort. Right from the start, you encounter very pretty landscaping – complete with running streams and beautiful plant life.
It was a rather chilly day, despite being only the end of September. I imagine that this can be a pretty brutal place to visit when the winter month weather hits, something the U.S. parks don’t have to deal with, at least not beyond the occasional cold front.
Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the resort is that it is rather small. Certainly nothing can compare to Walt Disney World, but the Paris resort felt even smaller than Disneyland in California. Even looking at the map before entering, it seemed that a lot was missing. There is no Jungle Cruise, no Splash Mountain, no Peoplemover. It looked a little sparse compared with the jam-packed park maps from the U.S. parks, particularly the Magic Kingdom-style parks. Here, they are able to put both parks onto a single map.
Once inside, I did feel pretty much at home. Despite the differences, it is a Disney resort, and those of us who have spent substantial parts of our lives at other Disney resorts will instantly feel comfortable once inside the gates.
One last observation I would like to mention: Ever since the resort opened, I had heard about how the French hated the place. How they would not go. How it was only foreign tourists that you find wandering around. While that may well be true, it most certainly was not the case the day we were there. The parks were PACKED, and nearly everyone was speaking French. So for all the foot stomping and cries of “cultural Chernobyl,” it seems our French friends have also discovered the fun of a day in a Disney park.
A big question a lot of visitors, particularly from America, are likely to have, is whether you need to speak French to navigate the park. You will be glad to know that you could easily get around without speaking a word of French. All of the signage in the park contains English, and nearly all the cast members we encountered spoke it fluently, or enough to be completely understood.
Do keep in mind, however, that most of the attractions with narration are spoken only in French. This may not be a big deal, especially if you already know the English counterpart (the Phantom Mansion’s Stretching Room dialog, for example, is pretty much a direct translation from the Florida Haunted Mansion). For me, this was part of the fun. It was really cool to not only get to ride the original Star Tours again (as the adventures are not yet continuing in Paris), but also to get to hear the entire thing in French.
As far as my French skills go, I can understand the language fairly decently when spoken at a slower speed, and can speak some simple phrases, but I would hardly call myself fluent. But that little bit went a long way. My husband, on the other hand, speaks not a word, and still seemed to get along just fine (even if he was not terribly loved by the citizens of Paris).
Of course, our entire wedding was planned for this year to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Disneyland Paris. Okay, that is not true, but we did luck out that it happened that way. The park was decorated for the anniversary, and a whole new nighttime show was created (more on that later) for the event. I love these celebrations (hot pink Castle cake notwithstanding), and was glad to get to see one here. The celebration was not overwhelming, but it did feel like it was a special year. And of course, this meant there was a ton of merchandise to go home with that had the “20” logo all over it, including a lot of pins (so many pins).
If you have been to a Magic Kingdom-style park before (and if you are reading this magazine I will assume that you have), then you know what to expect, at least initially, from this park. It is the typical hub and spoke design, with the castle in the middle. Adventureland and Frontierland have swapped locations here (heresy!) and there is no Tomorrowland, with Discoveryland taking its place.
Upon entering, you will, of course, see the Castle at the end of Main Street. Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty’s Castle) is smaller than the Florida castle, but noticeably larger than the one in California. It is also the most unique among the Disney Park’s castles. This was done as a result of Europe having a few of the real thing sitting around. The Castle takes on a more fanciful vibe, almost like it is growing out of the landscape.
Perhaps the most radical change to an attraction from the U.S. parks is Space Mountain: Mission 2. The mountain has a more Jules Verne look to it – it was originally inspired by From the Earth to the Moon. It is closer to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster than its siblings. It features a catapult launch into the mountain (it actually starts outside), inversions, and special effects timed to the vehicle, and overall is a more standard steel, coaster-type train. This may be one of the standout attractions of the entire resort. It is a great coaster, and the first place we went when we entered the park.
In addition to Space Mountain, there are two other roller coasters at Disneyland Park. One is Big Thunder Mountain. While the layout of this coaster is more or less a copy of the Floridian version, there is one big difference. The entire attraction, other than the loading area, is out on an island. Imagine Tom Sawyer Island being taken over by Big Thunder. The train goes under the water at the beginning and end of the ride. The part at the end was particularly thrilling, as it is entirely in the dark, and the fastest part of the entire ride.
Another classic attraction that is represented here is Pirates of the Caribbean. The attraction is closer to the longer Disneyland version than the Walt Disney World version, but with many of the scenes in a different order. I am not quite sure whether this helped the story along or made it more muddled. It may have been a little of both.
One of the major reasons we chose the day we did is that it was the only day of our trip that Phantom Manor was going to be open (that and the weather was very nice that day). The ride is very similar to the Disneyland version, but there are some major differences. Perhaps my favorite is the large staircase backdrop to the loading area. I thought it was stunning, and really puts to shame the dark wall we have in Florida. Once you enter the attic sequence, the ride changes from other versions and becomes much darker. The graveyard contains skeletons, rather than the playful ghosts of the U.S. versions. I could see this being more frightening to small children, but perhaps the French don’t scare as easily.
I could not pass up a trip on It’s a Small World. I love this ride (so I like the song, leave me alone). It’s a classic, it’s fun, it’s relaxing. The Paris version has a little treat too. There is an entire section of the ride for North America, including a Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and Golden Gate Bridge.
Fantasyland here is very beautiful. After visiting both California and Paris, I see why people often referred to Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland as “ugly.” I think that is going a tad too far, but I see where they are coming from. This will all change soon mind you (thank you, New Fantasyland). But the park definitely deserves kudos for making this a very nice area. I stared at Mad Tea Party for several minutes, and I didn’t even ride it. It’s really beautifully done.
One major complaint I had both about this park and the next was the Fastpass system. Those machines are terrible. I cannot tell you how many times we saw people desperately attempting to scan their park tickets, only to receive nothing for their efforts. And trust me, this is not guests being dumb. I tried it myself, and those machines are evil. Part of the issue is that there are two different types of tickets at Disneyland Paris. One is a magnetic strip (anyone who has ever had an annual pass replaced knows how flaky those can be). The other is a barcode, due to the fact that you can print your own tickets at home. One would think the barcode would work better, but if there was a right place to hold the ticket to make it work, I never found it. And all this drama led to some of the Fastpass distribution lines being painfully long. Merci Parc Disneyland, réparez le Fastpass.
Walt Disney Studios
I had previously put Disney California Adventure (DCA) at the bottom of my list of Disney Parks. That list now has a basement, and therein lies the Walt Disney Studios. With DCA improving, the Studios seems to have not only slid into DCA’s former space, but managed to be even worse in many respects.
A quick list of the problems of this park would include the small size, the terrible layout, the overall cheap feeling to it, and the small number of attractions. But maybe the biggest issue I had was the sheer congestion in this place. All of the attractions had ridiculously long lines. We ended up skipping Tower of Terror entirely as they, for some reason, were not offering Fastpass, and the wait time was over 90 minutes.
But we would end up waiting about that long for the one attraction I really did want to do, Crush’s Coaster. I actually would say this ride alone makes it worth a visit to the Studios park. It combines a dark ride and a pretty good coaster. The cars can spin independently of the ride track. It is not unlike Primeval Whirl, just less ugly (but only slightly as they really did not try to hide the show building). The coaster was great, but they NEED to get that wait line under control, or build another one to increase capacity, or something. I enjoyed it, but was not terribly happy to have blown nearly two hours of the day to get on it.
The only other attraction we went on here was Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster avec Aerosmith. Yes they still use Aerosmith here, which led to what is probably the worst preshow at any Disney park (and I am not a fan of the one in Florida). It really felt like they somehow realized that Steven Tyler didn’t speak French, so they had everyone talk over each other for a few seconds, then an unseen announcer interrupted in French, and… that’s it. Go get on the ride now. Seriously, why even bother?
Things improved after that though. The track is the same layout, but there were some differences in the lighting that I thought actually enhanced the ride. While having more light usually spoils indoor coasters, here it actually seemed to make the track feel even more twisted. The first inversions, in particular, benefited from this. It was really disorienting and felt like you were literally spinning out of control.
After that, we decided to leave the park, through the giant gift shop that is the entrance. This Studios park clearly was built during the dark times of Disney (it came only two years after DCA). While it is supposedly getting some much needed attention, it has a long way to go before it gets to a California Adventure-level of improvement, much less anything close to being a first rate park. Right now, Disney Studios feels directionless, lifeless, and almost annoying to attend. So we headed right back to Disneyland Park.
Le Spectacle Nocturne: Disney Dreams
Je t’aime Disney Dreams, je t’aime. This show was spectacular. Was it as big as the shows in the U.S.? No. But it did combine the best aspects of each of them, and did so very well. Imagine Wishes, combined with Magic, Memories, and You, plus Fantasmic, and a little World of Color thrown in.
Like so much of the park, the show is in both French and English. This made particular sense with the French characters, like Lumière and Quasimodo. It made a little less sense when characters from the same film spoke separate languages (Peter Pan spoke in English, while Wendy responded in French) but I do get the effect they were going for.
The show was very beautiful. Will and I got particularly teary-eyed when it came to the lantern sequence from Tangled. It was our honeymoon after all. Furthermore, it goes to show that the castle projections can be used for so much more. It really was the perfect end to the final night of our honeymoon.
I really enjoyed my day at Disneyland Paris. I know the park has had a difficult time over its first 20 years, but there is a lot of good here (well, let’s say more at Disneyland than the Studios).
What the resort needs now is an investment in adding some more attractions, completely overhauling the Studios Park with a DCA-style makeover, and expanding Disneyland with another land or two. This could give the resort a major boost.
If you asked me whether you should book a trip just to visit Disneyland Paris from the United States, I would probably say it would not be worth the expense. But assuming you also intend to visit Paris, then you definitely want to make a day’s pilgrimage out to Disneyland. You will most certainly have a good time.
Michael Truskowski has been a Disney fan for over 25 years. As a technology nerd, he has always been inspired by the innovations in the parks, particularly Epcot. He has completed two Walt Disney World Marathons (including a Goofy Challenge) and counting. He currently lives in New York City. Read more at www.michaeltruskowski.com
Epcot Memorium: Kitchen Kabaret
by Tom Corless
The Kitchen Kabaret Revue was a 13-minute audio-animatronic show that was located inside The Land pavilion, premiering on October 1, 1982 with EPCOT Center. The host, Bonnie Appetite, introduced the various acts in a musical review and comedy format that advocated healthy eating and provided a basic primer on the four food groups: Meat, Dairy, Cereal, and Fruits/Vegetables.
The entrance stood on the bottom floor, to the left side. The entrance used pastel colors like the remainder of Epcot, but looked like a Broadway theater with it’s marquee. The first waiting room had guests cross under another marquee, complete with a host of production posters along the walls. The final waiting are had a third marquee, calling the attraction simply “Kitchen Kabaret”. Once the doors opened and guests were allowed in the theater, they were greeted with a giant silver curtain that read Kraft Central Foods as they sponsored the entire pavilion at the time. Once guests were inside, the show would begin. The show went something like this…
“Meal Time Blues” by Bonnie Appetite
Bonnie sings this at the start of the show. She looks a bit tired. She has cookbooks and her hair wrapped in a bun. The lights turn off, and the next performance comes.
“Chase Those (Meal Time) Blues Away” by Bonnie Appetite and the Kitchen Krackpots
The Kitchen Krackpots band (containers of ketchup, mayonnaise, a spinning jar of mustard, etc.) rises from the floor and plays a boisterous ragtime intro, as Bonnie reappears, now in a showgirl or cocktail waitress costume, to “Thank you all for coming to (her) kitchen.”
“The Stars of the Milky Way” by Dairy Goods and his Stars of the Milky Way
Mr. Dairy Good is a singing milk carton who emerges from a refrigerator holding an old fashioned radio-style floor microphone close to his mouth, crooning introductions to three dairy products—Miss Cheese, Miss Yogurt, and Miss Ice Cream — in the style of 1930s costume extravaganzas. Each of the dairy products performs a brief cameo in a stylized manner (e.g., Miss Cheese sings like Mae West). Every time they came out, ice cold fog would emerge from the freezer.
“Boogie Woogie Bakery Boy” by The Cereal Sisters
The Cereal Sisters—Oats, Rice, and Corn—sing a parody of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy in the style of the Andrews Sisters, accompanied by a bugle-blowing bread slice. The bread slice wears glasses and is revealed when a kitchen cabinet is opened.
“Meat Ditties” by Hamm & Eggz
Hamm & Eggz is a vaudeville-style comic rendition of The Meat Group Can Help You Keep Strong, in which Mr. Hamm and Mr. Eggz tell jokes and sing a few short ditties. At the end, Mr. Hamm gets angry because Mr. Eggz is telling corny jokes, and decides to split from the group to join another protein group. Some of the bits use sliding animated scenes to illustrate what’s going on, very much like the “All the guys that turn me on, turn me down” sequence from the Country Bear Jamboree. There are also running gags in this part of the show. Mr. Eggz’s bow moves if he’s laughing, and at the end of their parts, smoke bellows around them protecting these two from being seen moving into the ground.
“Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit” by Colander Combo and the Fiesta Fruit
Night sounds, Latin percussion, and low lighting set the mood for this number, as the produce (broccoli, tomatoes, bananas, etc.) begin to chant “Veggie-Veggie-Fruit-Fruit! Veggie-Fruit-Fruit!” Bonnie Appetite, now in a Carmen Miranda-style carnival outfit, and perched upon a crescent moon that descends from the ceiling, sings. Here, another running gag is present. The center broccoli piece says “cha cha cha!” at times while his glasses flip up and down.
“Kabaret Finale” by Bonnie Appetite and cast
Bonnie appetite lowers from the upper part of the stage in a strange gown while sitting on the moon. Bonnie and the cast sing a medley of each of their songs. All of the cast come back out, and Bonnie re-appears in her cooking apron and says good bye, before the curtains come down.
Nestle was scheduled to take over sponsorship of The Land in 1994, so the pavilion was the first in Epcot to be overhauled in the early 1990′s. In addition to changing Listen to the Land to Living with the Land, replacing Symbiosis with the Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable, and updating the pavilion’s dining and shopping, Nestle wanted to update Kitchen Kabaret to feature updated music and be more entertaining than educational. Thus Food Rocks was born on March 26, 1994.
Guest would still enter under a very bright broadway style marquee featuring the new name, but the waiting area was completely remodeled. The first waiting room was now very bright and featured many exhibits where guests could learn about good nutrition and the food pyramid.
The show was themed as a benefit concert for good nutrition hosted by Fud (pronounced food) Wrapper. However, the show was continually interrupted by the Excess, a junk food heavy metal band that detests nutrition. In the end, Excess lost their power as Fud Wrapper exclaimed “No power, you guys have been unplugged. There’s plenty of foods out there that are good to eat, but remember, always eat with moderation”.
The Audio-Animatronic characters in the show were food items with human features. The music was based on popular songs by well-known performers, with lyrics adapted to the topic of nutrition. For example, “The Peach Boys”, singing “Good Nutrition”, was based on The Beach Boys’ song “Good Vibrations”. Five of these acts used the voices of the parodied musicians themselves: Tone Loc, Neil Sedaka, Little Richard, The Pointer Sisters, and Chubby Checker all actually performed in the show. Many of the characters returned for the finale.
Here is a list of the acts in order, including what songs were parodied:
- We’ll Make It Count in the Kitchen – The U-tensils (Queen) – “Bohemian Rhapsody”
- Good Nutrition – The Peach Boys (Beach Boys) – “Good Vibrations”
- Every Bite You Take – Refrigerator Police (The Police) – “Every Breath You Take”
- High Fiber – Pita Gabriel (Peter Gabriel) – “Sledgehammer”
- Always Read the Wrapper – Fud Wrapper (Tone Loc) – “Funky Cold Medina”
- Just Keep It Lean – The Sole of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Cher) – “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)”
- Tutti Frutti – Richard (Little Richard) – “Tutti Frutti”
- Vegetables Are Good for You – Neil Moussaka Neil Sedaka – “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”
- Let’s Exercise – Chubby Cheddar (Chubby Checker) – “The Twist”
- Give Us Junk – The Excess – original composition
- Just a Little Bit – The Get-the-Point Sisters Aretha Franklin – “Respect”
- Choose Before You Chew – U-tensils and Cast, Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody”
The only characters re-used in the show was the milk. The new animatronic characters were mostly flat and featured simple moving facial features.
Food Rocks closed on January 3, 2004, with rumors that it had something to do with a large building being constructed just behind The Land pavilion, in the space set aside in the 1980′s for Epcot’s movie pavilion (which eventually evolved into the Great Movie Ride and the Disney-MGM Studios). On May 5, 2004, it was announced that Soarin’ Over California from Disney’s California Adventure would be cloned for Walt Disney World and replace Food Rocks. Despite replacing the show, the queue for Soarin’ simply travels through the former theater, leaving the Food Rocks stage encased behind the walls.
Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he counts over 100 visits in the last 22 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since founded the entire WDWNT Network and become a published author on the subject.
20 Years Running
by Michael Truskowski
When the Walt Disney World Marathon was first run in 1994, a few thousand runners took part. This year, for the 20th running of the race, over 20,000 took part in the 26.2 mile run. Not to mention the other 40,000 or so participants who participated in the weekend’s other activities, such as the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, the Disney Family 5K, and the Kid’s Races. As the sport of running has gone mainstream, the runDisney events have become some of the most popular on the Disney Parks calendar.
My first Disney marathon (and my first marathon ever for that matter) was the 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon. Last year I stepped it up and ran my first Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge. The Goofy, for those who may not be aware, is comprised of both the Walt Disney World Half Marathon AND the Walt Disney World Marathon. That is a combined 39.3 miles over the course of two very early mornings. This year I went one step further, and ran my first “Dopey” challenge. Unlike the Goofy, the “Dopey” is not an official event. But every year several thousand Goofy runners add the Disney Family 5K to the weekend’s events, completing a 42.4 mile weekend.
As always, the weekend began with a trip to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the Disney’s Health and Fitness Expo. A visit to the expo is required for all participants to pick up their race material. The expo is also the place to hear from running experts, as well as shop for all kinds of gear, including a massive official merchandise booth (bring money, LOTS of money).
I had last run the 5K in 2011. The course was the same this year, with the only change being that the race now has a corral system at the start. It is still an untimed “fun run”, but the corral system is meant to help ease congestion by putting the faster runners in front (much the same as the system used at both the half and full marathons). There were 5 corrals, A – D, with D being split into two, one for runners only and one for the stroller division. The 5K is the only race that allows strollers, or anything not carried directly on the runner’s body for that matter. I was in corral A, so I do not know what effect this had, but they did seem to put a good amount of time between corrals, as the stroller division was beginning right as I was coming across the finish line.
Morning two of waking up at 2:45am was for the Half Marathon. This was the first year I did not have monorail transportation to the start of the race as I was staying at Fort Wilderness. Much as I love the campground, I think I will be going back to the Contemporary next year as the buses certainly did add some time getting to the park. If you have never run the races before, fair warning: You have to get there EARLY. If you are any later than about 4am, you will be late getting to the start line. We got there before 4am and still managed to be a bit late, although that was due to much worse than usual congestion on the walk from the staging area to the start line (which is not a short one).
One of the highlights of this year’s race was that the Castle Dreamlights were turned on when we ran up Main Street and through the castle. This was not the case in previous years, so I was very happy to see it this time (yes, this race begins so early that after running from Epcot to Magic Kingdom, it was still night).
The marathon is always the premier event of the weekend, and so much more so this year due to it being the 20th running. Among the 25,000 runners who gathered at the start line were 95 people who were known as “Perfect 20s”. These 95 people have run each and every Walt Disney World Marathon since they began in 1994.
The course was changed for this year to celebrate the 20th. Rather than going through Epcot immediately after the start, the course instead followed the half marathon exactly up to Magic Kingdom and out. The first truly new experience was when the course entered the Walt Disney World Speedway. The course wound around nearly the entire length of the track, passing many of the race cars and exotic driving experience cars along the way. Exiting out of the speedway, the course then resumed its normal direction toward Animal Kingdom.
By this point, I was really feeling the heat, and essentially downgraded my own race to a “fun run”. I stopped for many more pictures than I had in the past, which was a lot of fun. But the most fun moment of the course took place in Animal Kingdom itself. I had seen runners leaving the course to ride Expedition Everest in the past, but I was always running for time, so I bypassed it. This year, as time was no longer a consideration, I decided it was worth losing 5 minutes to hop on. It was just after park opening, and the ride had just started running for guests. But the normal crush of thrill seekers in the morning was not there, as they would have the cross the course multiple times, leaving the line empty except for the runners. I felt that coaster more than I ever have before, and it was a blast.
The most significant change was next. Instead of turning back to go to Hollywood Studios, we kept going and entered the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. A full three miles of the race took place here. We got to run through almost every part of the complex, including the baseball field (which reminded me a lot of the Disneyland Half Marathon course running through Angel Stadium). Leaving the complex we passed mile 20, which was a special mile this year to commemorate the 20th running. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy were all on stage, and large puppet characters were out along the sides. The mile marker had every medal from previous years along the sides.
After this, the course returned to normal, heading through Hollywood Studios, past the Yacht and Beach Clubs, and through Epcot to the finish. I was over an hour and a half off my normal time, a combination of all the stops and the general slowdown of the heat. But I got my special 20th anniversary medal, and my Goofy Challenge medal.
I always feel so much better after the Disney Marathon than most others, mainly because, being in Walt Disney World, I don’t end up falling asleep. Instead, I get to walk off the pain by heading out to the parks. It is always great fun to see everyone wearing their medals around the park, with everyone saying congratulations to random strangers.
It has been amazing to see how big runDisney has become even in just the last few years. Only a week later, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon took place in Disneyland, meaning many runners already have their Coast to Coast medals. The Disneyland Half Marathon sold out in only one day. I missed it, so will definitely be using the early registration option at the Expo next year. This was not my best marathon (okay actually it was my worst), and the weather made it extra challenging, but in a way it was the most fun. It was my 5th full marathon (it would have been my 6th had this year’s NYC Marathon not been canceled due to Hurricane Sandy). I fully intend to go back next year. If you want to join me, check out www.rundisney.com. Registration will open in the next few months. You can also sign up for other races such as the Princess Half Marathon, the Expedition Everest Challenge, the Tower of Terror 10 Mile, and the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. So get training, and see you on the course!
Michael Truskowski has been a Disney fan for over 25 years. As a technology nerd, he has always been inspired by the innovations in the parks, particularly Epcot. He has completed two Walt Disney World Marathons (including a Goofy Challenge) and counting. He currently lives in New York City. Read more at www.michaeltruskowski.com