March 31, 2011
March 30, 2011
March 29, 2011
March 28, 2011
Prior to the realization that EPCOT Center would be blowing past the funding to build it, the Imagineers at the Walt Disney Company had pretty grandiose plans for each of the World Showcase pavilions. Some of these plans came to fruition, but in the case of the Japan representation, earlier plans gave way to a scaled back version of what was intended. On opening day, the World Showcase section of the park was comprised of three films, one boat ride (the elegant El Rio del Tiempo in Mexico- which was also a victim of cost cutting), and one single Audio-Animatronics show, The American Adventure. In park entertainment from each participating country was always planned from the beginning, but dining, shopping, and cultural experiences would form the overwhelming reason to visit this side of the lagoon. The attraction roster here was extremely light.
In this piece of concept art from the Company annual report in 1975, you can see that the Japan showcase was originally planned to have a real attraction: Meet the World, a history focused Audio-Animatronic presentation that premiered at Tokyo Disneyland. This was to be theater in the round, using the same revolving stage design originally engineered for Carousel of Progress. As with other politically or historically based shows, Meet the World was custom tailored by Disney for its specific audience, here presenting a light glossing over of Japan's role in World War II.
The two images above show an altogether different attraction planned to highlight the beauty of Japan. In this unnamed attraction, a bullet train ride would take guests from the city to the countryside, showcasing the nation from a new perspective. Enlarging the second graphic, you can see that guests would board vehicles that look similar to the ones used for the Peoplemover. The first piece of art shows a version where the guests would stand. Guessing this would be a variation on a motion simulator. Either way, a combination of film and carefully placed props would be used to set the stage for the journey. Having seen a good portion of Japan for myself, I would have much enjoyed this particular ride!
Although neither adventure was ever built, these were not the only concepts thrown about. A long rumored Mt. Fuji based thrill ride was also on the books at one time - and discarded along with all the others. Urban legend says Kodak, one of Epcot's major sponsor's, objected to naming an attraction that would use their main competitor's name (Fuji Film), so the plan was scrapped. The Imagineers considered the same Matterhorn Mountain inspired attraction from Disneyland for a proposed Swiss pavilion. Had some of the original plans for the Millenium celebration come together, there even would have been a smaller version of Tokyo's Ginza district built toward the back of the showcase!
Until the suits decide to reinvest in this esquisitely stunning part of Epcot, World Showcase will remain without a brand new attraction, relying instead on the same type of plan they moved to from its opening. Recent additions of restaurants to both the Italy and Mexico pavilions seem to indicate this disappointing stagnation will continue. Before the next renaissance hits, guests to this side of the park will have to appreciate it for what it is. In Japan, this means enjoying beautiful architecture, sublime food and drink, excellent shopping, and hidden, lovely gardens.
March 25, 2011
This photo from the latest report from Magic Eye shows much progress as the Imagineers finish the exterior building of Ariel's Undersea Adventure. It seems as though it is just the crowning jewel of the remake! The rest of the area is being fully built out to reveal a gorgeous beer garden, beautiful restaurants, and heavily shaded pavilions to enjoy the views. Bursts of flowers are sure to be added as well. All it needs is some period appropriate entertainment and a great salt water taffy shop to complete the environment. What a difference Paradise Pier will be from the barren wasteland found there on opening day, when a walk around the bay revealed one big disappointment after the next and barely a drop of shade.
Don't get me wrong: I wish the seaside carnival theme had never hit a Disney park. Haven't waivered on that- yet. Perhaps my next visit to the park will make me a believer. I'm trying to be open to that idea. With World of Color and California Screamin', already there, adding the Audio-Animatronic adventure with Ariel ups the ante for this guest. (How can you not love the animatronic of Ursula in all her evil glory? I'd say its up there with the Auctioneer in Pirates of the Caribbean or the Wicked Witch of the West in The Great Movie Ride and perhaps even with Mr. Lincoln on Main Street.)
When the suits get smart, and adding both new attractions and permanent extended closing times to the park so we can see it at its best in the late evening, Paradise Pier may truly live up to its name. From disgrace to charming, seems Disney is finally on the right path here.(Photo copyright Mint Crocodile and Magic Eye.)
March 23, 2011
March 22, 2011
March 21, 2011
All said, here is a piece of rarely seen Imagineering concept art for the games closest to the now defunct Pizza Oom Mow Mow. Although the Paradise Pier transformation is almost complete minus a few shops and other theme strengthening elements, we can now enjoy that the past is soon behind us. Just viewing the building for the Little Mermaid attraction shows a new direction. In a few months, we will be personally experiencing the place and not just savoring the photos we see of a finally real Disney park!
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)
March 18, 2011
I was lost in the backstreets of Tokyo. Not exactly the easiest way for an American with no Japanese language skills. Seeing no one in this little whisp of a street. Walking around with my little map knowing where I wanted to go. Finally, I came upon an elderly woman, and I asked her how to get to where I wanted. She nodded, took my hand, and gently led me several blocks away. She slowly walked me to my desired destination! How many places can you imagine that happening? I was thankful and stunned. The power of kindness and good will cannot be destroyed by natural disasters.
Yesterday, I was pondering all this in my reading time, and I came upon the following: "The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea- the Lord on high is mighty." And farther down the passage, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."
March 16, 2011
In California, Michael Eisner's plans to bring in the teens to Disneyland added such significant attractions as Star Tours, Splash Mountain, and the edgy for Walt's park, Videopolis. What to do for Florida?
At Walt Disney World, the story was different. The Magic Kingdom would get its hand slapped by guests when the Imagineers did add the truly scary/fun Alien Encounter. Over at Epcot, the park wasn't focusing on the teens at the time, instead placing its emphasis on the adult oriented Food and Wine Festival and their version of the spring gardens shows found all over the country.
This left Disney-MGM Studios, so Rock N Rollercoaster starring Aerosmith shoved its way into Sunset Blvd. with a building so out of theme but an attraction that kept the teenagers walking this way through the queue. The stretch limo ride is an incredible race through the streets of Hollywood at night. All said, this is a do-not-miss attraction, one that feels as fresh today as when it first opened.
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)
March 14, 2011
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24: 3-14)
March 12, 2011
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)
March 11, 2011
The grand opening of Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom in 1971 had a significant impact on Disneyland in California. Following several years of very impressive attractions and explosive growth in guest numbers, the focus shifted to Florida. With New Orleans Square, the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion and the New Tomorrowland, the risk-taking Imagineers amassed an incredible string of stunning successes. The public was quick to respond with increased attendance and increased spending in shops and eateries. It was now time to focus on Florida where the company was opening an entire resort and not just an individual theme park.
Certainly, Florida's Magic Kingdom used Disneyland's primary attraction roster and general layout as its blueprint with several attractions being slightly tweaked due to placement in a new land compared to the west coast park (The Haunted Mansion) or adjusted for Central Florida's less hospitable weather (It's A Small World). There were a few new attractions for the Magic Kingdom, and one of these quickly made its way to California: the Country Bear Jamboree.
The show itself began life as an entertainment concept for Disney's proposed Mineral King development, but when those plans fell apart, the very corny but clever Audio-Animatronic theater show was placed into the Magic Kingdom's Frontierland. It's blend of country music and hillbilly bears made it an instant hit.
Back in the day when a few years between new attractions was unheard of, the Disney suits decided to clone this Florida gem back to the California park, adding one additional theater to handle the expected crowds. The Indian Village closed, and the bears moved in, bringing a north woods feel to this quiet corner of the park. Along with Teddi Berra's Swinging Arcade, the seemingly Mile Long Bar, and the Golden Bear (now Hungry Bear) Restaurant, the new show created a brand new land that drew in guests- for a season. Interestingly, it was the first time that guests could be in the park and walk beyond the boundaries created by the tracks of the Disneyland Railroad.
When Michael Eisner took over the reins at the Walt Disney Company, he was wise enough to see the parks needed an injection of attractions that would compete with the thrills found at other amusement parks in the area. The fading popularity of the old Tomorrowland show, America Sings, provided the perfect opportunity to further expand Bear Country.
Imagineer Tony Baxter and his team executed an idea for a log flume based attraction themed to Song of the South, an old Disney film filled with charm and controversy. With its deep storytelling, catchy music, repurposed animated characters, and a thrilling flume drop, Splash Mountain was destined to be another hit. The poster above celebrated its grand opening on July 17, 1989. The attraction continues to draw some of the longest lines at Disneyland regardless of the season.
Country Bear Jamboree was quickly losing an audience as guests from the west coast grew bored with the show's hillbilly flavor. The Imagineers tried to reuse the bears by creating a new thriiling attraction of a different flavor (go here), but the budget minded management- the same leadership involved with the creation of the disaster of California Adventure 1.0- vetoed the plan in favor of bringing another Florida attraction to California.
It was a silly old bear that created more change for this little corner of Disneyland. Winnie the Pooh remains a popular, beloved character in children's literature and in film. The Walt Disney Company opened a dark ride attraction in Florida which replaced Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in the Magic Kingdom.
Four years later in 2003, another version of Pooh's attraction appeared in Disneyland, replacing the Country Bear Jamboree, which had run its course of popularity. Had the suits and the Imagineers planned better, Country Bear Jamboree could have stayed open if reduced to one theater, and Winnie the Pooh could have still been designed using the available space more creatively. This would have resulted in two attractions for children and families who chose not to ride or couldn't meet Splash Mountain's height restrictions. Bear Country became Critter Country to better reflect the home of its newest inhabitants. The new attraction's poster, however, did not appear until many years later, when Disneyland management continued to build a fan base for this less than wonderful dark ride.
As you can see, changing tastes affect the popularity of the park's attractions, and this in turn changes what ends up in the parks. What will come next to this area of Disneyland? Who knows, but my bet is the Imagineers still have some new tricks up their sleeves.
Next stop on our grand circle attraction poster tour- the Old and Wild West!
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)
March 10, 2011
March 8, 2011
It's been one of those seasons where life has intense and painful moments. And I have spent months praying for blessing for the people that have hurt me and my family. And I have been praying to forgive and to be forgiven. Many times, this was an act of obedience to Jesus- as He has told us to forgive those who sin against us- just as He forgives our sins when we ask Him. So, out of obedience, I prayed.
I was surprised by peace the other day while praying. As I thought of these folks, I was reminded later in the day that I could pray blessing for them, and here's the kicker, without a shred of anger. There was just peace. Amazing. The very thing I prayed for them out of obedience was the very thing God blessed me with!
In a world where "choice" means folks can choose good or evil, there is also God who is always good and always there right when we need Him. As I learned about Him and His ways once again, obedience is its own reward but sometimes we get to experience joy and freedom and peace jusy by doing what He says to do.
March 7, 2011
Never expected much, but after almost 1,000 posts, what this blog has became is a combination travelogue, diary and journal, chicken scratches on lessons from life, media reviews, and family photo album. Never expected this little project to be something that would draw any readers beyond a few hard core Disney park fans like me! But you have all surprised me by your insights, your friendship, and your desire to make the world a better place. Thank you for welcoming me into your lives- and for becoming part of mine.
Tomorrow, begins year four! Wow...
March 4, 2011
"This is the moment- this is what I was born for...
As I started animating it, for me it's really an expression of my spiritual life.
There's a verse in the Bible that says 'If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away and all things have become new...'
Because it is really about an inner spiritual transformation that's taking place with the Beast. I saw it as a parable of my life."
March 3, 2011
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)
The big thrill there will obviously be the lavish and expensive Radiator Springs Racers, but my hunch is the sleeper hit will be Luigi's Flying Tires - a modern updating of the old Disneyland favorite Flying Saucers. Rounding out the trio of attractions will be Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.
All these fun attractions and the long wait to ride them will certainly create a hungry crew. Yes, there are some fun little places planned to catch a quick bite, but the one clone I'd really like to see from Walt Disney World is not on the agenda for now: The Sci-Fi Dine In. Change the theme from Disney's Hollywood Studios old school B grade horror movies to auto related films, and this drive in themed restaurant is a perfect fit. What could be more fun than sitting in a convertable under the stars while watching film clips and having a nice little meal? Not a lot!
Certainly a great adddition for Phase Two. And trust me, California Adventure 2.0 will be a big hit, and the suits will need to expand the park faster than they expect!
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)
March 2, 2011
It really was years ago now, but in my mind, it wasn't all that long ago that many of us got to be together for Christmas in California. Here are some of the younger ones of the crew at the beach just about sunset. Even this photo represents a now forgotten place in time. Time marches on, and today's activities will be tomorrow's memories.
(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)
March 1, 2011
I'll tell you what it is: the Walt Disney Company suits have finally realized they need to invest in their old dependable cash cow! With Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey now leading the way and the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World coming up fast, the Magic Kingdom must look and feel like everyone's collective memories and better.
If management has its way, the Magic Kingdom will see numbers of guests substantially rise for the celebration and create a wave of nostalgia oriented purchases and renewed passion for the place. Its the type of goodwill advertising a company thrives on, one that can positively affect the bottom line for years. Florida's management is wisely putting its spin on Matt Ouimet's playbook for making Disneyland's 50th memorable to wild success. Smart move.
All this means, the guest experience has to match expectations. The overflowing crowd of guests waiting for the Haunted Mansion have to fall neatly into line and not create the bottleneck in Liberty Square. You know, the mass that has frustrated guests for years. The long neglected El Pirata y El Perico restaurant in Caribbean Plaza within Adventureland now becomes Tortuga Tavern to play off the strong attachment to Disney's hit film franchise Pirates of the Caribbean. Waiting in line for Pooh becomes more enjoyable.
Space Mountain is finally given a dusting over and the PeopleMover name reinstated. Small World's recent remodel and new paint job is not a mistake and neither is the new facade for the perennially popular Peter Pan's Flight. Mickey Mouse even moves to the front of the park, solving the problem of the demolition of his home while Fantasyland finally becomes more than a shadow of what is found in other Magic Kingdoms all over the world.
A cynical World view? Absolutely! For far too long the company has left Florida's first Disney park happily deteriorating and under performing when it should have been polished and cared for, treated like the crown jewel the company stated it was.
There are also signs of this mentality hitting all over the World. The majestically beautiful Twilight Zone Tower of Terror over at Disney's Hollywood Studios finally gets a face lift to return it to its horrifying glory. Star Tours 2.0 on the horizon. Shrubs and small trees are planted around the Hat that dares to exist. One Man's Dream gets an update. New restaurants at Epcot's World Showcase will also help ease the crowds maddened by the overbooking results of the Disney Dining Plan. Meanwhile, Disney's gorgeous Animal Kingdom gets... nothing.
The movement for a gussied up Magic Kingdom moves beyond the gates of the parks. Long abandoned expansion for the Pop Century changes to a sure fire hit Animation Resort. Refurbished rooms at the Polynesian Resort. Hyperion Wharf replaces the failing but once incredible Pleasure Island. And I'm sure I'm missing a few things.
Will Harry Potter's Forbidden Journey partnering with Walt Disney World's 40th make or break Disney's reputation as theme park king in Central Florida? Probably not, but the crown has temporarily been given to the new contender. Will Disney nostalgia win over Universal Orlando's innovation and shear effort to create the spectacular? Ultimately, it is all a grab for tourist dollars, and the visitor stands to win in a competition like this.
Regardless of the cash driven motives, maybe this will signal the return of a Walt Disney World when quality was the goal and not overlooked in pursuit of the dollars the company could extract. A time and place when long term investment yielded high guest satisfaction, when integrity matched advertising, when the promise of the experience was only superceeded by the actual visit. Maybe it is the beginning of a Golden Age instead of the Age of the Golden Parachute for departing executives.