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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Category — A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis

Fridays with Jim Korkis: 365 Walt Disney World Facts

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 (57)

By Jim Korkis

When I first noted the title 365 Walt Disney World Facts, I thought the concept was a clever idea, like those religious devotionals that have an inspiring chapter lesson for each day of the year. I should have been more suspicious.

How do you squeeze 365 facts into 136 pages especially if each fact is only one sentence long? The answer is to pad blank space between each fact. Without that extra wasted space, the book might run around thirty pages or less.

Chadwick Miller is a native of Georgia and describes himself as an amateur historian and theme park addict who is also an avid Star Wars collector, having presented on collecting at multiple conferences and conventions. He loves to travel and experience as many theme parks as possible.

Not being a student of Walt Disney World history, Miller is guilty of many misunderstandings that he presents in 365 Walt Disney World Facts as facts.

“The opening day cast members for Walt Disney World Resort were not trained on property or even at Disneyland. At the time Disney owned the Celebrity Sports Center in Denver, Colorado that they used for training new cast members.”

That statement will come as a shock to all those 1971 cast members who did indeed go through casting interviews on WDW property and did training at Florida’s Disney University. SOME of the management of WDW did get training in certain business disciplines while working at the Celebrity Sports Center.

“Expedition Everest is the first Disney attraction to send guests backwards through an attraction.”

Many of us remember the Maelstrom at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot that was doing the same thing for more than a decade before Expedition Everest opened.

“The Eiffel Tower in the France Pavilion is the only structure that is considered a ‘carrot’ in the World Showcase. It is essentially the only thing guests cannot actually reach.”

Okay, where do I start with this misinformation? First the Disney term is not “carrot” (a treat always out of the reach of a poor donkey to get it to drag a burden to a specific destination) but a “weenie” (a term Walt created based on him playfully giving a hot dog reward to his beloved pet dog). Disney is sometimes embarrassed by the inelegant term and in its professional development classes refers to it as a “visual icon”.

There are many “weenies” in World Showcase. The American Adventure pavilion is considered a major one, that pulls guests to the far end of the area. As we all know, there are many, many things in World Showcase that guests cannot reach.

What makes this information especially fraught is that since there are only 365 or so sentences in the book, so each one carries more “weight”. The impression is that a casual Disney fan scanned the internet for some quick copy and did not always understand or mis-interpreted what he was reading.

Not all the information is incorrect, but enough is that everything becomes suspect. What I worry about is that readers will pick up this book and assume it must be accurate because, after all, it’s in a book.

So while this is a great idea, the execution is exceedingly poor and this book should be avoided unless you are a completist who wants to have every WDW book.

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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, Off to Never Land: 70 Years of Disney’s Peter Pan and Final Secret Stories of Walt Disney World!

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

November 25, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: House of Blues in Disney Springs

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

HOUSE OF BLUES IN WALT DISNEY WORLD

By Jim Korkis

House of Blues is an American chain of live music concert halls and restaurants. It was founded by Isaac Tigrett (also a co-founder of the Hard Rock Café), who grew up with blues, gospel, rhythm and blues and jazz and wanted a place to share that kind of music with others. He partnered with Dan Aykroyd and Judy Belushi, the widow of John Belushi–Aykroyd and Belushi were the original Blues Brothers performing duo.

Aykroyd stated that the original House of Blues was created in 1992 in Massachusetts in an effort to “build the best jukejoint the nation has ever seen. We wanted to honor the spirit of the rural venues that were popular in the South for blues musicians. Build concert halls in a manner that hadn’t been done since the Forties or Fifties.”

The Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs) West Side Walt Disney World House of Blues was the sixth location of the restaurant chain when it opened in September 1997 as a “celebration of diversity,” with a 2,000 seat music hall and a restaurant with a 400 person seating capacity. An additional hundred guests could be seated outside at the Voodoo Garden overlooking the Village Lake.

(c) Disney

In addition to musical entertainment, the restaurant focused on authentic Mississippi Delta inspired cooking, and a special Sunday Gospel Brunch buffet with live gospel performers.

“In Blues We Trust” declares the entrance to the colorful, eclectic building built to resemble a rustic general store in the Louisiana hills.

Outside is the distinctive hundred-foot tall water tower that was found by Tigrett in the mid-West on one of his many travels where he often purchased one-of-a-kind art and other unique memorabilia that caught his eye, like the outdoor fountain that he purchased at a mansion in England.

Originally three sections tall, only two of the Water Tower sections were approved for the property. Blade signs, light cans and artistic flames were added, giving the structure its current look. Though the patio area has changed over the years, the Water Tower has remained the same.

At the Orlando location, guests can see more than 600 pieces of authentic American folk art that represent more than 100 different artists. The entire House of Blues chain features over 7,000 examples of folk art that it describes as “Visual Blues”.

The bas-relief portraits of blues musicians on ceiling panels in the restaurant are a signature design of House of Blues venues. The tiles of the faces of musical greats like Fats Domino and James Brown were made from sculpted molds created by artist Andrew Wood.

Tigrett bought a light fixture from a church sale in England thought to be from the 1800s. Holly Mandot, the lead scenic painter at House of Blues, painted the fixture and designed the paint and circular shoe background with her paint crew.

In the back of the restaurant, Mr. Imagination’s Archway, from artist Gregory Warmack, is carved from sandstone and discarded objects collected from Downtown Disney Cast Members and guests. It is meant to symbolize a sense of community and collaboration.

The House of Blues stage curtains are handmade quilts to honor African Americans who made similar ones during the days of slavery. The restaurant also keeps a metal box of mud from the Mississippi Delta underneath its stage.

In 2014, the restaurant opened Smokehouse, a quick-service window where guests can grab a smoked beef brisket sandwich, pulled pork or chicken sandwich, smoked turkey leg, St. Louis half-rack of ribs or an all-beef hot dog.

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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, Off to Never Land: 70 Years of Disney’s Peter Pan and Final Secret Stories of Walt Disney World!

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

November 18, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure

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

TIANA’S BAYOU ADVENTURE

By Jim Korkis

Sometime in late 2024, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Using the existing infrastructure of the Splash Mountain attraction, the new ride will still be a water flume ride that twists and turns until it climaxes with a drop down a waterfall.

The rocky top of Splash Mountain will be transformed into a giant tree with Mama Odie’s boat lodged in the branches.  Ray the firefly will hover around the tree with his firefly friends.

Imagineer Tony Baxter, who designed the original Splash Mountain, is a creative advisor for the new interpretation. The Imagineers took a field trip to New Orleans to explore the bayou and city, consulting with academics, chefs, musicians and cultural institutions, as well as reconnecting with the late chef Leah Chase’s family (Chase inspired the story of Tiana in The Princess and the Frog).

(c) Disney

The premise for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure takes place after the final kiss in the movie and will follow Princess Tiana, Prince Naveen and Louis the Alligator on a musical adventure through twisting waterways as they prepare to arrive at the ultimate New Orleans Mardi Gras performance in the same scene room that now features the massive Showboat.

Music for the attraction will be recorded by the original cast from the movie with Anika Noni Rose providing the voice of Tiana in the ride as she did in the film. Bruno Campos (Naveen) and Michael-Leon Wooley (Louis) will be doing so as well.

Composer Randy Newman, who wrote the music for the film that will inspire the original music used in the attraction, was born in New Orleans.

Rose stated, “It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana’s presence in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realized! As passionate as I am about what we created, I know the fans are going to be over the moon. The Imagineers are giving us the Princess and The Frog Mardi Gras celebration we’ve been waiting for, and I’m here for it!”

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will also introduce a whole new look for Tiana. The design process involved research into the fashion trends of the 1920s, which is the time frame for the film, making sure the clothing was historically accurate while reflecting Tiana’s personality and making it more suitable for a journey through the bayou.

Costume Designer Ida Mudrow stated, “Tiana was equally at home in the bayou as she was in the restaurant. We wanted her look to reflect that, as well as be a complement to the story’s setting.”

Mudrow added, “Our efforts are a tribute to the beauty and dignity of all proud Black women who came before us. And to their great-granddaughters joining us on the journey today; we’re celebrating with you.”

Charita Carter, executive creative producer at Walt Disney Imagineering stated, “In many ways, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a love letter to New Orleans.

“Like the musical city that inspired this attraction, Tiana’s second act is about a community working in harmony to achieve something extraordinary. She reminds us of an immutable truth we can all relate to: ‘If you do your best each and every day, good things are sure to come your way.’ And that’s a melody we can all sing along to!”

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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, Off to Never Land: 70 Years of Disney’s Peter Pan and Final Secret Stories of Walt Disney World!

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

November 11, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: The Turf Club Bar and Grill

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

FROM THE LAKE BUENA VISTA CLUB TO THE TURF CLUB

By Jim Korkis

Things are constantly changing on Walt Disney World property, but when a restaurant closes, another restaurant often appears in the same location usually because of the already existing infrastructure.

The Lake Buena Vista Club restaurant that opened in 1972 at Disney’s Village Resort served its last guest on March 20, 1994 to make way for the transformation of the area into the Disney Institute.

The Club had undergone many changes during its 20+ years of operation. When it originally opened, it featured country club style luncheon dining and gourmet table service in the evening. It was a popular lunchtime dining area for Disney cast members as well as for golfers from the nearby golf course and local residents since it did not require paying an entry fee into a theme park.

The Sunday Champagne Brunch that began with a cruise from the nearby Village Marketplace was a special favorite. With the growth of the Disney Village Resort from 1973 to 1978, the Lake Buena Vista Club became even more popular.

In 1988 the name changed to the Pompano Grill, where seafood selections in a family-style atmosphere were featured. In 1993, the name changed back to the Lake Buena Visa Club to reflect the restaurant’s variety of menu items beyond seafood, and the concept was themed to upscale dining in a relaxed Florida atmosphere.

With the transformation to the Disney Institute, there were significant changes to the restaurant. The front and sides of the building were extended to add an additional 340 seats to the previous 120 seat dining facility. A new kitchen was built that encompassed nearly the entire existing dining room, and the parking lot was restructured to become a major garden area.

The Buena Vista Golf Club building was greatly expanded to include not just the Check-in Center but a small upscale shop called Dabblers that was so named because guests at the resort were “dabbling” in unfamiliar disciplines.

The new table service restaurant connected to the Check-In area was called Seasons, because each of its four dining rooms was themed to one of the four seasons of the year with appropriate wall murals and decorations.

The food was upscale with the chefs constantly rotating menu offerings but the atmosphere was fairly casual. Its location made it awkward for those not staying at Disney Institute to get there to eat, or to even park once they did.

Just outside the restaurant was a luxurious lounge with sofas and chairs, where people could gather and relax and with a grand piano that former Disney executive Judson Green sometimes would play at night.

The Turf Club Bar and Grill (c) Disney

With the conversion of the Disney Institute physical location into the Disney Vacation Club Saratoga Springs, the restaurant became the Turf Club Bar and Grill, themed to the equestrian atmosphere of the popular New York location reflected in the rest of the resort. Walt Disney World describes the Turf Club Bar and Grill as a “racetrack clubhouse setting.”

Themed to turn-of-the century Upstate New York, the Turf Club Bar and Grill offers American cuisine and a cocktail lounge decorated with vintage equestrian memorabilia throughout the dining area including photos of jockeys and their horses, antique riding gear and racing articles of yesteryear.

It is a very intimate dining setting, only open in the evening, complete with dim lighting, wood-paneled walls, music and large windows giving beautiful views of the adjacent Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. Guests enjoying their meal probably never heard of The Lake Buena Vista Club or Seasons. It is just another example of the Circle of Life at Walt Disney World.

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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, Off to Never Land: 70 Years of Disney’s Peter Pan and Final Secret Stories of Walt Disney World!

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

November 4, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Lots to Do in Line

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 (56)

By Jim Korkis

I have always had a fascination for books that claim to reveal details that are clearly visible in the Disney theme parks. My personal book collection has many disappointing examples but occasionally there will be some information that was previously unknown to me and excites me to go and check it out.

If you are reading this site, then you are probably like me and want to know more about what you are seeing and experiencing and so might also be interested in books promising to point out things you may have missed no matter how many times you visited a park.

With all the many changes at Walt Disney World that are happening at such a rapid rate, any book, even one published just minutes ago, will be hopelessly out-of-date but fortunately some details will still remain.

Lots to Do in Line is four inches wide by nine inches tall and is designed much like the popular Hidden Mickey series of books so it can be tucked easily into a back pocket or a purse. However, the book is 336 pages long covering all four WDW theme parks and as such is actually a little too bulky to carry easily.

According to the book, “the inspiration for Lots To Do In Line: Disneyland came to Meredith during her first trip to Disneyland with her own daughter, then age 7. Looking at the park in the role of Mommy made her notice things she had failed to register before. The lines were a wonderland of things to see and do, and they were going unnoticed and under appreciated. One year later, Lots To Do In Line: Disneyland was born.”

It was released in 2012 and proved popular enough for this sequel on Walt Disney World to be released 2013. Even though it was published almost a decade ago, I just stumbled across it recently and surprisingly, many of the multiple choice questions are still valid so if this is the type of thing that interests you it will be worth the price.

There is a white sign in the window telling you that you are at the Main Street Train Station but what animal is pictured on this sign? At Splash Mountain, there is a box next to Brer Goose’s picture but what did it contain? In the Living Seas with Nemo & Friends what color was the largest school of fish that were all the same color? On Star Tours, what must all interplanetary travelers present? In Fantasmic, how many claws are on each foot of the dragon? On Kilimanjaro Safaris, a sign reminds guests that it is improper to do what?

Fortunately, Lots to Do in Line provides four possible answers for each question and the answers are easily located at the end of each section. There are also scavenger hunts designed to fill some of your time.

Even though the book was obviously intended to be used by families, some readers have commented that some of the examples are too obscure to hold the attention of young children and they quickly become bored. However, many others have praised the book for introducing them to things they never knew and making the waiting in a queue line actually fun.

My advice is to read the questions before you get in line or on the attraction so you know what to look for during your time.

With alternative routes like Lightning Lanes as well as other options like optional interactive queues, many guests will never see some of these details unless they make a conscious effort. In the future, I may cover a few more of these type of books, although I suspect most of you will want them on some device for quicker, easier reference.

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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, Off to Never Land: 70 Years of Disney’s Peter Pan and Final Secret Stories of Walt Disney World!

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

October 30, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: The New Main Street Confectionery

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 NEW MAIN STREET CONFECTIONERY SHOP

By Jim Korkis

In September 2021, a new expanded Confectionery shop opened on Main Street. The shop is now sponsored by Mars Candy, and features previously unavailable sweet treats including many that are from Mars. Old fashioned photos of the founders of M&M and a beloved horse they had known as Snickers are displayed.

(c) Disney

Walt Disney World’s Main Street has always had a candy shop, although at opening in 1971 the area was split between the candy shop and the GAF Camera Center. There was always a “show kitchen,” like the candy shop at Disneyland, where guests could watch cooks making various treats like fudge or caramel apples. In the 1980s, Kodak took over the camera shop and Sees briefly sponsored the candy shop.

The candy shop expanded into the camera shop location when Kodak moved to the Town Square Exposition Hall in 1998. The new storyline of the candy store was that Thomas and Kitty McCrum were the owners and operators of the shop. McCrum was a reference to Dr. Thomas McCrum, a dentist in Kansas City, who helped a young Walt Disney out financially. It was also a sly joke that a dentist was selling cavity-causing treats that might generate some business for him.

After attending the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 (basically the World’s Fair) that celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus “discovering America”, McCrum incorporated into his shop some of the same type of mechanical wonders he saw in the Exposition’s Hall of Machinery.

Those additions included small mechanical inventions placed on shelves with descriptions relating to the process of creating confectionary goods and overhead a constantly moving chain of wire baskets filled with treats.

That storyline is given a brief acknowledgment in the new shop, on a framed newspaper article from the Main Street Gazette written by Scoop Sanderson, one of the fabled street citizen characters, that states, “Yesterday marked the official groundbreaking for the forthcoming expansion of Main Street Confectionery, a development thanks in no small part to the equally-groundbreaking chocolate innovations of local treat-makers, Mars. It is their creation, the Milky Way chocolate bar and the immediate and consistently overwhelming crowds it has drawn to the Main Street Confectionery that has made today possible.

“Joining the Mayor as participants in the Town Square ceremony were both Kitty and her husband, Dr. Thomas McCrum, who had the distinct honor and privilege of temporarily – and carefully – wielding the Mars candy company’s renowned ‘sweet spoon’. On behalf of themselves and the Mars company the McCrums celebrated with and thanked the citizens of Main Street for the overwhelming response to the Milky Way bar that will make this new chapter of chocolate possible.”

The larger square footage creates a showcase store with beautiful in-laid marble, brass railings and blue bunting, suggesting an event that showcases home confectioners across the nation in an award ceremony called the Sweetest Spoon.

Cartoon drawings depict some to the winners of the award and they feature Disney’s latest attempt at diversity. The winners include Agata Kaminski from Chicago, Illinois, a Polish chef known for her paczki; Willie Anderson, a young black man from Tulsa, Oklahoma known for his pound cake; Toshi Hayakawa, a Japanese cook who is also a Main Street firefighter known for his Mochi; Sonia Sanchez from Brooklyn, New York who is Puerto Rican and known for her cinnamon sugar; Dr. Alsoomse Tabor of the Blackfeet Nation, Montana who is a paleontologist known for her famous fruit leather, and Saul Fitz of Beulah, Maine a Jewish tailor who makes chocolate regelach.

Beulah, Maine is a reference to the Disney live action movie Summer Magic (1963). Two Beulah residents, Nancy Carey and her cousin Julia, according to the Imagineering back story, opened The Chapeau hat shop on Main Street that was sacrificed for the recent Confectionery expansion. I guess that it is the Circle of Life to remove two immersive storytelling themes and replace them with one generic shop.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Off to Never Land: 70 Years of Disney’s Peter Pan and Final Secret Stories of Walt Disney World!

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

October 21, 2022   No Comments