February 2006
WDW Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 31, 2006 Issue #332 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. This month we revisit October 1972.

If I were a Cast Member at that time, I would have picked up my latest Eyes and Ears (the newspaper for Cast Members at WDW) to read of a multimillion dollar expansion that was announced. Just one year and a couple of weeks after Walt Disney World officially opened, Donn Tatum, Chairman of the Board of Walt Disney Productions, and E. Cardon Walker, President of Walt Disney Productions, announced some exciting projects. (The following information and quotes are from Eyes and Ears, dated October 21, 1972.)

In addition to new attractions, there would be a new 153-room Golf Resort Hotel, doubling the size of the campground facilities, and expanded sports, dining and transportation, too:

The Walt Disney Story -- Opening in the spring of 1973, two 300-seat theaters were being built behind the Gulf Hospitality House on Main Street. The story: "Walt's life from the time he and Roy began their simple two-man operation in a small Missouri town."

Magic Carpet Round the World -- A new CircleVision 360 movie was to replace Monsanto's America the Beautiful in Tomorrowland. In production at the time, the film was to "feature a breathtaking trip around the world, with highlights from portions of Europe and the Americas. Guests will travel to an auto race in Belgium, a camel caravan in Egypt, and bullfighting in Spain." Magic Carpet Round the World was set to debut in early 1973.

Pirates of the Caribbean and the Caribbean Plaza -- A brand new version of Disneyland's exciting adventure: "Leaving a busy tropical bazaar, guests will board longboats, circle through swamplands and then plunge down a waterfall into pirate caverns. Fun-loving buccaneers, a slave auction and pillage and plundering in playful pandemonium!" It was set for December 1973.

Space Mountain -- Construction was to begin in Spring 1973 and finish in 1974: "Presented by RCA, Earthmen will enjoy a thrilling space-shuttle rocket sled ride through simulated outer space, through showers of space particles, whirling tunnels of light and mysterious caverns of darkness."

People Mover -- Another project to begin building in 1973 with a 1974 opening date: "Using a new linear motion, this new type of scenic transportation will take an upper level nonstop tour of Tomorrowland's principal structures, crossing about the Grand Prix Raceway course and circling past the 20,000 Leagues lagoon."

There's more... but you'll have to wait for a future installment of Step Back in Time...

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Do you remember back in April 2003, when we reported on the first official announcement of Expedition Everest? Senior Editor Debra Martin Koma was there at the press event when Joe Rohde, executive designer with Walt Disney Imagineering confirmed that there would be a new mountain rising nearly 200 feet high from the mists of Animal Kingdom's Asia. "We go fast, we go high, we fall far, we get cold, and we do finally see the Yeti itself," Rohde said at the time of what was being billed as a family thrill ride. "[The Yeti is] a huge, HUGE, gigantic shaggy creature as real as we can bring him to life."

Fast-forward to today, January 2006. True to his word, Rohde and company have brought the eagerly anticipated coaster and its furry, menacing inhabitant to life, and the grand opening of the ride is on the horizon. Cast Previews for the attraction were held January 20-23 to almost unanimous rave reviews. Allears.net hasn't heard folks so excited about a new attraction in Animal Kingdom in... well... forever! Previews for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members took place this past weekend, January 26-29 and several members of the ALL EARS(R) team were on hand to experience the ride for themselves, as well as to hear feedback from other riders. You can read our detailed reports of the weekend's activities and see photos and reviews beginning at http://allears.net/tp/ak/ak_ee.htm

ALL EARS(R) Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills had the chance to ride Expedition Everest eight times over the course of the weekend. Here are her overall thoughts:

"WOW! What a fantastic marriage of ride and show! This is the quality attraction I have come to expect from Walt Disney World. The wide variety of special effects and theming elements make this attraction unique. Each time I rode, I saw or experienced something new. The ride was exhilarating -- As you come through the mountain and plunge down, it's an amazing rush. Unlike Splash Mountain's drop, I never felt my stomach do flip-flops, instead the drop energized me! The ride is extremely smooth, but the backwards part may bother some folks -- it bothered me the first time on. In fact, it was so intense on my initial ride that I wasn't sure I was going to ride again. But then I figured out what happened. On my first ride, as we started to go backwards, I put my head against the head rest. I don't know if it was only my seat or they all do this, but the vibrations were really intense and my head started to vibrate -- I didn't like this part at all. However, on all subsequent rides, I made sure I didn't put my head back on the head rest and I did OK. I definitely felt motion in the first 20 seconds or so of going backwards every time. Those with motion issues should consider their triggers and perhaps have someone in their group ride first.

I believe this will be a great addition to Animal Kingdom. Now, families or groups with Animal Kingdom fans and non-fans can go to the park together. Those looking for the more sedate animal trails can head to those, those looking for thrills now have a ride to experience!

Most everyone we spoke with absolutely loved the ride, from the youngest to the more senior of us. I probably spoke to more than 100 folks during the previews and only found one child and one adult who did not want to ride again.

Our understanding is that the ride is now in "soft opening" mode until the Grand Opening on April 7. This means the ride may or may not be open at any time for an undetermined amount of time. I would suggest inquiring at the tip board when you arrive in Discovery Island to see if the trains are running. If they are, expect long lines. Although there will be a photo op on the ride itself (as there is on Splash Mountain) it may not be operational until the Grand Opening.

This is definitely on my must-do list every trip now. While it's not something my body could handle many rides in a row, I look forward to my next trek to Everest!"

Here are some Expedition Everest facts:

-- At just under 200 feet high, Expedition Everest is Florida's tallest mountain, and one of 18 mountains built by Disney Imagineers at Disney parks worldwide. One of the little-known facts about the mountain is that Everest itself is not the tall, snow-covered peak one sees when approaching the attraction but the "far" peak behind it. Disney Imagineers used forced perspective to realistically portray the view of the mountain range as seen from Nepal.

-- There are more than 900 bamboo plants, 10 species of trees, and 110 species of shrubs planted around the village and mountain to create an authentic environment.

-- Some 2,000 handcrafted items from Asia are evident in the props, cabinetry, and architectural ornamentation throughout Serka Zong, the mythical village at the base of the mountain.

-- The detailed and authentic architecture includes a three-story mandir, a pagoda-type building, that was hand-carved with 1,000 yeti images in Nepal, then shipped, aged, and reassembled at the Serka Zong site.

Expedition Everest Legend of the Forbidden Mountain will officially open on April 7, 2006.

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Several Hidden Mickeys were spotted over the weekend at Expedition Everest.

One of the buildings in the queue has a shelf full of stuffed Yetis (not the ones you'll find in the gift shop) on the wall. It's on your right as you walk into the room. Look closely and you'll find a Yeti with Mickey Ears! http://allears.net/tp/ak/ak_ee248.jpg

On the left side, in a glass case, look for the round red "Trekking in Nepal, Mt. Everest" patches. Just to the right of them, are round black light switches. You'll see the Mickey head formed by three of the switches. http://allears.net/tp/ak/ak_ee249.jpg

Allears.net's Anita Answer also found these Hidden Mickeys at the attraction:

There are flower strings over the bathroom doors swagged like "M M."

In the queue, there is a small red temple that the queue sometimes goes around or sometimes doesn't. In the side of the temple facing you as you approach it, look down to the left. There are three chunks of concrete missing in the shape of Mickey. You can REALLY see it as the sun gets lower in the afternoon.

In the load area, look up to your right at the blue scroll work above the windows. One of the scrolls is Mickey.

Right after you get on, the train goes downhill around a big curve. On the right is a "rocky" outcropping (concrete, really) and behind a skinny tree are three rocks embedded in it.

On the first (steep!) lift hill, as you enter the temple in the mountain, there is reddish scrollwork over the cave opening. On the far left of the scrollwork, you'll find Mickey.

In the animated Yeti room, look up to the right side of the animation. There is a rock formation in the shape of Mickey. This can only be seen by the first few rows of the train, and can only be seen when the train moves forward.

Interested in finding more Hidden Mickeys in Walt Disney World? "Hidden Mickeys: a Field Guide to Disney's Best-Kept Secrets," written by Steve Barrett and webmaster of www.hiddenmickeysguide.com takes you on a hunt through WDW for the Hidden Mickeys. Purchase Steve's book in the Allears.net bookstore: http://allears.net/books.htm

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Though one BIG door in Animal Kingdom is opening (Expedition Everest), we did want to take a moment to observe the closing of another. ALL EARS(R) Researcher Kenny attended the last shows for Animal Kingdom's Tarzan Rocks! show: On Saturday, January 21, Tarzan Rocks performed its last four shows in the Animal Kingdom's Theater in the Wild. Since there were nearly 500 VIP seats reserved for the last show, only three shows were being publicized for the day. They expected the last show to fill up without any additional publicity, and, as it was, all four shows of the day were full houses. Throughout the day, the cast switched off, allowing for the greatest number of Cast Members to perform.

As expected, that last day of shows, and specifically the last show, were full of energy. It seemed that the entire cast gave everything they had to help commemorate the last day. The last show was filled with friends and family of the cast, and it was received with thunderous applause from start to finish. During the finale, the entire cast that had performed that day came out on stage to receive a well-deserved standing ovation.

The Theater in the Wild is now undergoing a complete rehab, which will include enclosing it and installing air conditioning. A new show is scheduled to open late this year, but there is no official word on what that show will be.

To see more on the dearly departed Tarzan Rocks show: http://allears.net/tp/ak/ak_tr.htm

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Expedition Everest is going to dominate our Disney headlines for some time to come. The Cast Member, Disney Vacation Club member, and Passholder previews are now over, but look for periodic openings during February. Although the attraction is not officially open during what's known as the "soft opening," this is the time when details are being worked out, and guests MAY have the opportunity to ride -- there are no guarantees it will be open when you visit Animal Kingdom. But, if you're willing to wait around outside the entrance to Everest on the off-chance that you might be able to ride, be sure to head over to Asia while you're in the World. http://allears.net/tp/ak/ak_ee.htm

Pleasure Island is gearing up for a number of February events: The island will transform into Sweetheart Island on February 10 and 11, as well as on Valentine's Day, February 14. There will be "Sweetheart" music by live bands and the Pleasure Island DJ, predictions by the Love Prophets, and Cupid himself. Just a few weeks later, Pleasure Island will celebrate Mardi Gras with its annual Parti Gras event. February 24 -25 and 28 the Island will feature live New Orleans-style music, and lots of beads. http://allears.net/btp/pleasure-island.htm

The Atlanta Braves return to Disney's Wide World of Sports for spring training for the ninth year, with pitchers and catchers reporting on February 16. Their first workout is set for February 17. Position players arrive February 21, with the first full-squad workouts on February 22. Individual game tickets for the Braves home spring training games are currently on sale through Ticketmaster (407/839-3900 and www.ticketmaster.com) and at the Disney's Wide World of Sports box office. Prices range from $13.50 (general admission lawn seats) to $22 (lower reserved).

Other February events at Disney's Wide World of Sports include:

-- National Dance Team Championship: February 3-6
-- National High School Cheerleading Championship: February 10-13
-- Twirlmania: February 17-20
-- Cheer & Dance National Championships: February 25-26


Rehabs and Closings:

Tarzan Rocks at Animal Kingdom officially closed on January 21, 2006. http://allears.net/tp/ak/ak_tr.htm

Test Track is closed for refurbishment through February 14, 2006. http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_tt.htm

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin is closed through February 8, 2006. http://allears.net/tp/mk/mk_buzz.htm

Liberty Square Riverboat will not be sailing until April 2006 due to an extensive rehab. http://allears.net/tp/mk/rboat.htm

Roaring Fork Snack Bar at the Wilderness Lodge is closed for rehab and will reopen late March 2006, however readers report that one side of the counter service restaurant is open in the mornings, serving some breakfast items.

Typhoon Lagoon closed for its annual rehab December 25, 2005, and will reopen February 25, 2006. http://allears.net/btp/faq_tl.htm

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

Bookmark our frequently updated list of WDW Rehabs at http://allears.net/tp/rehabs.htm

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Jackie Camp: My family and I have always had incredible memories of our Disney vacations, but my best was when I took my husband there for the first time in 2002. He is visually impaired and I worried that he might not be able to appreciate Disney as much as I did. We scheduled breakfast with Pooh and Friends on our first visit to the Magic Kingdom. We were allowed into the park before opening and I did not anticipate seeing Main Street COMPLETELY EMPTY! That was amazing in itself... but as we were walking down the street, I was describing the surroundings to my husband and I saw Chip and Dale at the far end of the street. I told my husband and he started waving... they saw us and came running. Chip linked arms with me, Dale linked arms with my husband and the four of us SKIPPED down an empty Main Street! At the end of the street, they hugged us good-bye and went on their way. Seeing the look on my husband's face brought tears to my eyes. It was pure joy! It was the perfect start to our trip and something we will never forget.


Kelli: My husband and I took our 5-year-old and 3-year-old to WDW back in October. It was a wonderful trip and I think our kids made it the best we had ever. One of the best moments (and there were a few) was when we took the kids on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA). As we entered the portion that goes through Space Mountain we decided to make a wish on the "shooting stars" up above us. My 5-year-old son told us that he wished "we could stay like this forever." I immediately had tears in my eyes. In the past, the TTA was kind of "ho-hum" but at that moment, with my children, it was the best ever! We made many wishes at WDW, in their fountains etc., for, as my son put it, "Every wish made at Disney World must come true!" He would even throw an extra coin in so he could make a wish that his wish would come true. I was so glad that we went with them at this magical age. They are so anxious to go back, and we are all going to work on Dad to go back ASAP! Thank you also for making it magical for us. I used lots of tips and info you provided. It's a great site and newsletter!


Krista Sierra: We made our last trip to the World in July 2005. We were a large group of 15. One morning, before we all gathered as a group, my family and I headed over to Epcot very early so we could be there when they opened. My 8-year-old daughter was dying to ride Test Track. My little one was less enthused but went along anyway. We anxiously waited at the rope with all of the Test Track Cast Members in front of us. Finally they dropped the rope and we quickly followed the Cast Members to Test Track. We were some of the first people to get on the ride. After our ride was over we exited our car and my 8-year-old daughter was screaming and jumping around about how much fun that was and how she wanted to do it again. As we were walking down the ramp a Cast Member (Jason) approached us, directed us through and put us right back on the ride. He then gave my daughter (and the rest of our family) tickets to return any time later that day and ride for a third time with no wait. He made my daughter's vacation. That was all she talked about for the whole entire time we were there.


Stacy Lasky: My boyfriend Jim, his 10-year-old daughter, Alyssa, and I have returned home from their first trip to Disney World. (It was my 12th trip). It was a complete surprise for Alyssa since we never told her where in Florida she was going for the week. Our magical moment happened at the end of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. We finally got to ride the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh for the first time due to long wait times the first two days we were there. As we were getting off, I suggested we ride again. As we walked out of the store, Jim told us to turn around. We then saw Piglet, Rabbit and Tigger coming out of the Hundred Acre Wood playground and head to the ride. I took Alyssa by the hand and we went in behind them. Tigger and Rabbit hopped in with a little girl and her mom. The Cast Member telling you what line to wait in asked Piglet if he wanted to ride with another Cast Member named Frank. He shook his head "no" and turned around to point to us! WE GOT TO RIDE WITH PIGLET IN OUR HONEYPOT. He was soooo adorable, pointing at himself and getting all excited. But once we got to the Heffalumps part, he ducked down completely OUT OF SIGHT in the honeypot until we were out of the scary part... SO CUTE! As many times as I have been on Pooh's ride, this time will remain the most special. It has been two weeks since we've been home and Alyssa is STILL talking about this magical moment.


Kathie: Our family are huge fans of WDW and try to go every year. We have three sons and have had many magical moments over the years, but one especially cute one stands out. When my oldest son was 5, I was riding Snow White's Scary Adventures with him. He had recently seen a show about how Walt had envisioned and eventually built Disneyland. He asked me, "Mommy, how did Walt ever get enough money to build Disneyland?" I said, "I think he got most of the money from Snow White." (I had watched the same show, and I was referring to the money Walt made on the release of the Snow White movie.) My son quickly responded with a knowing nod, "Oh yeah, the dwarfs had all that money from the diamonds in their mine." I will never forget that magical moment of childhood joy and innocence!


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.