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100 YEARS OF MAGIC CELEBRATION KICKS OFF!
Special Report from Jennifer Watson and Dave Marx
authors of PassPorter
President Bush told Americans to "go to Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida," and we at PassPorter took him at his word. We flew from Detroit to Orlando for a double Disney celebration--the start of the year long 100 Years of Magic Celebration, and the 30th Birthday of Walt Disney World. So we started October 1, 2001 bright and early at Magic Kingdom, where Mickey (and Walt Disney World president, Al Weiss) were on hand to kickoff the festivities.
Then, after a merry morning at Magic Kingdom we headed over to Disney-MGM Studios for the first official day of the 100 Years of Magic Celebration. Here are our firsthand observations:
The 100 Years of Magic Opening Ceremony -- held in front of the Walt Disney World Railroad's Main Street Station facing Seven Seas Lagoon -- exceeded all our expectations. Instead of a small, modest ceremony, we were treated to Main Street walkaround characters (including the Mayor and several of the ladies), the 15-piece Main Street Philharmonic Band, and The Dapper Dans barbershop quartet. As the last strains of "Casey Junior's Comin' Round the Bend" ended, the Walt Disney World Railroad train came chugging down the tracks and into the station.
Goofy lead the procession from the engine, followed by scores of Disney characters filling the passenger cars, all waving and smiling. As the train stopped and a blast of gold confetti rained over the assembled guests, Al Weiss, president of Walt Disney World, stepped up to the podium.
He began by explaining why the Disney Company had chosen this spot for the opening ceremony (after all, Disney-MGM Studios does seem like a more natural choice for the 100 Years of Magic). The railroad was Walt Disney's pride and joy, and this would likely have been his favorite spot in the Magic Kingdom, if not the whole of Walt Disney World. Al continued to remind us that Walt Disney World is a "tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney." A special recognition was made to those cast members present who have been with Walt Disney World for the entire 30 years, reminding us that this is also the 30th anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World.
Mr. Weiss also recognized the September 11 tragedy when he said, "I'm never prouder to see our cast uphold the vision than during times of uncertainty like those we face now. Because no matter what is happening around us, it is certain that time together with family and loved ones, in a place like Walt Disney World, is truly well spent."
This was followed by a description of the new parades and attractions debuting for the 100 Years of Magic (which we'll describe later). Then, from an archway above the clock in the train station, a young girl appeared, and sang a very touching song about Walt and his dream. Mickey Mouse joined her for the grand finale, and the new 100 Years of Magic display was unveiled in a shower of shimmering red, white and blue metallic confetti. All in all, the ten-minute ceremony was moving and magical, and was met with resounding applause from everyone assembled.
MAGICAL MOMENTS PINS
The new Magical Moments pins, which debuted for the 100 Years of Magic Celebration, aren't your standard cloisonne pins. These pins are large (about 2", give or take a 1/2") and made of thick plastic. More importantly, each pin has four differently colored LED lights (white, yellow, red, and blue) embedded in the plastic.
The pins light up in a brilliant pattern when you "jump start" them with a light touch. More mini light shows appear on your pins when you encounter a special "magical moments" in the parks, which may include parades, rides, shows, and the Discover the Stories Behind the Magic kiosks.
We've personally seen our pins light up as the first and last floats in a parade pass by, and at the Discover the Stories Behind the Magic kiosks. We've heard from cast members that the pins light up on Tower of Terror (the star room) and in one the scenes in the Great Movie Ride. No doubt there are many more trigger points, and we're sure you'll have a ball finding them all.
Five different pin designs are available: one representing each of the four parks, plus one for the 100 Years of Magic. Two posts on the back keep the pins in place. The pins are $15.00 each and come with two extra batteries.
Call it what you will, but that's one big hat! Yes, it casts a giant shadow on the Chinese Theater, but it's Mickey's hat, gosh darn it, and in the end you just gotta love all 122 feet of it. The huge hat is the new icon for Disney-MGM Studios, which in turn is the "hatquarters" for the 100 Years of Magic Celebration.
As you probably know, the grand chapeau was plunked down right in front of the Great Movie Ride, so now when you look down Hollywood Boulevard from the park entrance, all you see is hat (it does make a fabulous backdrop for the Stars and Motor Cars Parade). Tucked under it's very broad brim is a Pin Trading Station and a dozen Discover the Stories Behind the Magic interactive kiosks (more about them a little later in the article). The kiosks are housed in a lively area decorated with gold stars and arcs, and vintage black and white photos of Walt Disney. Those photos add extra interest and depth to something that could have been just another pretty space.
We spoke to the hat's graphic designer, who filled us in on some of the hat's finer points (not counting the one at the top of the hat). She noted that the fiberglass panels that comprise the hat were built with curving, rather than straight edges. When assembled, this made the seams spiral up and around the hat, rather than ascend in straight, converging lines. We think the result is far more visually appealing than the alternative. When you're under the hat you notice the hat's soft "fabric" liner, which was chosen to contrast with the hard lines of the rest of the hat and to evoke the silk fabric that typically lines a fine hat. Only this "silk" is a metal mesh, similar to a Knight's chain mail!
Before we move on, we should mention the "Mickey ears" that flank the brim of the hat, and from a distance seem to support it. These "ears" are large, golden swirls, reminiscent of glittering circles drawn with a sorcerer's wand. The swirling, shimmering effect is built-up with layers of gold, laser-etched plastic, which is specially illuminated at night. The hat is also adorned by large golden stars and crescents. These decorations and the "ears" are studded with tiny strobe lights that make everything sparkle, regardless of natural lighting conditions. So no matter how you look at it, this is one wondrous hat!
The Discover the Stories Behind the Magic kiosks are interactive trivia games found in each of the four major parks. The kiosks themselves are in the shape of large Mickey headsjust twirl Mickey's "ear" to move about the screen and press his nose to select something, just like clicking a mouse (or The Mouse).
Guests select a question category--represented by one of six lands/areas in the park--to hear a trivia question. Questions feature archival film footage, music, sound effects, and colorful graphics. Every question is followed by three multiple choice answers. Click the right answer and you're rewarded with a light show on your Magical Moments pin (but if you don't have a pin, just look near the top of the kiosk to see its lights flash).
Correct answers are also rewarded with a cute little animation onscreen. If you get more than two questions wrong, the game ends (thought you can always begin again). If you answer all questions correctly, you get a fun surprise that everyone can enjoy (pin or no pin).
Each park has a dozen kiosks, except the Animal Kingdom, which has just nine. The kiosks are all grouped together in each park: Magic Kingdom's kiosks are in the Town Square Exposition Hall (in Main Street, U.S.A.), Epcot's kiosks are in Innoventions East, Disney-MGM Studios kiosks are under Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat, and Animal Kingdom's kiosks are in the Disney Outfitters shop (on Discovery Island).
The only downside is that all the kiosks in a park have the same six questions, thus there are only 24 total questions among all the kiosks. A Disney source said that the questions may be changed periodically, but we may have to wait a while to see that happen.
WALT DISNEY: ONE MAN'S DREAM
Walt Disney: One Man's Dream is a loving look at the man behind the dreams and (for those of us of a certain age) a breathtaking tour through our childhoods and adult memories. A rich array of historical and cultural artifacts, photos, audio recordings, scale models and a 15-minute film narrated by Walt himself combine to give a picture of the man and his creativity that will leave every Disney lover in seventh heaven.
We asked Roger Holzberg, senior show producer/director for Walt Disney Imagineering to show us his favorite spot in the attraction. He walked over to the area by the theater entrance, which is filled with fabulous scale models of Disney attractions (including Tokyo Disney Sea). He then looked back across the room to the Project X Room display, where Walt laid-out preliminary plans for Disney World-- a view that encompasses Walt's original dreams and the embodiment of those dreams.
Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy this attraction (our first visit lasted two hours, and Dave still wishes we'd stayed longer), and plan to return often before it closes at the end of the 100 Years of Magic Celebration. Like the best of Disney, this exhibit has a depth of detail that just keeps on giving. Enjoy!
PLAYHOUSE DISNEY--LIVE ON STAGE
Playhouse Disney is a revamped version of the popular Bear in the Big Blue House show at Disney-MGM Studios. Bear and his friends are still there, and you still sit on the floor (with benches in the back for older legs), but there are new surprises.
The set has
changedthe blue house is smaller and several new storybook sets
were added. The live show begins with Bear and his friends welcoming everyone
and doing the Bear Cha Cha. All guests are invited to get up and dance,
which the young kids in the audience happily accept.
When it is discovered that Tutter can't dance because he's shy, stories are told to help him overcome his fears. The first story features characters from Rolie Polie Olie, who are playing a make-believe game.
The next story is with Stanley and his goldfish Dennis, who teaches Stanley that keeping yourself clean isn't so hard to do. Last but not least, Pooh, Tigger, Eyeore and Piglet (from The Book of Pooh) discover their differences and the Perfect Day.
The show ends with Tutter overcoming his shyness, and he, Bear, and all their friends dance with glee! During the show, streamers and bubbles shoot out into the audience, delighting the children. The show features lots of audience participation, and judging from the happy looks on the kids' faces, it's a big hit with the 6 and under crowd.
NEW MGM PARADE
Disney Stars and Motor Cars is the new parade at Disney-MGM Studios. The all-new parade features--you guessed it--Disney stars in motorcars. The parade starts with two uniformed fellows on motorcycles, weaving down the roped-off streets with sirens blaring--the police escort for the stars that are about to appear.
Next come a pair of park guests dressed as drum majors, bearing a banner. The first stars in the first motorcar are the day's grand marshals, followed by characters from Toy Story--Jessie, Bo Peep, and the green army men, who are followed by Buzz Lightyear and Woody in a fancy, Toy Story-inspired chauffeured limousine.
Next comes Mary Poppins and Bert atop carousel horses, which are built into their motorcar. More stars appear, including those from Muppets (Miss Piggy and Kermit), Star Wars (Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2, and Darth Vader), Mulan, Aladdin and Jasmine, the Villains (The Snow Queen, Jafar, Cruella, Hook, and Hades), Atlantis, The Little Mermaid, friends from Disney Playhouse (Rolie Polie Olie, Bear, and Stanley), and Snow White and several dwarves.
Bringing up the rear in the place of honor are Mickey and Minnie in a 1929 Caddy. As you can see, this parade focuses on the stars--over 70 characters in all. The customized motorcars are creative and fun, but they really seem to fade into the background in the face of all this fame.
The parade passes by in about 20 minutes and follows the same route and previous Disney-MGM Studios parades.
CINDERELLA'S SURPRISE CELEBRATION
Surprise Celebration is the new Castle Forecourt Show at
Magic Kingdom. Starring Cinderella, Fairy Godmother, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Snow White, Belle, assorted princes and Beast, Mulan, Peter Pan, Genie, and an army of Villains.
Cinderella starts by telling us "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes," and an array of dream gift packages are arrayed on stage. When the cast exits momentarily the Snow Witch sneaks on to add a "gift" of her own to the pile--a huge red apple-shaped box. Uh oh!
The good guys return and wonder which gift should be opened first. Donald really wants to open the Witch's gift, but the audience shouts, "No!" Minnie chooses a large heart-shaped box, and a flock of doves flies out of this gift of love. But the crowd can't hold back that irrepressible duck, and eventually he opens the Poisoned Apple package.
The Snow Queen apparates to claim Cinderella Castle as her own (which would make more sense if it were Sleeping Beauty Castle), with the help of an army of villains including Kang, Captain Hook, Jafar, and Maleficent. Cinderella, standing on the balcony beneath the castle clock, is stripped of her gown and returned to rags. A pirate flag rises over the castle, and the battle ensues.
Peter Pan battles Hook up on the battlements of the castle, and Mulan tricks Kang into a closet full of skyrockets. Kablam! One after another, the bad guys are vanquished, until the audience helps the Fairy Godmother say the magic words that send the Snow Queen packing.
All's well that ends well, as Mickey and company open the final gift of Friendship, and dozens of characters pour from the castle to meet and greet the guests all around Main Street's hub.
The musical score helps to weave an enchanting and exciting mood. My favorite musical moment is when, one after the other, Cinderella and her charming prince, Snow White and Prince Charming, and Belle and Beast waltz onto the stage, while the score segues seamlessly from one princess' theme to the next. This new show, scheduled to run as often as five times daily, has a larger cast and more elaborate staging than typical Forecourt shows and is destined to be a real winner with the crowd.
NEW ANIMAL KINGDOM PARADE
Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade is the first Disney-style parade at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and is true to the spirit of Walt Disney World's youngest theme park. Following in the footsteps of the phenomenally popular Tapestry of Nations parade at Epcot (and drawing on many of the same creative talents), the parade moves to a bouncy Caribbean beat.
The most visually striking aspect of the parade is giant, fabric-draped "puppets," this time too large to be carried on a person's shoulders. The puppets are now on wheels, and the puppeteers pull them along the parade route. Parade drummers pound out the music's Jammin' beat, riding atop huge animal floats designed in the same style as the puppets.
Favorite Disney Characters including Rafiki, Goofy, Donald, Mickey and Minnie ride around in oversized, imaginatively designed safari vehicles (think Stars and Great Big Motor Cars, but even more fun). 24 lucky theme park guests ride along with Rafiki and Mickey, and also in "rickshaw" floats "pulled" by fanciful animals.
Walking amidst the vehicles are animal-costumed stilt walkers, dancers in safari-style costumes, and Disney characters such as Terk, Timon and Baloo the bear. Altogether, it's a visually dynamic, toe-tapping parade experience!
What about the parade route? The procession starts in Harambe Village, and crosses the bridge to Discovery Island. Then, after making a full circuit of Discovery Island, the parade crosses the bridge to Asia and turns left, passing Flights of Wonder on its way back to its starting point, next-door to Kilimanjaro Safaris.
parade route may be abbreviated in the future, running in the opposite
direction--starting in Harambe, passing Flights of Wonder, crossing onto
Discovery Island, and ending between
Pizzafari and the Creature Comforts shop on Discovery Island.)
the best viewing areas? As you might expect, Harambe village gets very
crowded, as do most parts of Discovery Island. However, we really like
two areas: Discovery Island between the Africa bridge and Pizzafari, where
there are walls and benches for sitting and a decent amount of shade;
and even better, the walkway between Asia and Africa, around Flights of
Wonder. Crowds are
much lighter here, and there's lots of shade and seating opportunities.
Finally, the crowds in Harambe quickly dissolve once the parade makes its way to Discovery Island. Take a quick trip through Pangani Forest Trail or Kilimanjaro Safaris and by the time you emerge, the parade will be on its way back to Harambe, and the crowds will be quite light. If you can, grab one of the three shady benches just opposite the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris, just next to the gates that mark the end of the parade route.
Other Thoughts on The 100 Years of Magic Celebration
- The four new parades incorporate the new "Suite of Dreams" music written for the 100 Years of Magic celebration. This is a 20-minute orchestral piece with five, four-minute movements: one for each of the four parks, plus a finale. A two-CD set with this music is supposed to be available for sale in the parks and resorts, but doesn't seem to be on shelves yet.
- Cast members get new nametags for the celebration. The nametags (which are still white and oval) have a personal "magical memory" at the bottom. The nametags may say things like "Disney Lunch Box," "1964 Worlds Fair" or "Disney Resorts," rather than the cast member's home town.
- As expected,
there's plenty of 100 Years of Magic logo merchandise (and pins) available
for sale in the parks and resorts. We also found some 30th Anniversary
logo items (in black and gold) in the Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A.
- The park guidemaps have a new look. They're taller and narrower than the old maps, which means the actual diagram of the park is smaller. This allows room for very brief descriptions of the attractions, however. The maps now also have a "Quickfind" box at the bottom, listing the park's attractions in alphabetical order.
Watson and Dave Marx -- Authors, PassPorter Walt Disney
World guidebook (http://www.passporter.com)