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: The Swans and Dolphins of the Swan and Dolphin

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 SWANS AND DOLPHINS OF THE SWAN AND DOLPHIN

CEO Michael Eisner felt that the two legacies he would leave at Disney were an improvement in culinary offerings and the development of what he termed “entertainment architecture” that referred to telling stories architecturally in buildings on Disney property that were not in the theme parks.

Eisner brought in renowned architect Michael Graves to design the Team Disney corporate building in Burbank, California. Graves said when he was in meetings with Michael Eisner, Eisner told him: “Look, everyone here will have some design priorities for you, but I only have one priority. When I come in to work each morning and go up to my office, I’ll probably have very little to smile about. So do something that will make me smile when I arrive.”

When his first designs for the Team Disney building were rejected, Graves came up with the concept of having the Seven Dwarfs as caryatids. A caryatid is a sculpted figure serving as an architectural support, taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting horizontal bands. “Because Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was truly the foundation of the Disney Studios and supported the growth of the company, just as the dwarfs are supporting the building,” claimed Graves.

Eisner was so pleased with the final result that he had Graves come up with designs for the Swan and Dolphin resorts.

Designed by Graves, the swan statues (like the dolphin statues) were created from steel, wood and fiberglass, and were believed to be the largest structures of their kind in the world at the time. Since there were no existing samples to work from, Disney artist Gary Graham, following Graves’ design, sculpted the swan models out of Styrofoam. These were then computer-photographed (photogrammetry) in a process that turns the shapes into a digitized database.

The photogrammetric information was then sent on to a shipbuilding company in Wisconsin. There it was put into a computer that automatically cut the wooden ribs to exact specifications and imprinted the ribs with numbers and location directions. The ribs were then delivered to the statue site, where they were fitted to a steel frame. Once assembled, a fiberglass covering was carefully brushed on and then covered with five layers of laminate. The swan statues were then sanded, painted and ultimately lifted into place in May 1989.

Completed, the swan statues, referred to as “heroic” statues, are each 47 feet high. And at a combined weight of 56,000 pounds, they required a multi-ton, 70-foot crane to lift them and place them atop the hotel. They were placed on specially constructed pedestals at either end of the hotel’s roof, which support and display them.

The dolphin statues are each 63 feet high. All the roof sculptures are hollow inside, except for the structural beaming, and they have internal staircases and trapdoors for maintenance purposes.

At the Walt Disney World Dolphin, the sculptures were three-dimensional where guests can’t touch them and two-dimensional, like in the indoor fountain, where they can be touched.

At the Walt Disney World Swan, it is reversed and the sculptures are generally three-dimensional where they can be touched by guests (like the interior fountain), but two-dimensional (like the monkeys and parrots in the trees) where they can’t be touched.

The dolphins in the fountain facing the Walt Disney World Swan were supposed to be three-dimensional, but Graves was told to space them out wider because they obstructed the view. Instead, Graves simply sliced the dolphins, making what he called “dolphin filets,” and keeping them exactly where they were but opening up the space. He also made the fountain smaller since the dolphins became two-dimensional and needed to be able to be touched.

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Thanks, Jim!

Jim has written multiple articles on this site on the Swan and Dolphin and on Graves. Reviews–including the refurbed rooms–begin here. And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Gremlin Trouble! The Cursed Roald Dahl Film Disney Never MadeSecret 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

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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May 12, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Headdresses of the Wilderness Lodge

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.

HEADDRESSES OF THE WILDERNESS LODGE

By Jim Korkis

Some Native Americans believed that by wearing the feathers of the eagle, one of the most respected and revered birds, it was possible to impart the characteristics and power of the eagle to the wearer. It was usually the chief who would wear such a headdress and it was hoped it would provide wisdom and a different perspective.

At the entrance to the Whispering Canyon restaurant at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are two headdresses on display. When the Imagineers had to re-create a headdress, they were not allowed to use eagle feathers because eagles are an endangered species, so they used turkey feathers and enhanced them.

On the left hand side is a Single Trailer Split Horn Headdress that would have been worn by a high-ranking warrior chief circa 1835. A single trailer headdress has a felt trailer hanging from the back of the headdress to the ground. The feathers are displayed on only one side of the trailer, giving it a symmetrical appearance.

This particular headdress was inspired by one belonging to Mato-Tope of the Mandan Tribe.

On the right hand side is a Double Trailer Eagle Feathers Headdress from around 1875. A double trailer headdress is named for the two felt trailers that hang down the back of the headdress to the ground. An elaborate headdress of this style would have been worn by the highest ranking member of the Sioux tribe.

This particular headdress was inspired by one belonging to Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota tribe of the Great Sioux Nation.

Located between two bundles of lodgepoles towards the back of the lobby is the Ermine-Tipped Raven Headdress that resembles a nineteenth century Crow warrior headdress. Inspiration for this headdress is the watercolor painting done by artist Charles Bodmer that is located just off the lobby elevator on the fourth floor. The painting was rendered in the 1830s during an expedition led by Prince Maximillian to the American West.

Just to the right of the elevators is the Feather Duster Rooster Feathers Headdress. It was used by the Crow tribe circa 1890. The red of the feathers indicates war honor.

In addition, there is an authentic display of moccasins made by the Plains Indians. Hard rawhide soles were hand sewed to a soft buckskin upper piece. Often, they would chew on the material to make it softer and more pliable. The footwear was then ornamented with dyes, quills, beads, cloth, buttons, fur and fringe and this work varied greatly among the different tribes.

Using no measuring tools or patterns, moccasins were each one-of-a-kind made to fit a specific foot of a child or adult. Intricate designs existed only the minds of the Native Americans making them and sometimes the design evolved as it was being worked on.

Another display case specifically showcases some actual beadwork for a variety of different articles. The “seed” bead, a small round opaque Venetian glass bead, became available to the Native American cultures around 1840 through the pioneers entering their territories. Because “seed” beads were partly handmade, they were somewhat irregular.

The delicacy of the bead pattern determined the size of the bead chosen. When settlers began to crowd into the Sioux country about 1860, beadwork became a major industry for the Native Americans that was highly popular until around 1900, although examples of this beautiful craft are still produced in smaller quantities today.

Settlers sometimes dictated the style of bead pattern for the garments they were willing to purchase or trade. Later visitors to the area brought imported Czechoslovakian beads, which were somewhat darker than Venetian beads and had a slightly bluish tinge.

The items in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge are a mixture of real and re-created, but the re-creations were done by Native Americans using the same materials and methods as their ancestors. Everything in the lobby from the chandeliers to the displays is meant to honor Native American culture and its significant part in the opening of the west.

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Thanks, Jim!

Jim has written multiple articles on this site on the Wilderness Lodge–see this and this and this and this! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Gremlin Trouble! The Cursed Roald Dahl Film Disney Never MadeSecret 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

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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May 5, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Amphicars at The BOATHOUSE

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 AMPHICARS AT THE BOATHOUSE

By Jim Korkis

An Amphicar combines the two words “amphibious” (able to operate on both land and water) and “car”. The Amphicar is still the most successfully mass produced amphibious car for the general public and was made from 1961 to the beginning of 1968 when a change in safety and emission standards prevented its continued sale in the United States.

The Amphicar Corporation in Germany produced 3,878 of the amphibious passenger automobiles total and less than 400 still exist today. Advertisements proclaimed, “The car of the future is here today. The sportscar that swims.”

The BOATHOUSE at Disney Springs is the only place in the world that offers people an opportunity to ride in these unique examples from automotive history unless they personally own one.

(c) Disney

The convertibles were offered in only four colors: Beach White, Regatta Red, Lagoon Blue and Fjord Green (Aqua). Disney Springs has two of each color car that cruise on the lake.

Steven Schussler is the creator of WDW restaurants Rainforest Café, T-Rex, and DAK’s Yak and Yeti. He is also responsible for The BOATHOUSE as well that opened April 13, 2015. Schussler has owned three Amphicars since 2005.

Offering the Amphicar tours around the perimeter of the lake was meant to be a way of preserving some of the cars remaining, as well as introducing the quirky creation to a new generation of fans and attracting attention to the restaurant.

Some of the cars were not in great shape and Schussler had modifications done on all of them including positioning the rear seat back further to offer an additional three inches of legroom as well as some mechanical changes to the bilge pump system and all new fuel injection and exhaust systems.

In an interview, Schussler did admit that some 3,200 components (generally unseen by the naked eye) were engineered specifically for the Amphicars in use at The BOATHOUSE to guarantee reliability and safety and that each car required $65,000 to $75,000 worth of upgrades, on top of its purchase price which could run as much as a hundred thousand dollars.

The BOATHOUSE has its own shop dedicated to repairing and maintaining the cars daily. Disney Springs has a small towboat anchored to the shore in case one of the BOATHOUSE Amphicars stalls out and the drivers all have hand held radios to communicate that situation.

The two front doors have a double seal with rubber strips like those used on a refrigerator. The car is not made of fiberglass but steel (which can make it prone to rusting without proper care). The steel is thicker than on a regular car and much better assembled with continuous welds and lead filling around the joints to make it watertight.

The wheels are set low, so that the vehicle stands well above ground level when on dry land. Its water propulsion is provided by twin propellers mounted under the rear bumper. The engine is mounted at the rear of the craft. In water as well as on land, the Amphicar is steered with the front wheels.

The car is driven straight into the water in first gear until it floats off the bottom and the propellers take over. First gear is then disengaged. A special two-part land-and-water transmission built by Hermes (makers of the Porsche transmission) allows the wheels and propellers to be operated either independently or simultaneously.

The car was more of a novelty than anything else and did not revolutionize the automotive industry as predicted. The iconic car still generates smiles, waves from those on the shore, a sense of wonder and more important, a sense of fun.

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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, Gremlin Trouble! The Cursed Roald Dahl Film Disney Never MadeSecret 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

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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April 28, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Missing Mountains of Walt 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.

THE NEVER-BUILT MOUNTAINS OF DISNEY WORLD

By Jim Korkis

Walt Disney World is famous for its many mountains: at Magic Kingdom, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain and at Disney’s Animal Kingdom the Forbidden Mountain.

However, over the decades, other mountains were planned for the WDW parks as well, including having a Matterhorn bobsled ride similar to the one at Disneyland for a proposed Switzerland pavilion at World Showcase near the Italy pavilion. The real Matterhorn is located between Italy and Switzerland.

Another mountain that was proposed was Mount Fuji for the back of the Japan pavilion where a roller coaster would have raced around the outside and inside of the iconic mountain. Fuji film was ready to sponsor the attraction but Disney already had an existing sponsorship agreement with rival film company Kodak.

Fire Mountain was planned for Adventureland in the area between the Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain attractions. Fire Mountain was to be a gigantic, forbidding volcano with guests soaring around and through this erupting menace.

It was originally considered to be built in Fantasyland but was felt that it would blend in more appropriately with the theme of Adventureland and the volcanoes of the Pacific Rim. In fact, there was even discussion to expand the entire area into a subdivision called Volcania.

The twist on being just another roller coaster was to have a unique switch in the middle of the ride. Guests would board the vehicles with the track railing underneath them as in a traditional coaster but as the ride progressed, the track would shift to being above them. This switch would give the guests a more up close experience as they dangled over the bubbling lava that was threatening to erupt. The track would switch back before the end of the attraction.

Disney even floated a balloon high in the air to mark the top of the peak of the mountain to see if it could be seen on Main Street USA. While it was not visible to guests in that location, it was clearly visible to guests at the Polynesian Resort.

Eventually, it was decided that such a massive investment might not translate into the extra attendance needed to compensate for the expenditure.

Bald Mountain (from the Disney animated feature film Fantasia (1940) that was the home of the demon Chernabog) would have been in Fantasyland on the location of the closed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction. Plans were even discussed to make this part of the park a section themed to the Disney villains who were not just popular as characters but were generating a new lucrative merchandise franchise for the company.

In ride vehicles modeled after Hades’ River Styx boats from the Disney animated feature film Hercules (1997), guests would take a harrowing water journey where they inadvertently interrupted a meeting. The notorious Disney villain characters were deciding who was the most evil of the group to lead them in taking over the Magic Kingdom.

Once discovered, it was a wild race to escape the villains trying to prevent the guests from revealing their sinister plans and ending with a massive water flume plunge down the side of the mountain.

One of the reasons this particular attraction was never built was that the idea of constructing a fifth WDW theme park based on villains was being considered and so the idea was withdrawn in order to be included in the park proposal that never materialized into actuality.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Gremlin Trouble! The Cursed Roald Dahl Film Disney Never MadeSecret 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

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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April 21, 2017   1 Comment

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Casey’s Corner

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.

CASEY’S CORNER AT THE MAGIC KINGDOM

By Jim Korkis

When Disneyland opened in July 1955, at the end of Main Street just at the beginning of the Hub was a quick service food and beverage restaurant called the Refreshment Corner, sponsored by Coca-Cola. It was so popular and beloved that when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, a similar shop was put in the same location on the end of Main Street, also sponsored by Coke.

Originally, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola were served at both Disney theme parks, but in 1982, Coke made arrangements to become the sole provider and has remained so for over the last thirty-five years.

When Disneyland Paris opened in 1992, the traditional shop was instead dubbed Casey’s Corner, referencing the 1888 poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer about the fictional over-confident ballplayer for the Mudville team who famously struck out. Disney even made an animated cartoon based on the poem as part of the compilation feature Make Mine Music (1946).

(c) Disney

The Casey’s Corner concept for the venue that sold soda and hot dogs was brought to Florida with the renovation of the northwest block of Main Street and the opening of the revised shop on May 27, 1995. The outdoor sign even incorporated the 1888 date of the Thayer poem in the baseball since it also aligned with the turn-of-the-century theme to Main Street.

Every detail in the newly rehabbed restaurant was to help reinforce the connection, from the Cast Member vintage baseball player costumes (with umpire style aprons) to the “Enter” and “Exit” signs made to look like baseballs and the vintage baseball and Coca-Cola memorabilia displayed throughout the space. Classic Coke light fixture chandeliers decorate the interior.

Many of the props on display, including jugs of Coca-Cola syrup and baseball team mugs, trading cards and pennants, are authentic antiques from around the turn of the 20th century.

One of the framed photos on the wall depicts a team wearing jerseys representing more than one team and even women players poorly disguised as men. These people are the Imagineering team who worked on the Casey’s Corner (and Main Street Athletic Club) project in 1995.

In addition to Coca-Cola products, the location also serves traditional hot dogs (a popular treat at baseball games) and gourmet designer dogs like chili dogs, Chicago-style dogs, and BBQ pork slaw dogs at a premium price. Also available are corn dog nuggets, French fries, cotton candy, ballpark nachos and Cracker Jacks, just as someone might find at a ball game concession stand.

Originally, there was a big screen running a loop of excerpts from Disney animated cartoons that were sports oriented and with bleacher seating for people to watch and eat.

In 2014, that screen and bleachers were eliminated in order to expand the indoor eating area with more traditional seating. At the same time, the outdoor eating area doubled its size, with new walkways and red and white umbrellas representing the colors of Coke.

Outside, two fiberglass lifesize statues of old-time baseball players provide a photo opportunity. Also outside, just like at Disneyland, is a piano where a performer occasionally tickles the ivory keys and entertains the guests with ragtime music and familiar Disney tunes.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Gremlin Trouble! The Cursed Roald Dahl Film Disney Never MadeSecret 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

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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

April 14, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Boneyard

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 BONEYARD AT DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

By Jim Korkis

The Boneyard is the interactive playground area in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the entrance to Dinoland USA. It is meant to resemble a paleontological dig site, but is often just referred to as “the sandbox”. It is not real sand in the area, but a tiny gravel material called Texas grit. The flooring is a spongy mat-like material.

Although primarily meant for younger children, the location provides insights and delights for guests of all ages. It is littered with not just some fun objects for children to explore but clues as to how the dinosaurs lived and died, as well as additional information about the battles between parts of Dinoland USA’s back story, the irreverent intern students and their more stodgy professors–who in their own way are “dinosaurs” when it comes to new ideas.

For children, there are the bones of prehistoric creatures like a Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops skulls and a Columbian Wooly Mammoth waiting to be uncovered, a fossilized bone xylophone to play called the XyloBone, various debris spill chutes that can be used as slides, dinosaur footprints, that emit a roar when stepped on, scaffolding, rope ladders, netting, tunnels, a fossil-filled maze and much more. Opening doors and lids provide an unexpected surprise as well.

The two sides of the Boneyard are linked by the OldenGate Bridge (a pun on the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge), the gateway structure built out of the giant skeleton of a 50-foot-tall, 80-foot-long brachiosaurus at the entrance to this land. A nearby plaque states: “This replica fossil is cast from the bones discovered in Colorado in 1900. The original is now in the Field Museum in Chicago.”

Before Disney’s Animal Kingdom even opened, the Disney Company and McDonald’s, who was the original sponsor of the Dinoland area, partnered with the Field Museum to offer the winning bid on what was at the time the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever unearthed. The cleaned and restored skeleton, dubbed “Sue,” is now on display at the Museum. Two casts were also made from the original skeleton. One toured the world as part of a McDonald’s promotion and the other is in Dinoland U.S.A.

There is only one entrance/exit to the area, so parents can keep better control of where their children are in the multi-storied enclosed half acre. Even the walls display different layers, or “strata”, of earth that over the centuries buried the remains of these prehistoric creatures.

The generational conflict between the academic-minded professors Dr. Bernard Dunn, Dr. Shirley Woo, Dr. Eugene McGee and Dr. Tina Lee of the fictional Dino Institute with their traditional but often outdated information about dinosaurs and the youthful graduate students including the newest interns Mark Rios, Jenny Weinstein and Sam Gonzales with a sometimes more radical perspective based on recent research is in evidence all throughout the area.

Various handwritten corrections and responses are posted prominently on the various signage, bulletin boards and more offering alternate possibilities for the different findings. Clearly, the knowledge about dinosaurs has always been incomplete and even today is constantly evolving.

There are other more visible signs of student rebellion including a wall of excavation tools where a pick has been deliberately hung in the space clearly identified for small spades.

To add to the reality of the area, casts were taken from real dinosaur bones found in places like Utah’s Dinosaur National Park and then reproduced using a plastic-cement material that looks and feels real.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Gremlin Trouble! The Cursed Roald Dahl Film Disney Never MadeSecret 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

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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

April 7, 2017   2 Comments