August 18, 2018

For Mature Adults Only

F&S% Love! That's what the tattoo on his head says. But you gotta read the writing on the facebook post to get the full intent...

August 17, 2018

Old Frontierland Map

Ever since my recent visit to Disneyland, I've been on quite the kick of how wonderful Frontierland is! (Yes, I'm still working on that trip report. Almost done- it's worth the wait.) 

The revised Rivers of America made me take a fresh look. But it also made me think about the past when the Wild West really lived up to its Disneyland opening day experience. So, take a look at this souvenir book map from my 1957 Disneyland guide. 

This early Frontierland looks like Davy Crockett's world come to life. What a great place to explore! I couldn't have been the only one as I bet young future Imagineers and cartoonists were inspired by the old The Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland and its Rainbow Caverns. Think about the design of Carsland's Radiator Springs Racers. (If you've ridden it, you know what I'm referring to. If not, I won't spoil it.)

Exploring caves, the authentic Indian village, the fort on Tom Sawyer Island or the whole western landscape by mule or train made for quite a day of adventures! I loved paddling a canoe or taking a cruise on the river. (Still do!)

I'll quote myself from an earlier post here: "There was something very hands on about the place, be it shooting rifles, searching for the perfect coonskin hat, or hanging on to the ropes while crossing those pesky barrel and suspension bridges of Tom Sawyer Island. Nowadays, hands on tends to mean "hands on the controller" as Toy Story Midway Mania and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin take prominence at the Disney parks. Sure, those rides are fun, and the parks need this kind of variety, but the simple pleasures of simpler times also have their place. Yet, these kind of smaller attractions are no longer built. With their absence, we are also missing a part of homespun Americana and the opportunity to embrace our own imagination."

Other parks beyond the castle ones should think about what these old school attractions could bring. Tokyo Disney Sea has its fortress explorations, and it is well beloved. Animal Kingdom's Pandora would have been a perfect place for an island to explore. Maybe the next expansion to the area will do just that. Here's hoping!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 16, 2018

KC in B&W

An absolutely huge photo of Karen Carpenter taken for her solo album sessions. Thanks to a friend over at the A&M Corner, this scan is of a photo found inside a hard to find music book called "Carpenters Complete Music Book" Volume One. 

Much like her solo album that was planned for release in 1980 (but never saw the light of day until 1996), the photo is contemporary and fresh. Not a hint of the sugary sweetness critics accused the duo of producing. (Let's be real- "Superstar" and "Rainy Days and Mondays" and "Goodbye to Love"- among others- are sugary sweet?) Her new producer Phil Ramone gave listeners a solo disc which forced Karen to be seen in a new light- and Karen's stylist succeeded in her job as well, allowing us to view her as an individual and not automatically part of a duo. 

A&M Records and even friend and supporter and co-owner Herb Alpert really didn't know what to do with the record. It was just too different. Even too sexual in places. (And Karen helped choose those songs.) The disc was certainly too off-putting to the execs that were used to banking on the Carpenters bringing in the bucks to fund other acts. So in the vault it sat for years. 

Eventually a single was released when the Carpenters Lovelines album came out. They selected the superb If I Had You to promote it. Years after her death, the song climbed up the Adult Contemporary charts on Billboard, proving had it been released when she intended, the disc would have been well received. The collection is full of great but different than you'd expect songs including a near duet with Chicago's Peter Cetera on a tune called Making Love in the Afternoon and a terrific remake of Paul Simon's iconic Still Crazy After All These Years, which takes on new meaning now that Karen's passed on.

Find the disc and ignore the bastardized cover based on the originally planned art and photo. The music inside is a complex gem much like the artist herself. 

August 15, 2018

Retro United Airlines Tiki Room Poster

This Enchanted Tiki Room attraction poster is an older one that features United Airlines. The stylistic approach reminds me of the ancient Hawaiian fabric prints that you find all over. Of course, the classic original Disneyland logo is pretty darn cool as well.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 14, 2018

Horizons Poster and Century 3

Vintage EPCOT Center is certainly popular these days! Even the park itself is still selling 35th anniversary merchandise and they keep pumping out anything that seems its original or retro as long as the cash rolls in.

Here's one of the few attraction posters for EPCOT Center. A rough draft for one when the pavilion was planned to be named "Century 3". Certainly is eye catching!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 13, 2018

Australia was Coming to World Showcase

Australia for EPCOT Center's World Showcase was on the map and in the model! Long ago, unfortunately. As you can tell, the Sydney Opera House would have made a great waterside landmark. But it never came to be, nor did that contemporary looking building that was a version of the American Adventure. If you notice, there's a few other pavilions that are there, including one that eventually showed up in an entirely different location. 

Nice Opera House!

Brazil is coming- and you can see the original model here. But honestly, since EPCOT Center was my favorite Disney Florida park, I continue to love looking at would could have been! I have tons of concept art and more on the blog. Renderings for unbuilt attractions and more. Concepts for Spain, Venezuela, Philippines, Israel, Equatorial Africa and more. (Did you know there were once plans for a Netherlands showcase? Or was that for a different project altogether? That piece is coming later this month or so.)

I just love World Showcase- always have! From the opening of the park, it was just the perfect addition, perfect counterpoint, to the glitzy technological charms of Future World. More to come!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 12, 2018

Retro Magic Kingdom- 20, 000 Leagues Under The Sea

A charming photograph for a lazy Sunday afternoon! On occasion we post photographs that show a retro or vintage Disneyland. These help preserve the past and remind us of all the changes the park has endured as well as its rich history. 

But as you can tell by looking at the photo above, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom offers retro photographs all its own. That park has changed as well! Here's a great skyway show showing Dumbo right next to 20000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage. The bright red cabins contrast nicely to the blues of the sparkling lagoon where, just across the way, the two tracked Mr. Toad's Wild Ride made its home. 

(Photograph copyright FUNaticsTV!)

August 11, 2018

Imagineering Tribute to Robin Williams

The late great Robin Williams. What a talented individual! Here he is as Timekeeper, the title character for the Disney attraction. This really is a beautiful tribute, a lovely Imagineering piece of art by the wonderful Tim Delaney

Robin as Timekeeper in poster form.

All this in preparation for the charming Magic Kingdom attraction at Walt Disney World and another version in Disneyland Paris. It certainly took the 360 Circle-Vision film (and time travel) to a new height in presentation.

The Audio-Animatronics version.

There's a soulfulness, a kindness, and a sweet gentleness so perfectly captured in this portrait / concept art. Robin's been gone four years now. I just can't believe it. Thank you, Tim, for your work.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 10, 2018

Imagineer Harper Goff and His Rare Plans for EPCOT Center

So much detail to be seen here! Imagineer Harper Goff created this beautiful rendering of an EPCOT we will never see. If you click on this huge piece of concept art and look at it closely, you'll find the Netherlands and other unbuilt and interesting design choices. 

This is somewhat of a water based Epcot, if you'd like. It's even more of an urban style showcase than what was eventually built, focusing on classic, romantic architecture as the centerpiece of each pavilion. There's lots of side streets and nooks and crannies to explore. Certainly, the park would have a bustling but intimate feel with its contrasts of open plazas and smaller courtyards and walkways to explore. 

It is very Eurocentric- I can only see China and perhaps Japan in the upper right hand side of the park, perhaps that is Morocco slightly south of those. What I don't see is a U.S.A. pavilion. Do you? Aside from the Mexican temple, I do not see anything for South America or Africa- nor can I find Canada. Maybe you can. Front and center in the middle of the large lake, the classic architecture you'd come to expect looks seamlessly blended into more modern structures. (You'll get a better idea of what I mean when you see my piece showcasing the never built Netherlands area.)

Back to the water features. Instead of just World Showcase Lagoon, you find a main lake plus a smaller one that hosts a Romanesque amphitheater for an evening show. There's canals as well- and if you look closely, an early version of what looks like a World Cruise attraction where there looks to be show scenes built under the bridges. (If it sounds like what was planned for California's Westcot, it does to me as well! Look at that article including Tony Baxter's ideas here.)

The man was clearly inspired and quite successful at what he did, but I do not see much room for expansion aside from what could be easily removed structures on the West and East sides of the park. Perhaps this is why the design that was finally built was chosen. (I really do have to finish that "If I Built Epcot" article. I have one great idea that no one seems to have used yet...)

A simple monorail station seems to sit at the entrance of his park with a large square plaza beyond the entrance gates. Inspired by or vaguely reminiscent of what is now found at the end of the Future World path to the lagoon. 

Would Harper's EPCOT work? Most likely it would. I'm sure there's a fascinating story to be told as to why this version of the park was bypassed in favor of what was built. Could it be the suits had plans for massive expansions and many more countries to be represented? History- and Disney's own documents and concept art seem to give us an affirmative answer.

Come back for that Netherlands piece. And on Monday, some Australia model photos for Epcot. They are certainly worth a look!
Martin Smith, creator of those wonderful videos, has raised the thought that maybe this is not Epcot after all, but perhaps an entirely different project. Could be, although this definitely seems in line with his other pieces. Our on line discussion about it can be found here. If you happen to know more, please tell us.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 9, 2018

Jesus Himself Says Judgment is Coming

Ouch! Jesus himself says it's Heaven or Hell for each of us as we must give an account for how we've lived our lives. In fact, he speaks of both Heaven and Hell in terms of judgment and His impending return more often than you'd first think when you read the Bible:

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.  Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." (John 5:24-30)

The great Apostle John, in his revelation of the future and the final judgement says this:

"Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. 

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:11- 21:8)

Thankfully, this King Jesus also provides a way for sinful broken people- that's me and you- to escape an eternity in Hell without Him. Two very famous verses- but sometimes the second half is forgotten!

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

Yes, me and you are guilty as charged- With the smallest lie to the evilest of actions, we deserve our punishment- and yet we're all given the same opportunity to turn to Jesus, change our focus in life, and start fresh in a way that pleases Him. No one is turned away. The Great Apostle Paul writes to the Romans who were part of the earliest believers:

"But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  (Romans 10:8-13)

It's stunningly straightforward. It's simple. It's life-changing one way or the other, for now and for all eternity. The choice is yours. Choose your own "final destination" (in the words of the classic Haunted Mansion spiel). The greatest part for the here and now is the joy, freedom, and sense of a fresh start you get the moment you give Jesus your life. He's not afraid of your past, worried about your present, or without a plan for your future. He has it under control once you give it to Him.

Look- I love writing about Disney parks, music, my family, lots of things- but nothing you will read on this blog is as important as what you just read right now. Nothing. And nothing you do will be as important as the decision you must make now that you know the truth.

August 8, 2018

Vintage 1960 Disneyland Matterhorn Ad

A very fun find for a midweek post! Here's a Disneyland ad for the relatively new Matterhorn Bobsleds! The vintage look, the retro feel- it's all there, capturing a thrilling bobsled run on the Mighty Matterhorn. Nowadays, it's a rough journey, and the entire track needs to be replaced to make it as smooth as ice. Back in the day, it was a cutting edge attraction found in Tomorrowland and then Fantasyland and back and forth. First found on Kevin Kidney's blog.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Magic Kingdom's Mickey Mouse Musical Revue Poster

One day, I'll get around to compiling all the Walt Disney World attraction posters into one article just like I did for Disneyland. In the meantime, here's a high quality scan of one for the long lost Mickey Mouse Musical Revue. 

When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the park featured a variety of Audio-Animatronic theater presentations- everything from a role call of Presidents to silly bears to this wonderful and charming musical show featuring many Disney characters in robotic form. 

Eventually, the suits shipped the show to Tokyo Disneyland never to be seen on U.S. soil again until the Three Caballeros did finally make their comeback concert appearance at Epcot in the Mexico pavilion's Gran Fiesta Tour.

Friday, I'll post something rarely seen for all us EPCOT lovers. No, I won't tell you now. Trust me, it will be worth it!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 6, 2018

Design Detail: Disneyland's Fantasy Faire

On my recent trip to the Disneyland Resort, you would think all I did was run from attraction to attraction. After all, I rode 26 of them in one long day- and 18 of them were "E Tickets". (How I did it is coming in a post in the next week or so- as well as the last of my trip reports from our recent Walt Disney World vacation.) 

But as usual with every single Disney park visit, I stopped to take in all the incredible little details that make Walt's original kingdom as sweetly charming as it is.

The concept art is equally charming.

Fantasy Faire is a relatively new piece of the park, an area next to the castle that was once the home of the Carnation Plaza Gardens. In spite of the objections of those two think Disneyland should never change, like the Disneyland Historical Preservation Society, Imagineering created a place that fits in wonderfully and creates a much needed space for another theater show and a princess meet and greet. Change is great as long as it is done well and retains the "spirit" of the park's origins.

But there's much more there than that. If you take time to look around, there's a wanted poster for Flynn Rider on the back wall. High above at rooftop level, there's more detail. Figaro the cat from Pinocchio playfully engages the bluebird in a cage. No, they're not static figures but simple Audio-Animatronics. It's touches like these that keep theme park geeks like me coming back for more. And there should be more details like this found in the park next door. Much more effective overall than hitting us over the head as with unneeded transitions like Pixar Pier

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

August 5, 2018

First A Boy and Then A Man

A great portrait of our equally great son. Taken by Scott Laurie Photography.

August 4, 2018

Blue Hawaii

When I took this shot, I had no idea it would end up being used on calendars, desktops, and more. It's just one of those moments in time that captures something very special. God's stunning creation in all its glory. Minutes later, we would discover a large sea turtle coming in from the water. He sat on the warm golden sand letting us watch from a fairly close but respectful distance. What a way to end our last day in the islands!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

August 3, 2018

Friday Morning at Disneyland, 1955

It's 1955, and Walt Disney's new playground, Disneyland, has just opened in Anaheim, California. What a groundbreaking park it is!

Take a stroll down Main Street U.S.A., and enjoy the sights and sounds from fifty years back. A quaint and charming slice of hometown America now disappeared due to the hustle and bustle of the postwar baby boom. Better yet, hop aboard one of those horse drawn carriages to get to the end of the street. But don't forget to stop by the Main Street Cinema and watch those Mickey Mouse cartoons!

Imagine going on a real Jungle River Cruise into the wilds of Asia, Africa, and other exotic locations. A bit closer to home but back in time, you can venture into Frontierland and relive the days of the Wild West. Be on the lookout for Davy Crockett and other heroes of the frontier. Mosey up to the Golden Horseshoe saloon for their outstanding stage show complete with cancan dancers. If you hang around Disneyland when it gets dark, there's nothing like an event cruise around the Rivers of America aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat. (Note: Still nothing like it- but now next to impossible since Fantasmic! came about.)

On the other side of the park is the world of Tomorrow. Going aboard Space Station X-1 will give you a view of earth from outer space as will the Rocket to the Moon. On land, things can be just as treacherous if you decide to drive an Autopia car. Watch out for young inexperienced drivers!

Last but not least, there's Fantasyland. It might seem like an excuse for Walt to push his older and upcoming animated film projects, but the place is filled with things you can't do anywhere else. Where else can you fly with Peter Pan off to Neverland, go on a scary adventure with Snow White, or ride into Hell itself with Mr. Toad? 

Yes, ma'am, yes, sir, Disneyland is a full day's worth of fun- all for one dollar and rides cost about 30 cents each. What a bargain!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.) 

August 1, 2018

EPCOT Center's Japan Omnimover Ride - and More

Let's kick off the month of August with a piece of concept art for a proposed Omnimover attraction for the Japan Showcase at Epcot. Or should I say, let's kick off the month with a gallery full of concept art for EPCOT Center's Japan Showcase.

This top piece from Imagineer Collin Campbell was designed long ago. But it is certainly not the only time Imagineers have looked at adding an attraction to the Japan location.

More recently, as with what's also happened elsewhere in World Showcase, there's been an idea to add even more shopping and dining options to entice guest to spend. More varied (and trendy) dining is certainly coming and has already been announced. Unfortunately the once proposed shopping street never saw the light of day. The art rendered above seems like something you'd find out in the ancient city of Kyoto. This would have been great! Kyoto is just an amazing city, and it's one I hope to return to some day.

A series of pieces for Meet the World.

The original plan for Japan at EPCOT Center was to build a huge revolving theater attraction. It did open but at Tokyo Disneyland along with the rest of the park in 1983, and it was called Meet the World. Think Carousel of Progress meets The American Adventure. Perhaps the suits felt two theater shows so close together wasn't a good idea, and this gave them the necessary excuse to scrap the very expensive plans to build it. Maybe it was the exclusion of World War II that made the suits decide it wasn't a good idea after all.

Matterhorn Bobsleds meets Japanese landscapes.

Perhaps a more thrilling and far less politically charged attraction is to your liking? How about a bobsled run inside a full scale replica of Mt. Fuji? Certainly a giant mountain thrill ride would be a hit. It's been done before at Disneyland in California, and the Japanese themed bobsled was considered as once was a full on Swiss version of the Anaheim favorite. These too were scrapped for a variety of reasons.

The bullet train idea.

In what would have been at the time a very unique attraction, a bullet train tour of the country was considered. If you remember how effective The Living Seas' Hydrolators were at bringing you under the sea, you can easily picture how convincingly the Imagineers could have pulled off a ride like this! Travelogue meets motion simulator in a fresh application.

Closing out this post is a variety of concept art as well as a small model made up to show what the Japan presence would have felt like when World Showcase was to be its own park.

As I mentioned in my recent trip report, I love the Japan pavilion for what it is, but how I would have loved it for what it could have been!

(Art and model copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 31, 2018

New Carpenters Album with the London Philharmonic Orchestra

As reported by the music board A&M Corner, via his Instagram account account, Richard Carpenter announced a new project with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Classic Carpenters music will be used for a new compilation. Hopefully, this is to be released as part of Richard and Karen Carpenter's 50th Anniversary in the music industry. It was 1969 when A&M Records co-owner Herb Alpert signed them to his label. Soon, the rest was history.

Timeless Movie Coming in December

Calling all clockblockers! Timeless will finally get it's two hour long wrap up movie! Lucy and Wyatt and team will get to close out the excellent series in a manner that should satisfy fans while the networks still stick to their "No 3rd Season" stance. One bad decision has eventually led to a smart one. I'll be watching, won't you?

July 30, 2018

Disney World After A Decade Away: Day Five - Magic Kingdom, Polynesian and Disney Springs

Nearing the end of my trip report, but there's still so much to tell you. I was surprised by this day in several ways. It was much shorter (just like this post), but it was another great day.

What a way to start the day!

After a terrific but very long day at the Magic Kingdom, our second day at the original Florida Disney park started early, but it would end up being much shorter than our previous day. Surprisingly, we were all fine with that. 

Splash Mountain beckoned us with an early morning ride due to Fast Pass. We followed it up with another wild ride in the wilderness. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is just that good- and it remains my favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom. In fact, if I had to guess I'd say it was probably everyone's favorite. 

In short order we'd covered two repeat must-see attractions, and we had some time left before our next Fast Pass, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  I couldn't wait to ride the newest coaster on the property. From everything I could tell, I was going to love it.

An unexpected choice with great rewards for people
who dared to move beyond E Ticket attractions.

Corporately, I think we decided on a pretty bold choice: Tom Sawyer Island. My daughter and family had not been on the island last trip, and I hadn't been on it for years. And I mean years. What a delight it was! 

Just getting away from it all was smart. After the short raft ride over to the island, we hopped off and began exploring. The lush dense forest was the perfect setting for an adventure that seemed to last quite awhile but was in fact probably 45 minutes at most. From the lengthy suspended bridge to the caves, the kids loved the sense of total freedom, and we loved the diversity of experience... and the lack of crowds, which we could see forming on the mainland as more and more folks poured into the Kingdom.

Taken from one of the viewing spots in the fort.

Could it be that Walt Disney knew what people needed at the park? Perhaps he realized that not only would a visit to the island be a nice break from standing in line but that it would also be an opportunity for guests to create their own "free form" experience in opposition to the thoroughly thought out and well designed experiences the Imagineers would build. Disney dark rides and Jungle Cruises are manufactured to tell the specific story they want to tell. The Tom Sawyer Island experience is deliberately different.

From a flatly objective viewpoint, the island is nothing more than an elaborate playground- but it's one that appeals to children, teens, and adults of all ages because it's so well done! And don't you love the fact that, at least in Southern California, the island was personally designed by Walt himself? I do! It shows he was a kid at heart, a kid that loved to explore and discover. I'd say it also shows that Walt knew nothing was as refreshing and revitalizing as what God created when the earth was formed. Something about being among nature. Be it the forest, the ocean, or the desert, nothing is as majestic or can be duplicated at the hands of man. 

A real fort you can still enter- unlike the one at Disneyland!

   Yes, he is shooting a gun. 
Politically incorrect for some folks, 
but it was his favorite part of the island.

So, here it was, the beginning of the Summer season, and Aunt Polly's cafe was not open. That was really too bad. Oh, I remember the joy of sitting there on the porch drinking freshly squeezed lemonade and thinking about the next place I would go. Would it be the eerie Haunted Mansion across the river or maybe a stop into the solidly patriotic Hall of Presidents? Those were the days! You could get into the Mansion without an hour wait, and you could sit in the Hall of Presidents without having to worry if some jerk couldn't control himself by having to shout out something rude or crude to a group of robots. 

Long lines due to: 1- Summer, 2- Fast Pass, 
3- An under built park, and 4- Woefully under built secondary parks.

As we needed to leave the island and head toward Fantasyland for our next ride of the day, I took a quick glance over at Country Bear Jamboree. How I wanted to see it, but it wouldn't happen this trip. Count it as another casualty to having to plan ahead for nicer dining locations and Fast Pass reservations for attractions. We substituted it for a ride on the railroad from the Frontierland station to the very well done Fantasyland station.

One of two contenders for the best
part of the New Fantasyland.

I might have mentioned in the earlier trip report that I was surprised by the relative lack of big trees in what is supposed to be a very forested area of the New Fantasyland, the land surrounding the Mine Train attraction. There is much barren concrete, certainly a concession to having to accommodate large crowds and wide strollers. Imagining myself walking into a forest from the castle and seeing Maurice's cottage or that of Snow White, I wanted to be vowed by the "big reveal" as I walked from the older part of Fantasyland into the new one the first time. 

I wasn't. When a major land that defines the Magic Kingdom for so many guests gets revised in such a transformative way, I'd expect only Disney's best and brightest Imagineers to be in charge and to do much better with the project. All this made the new roller coaster a wonderful surprise! 

Riding in the last car, I felt the sway of the cars as I experienced one of the most lavishly themed family coasters. The views of the surrounding area were great- bet it's even better at night- but it was what I viewed inside the mountain that made the attraction as enjoyable as it was. Part coaster, part dark ride, all terrific. The diamond mine sparkled as it should, the dwarfs looked pretty good for projections, and the iconic music set the perfect flavor for it all. Yes, the ride was too short and the lines too long, but Disney has a winner on its hands. A great addition to an already strong coaster line-up.

We had our last Fast Pass for Peter Pan's Flight, and in less than three or four minutes, we took off for Neverland. Compared to what I'd seen at Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, it was very underwhelming- small, cramped rooms, and minimal upkeep. It's a signature park attraction that deserves better.

One last look at Liberty Square.

Our next and last stop in the Magic Kingdom would be Mickey's Philharmagic. The kids were a little skeptical with the 3D aspect as last trip they were scared by it all. Not this time. And they loved Donald Duck being the star of the show. 

Happy to see us- happy to be here!

At 2pm, it was time to leave the park. Yes, it really was that early, and I was sort of, kind of, almost ready. I mean, I could stay in the Magic Kingdom all day, especially after being gone from Walt Disney World for almost ten years. But our destination was the Polynesian Village Resort and a meal at the Kona Cafe. We'd get there by boat.

The short cruise to the Polynesian was sweet! We were the only ones on the boat, and just being that close to the water hearing the waves, well, it's something that Disneyland can never offer and thus makes Walt Disney World a very unique experience. This is when it truly feels like a resort and not just a collection of theme parks. I could tell the kids enjoyed it. Something I really appreciate about these two, each experience is unique and fun on its own, and it isn't necessary to entertain or pander to them. Made our trip really relaxing and special. Was it because they grew up not being catered to that they've learned to enjoy each discover and have hearts of appreciation? I think so.

Even from behind, it really isn't that bad!

Due the all the on line photographs and commentary, I was truly skeptical of what I would discover at the Polynesian Village lobby. Frankly, the is my favorite hotel in all the World, and the classic waterfall garden at the entrance is iconic. What I found in its place was bright, open, cheery, and much more generic than I thought it should be. Yet, after looking at it from various angles, it started to grow on me. Not my idea of a perfect change, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Gone was the resort's unique smell- but they have have just been the old carpeting.

A largely uninteresting photo- until you take a moment to look 
at all the textures and styles, patterns and finishes.

Disney fans rave about the breakfast offerings at Kona Cafe, but we found lunch to be pretty good! Each dish was varied and flavorful, the service excellent, and the ambiance refreshingly quiet and subdued. Perhaps leaving the parks for an afternoon break is worth what it is cracked up to be. We took the time to really relax, and it set the right tone for the next portion of the day.

Classy sign.

Something my wife and I have always enjoyed is taking a day off from the parks to visit the resorts. After a bit, we jumped on the Monorail for the short journey to the Grand Floridian. We weren't in there too long- just enough to check it out and let my daughter and her family see what all the high priced rooms were about. It wasn't their style (or ours), so we changed course and took the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom and a bus right to Saratoga Springs

Magnolias the size of dinner plates.

By the late afternoon, our resort pool was comfortably busy. The water was so warm that it didn't have that refreshing feel to it. It was just wet, if you know what I mean. Still, we enjoyed the down time and really needed it. The comparative calmness there in contrast to our swimming pool time at All Star Sports years back was noticeable. The difference between a more expensive place and one where high school teens go for cheerleading competitions. When you've gone from park to park all day for several days, the break makes a real difference. I may be spoiled going forward...

The springs of the Springs make for a great environment.

After a couple of hours at the pool, we cleaned up and took a boat to Disney Springs just across the lake. It was so convenient to do so from our resort, and as I mentioned, there's something so fun about all the various forms of transportation throughout the Disney World property.

Wow, just wow! We loved Disney Springs and the gorgeously done make over that the area really needed. Well done, suits and Imagineers! Please keep it up and finish the other side. In our minds, what once was a partial day or few hour dinner stop in the past has turned into a full day excursion. Apparently, many others feel this way as well. By early evening, the place was packed, and it was almost impossible to get a dinner reservation. We leisurely strolled the area, stopped in a few shops and stuck our heads into a few restaurants. 

Edison clock.
(Photo from the next day.)

I had really wanted to see the Edison. Just a bit disappointed overall, but I'm sure when its busy and entertainment is happening after dark, the place feels much more retro and steampunk than when seen in the brightness of the late afternoon sun.

Due to the difficulty of getting reservations in advance - I mean who wants to plan out their entire vacation- choices were limited, so we ended up choosing Paradiso 37 for dinner. This turned out very well for us! Delicious tacos and drinks in a fun and festive environment. Good kids menu, too. We would return for another meal another trip, aside from the fact there were so many other new and interesting places to dine. We had reservations for tomorrow at Morimotos (my daughter's pick), so we'd be back. We returned back to the resort by boat as we came, but it was now evening, and the lights shone on the lake in all their brilliance. It was a gorgeous Florida night: balmy breezes, palms swaying, and a star lit sky. A Disney vacation doesn't get any better than that!

Two days left! Next day would be our last time to Animal Kingdom and our first ride on Flight of Passage and finally that long awaited ride on Expedition: Everest. Then, it would be our last day- a half-day at Disney's Hollywood Studios and the flight home. How did it go so fast?

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)