August 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? This month we travel back to December 1985. Imagine... A Walt Disney World Cast Member just receives a copy of the "Resort Report" and reads the latest news, as follows:

The Grand Floridian - Ground-breaking is scheduled for mid-January. Working drawings are presently being reviewed and are scheduled to be completed by early spring. The 900-room Grand Floridian Resort, which will depict a turn-of-the-century Victorian hotel, will be located between the Polynesian Village Resort and the Magic Kingdom Park with monorail access. The heavily themed resort will feature a five-story main building accented by a Grand Lobby in the Victorian tradition. The room decor will feature turn-of-the-century furniture, ceiling fans and separate vanity areas. The Grand Floridian Resort, scheduled to open in the spring of 1988, is sure to be a showplace and a proud addition to our unique Disney Resorts.

Fort Wilderness - The expansion project is moving along right on schedule. The Meadow Recreation Complex, which includes a swimming pool, snack bar, arcade, and two tennis courts, is complete. The 2200 loop (Arrowhead) and the 2300 loop (Shawnee Bend) opened for occupancy on September 27. The Fort Wilderness Lodge, which houses the expanded Front Desk and Guest Services areas, was in full operation by Thanksgiving.

Contemporary Resort - At the Contemporary Resort, the entrance has a brand new appearance! Two revolving doors have recently been installed at the Tower lobby entrance. This new look is further enhanced by the four paddle fans which have been added to the front entrance. Once inside the lobby, a new, more contemporary decor greets guests -- chairs, sofas and the carpet are all a soft aquamarine color. Even the costumes are new for the Lodging and Front Office Cast Members.

Polynesian Resort - King Kamehameha is Koming January 1, 1986. This great warrior King, who unified the Hawaiian islands, is bringing new Royal Polynesian Services to the Polynesian Village Resort. Approximately 150 of the 855 Polynesian rooms will be sold as King Kamehameha accommodations. Along with a beautifully redecorated room of sea green, rose corals, and Hawaiian blue, guests who reserve a King Kamehameha room will be greeted with valet parking, a special concierge area for check-in, and other services. Special room gifts will await guests in their rooms and every night they can expect turn-down service.

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

Pooh's Playful Spot, a new children's play area in the Magic Kingdom, has (no surprise!) a few new hidden images:

1. A side profile of Mickey Mouse is carved into the bark, outside on the back of the big tree. It's at the upper left corner above the lower window. (Thanks to Bob Ondercik and Kristy Mantarro for this great Hidden Mickey.)

2. Inside the big tree, a classic Mickey is formed by embedded rocks above the frame of the smaller children's entrance. (Angela Coutavas sent me this Hidden Mickey sighting).

3. Above the frame of the larger entrance inside the big tree is a depression in the wood shaped like a submarine! Maybe this is a tribute to the previous attraction at this location (the "20,000 Leagues" submarines)? (Angela Coutavas spotted this jewel as well.)

Some folks have told me about an image carved in the wood, high up in the big tree in the center, that resembles a classic Mickey. I've taken some close-up photos of this image, and it doesn't seem like a proportional three-circle Mickey to me. Let me know if you disagree with me!

For other Hidden Mickey alerts visit:

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by Jack Spence

I'm sure that many of you have ridden Living with the Land at Epcot's Land pavilion many times. And if you've gotten off this attraction and said to yourself, "That was nice, but it sure wasn't Test Track," then you might want to skip this review. But if you've been impressed with the information presented on this 13-minute journey through the future of farming, then read on.

Disney offers a behind-the-scenes tour of the Living with the Land attraction called Behind the Seeds. This excursion takes small groups of between 10-15 guests backstage with a knowledgeable guide and presents a more in-depth look at the wonders of this attraction. Tours are 45 minutes in length and costs $12 for adults and $10 for children (3 through 9). Discounts are available for Disney Vacation Club members, annual passholders, and active military.

Our first stop was in the "bug room" (my title, not theirs). Here we were told how Disney breeds "good" bugs to be released into the greenhouse to eat the "bad" bugs. We were also shown a short video graphically showing bugs laying eggs, destroying plants, and eating one another. I found it interesting, but if you're squeamish about insects, you might want to focus your attention on other things in the room. Our guide asked for three volunteers as she eyed the children in the group. Two eagerly raised their hands and a third was reluctantly recruited by her parents. Each child was given a small vial that contained several Lady Beetles (I call 'em Lady Bugs). The kids were told that later in the tour they would be releasing these insects out into the greenhouse to eat bad bugs.

During the next 35 minutes of the tour we walked through the actual Living with the Land attraction. We could easily see the boats floating by and they could easily see us. It kind of made me feel special to watch the "ordinary" guests float by as I was being given a VIP tour. Each of the growing methods that are talked about on the actual attraction are explained in more detail on this tour. Plus, here you have the opportunity to ask questions.

Read the rest of Jack's tour report, which includes photos, at: For other articles by Jack Spence visit:

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ALL EARS® Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills shares this report on the July 15 gathering in Allentown, PA:'s Brian Martsolf, Linda Eckwerth and I were in Allentown, PA, for the East Coast event of the summer! Organizer Fred Block and his team of volunteers provided a day of magic, fun and smiles to 350 fans from all over. Many Disney Internet notables, including Steve Barrett of the Hidden Mickeys guide, and Jennifer and Dave Marx, of PassPorter Travel Press, were in attendance. MousePlanet's Mike Scopa wowed the audience with his opening talk about the Disney Zone. Breakout sessions included discussions on a variety of topics, such as Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, the Disney Cruise Line, Hidden Mickeys, Pin Trading and much, much more. Before we knew it, the day was over -- we all left wishing there was at least a little more! Stay tuned for announcements later this year for the 2007 event, which promises to be bigger and better than ever! Once it is announced, don't delay; the 2006 event sold out quickly!

Related Links:
Photos from the event:
Brian Martsolf's Report:
Mike Scopa's Report:

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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire -- Play It! in the Disney-MGM Studios will have its last shows on August 19, 2006.

Also in Disney-MGM Studios, as part of the Magical Beginnings program, geared to families with children under 5, there will be Playhouse Disney in Concert performances as follows:

-- August 13-14: Imagination Movers - ABC Theater
-- August 15-19: "Mickey's Magic Show" - Soundstage 1
-- August 20-23: The Doodlebops - ABC Theater
-- August 24-27: "Mickey's Magic Show" - Soundstage 1
-- August 28: Playhouse Disney Dance Party - Sorcerer Mickey Hat stage
-- August 29-September 1: The Wiggles - Epic Theater

The new, interactive "Pirate Tutorial" featuring Captain Jack and his mate, Mack, outside Pirates of the Caribbean in the Magic Kingdom, runs through the end of August. Visitors will be treated to a 20-minute lesson on becoming a pirate. Showtimes are currently 10:15 and 11:20 a.m., and 12:25, 1:30, 3:15, 4:20 and 5:25 p.m.

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

Now - August 6: Bjorn Again - A Tribute to ABBA
August 7 - August 13: Transit Authority - A Tribute to Chicago

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp practices are under way at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex ( Practice times change daily, with general practices held in the morning and afternoon each day during camp (through August 16). Tentative times for the first part of August are:

August 1 -2: 8:30 - 10:45 a.m. and 2:45 - 5:00 p.m.
August 3: 8:30 - 10:45 a.m. and 2:45 - 3:55 p.m.
August 4: Practices - 8:30 - 10:45 a.m. and 2:45 - 5:00 p.m.

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 must 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

Don't forget to check our Events page for periodic updates:


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.

Liberty Square Riverboat is scheduled to reopen at the Magic Kingdom on September 8, 2006, after an extensive rehab. (This is earlier than the original September 22 reopening date previously announced!)

The Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland (Tea Cups) is scheduled to be closed August 21-22.

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.

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

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

Be sure to check our Rehabs and Closings page for periodic updates:

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Carol T. from CA: Our most magical Magical Moment happened in October 1999. On the second-to-last day of our practically perfect trip to WDW, our daughter (then 8 years old) came to me and said she wanted to buy her daddy a special gift. After much discussion and store-hopping, she decided on a Walt Disney World baseball cap. After paying for it with her own money, she took the notepad in our hotel room and wrote her dad a note thanking him for working hard so that we could have a wonderful vacation. Needless to say, my husband put that note right into the room safe, so that the housekeeping staff wouldn't discard it by mistake! She's now almost 15, and our daughter is still as loving and thoughtful as she was back then! Somehow, Disney magic brings out the best!


Lori Speer: My Magical Moment might be a bit strange. On our first day of vacation we had just left DisneyQuest and my husband reached for his wallet and it was not there. We did everything we could and filled out all the necessary paperwork. Three days later Guest Services called our room and said they had found the wallet. After talking with my husband to verify the wallet was his, the first thing the Cast Member said as she handed him the wallet was, "Thank you for serving our country." (His military ID was in the wallet.) I was thrilled that everything, including the cash, was in the wallet, but the most magical thing for me was her thanking him.


Robin Sharkis: My Magical Moment is one that I will never forget. June 25, 2005, was my 36th birthday and being at the Magic Kingdom is really quite amazing enough on my birthday, but that evening, near the end of the night, my husband, my boys (Jamie who was 11 and Brendan who was 8) and I rode Big Thunder Mountain. Right as we were climbing the hill, the fireworks started to really shower the night sky. For the rest of the ride we had many glimpses of the fireworks. I had tears in my eyes at that moment just enjoying the true magic that was happening and it seemed like it was just for us! I still get the chills when I think about it, and hope to do it again next year on my birthday!


Courtney Agnello: I still start to cry a little thinking about this Magical Moment that happened on our kids' first trip to Disney, almost a year ago. My 5-year-old daughter, Katie, has always been uneasy around characters and had not really warmed up to any of her favorites by early afternoon on our second day at the parks. In fact, she had stayed far, far away from Mickey, Minnie, etc. She even insisted we sit in the very back row for the Beauty and the Beast show, where we had just gotten shelter from the daily rainstorm over the Disney-MGM Studios. When the rain ended, we decided to head back to the hotel for a break. As we returned our stroller at Oscar's, I turned my head to see none other than Katie's all-time favorite princess, Mulan, just standing there by herself, not 10 feet away, waiting for someone to talk to. I tapped Katie on the shoulder and gestured Mulan's way. Katie was so excited but nervous, too. I told her she could stay where she was while her little brother and I walked over to ask Mulan to wave at her from a short but "safe" distance just across the alley. As soon as I explained the situation to Mulan, she immediately hiked her beautiful gown above the puddles and went right to Katie's side. She bent down to her level and had a 5-minute conversation with her. She put her at ease right away -- it was amazing! Both Katie and Ryan had a very special private visit with her. I don't know if she knows the difference she made to us... her gentle warmth allowed my daughter to feel comfortable with all the characters we met for the rest of the trip. By the last day, she was actually HUGGING Minnie -- something we never ever would have imagined a few short days before. Katie still loves showing off the first autograph of the many she wound up accumulating in her book. She smiles and tells people, "Mulan is so nice!" Thanks, Mulan!


Relive your Magical Moment with the ALL EARS® Family! Send your Magical Moment in to 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.