July 2006
Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the June 27, 2006, Issue #353 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. We travel now with author Lou Mongello, who takes us back to 1988 and Mickey's Birthdayland!

Our trip aboard the Walt Disney World Wayback Machine is going to take us back through time to a very big birthday party. No, not my 21st. Let's just not go there, OK? Someone MUCH more important than me, anyway. It was all started by a mouse after all, so we're going to go back about 18 years or so, to when Mickey Mouse celebrated his 60th birthday in a very special way.

Although Mickey's "official" birthday is a few months off (November 18), preparations are in full swing to kick off a birthday party in the Magic Kingdom like no other. Oh, sure, they held one here once for Donald's 50th in 1984, but it was nothing like this. He got a parade, and all of his character friends were invited, singing "Happy Happy Birthday to You" (which you can find on the old "Splashtacular" album), but that was about it.

But for Mickey it had to be something spectacular, and what better present to give the Mouse than a giant "surprise party" in his own, new land in the Magic Kingdom. Yup. Disney decided to take some prime real estate between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, and carve out a place for a big (yet intentionally temporary) birthday bash. It was to be called, aptly, "Mickey's Birthdayland," and would not only include the construction of new buildings, but an unprecedented new stop along the Walt Disney World railroad line. In fact, not only did he get a new station, but they even renamed the entire rail line as "Mickey's Birthdayland Express." It remains as the first and only land to be added to the Magic Kingdom since its opening in 1971.

Once you arrived in Birthdayland, whether it was by foot through the new entrance or by train, you were invited to head on over to Mickey's house, where the surprise party was taking place. Not unlike its current state, the house was merely a walk-through "attraction" in which you saw Mickey's bedroom, office, backyard, etc., and his plump, red, one-seater convertible parked outside. (Trivia bonus: Do you remember what his license plate said? Look at the end of the article for the answer). Of course, the way the house looked inside and out in 1988 is quite different than what you see now, but we'll get to that a little later.

Read the rest of Lou's article here: http://allears.net/tp/mk/bdayland.htm

Do you have photos of Mickey's Birthdayland (before it became Toontown?) If so, please send them to us at allearsnet@yahoo.com


Lou Mongello is the author of the Walt Disney World Trivia Book and owner of DisneyWorldTrivia.com. You can purchase Lou's book through our Allears.net bookstore: http://allears.net/store.htm

Meet the Author -- Lou Mongello: http://allears.net/ae/issue322.htm

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Steve Barrett, author of "Hidden Mickeys: a Field Guide to Disney's Best-Kept Secrets" and webmaster of www.hiddenmickeysguide.com, suggests looking for these Hidden Mickeys the next time you're in Walt Disney World:

1. I had heard about this tiny, classic (three-circle) Hidden Mickey at Splash Mountain, but I'd not spotted it until recently. During the first part of the ride, when your boat is outside, look to your right for a barrel with "Muskrat Moonshine" painted on the side. A classic Mickey is formed by holes in the paint, above the "s" in Muskrat. (Thanks to Jesse Kline for this HM tip.) http://allears.net/btp/hm118.jpg

2. The Merchant of Venus Shop in Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland was recently refurbished. Two new Hidden Mickeys are in the mural. Face the cash register and look up at the mural on the wall behind the register on the left side. Near the Tomorrowland Transit Authority track (in the mural), a relative of Stitch is wearing Mickey Mouse ears. A second relative of Stitch in the mural on the left side is holding a Mickey balloon. (Thanks to Tawny Peedin and Erin Blackwell for these HM sightings.)

For other Hidden Mickey alerts visit: http://allears.net/btp/hiddenm.htm

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Looking for a special dining experience that's more than just a meal? You have a "world" of choices at Walt Disney World. Here's a glimpse of what Allears.net's readers like and dislike about a few of the various dinner shows and dining events available:

Garden View Lounge Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian -- This delightful midday break, featuring an assortment of refreshing teas, scones, finger sandwiches and more, receives a perfect 10 from our readers. As reviewer Jame8608 notes: What a quiet, gracious way to spend a couple of hours in a truly adult atmosphere... I would say this is a must-do for our next trip to WDW.

My Disney Girl's Perfectly Princess Tea at the Grand Floridian -- One hundred percent of Allears.net's reviewers also recommend this special event, at which a little girl can dress up and have a special tea party with Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. With an average rating of 9.8, this tea draws mostly raves, such as this one from reviewer riggspd: Excellent attention to detail. Rose Petal was very entertaining and kept my attention as well as my daughter's. It was the highlight of my daughter's week at Disney. You could tell that every little girl felt like a real princess. Very cozy and appropriate area for the tea party. The food was delicious. Glad we spent the money.

Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness -- A rip-roarin' dinner show that is recommended by 100 percent of our reviewers with an overall rating of 9.3. Reviewer ladyoreo says: Recently, we went to Hoop-Dee-Doo with some family friends, which totaled our party up to the grand sum of nine people. Their young children loved scraping on the washboards, singing along, and giggling at the crazy characters (which were not cheesy at all). The adults, I swear, were laughing harder than the kids. We all had a great time eating and just all being kids... Go in with an open mind and you too will be singing, Hoop-dee-doo, Hoop-dee-doo, Hoop-dee-doo.... we're so excited, Hoop-dee-doo! Enjoy -- it's worth every penny!

Spirit of Aloha Dinner at the Polynesian Resort -- By contrast, only 68 percent of Allears.net reviewers recommend this dinner show, which conjures the feeling of exotic Polynesia with hula and fire dancing. With an average rating of 7.3, you might want to carefully consider whether this show is for you by reading the comments of reviewers like peapods02, who notes: The food was pretty decent and plenty of it... The kids' meals left something to be desired -- reminded me (taste and appearance) of a frozen kids' meal... The show was extremely cheesy in the beginning and boring; it reminded me of a bad beach movie... Overall it was OK, but it was overpriced for what it was. We'll find another dinner show when we go back.

Mickey's Backyard Barbecue at Fort Wilderness -- This open-air barbecue with live country music and dancing, as well as characters, only has a 7.5 average rating so far from Allears.net readers. Reviewer kurtech enjoyed the event, though, and comments: Everybody had a wonderful time. The kids were able to dance with the characters, but they were disappointed when they were told the characters couldn't sign their books. The ribs on the buffet were delicious; however, the cheeseburgers were more like a Salisbury Steak (fillers added) than a burger, so they left a lot to be desired. The ice cream bars and other desserts are the same ones sold in the parks. In the end, I think most of us agreed that we'd do this dinner again. I definitely preferred it over the Spirit of Aloha luau, and I think the kids did, too.

You can see the menus for these dinner shows here: http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm

What about you? Have you tried any of these special dining experiences in the last few months? If so, please share them with us in our Rate and Review section. Or, if you're planning your next trip to Walt Disney World, read others' opinions here, too. You'll find our Rate and Review section at: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/

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Our friends at PassPorter Travel Press recently published a West Coast version of their popular "PassPorter" guidebook, "PassPorter Disneyland Resort and Southern California Attractions."Allears.net's Disneyland Correspondent, Laura Gilbreath, has had a chance to review the book and shares some of her thoughts:

The Disneyland section is very well done -- they certainly have all the information that I think is important to those planning a vacation, as well as some things I wouldn't have thought of. I don't agree with their assessment that the on-site hotels are closer to the parks than off-site -- with the exception of the Grand Californian (and its private entrance into DCA) I believe there are quite a few off-site hotels that are closer, especially to Disneyland. It was great to see that they gave Disney's California Adventure a good review, and pointed out that there are a lot of things to see. You really can't do the park in a half-day! I thought their chart of park "busyness" along with average temperature and rainfall was very interesting, and based on my experience, pretty accurate... Their sections on the other Southern California theme parks, while not as extensive as those on DL/DCA, were still informative. I visit Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park a lot -- I don't know much about the other parks, but those three certainly had accurate information, and enough detail to be helpful but not overwhelming. The information on the other parks seemed to be similar -- if I didn't know anything about them I'd still have a reasonable idea of what to expect. They had a very nice list of other Southern California attractions, with a short description of each. Being from San Diego, though, I thought the San Diego section was a bit incomplete -- mostly because they completely left out Cabrillo Monument, which, after the Zoo, is one of the most-visited places in San Diego!

Read more about PassPorter Disneyland Resort and Southern California Attractions here: http://www.passporter.com/dl/guidebook.htm

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Pirates of the Caribbean reopens with Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa on either July 1 or July 7 (depending on which press release you read)! http://allears.net/tp/mk/mk_pirates.htm

For photos of what the attraction used to look like: http://allears.net/tp/wander/wander26.htm

Also, the new, interactive"Pirate Tutorial" featuring Captain Jack and his mate, Mack, has debuted near the attraction and will run through the end of August. Visitors will be treated to several lessons on becoming a pirate, including "Swashbuckling for Beginners" and "Run Away - FAST!" Showtimes are currently 11 and 11:50 a.m.; 12:40, 1:30, 3:30, 4:20, and 5:10 p.m.

Fourth of July Celebrations at Walt Disney World -- Fantasy in the Sky will replace WISHES at the Magic Kingdom on July 3 and 4. For the schedule of fireworks and our readers' best tips on where to watch them, visit: http://allears.net/tp/fojuly.htm

The America Gardens Theatre in Epcot continues its"Sounds Like Summer" Music Series, featuring a number of "tribute," or sound-alike, bands:

July 1: Hotel California A Tribute to the Eagles
July 2 - 14: 52nd Street A Tribute to Billy Joel
July 15 - July 21: Draw the Line A Tribute to Aerosmith
July 22 - August 6: Bjorn Again A Tribute to ABBA

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are scheduled to have their first training camp practices Friday, July 28 at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex (http://allears.net/btp/dwws.htm). Practice times change daily. General daily practices will be held in the morning and afternoon each day during camp (through August 16). There will be no charge for admission to Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp. However, if you choose to enter other events and venues at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, you will need to go to the Box Office to purchase the appropriate event admission ticket. General admission tickets to the Sports Complex are $11.00 for guests 10 and over and $8.25 for guests ages 3-9. For the latest practice times (subject to change), visit www.buccaneers.com.

Don't forget to check our Events page for periodic updates: http://allears.net/pl/events.htm


Rehabs and Closings:

Theater in the Wild in Animal Kingdom is now closed and under renovation. It will reopen late this year (some sources indicate November 12, 2006) with the new show, Finding Nemo: The Musical. http://allears.net/tp/ak/nemo.htm

Liberty Square Riverboat is currently closed, but is scheduled to reopen at the Magic Kingdom on September 22, 2006, after an extensive rehab. http://allears.net/tp/mk/rboat.htm

Some icons at Disney's All-Star Resorts will be under scaffolding for renovations, from now until August 4, 2006, resulting in obstructed views:

-- Touchdown Helmets at All-Star Sports
-- Buzz Lightyear at All-Star Movies

Polynesian Resort -- Captain Cook's 24-hour counter service in the Great Ceremonial House closed June 19 for refurbishment. It's tentatively scheduled to reopen September 15, 2006. In the meantime, a counter service location with a limited menu is now operating in Tangaroa Terrace. No refillable mugs will be sold or refilled here during this time. In addition, several Polynesian Resort longhouses are still undergoing rehab, with minimal effect on guests. http://allears.net/acc/faq_poly.htm

Be sure to check our Rehabs and Closings page for periodic updates: http://allears.net/tp/rehabs.htm

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Bonnie from PA: One of my favorite Magical Moments has got to be entering the Magic Kingdom and watching the Cast Members, Mickey and other characters open the park for the day. I get teary eyed every time we enter the gates as a family. The first time we went as a family was in '98 when my son was only a year old. I felt weird for getting all emotional but now realize I was having a normal reaction to a Magical Moment! We have since been back several times and each time I cry happy tears entering the Magic Kingdom...


Stu Horowitz: We were in Toontown collecting autographs. I stood on line to collect from Pooh and Friends, and my 3-1/2-year-old daughter and her stepmother waited to see Cinderella. We met up at the middle line to see Minnie, the top draw as far as my daughter goes. When we got to the front of the line, we were told to wait. People from other lines were allowed in to other rooms, but it seemed like our line was being skipped. When I asked why, I was told Minnie wasn't ready to see us just yet. Shortly thereafter, Minnie came out, took my daughter by the hand, and led us into her room. The picture I took of this reminds me of the Walt Disney and Mickey statue outside Cinderella's Castle. It is absolutely precious!


Sonia Robertson: On our last visit to Disney, we had an all-girl trip -- just me, my sister, and our best friend, for her 30th birthday. We were only going to be there for one day, and all that our friend wanted for her big day was to meet Mary Poppins. Well, sadly enough, we could not find her anywhere. When the day was coming to an end, and the SpectroMagic Parade was getting ready to begin, I found a Cast Member and asked her if she knew of any way to find Mary Poppins. She tried really hard for us, but with no luck, because Mary was preparing for the parade. But our Cast Member did not stop there. She pulled our friend into the middle of Main Street, which was FULL of people waiting for the parade, and EVERYONE sang Happy Birthday to my friend! That was a wonderful Magical Moment all by itself! But it didn't stop there! Our Cast Member stayed with us throughout the parade and when Mary Poppins came by, she came right up to my friend and wished her a Happy Birthday! She was so excited! It was truly a Magical Moment and a very magical day. Thank you so much to our special Cast Member, Carley!


Relive your Magical Moment with the ALL EARS(R) Family! Send your Magical Moment in to allearsnet@yahoo.com. Although we can't publish all the Magical Moments we receive, we do read each one. Thank you all for sharing!


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.