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…

No photos. No video.

After twenty three years doing this, I have decided to switch my focus from photos and video of the U.S. Disney Parks and concentrate on my collection of refillable popcorn buckets.

And that’s as much of an April Fools joke as you get from me today. Instead…

Walt Disney World used to be far more strict on allowing photos and/or video inside attractions. When I visited with my first digital camcorder in 1999, I recorded dozens of hours of video, but almost none inside any attractions. I do, however, have many pre-shows that end with a cast member walking up to me and “asking” me to stop recording.

No flash (?) photography or video recording as recently as December 4, 2006.

I can only imagine how many more photos and hours of video I would have if this were not the case.

Keep this in mind as you watch all the YouTube videos that were recorded in direct violation to posted signs and cast member instructions 😉

My trick was to keep going through until a cast member forgot to make the announcement, or asking a cool cast member if they would look the other way for me. I mean, in 1999, it’s not like anyone was ever going to be able to watch that video other than friends I invited over to see it on my TV.

Until next time…

Bryon, my 2007 Animal Kingdom bartender

In the late 90s, I used to travel with a PalmPilot PDA (a Palm III, actually). These PDAs (personal digital assistants) were what we used in the years before Androids and iPhones. I also had a snap on 14.4 modem (spiffy!) so I could dial in to my ISP and download/upload e-mail from a hotel, or even from a payphone (if it had a phone jack on it). High tech! Later I would upgrade to a Kyocera 6035 – one of the very first smartphones. It was a phone with a PalmPilot and modem built in! Higher tech!

I used my Palm III (and later, Kyocera) to take vacation notes and maintain a TO DO list of everything I wanted to see/ride/experience. These notes are how I used to document my trips on my 1990s website from my front page “news.”

But I digress.

When the first iPhone came out in 2007, I purchased one and brought it with me on Disney trips. It became my new notepad and TO DO list. Even though I’ve upgraded my phone a few times since then, my old notes and reminders I had migrated to my later phones.

Recently, I came across my “cast member kudos” notes I took during a trip in March 2007. If I ran into a CM who I thought was really exceptional and going above and beyond “typical Disney,” I’d make a note of them and write into to Disney to share my kudos after I returned home. (This is something I encourage all of you to do.)

My 2007 trip notes included the following:

Barry Plank City, FL photopass
bryon at Dawa Bar DAK
Tomoko, Yuki

Cast Member Kudos, March 2007

I don’t recall what PhotoPass Barry did to impress me, but I think Tomoko and Yuki were the fun CMs at the saki bar in Japan. (That was the first time I’d ever really been there.) But Bryon? He was one I think I remembered. I wondered if he might still be around, twelve years later…

Many things have changed since 2007. The Dawa Bar in Animal Kingdom, for example, has been rebuilt and relocated since I last saw it. Here’s the version I remember:

Dawa Bar on September 30, 2007.

And here’s what it looks like today:

Dawa Bar in 2018.

I decided to ask at the current incarnation of Dawa Bar if they knew of a bartender named Bryon. Indeed, the bartender I spoke of said he did, and informed me he was still with the company and currently working over at Epcot at the Garden Grill.

I now had a mission to find out if it actually the same Bryon that impressed me so much in 2007 that I included him on a very short list of cast member kudos?

The next day, I visited Epcot and made a specific trip into The LAND to ask about their Bryon.

Garden Grill in 2018.

To my surprise — their Bryon was indeed the Bryon I remembered! He’s been with the company for almost 30 years.

It’s a small world, after all!

If you make it to Epcot, and feel like a huge all-you-can-eat breakfast with visits from Mickey, Chip, Dale and Pluto, check out the Garden Grill and ask for Bryon. If he’s not around, Vickie is also great fun.

That’s your Park Hopping tip for the day. Use it wisely.

Until next time…

My favorite Disney souvenir ever.

UPDATES:

  • 2019-04-07: Added more details from a newsgroup post I made back in 1996.
Photo by Allen Huffman of DisneyFans.com

Okay, this article is not really about my favorite Disney souvenir. I think my all-time favorite amusement/theme park souvenir would be the park map posters everyone used to sell. I previously mentioned that I still have my original 1983 EPCOT Center poster (though this is not a photo of mine).

I had park maps from my first theme park, Astroworld in Houston, Texas. I believe I also had one from the original Six Flags Over Texas near Ft. Worth. I may have picked up a few others over the years, but my EPCOT Center one is the only one I know I still have.

But there was one particular items that was incredibly unique and lots of fun. If you’ve ever been to a Disney park, you certainly have noticed the cast member name tags. Traditionally, Walt Disney World cast members would wear ones that had their origin city and state/country. Disneyland’s usually did not (since so many of them would just say Anaheim, California), though for the 50th anniversary in 2005, cast members in California had the year they started working in the park there. I was impressed with how many I ran into that had 1960s and 1970s dates!

But I digress.

The traditional CM name tag just had a first name, city and state (or city and country, like Paris, France). Around 1996, a little wagon appeared on one of the side streets at Magic Kingdom (there were two side streets back then) that would make you a custom Disney name tag that looked exactly like the cast members, except it was red:

Custom Disney name tags at Magic Kingdom on August 27, 1996.

If you didn’t want one of the generic pre-made ones, they had a machine that would engrave a custom one:

Custom Disney name tag engraver on August 27, 1996.

The fun part about these name tags was that, at the time, this was the only place you could get them. Cast members working elsewhere in Magic Kingdom or in other parks were unaware of them. This led to some interesting things.

First, they all seemed to assume I worked for Disney. This surprised me since I had long hair and facial hair. At the time, cast members where required to have the “Disney look” and be clean shaven. I also looked as much like a tourist as one could (though I guess I sometimes had unusual equipment with me that most tourists did not). They mostly seemed to think I worked for Imagineering or Animation or some other “home office” type position.

I even had a bartender at the Catwalk Bar at Disney/MGM Studios initially refuse to serve me alcohol because he thought he would get in trouble.

When I wore the name tag to Disneyland, which hadn’t begun selling them yet, the reaction was similar.

For the sake of public record, I am going to say that I always explained to them it was just a souvenir that anyone could buy at Magic Kingdom.

Maybe one day I will say something different 😉

Eventually, they changed the name tags so they looked different from cast member tags, and eventually made them all say “Guest of Honor” on them.

Disneyland Guest of Honor name tags from 2002. The ones shown here were gifts I made for the members of a stage comedy act I was involved with.

It’s almost as if they had an issue with selling guests name tags that looked exactly like cast member name tags…

UPDATE: I ran into a post I made to the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup on 11/27/1996 about these tags. Here is what I had to say back then:

The red name tags lasted about a week.  I was there the second day they sold them, and at that time they would engrave your name and home town on them.  THey looked just like Cast Member tags except they were red and had stars to the left and right of Micky.  By the end of the week, they were no longer putting the home town on them, just 1996 VIP GUEST instead.  I bought bundles for friends of mine on Genie (whom I still have to send out, in case they catch this post :).

There were “security problems” with them.  Uninformed cast members kept asking if I was some kind of supervisor (digital camera, wandering around looking at details, asking alot of questions, I can see it . . .).

I have a picture of the cart they sold it from as well as the engraving
machine and name tag display I can add to my website if anyone was curious to the operation.  Also, if you get the VR image of Disney World Main Street from the WDW Explorer CD or from the WDW website, you will see the little red cart sitting in a side isle.  This is where they sold the tags.

My 11/27/1996 post to rec.arts.disney.parks

Until next time…

Magic Kingdom Main Street Cinema in 1996.

Yes, Virginia, there was a time when Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom had buildings that were not used for retail space.

The Main Street Cinema used to be a small cinema that played classic Mickey Mouse cartoons. It was still doing this in 1996:

Main Street Cinema in August 1996.

That is the only photo of it from 1996 I have, but here is is in January 1998:

Main Street Cinema on January 23, 1998.

Later that year, it was being used to show previews for the new animated film Mulan:

Mulan replaces Mickey at the Main Street Cinema on October 16, 1998.

In 1999, Tarzan had replaced Mulan:

Tarzan replaces Mulan at the Main Street Cinema on November 6, 1999.

…and Toys Story 2 soon followed (they changed it out during my visit):

Toy Story 2 preview at Main Street Cinema on November 18, 1999.

I do have a photo of the cinema ticket booth from 1999:

Main Street Cinema ticket window on November 20, 1999.

I wonder what her name tag said. At Disneyland, it has her hometown listed as Marceline, Missouri (where Walt Disney grew up).

After my 1999 visit, I turned my focus to Disneyland trips and did not return to Walt Disney World until 2006. By that time, the Main Street Cinema had been turned into another shop. During this visit, it was also being used as the in-park headquarters for the Virtual Magic Kingdom online game:

Main Street Cinema no more on October 23, 2006.

They at least kept a projection screen at the back in tribute to the sign outside:

All that remains of the “cinema” part of Main Street Cinema on December 8, 2006.

Meanwhile, at Walt Disney’s original Disneyland, the Main Street Cinema is still a cinema, with multiple screens inside showing various Mickey Mouse cartoons. I guess California didn’t need another spot to sell T-shirts.

Until next time…

Park exclusive beers at Universal Studios Florida

I don’t know why, but it’s always annoyed me to see so much “generic” merchandise for sale at Disney and other theme parks. What compels people to buy a generic Mickey Mouse shirt at Disney prices when they can get the same shirt for much less at their local Walmart?

Over the years, some things have gotten better. At least now you can buy a generic Mickey Mouse shirt (that doesn’t mention Disneyland anywhere on it) that at least has “Disneyland” on the sizing tag.

I’ll also give a pass to generic things found at World Showcase and spots in Universal Studios’ parks — you might not ever make a trip to the United Kingdom or New York, so perhaps picking up something “from there” in the parks is fine since you probably can’t get them at home.

But folks still pay jacked up prices for Starbucks coffee or Coca-Colas that we can find, literally, around the block back home.

With that in mind, I present you with a list of the park exclusive beers made just for Universal Studios Orlando … Feel free to try as many of these as you want, since you can’t get them back home at your local brew pub.

The beers of The Hog’s Head at Islands of Adventure’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade

Kudos to Casey at the Universal Orlando twitter account for this list.

Universal Studios Florida

  • DUFF Beer and DUFF Lite – Springfield – Duff Gardens
  • Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew– The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley – Fountain of Fair Fortune, Leaky Cauldron, and The Hopping Pot
  • Mardi Gras Brew (only available during their Mardi Gras celebration) – French Quarter

Islands of Adventure

  • Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade – Three Broomsticks and The Hog’s Head
  • Hog’s Head Brew – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade – The Hog’s Head

Volcano Bay

  • Volcano Blossom – Dancing Dragons Boat Bar and Kunuku Boat Bar

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

  • Jake’s American Red Lager– Jake’s American Bar

Casey adds that Jake’s American Red Lager is one of her personal favorites. She also notes that many locations also have signature drinks, and recommends the Triple in Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. It is three different beers layered on top of each other (Strongbow, Hog’s Head Brew and Guiness). I can’t wait to check this out my next visit. Thanks, Casey!

Until next time…

All my Disney visits…

On my About page, I have been trying to reconstruct a list of all the times I visited Disneyland and Walt Disney World with my digital camera.

In those early days of digital photography, my camera did have a clock but it did not have a screen. The only way I could set the time was by hooking it to a computer. As such, early photos might have the wrong time zone, or even the wrong date. I’ve done my best to correct what I can and rename my photos, but it’s clear I still have some more work to do.

One thing I noticed was it showing me taking pictures at Disneyland and Walt Disney World on the same day — there was actually one day in-between those trips.

I also noticed a few screen grabs from my digital camcorder were off.

But hey, it’s closer!

Until next time…

Liberty Square CMs from 1996.

I have begun the process of reorganizing all my Walt Disney World photos. When I started taking digital pictures in 1996, I was just grouping things together by park and land. I mean, no one has hundreds of photos from the same place, do they? Back then, one visit to Magic Kingdom may have only resulted in a few photos from Adventureland — hardly enough for a gallery, right? Thus, my photos from 1996 to 1998 were all grouped together. By 1999, I had started bringing my laptop into the park with me so I could go back to the lockers and then download photos during the day so I could take more. Here’s me at the front of Disney/MGM Studios in 1999:

Me, “discretely” using my laptop at Disney/MGM Studios to download photos on November 19, 1999.

Since there were no web galleries yet, I even went as far as renaming photos to things like “tmk_1.jpg” or “dmgm_15.jpg” so folks who downloaded them by filename at least had an indication of which park the photo was from. (Microsoft Windows at the time only allowed for 8-letters for a filename, so it was impossible to have a photo called “CinderellaCastleSideView.jpg”.) I wish I had NOT done that, since some of the photos lost their embedded date code leaving me with no easy way to tell what year they were taken.

I am now trying to split them out by year, even though that means some areas will only have one or two photos. Ah, the early days of digital cameras with 1 megabyte of memory! I did this last year with my Disneyland and Iowa Adventureland Park photos, so it’s going much faster this third time around.

During my sorting, I’ve found interesting patterns to my photo taking. Sometimes I’d only have one picture (Epcot World Showcase pavilions) as if I just took a token photo to represent the area. Other times, I’d have a dozen or more (favorite attractions like Haunted Mansion, or something that was brand new like the opening of Buzz Lightyear).

Sometimes I took things like this:

Liberty Square CMs pose for me on August 27, 1996.

Notice they are posing for the photo. Folks generally just didn’t “waste” film on taking pictures of cast members back then unless the cast member had a princess dress on or was a giant mouse. I suspect they must have asked me about my weird camera, and after explaining what a digital camera was, I took their photo. I can’t think of any other reason I’d have used one of my limited photos on a parasol cart.

These two girls are now twenty two years older than they were when I took this photo of them in 1996. I wonder how long they worked for Disney World. Maybe they are long gone, or maybe Vice Presidents somewhere out there.

Old photos are fun.

Until next time…