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: Raglan Road

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.

RAGLAN ROAD

By Jim Korkis

Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs is owned and operated by Great Irish Pubs Florida, Inc., the company of Irish partners John Cooke, Paul Nolan and celebrity chef Kevin Dundon.

(c) Disney

(c) Disney

The restaurant that opened in October 2005 has both a loyal local and international following and has won numerous national and local honors. Each March, Raglan Road hosts multi-day St. Patrick’s Day events. Over the four day Labor Day weekend, it hosts the Great Irish Hooley Festival.

Traditional and contemporary Irish music, storytelling and dance are featured nightly and guests are encouraged to participate.

“Having built more than 400 Irish pubs in the four corners of the world, we believe that this is our best expression yet,” said Paul Nolan, “We are incredibly proud and excited to continue bringing the best of Ireland to Disney Springs

The name Raglan Road comes from an actual road of the same name in Ballsbridge, Dublin, Ireland. The real Raglan Road is on the south side of Dublin.

In 1946 the lane was made famous by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh considered one of the foremost poets of the 20th century. He used the melody of the old poem “The Dawning of the Day” for his poem entitled “On Raglan Road.” The poem was written about his unrequited love for a young woman.

In the 1960s Irish folk singer Luke Kelly first put the poem to music. “(On) Raglan Road” has become a seminal Irish song and has been covered by such artists as Van Morrison, Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler and U2.

Kavanagh was always seen sitting alone on a park bench by the Grand Canal in Dublin so when he passed away in 1967 after a long battle with cancer he was commemorated with a statue by the banks of the canal.

Today, the only replica of this bronze statue of a man sitting alone on a bench thinking of his lost love, specially commissioned for this location, is found outside the front door of Raglan Road in Disney Springs.

That’s why there is a crumpled hat placed next to him and the seat is not flat but slanted inward so it makes it awkward for a guest to try to sit next to him for a photo while he is looking down and pensively remembering what might have been.

Kavanagh is remembered by three plaques in Dublin. Two of them are at locations where he lived while the third plaque is beside his bronze statue sculpted by Peierls at the location by the canal where some say he found inspiration for his work. The lines on this plaque read: “Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal, pouring redemption for me.”

The four aged mahogany and walnut bars that feature marble adornments, leaded glass and ornate detailing were handcrafted in Ireland for old Irish bars and churches more than 130 years ago and shipped to Florida. In addition, Raglan Road’s furnishings, lighting and wall coverings were all created and built in Ireland. Authentic Irish antiques, ornamentation and bric-a-brac complete the authentic décor.

The works of Irish artist Graham Knuttel have found homes among Hollywood celebrities and on November 11 2011, the restaurant unveiled his commission painting for the restaurant based on Kavanagh’s poem.

It depicts a pub scene in which more than two dozen unconventional Knuttel figures that include Kavanagh, Kelly, Irish rockers Bono and The Edge and writers James Joyce and Brendan Behan are celebrating. Looking closely, admirers may discover a photo of a child wearing mouse ears in the painting.

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Thanks, Jim! Here’s the review of Raglan Road from The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit:

Jim Korkis on Raglan Road from yourfirstvisit.net

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, 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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January 13, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Winged Encounters

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.

By Jim Korkis

The show Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight” debuted in the Discovery Island area near the Tree of Life at DAK during the summer of 2014.

The show features all six shades of macaws: hyacinth, green-winged, blue and gold, scarlet, blue-throated and military. Each macaw features a wingspan of up to sixty inches as it soars over the area in a kaleidoscope of color as avian experts talk about conservation.

(c) Disney

(c) Disney

The show is handled by the same team that does “Flights of Wonder” (which also features macaws) in association with Disney Creative Entertainment. The macaws fly together from backstage past the Tree of Life and land on the bridge at DinoLand U.S.A.  In addition to the impressive flying, there are also up-close encounters for the guests in four ten-minute shows each day.

Since the park opened in 1998, the Oasis has been the home for macaws and cockatoos. The purpose of the Oasis and its winding paths with different animal exhibits on the left and right side is to establish that DAK is a park that is to be explored.

Due to their intelligence and curious nature, the birds looked for ways to jump from their tree perches to explore their surroundings. Unfortunately, some of the trees were close to where the guests would walk so there was always the possibility that a bird might end up on an unsuspecting guest’s shoulder.

Macaws are just the largest type of parrot and come from the tropical rainforests of Brazil as well as Central America. Both the military and hyacinth macaws are on the endangered species list. Since the military macaw has an olive green body that resembles a sergeant’s uniform, it got its interesting nickname.

While the feathers on the Hyacinth Macaw can appear to be blue, there is no blue pigment in the feathers. It is just the structure of the feather that makes it appear blue.

The challenge faced by the Imagineers was to re-design the area so that the birds would have shelter during inclement weather and still provide interactive components to keep the inquistive nature of the birds satisfied. So the Imagineers came up with a faux tree with those specific elements but still made it look naturalistic to the guests.

The birds dine on seeds, palm fruits, berries and nuts. However, when the park first opened, Imagineer Joe Rohde on a walk-through discovered a guest trying to feed the birds French fries. Rohde tried to explain that all the animals at DAK, including the birds have specific diets and feeding them fries might negatively impact their health. He also pointed out that the bird’s beak was designed for cracking nuts with two hundred pounds of pressure per square inch and that the bird would see no difference between some fingers and some fries.

As an accredited member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, DAK is responsible for providing the best care for the animals and that includes what they eat.

With all the animal habitat designs at DAK, Imagineers had to take into account two important factors. The first was to design a habitat that has interesting elements to encourage natural behavior while also providing appropriate shelter. Second, the habitat needed to give the guests an experience to see easily and clearly animals responding in their environment and demonstrating those natural behaviors.

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, 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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January 6, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Attractions that Almost Were at Disney World

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.

By Jim Korkis

THINGS THAT ALMOST WERE AT DISNEY WORLD

jim-korkis-on-things-that-almost-were-at-disney-world-from-yourfirstvisit-net
The Excavator
. The area at Disney’s Animal Kingdom now occupied by Chester and Hester’s Dino-rama featuring such carnival rides like TriceraTop Spin and Primeval Whirl was initially earmarked for a much more impressive thrill ride attraction.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom was intended to compete and outdo Busch Gardens Tampa with its live exotic animals and roller coasters. The original DAK Imagineers proposed a roller coaster similar to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It would be in an area that was supposedly a former sand and gravel pit with an enormous piece of leftover machinery called the Excavator.

The area had been abandoned when the Dino Institute bought the property after dinosaur bones were discovered and transformed the field offices of the former business into a dormitory and cafeteria for students.

Chester and Hester could no longer sell gas to the trucks and the workmen who operated at the site so they converted their business into a souvenir shop for tourists who were coming to see the dinosaur dig site.

The Excavator was meant to look like a series of ore cars used to haul up the sand and gravel from the bottom of the pit to dump trucks. The paleontology students who were working in the area had reconfigured the unsafe device that had fallen into disrepair to transport the dinosaur fossils they were finding.

The marketing publicity described it as “a rollicking coaster ride through a section of the dig supposedly too dangerous to enter”. At one point, the ride would have zoomed through the inside of a dinosaur skeleton.

It had been planned as an opening day attraction until budget cuts eliminated it but it appeared clearly on the original concept painting of the area. It was felt that the Countdown to Extinction (now DINOSAUR) attraction (since it re-used existing technology) would be easier and less expensive to build, yet still attract guests wanting a thrill ride.

Lagoon Islands at World Showcase. “There just wasn’t enough things for kids to do at World Showcase (when it first opened),” said Tony Baxter, former Senior Vice President, Creative Development, for Walt Disney Imagineering. “So one of the proposals was to use the islands in the middle of World Showcase’s lagoon as kind of a kids’ play area,” much like the Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom but with an international theme.

That idea was scrapped when concerns about safety, transportation, capacity and budget were reviewed. An alternative concept of making the islands an exclusive “adults only” party area was considered and “which was very much the start of [Downtown Disney’s] Pleasure Island concept,” Baxter said, but was also rejected.

Dark Kingdom. The opening of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida in 1999 and its appeal to an older teenage demographic prompted Disney to consider adding an “edgier” addition to its WDW parks. In the 1990s, Disney began formalizing a Disney Villains franchise that proved its popularity with the Villains in Vogue merchandise shop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

So it was proposed to add a new land at the back of the Magic Kingdom to be called the Dark Kingdom or Shadowlands. The icon for this new land would have been Maleficent’s castle.

Bald Mountain, a massive roller coaster ride inspired by Chernabog’s lair in the Disney’s animated feature film Fantasia (1940), was developed as well as a spinner ride similar to the Dumbo attraction that would have had Ursula the sea witch as the centerpiece and each of her octopus arms holding a ride vehicle. The concept was so intriguing that at one point Disney even considered expanding it into a fifth theme park.

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Thanks, Jim! My own thoughts on a fifth Disney World theme park are here, sorta. And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, 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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December 30, 2016   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Tributes to Lost Attractions

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.

By Jim Korkis

DISNEY WORLD ATTRACTION TRIBUTES

Many Imagineers are huge Disney fans as well and mourn the loss of an attraction or a removed venue as much as regular guests do. Sometimes, they will include little tributes to that former location in the new venue.

In the new AbracadaBar at the BoardWalk Resort is a framed copy of a newspaper on the wall that provides the back story of the magicians who mysteriously disappeared from there over seventy years earlier.

However in the lower right hand corner is an odd little news item:

  • “Twin Sisters Advance in Beauty Pageant
  • “The Sweets Invited to Seashore Finals

“The Boardwalk’s “sweetest” sisters have been invited to compete in the final round of the Miss Seashore beauty pageant. Their special talent? Serving confections with affection of course! Wish the ladies luck as they lead a celebratory rolling chair parade this Sunday on the boardwalk. At this pace, they may be on their way to becoming twin Miss America(s).”

The location used to be the home for a shop called Seashore Sweets supposedly run by two former Miss America contestants, the fictional Sweet sisters. The sign outside the shop proclaimed that it sold “confections with affection” and inside were all sorts of candy, ice cream and more.

The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wise Acres Farm was a mini-roller coaster designed for children as a homemade “multiflex octo-plane” that was a popular attraction at Mickey’s Toontown Fair at the Magic Kingdom. A barnstormer was a term for a stunt pilot who traveled to rural areas to perform shows in a bi-plane.

jim-korkis-on-tributes-to-lost-attractions-from-yourfirstvisit-netIn fact, it was so popular that when the area was redesigned as The Storybook Circus section for the New Fantasyland, the attraction was reconfigured as The Barnstormer featuring Goofy as the Great Goofini as one of the circus acts.

The back of the new sign for the attraction was designed to look as if the old sign had been taken apart and reformatted to make the new one.

In addition, the front of the sign states “An Acrobatic Skyleidoscope” which is a reference to the name of a daytime show that ran from 1985-1987 on the World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot. The small sea gulls in the top right corner of the new sign are meant to be a subtle tribute to the similar looking gulls found in the extinct Tomorrowland attraction If You Had Wings.

Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction in the Magic Kingdom is on the spot where the former 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction used to be located. In the queue line, on the left hand side is a “carving” in the faux rockwork of the silhouette of the famous Captain Nemo Nautilus submarine from the original attraction.

Before the original 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction was removed, Imagineers bottled up some of the water from the attraction and kept it stored safely for nearly two decades when it was poured into the waters of the new attraction as part of the official opening.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction in Fantasyland was originally the home for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. In the room meant to be Owl’s house is a framed picture on the left hand side of J. Thaddeus Toad handing over the deed of the land to Owl. On the floor to the right is a picture of Pooh greeting Moley, one of Toad’s closest friends.

In the pet cemetery at the exit of the Haunted Mansion attraction in Liberty Square in the upper part is a statue to Mr. Toad (actually one of the Big Fig merchandise items designed by artist Kevin Kidney).

Many other similar tributes are scattered throughout the vacation kingdom.

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.
The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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December 23, 2016   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: DisneyQuest

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.

DISNEYQUEST

By Jim Korkis

The DisneyQuest program was designed to be a national series of multi-story, interactive “virtual” Disney theme parks for large urban areas that might have populations who could not frequently visit an actual Disney theme park.

(c) Disney

(c) Disney

To work out any challenges, the first five-story, one hundred thousand square foot DisneyQuest opened in the Downtown Disney West Side area on June 19, 1998 to take advantage of the participation of an already enthusiastically large audience to work out any challenges.

A second DisneyQuest opened in Chicago in 1999 but permanently closed on September 4, 2001 due to a number of factors including low attendance.

There were plans for twenty more similar venues, including ones in Philadelphia, in the Disneyland Resort in California as well as in Toronto, Canada, but none of them proceeded beyond the initial planning stages.

The idea started in late 1994 with vice president of new ventures Joe DiNunzio and Mike Lang of Corporate Strategic Planning.

“Since technology was arriving at a state where interactive storytelling and virtual environments were becoming possible, it seemed like a good time to push it a bit farther and develop a new kind of entertainment venue,” recalled senior producer and creative director Larry Gertz.

“The endeavor would have the environment and variety of a theme park, the interactivity of an arcade and the excitement of a thrill ride. And with the ability to create virtual environments and sets, the whole thing could be indoors and located in various cities, all over the world.”

To dispel the notion that it was merely an arcade to appeal to teenaged boys and young men, Disney hired five female show producers, three female engineers and had the lighting produced entirely by women.

“We produced fifteen different cutting edge attractions, all at once. And they all had to pass the Florida Ride Legislation review. We had to develop many technologies simultaneously that were all very different,” said project director Pete Rahill.

Disney Quest is divided into four zones of play:

  • EXPLORE ZONE: The Virtual Jungle Cruise, Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride racing through Agrabah to release the Genie and the Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold.
  • SCORE ZONE: A rescue mission on other planets in Invasion! An Alien Encounter and also Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam
  • CREATE ZONE: The Living Easels to paint a live masterpiece. Create and ride a virtual rollercoaster at CyberSpace Mountain. Sid’s Create-A-Toy where guests could assemble and take home their own toy. Learn how to draw a Disney animated character at the Animation Academy. Create a CD by choosing from over 20 styles and 1000 vocals at the Radio Disney SongMaker.
  • REPLAY ZONE: Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlaster is a zany bumper car race. Mad Wave Motion Theater where you can ride a fantasy coaster or a high speed race car. The Dance Zone offers the latest dance video games and KidQuest is designed for kids ages 2 – 7.

Throughout the location, there are additional video games, pinball machines, and a Wonderland Café coffee and dessert location where guests could connect with the internet as well as a traditional Food Quest court with pizza, sandwiches, salads and other items.

When it first opened, the venue included other attractions like Hercules in the Underworld, the Cybrolator, The Cave of Wonders Slide, Treasure of the Incas and Magic Mirrors.

Redemption games were removed from the facility in January 2015.

In an era of smartphone apps, lifelike video games and other interactive attractions, DisneyQuest appeared too dated for many people. On June 30, 2015, Disney announced that the entire location would be closing in 2016 to make way for the NBA Experience. However, at Disney, plans are always changing and now it appears DisneyQuest will survive into 2017.

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.
The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or Pinterest!!

December 16, 2016   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Bill Evans

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.

THE PEOPLE WHO BUILT DISNEY WORLD: BILL EVANS

By Jim Korkis

In the spring of 1985, I got a chance to interview landscaper and Disney Legend Bill Evans about his work on the Disney theme parks.

In 1952, Bill and his brother Jack landscaped the grounds of Walt Disney’s Holmby Hills home. Walt then asked them in 1954 to landscape Disneyland. Jack passed away in 1958 of a heart attack.

Bill stayed on as a consultant, drawing landscape plans, installing materials and supervising maintenance of the Park. He was hired as the Director of Landscape Design and was responsible for the landscape design of Walt Disney World.

(c) Disney

(c) Disney

Although he officially retired in 1975, Bill consulted with Imagineering on the landscaping for every other Walt Disney theme park until his death. Today, his methods of plant propagation, plant relocation, and recycling are widely used everywhere.

To continue our celebration of WDW’s 45th Anniversary, here is a short excerpt from that interview I did with Bill:

“In Florida we had a perfectly miserable experience in the theme park area down there because of the Florida terrain. The site of Disney World is a big piece of real estate, almost fifty square miles. Walt wanted that kind of dimension in order to separate himself very thoroughly from the neon jungles that surrounded Disneyland. That was the plus side.

“The minus side was most of that site had an elevation of, I think, the fall in ten miles was only ten feet. There weren’t any hills on the property although they were described as hills by the local surveyors.

“As an example, I wanted to start a tree farm to start producing some of the material we needed. A surveyor said, ‘There is just the place for it. There is a hill over on the West Side that would be just fine. Not that many trees on it.’ He drove me over. There wasn’t a bit of road. It was all pasture land and swamp, and exceedingly poor pasture land at that. We finally arrived at the spot and he said, “What do you think of that? It’s a hill”.

“Boy, you could have fooled me. There was a place out there about maybe six or eight feet of freeboard before you ran into the water table.

“I’ll walk up there but catch me if I fall. I don’t want to roll all the way to the bottom.” (Laughs.)

“That’s where we put the tree farm.

“When we built the theme park, we had to lift the elevation of a hundred acres a maximum of 15 feet and a minimum of 10 feet. In order to get some freeboard to build the biggest basement in Florida, you had to raise the elevation. The process was to dig a 250 acre lagoon and the yield from that soil is what built that site.

“If you look at the soil profile in that part of Florida it is kind of like a Danish pastry. There is a skinny layer of sand on top and then there’s some peat muck, maybe something else and underneath all of that some blue clay and underneath that pink clay and then brown clay and gray clay. All the colors of the rainbow but all clay.

“When you move the earth you take off this layer and put that over somewhere else and this layer on top of that. All of this abominable soil. You could dig a hole in that and it would fill with water. You’d drain it and you had just as much water in there a week later.

“When we built Epcot, we were able to convince the engineers that no matter what it cost it would be a great economy to ignore that kind of source and go find a sandy source for soil. We have a very congenial environment for the landscaping at Epcot. No clay.”

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Thanks, Jim! Bill Evans was named a Disney Legend in 1992.

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.
The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or Pinterest!!

December 9, 2016   No Comments