September 2006
Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the August 29, 2006, Issue #362 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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STEP BACK IN TIME
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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 1973 and "The Walt Disney Story."

Having just returned from a research trip to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, I was really able to take my time in what is my favorite part of the entire resort. I spent a great portion of my day on Main Street, USA, and was brought back to my childhood, walking down the street, parents in tow, marveling at the sights, sounds, and yes, the House of Magic. So, on this journey in my WayBack Machine, I wanted to focus on a time when the Magic Kingdom was still in its relative infancy, and discuss a wonderful, now-extinct Main Street, USA attraction.

(Lou borrows four quarters from his dad, plunks them into the WayBack Machine's coin slot, and sets the dials for 1973.)

The sounds of Tony Orlando and Dawn singing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Old Oak Tree" are quickly drowned out by the sounds of children laughing, train whistles, and a ragtime tune being played on a distant piano. I'm on Main Street, USA in the spring of 1973. There is no EPCOT Center. No Blizzard Beach. Not even a Port Orleans or Grand Floridian. The Magic Kingdom IS Walt Disney World. Well, for now, anyway.

So... Main Street, USA -- an eastern seaboard, Victorian-era model town, with architecture and elements found in the late 1800s. I could literally spend hours (or should I say "pages"?) talking about the shops, both present and past, the architecture, the windows, details and so much more. But I'll have to save that for another trip. What I want to focus on is something that you may not really remember all that well. Let's head on over to the Town Square Exposition Hall... or, as it was known then, the Gulf Hospitality House.

Along with Tom Sawyer Island, this was Walt Disney World's newest attraction at the time. Located adjacent to the Hospitality House, The Walt Disney Story depicted Walt's life from his early childhood days in Marceline, Missouri, to the creation of Mickey Mouse and the development of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The attraction played in a theater constructed explicitly for this film. The film itself was a project that began in June 1969. It wasn't completed and previewed until March 1973, though. In order to accurately tell Walt Disney's life stories, a staff of more than 200 people at Walt Disney Productions pored over 75 hours of interviews conducted with Walt before his untimely death on December 15, 1966, just 10 days after his 65th birthday. One of the principle contributors was Bill Bosche, an artist and producer who worked for Disney for more than 30 years. Taking excerpts from these interviews, Walt Disney posthumously narrated much of his own autobiography.

This 23-minute film played simultaneously at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, with the WDW version opening in April 1973. It was dedicated on May 6 of that same year and ran until October 5, 1992. This attraction was unique in that it was free, as Walt Disney World was still using a coupon system of ticketing. It was sponsored by Gulf Oil, the same sponsor of the attraction building.

The theater was built on the southwest side of the Hospitality House, and even had a separate entrance constructed. Looking at the Town Square Exposition Hall today, the short staircase to the right of the building's main entrance was originally created for the Walt Disney Story.

Inside the building, the long hallway that made up the queue area was filled with Disney memorabilia, including the one-of-a-kind Academy Award given to Walt for the 1937 masterpiece Snow White. Unlike a traditional Oscar statue, this one had seven smaller Oscars at its side. You could also find a scale model of the Nautilus, used in Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. (Until recently, you could have found that same model in the Living Seas queue. It is unknown whether it will remain when the Nemo-ization of the pavilion is complete.)

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

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HIDDEN MICKEYS ALERT
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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:

Folks continue to spot new Hidden Mickeys at Expedition Everest! Here's a good one:

1. Walk up the steps outside and across from Serka Zong Bazaar shop and find the tablets on the left side. An upside-down classic Mickey is etched on the second tablet from the edge closest to the shop. (Submitted by Dick Larson.) http://allears.net/btp/hm125.jpg

2. I finally have decent photos of the yeti with Mickey ears along the entrance queue. I include two descriptions from guests who spotted this cool Hidden Mickey:

While traveling through the standby queue for Expedition Everest, take a careful look at the items in the cupboards in Tashi's Trek and Tongba Shop. As you round the last corner of the shop before exiting, the cupboards appear in the corner on your right. The cupboard contains several canned goods, and small yeti figures appear on the top shelf. Look closely to find a yeti sporting black Mickey Ears.

On the stand-by line for Everest, there is a room after the room with the red walls and before the museum room. It is decorated like a shop. Along the back wall, there are cabinets with food. To the right of the cabinet filled with corn, there are yeti dolls. One of the smaller ones is wearing a Mickey Mouse eared hat. (Submitted by Jesse Kline, Tim Rachuba, and Justine Gamale.)
http://allears.net/btp/hm126.jpg
http://allears.net/btp/hm127.jpg

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

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2006 UPDATE
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Have you heard about MouseFest? It's an international Disney fan gathering that takes place every December at Walt Disney World and on the Disney Wonder cruise ship. Beginning with the MouseFest Cruise, December 3-7, 2006, fans from around the world will take part in a variety of meets to share their mutual enjoyment of Disney. There are more than 15 events scheduled during the cruise, from relaxing in the Cove Cafe (adult coffee bar) to parasailing on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, to a "Meet the Authors" event, and much more.

The land portion of MouseFest begins on Thursday, December 7, in the Magic Kingdom. More than 30 events, spanning all four major theme parks plus Downtown Disney, are already on the schedule. "Stop, Drop, and Roll" at the Disney-MGM Studios, enjoy a Dole Whip at the Magic Kingdom, look for Hidden Mickeys at Epcot, and ride the latest E-ticket attraction, Expedition Everest, in Animal Kingdom.

The Grand Event is the MegaMouseMeet on Saturday, December 9, from 1 - 3:30 p.m., at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort. Meet your favorite Disney authors, webmasters and community leaders who will all be in one place at the same time!

MouseFest is open to anyone who wishes to attend any of the events. Most events have no charge (other than your theme park admission) and all have hosts to help you feel welcome. Thirteen Disney online communities/websites, six Disney Podcast networks, and eight authors have already committed to participating in the weeklong event.

For more details and updates visit: http://mousefest.org

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QUICK BITES
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Wondering what counter service eatery to try on your next visit to the Disney-MGM Studios? Your current choices are Flatbread Grill (formerly the Studio Catering Company), Starring Rolls Cafe, Backlot Express, Toy Story Pizza Planet and the ABC Commissary.

For a quick breakfast, Starring Rolls (next to the Brown Derby) is recommended by 100% of the reviewers with an average rating of 8.8 out of 10:

dmackay813: Delicious food, reasonable prices. The chocolate croissant was out of this world. My kids just got bagels, so no biggie there, but my husband had the cherry danish and couldn't stop bragging about it. The only problem is the place gets busy fast, and the line to pay gets out of control. You can't fit in there and try to pick the food you want when there is a line.

Your favorite choice of counter service lunch/dinner is the Flatbread Grill with a rating of 9.6 out of 10! Readers highly recommend the chicken with rice and beans:

kcolley: The best counter service meal we had on our stay. We had the chicken with rice and beans.

MaryGinia09: Very easy to order and the open air seating with the cover was very pleasant. My boyfriend and I both got the grilled chicken caesar wraps! They were delicious!

laura33185: Good food, nice selection, less crowded but it doesn't open until 11:30. I haven't been very impressed with the restaurant selection at Disney-MGM Studios, but now I am.

Your least favorite places for counter service were the ABC Commissary and the Toy Story Pizza Planet. Both garnered mixed reviews!

What about you? Have you tried any of these counter service experiences at the Studios 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.

Disney-MGM Studios reviews: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showcat.php?cat=35&page=1

You'll find our Rate and Review section at: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost

For menus visit: http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm#mgm

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MONTHLY REMIND-EARS
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The fall season at Walt Disney World kicks into high gear during September with many special events!

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:

-- Aug. 29-Sept. 1: The Wiggles - Epic Theater (Indiana Jones theater)
-- Sept. 2-10: Johnny & the Sprites - ABC Theater (next to Sounds Dangerous)
-- Sept. 11-16: Ralph's World - ABC Theater (next to Sounds Dangerous)
-- Sept. 17: Playhouse Disney Dance Party - Sorcerer Mickey Hat stage
-- Sept. 18-24: Imagination Movers - ABC Theater (next to Sounds Dangerous)
-- Sept. 25-30: Dan Zanes and friends - ABC Theater (next to Sounds Dangerous)
http://allears.net/tp/mgm/pdic.htm

Magic Kingdom

Night of Joy - Contemporary Christian music concerts to be held September 8 and 9, from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., in the Magic Kingdom. Tickets are now on sale for $42.55 including tax for one night, and $72.37 including tax for both nights. Annual or Seasonal Passholders can purchase one-night tickets in advance for $37.23 for the passholder and up to three guests. Tickets must be picked up at "Will Call." A valid Annual Pass, Premium Annual Pass or Seasonal Pass must be presented at the time of pick-up. Same-day tickets (if available) will cost $44.95. http://allears.net/tp/mk/noj.htm

We are looking for first hand reports on the Night of Joy event: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=250&samp;ort=8&cat=65&page=1

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party starts early this year -- first dates are September 15, 22, 29. Guests are invited to dress in costumes and trick-or-treat through the park from 7 p.m. to midnight each evening (after regular park closing). The party includes a parade and a bewitching fireworks spectacular.

For information visit: http://allears.net/tp/mk/mnssh.htm

For reader reviews (and to post yours): http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=222&sort=8&cat=65&page=1

Epcot

The Epcot Food and Wine Festival will run from September 29 through November 12, 2006. 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 lineup this year, including classic rock, oldies and country performers. For more information: http://allears.net/tp/ep/foodwine.htm

Disney's Pin Celebration 2006 - "It All Started with ... Walt" - September 8-10, 2006. This three-day event will feature a unique collection of specially designed pins, trading activities, fun and much more. Event admission will be $90 per person. http://eventservices.disney.go.com/pintrading/event?id=13544

The National Fantasy Fan Club (NFFC) will hold its first annual convention in Orlando from September 29 through October 1, 2006. The event will take place at the Walt Disney World Swan, in Epcot, and in the Magic Kingdom. The NFFC, an international club for Disney enthusiasts with more than 30 chapters, regularly holds a convention at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA. On Saturday, Disney memorabilia collectors and dealers will sell their wares at the Show & Sale at the Swan, which opens to the public at 10 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.nffc.org/events/event_newsdetail.asp?id=11, or contact Kendra Trahan, National President, NFFC, at 407-877-3831.

The Walt Disney World Triathlon is scheduled for September 22-24, 2007. This three-day race weekend will include an aquathlon, an expo and a kids' triathlon. The Disney triathlon includes a 1.5K swim (1 mile), a 40K bike ride (23.9 miles) and a 10K run (6.2 miles) around Walt Disney World Resort. Athletes must be at least 15 years old to participate and can register as an individual or as part of a team. The Walt Disney World Kids' Triathlon will be held Saturday, September 23, allowing children ages 7-14 the opportunity to take part in Walt Disney World Triathlon Weekend. Pricing, event information and registration materials are available online at disneyworldsports.com.

Tom Joyner Family Reunion is scheduled for September 1-4. Tom Joyner, host of the nation's No. 1 urban morning radio show, invites his family of listeners to enjoy performances by some of the country's best known musicians, comedians and gospel acts, plus theme park fun, parties, and family-oriented events. For information and to book packages, visit blackamericaweb.com or call 1-888/TJFAMILY.

As part of the weekend, the Tom Joyner Family Reunion Party will be held at the Disney-MGM Studios on September 2 from 9 p.m. - 2 a.m. The concert will feature Charlie Wilson, LL Cool J, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Keyshia Cole. Individual tickets to this event are available by calling 407-W-DISNEY or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com

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

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Rehabs and Closings:

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

Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at the Disney-MGM Studios will be closed for refurbishment September 14 through September 19. http://allears.net/tp/mgm/m_stunt.htm

Living with the Land boat ride in Epcot closed for refurbishment from August 20 and is due to reopen September 17. Unconfirmed information indicates that a pre-recorded narration will be added to the boat ride eliminating the need for a Cast Member on each boat, and that FastPass will also be removed from this attraction. http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_land.htm

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.) http://allears.net/tp/mk/rboat.htm

Cinderellabration's last show will be on Saturday, September 16, 2006. A new stage show will premiere in the Magic Kingdom as part of the "Year of a Million Dreams" promotion. Details of the new show have not yet been released. http://allears.net/tp/mk/cinder.htm

The Hall of the Presidents is scheduled for rehab from September 11-24. http://allears.net/tp/mk/mk_hop.htm

Mickey's Country House will be closed September 11-15 for a short rehab. http://allears.net/tp/mk/mickey.htm

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
http://allears.net/menu/menu_chh.htm

Cirque du Soleil La Nouba at West Side - No shows September 17 - 25. http://allears.net/btp/cirq.htm

The Fantasia Pool at All Star Movies will be closed for rehab September 11 - December 11, 2006. All-Star Movies guests can use the "quiet" pools as well as the main pools at the other All Star Resorts.

Hess Gas Station at the Disney Car Care Center (Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza area) closed August 21 for an extensive refurbishment to last approximately three months. Once it reopens, a brand-new s tructure will house 4000 square feet of merchandise, as well as food and beverage space enhanced by a unique theme approved by Walt Disney Imagineering. During the construction period, the Disney Car Care Center and Alamo Car Rental will continue to operate. The station is tentatively scheduled to reopen by Thanksgiving.

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

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MAGICAL MOMENTS
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In light of our Cast Member Magic article last week, this month's Magical Moments are all about Cast Members!

Melissa: We just got back from Disney a few days ago! On our last day at Disney, during our last few hours at Magic Kingdom, someone walked off with our rented stroller. It was bad enough that my two daughters were exhausted and not in the mood for the hike through the park, but what really devastated me was that I had two photo packets in the stroller of my girls with Cinderella! We had eaten at the Castle that evening at Cinderella's Royal Table and the dinner included two packets of professional photos taken with Cinderella and a beautiful picture of the Castle. I went straight to the stroller rental area, but no one had seen the pictures. I went to the restaurant and left all of the information I could think of to see if they could make a reprint for me. They said if they could, it would be delivered to my hotel early in the morning. I heard nothing the next morning and that was the morning we had to leave to go home to PA. I hated the thought that my pictures might be gone forever. When I got home, I tried calling the restaurant again with no luck. Then, suddenly, the phone rang and Debbie from the stroller rental department was on the phone. She had gone to the restaurant and gotten the reprints for me! So... thanks to Cinderella's Royal Table for taking the time to do that for me. And, most of all, a huge thank you to Debbie for giving me the second thought that some might not have. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day and helping me retrieve my beautiful photos!

Lambs21: Our most recent trip to the World was in December 2005. We were waiting for SpectroMagic to begin. My daughter, Claire, was almost asleep when Amber, a Fantasyland Cast Member, came over and sat down next to her. Amber and Claire had a conversation that lasted almost 15 minutes. Then Amber asked her if she would like to turn off the lights in the Magic Kingdom for the parade. Amber made a big deal out of it -- introducing Claire to the crowd and making her feel very special. I have never seen such a big smile on my daughter's face as when she "turned off" the lights in the Magic Kingdom. We visited the Magic Kingdom two more times on that trip, and we always stopped in Fantasyland to visit Amber.

Trish Santana: While staying at the Yacht Club with my family of five in May 2006, we heard a knock on our door around 6:30 at night while we were getting ready for dinner. Having no idea who it could possibly be, I opened the door to find Captain Hook and Donald Duck, both dressed in pirate costumes. You can't imagine the shock of seeing them there! My 4-year-old son ran to get the sword he had gotten at the Cinderella's Royal Table breakfast, and began to have a mock swordfight with Captain Hook. My 6-year-old daughter grabbed my son's pirate gun that we bought at Magic Kingdom, and began to shoot at Donald Duck. Both characters played right along with them, mocking being injured. My 9-year-old daughter just stood there with me and my husband and we laughed hysterically. It turns out that they were headed to a private party out on the Boardwalk, and just decided to add some joy to our lives by knocking on our door beforehand. We have many wonderful memories from Disney World, but this one is sure to last a lifetime.

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We just bet you have a story to tell about how a Cast Member made your day Magical -- we all do! Please send your favorite Cast Member memory for inclusion in a future ALL EARS® to: allearsnet@yahoo.com

Thank you all for sharing!


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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.