April 2007 Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the March 13, 2007 Issue #390 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 is back with his latest edition of the Walt Disney World Wayback Machine. This month, he tells us about Audio-Animatronics at Walt Disney World!

Several months ago, I was inspired by something I saw on television speaking about the new Seven Wonders of the "modern" world. It got me to thinking of what the Seven Wonders of Walt Disney World might be. While many things came to mind, I also wanted to enlist the help and opinion of others, so I asked for comments and suggestions from readers and listeners to my podcast. These "wonders" could be anything from technological marvels, to attractions, to engineering feats, something intangible, or even something that just makes Walt Disney World truly special and "magical" for us all.

Among the many responses I received were some that were overwhelmingly popular, including Spaceship Earth, which was the first to make the list. But I want to talk a little bit about the second of those wonders, as it is one that has a long and storied history at Walt Disney World, and goes back to Walt himself.

"Wonder"ing what I'm referring to? Well, this is something that is truly a Wonder not just because of the technological innovations and advancements it has had through the years, but because of what an essential and integral part of Walt Disney World they are. They are not merely fixtures or props, but have become living characters who we have grown to know and love and, in some cases, revere. Whether it be the simple children in "it's a small world," the Red Head and Auctioneer in Pirates of the Caribbean, "Big Al", (dare I say) Stitch, or the dad from Carousel of Progress, they are all what help make WDW such a truly magical place. What began as a vision of Walt Disney and really a novelty with the early Tiki Birds, has evolved incredibly to what we have today — lifelike Captain Jack Sparrows, a free-roving Lucky the Dinosaur and the Mobile Muppet Labs. Yes, I'm talking about Audio-Animatronics.

It was one of Walt Disney's early dreams to create attractions that featured characters that didn't have to be "human" cast members dressed up in costumes. (Remember, AA figures don't take breaks, call out sick, need to be fed, join unions, etc.) In fact, when talking about Disneyland, he knew exactly what his vision would be, and his foresight and dreams of where he wanted Animatronics to go seems to finally have come true: "I want to have a Chinese restaurant at the Park. Out in the lobby will be an old Chinese fellow like Confucius — not an actor, but a figure made out of plastic. Now the customers will ask him questions, and he'll reply with words of wisdom. We'll have an operator in back of the figure answering the questions and making the lips move."

Read the rest of Lou's "Audio-Animatronics at Walt Disney World" at: http://allears.net/tp/mk/aa_lou.htm


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: http://allears.net/ae/issue322.htm

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— 30 million blooms dress the park throughout the festival, which runs 60 colorful days.

— As part of this year's pirates and princesses theme, an elaborate pirate ship topiary will feature Peter Pan and his nemesis, Captain Hook, plus Tinker Bell — all as intricately designed topiaries. Other topiary whimsy includes: Pirate Mickey Mouse and Princess Minnie Mouse, a towering Pirate Goofy, Cinderella and Prince Charming and Belle and her Beast from "Beauty and the Beast." The largest character topiary at this year's festival is Pirate Goofy, which towers 14 feet above


— More than 70 topiaries, including the sweetheart topiary grouping of Cinderella and Prince Charming and Belle and her Beast, are installed across park grounds for the festival. The enduring couples are displayed on a "Lovers Lane" from behind Spaceship Earth to World Showcase Plaza.

— More than 500 native butterflies representing up to 10 species reside in Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden, a gazebo-type enclosure filled with lush plants and measuring more than 40 feet in diameter. Guests can stroll through the screened habitat to view the colorful butterflies. Among the garden's two dozen nectar plants are Cape Royal plumbago, passion flower, coral honeysuckle, blazing star, butterfly bush, scarlet milkweed and canna lily. Three butterfly topiaries are on display.

— 300,000 bedding plants are installed for the festival.

— More than 15 floral, herbal and spice ingredients of eight popular perfumes are revealed in the Fragrance Garden presented by Guerlain at the France pavilion. Guests can sniff the enduring fragrance Shalimar to discover botanical notes that include lemon, Arabian jasmine and vanilla. Components of seven other Guerlain fragrances include mimosa, magnolia, rose, nutmeg and vetivergrass. This year, Guerlain added the fragrance Insolence to the garden.

— Nearly 40 varieties of trees, plants and flowers are featured in this year's The Art of Outdoor Living garden, a pan-tropical fusion presented by Dupont Garden Systems near the Morocco pavilion that combines the ambiance of exotic Bali with an elegant West Palm Beach mood to create an upscale outdoor living area along with an innovative kids play zone.

For the complete information on the 2007 International Flower and Garden visit: http://allears.net/tp/ep/flogar.htm

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Steve Barrett, author of the Hidden Mickeys book and webmaster of www.HiddenMickeysGuide.com highlights a few cool Hidden Mickeys around Walt Disney World:

1. If you happen by Old Key West Resort, stroll back to the main pool behind the registration building. The water slide opens into the pool through a classic Mickey. Now walk around to the water slide steps. To the upper right of the entrance to the steps, a faint classic Mickey is indented in the white rock above and opening in the rock.

2. Across from the check-in parking lot for Saratoga Springs Resort, in the Springs section (Villas 4101 – 4436), a large classic Mickey image is on the side of a red wall. Be sure to check out the classic Mickey holes in the balcony railings nearby.

3. Inside the World of Disney store, a side profile of Mickey is on the "Boys" sign hanging in the recently refurbished area."

Check out past Hidden Mickey Alerts from Steve here: http://allears.net/btp/hiddenm2.htm

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Magic Kingdom

The Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor — Annual Passholders Preview March 30 through April 1, 2007, during regular park hours. We also understand there are "Soft Openings" during this time so you may be able to see the show without an Annual Pass. Grand opening April 2, 2007! http://allears.net/tp/mk/lfcc.htm

Disney Grad Nites 2007 will be held April 20, 21, 27, 28! High school senior classes will gather for an exclusive, all-night party in the Magic Kingdom, featuring live performances by: –The Fray, which has gained fame with the platinum selling album "How to Save a Life"; –Cartel; –Mario Vazquez; –Cassie http://allears.net/tp/mk/grad.htm

Epcot – 14th International Flower and Garden Festival – April 5 – June 3, 2007.

Flower Power Concerts — America Gardens Theatre 5:45, 7, and 8:15 p.m. Tentatively scheduled performers (subject to change) include:

4/5 – 4/9 — Paul Revere and The Raiders
4/10 – 4/14 — Tony Orlando in Concert
4/15 – 4/18 — The Buckinghams
4/19 – 4/21 — The Turtles featuring Flo and Eddie
4/22 – 4/24 — The Box Tops (New)
4/25 – 4/28 — The Tokens
4/29 – 5/1 — Peter & Gordon (New)

Mickey's Pin Trading Night Friday, April 27, 2007 – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Disney's Contemporary Resort – Convention Center – Fantasia G. Meet Guests and trade Disney pins from around the world in a specially designed trading room with plenty of lighting. There will also be a sneak preview of upcoming pins for Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line® and the World of Disney Store – New York. The monthly Mickey's Pin Trading Night is a free activity for Disney Pin Traders of all ages. Mark your calendars for additional monthly Mickey's Pin Trading Nights. They will be held from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at at Disney's Contemporary Resort – Convention Center.


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


Rehabs and Closings


El Rio del Tiempo reopens as the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros after a major refurbishment on Monday, April 2. http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_mex.htm

Teppanyaki Restaurant in Epcot's Japan pavillion will be closed for a major rehab April 15 through August 25, 2007. NOTE: This rehab has been rescheduled several times now — and may change again. Check back to make sure of dates. (Originally reported dates were January 15 – May 25, 2007, then March 11 through July 14.)

Contemporary Resort — The North Garden wing is being demolished. The tennis courts and playground are also gone. Rumors persist that a Disney Vacation Club Resort will be built on the site, however no official announcement has been made. http://allears.net/tp/wander/wander68.htm

Yacht and Beach Club Marina – The Breathless, the ChrisCraft reproduction run-about that used to be docked at the Yacht Club marina and was used for IlllumiNations and other specialty cruises, is no longer sitting in its lift. It had been out of commission for several months, awaiting a refurbishment. We hear now that the boat will not be returning, nor will it be replaced. It appears as though this special type of boat experience will no longer be offered.

Walt Disney World Swan Resort — Gulliver's Grill Character Dinner will be closed for refurbishment from April 16 – June 7, 2007. During this time, Fresh (in the Dolphin) will host the Character Buffet dinner.


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

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The Year of a Million Dreams officially began Sunday, October 1, and as part of that celebration Disney Cast Members are not just dispensing "dream" prizes, but are also creating an unprecedented number of "Magical Moments." These include guests being tapped to help with the pixie-dusted opening of Magic Kingdom, getting the star treatment at a celebrity-style handprint ceremony at Disney-MGM Studios, or being named Official Wildlife Spotters at Disney's Animal Kingdom. We have some reports of guests at Walt Disney World and Disneyland receiving "dreams" from the Dream Squad and some of these Magical Moments, as well.


Disney6005: Over President's Day Weekend, we were furiously trying to fight our way through the crowds in Frontierland to meet up with our party at Country Bears. A cast member asked us if we had a second to challenge her to a shootin' match. Well, I figured the Bears could wait a minute or two, so we followed her over to the Shootin' Gallery, and she gave my son 150 free shots to play while she brought me over to help her fill in another certificate for him AND two special Fastpasses to either Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain for our entire party of nine. The crowds were so out of control that day we'd given up all hope of doing either of those rides, but we got to do both… and my son got to do the Shootin' Gallery, which is one of his favorite things, but traveling with his young cousins, it just wasn't something we had fit into the itinerary. Huzzah, Dream Squad!

Glen Liuzza: We were lucky enough to have a magical moment. We were waiting in line for Indiana Jones and they did not have any more seats. My 5-year-old son asked the cast member why we could not go in. She told us to come back for the next show and she will have a surprise. We came back and found we had reserved seats and all three of my sons got to go on stage and start the show with "Lights, Camera, Action!"

J. Cindy: Well, I didn't QUITE get a cruise but I did get in the mail today <drum roll> a silver 'Year of a Million Dreams' lanyard with TWO silver Disney pins! I'm so excited… and looking forward to August when we'll have our land/sea trip to WDW!

Nicole Mondloch: My friends and I won a dream on our recent trip to WDW. I was travelling with three of my best friends. Jill, Cindy, Amy and I were on an all-girls trip where we left husbands, kids and boyfriends at home. It was the first day of our trip and we decided to ride Space Mountain. The standby line was only 15 minutes so we got in line. After the ride was over and we were pulling up to the exit area, the Dream Squad was there. We were told that we were in the right place at the right time that day. We were each given a Year of a Million Dreams button and a wristband and told to return to Tomorrowland at 8 p.m. that evening. We had won an Extra Magic Dream Hour in the MK after it closed to the public. We were so excited that on the first day of our trip on our first ride, we had won! That evening we ran to Tomorrowland at 8 p.m. and watched the opening dance party and the welcome to our dream hour. Everyone began running from ride to ride to do as much as possible. We rode Big Thunder Moutain six times in a row at the end of the night! It was an awesome time and we'll never forget it. We were told by a cast member that they had given out 1,000-2,000 of these wristbands, but there was not that many people there at all. It was like having the Magic Kingdom to yourself!


EDITOR'S NOTE: If the Dream Squad bestows a "dream" upon you, or if you receive an official "Magical Moment," please let us know! We'd love to hear what you won, how you were chosen, and don't forget to send any photos if you have them! Email us at allearsnet@yahoo.com

For more Magical Moments: http://allears.net/tp/yomdmm.htm
For Dreams: http://allears.net/tp/yomd.htm


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.