May 2005
WDW Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the May 3, 2005, Issue #293 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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Ever wonder what Walt Disney World was like back when? 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 Person of the Century."

Who is the Person of the Century? We may never know. I recently received the following email:

"Dear Lou:

I remember casting a vote in Epcot somewhere for the Man of the Millennium or something like that... what was that for?"

Ah, yes . EPCOT Center in the early 1990s I remember it well for the most part, anyway.

EPCOT Center (yes, that's what is was called back then), was still trying to define itself. Far from being the fantasy world that the Magic Kingdom laid claim to be, it was a characterless, shiny compilation of pavilions that seemed to focus less on entertaining than on informing. "So, wait a second, Mom you're taking me to Walt Disney World to LEARN?! It's my summer vacation!" Well, that was part of Disney's new park's problem -- how to convince people that it wasn't part educational and part world's fair.

CommuniCore (short for Communications Core, of course), was located behind Spaceship Earth in two buildings, and in 1994, was transformed into what is now Innoventions. Presented by Bell Systems, it featured a number of interactive, "futuristic" exhibits highlighting advances in networking, communications, computers and more. CommuniCore West featured demonstrations of travel services from American Express, Exxon's Energy Exchange, and an ongoing, interactive poll with quite a grandiose title.

On January 14, 1990, guests could begin to cast their vote in CommuniCore for the "Person of the Century," from a list of 89 nominees. Conducted at various kiosks, the poll asked visitors to cast votes based on who they felt was the most influential person over the past 90 years. Some of the nominees included Thomas Edison, Mikhail Gorbachev, Michael Jackson, Lucille Ball, Winston Churchill, Marie Curie, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Theresa. Guests could also (for a short time) write in their own nominations.

Want to read more? The entire article can be found at:

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We recently asked readers to tell us which WDW park they'd recommend for the 4th of July fireworks. Here's what they had to say:

Overwhelmingly (67%), folks voted for watching Wishes at the Magic Kingdom as their top choice for celebrating the July 4th fireworks displays at WDW. Epcot [3]received 24% of the vote and the remaining 9% was split between the Disney MGM-Studios, Downtown Disney and "other"! Of the 67% who chose Wishes, 55% voted for actually being in the Magic Kingdom, and 11% recommended enjoying the fireworks from one of the Magic Kingdom resorts. These results are fairly consistent with the survey we ran several years ago (before Wishes) when 60% voted for the Magic Kingdom and 30% voted for Epcot.

We also asked you to tell us why you chose the park you did and to be more specific as to the location you would watch them from. Here's a snippet of your responses:

--Magic Kingdom is just the place to be. It is where it all started. The castle is so beautiful and just standing anywhere along the paths with a Dole Whip to cool off the warm summer night is the best.

--We have always watched the fireworks from the beach or the boats that travel from the campgrounds to the hotels on the water. It is peaceful and pleasant there, and my children can play in the sand with other children. We meet lots of different people from all walks of life (different states and countries) and you can converse with them while relaxing in your chair. It really is a magical experience.

--Epcot is the only place I have seen the 4th of July fireworks. They were great! After the usual fireworks they turned special lighting on the American Adventure and had a great red, white and blue themed firework display to Sandi Patty singing the Star Spangled Banner. It was very moving; many people had tears streaming down their faces. It was a night I will remember always.

--We went to the Disney-MGM Studios last 4th of July because almost everyone else must have been at the Magic Kingdom. We walked right on the rides or had a five-minute wait. It was fabulous. We watched the fireworks from the courtyard in front of the Mickey hat. It was crowded, but we sat on the ground and had an unobstructed view.

--Last year we stayed for the first time at our Saratoga Springs Resort as Disney Vacation Club members. We watched the 4th of July fireworks from the balcony of our grand villa. I cannot express how wonderful, thrilling and absolutely breathtaking it was that night. It seemed as if we were a part of the fireworks; they were just that close. And to walk around and see the people on the grass and milling about, and having that warm feeling of just being at WDW, is something I'll never forget. We're doing the same thing this July!

For greater detail visit:

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So you're heading down to Walt Disney World this month -- lucky you! The Epcot Flower & Garden Festival is in "full bloom." Our Souven-EARS Shopper Linda Mac came up with a quick assortment of items to take home to the ones you might have left behind:

If you're looking for something unusual and not necessarily "Disney," the Festival Center (in Innoventions West) is your best bet. Take a stroll around and browse through some of the exhibits for hand-crafted souvenirs, like the little mouse characters made by The Attic Mouse (Karen Hill from Celebration, Florida). The adorable tiny rodents are dressed in get-ups ranging from bridal gowns and tuxedos to pizza chefs' hats (starting at $15). The Egg Man, another exhibitor, features intricately hand-painted, solid wood eggs, ranging from $25 to $60. There's a variety of other arts and crafts, including pottery, fine artwork and all styles of prints. We especially enjoy the work of ALL EARS® advertiser David Doss, who features Mickey Mouse motifs in many of his landscapes and beachscapes. (Note that not all exhibitors display items for the entire Festival run.)

If, however, you're looking for a memento that is exclusively from the Flower & Garden Festival, you can't beat the adorable plush "topiary" Mickey ($10), with his grass-like shaggy green fur. Also eye-catching are the Flower & Garden Festival coffee mugs ($12), made to resemble small terra cotta flower pots, adorned with the festival logo, Gardener Mickey and his pal Pluto.

For the gardener in the family (and maybe that's Mom -- remember this weekend is Mother's Day!), you can pick up some nifty gardening "grip" gloves ($25) or an oversized sturdy canvas tote ($38) with the festival logo. There's also a taupe-colored cap ($19) to protect sensitive eyes from the sun, decorated with the Mickey head maze that's been used as one of this year's festival designs.

For kids they have great "do it yourself" kits for building a birdfeeder ($10 and up) or baking a cake ($8) (gingerbread, blueberry, cranberry orange, carrot and "friendship bread"). There's also a convenient, all-in-one gardening kit for the littlest green thumb in your family, complete with trowel, rake, gloves and watering can ($20).

Finally, for something completely different, they have some unusual Epcot "Eycatchers" (their spelling, not ours!). These are multi-colored suncatchers in a number of different shapes, like shamrocks, diamonds, and whimsical carousels, ranging from $24 to $46.

You'll be able to get this merchandise, and many other unique items, at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival through June 5, 2005.

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You might be thinking to yourself, "Whatever happened to that book ALL EARS® editors Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma were going to write about special needs travel to Walt Disney World?"

Wonder no more -- it's coming soon!

Writing PassPorter's Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs over these last eight months has been a long, intense, but ultimately fulfilling process. We've interviewed so many vacationers, gathered anecdotes, conducted surveys, and made repeated on-site visits to Walt Disney World. We've checked and double-checked our data. And we have pulled together what we believe is the most accurate and thorough information available -- information that will help travelers with special needs have the best Walt Disney World vacation possible.

The result of our efforts is now under review by nearly 40 of the harshest critics we could find -- people with special needs themselves who have traveled to Walt Disney World. They are reviewing the book for its accuracy based on their own knowledge of and experiences with special needs as diverse as: ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Special Diets, Allergies and Asthma, Mobility and Size, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia, Vision and Hearing Impairments, Fears, Motion Sensitivity, and many others.

Once the review phase is complete, the book will head to the printer and should be published in August 2005.

We'll soon be accepting pre-orders -- watch this newsletter for details.

If you have questions or would like further information about the book, please visit:

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IN THE 1950s
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B. Cheny recently wrote ALL EARS® to share his memories of Opening Day at Disneyland. Since Disneyland is kicking off its 50th anniversary "Happiest Celebration on Earth" this week, we thought it would be appropriate to share his thoughts with you:

Our family was among the 35,000 invited guests for Opening Day in July 1955; I was 8 years old, my brother, 11. Unfortunately it was a mess. The 2-1/2 hour backup on the Santa Ana Freeway made us arrive from North Hollywood at the completely full parking lot at about 1:30 in the afternoon. My brother and I were unable to get on any rides, since they either broke down (Mark Twain Riverboat) or were hopelessly congested. The rides were free but, as I said, unreachable.

The highlight of Opening Day for my family was the TV broadcast on which my brother and I appear, once with Bob Cummings from Tomorrowland, and me by myself with Heinz Haber (German rocket scientist) in a mousetraps-and-pingpong-balls demonstration of a "chain reaction." I would pay real money to have a tape of the broadcast, since my memories of 50 years ago are fading fast.

A much more memorable occasion was the Studio Party for employees and their kids in October 1957. A tent was set up in the picnic area and the Mouseketeers entertained us. Jimmy Dodd was MC, and although Annette was absent, we got Darlene, Cubby and at least six others. Jimmy made periodic announcements of the score of the ongoing World Series game between the Yankees and the Braves. After the party, we kids lined up to shake Walt's hand. My memory is of a dapper, broadly smiling Walt sincerely pleased just to meet me.

To read the full article visit:

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Special Events:

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival continues, with Flower Power Concerts by The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie, May 2-5; Gregg Rolie Band, May 6-8; and The Lovin' Spoonful, May 9-11. Concerts are at the America Gardens Theatre at 5:45, 7 and 8:15 p.m.

NOTE: Due to Epcot's early closing on May 5 (the entire park closes at 3 p.m. for a press event), the Flower Power Concerts on that day are at noon, 1:15 and 2:30 p.m.

This coming weekend (May 6-8) the Great American Gardeners series features Raymond Western. A Guerlain perfume specialist, Western offers insights into the world of fragrance and the intimate relationship between plants and perfume, such as those displayed at the Fragrance Garden located at the France pavilion. Also, it's Mother's Day Weekend. The Festival Center will feature floral arrangements at the Mother's Day Flower Show. Moms will be treated to a flower and a photo on May 8.

The Happiest Celebration on Earth officially kicks off May 5 at all four Disney theme parks around the world. ALL EARS ®"reportEARS" will be sending us the latest from both the public and press events. Check for details and photos during the week.

Star Wars Weekends begin the weekend of May 20-22 and run the following weekends through June 10-12. The event will feature Star Wars actors and other creative talents who will take part in meet-and-greet sessions and Hollywood-style motorcades. For details visit:

Danskin Women's Triathlon -- May 14-15: Now in its 16th year (and sixth at Walt Disney World Resort), the Danskin Women's Triathlon is the world's largest and longest-running multi-sport series. The 2005 series opener at Walt Disney World Resort will include some 1,500 participants competing in a 400-yard swim at Seven Seas Lagoon, a 12-mile bike ride between Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom, and a two-mile run inside Magic Kingdom. A portion of all registration proceeds is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. For more information, visit

Florida Half-Ironman Triathlon -- May 21-22: The Florida Half Ironman returns to Walt Disney World Resort for the second year with elite competitors vying for a $25,000 pro prize purse and 30 qualifying spots to the 2005 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The race starts and finishes at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and includes a 1.2-mile swim through Bay Lake, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run. For more information, visit


Rehabs and Closures:

Peter Pan will be closed May 22 - 26, 2005.

The south garden wing of the Contemporary Resort begins a long rehab, starting on May 30 and continuing until October 31, 2005.

The Magnolia Golf Course will be closed from May 9 to September 10, 2005. Work on the course will include resurfacing greens, laser-leveling tees, extending tee boxes and building new tee boxes, all in preparation of the FUNAI Classic to be held in October.

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Kris in St. Louis: We took our 4-year-old to Cinderella's Royal Table and we arrived while Cinderella was in the lobby downstairs. We didn't get to see her due to her scheduled appearance outside. We asked our server when she would return so Sydney could get her autograph. He said he'd let us know immediately following her appearance. Well, he ran to our table said, "Now, now!" This must have been very comical for the whole restaurant because we jumped up, dropped a chair, grabbed Sydney mid-bite, pulled our cameras out and dashed to the elevator. We entered the elevator and just as we reached to press down, a beautiful white glove entered and a sweet voice said, "May I ride with you?" She came in, held Sydney's hand and talked with her all the way to her throne. Sydney sat with her and talked for a long time. I cried. I think I was more excited than she was. When we returned, many asked what had happened. We said, "We just had a Cinderella Moment."


Stacey Nobrega: We were eating at the Hoop-de-Doo Revue, and at the time of the show when they go around for birthdays and anniversaries, I grabbed one of the performers and whispered that my husband had just returned from 2-1/2 years of combat. Knowing it wasn't a birthday or anniversary, I didn't think much would happen. Well, when the spotlight came up to the balcony, and stopped on our table, the performer quieted the crowd and told them that there was a special guest in the house, a U.S. Army Sergeant just returned from combat. My husband was shocked as the ENTIRE room stood and gave him a FIVE-MINUTE standing ovation. My husband is not one to show his emotions (part of the job, I guess), but he was surely touched that night and still talks fondly of it. Another magical moment direct from Disney...


John Cain: During a March 2005 vacation my family and I were having lunch at the '50s Prime Time Cafe. Our server, Aunt Elaine, in addition to entertaining us with quizzes, told us that it was her anniversary with the company and showed us her 30-year pin. We asked her about her different jobs during that time. On an impulse, I told her that I wanted her to remember this anniversary. I'm a professional singer and I sat her down in my seat, held her hand and sang a brief verse from "When You Wish Upon a Star." Aunt Elaine announced to the room, "He's making me cry!" It was a goose-bumpy moment, needless to say. After thinking about it, I realized that Disney magic isn't an accident. It's created a moment at a time each and every day by dedicated and imaginative people like Aunt Elaine.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The ALL EARS® team has had the pleasure of being served by Aunt Elaine over the years and we agree that she's one of a kind! Thanks, John! And congratulations, Aunt Elaine!


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.