Disney will be live streaming the 30th anniversary celebration at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on May 1 at 9:55 (Florida time I assume). Set your alarm now to check this link.
Month: April 2019
Disney/MGM Studios in 1996
When the Disney/MGM Studios opened in 1989, it was a substantially different theme park than what you find today at the renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I missed seeing it the first several years it was opened — my first visit was probably 1994.
There are many things about the park that remain unchanged, but here are some that were still there in 1996 that are now long-gone.
I only saw Super Star Television a few times, but basically you’d see members of the audience up on stage in recreated sets from TV shows. They’d “perform” some lines and their footage would be intercut with footage from the actual show. I believe there was a Home Improvement segment, but none of this really stuck around in my memory. Perhaps that is why it was ultimately replaced, rather than just being updated with more current shows?
Disney article from 2014: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2014/04/a-hollywood-classic-superstar-television/
The Monster Sound Show was a look at how sound is added to movies. If I recall, this was the show that had Chevy Chase in it. It was later replaced with a Drew Cary show, Sounds Dangerous, which featured the audience in a dark room listening to binaural sound effects through headphones. (Disney got on a binaural sound kick for a bit. It was used in Alien Encounter at Magic Kingdom, and even a version of Great Moment’s With Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland. But I digress…)
Some may recall the news about the Alien Pizza Planet opening at Disneyland a few years ago. If I recall, they had to add “Alien” to the name because there was a real pizza business called Pizza Planet. (True? Internet “detective” rumor?) But, Pizza Planet was at the Studios park before then…
I don’t think I ever ate there. I did like seeing the Toyota Pickup truck outside, though:
There once were some “spitting” camels in a Disney parade… They ended up on display at the Studio park:
I believe those, or some others, were eventually inside the Animation Courtyard restaurant when it had an Aladdin overlay. Today, I think the same ones still live on at Magic Kingdom at their Aladdin flying carpet ride.
ABC’s hit show, Ellen, was causing an early IP overlay to happen…
Buy the Book was a location featured in the show. Today that building is home to the Baseline Tap House.
The Animation Courtyard included a tour where you could see Disney animators working on upcoming features. Thus, the entrance was far more … animated.
There is much more to explore, but I’ll save that for future installments.
Until next time…
Kudos: Brandon at Epcot’s Festival Market
It’s time for another cast member kudos post, this time about an exceptionally helpful one I encountered during a visit during the Garden festival.
Scattered around Epcot’s World Showcase are various Festival Market booths like this one near the Outpost:
I’d seen and taken pictures of these booths, but hadn’t felt the need to buy any festival souvenirs. When a display listing various tours caught my eye, I went over to take a closer look.
There, a cast member named Brandon described some of the various tours they had available. I knew there were Epcot tours (I’d taken Behind the Seeds in The Land a decade ago), but I was unaware that there were special festivals tours, including some that were free!
For instance, over in United Kingdom you could sign up for an English Tea Garden Tour, sponsored by Twinings Tea:
Brandon letting me know about something free at Disney should be enough to get him on the kudos list, but he was also great at suggesting things folks shouldn’t miss during the event. He specifically suggested trying The Honey Bee-stro over in Showcase Plaza.
He said the honey cheesecake was one of his favorite items.
I guess I’m easily suggestible, since I did end up at the Bee-stro and did indeed try the cheesecake. Although the portion was small for $5 (like all items at these events), it was indeed delicious. I also tried the honey ale, but that one is on me.
Kudos to you, Brandon, for being outgoing, friendly, and helpful. Rather than just answer questions, you took a proactive approach with suggestions that really helped enhanced my visit.
Until next time…
Animal Kingdom in 1998
Last year, Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated 20 years of being “not a zoo.” The park opened on Earth Day in 1998 (April 22). This was the first U.S. Disney park to open during my adult lifetime (I was a teenager when EPCOT Center opened in 1982). I considered making a trip out for the grand opening, but decided I’d wait a bit and let the crowds settle.
I wish I had visited earlier, because by the time I saw it in October 1998, things had already started changing — including the removal of one original attraction!
But I digress…
I wanted to share a sample of what it was like experiencing this park for the first time.
While I was walking towards the entrance, I noticed how beautiful the greenery was. This light caught my attention:
I don’t remember what it said not the rock, or if that is even still there. I’ll look for it my next trip.
I remember it being a long walk to get to the entrance.
I remember being amazed when I saw this waterfall. What a great entrance for this new park!
A minute later, and I would realize this was not the entrance at all. It was the Rainforest Cafe! Neat. Of course, today, you can’t even see the waterfall from here. The trees have grown in and blocked that view.
The real entrance was cool, but now I was a bit let down.
I don’t recall what that truck was doing, but I’m betting it was trying to sell tickets to Pleasure Island 😉
I could continue with these photos and take you on a tour of my day, but instead we’ll stick to the outside of the park. Back then, the trees were freshly planted:
Even though it didn’t open with the park, we were still pretty excited to see what might come when the fantasy animal realm (Beastly Kingdom) was added. You could see the dragon in the logo, so we knew it would be happening…
I’m still waiting.
I’ll end with two pictures from the outside of Rainforest Cafe. Click to open the full-size gallery:
I’m not sure how much the inside has changed since I never spent much time in it after this first trip. I got to visit the first three Rainforest Cafes in the Chicago area, so I already had my T-shirt collection started.
There. Now I’ve given Walt Disney World a bit more love. But they will be much, much more love to give in future installments.
My Haunted Mansion text adventure from 2002.
Apologies for digressing away from digital photo essays for a moment, but I thought I’d share something else from my archives.
Growing up in the 1970s with a dad who liked gadgets, I was exposed to lots of early digital tech. I recall playing PONG at a Shakees pizza parlor with my father, and him bringing home the first home PONG game (and various others afterwards, including the very first Atari VCS game console). In the early 1980s, instead of getting me a new game machine, he suggested a home computer. In 1982, I became a computer nerd. (For more on this, you can visit my Sub-Etha Software site and see screen shots of some of the early “video games” I wrote.) It was through that early home computer that I first learned of text adventures which, at some point, became “interactive fiction.” (I think this is the same type of thing as comic books becoming graphic novels.)
But I digress. From my digression. I think.
After being laid off from my tech job after 9/11, I was looking for work and trying to learn “new” skills. (This layoff is why there is a one-year gap in my Disney photos around that time.)
I thought this “Java” thing sounded interesting*, so I got a book and started learning it. Since many roads lead to Disney with me, I decided to write something Disney related. I decided to write a text adventure based on the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.
*Side Note: I actually had been working at the first company to license SUN’s Java for embedded use, and one of my coworkers was on the Embedded Java committee at the time. It sounded funner for me to treat it as something new and quaint, considering how old and almost obsolete it is these days.
When coming up with an adventure game, one of the first things you create is a map showing all he locations. Since the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom versions both were a bit different (load area, Library room only at Magic Kingdom, different locations of Little Leota, etc.), I decided I would create a map that could represent either Mansion, depending on which route you took as you moved through the game.
Here’s the map, representing a two story building with an attic. (The graveyard was not yet mapped out.)
You would start in the foyer (lower left block of the first floor), then depending on your route, you would go through the rooms of Disneyland or Magic Kingdom.
For example, in either Mansion, you would go from the Foyer north into the portrait Gallery. Then, if you were following the Magic Kingdom version (that does not have the storm hallway and changing portraits), you would head east to the load hallway (where you’d get on the Doom Buggies), and then immediately be at some stairs.
For the Disneyland version, you’d start in the Foyer and go norther to the portrait Gallery, then continue north through the storm and changing portrait corridor, then past the “follow you” busts and then to where the stairs are (at the end of the loading area).
It may seem a bit confusing, but if you follow the route on the map correctly you will go through all the scenes in the proper order for each version of the ride. There were also some new rooms included, which were just part of the game. For example, a Magic Kingdom in the load hallway, there is a chicken exit door. I had a secret room behind that door in the game, and did that with some of the hallway of doors as well. I even allowed you to go down the “endless hallway” (where the candle is floating) and explore some of the doors there, AND get into the ballroom where the dining table, dancers and organ are. I even included a kitchen. I mean, there had to be one, right?
My game would also play sound loops for different sections of the games. Most folks were still using dial-up Internet back then, so sound files had to be small and short, but I had loops that would play in the storm hallway, the ballroom, load area, etc. that were taken from the actual ride.
It was a fun project. The full game was never completed, but I did have it so you could walk through all the rooms, see descriptions, pick up and drop various objects, etc. I was even working on a GUI for the game which would show a photo of the room, and let you click buttons on the screen to choose a direction (and maybe even simple commands like GET, DROP, etc.).
In the unlikely even that you have Java enabled in your web browser (which I don’t think anyone should, at this point, due to all the security issues over the year), an early prototype of this game is still on my DisneyFans.com website:
And then, there’s also the Disneyland Main Street adventure that I was working on with Refurb Mike…
Until next time…
Space Mountain 1999 FastPass.
Previously, I shared a photo of the original FastPass tickets that were give out at Magic Kingdom‘s Space Mountain in 1999. I thought I’d share a few more photos from the ride that started it all…
…or did I?
My memory says Space Mountain was the first, and I had assumed it did so in “late 1999” because the Wikipedia also said that, but I have since been reminded (via a well-researched Yesterland.com article) that it was announced to be starting in July 1999.
Amazingly, the Wikipedia was wrong about something. Let’s digress for a quick moment.
Doing some poking around the ancient archives of the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup, I found a post on February 18, 1999 by someone who got to try out a new “virtual queue system” on Countdown to Extinction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I then find a post from Al Lutz on May 31, 1999 referencing an Orange County Register newspaper article about the system being tested with plans for it to come to Disneyland. Then, on April 16, 1999, someone asked if the virtual queue was still being used and someone replied that it was not working on Space Mountain or CTX “this past Friday.”
Based on what I can find so far, the original testing seems to have been done on one (or both) of those two attractions sometime before February 18 and had ended by mid-April. But which was was first, and when? I shall continue to dig…
UPDATE: I found a reference from January 19, 1999 talking about the system being used on Space Mountain “last Christmas.” It seems December 1998 and Space Mountain?
But I digressed. Let’s get back to my November 1999 visit to Walt Disney World.
At that time, Space Mountain was sponsored by Federal Express:
I grew up with the ride being sponsored by RCA, so this was quite different than the old entrance sign I was used to with the “rocket” with astronauts in it. Inside was also different… The RCA dog listening to the record player had been replaced with a galactic mural.
When I visited next in 2006 and 2007, FedEx was no longer the sponsor. The signage and theming was still the same, but direct references to FedEx had been removed. I thought it was interesting they didn’t change this mural since “FX-1” in white and red colors was a referenced to FedEx.
Here’s a better look from 2007:
When I visited next in 2018, I saw that the FedEx references had been removed and the mural had been updated to be Starport Seven-Five… Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain opened in 1975. A similar update had been done at Disneyland with Starport ’77 (I bet you can guess which year their’s opened).
But I digress. Let’s get back to 1999.
This was the year FastPass went into public testing and was installed on Space Moutain. This meant new entrance markers for FastPass and for the normal line, which would be called Stand-By.
You now had the Stand-By line if you wanted to line up for the ride the way you always did, and a “Disney’s FASTPASS Return” line if you had the magic FastPass ticket…
Notice how the “Disney’s” looked like it was added to the sign after it was made. Maybe this was just in the era where “Disney’s” got added in front of anything the company made, yet somehow it wasn’t originally planned to be on this sign.
There was also a place to go to get those magic tickets. “Disney’s FASTPASS Distribution”:
Although my camera could not capture the specific time, the return time was the one-hour window where the ticket you received would allow you to return and use the FastPass Return entrance. (I guess we all understand this today, but back in 1999, it was a completely new concept.)
Let’s take a look at the machines…
Let’s take a closer look…
Insert park ticket here, receive your FastPass there… Simple enough (assuming that’s what it actually says; my ancient digital camera only took 640×480 pictures).
The machines were new, and often had issues.
I wasn’t bold enough to get closer, and the digital camera I had did not have a zoom (or a screen, or removable memory, or anything but a button for that matter). You can really tell this was more of a prototype than production system. Just look at all the wires and pieces of equipment all mounted inside there!
The end result was a nice FastPass ticket that could save you an hour or more waiting in line…
I’ll leave you with one more view, taken at night…
There is so much more to be said on the topic of FastPass, especially during the early years, so I look forward to writing more articles like this one, covering the other “first” attractions to have FastPass. (Or, FASTPASS as it was known at the time.)
Until next time…
Article Update: Fantasmic! and alcohol.
I have made a small update to this article about one of the “turning points” of Walt Disney World and alcohol. Special thanks to DisneyDrinking.com for allowing use of a 2014 photo they shared on their @DrunkAtDisney Twitter account.
Disney and other Theme Parks galleries updated.
My Walt Disney World gallery (over 40,000 photos) has been updated to included photos taken a few weeks ago. I have also done some resorting of the early years of my Epcot World Showcase photos, correcting a number of mistakes I found.
I have also added the latest batch of Universal Orlando Resort photos from a few weeks ago. These are on my non-Disney Theme Parks gallery (over 33,000 photos):
Lastly, the Disneyland Resort gallery (over 56,000 photos) has been redone as well:
All three galleries were restarted from scratch, using new settings. Please let me know if you encounter any issues. Thanks!
Up next: I still have to sort photos from Knott’s Berry Farm (2017 and 2018), Universal Studios Hollywood (2018), and Iowa’s Adventureland Halloween (2018). I also found I have photos form Worlds of Fun (Halloween 2014) I never got around to posting.
Never a dull moment here!
Until next time…
Kudos: Casey at Universal Orlando Resort Twitter
As you read this, please keep in mind the following statement:
BRANDS ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS!Internet
But if they were, Universal Orlando Resort would at least be a cool acquaintance.
I had noticed on my Twitter account that Universal Orlando Resort was actually responding to Tweets from other users. Their responses would range from helpful (“send us a direct message and we will try to help.”), to silly (responding with an animated GIF of some meme), to proactive (seeing someone complain about something and stepping in to assist).
On February 26, I decided to tweet them a question…
I was surprised to receive a human response so quickly. I contacted them via direct message. It went something like this…
Thanks for responding, human. . . .
(…Then a lengthy paragraph about past visits, allergies, and a goal to avoid boring burgers…)ME
To which I got back…
Hello, other human! My name is Casey, and I’d be super happy to make some recommendations for you! I’m glad you’ve loved your past visits and are excited to come back! Couple more questions, just so I can make sure I don’t recommend anything you can’t experience . . .
(…Then some questions for me to answer…)Casey @UniversalORL
Thus began an enjoyable exchange between myself and a “brand” which would continue, off and on, for the next month leading up to my visit.
The first thing Casey assisted with was to give me an e-mail address to contact about food allergies. I sent an e-mail and quickly received a response from Tyler B., a nutritionist with Universal Orlando Resort. Now that’s service!
Next, Casey followed up with a detailed response with various suggestions on food items:
Now let’s get down to the fun recommendations. For Universal Studios Florida: I would personally recommend dinning at The Leaky Cauldron and Finnegan’s Bar & Grill, as well as Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck! My personal favorite menu items at each are Cottage Pie with a Pear Cider (Leaky Cauldron), Beef Tenderloin Medallions and Irish Fish & Chips, as well as a Finnegan’s Potato & Onion Webb as a starter or a snack if you aren’t super hungry (Finnegan’s Bar & Grill), and Korean Beef Taco (Bumbleebee Man’s Taco Truck)! . . .
(…Then a similar list about Universal’s Islands of Adventure…).Casey @UniversalORL
I was impressed that I was getting personal recommendations — much like speaking with the concierge at a fancy hotel when asking “what’s a good restaurant around here?”
Casey was able to provide me with a list of unique beers made just for Universal Orlando Resort, including one available only at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. She even suggested taking the water taxi from the parks to the resorts, and also mentioned a resort restaurant with a patio that had a good view of one of the parks.
When I needed clarification on something (I am fairly unfamiliar with the Universal parks), she’d send me direct links to the place in question, such as San Francisco’s Chez Alcatraz or Jurassic Park’s Watering Hole.
Perhaps this was more like clubhouse level service than hotel concierge.
During my actual visit, as I worked through much of my Casey-provide list, I’d occasionally write in with other questions. Casey was always quick to make some phone calls to see what she could find (sadly, no spiked coffee drinks at Universal Studios parks, but she did suggest Universal’s Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at CityWalk). And if Casey wasn’t available, someone else stepped in to assist.
It was truly guest service above and beyond anything I was expecting. The Universal Orlando Resort Twitter team does great work.
They also do funny work, like responding with animated GIF memes of, not surprisingly, Universal Studios related properties such as Jimmy Fallon:
And a Minion dropping the mic:
I just wonder how many lawyers and managers were there monitoring everything these folks sent. I mean, they used emojis, too!
Thank you Casey and your coworkers for being excellent human representatives for a large corporation. You made my visit more enjoyable (and, uh, more expensive) than it otherwise would have been.
I’m glad to have @UniversalORL as a brand acquaintance. If you are ever in Des Moines, Iowa, tweet me and I’ll return the favors.
Until next time…
Hard-core Mickey Mouse fan at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened on April 22, 1998 (Earth Day). I had considered being out there for the grand opening, but thought it would be a better trip if I let the crowds die down first. I made my first trip six months later in October that year.
The main attractions were the Kilimanjaro Safaris (still there, but changed), It’s Tough to Be a Bug (still there), and Countdown to Extinction (no longer there by that name, but still there and known as Dinosaur today). I’ll be writing about that first visit later, but I wanted to pass along this photo:
If I recall, I noticed her tattoo after my first ride on Dinosaur and I asked her if I could get a photo of it. Twenty years ago, tattoos still weren’t very common, and I’d never seen one in that position on the lower arm.
Today, such a simple arm tattoo wouldn’t get a second glance, and I’ve since seen folks with entire “sleeve tattoos” of copyrighted Disney characters walking around Disneyland. (When did the tough image of biker/military/pirate/prisoner tattoos become something you could mix with Disney?)
But back then, it was something surprising, and worth using one of my limited amount of digital photos on.
Does anyone know her? If so, tell her the guy with the computer camera she met at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998 says hi.
Until next time…