There is so much to love about Disney! The shows, attractions, the parks, and for many, the simple pleasures of just walking down Main St. USA. For myself, I have a personal love and fascination with Disney History. I am very partial to the history of the company and Walt and his family. Since covering Disney press events and writing all about Disney for the past seven years, I have come to make many Disney friends. In fact, so many I cannot sometimes keep track!
There is one man with whom I have become close friends, and I am honored that he in turn, feels the same. Not only is he a great friend, he has enriched my love of Disney ten-fold; for we both have that same fascination with Disney History. This man is none other than internationally known Disney Historian and Author Jim Korkis. There are not enough words to say how much I have learned because of him! We meet regularly at the parks and spend hours discussing, what else? Disney history.
With Disney’s new movie, “Oz, The Great and Powerful” showing on the silver screen, I cannot think of a better subject to talk about than the author of these iconic tales of the “Magical land of Oz.” For many people who were weaned on the 1939 MGM classic “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, few realize that Baum had also written an additional thirteen books on the Land of Oz. He also penned nine other fantasy novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, an unknown number of scripts (A total of 55 novels in all) plus four “Lost Novels.”
Has anyone ever heard of the Disney Design Center? Well if you enjoy all the amazing events and displays at Walt Disney World, you can thank this branch of the Disney Company. They are responsible for setting up and maintaining all the amazing props that make up almost all events, including EPCOT’s Food and Wine festival, Flower and Garden Show, and special event functions throughout property. Anytime you see displays made up from a special piece of Disneyana, they more than likely came from the enormous warehouse where these treasures are stored.
The history of this department started in 2000 when it was called “EPCOT Events”. In 2010 the Parks Events Operations went Global. Event Development then became the “Design and Display”. In addition to the installation of the above mentioned sets and props, they also fabricate props they might need and are responsible for locations and handle digital media. In a short time, they have become a major factor in creativity.
Walt Disney could without any argument be included among history’s greatest legions of Innovator’s, Dreamers and Showmen. Walt had the uncanny ability to know what would work, and was a stickler for perfection. He was also the eternal optimist. No matter what, Walt always had a bright outlook, even during bankruptcy; it seemed nothing could bring him down. Even when his distractors were telling him no, (Walt’s wife Lillian and Brother Roy as Walt planned “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) Walt Disney never wavered a bit, stuck to his guns, and finished his “Dreams” In the end, he was usually proven right. But even Walt knew that all the dreaming in the world could not be accomplished alone. Since the early days of the “Laugh-O-Gram” studios, he obtained the best and brightest artists and craftsmen he could find.
We have all heard the old saw…”You can’t see the forest for the trees” and I think that it originated in Walt Disney World. The most magical place on earth is literally a treasure trove of visual, audio and olfactory treats for the senses. There is nowhere one can go in the parks that does not contain one or all three going on at the same time. Walt Disney never wanted his Disneyland to be just a place for people to ride the attractions or see the shows. He wanted his guests to be totaled “Immersed” in the experience, to be a living part of the attraction or show.
And the reason that Walt’s parks are different than other venue is that Walt was perhaps one of the world’s greatest storytellers. Well before Disneyland Walt believed that a great story is the formula for success. Even as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were in production, Walt many times acted out scenes from the fairytale in front of his animators and story men to make sure they understood just what he wanted. And this continues on today
It didn’t take long for me to decide what article I would open the year 2013 with. After surviving another Christmas season, I decided what better way to begin the New Year in the middle of winter than talk about the most magical vacation spot in the tropics! And yes Disney fans, I’m talking about Disney’s Aulani resort and spa located on the Leeward Coast of Oahu, about 18 miles west of Honolulu. This resort is totally different that any Disney resort you might have been to. Disney turned to veteran Imagineer Joe Rhode to help design the new resort, because Joe was raised in Hawaii and has intimate knowledge of its culture, people, traditions and history. Unlike typical Disney resorts, you’ll find few references to the Disney Company, or even few signs sans the gift shops that advertised the Disney moniker. Even Mickey and Minnie and the rest of the characters keep a low profile. The idea was to showcase Hawaii’s culture, its people, the land and its history. And Joe Rhode and company have done an amazing job.
Walt Disney World and photography, perfect together. Each year there are untold millions of pictures taken annually at Walt Disney World. These pictures are taken with everything from a $15 throwaway camera to a top-of-the-line Canon 1D Mark 4. And the people taking these pictures come from the ranks of amateur and professional photographers alike. The basics of taking great pictures have changed little since inception of photography over 150 years ago. But in the last 30 years, equipment used has advanced in leaps and bounds. No longer are we shackled by cameras with limited control, and film which only gives us finite amounts of shots per roll. The new digital equipment today, gives us instant feedback with our pictures and the ability to take unlimited shots and the ability to instantly erase a bad one.
After much time, the long anticipated opening of the refurbished “Test Track” is finally here. Originally presented by General Motors, it is now sponsored by another GM division, Chevrolet. GM wanted the new ride experience to spotlight on one brand. When you first arrive, the outside looks very much like the Test Track we all are familiar with. The only big difference is the monikers outside proclaiming the new sponsor.
It’s hard to believe that another Christmas Season is upon us. It seems like just yesterday I was putting up decorations, and getting back from last years’ World Chapter Christmas Party, with the theme, “Disney goes to the Movies.” Our theme for this year’s party is even more magical and amazing. This year’s theme is centered around one of the most iconic variety shows on American television…”The Mickey Mouse Club.” This year’s party is the “Mini-Mouseketeer Reunion” theme. For Disney fans worldwide, it is incredible that 57 years have passed since this family staple production began in 1955. But our party this year was made more remarkable, not for the fact we celebrated Walt’s masterpiece, but the fact that attending the affair were four of the original Mouseketeers that starred in that memorable show!
It’s hard to believe but the Christmas Season is again upon us! At this, the happiest time of the year, millions of families have their plans to celebrate and traditions to follow. For my wife and I, that means two things – Attending two of our favorite holiday parties at the Magic Kingdom: “Mickey’s Not-so-scary-Halloween Party” and our favorite, “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.” And we are not alone. Countless families have included these venues as part of their traditional Holiday celebrations.
As a member of the media, I was an invited guest for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at this year’s press event. The party is a separate hard-ticket event in addition to any regular park pass. Guests wanting to attend the parties, which are held on select nights from November 9 to December 21, should realize that the Mickey’s Christmas party is extremely popular and advanced booking is recommended. Tickets can be purchased online (your best bet to get the date you want!) or in person at the Ticket and Transportation center or at Guest Relations. You can purchase tickets on the night of the parties, but if they are sold out, as many dates are, you will be disappointed.
As each day goes by, the new Fantasyland Expansion is getting closer and closer to completion. Starting out with the soft opening of Storybook Circus, the next phase that guests have been seeing in dribs and drabs is the amazing “Enchanted Tales with Belle” located in her father Maurice’s detail-rich cottage. But is it a show or an attraction? Until Disney gives it a final moniker, I can personally say it is a showcase for the most amazing audio-animatronics and special effects Disney has produced so far.
For the last two weeks, Disney has been giving guests a soft-opening preview of the new land. With unscheduled openings and several announced previews, we got a sneak peak of things to come. My wife and I attended a Cast-only preview of Enchanted Tales with Belle, Gaston’s Tavern, and the “Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid” attraction. Since there have been reports all over for the last months, I will just mention our observations and post some of the pics we took.
What Disney fan has not dreamed of working for the Walt Disney Company? For them, there can be no higher calling than being a part of the magic and wonder that Walt had created. Whether it is a Jungle Cruise Skipper, character performer, or maybe the ultimate dream job, Imagineer, it would be an aspiration comes true. Here is the story of a man who, before he could read, always dreamed of working for Disney, to be a part of Walt’s world. Artist, sculptor, designer and a fine Disney Historian in his own right, this is the account of Alex Maher who pursued this dream to fruition. Mr. Maher so believed in himself and his dream that he made certain radical moves to be close to Disney in the hopes of finding his place with the mouse. Here is his story…
FOOD AND WINE CLASSIC
If you have not yet heard, guests visiting Walt Disney World now have a wonderful opportunity to sample another classic Food and Wine Festival. In addition to EPCOT’s annual festival, the World renowned Swan and Dolphin hotel here at Disney also offers guests a chance to sample World-class cuisine, wines and attend hour long beverage seminars, taught by the Swan and Dolphin’s expert food and beverage managers. In addition, guests can meet and greet with world-renown celebrity chefs in a beautiful outdoor setting.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since EPOCT opened. I remember coming here a month after its bow and have been captivated with this vision of Walt’s utopian city ever since. And I cannot think of celebration the park’s 30th birthday with anyone else but the crew from WDWcelebrations.com. I first met this group of Disney enthusiast’s on April 22, 2008 when they hosted Animal Kingdoms 10thbirthday, an event they called “A Wild Decade”. And that is the main focus of the group, celebrating Disney milestones with like-minded fans at the parks, complete with fun activities, meets and a way for fans to connect and embellish their love of Disney with each other. I have been covering Disney press events and writing about Disney for the past seven years, and I cannot say enough about this group of personable and dedicated individuals. I wrote an article about the site in 2009 and before we review EPCOT’s festivities, let’s take a look again at WDWcelebrations.com.
- THIS TALL
I never realized that auto racing is the biggest spectator sport in America, and the number 2 rated regular season sport on TV. But savvy race fans know that they can experience that same visceral thrill of their favorite sport right here at the Walt Disney World Speedway’s “Richard Petty Driving Experience”, where they can drive or ride shotgun in an authentic racing stock car. But when I atteneded a press event here at the Walt Disney World Speedway, home of the Richard Petty Driving Experience, I came to realize why. The event was to showcase a brand-new driving experience for the kids…The “Junior Ride-Along” Now kids’ ages 6years thru 13years can experience the same thrill that their parents have experienced since the program started in 2000. But a quick history of the sport and the speedway is in order.
Attention all Disneyana collectors! Located just 30 minutes from Walt Disney World is an amazing Honey-Hole of Disney collectables all under one roof. If it is Disney you want, Disney is what you will find. Virtually anything Disney can be found here, from one-of-a-kind items, retired items, signs, posters, figurines, etc. I would have to print a catalog to list everything available. But the story behind this remarkable store is a magical as the merchandise is sells.
Walt Disney has left us with some of the world’s most beloved characters. We all know Mickey Mouse, the character that started it all, but next to Mickey, one of the most beloved and recognized is Tinker Bell. Tink, as she is sometimes called, has become the symbol of “Disney Magic” ever since her debut in the 1953 Disney classic “Peter Pan” But like many stories and characters in Walt’s stable she was not a Disney creation. Walt was perhaps the world’s greatest storyteller, and used his creative genius along with artistic license to mold many non-Disney stories and characters into his idea of how they should be portrayed.
Tinker Bell was the notion of Scottish author Sir James Matthew Barrie. Author Barrie wrote the story “Peter Pan or The Boy who wouldn’t grow up.” Inspired by his neighbor’s sons, the Llewelyn Davis boys, he penned a tale of a boy and girl (Peter Pan and Wendy Darling) who had magical adventures in a fairy tale world of Neverland. This was a play first launched in December 27, 1904. From this play and story, Barrie wrote the novel “Peter and Wendy.” But it was the minor character of “Tinker Bell,” a small fairy living in Neverland who had a romantic interest in Peter and was extremely jealous of any girls around him, including Wendy that morphed into the Tinker Bell we know today.
On August 10, Disney opened its third section of the New “Art of Animation Resort, “The Lion King” Themed after the 1994 Disney blockbuster movie of the same name. This section is beautifully themed as its counterparts, Finding Nemo and Cars. The two buildings, located to the left of the Animation Hall is the only section without its own pool, however the Big Blue Pool, Cozy Cone pool and the soon to be opened, Flippin’ Fins pool are a short walk away.
The whole area is themed as an African Savannah and the Imagineers did a fantastic job. Both buildings sport beautiful murals on their sides, and sculptures of all major characters in the film are all about. There is an elephant graveyard display that is amazing, the detail is awesome and the kids (and adults!) are going to love this new section. The new resort section has 320 suites. (For full detail of the resort, see my article…Disney’s “Art of Animation Resort” officially opens…on this site)
Most people think of the Walt Disney Company as the World’s largest theme park operators and the home of Mickey Mouse. But the Company is so much more than that. Since its inception 1923, Walt Disney has always contributed to his community and helping out the less fortunate. And this trend continues today, and Walt would be very proud indeed to see this. For more than 20 years, the Walt Disney Company has been sponsoring an annual “Back to School Supply Drive” here in central Florida, donating millions of school supplies and backpacks to kids in need, thus giving them the tools they need to succeed in school. This year, the Disney Company purchased 13,000 school backpacks and Cast Members donated a record 3.1 million supplies for the five counties. Today, at a press event Disney was all set to donate backpacks and school supplies to the kids in need.
There is perhaps no part of Walt Disney’s legacy more ingrained into the American psyche, sans Mickey himself, than the Mickey Mouse Club. This ground-breaking children’s variety show was conceived by Walt and produced by Walt Disney Productions. The original series ran for four years on the ABC television network from 1955 until 1959. Millions of baby boomers (and their parents) were glued to their sets, with Mickey Mouse Ears on while the Mouseketeers (and in some cases, “Meeseketeers and one big “Mooseketeer”) entertained them with music, cartoons, comedy, newsreels and talent skits. And leading the Mouseketeers were the hosts, Head Mouseketeer Jimmy Dodd and his helper, big Mooseketeer Roy Williams.