June 2004
Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the June 1, 2004, Issue #245 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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

Happy Birthday, Disney-MGM Studios! May 2004 marked the 15th anniversary of this theme park. A two-hour television show aired April 30, 1989, the night before the public opening of the park, and on May 1, 1989, more than 100 stations broadcast the public opening live. Among the celebrities present were Kevin Costner, Bette Midler, Bob Hope, George Burns, Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Buffalo Bob and Art Linkletter. Do you know which major attractions opened with the park? The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Backlot Tour, Monster Sound Show, Superstar Television New York Street and Walt Disney Feature Animation.

The Great Movie Ride had a pre-opening name of Great Moments at the Movies, presented by Sears. The Imagineers had played with the idea of a movie-themed attraction as early as the 1950s for Disneyland, and at one time it was even considered as an attraction for Epcot. When Michael Eisner told the Imagineers about the concept of the Studios, they already had lots of ideas to discuss and sketches to show him. Disney-MGM Studios was designed to be both a theme park and a working film studio. The very first filming, that of the television movie Splash Two, took place in February 1988.

It's rumored that Disney rushed the opening of the Studios to beat the debut of neighboring Universal's new theme park. As a result, a number of attractions weren't ready until the following year, 1990, including: Star Tours, Sorcery in the Sky (arguably one of the best fireworks shows WDW has produced -- before WISHES, that is), the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure, and the Here Comes the Muppets stage show. There were also daily appearances by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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So how did you celebrate Mother's Day? Breakfast in bed, lovingly made by your husband and kids? A barbecue in the back yard? Or did the family take you out somewhere for a delicious meal? We're sure you had a wonderful time however you celebrated the day. But we're really jealous of Ears to Ears(tm) Forum Moderator Donna "Grandma" Brewer's magical Mother's Day trip to WDW:

Darling Hubby planned something a little different for me this year. Let me tell you about it. First, I should tell you that Hubby sits across the hall from me at work, and in our "lovely" cubicle environment I could hear him softly speaking with someone on the phone, obviously not wanting me to hear. Little did I know that he was on the phone with Disney making the arrangements for an impromptu trip to WDW, including resort reservations (Pop Century) and Mother's Day Brunch at Epcot. He even booked our flight and car rental! And since Epcot was hosting the Flower and Garden Festival, I couldn't think of a better time to celebrate Mother's Day at Disney. It would be as if all those flowers were there just for me!

Sunday morning, Mother's Day, the sun was brightly shining, and we couldn't wait to get to Epcot. We tucked some shorts and comfortable walking shoes into a bag and headed out to the bus stop. As we entered Epcot, I was given a beautiful white carnation and wished a Happy Mother's Day. While Hubby headed over to rent a locker to put our clothes in, I started taking photos of the fantastic topiaries that highlight the Flower and Garden Festival. At the main entrance I was greeted by the beautiful "Magical Gatherings" topiary of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy having a picnic among the flowers.

The 'Mom's Getaway Garden Brunch' was held at the old Millennium Village building between Canada and the UK. This building is quite large and a perfect venue for the event. As Hubby checked in at the podium, I was invited to get out of the heat and go inside where I found lots of lovely air conditioning. It wasn't long before our name was called and we were taken to our table. If you haven't been in this building since the Millennium Celebration, or if you've never visited, it is huge! And it is even more spacious without all of the booths and displays it housed during the celebration. This makes it a perfect place to hold special events.

This is just an excerpt of Donna's story. To read about her entire experience and details about the special Mom's Getaway Garden Brunch visit: http://allears.net/pl/mother.htm

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The 11th Annual International Flower and Garden Festival comes to a close on June 6. Be sure to catch one of the daily free events, which include the Butterfly Release, Ladybug Release and Tips from the Pros. The remaining Flower Power concerts are: The Buckinghams, May 31 - June 3, and the Lovin' Spoonful, June 4-6. Check your Festival guide for times and locations.

Artist Signing at Flower and Garden Festival: Meet artist David E. Doss at the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot through June 6. He will be featuring his three new Disney images: "Mickey & Donald's Fun in the Sun," "Mickey's Ice Cold Drinks" and "Mickey's Dance." Be sure to stop by and say hello from ALL EARS®!



Star Wars Weekends continue at Disney-MGM Studios, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, through June 13, 2004. Each weekend features celebrities from the Star Wars films, Star Wars trivia contests, plenty of costumed characters, and the hands-on Jedi Training Academy. For more information and photos visit: http://allears.net/tp/mgm/m_starwars.htm

Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure remains closed for rehab through June 30.


It's a Small World is closed through March 18, 2005, for a rehab of the characters and sound.

The Enchanted Grove is set to reopen June 11. Until then, the next closest snack foods can be found at Mrs. Potts' Cupboard (soft serve ice cream and cold beverages).

Stitch's Great Escape is slated to open this fall on the site of the former ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, which closed October 2003. http://allears.net/tp/mk/mk_sge.htm


Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur ride will be closed for refurbishment through June 4.

Downtown Disney: Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba will not be performed June 20 to July 5.

For a complete listing of Special Events and Attraction Closures visit:


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by Chet McDoniel

Editor's Note: AllEars®.net presents another in its occasional series, FreeWheelin' Disney, written with wheelchair travelers in mind. Author Chet McDoniel is a vacation travel specialist for MouseEarVacations.com and its parent company, CruisingCo.com, and is himself a wheelchair user. The following is an excerpt from the final part of Chet's FreeWheelin' 2004 Trip Report, which included sailing on the Disney Cruise Line:

After four wonderful days at Walt Disney World, it was time to begin the cruise portion of the trip. Sunday morning came soon, and our bags were whisked away from Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge by about 8 a.m. They were on their way to the ship and soon, so were we. We left at about noon for Port Canaveral. The Disney Cruise Line buses are chartered through Mears Transportation, and these buses can only hold two electric wheelchairs at one time. Disney is great about this kind of thing, though, and we were told they would get as many buses/ vans as needed to get the FreeWheelers to the port. In fact, because they knew we were coming, they had already ordered a second bus before I even mentioned the issue.

The Cabin -- one word: BIG! This is one area where Disney outdoes itself! Most all of the staterooms on the Disney ships are larger than the average cruise line stateroom, but Disney's wheelchair accessible cabins are even larger. I literally had room to turn my wheelchair around 360 degrees without hitting anything! One of the FreeWheelers who stayed in a cabin with a verandah (balcony) said that the closet in her room was big enough to put her wheelchair in! The accessible cabins all come with a spacious bathroom and a roll-in shower. The shower has a hand-held washer and a fold down seat both of which make showering easier. There are multiple "emergency call" buttons around the room in case you need help. There is even one on the wall, down near the floor in the shower. You can't go wrong in any category on the Disney ships; however, you should note that wheelchair accessible cabins are only available in Categories 5, 6, 8 and 11.

Read all of the 2004 FreeWheelin' report and learn how you can travel with Chet and Deb at FreeWheelin' 2005! http://www.freewheelintravel.com/

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Stacey and Robyn Warr and family recently shared this story with us:

In April, our family of eight adults went to WDW for eight days. This included our grandparents who are in their 80s and have not been to WDW in 22 years. Although able to walk on their own, we thought it would be best to rent wheelchairs during our stay and give them a roll through the parks. Every one of the Cast Members, from those in the parks to the hotels, were so helpful with dealing with the wheelchairs. We just wanted to mention a few who seemed to go beyond normal service and were especially nice: We had breakfast at Chef Mickey's, where Contemporary Hotel valet Kevin was very helpful, and where Mickey Mouse himself fawned over our grandmother like she was one of the little girls again. In Buzz Lightyear, Lisette treated us like royalty, as did all the valets at the Grand Floridian, where we enjoyed afternoon tea.

The highlight of the trip was the day we celebrated Grandpa's 84th birthday while at Epcot. We all wore our matching Disney T-shirts we had made, proclaiming his special day. When we first got to the park, he received a birthday pin from a security guard checking bags in our entry line who had noticed the shirts. All day long, Cast Members and other visitors said "Happy Birthday" when he passed by. We ended our day with the best part, dinner at Le Cellier in Canada's pavilion. The food was wonderful as usual (we have made it a habit to eat there every trip). The staff of servers and hosts were very friendly, especially our server, Michael K. Every time one of them passed our table they would go out of their way to say "Happy Birthday" to my grandfather. After dinner, Mike brought him a delicious piece of chocolate cake with a candle in it, on a plate that said "Happy 84th Birthday" in chocolate. But the nicest part was that they also gave him a birthday card, personally signed by everyone who worked there. Not only did they sign and note where in Canada they were from, they left little messages like "Hope you had a great day" and "Come back and see us on your 85th!"

This was our first trip with wheelchairs, and our grandparents enjoyed themselves so much that we would not hesitate to do it again. They were both a little leery about taking the trip at first, but Disney made it so easy for them and for our whole family that they are very happy they went. We just wanted to acknowledge the exceptional Cast Member service and thank Disney for a wonderful experience.

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Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma will be exploring the recently opened Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa this weekend. Anything special you want to know about this new Disney Vacation Club resort? Email us at allearsnet@yahoo.com and we'll see what we can find out. Look for a special report on Saratoga Springs soon!

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Ian Crighton writes: Since we live in the UK, visiting Disney is our treat. When we go, we tend to stay in the Grand Floridian, a beautiful hotel where everything is catered for. Three Christmases ago we stayed for a fortnight and often had breakfast in the Grand Floridian Cafe, where we got the same waiter most mornings. Over the two weeks, we got to know him and exchanged pleasant conversations, but of course your last day comes around quickly, as does the last breakfast -- and on that day, we didn't see our man. Just as we slowly dragged our heels from the restaurant and were walking through the doors to the pool area, we heard a cry as he ran up to us. "Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Crighton, I'm so glad I caught up with you! I just couldn't let you go without saying goodbye. It's been such a pleasure serving you these past two weeks. Thank you for making my job so much more enjoyable." He was thanking us! Wow! That would never happen here. It was his true sincerity and effort in running after us when he didn't have to, even knowing we may never have seen him again (although we are going again this Christmas, he he!), that made that one of our special Magical Moments of the holiday -- genuine service beyond the call of duty, which makes Disney in general the only Magical Place to be.


Darvin and Tammy Young share: We returned to WDW for the first time in seven years earlier this month. What a terrific time! Thank you and your readers for ALL the terrific tips! We were doing the Land-Sea option this time, and our Magical Moment occurred on the cruise portion of the trip. We were awaiting the elevator with a few other cruisers (there are four elevators in a row) and the door on the furthest right opened first. My 13-year-old daughter Katie invited the other guests to go ahead of us, saying that we'd get the next one. Well, you can imagine our surprise when the next door opened and we walked on board -- just my wife Tammy, Katie, our youngest daughter Lindsey, and myself -- and found that the only passengers inside as the door opened were, you guessed it -- Mickey and Minnie! Needless to say our 10-year-old Lindsey was starstruck! She couldn't wait to tell grandparents, aunts, uncles, or anyone else who'd listen! What a memory!


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.