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.

http://wdw.disneyfans.com

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):

http://themeparks.disneyfans.com

Lastly, the Disneyland Resort gallery (over 56,000 photos) has been redone as well:

http://dl.disneyfans.com

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:

Super fan with a Sorcerer Mickey tattoo at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on October 17, 1998.

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…

The original FASTPASS in 1999

UPDATES:

  • 2019-04-13: In a comment on Facebook, Werner from Yestlerland. com pointed me to his detailed article on the history of Paper FASTPASS tickets. He references an Orlando Sentinel newspaper article from July 9, 1999 stating FASTPASS (all uppercase back then) would go into effect “within the next week” on three attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Kilimanjaro Safaris, Countdown to Extinction and Kali River Rapids). I did not recall this, but I have photos of FASTPASS (all uppercase at that time) at those three attractions taken two days before I took the Space Mountain one. While it’s nothing unusual for the Wikipedia to be incorrect (it just says “late 1999” for when FASTPASS started), I now want to find a source to why I believed Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom was the first attraction to test it. The article mentions Splash Mountain would be coming, but I took no photos of that this trip, so I can’t confirm it happened by then. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was also mentioned, and I have photos of FASTPASS there as well. With that in mind, I am revising some of my writings below until I can figure out why I think Space Mountain was the first.

Here’s a quick bonus article…

According to our beloved Wikipedia, FastPass was first introduced in late 1999. Indeed, the very first time I used it was November that year.

I seem to recall that the first attraction to test FASTPASS was Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. However, in an article over at Yesterland about Paper FASTPASS, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper announced on July 9, 1999 that FASTPASS would be launching “within he next week” at three Disney’s Animal Kingdom attractions — Kilimanjaro Safaris, Countdown to Extinction and Kali River Rapids — with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Splash Mountain to follow. Since I have photos of all but Splash Mountain having FASTPASS by my visit in November, my photos agree with history. It appears in this case, my memory and Wikipedia are incorrect. I’ll have a few follow-up articles about FASTPASS shortly and try to figure out why my memory and Wikipedia are incorrect.

But I digress.

Here is what the original FASTPASS looked like:

Disney’s original FastPass on Space Mountain on November 6, 1999.

It was a very humble beginning to something that has evolved into a system that can be scheduled months in advance.

I suspect Space Mountain was chosen because their queue already had two sides. Originally, the wider side was where guest went, and the other side was … well, I’m not sure. I would see cast members using it, so perhaps it was just their way to walk the queue and get to the entrance when needed. It was probably just an obvious choice to use that other side for FASTPASS.

Side Note: I accidentally used that right side with a wheelchair guest and found it was a very tight fit. I was informed at the top that wheelchairs were supposed to use the normal queue (which is really how it should be – equal access – and allow those guests to also experience the same queue and preshows and such). But I digress…

I thought thought I’d take a moment to share this FASTPASS origin tidbit. If you want to know more, I have a few more articles about FASTPASS on Space Mountain and several other attractions in 1999 coming up.

Until next time…

Kudos: Alfred at Epcot’s Norway

As previously mentioned, during my trips, I like to make a note of any cast members that go above and beyond what I expect for my money. I thought sharing these stories might be a fun article series, so let’s get started.

During a recent visit to Epcot, I was enjoying sampling drinks and treats from the various World Showcase pavilions. Mostly drinks. I came across this beer stand in front of Norway:

Beer cart at Epcot’s Norway on April 7, 2019.

They had a Scandinavian beer listed which had a pronunciation guide. This caught my attention. The beer was called Aass Pilsner, an apparently Disney preferred people saying “Ouse” instead of … something else.

Norway’s Aass Pilsner, which is not pronounced that way, on April 1, 2019.

I tried one, and enjoyed it, even if I promptly forgot how it was pronounced.

Later during my visit, I passed through Norway again and wanted to check out the Kringla bakery.

Kringla bakery at Epcot’s Norway on April 7, 2019.

This used to be one of my “must do” things at Epcot back in the 1990s. They had a popular apple pastry I would always get, though I later found very similar ones at local bakeries so perhaps it wasn’t particularly Norwegian.

Looking inside on this trip, I saw no such pastry — or even anything close. Instead, I saw many items I hadn’t had before. Plus lots of Frozen themed treats. Of course.

Food items at Kringla bakery at Epcot’s Norway on April 1, 2019.

I also noticed they had alcohol bottles on display, which was something I don’t remember from my earlier days at pretty much any Epcot food location. (I still recall my surprise at finding a cart in Germany selling shots for the first time!)

Liquor bottles on display at Kringla bakery at Epcot’s Norway. April 1, 2019.

I tried a Viking Coffee, which I am sure is a culturally accurate representation of Norwegian culture 😉 It was coffee with Baileys Irish Cream, which is quite common here, and Kamora Coffee Liquor, which I had never heard of.

Epcot Norway’s Kringla Bakery menu board on April 1, 2019.

It’s amazing how tiny of a cup you get for $11.25 at Disney.

Later that evening, while camped out to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, I went on a food run. After walking practically the entire length of Word Showcase, I ended up back at Kringla. They had a Norwegian Club sandwich which looked tasty, even though I assumed it was another Disney invention. Much to my surprise, the cast member there explained that it was actually as special sandwich they had at home. He also introduced me to Lefse, which was a “soft flatbread rolled with cinnamon, sugar and butter.” It resembled a rolled tortilla. I also found out that the Aass Pislner was special, in that it was only available back in Norway and at Epcot.

I was set for a dinner, dessert and … another drink. The Lefse and sandwich were both delicious. The second Aass, even more so.

A bit later, I passed through the bakery one more time, to ask some questions about pronunciation. (“Uh, what was the thing I just ate called again?”) I spoke with the same cast member who had assisted me earlier, Alfred.

The bakery was slow at the moment, and Alfred took time to educate me a bit on Norwegian spelling, including writing out some of the alphabet characters they use:

A spelling lesson, compliments of Epcot Norway’s Alfred, on April 1, 2019. I saved this as a souvenir of my trip!

We also discussed the School Bread item, and I got a bit of a background about its history and cultural significance. He said it was one of the most popular pastries there.

So I left with a School Bread.

School Bread at the Kringla bakery at Epcot’s Norway on April 1, 2019.

This type of interaction is what I remember from the EPCOT Center I visited as a teenager in 1983. That was the first time I’d ever had any interaction with people from other parts of the world (other than Mexico, of course; I lived in Houston at the time and that was right next door). I was so glad to see Epcot still had ambassadors like Alfred.

Kudos to you, my foreign friend. I thank you so much for your time and attention, and for making my visit extra special.

Until next time…

Disneyland VS Walt Disney World … in 1996

UPDATES:

  • 2019-04-10: A few more notes about the year, and some formatting updates.

In summer of 1995 I started a job that would have me traveling. I found myself in Irvine (just down the road from Anaheim), California several times a year, as well as in Orlando about as often. I ended up with annual passes to both parks for 5 years.

I recently came across a post I made in the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup back in 1996. I thought I’d share it here, as it was my opinions then on Disneyland versus Walt Disney World…

TIMELINE NOTE: In 1996, California only had one park — Disneyland. Their second park wouldn’t open until five years later (and I’m not even sure it had been announced yet in ’96). At Walt Disney World, there were only three parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney/MGM Studios. Animal Kingdom was still two years off.


Posted on 6/1/1996:

KShre wrote:
> I was just wondering what or if there is a difference between the rides

I mainly go to Florida’s version but have had the chance to visit Disneyland three times in the past six months.  There are _major_ differences in some, and in most cases Disneyland is better, honestly.

> that are at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, such as Pirates,
> Haunted Mansion, 20,000 Leagues, Star Tours. Also wondering the same about
> the shows such as the Country Bear or the Tiki Room?

Pirates is about twice as long at DL with many more scenes.  WDW has a better queue area, so it might be worth checking out.  Also, the ship battle scene has different cannon effects.  Some updates (such as the fighting pirate shadows) are not at WDW.  Also, WDW has been made politically correct in several spots.  The scene with the men chasing the women is all women chasing men in Florida, and the pirate in front of the barrel with the show (and the woman sticking her head out) is now holding a treasure map in Florida.  Ride to notice these details.  Also you don’t go “up” at the end, rather you exit somewhere else and ride up a ramp.

Haunted Mansion is _very_ similar but all the updates Disneyland got this  past year have not happened at WDW.  A few minor differences at WDW are  worth seeing, though.  Little Leota is in the ride rather than near the  exit ramp.  The queue area doesn’t go through a hallway with pics but the  waiting room (before the stretch room) has a fireplace and changing  picture.  The attic is the older (no “I Do!” heads or mystery piano) version.  DLs has more neat updates, but WDW is still worth seeing for the minor changes.

20,000 Leagues is closed.

Country Bear is showing the original Jamboree (and not the vacation
hoedown) plus it has a neater exit area in Florida.

Tiki Room I don’t know about.

Star Tours is almost 100% the same inside but has a much neater outside at MGM and more ride vehicles (most rides are similar but hold more).

Space Mountain at WDW doesn’t have the digital sound system but does have two tracks and the seats are front to front, rather than side to side.

Splash Mountain is much much nicer and larger (original animatronics and  not ones from an old AA show 🙂 with different logs as well.

(hopefully you can tell I’ve been researching the same thing – my trips  to DL have been in the evenings so I spent most of the time just riding  things that they don’t have at WDW then riding things they do have to  compare)

The castle at WDW doesn’t have the walk-thru but does have a restaurant.

Tomorrowland is completely revamped (well, almost) at WDW and worth  experiencing everything there.

The Jungle Cruise has a “cave” it goes through at the end but otherwise is similar to DLs.

Big Thunder is larger and has a city scene not present at DL.

The train doesn’t go through any grand canyon or dinosaur land at WDW,  but does have some scenes to see that are different.

Tom Sawyer island has a neater and larger fort, but not as many caves.

Hall of the Presidents is worth seeing – not just one president like Mr.  Lincoln.

Overall more updates have been done to minor things at Disneyland than  WDW, and also maintenance (chipped paint, scratches, burnt out lights) is  poorer in Florida than DL.

So, my thoughts.  E-mail me if you want further tips.


Looking at this now, I can see many things that have changed. Disneyland got the P.C. changes, and WDW eventually got some of the updates. But overall, it seems most of it still rings true today, 23 years later.

I’ll also add that Disneyland was in the process of a decline where it, too, would have burnt out bulbs and chipping paint all over the park. I don’t really think it recovered until it was preparing for the 50th anniversary in 2005. From what I’ve been reading on Twitter, it seems like Walt Disney World is in a similar place right now, also gearing up for it’s 50th anniversary. But, the additions and updates made at Walt Disney World in the past ten years sure give it a great boost over the version I was speaking about in 1996 (which seemed like it was only minority updated since the ’70s).

Thoughts?

Until next time…

Before the world wide web, we had newsgroups.

Yes, Virginia, there was a time when the Internet was small enough that discussions about Disney were held in only a few places. The largest was probably the Internet newsgroups, which were accessible to anyone with Internet access.

I recently decided to look at some of the posts I made back then on the alt.disney.disneyland group and the rec.arts.disney.parks groups. It’s quite a time trip, seeing things announced like the first redo of Pirates of the Caribbean, or McDonald’s coming into the parks.

I found the first Internet post I made announcing me moving my “media archive site” to a domain:

Just a quick FYI for anyone who has been visiting my
http://disneyparks.simplenet.com photo archive site…  All the pictures have now moved to my new domain, www.disneyfans.com.  The simplenet site will likely be closed down sometime in the next few weeks.

Also, I’d like to mention that the Disney Vacation Club site,
www.dvcfans.com, is now hosted at my server.  If anyone would like to have a subdomain there (such as “weare.disneyfans.com” or
hauntedmansion.disneyfans.com“) let me know 🙂 What good is a domain if you can’t make full use of it?  🙂

Lastly, I am scheduled to be in California the first week of May for a
work trip, and if I make it out there I’ll be making evening trips to
Disneyland to get more pics.  If anyone has any Disneyland photo
requests, please drop me some e-mail and I’ll make a list and see what I can do.

See ya,
— 
 Allen Huffman – alsp…@pobox.com – http://www.pobox.com/~alsplace
-/- Theme Parks/Disney, CoCo/OS-9, and over 11,00 Digital Photos! -\-

My post to rec.arts.disney.parks on 4/21/2000

Heh, over 11,000 photos. How quaint.

If you really want to see some history, take a look through these old messages via Google Groups:

I’ve found posts I made in 1996 after I purchased my first digital camera. At the time, there were practically no Disney photos online. The ones that existed mostly came from film cameras and folks with scanners. It’s hard to imagine the internet before images became common!

I also found posts from the week I was in at Magic Kingdom when the Skyway stopped operating.

The earliest post of mine I can find is from June 1, 1996, and I mention upgrading my digital camera memory, so that must have been real soon after I got it.

Fun times.

A long, long fun time ago.

Until next time…

Fantasmic and the Walt Disney World alcohol turning point in 1998.

UPDATES:

  • 2019-04-19: Added a 2014 version of the “beer tray” photo, compliments of DisneyDrinking.com.

In 1955, Walt Disney opened the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California. After he passed away in 1966, his brother Roy continued part of Walt’s vision of his Florida Project. In 1971, he opened Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom theme park.

The 1970s were the era that I grew up in, and was exposed to Disneyland and Magic Kingdom during one amazing family road trip from Houston, Texas.

In 1982, EPCOT Center opened. It was the first Disney theme park that did not feature Disney characters! Yes, Virginia, there was a time when you couldn’t meet Mickey and every fairy tell princess at Epcot… Another first was the addition of alcohol to guests (if you ignore Holidayland at Disneyland, which served beer back when Walt was still alive and in charge).

In the early years, alcohol was limited to restaurants. You could buy a margarita at the quick service food stand in Mexico, but a cast member would make sure you did not carry the drink out to the rest of the park.

Obviously, at some point both of these things changed and now about the only thing you can’t get at the park is a photo of you holding a beer while standing next to a Disney character.

But I digress…

I don’t recall when the open carry policy for alcohol changed, but I do recall the first time I ever saw booze being sold “in the lanes.” I had visited Universal Studios Orlando earlier, and noticed they were selling booze in the lanes, and I clearly remember thinking “I wonder how long it will be before Disney does it?”

Within a year, apparently. The Disney/MGM Studios was opening a version of the Disneyland smash-hit Fantasmic!

Fantasmic! coming soon sign at Disney/MGM Studios on May 19, 1997.

By coincidence, I happened to be in town when they first did a soft-open preview performance. The wikipedia says the show opened on October 15, 1998, but I thought it was later, and that the earlier shows were for cast members only. I remember waiting in a long line for a chance to see it and the (first?) show was cancelled (or full?). The earliest photos I have are from October 16, 1998:

Fantasmic’s first public showing on October 16, 1998.

I don’t recall the details, but something happened that caused a swarm of people to go to guest relations that night:

Disney fans swarm guest relations on October 16, 1998.

I guess Disney fans were whiney back then, too. I seem to recall they did a second show and that is that one I watched. Perhaps this first night didn’t happen at all and I am remembering a second attempt later? I don’t seem to have any photos of the show from that night.

I have a photo from October 23 that shows was cancelled:

The brand-new Fantasmic cancelled on October 23, 1998.

Tonights? I guess people forget apostrophes even at Disney World!

It appears the first photos I took of the actual show were from October 24, 1998:

Fantasmic! on October 24, 1998.

Well, either my memory is wrong, or the Wikipedia is wrong, or the Mandela Effect is real. But that’s okay, because that has nothing to do with this article.

THIS is what I am writing about today:

Popcorn being sold to folks in line for Fantasmic! on October 16, 1998.

Well, not those popcorn sellers, specifically, but the whole concept of people walking around with trays of stuff to sell to folks standing in line. More specifically, people walking around with trays of beer to sell to folks standing in line! That’s what I saw the first time I tried to see this show.

Beer being sold to people in line on October 16, 1998.

Can you believe it? Disney had cast members walking around with a tray of beer cans, selling it to people standing in line for Fantasmic!

And that, my friends, may have been the first time Disney sold alcohol “in the lanes.” Do you know of any earlier instance?

Today, most ice cream carts seem to have a few beers on tap.

UPDATE: And, it seems the “beer in the lanes” trend continued. Here is a photo taken by DisneyDrink.com on June 1, 2014, showing a Fantastic-aproned cast member selling beer from a tray:

A Fantasmic! cast member selling bottled beer (poured into plastic cups) from a tray, and @DrunkAtDisney of DisneyDrinking.com, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on June 1, 2014. (Photo by DisneyDrinking.com).

My, how things have changed from the early years of Walt Disney World (no alcohol from 1971 to 1982, then limited alcohol at EPCOT Center) to what we have today (shots, ice cream “bars”, spiked drinks at coffee stands, etc.).

Until next time…

Epcot’s temporary food booths aren’t.

Wow. So many changes at Epcot since I last visited in 2006-2007… One that really stood out was all the “temporary” Food & Wine festival food booths now seem to be permanent.

The backside of an Epcot Morocco festival food booth on April 1, 2019.

Visiting during Food & Wine, then returning a few months later for the Garden Festival was … basically the same thing, except they changed the signs and menus, and I guess topiaries replaced food demonstrations.

At least they are decorated pretty nicely.

Taste of Marrakesh food booth at Epcot Morocco on April 1, 2019.

They still clash with the actual permanent structures around them, and the signage really stands out as “I’m a food booth, even if I’m a permanent building in a World Showcase pavilion.”

Still, all these unique menu items are fun (even at $7 or more for three bites or less).

$7 of food (Harissa Chicken Kebab) from Taste of Marrakesh food booth at Epcot on Apri 1, 2019.

And I should say, while the Epcot scenario no longer seems “special” to me, I quite enjoyed Disney California Adventure‘s Food & Wine event a few years ago. There, the booths disappeared after the event rather than remaining to clutter up the lanes.

I ask my audience: Do they ever remove these buildings? Quick connects on the power and water lines or something? Or are they really there every day? If so, are they always open?

Until next time…