October 2005
Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the September 27, 2005, Issue #314 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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Ever wonder what Walt Disney World was like way back when? Each month we visit a time gone by in Walt Disney World history. Here is some interesting information from a publication called "Walt Disney World Showcase News," published Winter 1976. The issue deals mostly with the progress for Epcot's World Showcase countries. (We featured the Summer 1976 Issue in ALL EARS® August 2005 Bits and Bites Issue: http://allears.net/ae/issue306.htm)

The following excerpts are quoted from the publication and copyrighted Walt Disney Productions:

"Disney team visits Russia, Poland -- The trip allowed the team, led by Dick Nunis and John Hench, to present the preliminary concept for a Polish pavilion at World Showcase. The concept is based on a traditional Polish folk-hero, Twardowski, who has been animated to act as host for visitors to the pavilion. Authentic Polish foods, music and merchandise will be part of the total experience..."

"A proposal for the Venezuelan pavilion at World Showcase features an experience that can only be duplicated by an actual visit to that country -- a trip on an authentic teleferico, or cable car, the highest and longest in the world, through much of that nation's beauty, culture and heritage to search for the legendary 'El Dorado' or City of Gold. Guests entering the pavilion find themselves in a re-creation of Plaza Bolivar, including a statue of the country's national hero... Guests board their cable car for a trip which points out the adventure, recreation and culture of this South American country... Guests meet the friendly people of Venezuela and experience the sounds of the country through music and song. Also an integral part of the Venezuelan experience are the national foods and crafts..."

"The preliminary concept for a Japanese pavilion at World Showcase includes a proposal for an exciting Kabuki dinner-show as part of the experience of visiting the country. The traditional Japanese show, centered around an indoor pool, might include an authentic Japanese dinner served in a colorful cloth wrapper. Following the meal, the wrapper becomes a souvenir tablecloth. Another area of the proposal would feature an experience similar to a walk on the famed Ginza..."

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Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills was at WDW earlier this month and offers these dining observations:

Four of us enjoyed dinner at Le Cellier in Epcot's Canada pavilion. Despite having an Advance Dining Reservation, we still waited almost 40 minutes to be seated at 5:15. Walk-ups were being turned away as the restaurant was booked solid, possibly due to this now being a one table service credit selection on the Disney Dining Plan. The breads were warm and yummy as always, but we missed having the server tell us why each one was selected. We all loved our entrees: 14-ounce NY Strip Steak ($26.99), Le Cellier Mushroom Filet Mignon ($27.99) and the Grilled Pork Tenderloin served on a sweet potato puree ($19.99). For dessert we shared the tasty and smooth Maple Creme Brulee ($5.99) and the Canadian Cheese Selection ($12.99). We are all serious cheese lovers, but found this dessert to be both "out of the box" and lacking in taste. The three cheeses arrived on a plate, each with its own accompaniment -- it was not the traditional cheese plate, but a dessert trio, with cheese as the main ingredient in each selection. First we tried the two slices of Sharp Canadian Cheddar Cheese (which had my mouth watering) placed on top of a sour apple slaw. I usually enjoy apples with cheese, but this sour component left all of us wondering who thought this was a good match. A soft goat cheese was layered between pieces of a nut brittle, which were very tasty, but overpowered the cheese. The third item was a cheesecake made with creamy mascarpone. It was just OK -- nothing extremely memorable. Bottom line -- Le Cellier offers some great entrees and desserts, but steer clear of the cheese selection.

-- While sitting in the Rose and Crown Pub before dinner one evening, a friend ordered a Guinness Stout. The bartender proceeded to make a shamrock out of the foam on the top of the glass as he poured the beer. I had never seen that before.

-- An odd thing occurred at the Brown Derby at just before 2 p.m., when we realized we were hungry and stopped in to see if there was any wait. No one was in the lobby so we went to the desk and asked for a table for two. We were told we could not be accommodated until 3:30! The Cast Member at the podium barely looked up and clearly didn't want to interact with me. I looked towards the dining room and several seaters were standing near the doorway in the lobby. I went into the dining room and saw it was half full. I went to the podium again and inquired why we couldn't be seated and I was told the restaurant had closed for lunch. Looking at the seaters I remarked that I didn't understand why they were closed at 2 p.m. when "officially" they close at 3 p.m. They just stood there and said, "Sorry, we're closed now." We thought this whole thing was very strange and most disappointing.

-- Up until this trip, Victoria and Albert's was the only restaurant on property that I had never dined at. At the suggestion of Steve Barrett (Mr. Hidden Mickey) and his dear wife Vickie, we spent a spectacular evening at Victoria and Albert's. It was everything I had read about and more, from the personalized service to the impeccable food to the exquisite wine pairings. The harp playing in the background created a wonderfully elegant ambience. Two of us had special dining requests and our personalized menu was developed with those needs in mind. All shellfish items were missing from my menu and I had the addition of a sugar-free dessert. The servers were very aware of our special dietary needs as well, making suggestions as the evening (and courses) rolled on. This definitely is the place for a most special occasion!

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With its own wildlife preserve right on the grounds, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge offers some of the most unusual accommodations you'll find on Disney property. Likewise, as ALL EARS® Team Member Linda Mac recently discovered, the Lodge's Zawadi Marketplace features the most unusual selection of merchandise a Souven-ear Shopper will find in a resort gift shop.

Looking for something functional as well as beautiful? Consider the Penzo tableware -- brightly colored mugs ($28), plates ($70), platters ($135), and teapots ($28), all depicting wild animals in exotic settings, will turn any table into a conversation piece. The microwaveable, food-safe, non-toxic pieces come in a variety of other shapes and sizes -- there's also a Penzo hanging ornament ($25).

Other artwork crafted by African tradesmen includes the unusual, crackled Raku figurines. The Raku process involves pressing clay into a mold, glazing it, then baking it twice -- first in a low-heat kiln, then in a 2,000-degree kiln. The great temperature difference causes the glaze to crack and creates the unique crackled appearance of the figures, no two exactly the same. Raku figures range from small animals for $22, to a small elephant for $30, a pair of lion cubs for $40, up to an elephant mama and baby for $65.

There are many hand-carved, wooden items around the shop, in a wide price range. At the high end, there are the hand-carved bookends from Kenya ($45), each pair featuring graceful forms of animals, such as elephants, rhinos or cheetahs. There are also beautiful figures of giraffes carved in Kenya from African Muhuhu wood, ranging from $12 to $35. Also made in Kenya are the multi-color, painted wooden planters that feature a colorful giraffe in relief ($16). At the lower end of the price spectrum there are animal-shaped pens made of wood ($5), carved animal magnets ($4), and unusual Light Switch Plates with a hand-carved giraffe or zebra ($6.50).

Wall hangings seem to be a popular item in the shop, and the variety is interesting. The African "Friendship" masks are reminiscent of the Tiki gods you might find over at the Polynesian Resort, and come in three sizes: small ($10), medium ($18) and large ($28). Other wooden wall hangings represent a variety of wild animals (giraffe, zebra, elephant), in both small ($15) and large ($35).

Like other Disney resorts, Zawadi Marketplace also features a number of items unique to the resort, adorned with the resort's own logo. Of these items, the woven throws, which measure 51" x 68" were most attractive. At $40 each, there were two styles, one sporting the Animal Kingdom Lodge sign, the other with a reproduction of Animal Kingdom's icon, the Tree of Life.

Speaking of the Tree of Life, if you have a soft spot in your heart for that magnificent work, you can purchase a smaller version of it here for a mere $295.If your budget is a little more restrictive, consider the plate-shaped photo frames whose wooden stand is printed with the Lodge's emblem ($15), or perhaps a ceramic hanging ornament with Lodge's logo ($10).

What Disney resort would be complete with out an assortment of Mickey Mouse items? The Zawadi Marketplace has them, of course, but its take on Mickey merchandise has a rather unusual slant. You can get the geometric-printed Mickey head photo frames, hand-made of Kisii stone in Kenya ($16), for example -- something I've never seen at any other Disney store. And for something really different, you can buy a package of animal print Mickey antenna toppers -- package of three is $10, and you get an orange and black tiger-striped topper; a black and white zebra striped topper; and a spotted cheetah-like topper.

As you can see, there were so many unusual and interesting items, a person could spend the entire day in this shop Souven-ear shopping! Luckily, the shop is open from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m daily, in the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby. If shopping is your thing, you may want to schedule a stop at the Zawadi Marketplace on your next Walt Disney World vacation itinerary.

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Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party begins on September 30 and runs through October. With 15 party nights scheduled, the Magic Kingdom's annual boo-free bash is bigger than ever in 2005. A special fireworks display is planned, too! For more information visit http://allears.net/tp/mk/mnssh.htm.

Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival, which also begins on September 30, continues through October until November 13. The festival features international tasting marketplaces and a lineup of winemakers and guest chefs, elegant dinners, wine schools, tastings and pairings. More than 100 wineries offer tastings, and guests can sample the marketplace cuisine in tasting portions ranging from $1 to $4.50. In addition, the Fest's nightly Eat to the Beat! concert series will feature an even more varied line-up this year, kicking off with classic rockers Kansas. For more information visit: http://allears.net/tp/ep/foodwine.htm

Walt Disney World's Sweetest Pastry Competition on Earth -- The first-ever Walt Disney World's Sweetest Pastry Competition on Earth will be held October 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Epcot's World Showplace during the Food & Wine Festival. Student chefs from top culinary schools across the country will compete in the event, which will be featured on the Food Network show "Food Network Challenge" in Spring 2006. For more information on being in the viewing audience, contact 407-566-6248.

October 21, 2005, is the official opening date for Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Downtown Disney. The new venue, located on the site of the former Pleasure Island Jazz Company, will offer traditional Irish fare prepared with a "modern flair." Pleasure Island club admission will not be required for entrance to Raglan Road.

Funai Classic at Walt Disney World Resort (October 20-23) -- A field of 144 top PGA Tour players will be in a quest for shares of a Classic-record $4.4 million purse. The 72-hole event is played on Disney's Magnolia and Palm courses. The winner earns $792,000 and takes part in a 35-year Classic tradition: a winner's-circle pose with Mickey Mouse.

The "Go the Distance" Expo will be held October 7-9 at the Wide World of Sports Complex, with a variety of cutting edge products on display and experts on hand. As part of that event weekend, the 2005 Komen Central Florida Race for the Cure 5K walk/run will be held Saturday, October 8, 2005. Then on October 9, Disney's Race for the Taste 10K will be held in conjunction with Epcot's Food & Wine Festival. For more information about or to register for any of these endurance events, visit www.disneysports.com.

To see our entire Calendar of Events, visit: http://allears.net/pl/events.htm.


Rehabs and Closures:

Liberty Square Riverboat is closed for rehab until mid-2006.

Ice Station Cool in Epcot is closed and will reopen with a bright new look in early 2006 as "Club Cool." Samples of Coca-Cola products will still be offered. http://allears.net/tp/ep/ice.htm

The Living Seas pavilion, including the popular Turtle Talk with Crush, closed August 21, 2005, for refurbishment. The work is set to be completed by late November 2005. The Coral Reef Restaurant will remain open during this rehab. http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_seas.htm

Blizzard Beach will be closed October 23 through December 2005 for its annual rehab. Typhoon Lagoon will close for its annual refresh once Blizzard Beach reopens.

Contemporary Resort Rehab: The South Garden Wing is closed for refurbishment through October 31, 2006. Work will be ongoing in the Tower rooms through February 19, 2006, with one floor being blocked off at a time. For photos of what the new rooms will look like, visit http://allears.net/acc/g_contm.htm.

To see our list of Rehabs, visit: http://allears.net/tp/rehabs.htm.

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Ann Thomas: My husband, kids (ages 5 and almost 2), and I are HUGE Disney fans and go to WDW as often as our budget allows us. We had scheduled our next trip for early December and already purchased our Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party tickets. Well, we live in New Orleans and I think you know what has happened to us recently! We evacuated with family in Baton Rouge and during these tumultuous times, I realized that it was the 90th day to make our dining reservations! (My husband and I were determined to make this trip, if only for the kids' sakes. At this point, we had no idea if our home even survived.) Communications were very hard in Louisiana and just to get a line out was hard. The land lines weren't working, so I had to call Disney Dining on my cell phone at 6 a.m. -- yikes, holding on for more than 1/2 hour with all those roaming charges! I explained our circumstances to the Cast Member who answered my call and asked if she could allow us to just make all our dining reservations at once rather than having me call every morning for a week considering the communications issues and the charges! She told me there was nothing she could do unless we were on-grounds guests (we are staying off-grounds this trip) because that privilege is reserved for them only. I told her that I KNOW Disney Magic and what it is capable of and asked to speak to a manager. I got transferred to Anita, who truly has the Disney spirit. She told me that she really couldn't access the computer to make all my reservations at once because she needed to type in a valid on-grounds hotel reservation number. However, she told me to give her a day-by-day listing of all restaurants that we wanted and she would personally take care of it every morning so I didn't have to worry about calling. Then she said she'd call ME to give me all of my confirmation numbers and times. I was so touched, I had tears in my eyes and I could hear that she was touched, too. Anita did, indeed, call me the next week with everything in order. When I told my 5-year-old son that we got our Crystal Palace reservations (his favorite restaurant), he said "WOW! We are still going?!" For the record, our house is standing.


Gina Blair: It was my grandson's first visit but one he will never forget. He had his autograph book and was enjoying meeting all the characters and getting them to sign his book, but one in particular made quite an impression. When he met Princess Aurora she asked his name and signed a very personal note; then she noticed the shirt he was wearing (Spiderman) and asked if he was also a "super hero." Upon saying "yes" she asked to see his muscles, which he very proudly displayed. Then, after several pictures were taken, she planted a very big, red kiss on his cheek, which he wore for the rest of the day. Needless to say, Princess Aurora is now the love of his life and the pictures with her truly made a magical moment he will remember for a very long time.


The Caputo family: We just returned from our Disney trip. This was a memorable trip for us. We last visited in 2001 -- first visit there for our firstborn and expecting our second baby. It was a great trip and we couldn't wait to return with a family of four! Though he was born healthy, early in 2002 our 6-month-old son was struck by a catastrophic and undiagnosed illness, which has left him developmentally disabled in multiple areas. Needless to say, we did not think we would be able to return to WDW. But this summer, he was turning 4, and despite numerous obstacles we faced, we decided to brave the trip.

From the moment we checked in, it was one magical moment after another. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge where we honeymooned nine years earlier. Though I had booked a standard room, we were upgraded to a room with a lovely view of the courtyard, right on the lobby level, which made transporting a wheelchair-bound child much easier. I cannot say enough nice things about how the Disney people cater to a special needs child. Bus drivers cheerfully loaded and secured his chair onto buses; Cast Members speedily directed us to the handicapped entrances/seating areas and were always most thoughtful in asking whether he needed to remain in his chair, or if we wanted to hold him on any particular attraction. His chair was always carefully tended to and awaiting us when we chose the latter. Every restaurant we ate at accommodated his stroller-type wheelchair without a problem. One night, after we had loaded, there was a problem with the boats to Wilderness Lodge and the Cast Members were going out of their way to make arrangements for us, and the two other wheelchairs on board.

Perhaps the most magical were the characters. The love, tenderness and attention they showed to a little boy who has no means to express himself was incredible. And they never forgot his big sister, always making sure she received her share of the attention. Tigger and the Pooh gang were especially sweet. Mulan noted how, as big sister to such a special boy, she brings honor to her family. Aladdin and Jasmine remarked that our "diamond in the rough" is sure to sparkle and shine. And oh, thank you a million times to Ariel, who took a little boy who cannot walk or sit in her arms and talked to him so sweetly. She is my new favorite!

Our trip was not without its difficulties, as I knew it would be... But I am confident that we can do this again, and Disney World can be a reality for us. Thank you, Disney. And thank you, ALL EARS®, for the tips.


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.