By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Category — A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Disney’s Wilderness 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.

“NEW” OLD DISCOVERIES AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

By Jim Korkis

I have written on yourfirstvisit.net about the Wilderness Lodge several times [links to Jim’s earlier posts are at the bottom of the page–Dave], and revealed many of the “secrets” behind its details and storytelling. However, in November I did a presentation there for a group of amateur photographers, and when I went to explore the area in advance of that event, I stumbled across some other interesting things that I previously missed.

Outside, the Wilderness Lodge flies five flags just as does its inspiration, the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone. However, the flags at Wilderness Lodge have a Disney twist. Facing the building and looking left to right, the flags are the Wilderness Lodge flag, the Florida State flag, the American flag, the Disney Mickey Mouse flag and finally the Disney Vacation Club flag.

One of my favorite items in the lobby is hanging in a case by the elevators. It is the authentic Elk Tooth Dress worn by a Plains tribeswoman around 1875. It has been attributed to both Kiowa and Arapaho tribes and was worn for special ceremonies like a wedding.

The Elk teeth are a sign of wealth and usually an indication that it was the property of a great hunter….because elk only have two teeth. This time I actually stopped to count the teeth. This particular dress has 161 teeth arranged in five almost even rows. Some rows have 32 while others have 31 or 33.

The Territory Lounge is devoted to the early explorers of the West, which is why on the ceiling is painted a map of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition. In the glass cases are authentic artifacts from the 1800s. On the walls are a 34 star American flag from 1861 which explains why it is a bit tattered and an actual Wyoming State flag from 1890 that features an image of a white buffalo.

The paintings in the room are “inspired by Carl Clemens Runcius (1869-1959)”, a renowned wildlife artist who started painting animals in Wyoming in 1895.

I’ve written before about the totem poles in the lobby and shared the complete stories that are being told but I never stopped to read the plaques on the floor in front of both poles.

I have not found these short explanations recorded on the internet, nor any photos of the plaques. So in the interest of documenting things that haven’t been showcased, here are those descriptions:

“The Raven Pole (located next to the Whispering Canyon restaurant that these days is a lot quieter than it used to be), like all totem poles should be read from bottom to top. It includes Whale, Cougar, Wren, the bear cub twins, Dolphin and Salmon and culminates with the story of Raven pulling the sun, moon and stars from a box to light the darkened world. The figures on this pole are common to many tribes of the great Northwest.”

“The Eagle Pole, like all totem poles should be read from the bottom to the top. It includes Bear Chief, Frog, Bear Cub, Mountain Goat, Mouse Woman, Raven and Beaver. Eagle, who is a helper to all humans and animals perches on top. He is aided by three watchmen, known as Taan-skeel, who keep their eyes open day and night protecting the village. The figures on this pole are common to many tribes of the great Northwest.”

Of course, I love the Grand Canyon fireplace which was inspired by a much smaller real one at the Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon. Some Disney fans know that to the right of the fireplace is a display case that states:

“This 82’ tall pinnacle captures the color, lithographic proportions and fossil life found in the walls of the Grand Canyon. Follow the displays at each floor level to gain a greater insight into the Canyon’s formations and the history of life on earth. The fossils represented in these displays are not taken directly from the Grand Canyon but are of the same genera and therefore represent an accurate paleontological comparison.”

Thanks, Jim!

Here’s more of Jim’s posts on Disney’s Wilderness Lodge:

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 7: Christmas Edition, 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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February 15, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Joe Rohde on the Animal Kingdom Difference

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

JOE ROHDE ON THE ANIMAL KINGDOM DIFFERENCE

By Jim Korkis

On June 14, 1998, I got to attend a two hour presentation by Imagineer Joe Rohde, for the opening team roughly a week before Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened to the public, to explain to the team some of the differences between Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the other Disney theme parks.

“I’ll just give you one example. The first experience you have of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is our forecourt, before you enter the park; A profoundly geometric and humanly ordered space. We live surrounded by concrete, we control the forces of nature, we order everything, we have impact on that environment and that is that statement.

“And you walk through the gateway. And if you happen to look down as you do this, you will watch as you step off brushed concrete—which is just what any sidewalk looks like—and onto what appears to be dirt in a space of ten inches. And look in front of you and you will see nothing but jungle. You won’t see a road. You won’t see a path. You see nothing but jungle.

“Most of our theme parks play this game of reassurance…of letting you know and letting you understand very profoundly where you are. We don’t do that. We want you to have an adventure. You are supposed to be in a world of nature. Nature challenges you. We want you to have an adventure, so you walk into the park and look at the park and you don’t know where the hell you are or where you’re supposed to go.

“The first moment of orientation you get is to the tree, which is the axis of this park. And then, finally, you see where you are, we offer you a moment of orientation, and you go down into Safari Village (now named Discovery Island).

“Safari Village is the heart of this park. You’ll notice if you do go to DinoLand…if you go to Africa…someday you go to Asia…they all look like hell. They’re all sort of bio-degraded. They’re all weathered. They’re all aged. They’re all peeling. They’re all rotting. They’re all succumbing to the force of nature. They are all about a kind of futility in the force of nature.

“Safari Village is about the adoration of nature. And it is the only clean, pristine, beautiful, wonderful, colorful, rich, saturated area in the park. It is arranged around our tree—the axis of the park, the center of the park, the cathedral or our park rising up into the sky covered with these images like one of those Italian painted baroque church ceilings, right?

“And that is why it is so joyfully exuberant and colorful and rich in detail and saturated with animal imagery and that is why we established some of the design rules for it, which were: There will be no decoration unless it is animal decoration and there will be virtually no earth tones in the entire place. It is about all that intensity of fascination, obsession, and love.

“So, Safari Village is a very unique place. Safari Village is kind of a no place. There’s nowhere on Earth like Safari Village. It is meant, each time you cross through it on your way from somewhere to another place, to reorient you; to sort of clean your slate and set you up again for another adventure.

“Safari Village is not an adventure. It’s right there for you to see, right? It’s spread out in a nice clean circle around the tree. You get views of the other lands; that’s not the adventure. The adventure is across the bridge in all those different lands.

“Walk through the Magic Kingdom towards the castle, then hop in your vehicle, drive back to Animal Kingdom, and take the same journey. I think you’ll find that it is a profoundly different emotional experience.”

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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,  The Vault of Walt Volume 7: Christmas Edition, 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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February 8, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The World of Disney Store

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 RE-IMAGINED WORLD OF DISNEY STORE IN DISNEY SPRINGS

By Jim Korkis

When the World of Disney store opened October 2, 1996 at Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs), its first guests were given a colorful character map to help orient themselves to the massive 51,000 square feet of retail space referred to as “The Largest Disney Character Shop in the World.”

As Walt Disney World publicity described the World of Disney Store when it first opened: “It’s paradise for everyone, from the newest Mickey fan to the avid Disneyana enthusiast. Disney merchandise is arranged so artfully that this remarkable store is an attraction itself.”

However, time and operational needs change and so the World of Disney Stores both at Disneyland and Walt Disney World were recently transformed after more than a year of design and development. The Walt Disney World version opened October 27, 2018.

(c) Disney

The official Disney press release stated that the “re-imagined World of Disney stores are being transformed into contemporary, distinctly Disney retail environments.”

“We saw World of Disney as an opportunity to re-imagine what Disney retail is today,” said Alysia Kelley, vice president of visual merchandising and location strategy for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “The new store design highlights the best of what is current and new, while also celebrating classic Disney heritage based in storytelling.”

The transformation begins with the store’s exterior, which features new marquees and magical window displays. All of the large-scale character sculptures were removed from both interior and exterior of the store, and the Disney-patterned wallpaper and carpeting was scrapped in favor of a style reminiscent of an Urban Outfitters or Gap store.

Both stores feature an interior “loft-style” atmosphere with greater visibility for all the displays and merchandise.

Of course, there is a back story for the new design.

Imagineering show writer Kevin Lively shared, “This space used to be a bus depot for the Grand California Tours which partnered with the Grand Californian hotel in Northern California to take people on local tours. The bus depot eventually shut down and in the 1940’s Walt was trying to find a new place to inspire his animators.

“He found a space in Disney Springs in Florida and in Northern California. He leased out the space for his animators to get away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and Burbank and start working on what would be some of Disney’s most classic films. The animators worked in these warehouses for about 60 years, when in 1989 they decided to close them because they opened Disney-MGM Studios and had a dedicated animation space there.

“So these warehouses sat empty for years until they re-opened as the World of Disney as part of Downtown Disney. When it came time to fix up the stores this year for their rehab, they started taking down the drywall and these beautiful remnants of the past animation studio were revealed to the construction workers.

“Brick walls were revealed with forgotten signage for the bus depot. A wall of paint jars with some leftover magic had been previously drywalled over. And many sketches were unveiled. They used the Nine Old Men’s animator desks (that feature their sketches on the wood) to create the checkout space and the space is decorated with artwork, animation cels and hand drawn details from Disney’s body of work through 1989 when they were originally shut down.?

The space is still filled with nods to both the bus terminal and the animation studio, with a sign advertising bus tours painted above one archway in California and another indicating an Animation Annex in Florida as well as cash register areas created from reused Animation desks.

Animated displays, digital signs, video screens and special lighting effects are used throughout the store to make it easier to refresh the décor. The World of Disney remains an anchor location at Disney Springs and still reputedly offers the largest collection of Disney-themed merchandise in the world.

*  *  *  *  *

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 7: Christmas Edition, 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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February 1, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Black Spire Cantina in Galaxy’s Edge

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 BLACK SPIRE CANTINA

By Jim Korkis

The official description by Imagineering of Batuu, the setting of the new Star Wars: Galaxy Edge land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, expected to open in the fall or late fall of 2019, is “Located on the edge of wild space, this remote outpost is home to all those who are seeking adventure and opportunity – pilots, smugglers, rogue traders and bounty hunters traveling between the frontier and uncharted space. This thriving space port is also a convenient safe haven for all others hoping to avoid the expanding reach of the First Order.”

(C) Disney

Thousands of years ago, Batuu was known for the huge ancient trees that dotted its landscape, and as the trees evolved and petrified, those spires remained a distinctive feature of the planet.

There’s one particular spire that was blacker than the rest, and as bounty hunters and traders came to the area, they used it as an identifying marker for where to meet and do business, so the outpost sprang up around it.

Black spires are also found elsewhere in the Star Wars universe. In the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, L3-37 mentions to Lando Calrissian that without her, he would not get from “here to the Black Spire Station.”

Of course, all these scoundrels and rogues would need a particular gathering spot to plot and plan, relax and tell tales of adventure. For Black Spire Outpost that will be Oga’s Cantina, which will serve pilots, bounty hunters, smugglers, locals and galactic travelers alike.

Portfolio Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering Scott Trowbridge, stated that the Cantina, hosted by the alien proprietor, Oga Garra, will serve a mixture of drinks with choices for kids and adults, and to expect some of those otherworldly concoctions to have exotic ingredients prepared with unique methods and served in unique vessels.

Trowbridge elaborated that the creative team is “developing a specialty cocktail (non-alcohol- and alcohol-based) menu that will include creatively themed custom cocktails, and proprietary beer and wine options.” So it will serve more than the infamous and familiar blue milk.

The proprietor of the cantina is Oga Garra, an alien who “adheres to a strict code of conduct that tries to keep its unruly patrons in check.”

The cantina will feature music from a galaxy far, far away, courtesy of RX-24, a former StarSpeeder 3000 pilot droid that will seem familiar as the nervous and possibly defective “Rex” to fans of the original Star Tours. He’s found a new job as the cantina’s DJ. RX-24 will supposedly be as quirky and talkative as ever, and will probably be a better fit for a cantina rather than piloting tourists through the universe. Trowbridge said, Rex is “still trying to do his best on the job.”

Visitors to Oga’s Cantina will encounter some of the galaxy’s more interesting and disreputable characters, from First Order Stormtroopers, aliens, droids, and bounty hunters to more familiar Star Wars characters including some who are trying to hide from detection. However, these interactions will be random, without a set show schedule.

Visiting something like the Mos Eisley cantina first seen in George Lucas’ 1977 film Star Wars  (now named Star Wars: A New Hope), has been something many Star Wars fans have always wanted to do, and now with the opening of the new land, they will finally get their chance.

*  *  *  *  *

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 7: Christmas Edition, 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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January 25, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: “Creating Tradition” in the American Adventure Gallery

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

CREATING TRADITION, INNOVATION AND CHANGE IN AMERICAN INDIAN ART

By Jim Korkis

Is it ever correct these days to use the term “American Indian” instead of “Native American?” That was the question faced by Disney when it was preparing the newest exhibition to be showcased in the American Heritage Gallery in Epcot’s World Showcase, “Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art.”

(C) Disney

One of Disney’s partners in putting together the exhibition was the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. That organization determined that the term “American Indian” was appropriate for this particular exhibit in order to be consistent with what was being displayed.

The other partner collaborating for “Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art” was the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and they also agreed on the terminology. Actually both terms are acceptable in the academic world, although it is considered better to use the name of the specific tribal nation.

On July 27, 2018, the all-new exhibition opened featuring artifacts from American Indian communities, with a special dedication from the Florida Seminole Tribe. This exhibition highlights the importance of traditional Native culture in contemporary American Indian art.

“Creating Tradition” showcases authentic, historical Native artifacts alongside contemporary works of American Indian art, demonstrating examples of cultural traditions which have been handed down through the generations.

Why did the former exhibit, the “Kinsey Collection” go away? As is often the case, the items featured in the exhibit were on loan for a specific amount of time.

After a five-year agreement with the Kinsey Family, the American Heritage Gallery inside the American Adventure pavilion was updated with a new display, as always planned. In general all the galleries at Epcot rotate out their exhibits every three to five years.

The 89 pieces on display at Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art represent 40 different American Indian tribes from seven geographic regions across the United States.

“At Epcot, guests are invited to celebrate the limitless possibilities of human imagination and innovation.” said Melissa Valiquette, vice president of Epcot. “By showcasing artwork from so many diverse American Indian tribes, ‘Creating Tradition’ is a wonderful way to share a vital part of the United States’ culture with all those who visit The American Adventure.”

Collection highlights include:

  • Fashion designer Loren Aragon (Acoma Pueblo) used the patterns on a jar made in the 1900s by an Acoma Pueblo potter as inspiration for his “Ancient Resonance” dress.
  • A Pokagon Potawatomi black ash hamper basket, made in the early 1900s, is paired with modern baskets, exemplifying how this technique is maintained over centuries. For example, on display is “Mother’s Womb,” a basket made by Cherish Nebeshanze Parrish (Potawatomi/Odawa) in 2011.
  • A Chilkat blanket from Alaska dating to the 1890s complements “Raven and the Box of Daylight,” a 2017 glass sculpture by Preston Singletary (Tlingit). This piece shows how Singletary experiments with designs from his Tlingit heritage in mediums beyond traditional Native materials.

Among the other featured artists with works on display are noted doll maker Glenda McKay (Ingalik-Athabascan), and Juanita Growing Thunder (Assiniboine Sioux) from the Growing Thunder family of Montana.

“Creating Tradition” also offers three interactive video exhibits where contemporary American Indian artists share perspectives on their work and culture. When guests wave their hands in front of a display resembling a campfire, the “flames” transform into a video presentation. Music playing in the gallery, performed by Native musicians, supports the objects and regions represented throughout the exhibition.

“I am delighted to recognize this association with Disney as their leadership shares the vision and creativity of contemporary American Indian artists with international visitors,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “We hope Epcot visitors will see the American experience begins with the American Indians who have always been here.”

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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,  The Vault of Walt Volume 7: Christmas Edition, 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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January 18, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Poster Art of the DIsney Parks

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 (13)

By Jim Korkis

Released in 2012 by Disney Editions, Poster Art of the Disney Parks is still a popular seller because it is timeless. At roughly eleven and half by fourteen and a half inches, the pages are large enough so that even when there are several images on an individual page they still are big enough to be seen clearly and when there is only one, it is spectacular.

Both Handke and Hunt are Imagineers who specialize in artwork, so it is not surprising that this is a beautifully done book when it comes to displaying art. However, while the focus is on the art, there is still plenty of room for explanatory text, although, as always, I would have liked even more including background on some of the talented artists.

After an informative introduction by Imagineer Tony Baxter, there are nine chapters: Here You Leave Today…, Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, New Orleans Square and Liberty Square, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Tokyo DisneySea, and Disney California Adventure. The book ends with a bibliography and an index by artist.

For Walt Disney World fans, it is interesting to compare the Disneyland and Walt Disney World posters for the same attraction like The Enchanted Tiki Room and the Tropical Serenade. Also, there are several examples of posters of attractions that are uniquely Disney World, like The Hall of Presidents

In the summer of 1956, Disneyland sported an exciting new visual method to entice guests to unfamiliar at the time Disneyland attractions, exhibits and restaurants: brightly silk screened framed attraction posters adorned the area below the Main Street Train Station at the entrance of the park, the Penny Arcade, and also the distinctive Avenue of the Flags entrance in Tomorrowland.

Later in 1959, the posters would decorate the bottom of the monorail support pylons. Walt Disney considered his theme park analogous to a motion picture experience, so these posters served as “Coming Attractions” posters like at a movie theater to excite and familiarize guests with what “shows” were in the park.

The early posters with their simple but dramatic graphics were intentionally designed with limited blocks of color to keep the silk-screen process uncomplicated. Disneyland used silk-screening to render each poster, but Walt Disney World favored a 4-color lithography process even when the artwork was basically the same.

Over the years, talented Disney Imagineers designed attraction posters, including Claude Coats (Alice in Wonderland), Rolly Crump (Flying Saucers) and Mary Blair (“it’s a small world”). Between 1956 and 1987, 32 different ride posters were created by Disney artists on large masonite panels that were used as the model for the finished silk-screened print.

As the park evolved, certain attraction posters, like the one for the Monorail (done by Paul Hartley), required updated images or text and a new version of the poster was made.

A great site for more information about Disney park posters is here.

I know some Disney fans who bought two copies of this book so they could use a razor blade and remove some of the full-sized pages to frame in their houses. I am not quite that fanatical although I have purchased some full sized reproductions at the Art of Disney Gallery at WDW for a similar purpose.

*  *  *  *  *

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 7: Christmas Edition, 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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January 11, 2019   No Comments