May 2008 Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the April 29, 2008 Issue #449 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. This month we go back 10 years (1998) to the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Several attractions and experiences were open at that time that have since closed.

Artimal Encounters were quite frequent when the park first opened. Brightly colored ladybugs, butterflies, frogs and other larger-than-life creatures roamed what was then called Safari Village (now Discovery Island), greeting guests and posing for photos.

These characters were actually from the original park parade called March of the ARTimals, which closed in June 1999. Lions, monkeys, bugs, even a praying mantis colorfully walked down the paths of the park. The parade was developed by a group of artists that decided to celebrate animals by making costumes. Artistic costumes indeed! Made with various "supplies" such as wire and rubber bands, doilies and ribbons, the costumes were beautiful!

Journey into the Jungle Book was another opening day attraction that closed one year later, April 1999. The live 30-minute show was presented several times a day in what was the open air Theatre of the Wild. The show was based on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book and Disney's animated film. Songs included "I Want to Be Like You" and "My Own Home."

Lastly, there were the ill-fated Discovery River Boats, which were also known as the Discovery Riverboat Ride, the Discovery River Taxi and the Radio Disney River Cruise. Guests had a difficult time figuring out the purpose of this attraction. The original idea was to provide a cruise through the waterways. Once Asia (or the rumored Beastly Kingdom) opened, the boats were to provide transportation from area to area. Unfortunately, they were slow-loading, causing long waits for a short ride that basically went in a circle. This attraction was discontinued in 1999. You will occasionally see characters in one of the boats floating along the river. It makes for a fun magical moment in the park. The dock area is now used for character meet and greets.

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by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

If you've ever seen the Festival of the Lion King show in Disney's Animal Kingdom, you know what a fabulous presentation it is. Brilliantly colored and imaginative costumes, the rich music of Elton John with lyrics by Tim Rice, the high-energy and whimsical Tumble Monkey gymnasts, the amazing vocalists, the stunning aerial ballet… It's certainly earned its longstanding reputation as the park's most entertaining live show.

But if you've been, you'll also know that you seldom, if ever, have the chance to sit in the front rows, as they are mainly held for guests with disabilities. Well, I was lucky enough to garner a spot in special VIP seating near the front of the performance area at a recent showing of this wonderful show, and was also privy to a little backstage meet and greet with some of the cast afterward. What a treat!

There are a couple things I learned from sitting up so close to the front of where all the action takes place:

— There's a dry ice type fog emitted at the beginning of the show and several times throughout the performance. I don't recall ever noticing that when I have sat waaaaay in the back of the theater. The fog is odorless, but I did feel a tickle in the back of my throat and it made my eyes water a bit. It's a great effect, but something that I'd never seen before.

— The dancers and stiltwalkers who perform are standing RIGHT THERE in front of you. It's a little intimidating — especially when you see what a narrow surface area those stilts have! I found myself silently hoping several times that the performer standing directly in front of me had graduated top of his stiltwalking class — could almost envision him tumbling over on to my section of the audience!

— The Tumble Monkeys are even more impressive when you have an unobstructed view. These incredible gymnasts topple over and around, fling each other about seemingly without any effort. But up close you can see the tension of their muscles and the concentration on their faces much more clearly, not to mention their heaving chests as they try to subtly gasp for breath from the exertion. They truly earn every round of applause they receive.

— You can really feel the heat coming from the fire twirler's baton when you're sitting that close. And you see those flames licking his feet as he balances the baton and wonder just how he does that!

The whole experience of this fantastic show is magnified when you can see it up close and personal as I was privileged to — special thanks to our friend Eric for arranging it!

A few photos:

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by Cindy Welch

After years of traveling to Walt Disney World on a yearly basis, I decided last year that since the opportunity to SCUBA dive was available at The Living Seas (now known as The Seas With Nemo And Friends), I needed to learn to dive. How could I possibly pass up an opportunity like that!? Since you must be Open Water certified to dive at Epcot, the quest began to become a diver. Since certification, my passion has quickly become diving — and mixing Disney with diving is perfect! My husband and daughter quickly followed suit, so that they could also dive at Walt Disney World…

The DiveQuest tour isn't just diving. There is an extensive tour of the backstage areas of The Seas prior to the actual dive. We were given a brief tour of the pavilion's exterior, including the filtration systems in place for the nearly 6 million gallons of water in the tank, as well as the marine life quarantine facility. From there, we were taken inside, where we toured some research areas, saw the kitchen for food prep (they are served the same quality meats and vegetables that Disney guests are!), and were given information about the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and how it affects conservation efforts around the world. From the offices and research/care facilities, we were given a tour of the backstage areas for manatee housing and dolphin housing, where we learned about the actual residents themselves. (At the time of our tour, The Seas was housing four adolescent male dolphins and rehabilitating two manatees.) They briefed us on the different aquatic species that we would see in the actual aquarium itself — how many sharks there are and what species, the turtles, stingrays, the Goliath grouper, and even the dolphins themselves — and why they are not allowed to cohabitate with the rest of the aquatic population. (They're bad, bad boys… you are NOT allowed to play Frisbee with the stingrays!)

To read the rest of Cindy's DiveQuest experience:

Rate and Review:

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Steve Barrett, author of the Hidden Mickeys books and webmaster of, highlights the following Hidden Mickey images:

1. Another classic Mickey-shaped lock can be found inside the faux ticket office, upstairs in the Main Street Railroad Station, Magic Kingdom. Walk up the outside stairs to the office window, which faces Main Street, and look for the lock hanging on the right wall. (Thanks to Donna McMurrey.)

2. I finally found this one! A small classic Mickey tar spot is in the parking lot of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Walk straight ahead from the circle drive exit from the car unloading area at the AKL entrance. About 45 feet before the "E1" sign, search the pavement in front of the second grass island from the main parking lot crossroad. (Now you realize how hard it is to find!) (Thanks to Mike Demopoulos.)

3. At the Yachtsman Steakhouse, Yacht Club Resort, study the lantern on the check-in podium for a cool classic Mickey image. Usually, it's on the back side of the lantern, so you must pass by the podium and look back at the lantern. It's worth the trip to spot this one!

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This is the next segment in our series dedicated to Disney Scrapbooking written by Disney scrapbook expert Barbara Bennett and her husband Brian (who are also the owners of This month they provide a step-by-step process of planning your pages for the scrapbook:

"Scrapbookers, especially those of us who are also shopaholics, know that much of the fun of the hobby is in the shopping, but just like clothes or shoes shopping, it's easy to go waaaaay overboard. Almost every scrapbooker I know has stashes of stuff they bought because they were sure they would need it some day. If you have a great organization system for your stuff, that might be ok. A lot of us get caught in the trap though. When we actually get to those pages we bought stuff for 6 months ago, we either don't even remember that we bought it, or we are pretty sure we did but have no idea what we did with it.

Since we have to jump into shopping for your pages, I want to cover organization a little first. Taking some time to get a plan now will save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. There are loads of scrapbook supply organization systems on the market, and most of them are good ones. As your supply inventory grows, you may find that you need different kinds of organization. Paper is addictive. You might not know that yet, but you will soon. Your paper stash will most likely grow faster than you are using it for pages, so you'll need a plan for how to store papers you haven't used yet. For a tight budget, you might just need to designate a flat surface area where your can keep papers out of the way until used so they don't get damaged. For a medium budget, you might purchase something like an Iris Scrapbooking Cart seen below. There are several sizes, but this one has drawers large enough to accommodate the 12"x12" papers that are industry standard. Many scrapbookers start with one cart similar to this one, and add more as needed. They can be found in office supply stores, craft stores, and online. This one sells at Office Depot for a little under $50. You could buy single or double shelf units like the one below to get started on a very tight budget. However, you will probably outgrow it quickly so it might be more economical to plan ahead and save for the larger one…"

Read the rest of this month's article at

If you missed the previous articles:
"Sorting Your Photos":
"What in the World IS All of This Stuff?":
The Introduction:

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Mickey's Pirate and Princess Party continues in the Magic Kingdom on select nights! The May dates are: May 2, 9, 16, 21, 26, 31.

The 2008 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival runs through June 1. Upcoming artists performing at the festival's Flower Power Concerts (subject to change):

May 1 – 3 Arlo Guthrie
May 4 – 5 The Searchers
May 6 – 10 The Tokens
May 11 – 15 Davy Jones
May 16 – 17 Jose Feliciano
May 18 – 20 Felix Cavaliere's Rascals
May 21 – 24 Gary Puckett
May 25 – 27 The Cowsills
May 28 – June 1: Tony Orlando

Flower and Garden Festival information:

Teddy Bear and Doll Weekend May 16-18

Disney's Wide World of Sports

Minnie Marathon – May 2-4
Danskin Women's Triathlon – May 10-11
Muddy Buddy Obstacle Course – May 10
Memorial Day Soccer Shootout – May 23-26


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



Disney's Hollywood Studios

Journey into Narnia reopens as Prince Caspian on June 27, 2008.

American Film Institute Showcase and AFI Showcase Shop is closed until May 1, 2008. The Backlot Tour will continue to operate; guests will exit around the side of the building instead of through it.


Nine Dragons Restaurant in China will be closed May 29 – November 30, 2008 for rehab. Look for major renovations, including an exhibition kitchen where diners will be able to interact with the chefs.

Magic Kingdom

Jungle Cruise will be closed for rehab May 11-24, 2008.

Cinderella's Golden Carrousel will be closed for rehab from May 4 – 24, 2008.

ToonTown Playground will be closed May 5-14, 2008.

Pirates of the Caribbean will be closed from June 5-18, 2008.

All Star Music – The Piano Pool will be closed from May 12 – May 21 for refurbishment.

All Star Sports – The Grand Slam Pool will be closed for rehab April 21 – May 16, 2008.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Outside construction of a new animal barn and Disney Vacation Club Building, Kidani Village, continues and is expected to last until the spring of 2009.

Beach Club Stormalong Bay Pool Slide will be closed from May 5-11. The pool remains open. Also, the Beach Club Villas Dunes Cove Pool will be closed from April 28 – May 15.

Boardwalk Inn and Villas

The Boardwalk Inn quiet/leisure pool is closed through May 15, 2008.

The Boardwalk Villas Leisure Pool will be closed from May 19-30.

Caribbean Beach Resort

The themed pool, Old Port Royale, closed for refurbishment January 7, 2008, and is set to reopen September 15, 2008. A small, child-sized pool slide has been temporarily added to the pool in the village of Barbados.

Contemporary Resort

The Concourse Steakhouse is scheduled to close for good as of May 31, 2008. The area will be rehabbed into a new permanent quick service restaurant, which will open soon after the Concourse closes.

The North Garden wing has been demolished. The tennis courts and playground are also gone. Although there has been no OFFICIAL announcement, the Orlando Sentinel has reported that the new construction at the resort will be a DVC site called Kingdom Tower.

Downtown Disney

Cap'n Jack's Restaurant will be closed May 12 -17, 2008.


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

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The Year of a Million Dreams, which began Sunday, October 1, 2006, has been extended through 2008, 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's Hollywood 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:


Karen: My husband and I were headed to the Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World. As we passed Peter Pan we chuckled at the 40-minute wait, as it was only 8:30 am. The Magic Kingdom was the early opening park that day. When we came off Small World, a cast member said we were in the right place at the right time and we were given Dream Fastpasses. They have nine small tabs for the rides and no time limit to go there. We really chuckled as we walked right on Peter Pan. We couldn't believe we finished at the Magic Kingdom by 11 a.m. That gave us time to slip back to Pop Century and have a dip in the pool in the middle of the day. What a wonderful prize!


The Bass Family: Having completed four of the five KidCot stations on a previous day, we headed to Test Track to complete the final station. We figured that we would get a FastPass first then hit Test Track on our way out of the park. When we got to Test Track the FastPasses were gone for the day and the line was a more than 90-minute wait. We decided to pass. We proceeded to the KidCot station and were talking to the cast member as our children completed their projects. He asked if we had gone on Test Track yet, so we told him our story. We were so pleasantly surprised when he gave us two three-person FastPasses, allowing us to get on the ride within 10 minutes. When we came off the ride, we circled back to the KidCot station to thank him once again, but he was gone. What a delightful present from Disney!


Mike, Sunnie and Jamie from Las Vegas: We had a Magical Moment given to us by Marc the Bellhop at the Tower of Terror. We had just purchased some "adult beverages" at Toluca Legs and headed over to ToT to get a FastPass. We noticed a bellhop with a suitcase standing in the intersection between the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and the Tower, so we started talking with him. After some chatting he mentioned that he was planning on "Magical Momenting" us but since we had full drinks he could not. Well, we quicky tossed our drinks in the garbage and told him we were ready! Marc laughed and led us into the Tower through a back entrance, past some cast member areas that were still very themed with names like "Laundry" and "Housekeeping" written on the doors. We went down a special elevator to the loading area where we rode our own elevator, just the three of us and our Bellhop Marc. After the ride he gave us all certificates and we then purchased our picture. Marc was great and we were very excited to have won a magical moment.


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

For more Magical Moments:

For Dreams:


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.