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The Unheralded Treasures
of Walt Disney World
by Mike Scopa, Feature Writer
article appeared in the February 19, 2008, Issue #439 of
ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
About 18 years ago while visiting Walt Disney World with my family something caught my eye. This happened one night in the then Disney-MGM Studios theme park. It was a warm summer evening and I remember walking near The Great Movie Ride. It was dusk and as I got closer to the attraction I could hear a very soft and melancholy musical rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
I can't tell you how soothing and relaxing that music sounded that evening.
thinking to myself, "Wow, you'll never see that in a brochure or
in a vacation video."
That night ended with us enjoying the park's signature fireworks display "Sorcery in the Sky," but all I could think about was that little gem of a moment earlier in the evening.
As I drove back to our room I started thinking about a few other things I experienced on that trip. Each one fell into the same category... a nameless category filled with memorable moments that I had never expected or anticipated for the trip.
I kept thinking that perhaps other guests also had these unexpected special experiences and I kept on reaching for something, some word or combination of words to describe them.
Finally it came to me.
Since these were unexpected yet special moments to me they can be best described "Unheralded Treasures."
If I were to give a proper definition the words would say, "An Unheralded Treasure of Walt Disney World is a non-marketed place, a sound, a sight, or a combination of any of these three elements that makes for a special guest experience."
It's unheralded because it is not at the forefront of Disney marketing. We do not see or read about it on the official Walt Disney World Website, or in promotional brochures or park guides, and certainly do not see it on those promotional vacation DVDs.
It's a treasure because it will be a special moment that you will never forget a lingering gem of a memory of your time at Walt Disney World.
I'd like to share a couple of these with you and perhaps trigger a thought or two as to what treasures you may have discovered on one of your own recent trips.
Remember an unheralded treasure is not heavily marketed or advertised and does not receive the marketing push such as the drop sensation of Splash Mountain, the weightlessness of Mission:SPACE, the rush of the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster launch, or the fear factor of Dinosaur.
Its value lies in the enrichment value to the guest who takes the time to add this treasure to their itinerary.
So here are a few of my favorite Walt Disney World Unheralded Treasures.
The Magic Kingdom
Roy Disney Statue
Location: Magic Kingdom Town Square
You may have walked past it many times without realizing it's there. In the center of the Town Square, near the flagpole is a statue of Roy Disney. Roy is sitting on a bench. There is room for a guest or two, especially if you want to have your picture taken with Roy. Many guests are unfortunately unaware of this tribute to Walt's brother. They may not even be aware of his contribution to the development and success of Walt Disney World. This lesser-known Disney is quite unheralded. What I like most about this treasure is that it recognizes the other Disney responsible for WDW.
The Talking Trashcan
Location: Tomorrowland (just outside Mickey's Star Traders)
Animal Kingdom's Talking Palm Tree, who you will
meet later in this article, this unheralded treasure brings delight
to the children who are fortunate to be in this area of Tomorrowland
when Mr. Trashcan is out and about. This talkative refuse container
sometimes wanders into stores but mostly he stays outside and talks
and sometimes follows guests, especially children, as they wander through
Personally I find it more entertaining for adults to watch as this mobile chattering trashcan amazes the children as he interacts and chats with them.
The next time you are in Tomorrowland and especially just outside Mickey's Star Traders, look for a crowd of children talking to a very mobile trashcan. You will be entertained.
How does he work? Look around.
Location: Crystal Arts Building on Main Street USA
are many artisans throughout Walt Disney World... some would best
call them craftsmen. I remember the first time I took my family to Walt
Disney World and my son could not take his eyes off the cast member
creating a crystal masterpiece from behind a glass barrier. My son's
eyes were glued as he watched a clump of glass slowly transform into
a flying elephant.
To this day I make at least one trip to the Crystal Arts Building not just to see crystal being made but to imagine my 10 year old son standing next to me with his eyes wide in amazement at the craft being displayed.
Location: Future World's Imagination Pavilion
To the left of the Honey, I Shrunk the Audience attraction are Future World's Leapfrog Fountains. This group of fountains offers guests a very unique look at how water can be made to appear to "leap" from fountain to fountain. On a warm day you can sit and enjoy the amused guests, especially children, revel at the unusual fountains and catch a welcomed shower. We don't hear much about these fountains, but they are a joy to watch, or is it the joy of the children that is so much fun to watch?
When in Epcot and I want to hear children laughing my first thought is to visit the Leapfrog Fountains.
Location: World Showcase Lagoon
Walt Disney World Transportation to many guests consists of buses and monorails. However there is one other mode of travel that does more than get you from point A to point B. I'm talking about the boats of Walt Disney World, but especially the friendship boats at Epcot that are often overlooked by guests as an alternative way of getting to and from World Showcase. The boats are available at World Showcase Plaza as well as Germany and Italy. You can ride either inside or outside the boat and the gentle ride often gives you a chance to relax from the hustle and bustle of your everyday touring.
Epcot Tribute Museum
Location: Behind Club Cool
Unfortunately this may be a temporary treasure. Behind Club Cool there is an area devoted to the history of Epcot. In this area you can see models of many of the original Epcot pavilions, a promotional video for the opening of Epcot, and some exhibits of pavilions past and present. It is an extremely pleasant and nostalgic look at the beginning of Epcot and my fear is that this treasure will not be around for long. If you are a fan of Epcot and especially a former Epcot attraction known as Horizons, this treasure is for you.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Treasure: Streetmosphere a.k.a Citizens of Hollywood
Location: Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset Blvd.
First-time visitors to this theme park may not be aware that throughout the day they may find themselves face to face with a movie starlet, a janitor, a taxi driver, or a movie director. These cast members interact with each other and park guests and over the years have developed some very entertaining skits. Guests should embrace these moments as the cast members are there to entertain and any interaction that guests partake with Streetmosphere can only result in laughter and a good time.
I was recently visited by one such cast member while dining at the Brown Derby. This visit enriched my dining experience because it was an unexpected delight.
Indiana Jones Set
Location: To the right of the Indiana Jones Outpost
As you walk past the Prime Time Cafe and the Indiana Jones Outpost you will see, tucked away in a corner, a display of props used in the "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade" movie. You will recognize the vehicles and especially that famous tank. Unless you happen to attend the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and exit to the left you may never even know this exhibit is there. It has been there for a long time and the overgrowth may hide some of the vehicles... but they are there. This is also a quiet area tucked away in a corner of the Hollywood Studios theme park. Enjoy it.
Location: Star Tours
During the day there is a lot of activity in this area of the Star Tours attraction. However, if you are fortunate to be in this portion of Disney's Hollywood Studios after dark you may want to hang around and listen to the sounds of the Ewoks. That's right. If you can visit Star Tours in the evening, hopefully after the attraction has closed. Notice the Ewok hut? Notice the flickering light? Be still. Notice the sounds of the Ewok chatter? Nice touch by the Imagineers wouldn't you say?
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Discovery Island Trails
Location: Base of the Tree of Life
Honestly, whenever I'm in Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park I always try to get to these trails to see if I can catch a glimpse of yet another animal carved into the Tree of Life and also to notice if other guests are enjoying this little treasure. Far often I find myself all alone walking these trails, which really aren't that unheralded yet are much ignored. This is another example of how theme park headliner attractions take away from the other wonderful aspects that make a theme park whole.
in their hurry to ride Expedition Everest or Kilimanjaro Safari or
Dinosaur scurry past the Tree of Life and in some cases cross it off
their list of things to see.
If you walk around the base of The Tree of Life you will find many extraordinary animal representations carved into this structure. Look for the owl, the scorpion, the gorilla, and especially the six-foot rabbit.
Goofy and Friends Fishing
Location: Camp Minnie-Mickey
As you walk toward Camp Minnie-Mickey you may not notice the old watering hole where you will see fisherman Goofy and some of his closest friends enjoying a lazy fishing trip. Look for this watering hole just after crossing the large bridge that brings you to Camp Minnie-Mickey. It's one of those places where you just may find yourself relaxing along with Goofy.
There are some very talented people working at Walt Disney World. You can find one of these talented cast members in the Asia portion of Disney's Animal Kingdom. As you walk through Asia you may think that your eyes are deceiving you. They aren't. If you are lucky you may see DiVine, a cast member who you would swear is a walking vine. DiVine is often found up against a building and moves ever so slightly, if at all. The talent of this cast member brings smiles to the guests, especially the children. How do you know it's DiVine and not a regular plant? Easy, she has to open her eyes sometimes, doesn't she?
Talking Palm Tree
Location: Between bag check and the turnstiles
Just after bag check and before you approach the turnstile area you may notice a very mobile palm tree conversing with guests, especially children. This unheralded treasure introduces young guests into the environment upon which they are about to enter. The fascination on the face of the children as this tree (commonly known as Wes Palm) converses with them is priceless. The adults can have fun trying to figure out how the tree works. If you look very carefully around you the answer will appear.
Of course if you've already seen his cousin the talking trashcan in Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland then you may already know how this tree interacts with everyone.
Location: Fort Wilderness
Trail's End is one of those places most guests never see because it is off the beaten path. Located in Fort Wilderness, Trail's End is next to Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue's Pioneer Hall. Trail's End offers its patrons the absolute best value for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Trail's End is the perfect escape from the madness of the theme parks at midday.
Afterward you can stroll over to the General Store and check out the goods before returning to the rest of your day at the Magic Kingdom or somewhere else.
Location: Polynesian Resort
This area is found behind the Tokelau Longhouse. It is marked by a long walkway out to a point surrounded by several palm trees. This is an outstanding location from which to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks or just to enjoy a quiet moment and watch the ferry boats travel across the seven Seas Lagoon. It's one of the most romantic spots in Walt Disney World.
Generation Gap Bridge
Location: Pop Century Resort
This is one of my favorite places to just sit and think. It is most comforting either very late at night or in the pre-dawn hours when there is nary another person around. The bridge is lit in part by signs depicting the decades in fonts associated with each decade. If you walk to the end of the bridge and sit down and listen, you can hear the water softly lapping against the bridge footings or hear the ducks out for a swim.
Location: Port Orleans French Quarter/Riverside
Again this is one of those places best saved for the early mornings or late evenings. The walkways along the edge of this river are winding and offer guests the opportunity for a quiet leisurely stroll after perhaps a day of trudging through the parks. The Sassagoula walkway is my favorite jogging path in Walt Disney World. I find it most calming at night when day is done and most of the guests are tucked in their beds.
Undiscovered Unheralded Treasures
There are other treasures yet to be discovered, just waiting for me or you to uncover and enjoy. With every trip to Walt Disney World I know that somewhere, in either a theme park or at a resort, I will no doubt find yet another unheralded treasure that will make me sit back and reflect upon the notion that there is always something special waiting for me on every trip to Walt Disney World.
So, do you have some Walt Disney World trip memories laced with unheralded treasures?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Scopa has been a huge Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1975 and has returned many times (how many? he's lost count!) since. Mike is a contributor to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World and has served as keynote speaker for the 2006 and 2007 MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast.