February 2007 Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 30, 2007, Issue #384 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor's Note: This issue was incorrectly numbered 383 when it was sent out. It is actually issue 384.

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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 "The Epcot That Never Was."

It's been far too long since my last trip aboard the Wayback Machine, but something's been a bit amiss with this little beauty. Yes, something just isn't working right lately, because I occasionally travel back to a time in Walt Disney World's history where things aren't always what they are supposed to be.

For example, last week I traveled back and found myself in a room in the Asian Resort, overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon. This view seemed quite familiar, almost as though I've seen it before while at the Grand Floridian. Anyway, I recently took advantage of this conundrum and explored EPCOT Center in a bit of a different way. I was both surprised and amazed to see what my journey had revealed.

In past articles, I've spoken about some of the World Showcase pavilions that never came to be, including Spain, Israel and equatorial Africa. Well, needless to say, those pavilions were not the only ones left on the Imagineers' drawing boards (or the accountants' desks). My recent trip aboard the Wayback Machine introduced me to some potential new pavilions, attractions… and, yes, a few surprises I had never heard of before.

You may have heard about World Showcase's Japan pavilion (a personal favorite of mine, by the way), and what additional attraction was going to be placed there. If you ever visited the "Walt Disney Story" attraction on Main Street, USA, you may have even seen concept art for a gate-buster attraction to be included in this serene pavilion. Yup. Believe it or not, at one time there were plans for a full-blown roller-coaster right behind the pavilion. (There's plenty of space back there, believe me.)

This attraction was to blend seamlessly into the beauty of the pavilion by being housed in a giant mountain — likely about 199 feet or less to avoid the FAA warning light issue that Tower of Terror and Expedition Everest faced. It was tentatively titled "Fire Mountain," or more likely, "Mt. Fuji." Sounds like fun, right? I know what you're saying: "Sounds great! World Showcase… even EPCOT Center as a whole had no real thrill rides… and what a great way to get people into and excited about World Showcase!" Yeah. I thought that, too. I think the Imagineers felt that way for a spell, and that's why it appeared to be green-lighted to the point that Disney was advertising it to guests. But like many great ideas, this one clearly never came to pass…

Read the rest of "The Epcot That Never Was" at: http://allears.net/tp/ep/ep_archives1.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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by Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor, ALL EARS®

The first Pirate and Princess Party got off to a rainy start last Monday, January 22, but as Mom always used to say, "Bad start, good finish!" The party ended up being a most enjoyable time — once the rain cleared out.

The party begins at 7:30 p.m., but you could enter the Magic Kingdom earlier using your Pirate and Princess Party ticket. You're greeted at the entrance to the park by banners and the red carpet treatment — a nice, regal touch. The lands around the Magic Kingdom are all renamed for the evening — for example, part of Adventureland becomes "New Tortuga" for the pirate crew, while the other part becomes "Jasmine's Court" for the princesses.

The party is structured much like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Upon your arrival, you're given a guide map and a black velvet pouch, so that you can gather your treasure at "X Marks the Spot" locations around the park. (The "booty" is beads and candy — or raisins for the more health-conscious among us.) In addition to the treasure spots, there is plenty of live entertainment, such as Captain Jack's Pirate Tutorial in Adventureland, and special showings of Dream along with Mickey on the Castle Forecourt Stage. There are also a number of character meet and greet locations, with PhotoPass photographers at the ready to capture your photo ops. The most popular character meet and greet by far is Captain Jack Sparrow, who they have secreted away in the Adventureland Veranda — the wait to strike a pose with the buccaneer of the moment grew as the night went on. Even at 11 p.m., there was still a wait of at least 45 minutes.

As for the other shows around the park, they seemed to be well-attended and enjoyed by all. The dance parties, located at Ariel's Grotto (which featured a dancing costumed Flounder character!), inside Cosmic Ray's and in front of Space Mountain, were lots of fun, especially for the littlest party-goers. The Ramblin' Rustlers (known during the day as The Dapper Dans barbershop quartet) were delightful, singing songs of Pecos Bill and the like, and the Riverboat Roulettes serenaded folks on the Liberty Belle platform. Some of the early shows the night I attended were rained out, unfortunately, so I never got to see the "Agrabats" (although I guess they performed later in the night) or the Royal Guard, but I did manage to see most everything else. One of my favorite stops, which I nearly missed since it was tucked away in a distant corner of Mickey's Toontown Fair, er, the "Princess Pavilion," was the Pirate Play Spot, which featured games, including "Dunk the Pirate." The "Haunted Riverboat" featuring the Legend of the Jolly Roger was quite hokey, however — no characters aboard the boat, and a weak storyline (Caribbean pirates) that had nothing to do with the "Riverboat Riviera" motif that Liberty Square had been given.

The new Enchanted Adventures Parade was very good — it was nice to see some new and different floats, even though those featuring princesses and princes were basically the same as always. I guess there's really not much else they can do with them besides put them on a horse or in a carriage. BUT the pirate ship floats were awesome — with Captain Jack Sparrow, encouraging us (unnecessarily) to applaud him, perched atop the second. Woo hoo! The float after the pirates had a fantasy theme featuring a real, live Tinker Bell, which was a great surprise. The Cast Member playing Tink was perfect, kicking her feet, pouting, holding her belly when she laughed… she captured the essence of the pixie quite well.

I admit that I'm a sucker for any type of fireworks, but the specially created Magic, Music and Mayhem fireworks display was incredible. As during Wishes, images are on the castle — fish, bubbles, and Triton's trident during the Little Mermaid segment, a skull and crossbones during the Pirates piece. Although a Cast Member had told me there would be "perimeter" fireworks around the Magic Kingdom, I didn't notice them circling all 360 degrees around the park — it seemed it was more like 270 degrees. It was very impressive in any event, and I enjoyed the music, which drew heavily from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies' soundtracks, and featured the voices of the Sleeping Beauty godmothers, Fauna, Flora and Merryweather.

Since the event was not sold out that first night, lines for rides were short, but the queues at the treasure spots were outrageously long. Still, it seemed like everyone was having a good time, and I noticed a significant number of attendees dressed in costumes — young and old alike. I especially enjoyed seeing the Davy Jones costume on a young ALL EARS® reader! I think the Magic Kingdom has added another winning event to its repertoire!

Party Details and Schedule: http://allears.net/tp/mk/pirateprincess.htm
Party Photo Gallery: http://allears.net/tp/mk/pp1.htm

EDITOR'S NOTE: Hear Senior Editor Deb Koma discuss the Pirate & Princess Party on the WDWToday podcast, episode 211: http://wdwtoday.com/

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Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills attended Disney's Year of a Million Dreams press event last week and had the chance to speak at length with Brad Rex, Vice President of Epcot. Rex noted that Epcot's undergone "lots of great changes" the last few years, including the addition of Mission: Space "Green," the less-intense version of the ride that simulates a trip to Mars. "Guest response has been very positive about the Green version," Rex said. "My wife Nancy is a good example – she went on the original Mission: Space, the Orange version and said I'll do it once, but that's it. Recently she tried the Green version and really enjoys it and said she'll go on it anytime."

Another change to Future World that Rex is excited about is the gradual renovation that has taken place at the Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion formerly known as The Living Seas. "We call it the 'Extreme Makeover' of the pavilion," Rex said, "and its success has been unbelievable. It's been a great renaissance, coming in phases — the character Meet and Greet, Turtle Talk, and now we've added Nemo and Friends (Clam-mobiles). The ride really begins before you enter the building with the seagulls. One of my concerns is that guests don't get the whole impact, that they rush through the queue to get on the ride and the queue is part of the storyline."

"Not too long ago the park was tilted to the Test Track and Mission: Space side," Rex added. "Now there is a good balance with the enhancements at the Land and the Seas."

Some of the other highlights of Deb's conversation with Brad Rex:

— Rex revealed that Turtle Talk with Crush, which closed yesterday for a rehab, is moving into a larger theater — according to him, the queue will be in one of the pods that is closed right now, and the theater used will be the one that formerly showed the Living Seas preshow movie. The new theater will retain the intimacy of the show, although there will be additional seating, and children will still be able to sit on the floor.

— Rex said that although 2007 marks Epcot's 25th anniversary, there was no big celebration planned, although there would be private observances behind-the-scenes for cast members.

— Rex also said that a new Spaceship Earth postshow area sponsored by Siemens will open in the March/April timeframe. The new area will have hands-on exhibits.

— There are plans for more additions to Innoventions, but there are still no definite plans for the Wonders of Life pavilion at this time.

— As has been rumored for some time, the Mexico pavilion in World Showcase is adding The Three Caballeros to the El Rio del Tiempo ride. The walkaround characters, which have been making appearances in the pavilion for the past few months, are immensely popular — "far beyond our expectations," Rex added. The boat ride and the boats will stay the same, Rex said, although the visuals throughout the ride will be updated.

— O Canada! in the Canada pavilion is going to be updated and the new movie will possibly debut in summer or early fall.

— A short segment will be added onto the film montage (about 45 seconds) of the American Adventure.

— As previously reported in ALL EARS®, there will be a major rehab of the Teppanyaki restaurant in the Japan pavilion. Rex said that while they want to "hold onto the classic" they need to update other areas. "But the chefs will still cook in front of you!" he added.

— The change to an automated spiel on the Living with the Land ride has been met with positive feedback from guests. "Folks seem to be enjoying more of the attraction and no longer focus on the Boat Captain," Rex explained.

— Finally, Rex explained that while the IllumiNations show is a classic, we're looking at new technology all the time. "The Earth globe will be worked on later this year and other elements will be added to make up for the globe being out of service for a while." He had no details on the timing of this renovation.

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As part of last week's press event, Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills had the chance to tour the new Cinderella Castle Suite. Imagine her surprise when she noticed several Hidden Mickeys lurking amongst the elegant decor!

In the Royal Sitting Room: http://allears.net/tp/mk/csuite26.jpg

In the three mosaics made of Italian smalti glass, hand-cut and placed by Disney artisans:

There's one in the fireplace — see if you can find it in this photo (we can't!): http://allears.net/tp/mk/csuite31.jpg

And there are Mickeys sprinkled throughout the carpeting — you can catch a glimpse of them in this photo: http://allears.net/tp/mk/csuite12.jpg

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Disney's Pirate & Princess Party Continues — On February 1, 5, 8, 12, 15, 23, 26; and March 2, 5, 8, from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. You can embark on a quest for beads and chocolate treasures immersed in a world of pirates and princesses during the all-new "Pirate & Princess Party" at the Magic Kingdom. Pick up a treasure map and bag, then choose your course of Princess or Pirate. See our special report above. Photos at: http://allears.net/tp/mk/pp1.htm


Campfire on de' Bayou, a seasonal program at the Port Orleans Riverside Resort, runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Sundays and Thursdays through February 22, 2007. Cast Members read stories about the resort and have sing-a-longs at the campfire site located behind the Fishin' Hole at Ol' Man Island. There's no charge and reservations are not necessary. Kits for making s'mores are available for $5.25 (tax included).


Downtown Disney Pleasure Island hosts two annual events this February:

— In observance of Valentine's Day, Pleasure Island becomes Sweetheart Island on February 9, 10 and 14. Red and silver decorations throughout the island set the stage for a host of performances honoring the lovelorn and lovebirds alike.

— Parti Gras puts a Pleasure Island spin on the famous Mardi Gras tradition February 16, 17 and 20. On these nights, feathered banners, fabric swags, purple and green garland, Mardi Gras masks and more are the backdrop for a party that includes special entertainers, live bands and more. http://allears.net/btp/dd_mg.htm


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


Rehabs and Closings continue around the parks and resorts during the slower winter months:

Animal Kingdom

Kali River Rapids will be closed February 5 through February 9.

Disney-MGM Studios

Lights Motors Action Extreme Stunt Show will be dark January 30 through February 1.


El Rio del Tiempo closed for refurbishment January 2, and is scheduled to reopen Monday, April 2, 2007.

Rose and Crown in the UK Pavilion in Epcot will be closed for refurbishment from February 21 through March 3, 2007.

Turtle Talk with Crush at the Seas with Nemo and Friends closed January 29 to move to a larger theater in the pavilion and will reopen February 16, 2007.

Lotus Blossom Cafe (counter service in China pavilion) closed January 8 through March 11, 2007.

Magic Kingdom

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – closed for refurbishment January 28 – February 11.

Tomorrowland Indy Speedway will be closed for refurbishment from January 31 – February 15.

Liberty Square Riverboat will be closed for refurbishment from February 27 through March 1.

Main Street Market House – closed on January 3 and will reopen in the spring of 2007. The space will become the new home for the Arribas Brothers Crystal Arts Shop. The move and renovation will provide additional seating for the Main Street Bakery.

Resort Hotels

The Fantasia Pool at All-Star Movies closed for an extensive rehab September 11, 2006. It is due to reopen February 18, 2007. All-Star Movies guests can use the "leisure" pools as well as the main pools at the other All-Star Resorts.

The Polynesian's Nanea Volcano Pool Slide closed January 13 through February 28. This is the pool slide only.

The Riverside Mill Food Court at Port Orleans Riverside closed January 2 until March 23, 2007 for refurbishment. The food court will continue to offer a VERY limited menu for breakfast and dinner and a small number of "grab-and-go" items at lunch during the refurbishment. Boatwright's, the table service restaurant at Port Orleans, will continue regular breakfast and dinner service and will also offer a limited lunch menu from noon until 3 p.m. daily. The food court at sister resort Port Orleans French Quarter (Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory) will be open as usual during this timeframe.

Port Orleans Riverside's Ol' Man Island Pool SLIDE – closed through February 2, 2007.

Wilderness Lodge's Silver Creek Springs pool and hot tub closed January 29 through March 17, 2007.

Wilderness Lodge Kiddie Pool will be closed February 12 – March 17, 2007.

Walt Disney World Swan's Palio Restaurant is closed for a major renovation. It will reopen as "Il Mulino New York Trattoria" in early 2007.

Yacht and Beach Club Marina – The Breathless, the 24-foot ChrisCraft reproduction of a 1930s runabout that gives IllumiNations and other cruises on Crescent Lake, has been out of commission since October 1, 2006. No definite word on when or if it will return to service. ALL EARS® has heard that the reason folks have spied the boat sitting at its dock at the Yacht Club marina is that it has not been sent out for rehab as yet. Apparently Disney has not decided whether to go ahead with the boat's needed repairs as the estimate for such repairs was very high. Disney is supposedly negotiating with another builder and may eventually end up replacing the Breathless with a different custom-made wood boat.

Typhoon Lagoon – is closed for its annual refurbishment now through March 17, 2007.

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.

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Marnie Wilson, Vallejo, CA: My family and I were down in Southern California for a quick visit to family and even though we are planning a trip to Disneyland in the spring the kids had not been able to see the Haunted Mansion as "Nightmare before Christmas." So we thought a one-day trip to Disneyland was in order just for a few rides. As we were getting off Nightmare before Christmas (or as my 4-year-old calls it, Jack's House) we were all given Dream Ears… even my teenagers put on the ears and wore them for a while. It was great to get to win a prize from the Dream Squad. It made a one-day "quickie" trip that much more fun!

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Jennifer Ackland: We were on our way into the Magic Kingdom on December 26, 2006, along with my brother and his family (four kids, four adults). As we entered the ticket booth area, we were greeted by two men who told us we were the "first family" to be taken over to the Magic Kingdom! We were given a private ride on the boat over to the Magic Kingdom! The kids were able to enter into the Captain's control area. They gave the kids some toys, balloons, took our picture, and we had our own cruise! We got to the Magic Kingdom so quickly that we were able to get in a few extra rides before the lines got too long! It was awesome! We had an absolutely WONDERFUL day at the Magic Kingdom!

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Lillian: On our last night at Disney, I was walking by the docks at the Polynesian and was looking at the lifeguard putting towels and snacks on a boat. I asked him what they do with the boats each evening. He then asked how many were in my party. I was confused. I told him eight. He proceeded to tell me he was granting me a Magical Moment! I was to meet him with my party on the dock at 7 p.m. and we were getting a private tour of the lagoon and then we were going to watch the fireworks from the boat. It truly was magical! I couldn't believe it. What a way to end the trip.


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.