By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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A Friday Visit With Jim Korkis: Scales the Sea Serpent at Port Orleans French Quarter

By Dave Shute

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


By Jim Korkis

Jim Korkis on Scales at Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Resort from yourfirstvisit.netThe text on the back of the very first postcard released for the Port Orleans Resort (later renamed Port Orleans French Quarter) in May 1991 stated:

“Evoking a bygone era of romance and charm, the hidden courtyards, splashing fountains and lush gardens of Disney’s Port Orleans Resort create a welcome retreat. At the heart of it all is Doubloon Lagoon, where ‘Scales’ the sea serpent invites visitors to make a splash!”

Scales was an original Disney character created for the resort. His name was coined by Disney executive Greg Ehrbar, who was working for Disney marketing.

Contrary to popular belief, the sea serpent’s name was not originally meant to be a direct reference to the fact that he had scales on him like a dragon or a fish.

Jim Korkis Scales at Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Resort from

Rather, it was created by Ehrbar, a long time Disney fan and a well known authority on Disney music, with two books on the subject to his credit.

Port Orleans French Quarter once had a full-service restaurant called Bonfamille’s Café (closed last decade), and next to it was a bar, Scat Cat’s Club.

Disney animation fans will instantly remember that retired opera singer Madame Bonfamille was the owner of the talented French cats in the animated feature The Aristocats (1970).

Those famous felines were assisted in their adventures by a jazz band of cats led by their outrageous leader, Scat Cat.

There was a special children’s menu created for Bonfamille’s Café done in the form of a coloring booklet. It was written by Ehrbar and illustrated by the very talented Peter Emslie.

In the form of a photo album journal by Madame Adelaide Bonfamille, the booklet described how the good Madame, Duchess, the kittens, Thomas O’Malley and the Alley Cat Band took a musical cruise from Paris to Port Orleans, where they were “tailed” (followed) by a jazz-loving sea serpent.

The sea creature fell in love with the jazz that Scat Cat and his band played during the voyage. He was named “Scales”, a nod to musical scales and the Sherman Brothers tune from the film, “Scales and Arpeggios”.

Scales at Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Resort from

The story closes with Scales staying at the resort to enjoy the music played by the resident “jazz gators.”

That’s why the costumed alligator statues with musical instruments are walking down the path to the pool. Just like pied pipers, they lead Scales to the pool just as they do guests today.

When the resort first opened, guests received a copy of the “Sassagoula Sentinel,” a faux newspaper that included guest information along with a fictional backstory for the resort.

While Disney Imagineers loved the name that Ehrbar had come up with for the sea serpent, they decided they wanted a story that was more in tune with the rest of the backstory they had created.

In their version, in order to frighten their children from exploring the swampy marshes and the dangers like alligators and snakes, the first settlers came up with the legend of a large serpentine creature that lurks beneath the surface of the still waters waiting to gobble up unsuspecting children.

When some of the older children did not believe the myth, a group of fathers decided to teach them a lesson and constructed a large dragon-like serpent out of fence wire and bed sheets to scare them.

Over the years, the serpent became a fixture of the Mardi Gras parades and was honored with his own water slide in the lagoon.

Whichever version of the story you chose to believe, it is just another example of how Walt Disney World resorts are filled with hidden storytelling treasures.

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Thanks, Jim. For more from Jim on the history of the Port Orleans resorts, see this. And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including The Vault of WaltWho’s Afraid of the Song of the South?, and The Book of Mouse, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.


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1 comment

1 Anthony { 07.24.15 at 10:11 am }

Great piece. This is what I love about Disney… the great back stories.

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