April 2015 Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the March 31, 2015 Issue #810 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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.

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PocahontasEach month, we rummage around in our archives for this featurette, which indulges in a bit of nostalgia, taking you back in history for a glimpse of Walt Disney World and The Walt Disney Company through the ages. This month, in honor of Earth Day and the anniversary month of Disney's Animal Kingdom, we take a look at one of that park's early attractions.

Pocahontas and her Forest Friends, a 12-minute stage show that involved live animals, opened in April 1998 at Camp Minnie-Mickey, which was supposed to be a "temporary land" at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The show, which was presented in the 400-seat open-air theater known as Grandmother Willow's Grove, was originally called Colors Of The Wind, Friends from the Animal Forest. According to Disney Historian Jim Korkis, that awkward title was soon replaced by a more guest-friendly name, which conveniently also featured the name of the star character.

Grandmother WillowEnhanced by music from the Disney animated film "Pocahontas," the show focused on a variety of live forest animals: a porcupine, a possum, a raccoon, a rabbit, a wild turkey and a skunk, as well as a very large snake. Pocahontas, accompanied by an Audio-Animatronic tree — Grandmother Willow from the film — and a smaller figure, Sprig, brought the animals onstage and provided background information on them. The first three or four rows of the theater were reserved for children, who seemed to delight at seeing such relatively harmless animals in an intimate setting. Once a day a highly entertaining "training" version of the show offered a behind-the-scenes demonstration of how the wild creatures were made "stage ready."

Although it was a charming little show (my son absolutely adored it when he was young — I did, too!), Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends eventually closed on September 27, 2008. And, in fact, Camp Minnie-Mickey itself closed in January of last year to make way for the new AVATAR-themed land coming to Animal Kingdom.

Pocahontas continues to appear in character meet-and-greets at Rafiki's Planet Watch and you can see her in Disney's Hollywood Studios' nightly show, Fantasmic! And here's a little bit of trivia: You can also at least still hear kindly old Grandmother Willow in Animal Kingdom — her voice can be heard at the Songs of the Rainforest listening booths found at Conservation Station in Rafiki's Planet Watch.



Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends Archive Page

A Last Look at Camp Minnie-Mickey

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Think you know Disney inside and out? This AllEars® feature is designed to stump Disney enthusiasts of all kinds and ages. Put on your thinking cap!

Our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) is Guest Mindboggler this week, supplying a puzzle of his own design.

James writes: Here's the answer key from the last puzzle, which was about 1950's "Cinderella."

I was very pleased to receive 138 correct responses this month. The answer to the bonus question was Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent, whose voice was aptly provided by the actress Eleanor Audley. You may also recognize her as the voice of Madame Leota, the disembodied head in the Haunted Mansion. (By the way, if you haven't seen the new live-action version of "Cinderella," I highly recommend it; there are enough differences between the animated feature and the new film to keep it interesting, and the special effects are incredible!)

The winner of a Goofy collectible pin was Barclay B. of Chicago, IL. Congrats and thanks for playing!

This month we continue with the animated feature series by taking a look at 1951's "Alice in Wonderland." This animated feature continued the studio's use of the traditional fairytale as a source of story themes. This animated feature also solidified music and lyrics as a central part of the storytelling process, since Alice in Wonderland's soundtrack included more than 15 new songs.

Here's the new puzzle.

The purpose of this puzzle is just to have a little fun, but if you want to take it a step further, arrange the letters that are circled in the puzzle to come up with the answer to the bonus, which relates to the puzzle theme. Send your resulting answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to [email protected] Send the bonus term or phrase by email no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on April 24, 2015.

REMINDER: Not all of the words in the word bank are used in this puzzle!

All correct answers will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner will be awarded a Disney pin. The answers and drawing winner will be posted in next month's Bits and Bites newsletter, along with a new puzzle.

Comments/suggestions? Drop me a line at [email protected]!


Someday in the future
When I want to look my best
I'll visit this strange beauty shop
And know I'll pass the test

That one lady's sitting there
Under that odd machine
I bet her hair is perfect
Although it might be green

What is this and where do you find it?

SOLUTION: The beauty salon of the future is found in the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover in the Magic Kingdom.

CONGRATULATIONS TO the first 10 of you who sent in the correct answers, earning a Mousy Mindboggler Mention: Aditi Shah; Francine Wainer; Mark Harder; Rob Ripper; Ted Flory; Elizabeth Dort; Ed Watts; Resty Sapuan; David DuBois; and Stephanie Christian. Thanks so much for playing along!

EDITOR'S NOTE: WIN A PIN! Don't forget to play the Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler for another chance to win a collectible Disney pin!

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Steve Barrett, author of the Hidden Mickeys books and webmaster of HiddenMickeyGuy.com, invites you to check out these Hidden Mickeys in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

1. In the afternoon Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, a classic Hidden Mickey, tilted to the left, is formed by three purple seashells on the front of The Little Mermaid float. You can usually spot this image from either side of the parade. (Thanks to Justin Lewicki.)

Hidden Mickey

2. In the room with the suits of armor in Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland, find classic Hidden Mickeys at intervals in the borders around wall designs behind the suits of armor. You can find these same images in other decorative designs in this room. (Thanks to Sherrie Schoening, Beth Harrison, Justin Lewicki, and Anthony Bartiromo.)

Hidden Mickey

3. Many awesome Hidden Mickeys can be enjoyed at Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid in Fantasyland. This attraction comes close to qualifying as a "treasure trove" of Hidden Mickeys, a term I usually reserve for Conservation Station at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Check out this Hidden Gem. About three-quarters of the way along the outside entrance queue of Under the Sea, look to your right over a railing where a stream of water is flowing below you. Stick your head over the railing and stare straight down close to the bridge and find a Hidden Mickey made of holes in the rocky base of the stream. (Thanks to Justin Lewicki.)

Hidden Mickey


You can find a selection of past Hidden Mickey Alerts HERE.

And check out our latest Searching Disney with Steve blog.

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Earth Day/Party for the Planet on April 22 at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Epcot. Discover how you can help animals by creating wildlife-friendly spaces in your backyard. Explore ways to protect and care for marine life through hands-on activities. Learn more about sustainable living and how to make great choices every day to benefit both your family and the planet. There will also be exclusive Earth Day 2015 merchandise.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

The original golden coach used in the new live-action film "Cinderella" is outside the movie theater facade on Streets of America through April 11, 2015.


Epcot's Flower & Garden Festival runs through May 17, 2015. This includes the "Garden Rocks" concert series (formerly the "Flower Power" concerts), which bring musical acts to the America Gardens Theatre every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the festival.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

The Atlanta Braves are in the midst of their 18th consecutive spring training at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Information on the Braves' Spring Training season, group tickets and mini-packs is available by calling 407-939-GAME (4263) and online at espnwwos.com. Individual game tickets will be available through Ticketmaster by calling 800-745-3000 or visiting ticketmaster.com as well as at the sports complex box office.


Check our Events page for a full schedule of upcoming events.



Animal Kingdom

Creature Comforts is closed to become a Starbucks location through June 14.

Flame Tree Barbecue is closed through April 22, 2015.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Lights, Motor, Action Extreme Stunt Show is closed April 20-25.

Magic Kingdom

Several enhancements to the Central Plaza area between the end of Main Street and Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom are coming over the next few months. Parts of the project have already been unveiled; the project is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is closed for refurbishment April 27-30, 2015.

Dream Along with Mickey is closed April 13 – May 20, 2015.

Jungle Cruise is closed April 13 – May 8, 2015.

it's a small world is closed April 14-17, 2015


The Maelstrom attraction and Spirit of Norway movie have closed to make way for a new attraction based on the animated film, "Frozen." The new attraction will take guests to the film's land of Arendelle and is expected to open in early 2016. The Norway pavilion will also again host a royal greeting location where the characters Anna and Elsa can meet guests.


The Walt Disney World Resort Monorail System will undergo refurbishment that will impact the Express monorail beam, which runs between the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and the Magic Kingdom. Now and throughout the summer, Express beam shutdowns will occur between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Resort beam will continue to run during downtimes. Guests arriving at the TTC during downtimes will be directed to the ferry boats.

Beach Club

Guest Rooms are being refurbished with new hard and soft goods. Some noise could travel. Work takes place between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily, now through August 22, 2015.

Villa rooms at Disney's Beach Club are also currently undergoing renovations. Small blocks of rooms will be renovated at one time, meaning that guest stays in refurbished villas should commence in early April. Major in-room modifications include new furniture, carpet, flooring, curtains, linens and stainless steel appliances. Upgrades to the electrical system will add USB charging stations and additional electrical outlets to the villas. Deluxe Studio villas are being expanded to accommodate five guests with the addition of a fold-down sleeper. Elsewhere at the resort, a billiard table has been added to The Drawing Room located at the entrance to the villa wing. The table is available free to guests 24 hours per day.

Caribbean Beach Resort

Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort is currently undergoing refurbishment, scheduled to be completed in spring 2015. During this time, all rooms (with the exception of King Bed rooms and Pirate Rooms) will be upgrading to queen beds. Many rooms (but not all) will then have the ability to accommodate up to five, with the addition of a bunk-size fold down bed. These rooms will be located in all of the resort's villages.

Polynesian Resort

The Nanea Volcano Pool closed July 26, 2014, and will not reopen until sometime in 2015. Several enhancements are scheduled, including a new aquatic playground with children's slides, a new hot tub, and a larger deck with more guest seating.

The first phase of Disney Vacation Club's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows is set to open April 1, 2015.

Polynesian East Pool will close for enhancement mid-April 2015 through early 2016. Expect noise and construction; some pathways may be blocked.

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is currently undergoing the largest renovation in its 25-year history. The Swan rooms will be completed in 2015. The first phase of the Dolphin Hotel room renovations will not begin until 2016, with the entire room project currently scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017.

Downtown Disney/Disney Springs

The multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs will treat guests to more shopping, dining and entertainment amid open-air promenades, springs and waterfront charm. Disney Springs will feature an eclectic and contemporary mix from Disney and other noteworthy brands, from boutique shops to unique flagship anchor stores. The Landing section of Disney Springs will open and be rededicated in 2015.

Roadwork on Buena Vista Drive – Through March 2016. Due to heavy roadwork, expect delays on Buena Vista Drive. It is recommended that Guests use complimentary Walt Disney World Resort transportation from Parks and Resorts to Downtown Disney and plan to arrive early for reserved dining and entertainment experiences.

Parking Lots – Entrance 2 – Lots A-G – closed through August 2016, in preparation for the construction of Town Center and the East Garage.

Paradiso 37 on Pleasure Island is set to nearly double its seating. It will add more terrace dining and a new outdoor performance stage. The menu will continue to offer a culinary tour of North, Central and South America. Paradiso 37 will remain open while undergoing renovations, which are expected to be finished by this summer.

Read HERE for more on Disney Springs.


A complete list of rehabs can be found HERE.

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Bobbie Young: My cousin Dawn and I have a tradition of eating at the Plaza Restaurant on the first and last day of our vacation. We have done this for many, many years. This year, on our last day (January 29, 2015), the Mayor of Main Street, USA, the Honorable Christopher George Weaver, announced to the restaurant that the 100th guest of the day was from New Hampshire. Much to our surprise he came over to our table. He posed for a photo with us and rewarded us with a delicious dessert! What a wonderful way to end our vacation.

Jeff Jacobson: My 9-year-old daughter accidentally left her hat on the Monorail from Epcot. She loved that hat; it was from Disneyland and had her name embroidered on it. We didn't realize she had left it until we had taken the ferry to the Magic Kingdom. We went back to the Transportation and Ticket Center and asked a Monorail worker what we should do. She said there probably was nothing we could do until the next day, when the hat might be retrievable from central Lost & Found. Now to the good part: cast member Tim, who had been driving the Monorail, heard part of our conversation and came running after us. He said to my daughter, "Did you lose a hat on the Monorail?" She said yes. He then said, "By any chance, is your name Julia?" She smiled broadly and said yes again. Tim said her hat was in the pilot car of that Monorail and brought us up to see cast member Ralph, who radioed and asked the new driver to please bring the hat back on his next run to the TTC. Julia had her hat 10 minutes later, along with a great story. I'm very grateful to Tim and Ralph, both of whom couldn't have been friendlier or more helpful.

David Ballard: On our most recent trip to Disney World during this past Thanksgiving holiday, my niece lost a tooth on the trip down. When we arrived at our resort, All Star Movies, my wife and I went to check in while my daughters, niece and mom looked at the huge Christmas tree. While they were off admiring the decorations they started talking to a cast member. I guess she noticed the missing tooth. As they finished looking at all the lights and garland they came up to the check-in desk to meet us. When our cast member was done with all the necessary procedures she looked at my niece and said that the Tooth Fairy had left a surprise for her. She handed her a Mickey balloon tied to a Princess Minnie Mouse plush doll. My niece's face was frozen! Then she said, "I can't even!" She is 7 years old! That first cast member that my family talked to took the time to get this together and bring it to the check-in desk without any of us noticing. We had only been on Disney property for about 15 minutes and we had already experienced the "magic." This is what keeps us coming back year after year. I hope the Disney Company never loses this mindset. It's these little things that mean so much!

Darrell Shortt: My family of four and I spent five days in early February with a friend of ours and her children, including an adult son with Down Syndrome. Every cast member was great, from the bus drivers who had to deal with two scooters each trip to the cast members on rides when our friend's son would have a meltdown from the overstimulation. One cast member in particular told his apologetic mom, "Don't worry, this happens every day!" One day, though, while we were at the Studios, he got separated from his mom in the crowd. My family and I are annual passholders and we immediately spread out over the park looking for him while my wife reported to a cast member. It took a little while, but he was eventually found by a cast member in Star Tours and taken up front to meet my son. The really impressive thing, however, happened after we returned to our respective homes. When we checked our PhotoPass pictures from the trip we found something startling. It seems that while our friend's son was off on his own, he made his way into the Buzz Lightyear and Woody meet-and-greet. Even without someone to "translate" his intentions, waiting in line (which he could never do) or a FastPass he was able to meet with Buzz and Woody and take several pictures! It was enough to make us tear up. Disney cast members just seem bred to make people happy and we are very thankful for them!


We just bet you have a story to tell about an unforgettable moment during your Disney vacation! Please send your favorite memory for inclusion in a future AllEars® to: [email protected] Thank you all for sharing!


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.