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

Available on Amazon here.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)





Category — A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: An Epcot Comic Book with Mickey and Goofy

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

MICKEY AND GOOFY EXPLORE THE UNIVERSE OF ENERGY

By Jim Korkis

Mickey Mouse and Goofy certainly were very concerned about energy. Thanks to the Walt Disney Educational Media Company, they were able to satisfy their curiosity and appeared in an unusual early Epcot Center collectible.

Starting in 1945, the Disney Company established an official 16mm film division to rent out its movies to schools and community groups. By the 1960s, the division was making well over a million dollars a year renting films and selling educational filmstrips and related material to schools, and expanded into the Walt Disney Educational Media Company that was especially active during the 1970s and 1980s.

The division produced original material ranging from filmstrips to comic books to kits with audio cassettes and workbooks, to even short new videos on a variety of subjects including Figment for elementary and junior high schools. For instance, WDEM created the thirty-six page full color comic book Mickey Mouse and Goofy Explore Energy (1967) included in its Wide World of Energy multimedia kit made with information assistance from Exxon.

The popularity of that comic and kit led to another comic book Mickey Mouse and Goofy Explore Energy Conservation (1976). Both comic books were written by Carl Fallberg and drawn by Tony Strobl, who were also producing the regular newsstand Disney comic books. Both these comics were available “in limited quantities without charge” from the Exxon Public Affairs Department in Texas, so they are not difficult to locate and obtain at a reasonable price.

When the Universe of Energy pavilion originally opened at Epcot in 1982 it was sponsored by Exxon, who made sure the attraction downplayed the value of alternative forms of energy like wind and solar power.

To help reinforce the proposition that oil was the most important source of energy, and that Exxon should be actively encouraged to develop methods like off-shore drilling to make sure there would be enough, the company partnered with Walt Disney Educational Media to produce the comic book Mickey and Goofy Explore the Universe of Energy (1985).

This comic was illustrated by Jack Manning, another Disney comic book artist, and was sixteen pages long plus covers. For awhile, it was given away free at the Epcot Energy Exchange in Communicore East to children. It could also be obtained for free directly from Exxon.

The cover features Mickey and Goofy standing in front of the pavilion and a pink dinosaur is peeking out and motioning them to come inside. The book itself does not really feature the attraction itself but is just a springboard for Mickey to lecture Goofy on the importance of oil as the primary source of energy.

There is a brief glimpse of the pre-show circular theater screen, the vehicles (where all the males are wearing bow ties and hats as if they had stepped out of a 1950s comic book), a brief encounter with a cartoon brontosaurus and at the end a prompting for guests to go to Exxon’s Energy Exhange to learn more.

The Energy Exchange (which closed in 1994) had dozens of interactive exhibits, videos, models and more on energy. The Video Bicycle allowed guests to pedal a stationary bicycle to generate electricity. A video monitor displayed how much power the guest was generating through their pedaling. (Nine days of pedaling was needed to generate the same amount of energy as one gallon of gasoline.) How many Walt Disney World fans recall that location?

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and 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.

 

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

December 13, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Fantasmic!

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

THE 1986 FORT WILDERNESS ALLIGATOR ATTACK

By Jim Korkis

The origins of Fantasmic! go back to September 1990 when Robert McTyre, vice president of Disneyland Entertainment, got a phone call from CEO Michael Eisner.

McTyre recalled, “He said, ‘We don’t have anything big and new and fabulous for Disneyland in 1992 and we need to come up with something’. Basically, it was an interim step to keep interest in Disneyland high before the 1993 addition of Mickey’s Toontown. We got the troops brainstorming and someone suggested a nighttime river spectacular like the IllumiNations show at Epcot.”

Artistic creator and director of the show (and later of the Walt Disney World version as well) was Barnette Ricci, who started as a performer at Disneyland and then became the choreographer for the Kids of the Kingdom performers when they debuted in 1968.

She went on to direct and choreograph the original Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade in 1972, as well as multiple other shows for Disneyland, Walt Disney World and other venues including the 1985 Radio City Music Hall presentation with 82 Disney characters and the Rockettes.

In August 2019, she was made a Disney Legend at the D23 Expo. She retired from the company in 2013 after forty years working in a variety of capacities.

“We were asked to create something spectacular for Disney using the Rivers of America,” Ricci said. “We wanted something truly unique that combined a lot of spectacular effects that people hadn’t seen before and with a story about Mickey Mouse that would really involve people.

“The core for the show was the water screens. It would be unique to project Disney animation onto one of those screens. Mickey Mouse’s imagination creates these images and the audience gets involved with Mickey. We were given only twenty months, far too little time.

“I spent months of research studying all the Disney classics. I wanted to find just the right scenes that could be edited together successfully. One challenge was that the new lyrics had to match the mouth movements of the original animation in which characters were often saying far different lines. Originally the show was going to be called Imagination but Disney found it couldn’t copyright or trademark that word so created its own unique word.

“Particularly challenging were synchronizing the movements of the performers with the computer controlled animation and special effects. It’s timed to the 30th of a second (the number of frames per second of the films being projected) and if things are two frames off, you can tell. They must be exactly on.”

The show was so successful that a second version was developed for Walt Disney World for 1998 with Ricci once again in charge. The Disney animated feature Pocahontas was released in 1995 and was supposed to be a prestige box office hit.

While it was very successful financially, it was still considered a disappointment in comparison to The Lion King (1994) that had been rushed into release to allow the better animators more time to finish Pocahontas.

At the time the WDW version of Fantasmic! was first developed, the expectation was that Pocahontas would be a major success, which influenced the design of the show. An onstage battle scene from the movie has Governor Ratcliffe and his fellow Englishmen fight against the Native Americans. John Smith attempts to help Pocahontas’ tribe.

There are several other significant changes in the Walt Disney World version, including the finale with the boat from Steamboat Willie loaded with Disney characters rather than the Mark Twain steamboat.

The Hollywood Hills Amphitheater stage in Florida is significantly larger than Disneyland’s waterfront version, featuring a man-made, 50-foot-tall mountain as the centerpiece backdrop. The moat around the island itself can hold 1,900,000 gallons of water.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and 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.

 

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

December 6, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Fort Wilderness Alligator Attack

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

THE 1986 FORT WILDERNESS ALLIGATOR ATTACK

By Jim Korkis

In 1986, eight-year-old Paul Santamaria was bitten on the leg by a 7-foot-4 inch long female alligator, which had been lurking in the shallows of a pond at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Santamaria now lives in Hebron, New Hampshire and was interviewed by a local ABC affiliate when two year old Lane Graves was taken by an alligator in 2016.

“It was pretty terrifying at the time,” said Santamaira. “Under the water, where you couldn’t see, there was an alligator.”

Santamaria had been watching ducks waddling out of a small pond, located on the grounds of the resort, when he was snatched up by the sharp-toothed creature.

Fortunately for him, his 12-year-old sister and 10-year-old brother were there to save his life.

“Instead of just freezing, they decided to fight, to help me to fight to get away, and I’m here because of it,” Santamaria recalled.

“It came out of the water, knocked me down, grabbed my leg and started to throw me around and try to pull me into the water. My sister grabbed me under the arms and started pulling me away from the alligator. My brother started hitting it with whatever he could find and trying to get it to let me go, and with my free leg, I started to kick it and try to get away from it.”

While he managed to escape with his life, he was left with large gashes in his leg and a gator tooth lodged in his thigh.

“I was very lucky,” he said. “I still have some scars on my left leg, but that’s it.”

Santamaria said that while he felt even more fortunate after hearing about what happened to Lane Graves in 2016, it hurt to know that someone had lost their child.

Santamaria, who has been back to Disney World at least three times since the attack said that while it would be wise for Disney to have signs that warn of alligators, people need to remember one thing: that creatures like alligators are commonly found in Florida and small children usually can’t read very well.

“It’s hard to say what can and can’t be done,” he explained. “I don’t want to paint this as Disney is wrong or the parents are wrong. All I know is that as a child, at eight-years-old, there could have been signs there and I wouldn’t have noticed them.

“Children can’t read signs or just don’t pay attention to them. And parents who are trying to watch their kids might not notice those signs, either. They could have all the signage in the world there, and people could still not notice it.

“While attacks are rare, they do happen, and people who live up north don’t even think about the possible danger. While it won’t affect my decision for bringing my children to Walt Disney World in the future, it will definitely have me more alert of the surroundings.

“My kids love their movies, and I even plan on taking them back in the next year or so. It’s a place that families love to go. I look forward to taking my children there. With my situation, I was more fortunate than this (Graves) family was, so their feelings might be different.”

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and 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.

 

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

November 29, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Story of Walt Disney World

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

YOUR PERSONAL DISNEY LIBRARY (23)

By Jim Korkis

  • The Story of Walt Disney World Commemorative Edition

New books related to Walt Disney World seem to be published almost every month these days, but when the new vacation destination first opened in 1971 there was almost nothing. Steve Birnbaum Brings You The Best of Walt Disney World did not appear until 1982, with the Disneyland edition not being issued until 1985.

Of course in 1971, there was the park’s souvenir guide that was primarily filled with colorful photos and there were magazine articles but only one bookish publication: The Story of Walt Disney World Commemorative Edition.

This oversized eleven inches by eleven inches softcover publication was 48 pages long plus covers, and only sold at WDW. The right edge was trimmed so that the cover looked like a big black letter “D” with a “D” cut-out window in the center that showed part of a color night-time photograph of Cinderella Castle that filled most of the first page on the book. The rest of that page was a reprinting of the text of the famous dedication plaque.

The book is indeed filled with lots of color photographs, some never reprinted and many showing the actual construction of WDW, but more importantly this publication includes some significant text rather than just brief picture captions.

The book was available in 1971–but collectors, be very careful. It remained in print throughout the 1970s, but each reprinting still included the yellow slanted “Commemorative Edition” banner in the lower right hand corner. As a result, many sellers offer this book at a higher price and advertise it as a first printing, when in fact it may be a later edition.

In my own collection, I also have editions from 1973 and 1978. How do I know? Because the copyright date is printed in Roman numerals at the bottom right of the inside front cover. To the best of my knowledge, this booklet was no longer published beginning in 1980.

In addition, the first edition featured the well-remembered Paul Hartley map of WDW that was displayed in the WDW hotel resort rooms. Starting in 1973, that map was replaced by a different, cartoony map that featured the newly opened Golf Resort hotel on the lower left hand side.

Also the map now included cartoonish drawings of guests enjoying all of the Walt Disney World property, along with Disney cartoon characters like Uncle Scrooge welcoming motorists at the entrance, Goofy in Scottish attire strolling a golf course and an oversized Mickey Mouse signing autographs for a family outside of the Magic Kingdom. Later editions add Space Mountain and the Fort Wilderness Resort railroad.

So when purchasing a copy, remember that the book is quite common since it was one of the primary souvenirs that guests would purchase for roughly a decade, and take into account which edition you are purchasing. Just because something is old does not necessarily make it rare or more valuable.

Interestingly, the text of the book remained much the same throughout the different editions because it was generally historical in nature even though some of the photos changed as changes were made to the area.

Think of the book as an enjoyable time capsule of what the “world” once was. It may bring back fond memories for those who were there at the time, or spark the curiosity of those who wonder about those photos of cutting the tiles for the Cinderella Castle mural or programming the audio-animatronics for the Mickey Mouse Revue.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and 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.

 

 

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

November 22, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Robin William, Walter Cronkite, and Back to Neverland

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

BACK TO NEVERLAND

By Jim Korkis

This year Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrates its 30th anniversary. I thought it might be nice to look back at some of the things originally there in 1989 that have since disappeared.

Perhaps the most popular part of the tour at the now extinct Magic of Disney Animation pavilion was the short film entitled Back to Neverland. Being a huge fan of animation, I loved this film.

In the film, distinguished news commentator Walter Cronkite turns imaginative comedian Robin Williams into an animated character, one of the little Lost Boys from Disney’s animated feature film Peter Pan (1953), to demonstrate the different steps in animation.

The entire pavilion was outsourced to Bob Rogers and BRC Imagination Arts who had struggled on different variations to explain the process of animation for nine months when animator and director Jerry Rees was brought in to provide a new perspective. Rees directed over a dozen theme park shows including Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, the live action sequences for Cranium Command, and more.

Rees suggested using the authority of famed newscaster Walter Cronkite presenting the facts to play as counterpoint against the unbridled childlike enthusiasm of comedian Robin Williams for animation.

It turned out that Williams was a huge fan of Cronkite and ironically, Cronkite was a fan of Williams and they really wanted to work together.

To help sell the project to Williams and Cronkite, as well as then Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Rees brought in famed voice artist Corey Burton who did spot on imitations of both of them for a scratch track (a scratch track is a rough test before professional voices are cast). In fact, when Eisner heard it, he thought it was them. Burton was cast as the voice of Captain Hook in the animated segments.

Rees assured Robin that he was free to improvise lines as long as he got the sense of what was needed to be communicated and landed on the lines that were Cronkite’s cues.

“He gave us a wealth of material,” recalled Rees. “Especially during the metamorphosis scene. That could have been over ten minutes just by itself. We had to be brutal to edit that segment.”

Bruce Smith was working at Baer Animation doing work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). He later was the creator of the television series The Proud Family (2001) and supervising animator of Kerchak in Tarzan (1999), Pacha in The Emperor’s New Groove (2000), and Dr. Facilier in The Princess and the Frog (2009).

“Bruce Smith had done some test animation of Robin’s character because the voice work had been recorded earlier and flipped it for him when we shot the live action at the Raleigh stages in Hollywood. Robin was just delighted with it. He thought it was magical that it had his personality. When we were filming the live action scenes, I invited the animators to come and hang out and Robin was very respectful and gracious with them,” remembered Rees.

“Jerry Rees was also directing the live action as well as the animation,” animator Mark Kausler recalled. “He knew the Peter Pan feature backwards and forwards, knew every Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Woolie Reitherman scene. We studied a lot of the Peter Pan feature frame-by-frame with Jerry.

“We all took turns animating all the characters. I did a nice close shot of Robin and Tinker Bell that I enjoyed. Tink was a lot of fun to draw. We were on a tight deadline, so we all pitched in and did any scenes that came our way.”

Frans Vischer animated the improvisational sequence in which Robin’s character swiftly changed into many forms, including even Walter Cronkite. The line during the metamorphosis scene where Robin transforms into Mickey Mouse and gleefully proclaims “I’m a corporate symbol” was written by Steve Moore. It stayed in the final cut because Robin loved it so much.

After seeing this short film, co-director of Aladdin (1992) John Musker told Rees that he and co-director Ron Clements wrote the part of the Genie specifically for Robin. As a tribute, at the end of the animated feature, the Genie appears in the same yellow Hawaiian shirt and Goofy hat that Robin wore in the live action beginning of Back to Neverland.

The original Magic of Disney Animation tour ended September 30th, 2003, when it was replaced with a much different version, since the Disney Feature Animation Florida unit itself had been dissolved. The tour now started with the guests seeing a live Disney show artist interacting with an animated Mushu from Mulan (1998) on a screen to explain the process of animation.

The entire pavilion closed July 12, 2014 to make way for the Star Wars Launch Bay.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, The Vault of Walt Volume 8: Outer Space Edition, his recent  Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and 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.

 

 

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

November 15, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: From Horizons to Mission: SPACE

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

EDDIE SOTTO: FROM HORIZONS TO MISSION: SPACE

By Jim Korkis

Eddie Sotto is a former Disney Imagineer who worked for the Walt Disney Company for 13 years, from 1986 to 1999. I interviewed him in June 2019 about how Horizons evolved into Mission: SPACE.

Sotto:  Horizons had very low guest satisfaction ratings, to the point where people didn’t even remember which show it was. I think the topic of Horizons is great, and that retro-future attraction should be there in some form, but the economics of running unpopular shows was not an option, so we jumped in and filled the “need” with a different attraction. GE had left and there was no one to pay for Horizons. Walt Disney World wanted it gone. Sad but true.  They wanted a thrill ride.

To lose Horizons is to gut the dream, or storytelling of what the whole park means and that’s powerful. Replacing Horizons with the Mission: SPACE attraction does not really fill the gap left by the hole made in the story or mission statement of the park. I think Mission: SPACE is a great pavilion and is the “science fact” challenging story of the real journey to space, not the Disneyland “Moon Ride” version we’ve all experienced.

I reviewed the Horizons numbers and listened to their concerns and what they thought would help Epcot’s image. In response, I pitched to Marty Sklar a very intense, claustrophobic “science fact” Space Capsule type attraction that was more about the heroism of the journey versus the destination. The real challenge of going to Space, a la The Right Stuff feature film.

He approved doing a mock-up of the capsule for Eisner, based on my pretending to be in the capsule pressing buttons, etc. Embarrassing, but it got us $100,000. We rented all the interior switch panels used in the movie Apollo 13, housed them in a capsule mock-up out of plywood, and put the six foot plus Michael Eisner in it, lights flashing and space footage playing outside the capsule window. He got the idea, loved it right on the spot. Florida was thrilled as well.

We developed with the ride engineers a track-based roller coaster type ride to fit the existing Horizons building, but for lots of good engineering and other reasons, it eventually evolved into the spinning centrifuge design we have today. Believe me, centrifuges are not cheap, and an entirely new ride system. That was considered a breakthrough as it generated sustained G-forces, something coasters do not do, but lift-off does.

The ride really reflected those forces of liftoff in a realistic way. That meant a lot to me. We had all ridden the military centrifuges and even flown the NASA Shuttle simulator in Houston. We tried to make it very “science fact” and Epcot, leveraging the fact that eventually the public will be able to go to space.

One thing I miss that was changed after I left was the story itself. The original treatment called for a moment to pause and look back at the Earth, and a rescue in space. The current version, as good as it is, was more about the continual thrill and G Forces racing around Mars, etc. and all that extra spinning may have contributed to motion sickness for some guests. Can’t know that for sure.

Maybe my first treatment was too boring, but I do like having pauses and rests in an experience (love how your banshee in Pandora pauses so you can take in that “world” before leaping off the cliff, stuff like that) to make them a bit more episodic.  The unbuilt pavilion concepts never suffer budget cuts and always have the unfair advantage of being flawless in our imagination!

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! and come back next Friday for more from Jim KorAis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, The Vault of Walt Volume 8: Outer Space Edition, his recent  Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and 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.

 

 

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

November 9, 2019   No Comments