December 2009
Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the November 24, 2009 Issue #531 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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Ever wonder what Walt Disney World was like way back when? We rummage around in our archives for this monthly feature, which takes you back in history for a glimpse of Walt Disney World through the ages. This month, we go back to December 1973, when Pirates of the Caribbean opened in Adventureland's Caribbean Plaza at the Magic Kingdom.

In the late 1950s, Walt Disney introduced the concept of a pirate adventure to his staff at Walt Disney Imagineering. Like so many of his ideas, it was far ahead of the current technology needed to achieve the desired effects. It was not until the mid-1960s that the show moved closer to reality. Pirates of the Caribbean opened at Disneyland in New Orleans Square in February 1967, and in Walt Disney World on December 15, 1973. The attraction later opened in Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland.

Caribbean Plaza in Adventureland, where the attraction is located, features the Spanish and English architectural styles of the 18th century West Indies. Inside, the Walt Disney World attraction features 125 Audio-Animatronics figures -- 65 pirates and villagers and 60 animals and birds. Paul Frees and Thurl Ravenscroft provided the voices for many of the attraction's colorful characters. (These prolific voice artists also can be heard throughout the Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom.) Lyricist X. Atencio supplied the voice for the talking skull and crossbones that delivers an ominous warning to passing guests: "Dead men tell no tales."

The flat-bottomed boats are propelled by jets of water. Lift pumps in the staging area create a current that carries the boats through the channel. The waterfall may be 52 feet long, but the actual drop is only 14 feet.

Due to the hit motion picture "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," and the follow-up, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," the attraction was updated summer 2006 with the addition of Captain Jack Sparrow and his nemesis Barbossa, from the feature films.

Here's a trivia tidbit from "Pirates of the Caribbean from Magic Kingdom to Movies," by Jason Surrell:

"Check Matey - Once inside the Castillo, guests pass through a dimly lit labyrinth of arsenals and dungeons that serve as the attraction's interior queue, home to one of the most brilliantly conceived and least-appreciated of Marc Davis's sight gags. Guests who peek through the iron bars of one of the cells find two skeletal inmates hunched over a chessboard, concentrating on their game even in death. The contest is in a state of perpetual check, in which the only available move leads to a sort of loop that can never be broken. Apparently both buccaneers would rather die than declare a tie, and Fate has obliged them. When the tableau was refurbished in the 1990s along with the rest of the attraction, the chessboard was inadvertently swept clean and the Imagineers realized they had no idea how to re-create the game. Fortunately the project team discovered that Marc Davis had drawn a diagram of what the board should look like on the back of his original sketch of the scene!"

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Steve Barrett, author of the Hidden Mickeys books and webmaster of alerts you to a few cool Hidden Mickeys at Disney's Hollywood Studios. They're worth the hunt!"

1. On the stage backdrop in the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, a classic Mickey is behind the upper right windowpane at the rear of the set, under the sign "Motomania." (Thanks to Greg, Sharon Dale, Michelle and Paul Klein, and Lisa Leonard.)

2. On the left wall inside Hollywood & Vine restaurant, bushes form several classic Mickeys to the immediate left and also above the stick figure Mickey on the right side of the "San Fernando Valley" wall mural. (Thanks to Sharon Dale, Amy Amyot, Marissa, Frankie Tonra, and Devon Newport.)

3. At the rear of the Cars Meet and Greet area, a side profile of Mickey Mouse is etched in the lower part of a side wall to the left of the large brick wall mural that says "Radiator Springs, A Happy Place." (Thanks to Bonnie Smith and Bill Iadonisi.)

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Holidays Around the World are upon us, with decorations around the parks and resorts, as well as all sort of special events.

Magic Kingdom

Cinderella Castle beams brightly as the evening is capped with eye-popping fireworks orchestrated to classic holiday tunes.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party remaining dates: November 29; December 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 2009.
General Information on the Party:


Candlelight Processional with celebrity narrators; World Showcase Storytellers, and a special finale to IllumiNations.

Presented at America Gardens Theatre in Epcot at 5, 6:45 and 8 p.m. nightly, November 27 through December 30, the Candlelight Processional features celebrity narrators who retell the joyous Christmas story. New celebrities set to perform in the annual holiday presentation include Isabella Rossellini, Vanessa Williams, and Whoopi Goldberg. The schedule (subject to change) is as follows:

November 27-29 -- Isabella Rossellini
November 30 & December 1-2 -- John O'Hurley
December 3-5 -- Steven Curtis Chapman
December 6-8 -- Anika Noni Rose
December 9-11 -- Andy Garcia
December 12-13 -- Vanessa Williams
December 14-17 -- Abigail Breslin (NOTE: This is a slight change, as Vanessa Williams was originally supposed to appear on December 14.)
December 18-20 -- Whoopi Goldberg
December 21-23 -- Brian Dennehy
December 24-6 -- Edward James Olmos
December 27-30 -- Angela Bassett/Courtney B. Vance

Animal Kingdom:

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade gets a holiday makeover November 27, 2009, through January 3, 2010, when it is magically transformed into Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.

Disney's Hollywood Studios:

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights -- the Streets of America glow with millions of dancing lights and animated displays November 10, 2009, through January 4, 2010.

Downtown Disney:

Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney -- Finish holiday shopping while enjoying dazzling lights, holiday decor and special entertainment at this one-stop mecca through January 3, 2010. At Downtown Disney Marketplace, meet Santa himself November 27-December 24 from noon to 10 p.m. (subject to change). And starting December 25, pose with Santa Goofy through January 3 at Santa's Chalet from 3 to 10 p.m.

Disney Resorts:

Disney chefs deck the halls in fanciful fashion, creating larger-than-life displays from edible ingredients all across Walt Disney World Resort. Not to be missed displays include the life-sized Victorian gingerbread house in the lobby of the Grand Floridian. At Disney's Beach Club Resort, a life-size carousel silently spins in the lobby, featuring ponies made of chocolate and fondant, giant candy cane poles, handcrafted poinsettias and hand-painted portraits of famous Disney characters.

Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground - Reservations are now being taken 90 days in advance for horse-drawn Sleigh Rides through the backwoods of Fort Wilderness. The 25-minute rides will be offered November 29 through December 30, and will depart every half hour between 5:30 and 10 p.m. from in front of Crockett's Tavern at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Each carriage holds up to four adults or two adults and three small children. Rides cost $60. Call 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529) to book.

The Disney Cruise Line

The Magic and the Wonder are all decked out. Special events on both ships include: nightly King Triton's Tree Lighting of a three-deck-tall tree; family crafts; and storytellers sharing tales of diverse holiday traditions.

Downtown Disney West Side

La Nouba, by Cirque du Soleil, will perform its annual special New Year's shows on December 31 at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. A special finale will be added to each performance that evening, plus there will be an exclusive gift for each guest, festive decor, and specialty drinks for purchase. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 407-939-7328 (407-WDW-SEAT).

Walt Disney World is offering several new ways to celebrate New Year's Eve this year:

-- A special two-hour, all-you-care-to-enjoy dinner, dessert and exclusive viewing of the Wishes fireworks show will be offered at the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station on December 31 between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. The Dinner and Dessert Party includes artisan breads, fruit, cheeses, sushi, salads, seared tuna, beef short-ribs and carved pork. There will also be a child-friendly section available during the party. A wide range of desserts will be available, and you can toast the New Year with a non-alcoholic sparkling beverage before the fireworks. Check in for the Party begins at 6:15 p.m. Prices are $139.99 for ages 10 and older; $69.99 for children 3 through 9.

-- The Fantasy in the Sky Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom begins at 9:50 p.m. The Party includes a self-service buffet featuring sweets and beverages and non-alcoholic sparkling drinks. Prices: $35.99 for ages 10 and over; $19.99 for children 3 through 9. Park admission is required. The Disney Dining Plan is not currently being accepted and pre-payment will be required when reserving seats for the night.

-- Victoria & Albert's restaurant at the Grand Floridian will offer an eight to 10 course menu on New Year's Eve, including caviar from around the world and an eclectic assortment of champagnes. Chef Scott Hunnel and his team will make appearances during the event, which, with wine and gratuity will be $375 plus tax for those 10 years of age and older (those under 10 can not attend). You must be older than 21 to be served alcohol. Booking has already begun for the event.


Disney's Wide World of Sports - The 53rd Pop Warner Super Bowl will be held at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex this December, marking the 15th consecutive year the football fest involving more than 60 teams is being held at Walt Disney World Resort. Teams are competing at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in four divisions based on size and age -- Jr. Pee Wee (ages 8-10), Pee Wee (9-11 yrs.), Jr. Midget (10-12 yrs.) and Midget (11-14 yrs.). For more information, visit

World Chapter NFFC/Disneyana Fan Club (NFFC) ( will host a very special Disneyana Show and Sale on Saturday, December 12, 2009, at the Regal Sun Resort (formerly the Grosvenor Resort), located in the Downtown Disney area. The NFFC is an international club for Disney fans and enthusiasts with 30 chapters worldwide. It regularly holds its conventions at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. On December 12, Disney memorabilia collectors and dealers will have their vintage and contemporary Disneyana on sale. Several authors of Disney-related books will be on hand, as well as several podcasters and Disney-related businesses promoting their services. The Show and Sale will open to the public at 10 a.m. and will conclude at 4 p.m. There is free parking. REGULAR ADMISSION AT THE DOOR IS $5.00 FOR SHOW AND SALE. For more information, visit World Chapter-NFFC's website at,
or email

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



Magic Kingdom -- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin: Closed for refurbishment December 6 - 19, 2009.

Typhoon Lagoon is closed for its annual refurbishment through January 9, 2010.

A complete list of rehabs can be found here:

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Each month we share reports of guests at Walt Disney World and Disneyland experiencing special Magic, and also special celebrations as part of the "What Will You Celebrate?" program.

Gigi: My husband has never really been a birthday kind of guy. Any mention of celebration resulted in eye rolling and a snort. (Think perfect Grumpy!) I begged and pleaded for "my" vacation of a lifetime to Walt Disney World and Jay begrudgingly agreed. We went to the Contemporary Resort for May 8-15, 2009. No one but me knew it was early for his birthday of June 1. Thanks to true Disney magic, we celebrated his lifetime of birthdays for a week! The phone reservation cast members and all resort cast members treated the birthday guy royally! Jay was stunned to be pinned upon arrival and wore his "1st Visit" pin, birthday pin and an assortment of Disney pins for the entire week! After attending the luau and being on stage with his lei, he added it to his daily attire. He had lunch with an Imagineer, did the Keys to the Kingdom tour and the Behind the Seeds Tour, went to the Hoop Dee Doo Revue and La Nouba . Each day was a separate treasure and adventure. A rental cart made everything possible. Even transportation and monorail cast members went out of their way to ensure he had a perfect week. In 39 years of marriage, he has never smiled so much. Wow! I nearly lost Jay in May 2008, but he had mentioned in ICU that we should have gone to WDW. Well, we did it! I can honestly say he is a changed guy. Don't put off your dreams. Mine came true when he had his eyes opened by Disney magic. I now have Doc instead of Grumpy!

Michelle Henderson: We had two Magical Moments on our vacation to Disney World this summer. On one of our first nights, we were staying in the Magic Kingdom for Extra Magic Hours .  Our 3-year-old had fallen asleep in the stroller, so my husband was watching her and my 5- and 7-year olds and I were taking advantage of no lines on the Dumbo ride. We saw Goofy come out by the carousel and we ran over to hug him. His helper asked if the kids wanted to ride the carousel with him -- which was a big YES! We have an extra special video of them on the horses with Goofy. The next moment happened later in our vacation. We each had a bad virus at one point during the week, and it was my husband's turn to stay in the room with a high fever and chills. I was still pretty exhausted from my day of sickness, but I took the kids to Epcot and we had a fabulous time touring the countries. We had reservations at the Garden Grill. While we were eating, my 5-year-old had to go to the restroom, which is located out of the eating area. I decided to just trust my fellow man and leave my 3-year-old and 7-year-old eating at the table. (I told the waitress I would be right back.) When we returned a few minutes later, Mickey was sitting in the booth in between my kids playing tic-tac-toe on their menu. I thought I was going to cry -- I was so happy to have Mickey as my personal babysitter! He was so nice and posed for more pictures. I felt like everything was good in our world that day. Even with the high fevers and crazy virus, we left Disney, determined to go back. (Again!)

Cindy LaRue: My husband, daughter (19), son (16) and I recently visited Disney World . One morning, my daughter, son & I were enjoying the Main Street Citizen Show in the Magic Kingdom and singing along to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." We have visited the Magic Kingdom numerous times and find the musical shows are just fantastic. Near the end of the song, a man approached us and moved us off to the side and told us we had just won "Disney Lotto." Of course we were all excited and wondered what that meant. We were then asked to be Grand Marshals in the Celebration Parade that day. What a dream come true! We had a marvelous time. All four of us received mouse ears with our names on them and a free photo of us in the Grand Marshal car. Our names were announced as we proceeded down Main Street . It was a day we will remember forever. I cannot describe how special that day was for us. We were truly blessed. So never give up hope. Your dream just may come true when you least expect it. Anything is possible in Disney World.

Christine Piro: We just got back from a wonderful week in the world. We saved one of our favorite experiences from our last trip in 2007 for our last day again this trip... a dinner at Chef Mickey's! We arrived about 25 minutes before our ADR, which was one of the first of the evening. My husband checked in with my two boys and as they stood at the podium the CM said, "How would you like to be the family of the day? You get to open Chef Mickey's!" My boys were so excited! We got to wait in a special spot. They then called my boys over to the velvet ropes. They introduced them, and let them karate chop the rope to "open" the restaurant. Mickey then joined the boys and escorted them into the restaurant. We got incredible pictures and were then taken to the best table where the boys got to sign Mickey's own autograph book. They each got Magical Moment cards signed by the Fab 5 to remember the special event. What a truly Magical Moment it was for them. We will remember this always!


AllEars® Readers also have shared their Magical Moments in our monthly photo essay, Wandering the World. This month focuses on special memories of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.

Send your Magical Moments to:


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.