By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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Category — A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Cypress Point Lodge

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

CYPRESS POINT LODGE

By Jim Korkis

The plan for Walt Disney World was for Disney themed resort hotels on property so that guests could stay for an extended vacation and have easy access to the theme park and surrounding amenities like golfing.

Originally, WDW featured the Polynesian Village Resort, the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The plan for Phase Two was to build within the next three years, three more resort hotels: The Asian, The Venetian and The Persian.

The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 that dropped attendance at WDW by twenty percent or more prompted Card Walker, the conservative and cautious chairman of the board of the Disney Company, to delay proceeding with the building of those resorts even though land and infrastructure were already being prepared for The Asian.

The very small and inexpensively-themed Golf Resort (which later became Shades of Green) open in 1973. It was the last WDW owned resort hotel to open for fifteen years until the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa in 1988.

With the development of Epcot Center, the need for more hotel rooms on property to accommodate the hoped for influx of visitors became apparent and so plans were announced for more resorts.

Disney executive Dick Nunis was quoted in the May 1982 issue of the cast newspaper Eyes and Ears: “We also have in design three hotels. The Mediterranean will be located between TTC and the Contemporary. The Cypress Point Lodge will be west of River Country and be themed as a western hotel. It’ll include log cabins along Bay Lake.”

The third hotel would have been the Grand Floridian since preparation for the area had already been done years earlier. All three hotels were announced in 1980.

The November 4, 1982 issue of Walt Disney World Eyes & Ears provided the following description of the rustic, moderate resort:

“Cypress Point Lodge will be a medium-sized hotel facility, located on the south shore of Bay Lake near our Fort Wilderness Campground Resort. Encompassing 550 rooms and 50 log cabins on the beach, Cypress Point Lodge will offer a romantic notion of a turn-of-the-century hunting lodge secluded in a deep forest.

“Neither the trees nor the buildings dominate the entire area; but blend together in a natural harmony. One can almost hear the crackling fireplace and feel the large wooden beams offer a haven of security and comfort.

“Cypress Point Lodge will also include: two restaurants, a pool, extensive beach, and lake dock. Guests will commute in and out of Cypress Point Lodge by watercraft.”

One of the advantages of building the hotel was it was not on the monorail loop and so would not disrupt its operation or the Magic Kingdom.

Obviously the location and theme echoed the Wilderness Lodge Resort that would be built in 1994 but with several key differences including several separate waterfront cabins.

The land in the area had been cleared of trees by 1971 although some claim that this was originally meant for additional campground. The 1973 WDW souvenir guide states that an unnamed “Lodge” was planned to be built at Fort Wilderness for guests. A rough replica of the resort was featured in the model in the post show area of Magic Kingdom’s The Walt Disney Story attraction.

However, cost overruns for the building of Epcot Center resulted in Cypress Point Lodge being cancelled and it is no longer mentioned in any documentation after 1983.

With the arrival of new CEO Michael Eisner in 1984, he chose to develop both the Grand Floridian and a lodge-themed resort but with much different approaches, which became the Wilderness Lodge.

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Thanks, Jim! And the cabins in this area have now actually been built, although at a different price point than I imagine was contemplated then,  in the Cascade Cabins at the Wilderness Lodge’s Copper Creek Villas and Cabins!

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

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September 22, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Turtle Talk with Crush

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

TURTLE TALK WITH CRUSH AT EPCOT

By Jim Korkis

Turtle Talk with Crush is a popular theater show that is part of Disney’s Living Character Initiative program.

Bruce Vaughn, Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering’s Research and Development Division said, “This is an incredibly compelling and powerful way to experience the characters. They are fully aware of the people in their presence and can call you by name. It is a 100 percent live experience.”

Crush is a laid-back green sea turtle over 150 years old who loves riding the ocean currents and talks with the stereotypical attitude and vocabulary of a California surfer. He first appeared in the Disney Pixar animated feature film Finding Nemo (2003) where he helped Dory and Marlin on their quest.

According to Crush himself, his father is named Mr. Turtle, so that would make Crush’s full name Crush Turtle, or C. Turtle (sea turtle) for short.

In the film, his voice is supplied by Nemo writer-director Andrew Stanton who recorded all of Crush’s dialog lying on his couch in his office.

The show is a mixture of technologies including computer graphic techniques, image projection, digital puppetry and improvisation. Some of the action is pre-created animated sequences that can be cued up when needed while some of the action is done in real time.

Crush is controlled onscreen in real time by a puppeteer who uses a telemetric input device similar to a keyboard so that it appears seamlessly in a virtual environment. The X-Y-Z axis movement of the input device causes the digital puppet to move correspondingly.

Basically, a talented performer behind the massive rear projection screen area that looks like a window in to the Pacific Ocean underwater environment speaks in an approximation of Crush’s familiar voice and it is transferred to the speakers in the small theater.

The avatar image is projected at 60 frames per second, so that the turtle’s mouth is perfectly sychronized with the performer’s words. The performance is a mixture of pre-scripted material and improvisational responses. Cameras mounted on either side of the screen, allows the performer to see the audience and to make specific references.

The same type of technology is used in the Monsters Laugh Floor attraction in Magic Kingdom.

Turtle Talk with Crush originally it opened on November 16, 2004 at The Living Seas pavilion at Epcot that was later renamed The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Another version opened at Disney California Adventure in July 2005. It was open briefly at Hong Kong Disneyland from May 24 to August 10, 2008. The attraction opened in Tokyo DisneySea on October 1, 2009.

A similar experience is also included in the Disney Cruise Line Animator’s Palate restaurants on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy ships. A Turtle Talk with Crush unit was donated by Walt Disney Imagineering to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County in early 2013 to entertain children and their siblings. It is operated twice a day by volunteering Disney cast members.

In May 2016 the theme park attraction added the characters of Dory, Destiny the whale shark, Bailey the beluga whale and Hank the “septopus” (a seven-legged octopus) along with Crush’s son Squirt.

It was reported that the addition of Turtle Talk with Crush to Disney TokyoSea cost a minimum of $13.1 million but does not include the “Dude speak” because the Imagineers felt that type of persona would not be completely understood by a Japanese audience. So, there Crush is just an overly friendly turtle.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

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September 15, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Princess Fairytale Hall

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

PRINCESS FAIRYTALE HALL

By Jim Korkis

On June 2, 2012, Walt Disney World closed the Snow White’s Scary Adventures attraction. The Disney Princesses had been at the Town Square Theater on Main Street U.S.A. awaiting an expansion of Fantasyland that was originally going to feature individual areas for each of them. Those plans changed and instead the Princess Fairytale Hall opened in the ride’s location on September 18, 2013.

(c) Disney

“Princess Fairytale Hall is an annex to Cinderella Castle where our royal guests, our park guests, will come to meet a visiting princess,” Imagineer Jason Grandt, who was the creative art designer of the space, told me in 2013. “It is done in the same regal style as other additions to the castle so that it is a wonderfully detailed architectural environment fitting of Disney royalty.”

Guests pass through lush purple and gold exterior trimmings with stained glass windows featuring animal characters from the classic Disney animated movie Cinderella (1950) like the mice Jacques and Gus-Gus as well as shields adorned with each princess’s symbol that hang around the marquee. The outdoor light fixtures are in the shape of crowns.

Entering an elegant corridor filled with tapestries and themed lighting leads to an airy, high-ceilinged Royal Gallery with nearly full-sized portraits of Aurora, Tiana, Rapunzel, Mulan, Jasmine, and Snow White. This room also houses Cinderella’s glass slipper illuminated in a special case.

“The space is really opulent and filled with ornate chandeliers and several framed custom princess portraits that are stunning. They were painted by talented Disney artists who diligently labored to capture the atmosphere, design and story moments of the films.

“When they came into the office full size rather than just a computer sized image, we all just gasped; they were so lush and full of detail. Our portraits are to show that there are Disney princesses all over the world but the hall is primarily devoted to Cinderella.

“From there, you will be dispatched to a magnificent receiving room to meet with a princess and get photos, autographs and time to talk with her,” stated Grandt.

The rooms with luxurious carpets and drapes contain open storybooks. Snow White’s storybook is permanently placed as a tribute to the former ride and to the first Disney princess. The rooms also include props from the films like the king’s bookends in the Cinderella room.

“The team kept playing the films while we were working and the more you watch them, the more you see subtle things that you can include.
“For our Disney guests, we know that next to meeting Mickey Mouse, the Disney princesses are their greatest wish for us to make those fantasy worlds become a reality. Our Disney princesses are truly the heart of Fantasyland and now they have this very special location to interact with our guests.

“Part of the fun will be not knowing until that day which princess might be visiting with Cinderella or Rapunzel. Ariel and Belle have their own locations so won’t be here. Our guests want opportunities to meet the princesses and this royal encounter location will help satisfy those wishes.”

According to the Imagineering storyline, Princess Fairytale Hall is a gift from the King to Cinderella, and acts as a place where she can meet with visiting royalty and along with those other princesses can greet the subjects of Fantasyland.
Imagineer Pam Rawlins, assistant producer, said, “Guests are immersed into this majestic world of the princesses. It is all very elegant, with dark wood panelings and elegant finishes, with a bit of a gothic motif, so you really feel like you’re in the castle. You will be a royal subject meeting your princess.”

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Thanks, Jim! As it turns out, the “second” princess in each meet has usually had an extended run, rather than being a daily surprise.

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

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September 8, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Dole Whips!

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

DOLE WHIPS

By Jim Korkis

A cult following for a soft-serve frozen dessert created by the Dole Food Company known as Dole Whip has created such a frenzy in Disney theme park fans that many suspect that the treat is only available at Disney. It is not.

Of course, it has been served for decades at the Dole Plantation three miles north of Wahiawa, Hawaii, but in recent years, thanks to the ease in creating it, a variety of popular venues now offer it, from sporting events to zoos to state fairs and other amusement venues. Outside of Disney, vendors are strongly encouraged to use the term Dole Soft Serve instead.

(c) Disney

“Disney has literally created Dole Whip devotees,” stated Jamie Schwartz of Kent Precision Foods Group that licenses the product. “Disney built the brand.”

When Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room opened in June 1963, it was sponsored by United Airlines, promoting its flights to Hawaii. In 1976, the Dole Food Company took over sponsorship and opened up a food and beverage stand at the entrance to the attraction called the Tiki Bar.

Disneyland’s Concept Manager of Food Operations Karlos Siqueiros, who has worked at Disneyland for over thirty years, recalled that in the beginning the little stand only sold pineapple juice and pineapple spears: “Pineapple juice had always been served at the tiki stand, but we didn’t have anything to add to it literally until the Dole Whip came in.”

The soft-serve pineapple dessert can also be purchased as a “float” with pineapple juice or as a swirl of pineapple and vanilla. While most Disney fans associate the term “Dole Whip” with pineapple soft serve, it also comes in several other flavors like orange, strawberry, lemon, raspberry and mango.

In 1997, Kent Precision Foods Group in St. Louis, Missouri began to license the Dole Whip product. While it used to contain a dairy derivative, in 2013 the formula was changed and it became certified as vegan and gluten free. They sell the Dole Whip Mix which is a dry powder online. To make it just like at Disney, all that needs to happen is to add water and pour it into a home soft serve ice cream machine.

It is estimated that park guests at Disneyland and Walt Disney World consume 1.4 million Dole Whips each year. (Disneyland consumes a minimum of 600,000). It is not served at any of the other Disney theme parks worldwide. At the Aulani Resort in Hawaii, it is offered at the Lava Shack.

At WDW, it can be found at Aloha Isle, located outside of the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland, and at Pineapple Lanai just outside the back of the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian Village Resort.

Starting in 2013, the Pineapple Promenade Booth at the Flower and Garden Festival sold Dole Whip where guests could order it with Siesta Key Spice Rum. Subsequent years had the option for including Coconut Rum and Sammy’s Beach Bar Red Head Macadamia Nut-flavored Rum. An alcoholic version with dark rum or coconut rum can also be purchased at Tamu Tamu restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Kent Precision Foods explains it as such: “Dole Soft Serve Mix is a lactose-free dry mix that is reconstituted with tap water and frozen down in a soft serve machine. Marketed under the popular Dole brand name, this unique product delivers an intense, natural pineapple fruit flavor, yet is fat free and cholesterol free.

“Although the Dole Food Company originally created the Dole Whip soft serve mix, they licensed the brand to Kent Precision Foods Group who now has an exclusive agreement.”

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

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September 1, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Morocco in Epcot’s World Showcase

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

MOROCCO

By Jim Korkis

Morocco is the only World Showcase pavilion that is sponsored entirely by its government rather than by various businesses operating in that country. It opened September 7, 1984. The pavilion was inspired by the cities of Casablanca, Marrakesh, Rabat, and Fez.

When plans for a pavilion devoted to Africa fell through, King Hassan II of Morocco felt there needed to be a pavilion representing the culture of Africa. In addition to funding the building of the entire pavilion, much of its authenticity is due to the fact that the king sent many of his personal artisans to adorn the pavilion with carved and painted wood, plaster, tiles and mosaic.

Although the overall design of the pavilion was done by Imagineering in consultation with Morocco, the actual artwork and decorations were done by these artisans that included eight plaster craftsmen, eleven tile craftsmen and two wood craftsmen. They worked for approximately six months doing the construction.

Nine tons of handmade, hand-cut tiles were used, the same kind that had been used to decorate palaces of past kings of Morocco. The designs consist of different combinations of geometric patterns. Islamic law forbids the depiction in artwork of any living thing like plants, animals or humans. It would be considered an affront against Allah, the only one who can create life.

Morocco’s King Mohammed Ben Abdellah was the first world leader to send President George Washington in 1777 a letter recognizing the United States as an independent sovereign country. A copy of that letter and President Washington’s reply is on display in the lobby of the Restaurant Marrakesh which is built to look like a typical Southern Moroccan fortress. The interior is designed after several different palaces.

Outside to the left side, high on the wall, the Dar al-Magana from the city of Fez is a unique water clock where people were able to tell the hour using the twelve windows and platforms carrying brass bowls.

Bab Boujouloud is a replica of the entrance gate of the same name located in the City of Fez. The center of the gate is large to accommodate large groups of people and traffic like camels loaded with goods. At night, the center would be blocked and those entering the city would have to enter through the smaller arches on the side and pass a guard.

It transitions guests from the Nouvelle Ville (new city) to the Medina (older city) where the Souk (marketplace) is located.

The Nejarine Fountain is a replica of a fountain located in the Medina of Fez and this is an excellent example of the tile work of King Hassan’s artisans. The word Nejarine translates to “carpenters”.

The Koutoubia Minaret at the front of the pavilion is a prayer tower beside a mosque that exists in Marrakesh. The Chellah Minaret at the back of the pavilion is located near the capital city of Rabat. A prayer caller (Muezzin) would ascend to the top and call citizens to prayer.

Fez House is a representation of an upper middle class family where all generations including any extended family would live in one house. Built in the Moorish style of architecture, rooms are like apartments and would surround a central open air courtyard. To add authenticity, the Imagineers have recorded family conversations that periodically engage on the second level.

The exterior does not seem appealing because of the traditional belief that beauty is on the inside as well as the fact that the harsh weather in the country is damaging to any exterior building. It is referred to as “architecture of the veil”.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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August 25, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Skipper Canteen

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

SKIPPER CANTEEN

By Jim Korkis

One of the gags in the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland for decades was guides pointing out that the name of the dramatic waterfall that the boat narrowly misses is Schweitzer Falls named after…Dr. Albert Falls, rather than the expected Dr. Albert Schweitzer, noted for his humanitarian work in Africa.

One of the newest Magic Kingdom restaurants is named the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. Skipper Canteen. It is operated by Alberta Falls, the granddaughter of the fictitious Dr. Albert Falls. This 222-seat restaurant is located in the former Adventureland Veranda area across from the Swiss Family Treehouse and is home to “World Famous Jungle Cuisine”. It opened December 16, 2015.

The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. which operates the Jungle Cruise boats was started by Dr. Falls on April 8, 1911. His granddaughter Alberta, who is the third generation owner, has repurposed the company’s tropical headquarters into a restaurant in order to generate additional revenue from the hungry cruise passengers.

Dr. Falls had a son who married a woman from India and they had a daughter who they named Alberta in honor of her grandfather. When she was eight years old, she was sent to live with him and learn the business. The company was originally a tropical river cargo shipping venture (“and logistics services”) but as business declined Alberta opened up sight-seeing cruises for passengers. A banner states that the inaugural cruise was October 1, 1931.

The restaurant includes three dining rooms. The Crew’s Mess Hall (which servers point out is not actually messy at all) is the largest one, and includes wall hangings of photos, documents, native musical instruments, and other expedition mementos gathered by the skippers on their travels.

The Jungle Room, which was the family parlor, is a more intimate location and features memorabilia culled from the Falls’ family archives. The third dining area is behind a bookcase, and was actually the secret meeting place for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A., an organization of which Falls was a member), and features artifacts from the mysterious organization.

The menu features cuisine inspired by the rivers of the world locales on the attraction including Asia, South America and Africa.

Alberta has even enlisted the skippers to interact with the guests when they are not on a cruise. The servers are encouraged to share the same corny humor, quips and “groaners” that guests loved on the attraction. A waiter will say, “I’d like to point out some of the highlights of the restaurant.” He then points up to the overhead fixtures. “There’s a light. There’s another one. That one is pretty high.” Another waiter might add, “I don’t want to mention the elephant in the room” and then point at an elephant statue on a shelf.

In a typewritten letter affixed to the menu, Alberta briefly explains the history of the Jungle Navigation Company and the restaurant. She concludes it by writing, “We enjoy having you and we hope you enjoy being had. Please relax, enjoy your meal, then get out.” Her postscript adds: “I’m sorry that was rude… Please get out.”

The area was previously used as a Pixie Hollow meet-and-greet area for the fairy characters. When the characters moved out, Imagineers considered several options for a themed Adventureland eatery including Tarzan, Aladdin and pirates.

As a tribute to some of the Imagineers responsible for the original Jungle Cruise, there are three offices on the upper floor for Skipper Marc (Davis), Skipper Harper (Goff) and Skipper Bill (Evans). On Jungle Cruise, Davis was responsible for the visual gags, Goff designed the waterway and the boats, and Evans did the landscaping.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.
The 2017 easy Guide

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August 18, 2017   No Comments