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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

EPCOT turning points, part 2

In an earlier article, I speculated a bit on when EPCOT Center became the Epcot we know today. Today I’ll dive a bit deeper and include some comments from others.

Derek Mullins on Twitter commented:

From my observation, it was most likely the beginning of the sponsor losses, and the changes to be more thrilling (Test Track) and ‘hipper’ (Ellen’s Energy Adventure) in the mid-90’s. Of course, it’s all subjective, so I’m curious what answers you get.

Derek Mullins, @mewhunter67

Sponsor losses. That’s interesting, because sponsors go both ways. An existing ride could get a new sponsor which causes big changes… Or a ride could become sponsor less, and stay frozen as-is.

The comedic additions of Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy to Universe of Energy were certainly a change in feeling. That began in 1996.

Ellen is coming to Epcot! August 29, 1996.

World of Motion had closed and was to become Test Track in 1997.

Test Track opening spring 1997 on August 29, 1996.

The times they were a changing…

Howard Bowers on Twitter commented:

1999. Horizons is closed for the second time. Journey into Imagination is closed. Test Track is finally operational, having replaced World of Motion. And the 2000 wand is up next to Spaceship Earth.

Howard Bowers, @GoAwayGreen 

At this point in time, the park looked like this:

The ride’s closed. Mouse outside shoulda told you. November 11, 1999.
Lines out the door for the newly-opened Journey into YOUR Imagination. November 8, 1999.
The new Test Track with a 1 hour wait. November 11, 1999.
Epcot 2000?

Four notable changes certainly is a good percentage of the original attraction lineup. Howard also added…

Original Epcot took some hits in 1994 with the closing of Kitchen Kabaret and the addition of Food Rocks and the switch to Ellen’s Energy Adventure, along with Innoventions, but all of that still felt like Epcot, just the next generation. / Taking out Journey into Imagination and Horizons basically removed the Heart and Soul of Future World.

Howard Bowers

Ah, Kitchen Kabaret! Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit was the “it’s a small world” song of EPCOT Center… During my first visit with a digital camera, Food Rocks had already taken over:

Food Rock on August 29, 1996.

That was part of the sponsorship change from Kraft to Nestle.

The Land, presented by … the chocolate company? August 29, 1996

I recall many of “us” joked at the time that having a chocolate company take over the “healthy” pavilion made little sense. But it’s not about finding a sponsor that fits — it’s about finding a sponsor that will spend the money. At least Listen to the Land didn’t become a chocolate boat ride ala Willy Wonka! (Hmmm, that would have made great sense and fit the sponsor… It just would have not fit at Epcot…)

The loss of Imagination was sad, since no other attraction ever embodied just what “imagination” really was like better than that original dark ride. Still, the two updates (Journey into YOUR Imagination, and Journey into Imagination with Figment) at least tried to keep the theme rather than becoming, say, a Wreck It Ralph ride through.

But Horizons, well, that was just a total loss. Nothing put the “future” in Future World better than Horizons. And, unlike updates done to Tomorrowland, or the final scene of Carousel of Progress, the futures presented in Horizons would still be as futuristic today as they were in the 1980s. I think it had much more life left… Pity the crowds disagreed, and it was almost always a walk on when I visited.

The closed building made a nice backdrop for Cast in Bronze, at least.

Cast in Bronze performs in front of the closed Horizons on November 8, 1999.

I think this needs “to be continued”…

Until next time…

Final year Horizons cast member on October 24, 1998.

Over 32,000 photos from Walt Disney World.

I am in the process of generating a new version of my Walt Disney World photo gallery. It will contain over 32,000 photos when this is complete.

An update to my Universal Studios Orlando resort photos will follow. Because of the Harry Potter expansion, I’ve now spent more time in those parks my last visit than I have since the parks opened. Good stuff over there.

I’ll post another update here when the new gallery is online. In the meantime, you can explore the one from September 2018:

wdw.disneyfans.com

Until next time…