April 2003
Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

by The AllEarsNet Staff

Feature Article

This article appeared in the April 1, 2003, Issue #184 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Ever wonder what Walt Disney World was like way back when? We rummage around in our archives for this monthly feature, which takes you back in history for a glimpse of Walt Disney World through the ages.

Boat Building Disney-Style -- In ALL EARS®' March 2003 Bits and Bites issue (Issue #180), we learned about the building of the Richard Irvine... we now continue from a 1973 issue of Eyes and Ears, the Walt Disney World Cast Member publication:

"Once the Richard Irvine was completed, Tom Sawyer Island was getting ready to open and we needed three rafts to commute guests back and forth from this attraction. Although our rafts look like they are made from logs, the only real wood on them are the logs along the sides. The rest is made of steel and fiberglass and they are powered by natural gas engines.

"If you stopped by the Metal Shop today, you would find many men busy working on the first of two new passenger launches. These 23-ton launches will transport guests between the Polynesian Village, Contemporary Resort, and Fort Wilderness to a new attraction opening soon... Treasure Island." (Editor's Note: Treasure Island was eventually better-known by another name: Discovery Island.)


Ever looked at the flags blowing in the breeze at the top of the Wilderness Lodge? Ever wonder what the view must be like from there? Well, the lucky members of the "Flag Family of the Day" don't have to wonder any more! When you check into the Wilderness Lodge Resort, be sure to ask if there's any chance you can be the Flag Family of the Day during your stay. (Sorry, this isn't something you can set up before you check in.) The lucky family climbs all the way up (and we do mean ALL the way up) to the roof of the lodge to help with the flags.

Mary-Anne Vargo writes: Just wanted to let you know that per the info on your website, we were the Flag Family recently at the Wilderness Lodge, and Ranger Stan sends his best to you personally! It was a wonderful experience for my husband and me, and especially for our 6-year-old son who helped with every flag. Thank you so much for putting this info out there -- you truly helped make a family memory!

Editor's Note: For those of you who haven't met Ranger Stan, he is an incredible Cast Member at the Wilderness Lodge. Stan works several days a week (usually Thur/Fri/Sat) and often gives tours of the Lodge. Stan doesn't have internet access, so the way we keep in touch is through other guests at the Lodge. Be sure to stop by the Bell Services stand and say hello to Stan from Deb!

By the way, AllEarsNet is starting a Flag Family Photo Scrapbook! If you have been atop the Wilderness Lodge and have a photo to share, please send it to: FlagFamily@allears.net Be sure to include what names you'd like listed, the month and year of your visit and a little story about your experience.


One of our favorite times of the year to visit Epcot is during the annual Flower and Garden Festival. This year's festival, which begins on April 25, will be the 10th anniversary! New this year is the interactive and kid-pleasing Disney's "DogGone" Maze, which will be located in the Rose Garden walkway and will feature many favorite canine Disney characters as topiaries, such as Pluto and Goofy. Flower Power concerts return once again to the America Gardens Theatre. If you plan to visit WDW from April 25 - June 8, be sure and visit Epcot! ALL EARS® Senior Editor Debra Martin Koma will be covering the festival for ALL EARS on its opening weekend -- keep your eyes peeled and be sure to say hello if you spot her (she'll be sporting the bright blue AllEarsNet logo on her shirt!).


Disney's Animal Kingdom will announce the debut of a female anteater from the San Antonio Zoo later this month. The animal, which has been in quarantine for a short while now, came to Disney through the Species Survival Plan, an American Zoo and Aquarium Association program that supports survival of many wildlife species through managed breeding. Once the female becomes part of the habitat, she will be rotated on and off stage with the male anteater for approximately 8 months. Anteaters are solitary creatures that only "socialize" during breeding season. The hope is that these two will get along and produce many little anteaters at the Animal Kingdom.


Seldom a week goes by that someone doesn't email asking how their family can become the Grand Marshals of the Magic Kingdom afternoon parade. Don't we wish we knew the secret? Unfortunately, there seems to be no set formula for winning this coveted honor! Luck smiled down on Gabrielle Hainey and her family one April morning, though. She recounts:

"Wonderful memories surface when thinking of any trip we have taken together, but few are fonder than those that we have experienced, we Haineys Four, at Disney World. Many years have been favorites because they were a "first". Like the year of our first family vacation -- a young, married couple with our first child. Or the beautiful spring that we introduced my husband's parents to Disney for the first time... Our first April at The World [we were] afraid to expect too much, but too full of childish spirit to expect anything less than the best vacation yet. As always, we headed off to Magic Kingdom first. Determined to orchestrate our own series of notable "firsts," we decided to take the trolley to the end of Main Street (our first time doing that) and set about the task of doing things we'd never done before.

"Our trolley was the first of the day, surprisingly enough! Wow! Our trolley driver was full of energy and aimed to please. So when she asked if she could answer any questions, we fired away. How disappointed we were to learn that the Mike Fink Keelboats AND the Riverboat were not operating. Looked like those "firsts" would have to wait until our inevitable next visit. Meanwhile, excitement was brewing all around us as visitors assembled to see the first show of the day in front of Cinderella Castle. We wanted to see it too -- our first time to stop and enjoy this particular show. We didn't want to answer any more questions about where we were from and how long we'd be in Orlando and which resort we were staying at we wanted to experience Disney! But our driver's next question put smiles on our faces for the rest of the trip: 'How would you guys like to be Grand Marshals in our parade today?' After our heads stopped volleying back and forth looking at each other in disbelief and we picked our jaws up off Main Street, we managed to utter a spirited 'YES!'

"Seeing the Magic Kingdom from the perspective of participant rather than spectator was unbelievable and one memory that will never be forgotten. It was exhilarating and fun and exciting and... well, as you can imagine, magical. What first will our next visit hold? We'll find out when we take our first (and last) newborn son in the fall (due in May '03)! Here's to The Mouse, The Magic and The Memories!"


Last week's article on the Overlooked Attractions at Disney's Animal Kingdom (ALL EARS® Issue #183) sparked a flurry of reader mail with some other thoughts about the theme park, as well as ideas on even more things that shouldn't be missed:

Tim W.: Good article on the least-visited park in WDW. I agree totally about the quality of the experience being unique and truly rewarding. When people tell me they are going for a short visit, I always strongly recommend AK over Epcot or Magic Kingdom (unless they have toddlers). I find the problem is that the average traveller EXPECTS their theme park experience to be one of passive participation, where they can sit back and be amazed. AK requires you to put out some effort on your own to fully enjoy your time there. The shows are great, the atmosphere is truly wonderful and relaxing, and the attractions are all well done -- yes, even Dinoland is fun! (The prizes were of very good quality on our last visit, compared to the cheesy junk you get at an actual carnival.) One small problem is the lack of a good theme dinner restaurant in AK. Rainforest Cafe is OK, but in my opinion, it is a stimulation overload, which is something you DON'T NEED at the end of a long Disney day. Keep up the great work!

Tricia L., from Maine: My husband and I and our two girls (3 and 8) were at Animal Kingdom last year in April. We thought it was wonderful. The Tree of Life with all the animals -- it was very interesting to see how many animals we could see, but our best highlight of Animal Kingdom was the safari ride. We had a long wait, but were very rewarded in the end. We went on the ride first thing in the morning when the park opened and got to see quite a few of the animals because they were feeding at that time. We went back three more times before we left and also made that our last thing we did before we left to come home. We enjoyed Animal Kingdom almost as much as Magic Kingdom. My now 4-year-old still watches the safari ride on the video camera weekly.

Shannon Dill: You are right on with your take on Animal Kingdom! My family loves taking it all in. The first time I was there, as we walked over the bridge into Harambe, I was taken aback by the authenticity -- even down to the smell! On our last trip, Wes Palm was the big hit. It was my daughter's 7th birthday and he must have spent 20 minutes with her -- including having Baloo the Bear do a special birthday dance while all the guests sang Happy Birthday! The video footage is priceless! As a guest, I hope that Animal Kingdom remains "undiscovered"as a stockholder, I hope that everyone falls in love with it as we have!


Each month in our WDW Bits and Bites issue we share ALL EARS® subscribers' Magical Moments:

Kim Adams writes: Last November we headed to WDW to celebrate my daughter's 16th birthday. The only special thing we had planned was to get her a birthday button at the first park we went to, Animal Kingdom. I can't begin to tell you what wonderful attention she received just because of that one button. Everywhere she went the CMs wished her a Happy Birthday. At Rafiki's Planet Watch a CM even gave her one of his Disney pins for her birthday. The greatest surprise came when we rode Rock 'n' Roller Coster about 15 minutes before the park closed. The CM noticed my daughter's button and chatted with her, asking her name and how old she was. When we boarded the ride the CM announced it was Alexa's 16th birthday and everyone there applauded! After the ride was over, a CM came up to us and told us to wait. After everyone was gone he made a little speech about how since she was celebrating her birthday at WDW where magical things could happen, they wanted her to take the last ride of the night! They then pointed us to a tunnel that took us back to the start of the ride. When we got to the loading area they were holding the ride for us, and a CM told us to be sure and take the last car, for the best ride. The whole ride really was magical, and something my daughter will always remember! What a great birthday!

Anna M. Jones shares: On our trip last September my fiance, Art, and I had gone to the Magic Kingdom for our first day. Art got his hair cut at the barber shop right as we entered the park, even getting the finishing touch of having his hair turned blue and pixie dust to finish it all off. As we walked through the park that day many people commented on his hair and wanted to know where he got it done. During the Share a Dream Come True Parade, Cruella DeVil pointed at him from her bubble and mouthed the words "nice hair." This was all it took to send the grown man next to me jumping up and down with joy. The magic of that day lasted our whole vacation and we can't wait to go back again.

Send your Magical Moment story to allearsnet@yahoo.com


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.