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Established September 1999
Library of Congress ISSN:1533-0753
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Each month, we rummage around in our archives for this featurette, which indulges in a bit of nostalgia, taking you back in history for a glimpse of Walt Disney World and The Walt Disney Company through the ages. This month, in honor of Earth Day and the anniversary month of Disney's Animal Kingdom, we take a look at one of that park's early attractions.
Pocahontas and her Forest Friends, a 12-minute stage show that involved live animals, opened in April 1998 at Camp Minnie-Mickey, which was supposed to be a "temporary land" at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The show, which was presented in the 400-seat open-air theater known as Grandmother Willow's Grove, was originally called Colors Of The Wind, Friends from the Animal Forest. According to Disney Historian Jim Korkis, that awkward title was soon replaced by a more guest-friendly name, which conveniently also featured the name of the star character.
Enhanced by music from the Disney animated film "Pocahontas," the show focused on a variety of live forest animals: a porcupine, a possum, a raccoon, a rabbit, a wild turkey and a skunk, as well as a very large snake. Pocahontas, accompanied by an Audio-Animatronic tree -- Grandmother Willow from the film -- and a smaller figure, Sprig, brought the animals onstage and provided background information on them. The first three or four rows of the theater were reserved for children, who seemed to delight at seeing such relatively harmless animals in an intimate setting. Once a day a highly entertaining "training" version of the show offered a behind-the-scenes demonstration of how the wild creatures were made "stage ready."
Although it was a charming little show (my son absolutely adored it when he was young -- I did, too!), Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends eventually closed on September 27, 2008. And, in fact, Camp Minnie-Mickey itself closed in January of last year to make way for the new AVATAR-themed land coming to Animal Kingdom.
Pocahontas continues to appear in character meet-and-greets at Rafiki's Planet Watch and you can see her in Disney's Hollywood Studios' nightly show, Fantasmic! And here's a little bit of trivia: You can also at least still hear kindly old Grandmother Willow in Animal Kingdom -- her voice can be heard at the Songs of the Rainforest listening booths found at Conservation Station in Rafiki's Planet Watch.
Bobbie Young: My cousin Dawn and I have a tradition of eating at the Plaza Restaurant on the first and last day of our vacation. We have done this for many, many years. This year, on our last day (January 29, 2015), the Mayor of Main Street, USA, the Honorable Christopher George Weaver, announced to the restaurant that the 100th guest of the day was from New Hampshire. Much to our surprise he came over to our table. He posed for a photo with us and rewarded us with a delicious dessert! What a wonderful way to end our vacation.
Jeff Jacobson: My 9-year-old daughter accidentally left her hat on the Monorail from Epcot. She loved that hat; it was from Disneyland and had her name embroidered on it. We didn't realize she had left it until we had taken the ferry to the Magic Kingdom. We went back to the Transportation and Ticket Center and asked a Monorail worker what we should do. She said there probably was nothing we could do until the next day, when the hat might be retrievable from central Lost & Found. Now to the good part: cast member Tim, who had been driving the Monorail, heard part of our conversation and came running after us. He said to my daughter, "Did you lose a hat on the Monorail?" She said yes. He then said, "By any chance, is your name Julia?" She smiled broadly and said yes again. Tim said her hat was in the pilot car of that Monorail and brought us up to see cast member Ralph, who radioed and asked the new driver to please bring the hat back on his next run to the TTC. Julia had her hat 10 minutes later, along with a great story. I'm very grateful to Tim and Ralph, both of whom couldn't have been friendlier or more helpful.
David Ballard: On our most recent trip to Disney World during this past Thanksgiving holiday, my niece lost a tooth on the trip down. When we arrived at our resort, All Star Movies, my wife and I went to check in while my daughters, niece and mom looked at the huge Christmas tree. While they were off admiring the decorations they started talking to a cast member. I guess she noticed the missing tooth. As they finished looking at all the lights and garland they came up to the check-in desk to meet us. When our cast member was done with all the necessary procedures she looked at my niece and said that the Tooth Fairy had left a surprise for her. She handed her a Mickey balloon tied to a Princess Minnie Mouse plush doll. My niece's face was frozen! Then she said, "I can't even!" She is 7 years old! That first cast member that my family talked to took the time to get this together and bring it to the check-in desk without any of us noticing. We had only been on Disney property for about 15 minutes and we had already experienced the "magic." This is what keeps us coming back year after year. I hope the Disney Company never loses this mindset. It's these little things that mean so much!
Darrell Shortt: My family of four and I spent five days in early February with a friend of ours and her children, including an adult son with Down Syndrome. Every cast member was great, from the bus drivers who had to deal with two scooters each trip to the cast members on rides when our friend's son would have a meltdown from the overstimulation. One cast member in particular told his apologetic mom, "Don't worry, this happens every day!" One day, though, while we were at the Studios, he got separated from his mom in the crowd. My family and I are annual passholders and we immediately spread out over the park looking for him while my wife reported to a cast member. It took a little while, but he was eventually found by a cast member in Star Tours and taken up front to meet my son. The really impressive thing, however, happened after we returned to our respective homes. When we checked our PhotoPass pictures from the trip we found something startling. It seems that while our friend's son was off on his own, he made his way into the Buzz Lightyear and Woody meet-and-greet. Even without someone to "translate" his intentions, waiting in line (which he could never do) or a FastPass he was able to meet with Buzz and Woody and take several pictures! It was enough to make us tear up. Disney cast members just seem bred to make people happy and we are very thankful for them!
Thank you all for sharing!
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