April 2005
Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the April 5, 2005, Issue #289 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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The ALL EARS(R) team periodically receives mail asking, "Whatever became of this attraction?" We went to Lou Mongello, author of the"Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic,"to help us out for this edition of Step Back in Time. This month, Lou takes us back to the closing of World of Motion and the long delayed opening of Test Track.

An original EPCOT Center pavilion in Future World, the GM-sponsored World of Motion attraction, which promised that "It's Fun to be Free," closed on January 2, 1996. This slow-moving attraction took guests on a ride through a number of 2D and Animatronic-filled exhibits that chronicled the history and mysteries of transportation. When it closed with little fanfare after the busy holiday season, the building that housed the attraction was almost completely gutted. During this time, a track was being constructed both through and outside the building. To give curious visitors an indication of what was coming, Disney opened the "GM Test Track Preview Center" on February 13, 1996. There, guests could see concept art and models depicting Epcot's new thrill ride. Most visible was an enormous mural painted by French artist Catherine Feff outside the building -- it was 30 feet high, 100 feet wide, and took her two months to design. The Preview Center promised an opening date of May 1997.

While construction continued on schedule, there were major problems with the ride vehicles. The wheels could not stand up to the rigors of the ride, and the sophisticated computer systems were continually shutting down. A year and a half later, newly designed wheels and completely redeveloped computer software appeared to be working with no problems. "Backstage," the installation of the ride track had begun on March 4, 1996, while the external track was ready for testing 25 days later. On October 25, 1996, the internal and external ride tracks were connected, and just three days later, a one-vehicle ride test had begun. On February 14, 1997, the show installation was completed, with all vehicles assembled by the end of the month...

We know now that Test Track wouldn't open for another TWO years. For the rest of Lou's World of Motion/Test Track saga, visit: http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_tt2.htm

For our Fact Sheet on Test Track visit: http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_tt.htm

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by Chet McDoniel, ACC

Editor's Note: AllEarsNet(R) 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.

All Things New

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World (well actually, my honeymoon!), I got to experience two new attractions, Soarin' (Epcot) and Lights, Motors, Action! (Disney-MGM Studios). I just wanted to give a quick heads-up regarding the accessibility of these two new Walt Disney World features. A previous article from Deb Koma (see ALL EARS(R) Issue #288, March 22, 2005) gives you all the details you need regarding what these two new attractions are like, so we'll just focus on the FreeWheelin' side of things.

We were escorted through a back door on Soarin' as The Land pavilion was not yet open for guest traffic. The inside of the building is very accessible with nice, wide queue lines. One important thing to note about both the entrance queue and the exit path -- they are LONG! Be prepared to go quite a distance, especially on the exit. The paths also go up and down. These are not steep hills by any means, but I mention it because you could get tired if you are pushing someone in a manual wheelchair. My electric chair had no difficulty with any of it.

Inside the theater, you must transfer to a ride vehicle. I spoke with a Cast Member at the attraction, and he said that they are working on a solution for those who cannot transfer (i.e., watching the movie from your chair), but at this time, you cannot be anywhere on the floor of the ride room while the ride is in motion. Now, I transfer just fine on all rides at Walt Disney World; however, this one was a bit more of a challenge. The ride seats are quite high off the ground. In order to get in, I had to pull my chair next to the seat, stand up in my wheelchair's seat and then sit down in the ride seat...

On to Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show! As I approached the show, I was guided around the main line to the left of the entrance. Disney appeared to have wheelchair accessible gates set up for both the main line and the FastPass line; however, for whatever reason, people in wheelchairs were being directed up the exit. Upon reaching the theater we were directed around the corner to a bank of two elevators. Before turning the corner, I noticed a set of restrooms with a companion restroom installed as well. The elevators are quite large, and could fit 3-4 people with wheelchairs at one time. Upon exiting the elevator, we were guided to wheelchair accessible seats... The show was great, and the seats were great. The accessible seats are located about halfway up the theater (from what we could tell), and they provided a great view...

All in all, Disney steps up to the plate once again, and we all get two very accessible attractions. I hope you'll be able to see them soon, and they'll definitely be on our itinerary for FreeWheelin' Disney 2005.

Chet is organizing this year's group trip for travelers with special needs, their family, and friends. He will travel with the group to Walt Disney World and on the Disney Cruise Line, sharing all of his insider tips. This year's trip is scheduled for November 1-10. It includes a 5-night stay in Walt Disney World, and a 4-night cruise aboard the Disney Wonder. In addition, ALL EARS(R) Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills will join the group in Orlando. If you would like to be sent details, just pop Chet an email or phone call. He can be reached at chetm@cruisingco.com or toll free at 1-866-939-4968.

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Almost two years ago, we ran a Souven-EARS item on all the pet merchandise we noticed springing up around the world -- now there's even more! ALL EARS(R) Shopper (and devoted pet owner) Linda Mac paid recent visits to Disney Tails at the Downtown Disney Marketplace, as well as other resort gift shops, where she found an abundance of cute souven-EARS for pets and pet lovers alike:

The stores still carry the requisite Mickey and Minnie (with a bow) Mouse Ears ($7) for your pet, complete with a strap that ties under their little chins. But for your little princess of a pooch, you might want to go for the pointed Pink Damsel Hat with sparkles and a scarf on top, or the Blue Damsel Hat fringed with white fur ($7).

Inspired by Paris Hilton and the way she dresses up her little chihuahua? Then you might be interested in what all the best-dressed Disney pets will be wearing this fall -- a complete line of pet couture. There are little t-shirts (various sizes starting at $12), bandannas (S, M, L $6 - $10), collars (various sizes $8 - $10), and visors ($8). The Princess line is, of course, pink with the Disney Princess motif, while the Tinker Bell line features the little pixie on a purple background and the "Simply Spoiled" tagline.

Want to go a little more casual? Well, dress your doggie or kitty down with a denim visor ($7) and a red Mickey bandanna ($5). Or, if you want to splurge, you can get a set of six character bandannas in a variety of colors (in S, M, or L) for $18.

Once you've taken care of your pet's outside, you can even pick up a few things for their insides.

Have you been meaning to speak to your little darling about their, um, halitosis? Then pick up a tin of Mickey's cat and dog breath mints ($4). Of course, you'll then need something to tote it in -- maybe one of the miniature plush animal character-shaped totes ($16) that have a convenient handle and zipper. Pluto, Marie (Aristocats) and the Cheshire Cat are among your character choices. (These also make a cute gift for a little girl.)

Need a new dish for your furry friends? There are dog bowls decorated with pictures of Stitch, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians and Pluto on the outside. Inside the bowl says, "There is Magic in Every Bite." (Small Bowl $6, Large Bowl $9). Small cat bowls are designed with straight rather than angled sides, and are adorned with popular Disney cats, including the Cheshire Cat, Marie, Figaro, Si and Am, and others ($6).

But maybe the problem isn't what to put the food in -- it's remembering to feed Fido or Fluffy at all. If so, don't miss the wooden fridge magnet with pictures of Pluto and Figaro that asks the question, "Pet is Fed?" with dangling "yes" or "no" answers (similar to clean or dirty dishwasher magnets) ($7).

There's a wide variety of collars, leashes (in the $6-$10 range) and engravable tags (most $4-$5) to choose from -- even a tag that lights up ($5). But if you want to show your pet some fun, bring home a Disney-themed toy. There's the squeaky Winnie the Pooh ($6), or the Cruella de Vil rope toy ($8), sure to please any pet that likes a good romp with his or her owner.

After wandering around the stores, Linda said there was so much to choose from, she didn't know where to start. In fact, she liked everything so much, she ended up buying a Disney Cats mat to go under the food bowls ($3), a Cheshire Cat shaker toy ($6), a Cheshire Cat door knob hanger (with an elasticized tail that cats can pull down and play with, $9), and a Disney Cats picture frame ($20). (The Cheshire Cat's head spins around, appropriately enough for that wacky cat.) "Apparently," Linda added, "I am more impressed with the stuff than my cats, Jr. and Princess Sterling, are."

Note that many of these items mentioned are available at World of Disney in the Marketplace (making them eligible for certain passholder discounts) and around WDW in main theme park stores like the Magic Kingdom's Emporium and MouseGear in Epcot.

For more photos of the Disney Tails shop at Downtown Disney Marketplace: http://allears.net/btp/dtails.htm

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Special Events:

Previews of Soarin' for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Member are April 15-17. For early reviews, see: http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_soar1.htm

The 12th Annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival opens this month and runs fromApril 15 - June 5, 2005. Be sure to catch this year's Flower Power Concerts at the America Gardens Theatre, too. http://allears.net/tp/ep/flogar.htm

Grad Nites will be held at the Magic Kingdom on April 22, 23, 29, 30. This is a special hard-ticketed private party for graduating high school seniors, which begins at 11 p.m. and runs until 4 a.m. Note that the Magic Kingdom will close early on these evenings to prepare for the event. http://allears.net/tp/mk/grad.htm

Kids' DJ Dance Party, a family-friendly dance party, is being held Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 3:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., at the Dock Stage in Downtown Disney. The special parties will continue through the end of April.

Downtown Disney Marketplace "Goes to the Dogs" and celebrates the working dog from 1-7 p.m. on April 9. Among the activities, there will be a special ceremony honoring service dog agencies.


Rehabs and Closures

Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage! will be closed for refurbishment Monday, April 4, through Sunday, April 10, 2005, and reopens Monday, April 11, 2005. http://allears.net/tp/mgm/m_plhs.htm

Polynesian Resort's Tonga Building, which is all suites, has been undergoing renovations for the past several months. Among the changes/improvements: slight modifications made to the King Kamehameha Suite; the conversion of one smaller concierge unit into a Honeymoon Suite; and the makeover of one suite into a completely accessible unit. Construction is on schedule and the building is slated to reopen around May 12.

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Melissa Hatfield: My only child is a senior in high school and will soon be going far away to college. Realizing our remaining time together is to be cherished, I decided to surprise her and her friend, Alex, with a trip to Walt Disney World this past Christmas. We had a wonderful time and they surprised me at Disney-MGM Studios with a special "thank you" gift -- my very own Pal Mickey! When daughter is off at college, whenever I miss her, I can look back at all the wonderful photos we have from that trip, hug my Pal Mickey and be filled with many happy memories.


Annie Macios: My 5-year-old wanted to stay up for the 10 p.m. fireworks, but during the preceding Spectromagic parade, he was so excited he poked me in the eye, painfully dislodging my contact lens. With dismay, we had to leave just minutes before the fireworks. However, as we got on the boat to return to the Grand Floridian, the fireworks began. We had a bonus -- a FREE fireworks cruise that we didn't expect and it was just spectacular. Definitely magical! I'd ride it even if I wasn't staying at the Grand Floridian!


Shannon Schwarzwalder: In October 2004, my mother, my 9-year-old daughter and I went to WDW. On our last day there we were strolling through Animal Kingdom past the Kali River Rapids ride and wishing we had more time to spend at WDW. A Cast Member approached my daughter and asked her if she needed a "magical moment" because she looked sad. My daughter's little face was never brighter! The Cast Member took us to the front of the Kali ride and rode on the ride with us! Then she brought us to the control room where my daughter got to learn how the control panel worked and see all of the safety features and video monitors! Then to top it all off... the Cast Member and my daughter rode on the ride AGAIN together! My daughter received a small Magical Moment letter, which she has hung in her room. My daughter talks about how "magical" that time at Animal Kingdom was for her any time someone mentions Disney!


Kelly Bowles: I am the cheerleading coach for the Fermi High School Coed Cheer Team in Enfield, CT. This past February my team traveled to Walt Disney World for the High School Cheerleading Championships. They spent all year preparing for the trip and they wanted to make the four days there unforgettable. After competing for the first time ever in the competition at the Wide World of Sports and making their hometown proud, you'd think that they would feel their dream had come true. It was not until later that night when all 19 team members (hand-in-hand) and I made our way to the Magic Kingdom to watch Spectromagic and "Wishes" that it all began to hit them. It was the perfect end to a dream-come-true day. I watched all of their eyes tear as they listened to the words explaining how important it was to reach for their dreams and never stop "wishing." They were in awe when the fireworks glistened in the sky above the castle. Many of them had never been to Disney so it was bittersweet. When we returned back to the All Star Music Resort, they all gathered together and gave me a thank you card telling me how much they appreciated all that I had done for them allowing them to take this great trip. They spent the next two days cheering and laughing all over Disney World. When some other teams were only worrying about winning the competitions that weekend, my team was allowing their wishes to come true as they took in all that Disney offered them.


Each month in our WDW Bits and Bites issue we share subscribers' Magical Moments stories. Send your 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.