Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mickey’s PhilharMagic made its grand debut at Magic Kingdom

Today in Disney history, one of Fantasyland’s most innovative attractions to date made its grand debut at Magic Kingdom Park on Sept. 30, 2003. 

Mickey’s PhilharMagic at Magic Kingdom Park

Mickey’s PhilharMagic features a cast of 14 Disney characters performing together in a digital 3-D film that shows just what happens when Donald Duck gets ahold of Mickey Mouse’s conductor’s baton. Songs featured in the show include “Be Our Guest,” “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” and “You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!”

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20 - River Country Water Park Opens at Walt Disney World

This Day in Disney History - Jun 20, 1976

River Country Water Park Opens at Walt Disney World

River Country, a relaxing oasis under Walt Disney World’s hot Florida sun, began dousing guests with filtered Florida lake water in 1976. Inspired by Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, this old-fashioned swimming hole included a host of natural swimming areas covered with mountainous manmade boulders. A number of water slide attractions made the park an inner tuber’s paradise with Slippery Slide Falls, Upstream Plunge, White Water Rapids and Whoop ‘n’ Holler Hollow — two winding half pipes that emptied into Bay Cove, a 330,000 gallon half-acre, sand-bottom lake. Here, guests could relax on sandy beaches or hang out on a tire swing at Bay Lake, with the Magic Kingdom’s beckoning skyline in view. Each summer, the All-American Water Party drenched guests from April to September with water balloon games, cannonball contests, live music and splash time with Disney characters. River Country hung up its towel on September 1, 2001, when Walt Disney World’s water adventures began to head upstream — reaching new heights with the opening of Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

Today, you can take a plunge on Summit Plummet at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park or conquer Crush ‘n’ Gusher at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, but hitting a water park at Walt Disney World Resort was not an option until River Country opened back in 1976.

River Country at Walt Disney World Resort

When River Country opened, it was described as a “unique new water-oriented land.” River Country promised to be “everything kids ever wanted to do at the old swimming hole down by the river in the good old days, plus all the comforts for Mom and Dad so they can participate too.”

River Country at Walt Disney World Resort

One of the areas within River Country was Whoop-N’-Holler Hollow, with two separate twisting journeys (260 feet and 160 feet respectively) plunging into The Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole.

Whoop-N’-Holler Hollow in River Country at Walt Disney World Resort

For over 25 years, River Country provided a refreshing escape from the warm Florida summers for guests of all ages.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jun 15 - The Lion King is Released

Jun 15, 1994
The Lion King is Released
The Lion King, one of the highest-grossing films of all time, was released on this day in June in New York and Los Angeles (it would open in wide release on June 24). Today, almost everyone in the world knows the story of the young lion cub Simba, who tries to find his place in the circle of life and follow the long honorable shadow cast by his father, King Mufasa, after he is killed by Scar (voiced with oozy relish by Jeremy Irons). But during pre-production, when the project was called King of the Jungle, the production teams wasn’t so sure they had a hit on their hands. “In the early stages, there was great skepticism that a modern audience would embrace a movie that didn’t include any human characters, much less one built around singing animals,” Michael Eisner, then chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, remembered in his book Work in Progress. “But through countless drafts over five years, The Lion King evolved into one of those magical films in which everything comes together… It was also a daunting standard to match.” Eisner also noted that it was “probably the most profitable film ever made, including Titanic (lions and meerkats don’t demand a percentage of the gross).”

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 08 - If You Had Wings opens at the Magic Kingdom

On this day in Disney history, If You Had Wings, one of Walt Disney World Resort’s first attractions to celebrate flight, debuted to guests in 1972.

This Week in Disney History: If You Had Wings Opened at Magic Kingdom Park

At If You Had Wings, guests boarded Omnimover vehicles that took them on a flight around the world, making stops in Bermuda, Puerto Rico and other vacation destinations. One stop took guests through New Orleans for a jazz band performance.

This Week in Disney History: If You Had Wings Opened at Magic Kingdom Park

Another stop was a city in Mexico where guests caught a lively cultural dance performance. The attraction ended by offering a bird’s-eye view of the United States, and then a descent back to the Walt Disney World Resort flight terminal.

This Week in Disney History: If You Had Wings Opened at Magic Kingdom Park

The attraction was very popular with guests in the 1970s, and in just six years, more than 40 million guests had taken a flight.

While the attraction was refurbished in 1987 to become If You Could Fly (the space is now Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin), the attraction’s original theme song is sure to live on in the minds of Disney fans. 

Now sing it with me: “If you had wings…”

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28 - Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park


May 28, 1966
it’s a small world Opens at Disneyland

On this day in 1966, people from all over the world joined together under the golden sun at Disneyland for the opening of it’s a small world. The group included young performing groups from America and abroad, and more than 50 consul generals, consuls and vice consuls representing nations worldwide. Amongst the opening day festivities was a phone call between Walt, who was at Disneyland for the dedication, and Disneyland Ambassador Connie Swanson, who, in keeping with the international theme, was in Sweden, to be heard on the loud speakers via an international phone call. Connie recently told D23′s Scott Wolf, “I opened [the event] from Sweden. I was over in Skansen, which is a cultural amusement park in Stockholm, and I was with the Minister of Communication, Olaf Palma, and when I said the dedication words in that office in Sweden it went on the loud speaker. I could hear Walt saying, ‘There’s some difficulty, we can’t get it through,’ and I thought, ‘Oh dear, here I am in Stockholm with the press and this Minister of Communications and the line is going down, so I just read my script as I was asked to do.’” Another aspect of the festivities was the brainchild of Jack Lindquist who recently said, “We needed something to open the attraction. Walt was going to be there and Louis Lundborg, the chairman of Bank of America, and I came up with the idea of going to Disney reps all over the world and saying, ‘Send me a bottle of water,’ and they did a great job. Pretty soon my office had about 15 different bottles. Water came from Thames, Seine, Amazon, Danube, Nile, Volga, Rhine, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, among others. To me, it was just a symbolic way to open the ride. Here was water from all over the world, and we got kids representing those countries to pour some water into the moat. It was symbolic and it worked fine… and it was cheap. It also gave me an opportunity to get to know the Disney reps around the world.” In his dedication speech, Walt said, “I’d like to welcome all of you to the dedication of it’s a small world, and I’d like to thank all of these wonderful children who have performed here to make these dedication such a success. Thank you, children! Beautiful children! When we completed it’s a small world for presentation at the New York World’s Fair, we felt that we had accomplished what we’d set out to do. We wanted to foster a better understanding among nations of the world by showing the dress, the customs, the language, the music and a little of the culture of our neighbors around the world, and we wanted to show it to be a very happy one. I think it’s safe to say that having fun has universal appeal.”

posted at the Disney Parks blog on May 27th, 2011 by Jim Ames, Manager, Food and Wine Events, Disneyland Resort

Saturday, May 28, marks the anniversary of one of the most endearing attractions to ever open at a Disney park when “it’s a small world” celebrates 45 happy years at Disneyland park.

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

When he originally imagined this attraction for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney tasked a talented team of Imagineers, including artist and Disney Legend Mary Blair, to bring his vision of brotherhood and friendship to life. Mary’s concept was that of a “pop-up book” that looked like the children within the story had designed their worlds themselves.

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

Mary Blair also designed the iconic facade when the attraction was moved to its new home at Disneyland park. With whimsical representations of the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben and the Taj Mahal, the exterior is no less impressive than the ride itself.

Of course it is the playful music, by legendary songwriting team Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman that keeps us humming long after we have exited the attraction. Walt asked the duo to write a simple piece that could be repeated and sung in different languages. The Sherman Brothers succeeded creating quite possibly the catchiest Disney attraction theme song of all time.

In 1966, Walt Disney presided over the opening ceremonies of the attraction in its new home at Disneyland park. Children representing countries from around the world came together to pour water from all seven continents into the “Rivers of the World.”

Since that moment, more than 233 million Disneyland park guests have joined “the happiest cruise that ever sailed” – enough to circumnavigate the Earth more than 190 times. “it’s a small world” has opened in the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disneyland park, Disneyland Resort Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, proving that “though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.”

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

May 22, 1987
“Disney’s Golden Anniversary of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” Airs

On this day in 1987, with a smile and a song “Disney’s Golden Anniversary of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was celebrated in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. Using Disneyland as a backdrop, host Dick van Dyke is joined by the Seven Dwarfs and Jane Curtin, who portrays the wicked Queen, while Sherman Hemsley (TV’s George Jefferson) appears in the Magic Mirror. Highlights include very rarely seen scenes that were deleted from the movie, done in pencil animation. Although now available as bonus features on DVD, this was the first time the public was given the chance to view those scenes. In a dance number with the Dwarfs, Dick van Dyke sings “You’re Never Too Old To Be Young.” With all that was packed into this hour special, the “happy” program didn’t have a single “sleepy” moment.


From the late 1950s to 1968 Los Angeles Airways provided regularly scheduled helicopter passenger service between Disneyland and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and other cities in the area. The helicopters first operated from Anaheim/Disneyland Heliport, located behind Tomorrowland. Service later moved, in 1960, to a new heliport north of the Disneyland Hotel. Arriving guests were then transported to the Disneyland Hotel via tram.

English: Los Angeles Airways Sikorsky S-61L helicopter,
lifting off from the Disneyland Heliport, 1963.
This is the same aircraft that crashed—killing all on board
in August, 1968. Note the Matterhorn Mountain in the background.

The service ended after two fatal crashes in 1968: The crash in Paramount, California, TODAY killed 23 (the worst helicopter accident in aviation history at that time). The second crash in Compton, California on August 14, 1968, killed 21

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 04: Space Mountain Opens at Disneyland


May 04, 1977
Space Mountain Opens at Disneyland

Attention space travelers: It was on this day in 1977 that Space Mountain first blasted off guests at Disneyland, rocketing them into a simulation of outer space, aboard a roller coaster dark ride. But this attraction, which still remains popular today in the year 2011, actually has a history that goes back to the 1960s. Disney Legend John Hench designed this attraction, years before the technology was readily available. The first Space Mountain opened in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in 1975, and after it proved its success, it landed at Disneyland two years later, with the first American men in space, consisting of the U.S. Mercury Astronauts Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, Donald “Deke” Slayton and Betty Grissom (widow of Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom) on hand for the opening ceremonies. Over the years, the attraction has seen improvements with all new visual effects and a fully synchronized onboard audio soundtrack. The next time you walk thru the queue for the attraction, take a look around at the symbol for “Space Station 77,” paying homage to the year Space Mountain first took flight.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12 - Pluto’s Kid Brother, Euro Disney Resort, Characters in Flight, Carl Barks, Walt Disney and More!


Apr 12, 1946
Pluto’s Kid Brother is Released
Pluto’s kid brother (called “K.B.” in this short not “Pluto Junior” as another younger brother of his was called in the 1942 cartoon of the same name) stretches brotherly love to the limit in this hilarious short, in which Pluto’s rambunctious, perpetually panting, leash-evading sibling gets into all manner of difficulties despite Pluto’s best custodial efforts. When Pluto discovers that Butch the Bulldog has inveigled K.B. to sneak into a meat market and purloin some sausages, he arrives to right the situation just as the burglar alarm begins bleating. The brothers manage to evade a menacing dogcatcher, but Butch meets a less happy fate.

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human in space, when he makes a 108-minute orbital flight in his Vostok spacecraft. (Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard will become the first American in space less than a month later.) Today there is a plaque commemorating Gagarin's milestone flight in Epcot's Mission: SPACE.

At the soon-to-be-open World's Fair in New York, Walt Disney, Henry Ford Jr., and Robert Moses (president of the New York World's Fair Corporation) visit the Ford Pavilion. The three are photographed by the press riding the "Magic Skyway."

The Euro Disney Resort, featuring the Euro Disneyland park, opens in France, east of Paris. Inaugural ceremonies are broadcast to the entire continent by five national networks. 

Although 500,000 visitors are expected, only 50,000 are admitted because of protests from French people who fear their culture will be damaged by Euro Disney. Power cables are vandalized by some French citizens, which black out the road signs to Disneyland on the motorway.

Euro Disney also premieres its 5 hotels (Hotel Cheyenne, Santa Fe, Newport Bay Club, Hotel New York and Disneyland Hotel) and a campground (Davy Crockett Ranch) located several miles away from the main resort area.

One year after its opening, Euro Disneyland welcomes its 10.5-millionth guest.

In Florida, the Polynesian's Papeete Bay Verandah, opened since 1971, becomes the 'Ohana restaurant - featuring the world's largest fire pit.

Carl Barks - the genius behind the creation of Scrooge McDuck and the cartoonist who drew the comic book version of Donald Duck - celebrates his 96th birthday at a special weekend event at Walt Disney World.

Hilton Hotels Corp. breaks ground for a resort development adjacent to Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney World's newest attraction Characters in Flight, a tethered helium filled balloon ride (operated by Aerophile - a company specializing in tethered helium balloons) continues its "soft opening" at Downtown Disney. The balloon, which can hold up to 30 guests (depending on weather conditions), rises 400 feet above Disney World for a breathtaking view.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 11 - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Attraction Opens at Disneyland


Apr 11, 2003
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Attraction Opens at Disneyland

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, er, Disneyland’s Critter Country, you’ll meet one of the most famous literary bears there ever was. Replacing the Bear Country Playhouse, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction opened in 2003. Park visitors can climb inside a massive beehive and buzz through famous scenes from Pooh’s most beloved escapades. Along the way, you’ll meet Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, Piglet, Gopher and Owl. But if you are still longing to see the mugs of some of the stars from Country Bear Jamboree, do not fret. Max, Buff and Melvin—a few remaining “fixtures” from the previous attraction—can still be seen as you pass through the doorways after meeting the Heffalumps and Woozles. They are up above the doors, watching over the enchanted neighborhood of Christopher Robin’s childhood friends.

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30 - Disney Legend Marc Davis is born

Mar 30, 1913
Disney Legend Marc Davis is born

On this day in 1913 Disney Legend Marc Davis was born in Bakersfield, California. It was some unpleasant experiences as a young child that indirectly led to his creating some of Disney’s most well-known characters, from Cruella De Vil to Tinker Bell and developing some of the most iconic scenes in Disney attractions such as the Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. Marc’s widow, Alice Davis, a Disney Legend herself, explained to D23′s Scott Wolf, “Marc was in 26 schools before he was out of high school. His father was a rainbow chaser… somebody who would always see the pot of gold over the hill, or the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. He also was a very fine jeweler. He could fix those clocks and barometers for boats in nothing flat. So whenever the family was broke, all they had to do is go to a seaport and he had more work than he could possibly handle. Whenever Marc would go to a new school, at recess the boys would circle around him and just beat the (heck) out of him. That’s the way they greeted you. So he started doing a whole bunch of drawings and he’d have all these drawings when he’d go to school and everybody wanted one of the drawings. He would do drawings for them and they didn’t beat him up. He said that’s what started him as an animator, drawing for all these kids all the time so they wouldn’t beat him up.”

The unified government of Florida is established with William P. Duval from Kentucky as its first Territorial Governor. (Florida had becomes a U.S. territory in 1821 after the U.S. acquired it from Spain as part of a deal to cancel $5 million in debts owed by the Spanish.)

Disney's Donald Duck short The Eyes Have It, directed by Jack Hannah, is released. Donald uses hypnotism on Pluto and convinces him he is a mouse, turtle, chicken and finally a lion!

Members of the Santa Fe Railway Co. visit Disneyland. Walt himself hosts Bob Waller, a Santa Fe
attorney; Hank O'Leary, special representative of the public relations department of the Santa Fe; James P. Reinhold, assistant to the president of the Santa Fe; and; Ralph Thomas, manager of communications for the Santa Fe. (Back in 1953, the Walt Disney Company had solicited major railroads for corporate sponsorship of the attraction. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway was the only company to respond.)

Two children come across the lifeless body of a homeless man in an abandoned tenement building on East 10th Street in New York City. Because no one identifies the body, the deceased is buried in an unmarked pauper's grave on Hart Island. (A fingerprint check in 1969 will identify the corpse as Bobby Driscoll, 31, the voice of Disney's Peter Pan. It is also discovered that the cause of death is a heart attack. Sadly his long history of alcohol and drug abuse was a strong contributing factor to his early death.) 

The Orlando Sentinel runs an article in which Walt Disney World president Al Weiss gives some insight into how the parks are maintained.

The Disneyland Resort 50th anniversary celebration takes to the skies over Tucson, Arizona with a 100-foot tall, Mickey Mouse-shaped hot air balloon dubbed "The Happiest Balloon On Earth." With golden ears high atop its head, the Mickey balloon will travel throughout the western United States and Canada during an 11-week tour.

Seasons Of The Vine, an opening day attraction at Disney's California Adventure, closes. A film presentation which took viewers through the journey of producing wine in California, it is shut down due to low attendance.

The Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children has its grand opening ceremony. Hundreds are on hand to celebrate the occasion (including Bob Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, and Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts), which includes a moving dedication ceremony featuring inspirational stories from former pediatric patients.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28 - The Opry House is Released

March 28, 1929
The Opry House is Released

If you've ever wondered when Disney first got its singing voice, it was on this day in 1929 with the release of The Opry House. The short marked the first real Disney musical — the prelude to Silly Symphonies and the foreshadowing of full-length animated musicals to come. In the film, Mickey Mouse, the proprietor and the pianist of a Vaudeville Opry house, orchestrates a musical fanfare with a band of instrument-playing animals. But it wasn't just music that made The Opry House such a special and groundbreaking short. It also marked the first Mickey Mouse cartoon where Mickey wears his trademark white gloves. And he hasn't taken them off since!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21 - Mission to Mars, Disney's magic makes war disappear, Star Wars Weekends, Tomorrowland & More


Mar 21, 1975
Mission to Mars opens at Disneyland

By 1975, it had been three years since astronauts had walked on the moon, and the Flight to the Moon attraction, which opened at Disneyland in 1955, needed a more distant itinerary. Mission to Mars opened that year in the place of Flight to the Moon, with the Audio-Animatronics® figure of Mr. Johnson serving as host. Each of his lectures was interrupted by the bleating of an alarm caused by the crash landing of a large bird near the spacecraft launch pad (the footage was taken from a True-Life Adventure Series film).

TIME magazine runs an article about Disney's plans for a $650 million American-history-and-entertainment park, called Disney's America.

The hills and fields around Manassas, Virginia, have felt the boot of foreign forces before. But the latest intruder, the Walt Disney Co., may leave a mark more lasting than any Yankee heel: a $650 million American-history-and- entertainment park, called Disney's America, situated on 3,000 acres in the history-rich country 35 miles west of Washington.

Despite a formidable array of opponents, the project moved ahead last Saturday when the expiring session of the Virginia general assembly approved a $163 million package of incentives for roads, highway signs, worker training and tourism promotion designed to entice embattled Disney to stay in the...

Disneyland unveils its long-awaited plans to renovate Tomorrowland. They include replacing the slow PeopleMover with a faster new attraction, Rocket Rods. The extensive project is due for completion in Spring 1998.

The Disney crew was tired of Tomorrowland. Most of its attractions were only there to sponsor companies such as Monsanto, and not even the 1959 expansion helped very much. Instead of having another expansion, the crew decided to start from scratch, and made the new Tomorrowland. Walt Disney died in December 1966, almost seven months before the new Tomorrowland would open. In 1967, the area was completely rebuilt with new attractions and scenery. The original layout was demolished, and a new set of buildings were erected. The addition of the Carousel of Progress, Adventure Thru Inner Space, an improved and larger Circle-Vision auditorium, Flight to the Moon, and the PeopleMover helped give Tomorrowland its "World on the Move" theme. In 1973, "The World On The Move" began to change.

General Electric decided to close Carousel of Progress, which would later reopen at a new home in Walt Disney World in 1975 as part of its expansion. In 1974, with the American Bicentennial approaching, Disney designers seized the opportunity of the vacant carousel theater to present a large musical extravaganza called America Sings, which featured 114 Audio Animatronics. The following year, Flight to the Moon was updated into Mission to Mars, as actual flights to the moon had become a reality since the former's construction.

Then, in 1975, construction began on Walt Disney's proposed 1965 "Space Port." In May 1977, this project opened to the public as Space Mountain. The same year, the Super Speed Tunnel was added as part of the Peoplemover experience, as the Epcot model that was formerly in the building moved to Florida. In 1984 Circle-Vision 360 received a brand new travelogue of the United States, to replace the aging "America The Beautiful" film – American Journeys. Two years later, two new attractions found homes in Tomorrowland: Star Tours and Captain EO. Captain EO replaced the Space Stage in September 1986, and Star Tours replaced Adventure Thru Inner Space in January 1987. Tomorrowland then remained largely unchanged for much of the following decade, until the land was again redone in 1998.

During the mid to late 1990s Tomorrowland Terrace (TLT)-Tomorrowland's most popular outdoor restaurant-became a fashionable spot for many local Southern California teenagers. Discounted annual passports for Southern California residents, and the remarkable success of No Doubt's "Tragic Kingdom" album which made several references to the Disneyland Park as a whole, caused Orange County locals to pour into Tomorrowland every Friday and Saturday night. Unfortunately for Disneyland, this caused an increase in harassment of tourists and petty crimes which forced them to increase security, culminating in 1996 with several separate gangs of Disneyland locals, led by a “goth” style gang known as the “Disneyland Arcane Crew (D.A.C.)”, and locals numbers in excess of several hundred packed into Tomorrowland's space. This trend however, died out around 1998 when Tomorrowland was closed for renovation, and one of the greatest changes in Disneyland since about 40 years ago happened.

The fifth and final weekend of the very first Star Wars Weekends takes place at Disney-MGM Studios.

Star Wars Weekends is a festival generally held annually at the Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. Included with park admission, the event typically occurs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for four consecutive weekends in May and June and features appearances by actors and crew members from the George Lucas science-fantasy saga. Many Disney characters also appear dressed as Star Wars characters, such as Jedi Mickey, Minnie as Leia, Donald as a Stormtrooper and Goofy as Darth Vader. The festival began in 1997 and has been held in 2000, 2001, and annually since 2003.

Columnist Mike Thomas describes his trip to the Magic Kingdom to escape the current realities of war in an Orlando Sentinel article titled "Ta-da! Disney's magic makes war disappear."

There are dozens of bagels piled on top of the newsroom filing cabinet.

It's an old journalistic tradition.

When everything is going to hell -- free food all around! We've been eating well the past year and a half.
The newsroom is ringed by televisions. Various analysts are discussing if shock and awe actually has begun or if this is pre shock and awe.

Giving TV news a phrase like shock and awe is like giving a pit bull puppy a leather chew toy.
I have had enough.

I'm going to Walt Disney World.

There is no traffic jam on the way -- not a good omen for Disney. As I hop on the paddleboat to the Magic Kingdom, Chip and Dale disembark. Two children giggle. Little do they know that Chip is John Ashcroft.

He's keeping an eye on Aladdin and Jasmine.

The eeriest experience I had after 9-11 was walking into Space Mountain and being alone in the darkness as I walked to the launch center.

That is nowhere near the case today. Main Street is bustling, if not mobbed. The line for Space Mountain extends out of the building and stretches 100 yards.

But where I take the pulse of the Central Florida economy is at Winnie the Pooh. I have ridden Winnie the Pooh approximately 300 times in the past three years and now know just how long the wait should be at what time of year. If there is no line at Winnie the Pooh during spring break, sell your Disney stock.

The line is 45 minutes. That is worth at least a hold rating.

The line to get a Mickey ice cream sandwich is 10 minutes. I sit on the bench and begin licking between his ears.

And then I realize the genius of Disney. There is no war here. That's because there are no televisions, no radios and no newspapers. Citizens in Baghdad have more access to news.

The scenes are familiar and comforting.

Two kids fight over a Magic Kingdom map. A mom yells at her boy to walk faster. A dad tells his family to sit tight while he goes in search of food.

I listen in on dozens of different conversations and never hear the word war.

It's like Tinker Bell sprinkled her pixie dust and we've all been transported to Never Land.
Make that Tomorrowland.

"Hi there, Tomorrowland travelers," says an amplified voice from overhead. "This is Mr. Johnson. Everything is perfect on the Tomorrowland superhighway."

And so it is.

Despite its designation as a potential terrorist target, there are no fears of WMD at WDW.

The only weapons of mass destruction I see are smoked turkey legs the size of Scuds.

I talk to Tom Ruth, a West Palm Beach teacher, for 15 minutes and the only Bush who comes up in the conversation is Jeb.

Finally, I mention Iraq.

"I was watching TV last night and they were interviewing the British undersecretary of war materials," Tom says sarcastically. "It's the perfect time to be on vacation."

My vacation is over.

I get back in the car, turn on the radio and listen to an ABC correspondent compare the size of various smoke plumes rising from Baghdad.

But it's not shock and awe yet.

Back at the office, a box of doughnuts sits on the filing cabinet.

Friday, March 9, 2012

March 09 - Disney Legend John Lounsbery is Born, Disneyland airs "Man in Space", Tokyo Disneyland's Main Street Electrical Parade debuts & More

March 9, 1911
Disney Legend John Lounsbery is Born

John Lounsbery, who was born on this day in 1911, first joined Walt's studio in 1935 as a member of the Studio's first training group and worked as an animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A member of Walt's Nine Old Men group, Lounsbery worked on most of the classic features as an animator or a directing animator. Disney animator Andreas Deja, the man who drew Roger Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, among others, recently said of Lounsbery's work: "He liked characters he could sink his teeth into," Andreas muses. "Once he got one of those assignments then he could outshine anyone. Characters and scenes that had comedy in them, physicality and real caricature — characters with a little less realism — he'd just go to town with them. Like Tony and Joe from Lady and the Tramp, the elephants from The Jungle Book and Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. His animation is very gutsy. He uses a lot of squash and stretch — his characters really squash and really stretch ("squash and stretch" is a technique that gives an animated object dimension and volume and is often used for comedic effect)." Disney animator Dale Baer, who trained with Lounsbery, said he was the only one of the Nine Old Men who drew with a carpenter pencil (a rectangular pencil with a quarter-inch wide piece of lead). "He would roughly block in with the wide flat part of pencil then when he found the line he wanted he would put it in thinner pencil," he notes. "John wasn't one of those guys that demanded that this or that happens or acted out all his scenes for the fellows. He showed up at 8, did his thing and left at 5. He did his day's work, but his family was just as important to him." He was honored posthumously in 1989 as a Disney Legend.

On ABC-TV, Disneyland airs "Man in Space," the first of a 3-part series about space travel. The show features Walt Disney, animator Ward Kimball (the director of the series), and scientists Willy Ley, Heinz Haber, and Wernher Von Braun (who will later be one of the leaders in the American space program). The show is narrated by Dick Tufeld (who will later be known as the voice of the robot on the TV series Lost in Space). The next two parts "Man and the Moon" and "Mars and Beyond" will be aired over the next few years. (The Disney "science factual" series will be very influential in drumming up support in the U.S. for a manned space project.)

Watch it on Youtube:

Roy E. Disney resigns from the central board of the Walt Disney Company, setting in motion a series of takeover bids and maneuvering that by August will actually leave him in control of the company.

Tokyo Disneyland's Main Street Electrical Parade debuts. It is basically a carbon copy of the original Disneyland parade.

Previews begin for Disney's newest Broadway stage show Beauty and the Beast. (Opening night will be April 18.)

It is reported that the Hong Kong Disneyland theme park (set to open in September) has already booked 10,000 room reservations for its hotel since it opened a customer call center three weeks ago.

Disney's Block Party Bash makes its first public appearance at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. The parade features the Pixar family of characters in three segments - Toy Story, Monsters Inc and A Bug's Life, with The Incredibles making an appearance at the parade's finale.

Disney's science fiction action film John Carter is released to U.S. theaters. Largely based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, the film is the live-action debut of director/writer Andrew Stanton (known for the Pixar animated films Finding Nemo and WALL-E). Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet named John Carter (played by Taylor Kitsch) discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 08 - For The Love of Willadean, Walt Disney World Chefs in White House Kitchen, President Reagan pays a visit to EPCOT & More


March 8, 1964
"For The Love of Willadean" Debuts on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color

Harley, a city boy in a rural town, falls for a country girl named Willadean in this two-part series, "For The Love of Willadean," which aired on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. In the first episode titled "A Taste of Melon," Harley, joins a club with some other rural boys. But when he shows an interest in the leader of the club's girlfriend, which happens to be Willadean, the club members trick Harley into stealing a prize watermelon from a farmer as payback. In the show's second episode, "Treasure in the Haunted House," Harley is tricked again. This time, the boys send Harley into a house that's rumored to be haunted. But instead of ghosts, he and the boys uncover a bag of money, which was reported stolen in a bank robbery. In each episode, it seems the precarious boy from the city will do just about anything if it means winning the heart of sweet little Willadean.

The Disney studio completes the 22nd Oswald the Lucky Rabbit film Sky Scrappers, and ships it to Winkler Productions just days after negotiations with Charles Mintz (of Winkler Productions) breaks down. As Walt cannot come to an agreement with Mintz, it looks as if the Disney Studios will be giving up their character Oswald.

U.S. President Reagan pays a visit to EPCOT, escorted by Dick Nunis, President of Walt Disney World, and several hundred math and science students from Central Florida. He first visits the American Experience attraction before making an afternoon speech at a podium located on the World Showcase Lagoon, directly opposite of Spaceship Earth. Reagan speaks of the promise of EPCOT Center and what it meant to his friend Walt Disney and to the world

"Thank you very much. And I thank you very much for that very generous and kind introduction. And to prove how grateful I am, I, a Californian, will say to a Floridian, I have just returned from California, and this is the first time I've seen sunshine in 2 weeks. [Laughter]

Well, I'm delighted to be here. I'm especially pleased to acknowledge the presence today of a group of students from eight countries. They're participants in the World Showcase Fellowship Program which Disney World has generously established as part of EPCOT. This excellent program brings young people from Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom to EPCOT. It gives them the opportunity to experience American culture firsthand, to learn and, even more important, to teach.

This is just the kind of approach that we're encouraging through the President's International Youth Exchange Initiative which I announced last May at the White House. For those of you who haven't seen it—well, first of all, let me say I'm convinced that people-to-people programs like World Showcase and the International Youth Initiative are one of the best ways to build real understanding in the world.

I'm very happy to see so many young people here today, the math and science whizzes of central Florida, plus the students participating in the World Showcase Fellowship Program. And you adults are web come, too. [Laughter]

I just watched a program—I don't know just what to call it—a show, a pageant with several hundred of my junior high and high school friends here, and I'm pleased to announce I didn't get hit with one spitball. [Laughter] But this program does capture the vitality of what we represent as a nation. And as I'd started to say earlier, I was going to remark that earlier—for those of you who haven't seen it—at one point in the movie Mark Twain, speaking of America, says, "We soared into the 20th century on the wings of invention and the winds of change."

Well, in a few years' time, we Americans will soar into the 21st century and again it will be on the wings of invention and the winds of change. This afternoon, I'd like to explain how you, our young people, can ride those wings and winds of the future to a better life.

Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said that the best thing about the future is that it comes only 1 day at a time. In this modern age, it often seems to come more quickly than that, I know. Our nation is speeding toward the future at this very moment. We can see it coming. We can see its shape. I know in your history books you've read about the Industrial Revolution. Well, today we're in the midst of another revolution, one marked by the explosion of technological advances. It's a revolution of microchips and biotechnology. And, yes, it is ironic that products seen only through a microscope can cause such large changes in our society.

We can see the benefits of this revolution already. Many of the advantages you can view right here at EPCOT Center, which itself is a celebration of tomorrow.

Other aspects of the transition are more difficult and painful to bear. A large number of people are unemployed, not because of the recession but because their former jobs were in declining industries. Their skills are not in demand in the postindustrial America. And, as you know, this has caused grievous hardship.

I don't want any of you young people to suffer what some of your parents are experiencing. I want you to have the training and the skills to meet the future. Even without knowing it, you're being prepared for a new age. Many of you already understand better than my generation ever will the possibilities of computers. In some of your homes, the computer is as available as the television set. And I recently learned something quite interesting about video games. Many young people have developed incredible hand, eye, and brain coordination in playing these games. The Air Force believes these kids will be outstanding pilots should they fly our jets. The computerized radar screen in the cockpit is not unlike the computerized video screen. Watch a 12-year-old take evasive action and score multiple hits while playing "Space Invaders," and you will appreciate the skills of tomorrow's pilot.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't want the youth of this country to run home and tell their parents that the President of the United States says it's all right for them to go ahead and play video games all the time. [Laughter] Homework, sports, and friends still come first. What I am saying is that right now you're being prepared for tomorrow in many ways, and in ways that many of us who are older cannot fully comprehend.

But those of my generation, and now I have to say and of your parents' generation, cannot just assume that you will adapt to the future. We must conscientiously prepare you for the years ahead. We must provide you with a good education, with solid math and science instruction. Not only will math and science serve you well in meeting the future, it'll serve the Nation.

We Americans are still the technological leaders in most fields. And we must keep that edge. But to keep it, we need scientists and engineers and mathematicians. Many of you here today are above average in math and science skills. You have won awards for your knowledge; and you will be among the brightest of tomorrow's work force.

But I want to give you some facts and figures here. And, by the way, I have been known to give a pop quiz now and then. [Laughter] But I want to show you the challenge that we as a nation face. Japan, with a population only about half the size of ours, graduates from its universities more engineers than we do. In Japan, specialized study in mathematics, biology, and physics starts in the sixth grade. Or take the Soviet Union—Soviet students learn the basic concepts of algebra and geometry in elementary school—that's elementary school. And then they get 4 more years of advanced mathematics in high school. I have a feeling the kids in the Soviet Union have to hit the books a bit more than American students.

Not surprisingly, the Soviet Union graduates from college almost five times more engineering specialists than the United States. The number of scientists and engineers engaged in research and development in the United States has increased by only 25 percent between 1964 and 1979. The increase in France was 90 percent, 125 percent in Germany, and 145 percent in Japan.

Obviously, we must do better or we will be overtaken. In math and science instruction, the United States is a slow learner among the major industrial nations. Like millions of other Americans, I'm a firm believer in the back-to-basics movement, because it is the basics that will best prepare us for the future. I think you would agree that if a young person doesn't receive adequate math and science teaching by age 16, he or she has lost the chance to become a scientist or an engineer.

There's a story about a boy whose math homework paper was less than inspiring. Now, I know that yours are never like that. [Laughter] When the boy's paper was handed back, the teacher said, "I never saw so many errors in my life. I just can't understand how one person could have made all these mistakes." And the boy said, "One person didn't; my father helped me." [Laughter]

Well, your generation will need better math and science skills than your fathers' generation. And the America of tomorrow will also need those skills more than the America of today. Since the future is technological, we simply must educate more people in the technological areas. And that's one reason I'm delighted to see more women going into scientific and engineering fields. I am especially pleased that eight women have been selected as astronauts for the shuttle flights—all with advanced degrees, Ph. D.'s in engineering and physical sciences, two have medical degrees. And late this spring on a launch pad not far from here, a woman named Sally Ride will have the ride of a lifetime—she'll blast off in the space shuttle, becoming America's first woman in space.

The relatively short supply of technically qualified people in the United States is not because we don't have enough students, men or women, interested in tomorrow's job opportunities. In fact, engineering schools have to turn away many qualified students. The principal reason is the shortage of engineering faculty in universities and qualified math and science teachers in the secondary schools. This shortage cannot continue. And I know you'll be happy to hear that we intend to improve the quality of math and science education. And right now we're working with the Congress to determine the funding necessary to begin reducing this shortage. We seek a fiscally responsible initiative in this area—fair not only to your educational future but your economic future, as well.

Private industry is also recognizing the problem and seeking ways to correct it. The American Electronics Association's goal is to obtain contributions from its high technology companies equal to 2 percent of their research and development budgets. I also know businesses around the country are loaning computers and other equipment to schools to prepare students for the new age. It's this kind of commitment from the private sector that will eventually help us meet the math and science shortages that we face. That's a great thing—if our visitors will forgive me for being chauvinistic-that's a great thing about our country. Once we've determined what the problem is, we take out after it.

I know you young people are bombarded hourly with the problems the Nation faces. And, yes, we do have problems which all of us are working to solve. But you can't become paralyzed by these obstacles. This sounds like something you'll hear at graduation, but you really do have a wonderful future ahead of you. Don't be afraid of it. The future is what America has always represented. My generation wishes it had the years left to us that you have left to you. The things you'll see, the changes that you will experience—we just can't imagine them all.

Hang on to the American spirit of adventure as you head into this future. Remember the quote by Thomas Wolfe that we heard in that program we've just seen, "To everyone a chance, to all people, regardless of their birth, the right to live, to work, to become whatever their visions can combine to make them." This is the promise of America.

You, too, are the promise of America. And I came here to tell you today that I believe very much in you. I believe in your intelligence and your courage and your determination. And when the time arrives, the people of my generation will be very proud to turn America over to your care.

May I just, in the spirit of that program that we saw, also say something about the presence here of our gifts, of this exchange program where you, of the same age, will meet with those from other countries and get to know each other as human beings and as individuals. I have always believed that a lot of the problems in the world come about because people talk about each other instead of to each other. And maybe one day, with programs of this kind, you are setting the stage for the dream that has lived with mankind from the first and earliest days of history, and that is the dream of peace; that one day, knowing each other, it will be impossible for someone to say to you that there must be a war or that you must take arms and do away with these people that you have come to know so well.

And we shall do everything we can to see that this program prospers and goes forward and increases the ability of young generations like your own to meet and become acquainted with others around the world.

I've used up all of my time here, and I know they have other things for me to do, but I don't know that they will be as much of a high spot as this has been. And I just want to say to all of you, thank you, and God bless you all.
Thank you."

Note: The President spoke at 1:52 p.m. in the Amphitheater at the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) Center. He addressed outstanding math and science students from the central Florida area and guests of the center, after an introduction by Richard Nunis, executive vice president of Disney Enterprises.

Prior to his remarks, the President viewed "The American Adventure," a film and animation presentation depicting a three-century rediscovery of America. The film was presented jointly by the American Express and Coca-Cola Companies and is the centerpiece of World Showcase, that portion of EPCOT which, through pavilion displays, recreates the architecture and culture of nine countries.

After the presentation, the President visited with students participating in the World Showcase Fellowship Program, an educational and cultural exchange program designed to enable outstanding young adults to represent their various countries for 1 year in the pavilions of World Showcase. The fellowship program is part of the President's private sector initiative on international youth exchange.

The Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice's Tea Party attractions both open in Tokyo Disneyland.

Celebrities visiting Disney World's Magic Kingdom on this day include entertainer Wayne Newton and St. Louis Cardinals All Star first baseman Albert Pujols.

Margaret "Mank" Johnstone of Orange County, California, celebrates her 107th birthday at Disneyland!

"Hear ye, hear ye! Our princess is 107 years old today!"
-Disneyland Town Crier


Walt Disney World Chefs in White House Kitchen this Week

posted on March 8th, 2010 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer

Walt Disney World Chefs in White House Kitchen this Week

Hmmm, what to cook when President Barack Obama and the Greek prime minister are coming for dinner – and dinner is for 400 guests?

Just ask Chef Dee Foundoukis and Chef George Paterakis, Walt Disney World chefs from Kouzzina by Cat Cora on Disney’s BoardWalk. They’ll be in the White House kitchen on Tuesday along with celebrity chef Cat Cora to cook for Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, in Washington to meet with the President. Among the dishes to be served is Fishermen’s Stew – the very same stew that you can taste at Kouzzina by Cat Cora.

The popular restaurant showcases many of Cora’s Greek family recipes, including the stew, a savory bowl of scallops, lobster, shrimp and clams dressed with ouzo butter. We think the guests will be impressed.

Also are on the menu are Kouzzina’s loukoumades, those addictive Greek donuts served hot and drizzled with honey.


Fairy Spotted at Epcot

Fairy Spotted at Epcot by Gene Ducan

As I walked past the Norway Pavilion at Epcot last week, I spotted two young sisters who had just enjoyed breakfast with the Disney princesses at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. The younger of the two sisters was channeling her inner “Belle” from head to almost toe (she smartly opted for sneakers over heels) in a beautiful gold dress, shimmering tiara, locket and pin. The older sister, positively radiant in a green Tinker Bell outfit, seemed to be in a world of her own – a ballerina dancing to a soundtrack only she could hear. As she twirled in front of me, I looked down to see the most magical of shadows. But was this the shadow of a little girl? Or an enchanted fairy flitting by? Some enchanted morning indeed…

Paying Tribute to Tradition of Hand Drawn Animation

The other day I was chatting with fellow blogger, Steven Miller, while we were flipping through a few Disney heritage books in the office. Disney history buffs, ourselves, we both gravitated towards the books that featured Walt Disney, the Nine Old Men, and the classic art of hand drawn animation. As we flipped through the books, it was amazing to see how far Disney Parks has come and how much has changed since Walt first arrived on the scene in 1923. It was Walt’s dream to entertain the world through a variety of mediums, which continues to be evident today as we continue to pay tribute to the heritage and tradition that started so many years ago.

Looking through the books led me to think about a few of my favorite films and how they were brought to life. It’s overwhelming to think about how much effort and dedication went into creating each animated classic. It took a committed team of artists to sketch the characters, ink and painted each cel by hand, and color the backgrounds for each and every scene. While there have been many changes and advancements in technology that have changed the way we create our animated classics, the beautiful tradition of hand-inked and hand-painted cels is still very much alive at Walt Disney World with the Disney Studios Ink and Paint Team at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A few months back, I introduced you to the Disney Studios Ink and Paint Team and a gave you a behind the scenes look into what goes into creating each and every cel in the Ink and Paint Collection.

'Look What I Got' Cel

The Disney Studios Ink and Paint Team is small, but mighty. With six animators working behind the scenes, they paint each and every cel in the Ink and Paint Collection by hand. It’s the job of the Ink and Paint Team to bring each character to life to tell the story about the world our characters live in on the cel. The Disney Studios Ink and Paint Team is currently in the process of celebrating the release of the 45th release in the Ink and Paint Collection, titled “Look What I Got!” The new hand painted cel depicts Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as they enjoy confectionery creations from Sweet Spells on Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Both Snow White and Dopey are hand painted onto the cel.

Fun Facts: Did you know that each cel takes approximately 1.5 hours to create? Also, the “Look What I Got!,” cel will feature the most colors ever used on a cel from the Disney Studios Ink and Paint Team, topping out at 18 different colors.

On Saturday, March 12, you can celebrate the release of this new cel and help us pay tribute to those who made the magic possible and those who carry on the tradition of hand drawn animation today with a special signing at Disney Hollywood Studios, from 10am – 1pm and 2pm – 5pm. For more details on the cel, how to order this special piece, and to learn more about the artists that will be appearing for this special signing, please visit

Disney Dream Portraits by Annie Leibovitz: Behind The Scenes With Queen Latifah as Ursula

Continuing our look behind the scenes of the latest Disney Dream Portraits by Annie Leibovitz, today we’re going to spend some time with the wonderful Queen Latifah as she takes on the role of the most slippery of all Disney villains, Ursula from “The Little Mermaid.”

The shoot took place last November in Los Angeles, just a few days before Thanksgiving. I had been wondering on the way to the studio that morning just how in the world Annie and her amazing team were going to pull this one off. 

Once I walked in, I got my answer. A costume like no other!

Set for 'The Little Mermaid' Annie Leibovitz Photo Shoot with Queen Latifah as Ursula

When Queen Latifah tried those tentacles on for size, the energy in the room became palpable. As you’ll see in this video, she told me she has always wanted to play a villain, and I think she made a fantastic choice for her nefarious debut. 

This was a really memorable shoot that resulted in another stunning portrait. Being in the presence of two great artists coming together to create something so unique was an unforgettable experience.

Queen Latifah as Ursula from 'The Little Mermaid'
Queen Latifah as Ursula from 'The Little Mermaid' Queen Latifah as Ursula from 'The Little Mermaid' and Annie Leibovitz Queen Latifah as Ursula from 'The Little Mermaid'


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March 07 - Mickey’s Grand Opera is Released


Mar 07, 1936
Mickey’s Grand Opera is Released

There’s something a little bit ridiculous about Grand Opera anyway, but give the conductor’s baton to Mickey Mouse and make Clara Cluck and Donald Duck the stars of the show — as they are in Mickey’s Grand Opera — and you know this most highbrow of art forms is about to get a good-natured skewering — Disney style. Listening to Clara’s piercing clucks and Donald’s unintelligible garbling during their duet is the comic highpoint in a short full of them. And when a mischievous Pluto, at first engaged in dubious battle backstage with a magic hat, eventually finds his way onstage and adds his plaintive howl to the final throes of Clara’s and Donald’s off-key finale, the short ends on a perfect note. Mickey’s Grand Opera was directed by Wilfred Jackson, who was one of those inventive and industrious men Walt specialized in hiring. In his long Disney career, Jackson, who worked as a sequence director on 11 features from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Lady and the Tramp, also invented the bar sheet to coordinate animation action with the soundtrack. Jackson retired from Disney in 1961, and was honored as a Disney Legend posthumously in 1998.

Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean reopens after being renovated.

Pirates Of The Caribbean Ride (HD Complete Experience) Front Seat

In a ceremony prior to the park's opening, Disney Legend Bob Gurr receives a window on Disneyland's Main Street USA. Gurr's Disneyland designs include the Autopia, the Monorail, Omnimovers, and the Main Street Vehicles.

"All the school shop classes were my passion. Wood and metal shop taught me a lot about how to find the easiest way to build something. Skills that would make designing Disneyland Attractions so much simpler."
-Disney Legend Bob Gurr

More than 13,000 runners take part in Disney's Princess Half Marathon at WDW. Gina Aalgaard Kelly of Lisbon, North Dakota wins the race in 1:23:58. The half marathon (originally designed for women - although more than 400 men participated this year) wraps up a weekend of events including the Princess and the Frog Family 5K, Disney’s Fit for a Princess Expo on women’s health and wellness, as well as seminars on training, racing and nutrition.